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Our Hope For New (Corona) Spring

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spring blooms

Apocalypse… Armageddon… End of Days…?

Nah, don’t think so…

Of course – full disclosure – I am the world’s very worst prognosticator, so perhaps if buying up all the toilet paper that every old-growth forest tree can produce is your greatest worry… you may NOT be the only one breathlessly laid out in ICU without clean underwear.

SORRY, I don’t want to be flip or callous or understated… because…

The world will change. Again.

We live in an era of fear and growth.

They’re reaching out to us and we have to choose which hand to hold.

For those of us of a certain age, we watched our black and white console TV sets in November 1963, and after wiping away our tears as JFK’s casket lowered into the earth, discovered a new world that, even with moon launches and high technology, reminded us that mankind will never be totally civilized… EVER. We are animals.

Another day a few decades after, we all woke up, watched a couple of huge iconic buildings tumble and then unwrapped a brand new world post 9/11… the day that airports and airline travel stopped being a relaxing joy.

A year from today, the world will hum along once again, restaurants will buzz, stores will stock up and fill up. Smiles and sanity will return like spring blooms. Most things will have the air of normalcy.

normalcy

EXCEPT.

New normalcy.

It will be a new normal. Countless things will change going forward.

Dickens knew his present, and our future.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …”

We will move on from this winter of despair to a new spring of hope.

Surely, it will affect how we interact (will hugs and handshakes disappear?), it could result in the elimination of cash usage… will we crowd into stadiums and theatres and airplanes in the same fashion as always? … will the cruise industry sail on or sink? … how many major conferences will crowd a hundred thousand folks into a Vegas warehouse?

virtual handshake

Think of greater use of robotics and drones and virtual classrooms.

Any major disruption brings out new industries and productive uses of technology that we would have never dreamed of.

And if you think that Amazon ruled the world before?  It’s only beginning (note the hidden hot stock tip!).

We are science’ing the S**T out of this calamity and it will bring us into another new era going forward.

Covid-19 is creating a whole new set of heroes (and more than a few A-holes).

Every situation of stress and tragedy brings out the “sinkers” and the “swimmers”, beautiful heroes and ugly villains.

Fear tests us like nothing else… just look at those who receive a cancer diagnosis and find a magical inner strength they never knew existed… everyday heroes.

World War 2 sunk Chamberlain and Hitler… while Churchill walked on water across the English Channel. We need a lot of Churchills, and we are fortunate to get them when we need them most.

Soon the peak shall pass and we’ll move forward individually and collectively.

And yes, there will be more Black Swans that viciously attack and pummel us to our asses when we least expect it.

But sure as shootin’, we will confront and overcome the obscure monsters again and again. Freddie Mercury was right… WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS my friends…

OK… let’s all hug (NOT) and … damn… how about a toilet paper exchange?

toilet paper out

 

Above The Water Line – The Song

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sheeran sings

When I feel worried or overwhelmed, I sing.

When I feel dejected or hurt, I sing.

Hell, when I feel ecstatic and want to jump out of my skin, I sing.

The simple bottom line of what I’m saying here is… after this globally tumultuous week, I’ve written some song lyrics for this week’s blog post. Go figure.

Stay above the water line…

When a week or two comes along like we’ve seen recently – when infectious disease and financial dis-ease rear their ugly heads – it’s easy to fret … to worry about the future, as individuals, as members of the world community… to worry about the havoc that ensues as we stumble along a road that appears dark and uncertain.

Of course, it is worrisome… it’s normal to be concerned about the direction of the days and years to come. Few of us like uncertainty, similar to how we generally don’t like change.

Think about it… our world has passed through two World Wars where millions perished from weaponry and disease, an earlier pandemic that took countless lives, an economic depression that lasted a decade. Huge, terrible cataclysmic events.

