Stuck In The Middle With You…



snowy pumpkin.jpg

I’m trying to laugh.

There’s snow and ice on the ground suddenly, just 3 days post Hallowe’en … and the ghouls of early November have laid havoc and challenge across the streets and life paths.

Cosmic jokes.

This morning, I studied a homeless woman crossing at a corner in downtown Penticton, doggedly pushing a shopping cart filled to the gunnels with who knows what.

Like a heavy lawnmower in thick grass, it was a difficult push for the poor lady dressed in an old Salvation Army coat, scarf and gloves. The small wheels on the cart were chattering like frigid teeth over crusted ice.

In a surreal juxtaposition, pea green leaves still clung to the large maple tree overhanging the street.

She may have been young, maybe older. With her head bowed, and layered up against the chill as if attired in a niqab, who knows?

Do I know this woman? – maybe she’s visited the soup kitchen on one of my volunteer days – but with her face totally covered, it’s impossible to say.

I try to envision how she finds respite and comfort somewhere in the gloomy rawness of the grey cloudy day ahead but I’m drawing blanks.

I’m trying to find some humour in her situation.

Isn’t there humour somewhere… somehow… to be found in every situation?

If she dressed like that in mid-summer, I could have a belly laugh at her comfortable eccentricity. Or… if she had a Canada Goose perched on top of her cart watching out as her navigator I could laugh.


Bill, a man I’ve worked for, and with, for close to 30 years died suddenly this week.

He was a man who could find humour.

He’s dead and I hurt.

I hurt like when I see a wounded animal in agony. It makes my gut knot up and cry out. I hope he felt that his life was worthy… that he had done the best he could.

A rapid, candle-snuffing heart attack stung like an angry wasp as he hung Christmas decorations at home.

The irony (but not humour) I suppose is that he spent his career skillfully slicing into thousands of cold corpses, detecting and probing for clots and other sources of cursed invaders that initiate a final breath.

The thief that stole his last breath was a tenacious clot similar to innumerable ones he’d seen over the decades.

Bill and I weren’t fast, bosom buddies, but we were friends.

When together, we talked easily about our kids’ exploits, our travels, and frustrations with medical bureaucracy.

We laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company. Bill’s amiable smile unearthed nuggets of humour in most situations even when he was acting his curmudgeonly best.

Bill was like raconteur Stuart McLean in real life. Bill gifted me smiles.

I’ve attempted to locate some humour in his situation.

But Bill is gone from this world.

Bill is gone from his family’s world.

Bill is gone from my world.

Bill is a ghost now in the minds of those that cared.

So where’s the humour?

If he’d had a heart attack and survived, I could have sighed in relief, then found some laughs in the dietary and lifestyle changes that might have magically transformed this big teddy bear curmudgeon into a vegetarian fitness guru.

I can burst out in laughter at the mere thought of seeing Bill dressed in tight yoga wear.

yoga man

The shopping cart lady and Bill remind me of the “polar opposites” in life.

I don’t like this life deal where some of us live in warm, luxurious comfort while others exist in stiff and frosty discomfort.

I don’t like this life deal where the delight and joy of new birth is mirrored by the shock and pain of unanticipated death.

None of us has the choice of where we begin or…  where we end.

Life is about opposites.

Life is warm and cold.

Life is joyous and tragic.

Life is hello and goodbye.

Or perhaps as Susan Sontag said, “Life is a movie; death is a photograph.

Life is…

… a movie with your beginning, your middle, then your end.

The middle? The sweet middle is all about understanding and choice.

Let’s face it, your beginning is sheer luck and random chance.

Two unrelated amorous people make a carnal choice to build a person that is you. You don’t get a vote! Nope, none…

But there’s a nugget of beauty in this story.

The diamond gem is that you and I have the opportunity to write our own middle, and how the middle shapes the ending.

The “note to self” in the street lady pushing her cart and in Bill’s departure is the reminder to constantly remember that we make the middle, the funny and messy middle, we make the proactive choices every day that shape our world, for better and worse.

Every person’s “middle” is different, but a satisfying ending is written in that middle.

Little by little, I’m still learning. Little by little I’m still growing.

Little by little I’m paying attention and keeping my eyes and ears attuned to the small stuff that all adds up to the the BIG stuff that is life.

I’m trying to laugh today, but honestly, there are small tears tickling the corner of my mouth.

inside out.jpg

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.


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.



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


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”.

Silly is … In My Pants

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PEI Autumn

I’m just beginning to see millions of leaves succumb to their slow, colourful deaths as we pass the fall equinox. It makes dying a beautiful thing.

