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I Do Stupid Things

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Everything was fine until I did something stupid.

Isn’t it always that way?

We looked first-class as we entered the east-end restaurant where her friends and classmates had gathered.

It was a fun evening with hoots of laughter and discussions of the ordeals and traumas and goofy occurrences that happen when a group of young people have shared time together for four years.

Long ago in a galaxy far far away…. her high school graduation and prom. I was her date.

Her short, dark brown hair pulled into an up-do, she looked artistically lovely in a flowing amethyst dress and I looked late-teenager handsome(-ish) in a late 1970’s kind of way. It was a toss-up of who had the longer locks that evening.

The night passed, we drank Labatt’s 50 beer (I was legal, she may not have turned 18 yet) and danced to a DJ, and then after the “prom” we adjourned to her friend’s basement rec room for the “all-nighter party”.

Angela was cute. We had a fun night. I liked her. Friends. That’s all.

boy and girl shake hands

This is where the stupid part comes in.

We had been chummy for a few years while working evening and weekend shifts at our local McDonalds. She was a friend and classmate (at the nearby Catholic high school) of the girl I had a mad love for – the one I had taken to my own grad a year earlier – and who had dumped me a couple of months earlier.

As the all-nighter party approached morning and the excited momentum of the evening quietly slowed into an adagio, I could feel the devastating disappointment in her eyes… disappointment that all her girlfriends were making out with their dates… but we weren’t.

And so, as the sun rose – against my best judgment, and while paradoxically trying to make her feel better – I made out with her sans feelings of attachment or sensual desire.

“Made out” in the sense that no clothes were shed but lips touched. Maybe a breast was fondled, I honestly don’t remember now.

We drove down her street in my old tawny-toned Rambler American as daylight settled over the cool dew glistening on the lawns of her neighbourhood.

She was giddy and blissfully happy when I left her at her parents’ front door.

I felt crappy inside knowing the love in her eyes didn’t catch a similar reflection back from mine.

She had a major crush on me that lasted for a couple of years afterwards that I never reciprocated… at least after that one night.

In today’s parlance, I “ghosted” her.

And to show you how stupidity isn’t always a one-off, I did a similar thing with another amiable young lady when I moved to Yellowknife a year or two later. That time, clothes were shed.

Stupid.

Some things are plain old Stupid-dumb.

Some things are Stupid-hurtful.

Angela was Stupid-hurtful. I’m sorry Angela.

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And stupid-hurtful isn’t just something we do to others. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted.

… stupid-hurtful like… I blame myself for my Mom’s early death at age 60. I can’t leave behind the internal message that if I’d known CPR or artificial respiration, she might have breathed long enough, might have had a heartbeat long enough for an ambulance ride into the skilled hands of a real doctor. Her heart health wasn’t my responsibility as a 15 year-old, but a basic CPR course may have given me more time with her.

That’s stupid-hurtful to me, and yet at 2 a.m. I can’t shake the bastard thought despite it being nonsensical.

Some things are plain old stupid-dumb.

… stupid-dumb like… to keep my McDonalds job as a pimply teenager, I wore a wig… a short-haired wig that kept my non-corporate-conforming shoulder-length locks from the critical eyes of management.

… stupid-dumb like… as a 12 year-old, I cooked fried rice for my family’s traditional Sunday night dinner… clink tinkle tinkle… those are the sounds of hard rice landing on dishware when you don’t boil the rice in water first before frying.

… stupid-dumb like… as a student lab intern, reporting test results that had the potential to kill an unborn baby had an astute surgeon not called my lab supervisor for confirmation of my calculations before making the first cut into the Mom’s abdomen.

… stupid-dumb like… walking off the edge of an elevated deck in my yard where I had removed the stairs for renovation just a day earlier.

… stupid-dumb like…

Well, you get the idea, right? Even Forrest Gump had it right: “Stupid is as stupid does

Stupid must have a weight attached to it because sometimes my head feels heavy.

For all of the things we forget in our worlds – and we all forget sooooo much – the stupid things have a way of indelibly ingraining themselves in our psyche, like burrs in deep grass.

It’s fascinating and maybe even infuriating that I struggle to see the cherubic faces, to hear the angelic voices of my young children at their many Christmas concerts and dance performances and basketball games, and yet, I can vividly see and feel the sharp ends of a projectile nail protruding from my 11 year-old leg while playing a dumb game with childhood friends.

Stupidity doesn’t play fair.

And somehow, when I search for a silver lining to my playbook, I reflect on the conclusion that stupidity is directly related to life lessons and humility because the end result of any stupid thing I’ve done has a positive rebound effect of making me more aware of my terminal ordinariness… taking me one baby step forward on the bumpy road to becoming humble and kind.