And still, here we are…

Obviously, I don’t know the outcome of the coronavirus situation, or where the moneyed world will lie in the short term…

… but given humankind’s past history of slogging through it’s biggest, ugliest problems, I am optimistic that this too shall pass and we will claw our way back onto the brighter path drawing us forward, working to carry on…

And so… I sing…

water line

ABOVE THE WATER LINE

by Larry Green

CHORUS

Stay above the water line
Stay above the water line
we’ve done it all a hundred times
when snows up high begin to melt
from unannounced March thaws
when eclipse creeps up like night
push darkness back to light

Verse 1

My mom felt the helpless shudder
of naked empty cupboards,
years when money shed all worth
blue days of milk and honey lost
jobs as rare as virgin birth, and worried long
if the world misplaced its feast of Pentecost?

Verse 2

I’ve passed some seasons, been unnerved
found sweat is best served,
by running fast and free
you anticipate such a heavy stone
whisper what will be will be
and wonder where’s the chaperone, just…

CHORUS

Stay above the water line
Stay above the water line
we’ve done it all a hundred times
when snows up high begin to melt
from unannounced March thaws
when eclipse creeps up like night
push darkness back to light

Verse 3

Kids, all check your Twitterverse
fill vacuums that you curse,
murky shares of hopeless ghosts
I wish you fresh angels from ether
tomorrow’s ones’ still cloaked
stay strong don’t be beleaguered

BRIDGE

Where the rubber ball will stop who knows
you try to catch with eyes shut closed so…

CHORUS

Stay above the water line
Stay above the water line
we’ve done it all a hundred times
when snows up high begin to melt
from unannounced March thaws
when eclipse creeps up like night
push darkness back to light

Lunar eclipse

Black Swan Week of Worry

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black swan

Stock markets plummet 11.5%.

In one week.

The world is ending. Not.

I need to slow my mind.

It’s a life lesson that can take a life to learn and remember. I need to slow my mind. Write it on the blackboard 100 times. Slowly…

I need to stop typing and watch the windblown pine tree branches weave and bob like a giggling kid’s kite in the park against the late afternoon azure sky.

I need to stop worrying about whether I’ll be able to train my body enough in the next 8 weeks to finish a half marathon running race in under 2 hours.

I need to go into a steam sauna… close my eyes and feel the misty heat penetrate the deepest part of my lungs.

I need to stop stewing over the mechanic’s report this week that my Syrian student/friend’s old van needs about $4,000 worth of repairs to make it safe for he and his family of 7 to drive to Abbotsford in a couple of weeks to visit his brother.

What were your biggest worries over the last 7 days?

When it rain it pours but you didn’t even notice
It ain’t rainin’ anymore, it’s hard to breathe when all you know is
The struggle of staying above, the rising water line”
Kacey Musgraves

.

The stock market plummeted like a skydiver this week… the black swan swims…

G0124586.jpeg

… but I know from years of experience that 3-6 months from now, it will likely be a faint memory in the rear-view mirror.

Worry is easy.

It’s a mind cancer.

My Mom was a terrible worrier.

Correction, she was a GREAT worrier. OK… I share a few of her genes.

She should have been an alcoholic. I should be a needle-toting junkie.

She wasn’t and I’m not. She had cigarettes. I have a guitar. Worry relief comes in different packages thankfully.

Worry is a child inside of us, a child we need to comfort and quietly remind that it’s OK.

Worry is a gift/tax of life we’re given like a graduation certificate at birth.

OK… welcome… Here’s your birth certificate, a pair of underwear, and a hefty chunk of grey matter that will support you, amaze you, bring you smiles and pains, and drive you crazy at 2 am sometimes.

I’ll never rid my world of worry. I can’t magically wipe away your worries.

Black swans are inevitable.

So, despite the nagging, worrisome thoughts that wander in my head like homeless vagrants, and the real problems that exist in an imperfect world… I will remind myself regularly to remind myself… that:

  • I live in the best of times.
  • I live as well as a king of old, probably better.
  • I’ve had amazing access to shelter, plentiful food and water, high quality education.
  • I have “Free” healthcare that will never allow me or my family to go bankrupt paying for its provision.
  • At times, life can be very tough, which makes the good times so much sweeter.
  • I have supportive family and friends.
  • Beauty surrounds me in the natural state of things.
  • I have easy access to chocolate, pizza and wine (these might belong more appropriately in my “worry” column!)