And it got me to thinking about changes, and seasons, and those things that are predictable in our lives and other things that change and surprise us.

Take the moon for example. We all know that full moons contribute to the “surprise” factor.

Full moons make crazy things happen, things we’d never expect. This past week’s Harvest “Blood” Moon – wasn’t it stunning? – probably had more impact than usual.

Something that surprised me? Maybe it was full moon inspired?

Singer/Songwriter James Taylor got really silly on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show the other night.

Yup, James Taylor. I love his music but he isn’t normally a silly kind of guy.

“You’ve Got A Friend” and “Fire and Rain” are beautiful, deep, hardly silly songs. He croons serious songs that melt into our hearts and our heads.

Silly? Adding the words, “in my pants…” at the end of each line of Taylor’s music definitely qualifies as silly. ” … But I always thought that I’d see you again… in my pants

So it must have been the moon. Right? Must have been.

Thank you James for reminding me that we all need to be silly sometimes.

Silliness can be an important part of our humanity, our ability to cope when times grow tough. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness) wrote all about finding humour and laughter in life when confronted with serious pain or illness.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into an earnest seriousness. I have to slap myself on the side of the head to remember to be silly, not to take everything so damned humourlessly. Then I feel better.

Fix the mood and everyone dances like feathers …

There’s a guy who is my age that I work with in the Greek restaurant where I’m a bartender … he’s a server/waiter. Let’s call him Fred.

When everything is calm and quiet, he’s sweet and charming. Full of light humour and smiles. Mr. Congeniality.

But once lineups form at the door, tables in the restaurant fill up, and the hum of activity snarls into a roar, Fred turns into a yelling monstrosity of an animal. He becomes a toddler that only knows “ME“!

It’s like he might just throw himself to the floor and begin crying and stamping his feet unless everyone does everything for him … RIGHT NOW!!

Cosby as Dr. Jeykll

I don’t like Fred much at these moments. His blood pressure readings must be reaching into the clouds way above us.

Later, when customers begin shuffling out of the restaurant, sated and satisfied and a teensy bit tipsy from the delicious libations I’ve poured, Fred sloughs off his nasty mask and returns to his “resting pulse” rate of friendly and charming.

He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a serving tray and a menu pad.

I can’t blame the moon for Fred’s tantrums. This is his normal reaction, the way he copes when stress begins to pile on.

I feel badly for him and badly for those around him who have to do their jobs despite his vile behaviour. Fred should try singing, “… in my pants“.

But let me tell you about another server I work with – let’s call him Mark – somewhat younger, who always finds a way to laugh and giggle through the busiest times.

He’s smart and good at his job, just like Fred, but Mark always finds a way to stay calm and goofy.

Mark gets the same work accomplished as Fred but everyone around him is more relaxed and smiley as he does his thing.

Mark works two jobs most days and is on his feet for hours and hours at a time, always with a smile and a goofy laugh. I like working with and being around Mark. He makes me calmer and sillier.

We all have our own unique personalities and ways of coping when things turn tough. It’s hard to smile sometimes.

I know I can stress out and get tense and humourless.

But I’m trying really hard to find the silliness, the humour in every situation. Really good or really bad.

Humour is like air … you can’t always see it with your eyes but it’s blowing and floating around us, helping us survive the tough stuff.

Maybe humour is like a religious tonic for non-believers, soothing us when times get rough, a bridge over troubled waters.

When things get busy in the restaurant this evening … while Fred is flailing disruptively, I figure Mark and I will be hearing “…in my pants” dancing in our heads.

... in my pants ... and I ain't afraid to show it ...

… in my pants … and I ain’t afraid to show it …


8 Places To See Before I Die


Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Cruz will be panting breathlessly– all swollen, crimson, pouty-lipped in anticipation of my arrival. I just hope they haven’t tattooed my name on their bosoms…


They’ve fantasized about a threesome with me ever since they filmed Vicky Cristina Barcelona and were forced to make fake-love to Javier Bardem. I could take it or leave it, but my insecurities prevent me from hurting others’ feelings, so I’ll likely go along with their plan, bored though I may be.

This will be the last MAN ON THE FRINGE blog posting for a month as Maureen and I spread our linguistic wings and head in-flight to Barcelona to plug away in a downtown classroom for 4 hours daily on our Spanish expletives…

You see, I’m not satisfied embarrassing myself only in my home country. The rest of the world should know that not all Canadians are the cliched polite, self-effacing, half-intelligent, hockey-stick toting, igloo-making, parka-wearing, maple donut-gorging, making-love-in-the-snowbank, Mountie-lovers that they think we are. It is never a great idea to be deluded by stereotypes of nationality. I intend to set the record straight for the poor Spaniards who lack a true understanding of poutine-laced Canada and Canadians!

You can follow our trials and tribulations of learning ESPANOL on another blog site…just link in here  for our stories and adventures.And because we’re off a-wandering, this seems to be just the right moment to segue to my travel “bucket list”. I’ve been to all of Canada’s provinces and territories, and now I’m setting my sights on each of the continents, as well as all 50 states of the good ole U.S.A. I’ve set foot on a piece of :

  • North America (Canada, US & Mexico)
  • South America  (Peru)
  • Europe (all western except Spain, Portugal)
  • Asia (China)

and with a (I’m assured)finite lifetime, it’s time to get my sorry ass out there. My own list follows…if you have some ideas of other “must see” places you think I should go, please pass them my way!


MY personal list of  8 “GO-TO” places:


  1. Russia—the Cold War era was a part of history that I grew up in. The former Soviet Union and now Russia and its affiliates are still a very foreign entity and culture in my mind. The food is different; the language is guttural and intriguing. The stereotype of hard-drinking vodka-swillers in large fur Ushanka hats lives on in my mind. It’s time to see and experience this country and either reinforce my typecasting, or kill the stereotypes dead in their tracks, like so many steers lined up at the abattoir doors.
  2. Africa—a continent of thin, black primitive people living in mud huts on a desert plain with wild animals waiting on the prowl to devour them. An accurate description? I’m guessing not. Once again, a pigeonholed vision waiting to be crushed. This huge landmass is almost forgotten by North Americans unless there is a relief drive to save drought-savaged starving people. Surely this amazing continent deserves more attention than it has attracted so far.
  3. Antarctica-it’s just sitting there in its icy-frozen place at the bottom of the world with penguins and ice floes. I don’t even know if there is an actual landmass that makes Antarctica, well, Antarctica. As a part of my quest to visit each of the world continents, Antarctica needs to be on the list. Bonus, I figure Morgan Freeman must live there, since he is the voiceover I hear every time I see a documentary or film about Antarctica!
  4. India—like with Africa, I grew up hearing great tales of a place filled with starvation, swollen-tummied children with flies in their eyes, and disease, but with super spicy, aromatic food. India is a huge country with lots of climates and cultural and religious varieties. I don’t think you could visit India and not be mesmerized by the complex mélange of colour of life within its borders.
  5. Australia– well, because it’s a continent with weird, poisonous animals and insects. And crocodiles. Sounds terrifying. And kangaroos and wallabies…we all love those. I have to see it to understand why some people actually want to live there, other than to visit the Sydney Opera House.  Would go just to acquire the cool accent! G’day mate!!
  6. Alabama– Really, I could have picked any southern US state.  I haven’t been to any of them save Florida (which isn’t REALLY a part of the true “South”). Civil War, grits, racism, Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer, Sweet Home Alabama. There are countless tales of life in a country that’s just like mine, but ISN’T when you head south. Even northern-state Americans talk about the south like it’s a different country…kind of an American Quebec. Who wouldn’t want to visit a place where everything eaten comes in huge, deep-fried portions? And where they say “Y’All”?

    Alabama Emergency Room…

  7. Turkey—a life wouldn’t be complete without a trip to a historic Ottoman Empire country, situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Huge mosques, the Hagia Sophia, and dry landscapes combined with Muslim culture and exotic foods make this a must-do, just as a sharp spiny breath of culture shock.
  8. Israel– it wouldn’t be fair to visit an Islamic country without the counter-balance of a sojourn to the one and only Jewish state. The tension…two sides of the coin, yin and yang, positive and negative, black and white, Judaism and Islamism. A gutsy, belligerent, tiny young country surrounded by a sea of antagonistic hordes. What kind of people can live their lives in this sandy ocean of tension?

So, look after yourselves while I’m away. Dream of your favourite places you’ve been or would like see. Start to plan for your future “bucket list” of travel, or any adventure that makes your heart beat just a little more rapidly. Make YOUR life just a little more “well-lived”!

Sorry, but I hear Scarlett and Penelope calling me, they need help rehearsing a torrid love scene they have coming up in their next cinematic outing with Ryan Gosling. Being a teacher and mentor to their fragile hearts is such demanding work.

Why must they be so needy?