As these days grow longer here in the Northern Hemisphere, I drive alongside beautiful Okanagan Lake with reflections of randomly treed hillsides layering the calm waters.

My mind will sometimes wander to the inky black swans that paddle inside me… and then… then… I spot groups of majestic white swans… stunning, graceful signs of hope and optimism that stage a serene ballet of tranquility.

white swans

13 Ways To AVOID Checkout Diarrhea & Vomiting

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General-Store

grocery aisle

Supermarket shopping is kind of routine fun, isn’t it? Sometimes?

Most weeks, like children with baby carriages, we roll our little buggies up and down long concrete-floored aisles, each side of those aisles filled to the gunnels with FOOD.

How things have changed.

One hundred years ago, you’d walk into a shop with a bell above the door that jingled when you entered.

Then, you sidled over to a counter where a man or his wife, that you’ve known your whole life, stood with a neat apron ready to gather the provisions you’d need to eat and live for the next week, or two weeks, or a month.

Once collected together, there were no plastic or paper bags to put it all inside. Perhaps you had a hand-sewn sack you brought with you to carry your sugar and salt and flour.

It’s a scene plucked right from Anne of Green Gables; Anne Shirley and Matthew Cuthbert place their order while Anne fantasizes about puffy-sleeved dresses in the window and Matthew fantasizes on buying a butcher’s knife to hack out his sister Marilla’s tongue to stop her incessant nagging and chatter!

But… I have yet to see a historical film or photo that showed ANY magazines lined up in neat racks beside the counter for the amusement or education of the shopper.

Grocery store mags.jpg

Through today’s eyes, how did we ever survive without this information and hot tips, advice and enlightenment? 8 Ways To Easily Gut A Hog or Pick Your Perfect Corset would have sold faster than buckets of lard or molasses in 1906.

All of this is to say that shopping has changed dramatically and is changing even more at this point in history.

The mags and tabloids play on our insecurities of how we do everything from painting window trim to whether anal-oral sex is A-OK (yeah, it’s not!).

The headlines foment worry and anxiety.

One of the best ways to avoid anxiety and stress – to avoid fears of inferiority or inner terror – I’ve learned in my many many years of shopping, is to avert my eyes totally from the magazine shelves at the checkout cattle chutes.

DANGER & CAUTION warnings should be placed in front of each display where photos of beautifully coiffed stars and starlets, or grotesquely photoshopped pics of Jennifer Aniston or the latest Bachelorette adorn the covers of the glossies along with the BEST information and advice ever offered for incredible sex or amazing beauty or stupendous rock hard pilates abs.

Which all brings me to my point. Sorry to have subjected you to 400 words of nonsense. But thanks for sticking with me this far.

The meat of this post comes now…

Magazine advice

I will share my expertise with you and it won’t cost you a dime.

To save you the bother and distress of exhausting your psychic energy and hard-earned dollars on next week’s grocery run, look away from THOSE headlines and ingest the following simple and succinct (AND free!) advice on trouble avoidance as I offer you …

MY top magazine-style tips:

  1. AVOID STD’s easily don’t get naked with anyone other than yourself. This will also avoid the laughter that accompanies your lover’s first views of you al fresco.. who needs that?
  2. AVOID Childhood Obesitydon’t feed your children. Today’s kids spend far too much time indoors glued to technology. Healthy children will get tons of exercise foraging outdoors for sustenance alongside rats and raccoons.  
  3. AVOID Holiday Weight Gain don’t feed yourself. However, if you insist on pigging out, consume only foods you’ve left at room temperature on the kitchen counter overnight or salads prepared on cutting boards where raw chicken has recently been dissected. 
  4. AVOID Alzheimersdon’t grow old… ever. Participate in fun sports like mountain-climbing, scuba diving, running of the bulls, and skydiving to nudge the avoidance process along.
  5. AVOID saying SH*TKeep your mouth shut. Opening it results in 4-letter profanity of all kinds + obesity, so just keep it closed. If this is too difficult, Home Depot carries staple guns that are invaluable in achieving this objective. Think those words all you want in the wasteland between your ears…
  6. AVOID Airport Security Worry stay home at all times, bombs are everywhere. Want to travel? Watch Anthony Bourdain or Rick Steves on your phone or TV.
  7. AVOID Climate Changepurchase BEANO or anti-gas tabs of your choice… it’s not only cows that produce climate changing methane gas. Mens’ clubs are a dying breed for a reason.
  8. AVOID Gun and Knife Deaththe knights of old wore chain-mail… cops and soldiers wear bullet-proof kevlar vests… so what’s wrong with the rest of us? Why don’t grocery stores and Walmart offer fashionable anti-missile wear for the everyday person? Trés chic … DUH!
  9. AVOID ProcrastinationLook down at your shoes. Are you wearing NIKE runners? Good … then JUST DO IT!
  10. AVOID Food Wastestop buying food that is healthy for you but you hate. Have you seen how much green leafy vegetable matter goes into compost piles and landfills? Nobody throws out potato chips or deep fried fish sticks. Simple, eh?
  11. AVOID Unwanted Pregnancy – see Point #1 above… nobody ever got pregnant masturbating…
  12. AVOID Shark Attacksmove inland and stay away from any water source that contains NaCl. FACT: There have been NO recorded deaths from shark bites in ANY freshwater lake in all of human history… moving inland also offers good anti-tsunami protection as a side benefit.
  13. AVOID naming children Angelina, Brad, Jennifer or Britney – these names are the kiss of death and will bring you a lifetime of astounding wealth but also heartache and unrelenting paparazzi attacks far worse than any shark bite.

Brad pitt.jpg

So there.

You now know how to live a satisfying, diarrhea- and vomit-free grocery shopping life.

Of course in today’s shopping world you could easily avoid ALL “checkout distress” by simply ordering your groceries online with delivery to your door.

Truthfully, I’d hate to miss the myriad joys of grocery shopping: the harsh fluorescent lights, the spills in Aisle 7, shopping cart handles saturated with bathroom bacteria and snotty viruses, pumped in Muzak, screaming children and exhausted parents, frigid cold frozen pizza aisles, cart wheels that won’t run straight, and supermarket dents in your car door.

Who would ever really want to avoid THAT?

Tantrum.png

 

I know I KNOW!! Seeking Answers? … Life is …

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Questions

Put your hand back down, or do you need to visit the bathroom? Can you wait just a minute? Thanks …

I don’t have the answer to your question.

Actually, I do have the answer, but you won’t want to hear it.

I’ve always found it funny that we expect definitive responses to all of our uncertainties.

Most of us seem to believe that humanity has solved the majority of life’s big hairy questions.

I beg to differ.

We’re not even close.

I know I’ll feebly inhale my last breath with innumerably more questions about everything I’ve seen and done than I’ll have answers. And this is in a GOOGLE world where “apparent” answers are instantly available.

A hundred years from now, hell, maybe in 10 years, I’ll bet dollars-to-donuts that we look back and juice our jeans in laughter at many of the things we swear to be true today.

You want an example? Sure …

We know with confidence now what causes heart attacks and all forms of cancer, right?

Of course NOT!! That was a trick question and you knew it.

The level of knowledge in the medical field is such that we believe our “experts” know the answer to every issue, every disease, every ache and pain-in-the-ass concern that comes running after us or our loved ones. Or they should know.

Doctors, trained to believe in their God-like abilities, often try to explain something, anything! to give their patients an answer. We all want answers. “Just tell me what I have and I can move on…”.

But so many questions ooze as seeping slickness out of the probing grasp of blood tests and MRI machines.

doctors god

Thirty years ago we believed that stomach ulcers were solely related to mental stress. WRONG!

Forty years ago we believed that homosexuality was an individual’s lifestyle choice. WRONG AGAIN!

Fifty minutes ago we believed that global warming brought on by human activity was ludicrous. WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

But here is the BIG answer, the definitive response to life’s most difficult quandaries…

Are you ready? Brace yourself …

The answer to so many of life’s biggest questions?

… “WE DON’T KNOW”

don't know

WTF?? Beat’s me….

 

We really don’t know…

Life is mysterious. 

  • We don’t know if there’s a God … faith isn’t the same as fact …
  • We don’t know why some of us live to 100 and others sadly succumb before their 10th birthday… fairness has never entered the mathematical equation of life.
  • We don’t know why your friend has dramatic bipolar episodes … the brain is beyond Einstein’s or Elon Musk’s level of understanding …
  • We don’t know why some people with high cholesterol never suffer a heart attack… while others with rock bottom LDL levels who run marathons succumb to a life-ending myocardial infarction.
  • And, especially, we don’t know where you set your car keys down or where your reading glasses have disappeared to.

… there is no end ever to the creative magic we all contain within ourselves…

… there is no end ever to the riches we can create (both literally and metaphorically),

… there is no end ever to the questions we’ll face and not understand.

Life is mysterious and messy.

Because we don’t know all the answers, we can torture ourselves, constantly questioning, constantly worrying. Unanswered questions can be a necrotizing fasciitis, an internal flesh-eating disease in our minds.

For me, it comes down to the old Serenity Prayer, or at least my variation of its wisdom…

Grant me the serenity to acknowledge the things I know, The courage and determination to seek answers to the things I don’t know… And the wisdom to realize that not EVERY question I have WILL have an answer.

Mysteries will always overwhelm us if we allow them to.

Life is mysterious and messy and joyful.

Survival is about not expecting answers to every question. We can drive ourselves crazy if we believe we’ll truly know the who what where why when and how to everything.

Once we accept that mystery and shitty messes are a part of the human condition, the sooner we can return ourselves to a state of contentment and the pursuit of happiness … or … just like the Johnson & Johnson commercials say… whatever your State of Happiness is.

Now, what was I sa … Oh yeah, you had your hand up… Did that answer your question?

Fine… you may go to the bathroom … Dismissed!

bathroom break?

 

 

A Blog About Nothing …

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YADA YADA YADA …

Yoda

YADA … not … YODA …

You can nod off to sleep right now if you wish because I’ll be writing a thousand words or so here but I won’t be telling you anything you need to know that’s important other than to ignore the stuff happening that you think might be important, because it’s really not. Got it?

Let’s move on …

I mentioned last week that I’ve been writing this blog stuff for 3 and a half years now …

I also mentioned that I observe and steal from others … people I encounter day-to-day and people and ideas I see in TV and movies…

And if you’ve noticed, there are a few people out there in the artistic and investing community that I admire.

People like:

  • writer Stephen King who blows me away with his prolific writing and amazingly creative imaginary genius, even if I don’t always enjoy his “horror”-genre subject matter.
  • TV and movie writer Aaron Sorkin who concocts the most remarkable rapid-paced dialogue and clever one-liners to come out of actors’ mouths. The Social Network, Moneyball, Charlie Wilson’s War, Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Newsroom. Just listen to the dialogue and Olympic-level verbal gymnastics that occur in these shows – in his writing.
  • Nora Ephron, the late queen of writing the classic romantic-comedy movie: Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, Michael. Ephron almost defines the Rom-Com scenario of the late 20th Century.
  • Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha. An ordinary yet truly extraordinary investor guy who acts like a country bumpkin but has the calm wisdom of Solomon.

… and finally,

  • Jerry Seinfeld. Everyone knows Jerry. That guy who made TV shows about nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! And we all loved him for it. When we were in New York City a couple of years back, we visited the famous Tom’s Restaurant coffee shop where many of the group of 4 (Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer) scenes occurred (in truth, just the exterior of the restaurant was real, the scenes were filmed on a soundstage elsewhere). A few weeks back, we took in a Jerry Seinfeld stand-up comedy “concert” in Vancouver – an hour and 15 minutes of non-stop laughter – yup, he still delivers.

Toms restaurant

So, in perhaps one of the strangest segues ever observed (And BTW? Segue – pronounced “SEGWAY” is one of my favourite words ever), let me take you back to the NOTHING I mentioned earlier…

If you’ve been looking at – or worrying about – all the turmoil and fear in world stock markets this week, try to remember Jerry Seinfeld and that all of this financial worry is just YADA YADA YADA …

A big NOTHING.

Background noise.

Markets go up … markets go down.

The sky isn’t falling and we’re living in a golden age even if we don’t always recognize it that way.

Most of us enjoy lives greatly superior to royal kings and queens of a few centuries back with our:

  • Heated homes and sometimes, indoor heated thrones too.
  • Sumptuous foods from every corner of the world every day.
  • Entertainment of a thousand varieties at the push of a button.
  • A pill to cure or assuage every affliction.
  • Teeth that shine like sparkly diamonds with no decay pain.
  • Our backs bathed in sunny warmth on sandy beaches in February while snowdevils whirl around our frigid northern homes.

I could go on but you get it, right?

I hear you saying I’m an interminable optimist who would have saluted Hitler with a smile. Sure, maybe you’re right.

But one of life’s lessons I think I’ve learned finally is that the things we worry about the most – MOST times never occur.

My mother passed on a minor version of her “worry gene” to me. This used to worry me… but the irony in that is just too silly to contemplate.

Of course, unpleasant things happen to all of us. BUT, to constantly worry about what could happen won’t prevent unpleasant things from happening. Quite the contrary, that’s usually a very efficient way to attract more unpleasant things into our lives.

Yes, unpleasant things happen. But when they happen, we find a way to deal with them, we find a solution and we learn and grow through them. We become bigger, wiser, better…

I used to worry about my financial health every time the stock market took a downdraft.

One Tuesday morning in October 1987 I was sitting in the cafeteria of Penticton Regional Hospital on a coffee break with some of my fellow lab co-workers.

They were talking to me but I didn’t hear a word they were saying.

The New York Stock Exchange had dropped 22.6% a day earlier and my – what I had considered to be substantial – investments took a beautifully elegant swan dive off an Acapulco cliff.

Black-Monday-the-Stock-Market

My bastard inside voices told me the world was ending and life would be terrible and barely livable.

How would I manage? How would I survive the future? My children would be paupers.

In a state of lucky near-panic, I did nothing and rode the waves of worry and weight, while others sold their investments in extreme anxiety.

A couple of years later, it was as if nothing had happened. My stock shares rebounded and grew higher still.

It wasn’t my calm persistence and belief in the positive that carried me through the worry then. It was paralysis.

Since those earlier years, I’ve encountered more heartwretching stock market plummets (2008 was a classic!). I’ve fashioned mistakes of my own making in choosing an investment – where an individual stock price dropped to featherlight nothingness overnight.

The main thing I learned in my own evolution through these and life’s other worries is that the end result is rarely as bad as the thoughts that ran through my head.

Repetition of these distressing life events slowly began to infiltrate and become absorbed.  The lesson I was learning was the belief that I could survive each onslaught and that the final result would be fine. Or close to fine.

The worry – the overwhelming worry? – it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on… OMG, that’s a terrible analogy. Sorry, you can probably think of a better one.

My worry was wasted energy. Looking back it was me running on a treadmill, never getting closer to my desired destination.

If all the physical, health, mental, financial worries that I had imagined countless times had come true, I would have perished years ago, a tangled mess of a train wreck. KA-BANG!!

The answer to life’s worries wasn’t found in the wise words of YODA, the reflections of Buddha or Confucius, the blatherings of Donald Trump.

When it comes to worry – and we all have worries, it’s part of the human condition … the first words I hear now aren’t from green goblins named YODA …

… the words I hear are YADA YADA YADA …

… loosely translated as THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

I’ve written that here before just so you know I’m not delusionally and unknowingly repeating myself.

Some things, like eating a bowl of butterscotch ice cream, bear repeating.

And that is today’s blog post about NOTHING.

YADA YADA YADA …

nothing