I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton understood a few centuries ago that a whole lot of stupid does the job of gravity, holding us firmly to the ground?

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School Bells Sing … Are You Listening?

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Remember when the music
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire
And as we sang the words, it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we’d sing.”

Harry Chapin

school days

DAMN! I’m wondering if this is the fire and brimstone of Old Testament lore shitting down on the Okanagan Valley (and maybe your locale too) with floods, fires, and the worst global pestilence of all – good ole boy Donny-John Trump!

The only ones truly thriving in this plague are the chosen ones – comedians…

Summer 2017 – again – has melted away like a deliciously sweet Pralines and Cream ice cream cone licked madly on the Penticton beachfront, the escaped drips available on the front of your T-shirt to sample later.

The diamond glitter of sunshine on the balmy lake water, tropical scents of sunscreen, electric bursts of music and kids’ laughter are, alas, diminishing.

The smoke from surrounding forest fires that’s languished over the Naramata hillside for most of the past month is nowhere to be seen today. Yesterday’s wheezy cough is today’s soothing clear inhale of September joy.

It’s the perfect Okanagan Valley summer day. Or has autumn already descended?.

I scan down the line of parked cars along the sandy beach strip and already there are fewer Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington and Oregon plates… the British Columbia home-grown ones suddenly predominate, something not seen since mid-June when floods, not forest fires were the threat du jour.

And I’m sitting here on this first, beautiful day of September reminiscing about the many many September 1st’s and new school years that rotated past as my kids were growing from toddlers to school-age to tweens and adolescents and then, like reaching the end of the carnival Fun House – half exhilarated, half terrified – stopped.

Stopped dead like a healthy heart in mid-beat. The music went quiet.

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School day 1, 1990 – I vividly remember standing outside the portable of my 5 year-old daughter’s kindergarten class, gathering her up in my bursting-proud Daddy arms, she in her little white and pink polka-dotted dress, and kissing her so long.

She wanted my hug but she wanted even more to begin this new escapade. “Dad… Dad! Mr. Lambert’s ready for us!“.

One last little squeeze and I released her like a dove winging away, free in the breeze.

I felt a squeezing in my throat, wetness welling in my eyes as she skipped away.

She was so excited to be a “big kid” and entering the classroom with the Oshkosh group of little moppets, most of whom I would watch proudly stroll to the front of the stage in tux’s and ballgowns in 13 years to pick up their graduation diplomas.

She was so little, so pleased, so ready to begin this new adventure.

I don’t remember my parents seeing me off to school on my first day, so this is a treasured memory for me that resists the chalkboard eraser that has wiped away so many other precious moments.

……………..

Remember when the music
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children’s time
And as we sang we worked, for time was just a line,
It was a gift we saved, a gift the future gave.

……………..

Suddenly, the kids were grown. The long chapter ended.

All of the Back-to-School crescendos and decrescendos, all the adolescent fire, rain and sun whipped and flung in a thousand directions over time, dissipated.

Now it was time to load up the van or the car or the plane (vehicles morphed over time, like my grey’ing hair colour, to accommodate the friends and the sports or dance activities of the time) and fly off to deposit kids and their boxes and computers in university or college dorm rooms.

I wore my Dad jeans up and down dorm stairs and hallways, hauling boxes, taking in the young adult excitement and smell of new freedom hanging loosely in the air. The aura of sexual tension was the wallpaper that lined the hallways filled with crop tops and short shorts and muscle shirts.

And just like elementary and high school times, the post-secondary years blew past.

Scary fast.

Formula One racer fast.

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Yes, my mind wanders through time and space.

There’s a colossal pod of starlings making a huge sound like a rambunctious swarm of cicadas outside my window this morning.

The grand cedar tree across the street is bathed in early sunlight and coated in the grey-black birds as if they’re auditioning for a new remake of some classic Hitchcock film.

The warmth of summer lingers.

But soon, the BC smoke and flooding will be a mirage in the rear view mirror.

Soon, new school clothes will wear out.

Soon, sweet flirtations will erupt in the playground.

Soon, notebooks will fill with pictures and poems and sums and quotients.

There’s a shift, a mental refresh, a reshaping  that occurs when the calendar strikes September… and the universe’s cycle continues its relentless spin.

To every thing there is a season.

……………..

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

autumn okanagan

We’re Only BIG Kids…

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“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
—Flannery O’Connor

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Sleep is the new …

Do you ever wake up with library stack volumes of penetrating thoughts, insightful ideas, nagging worries… racing around the Indianapolis Speedway in your head?

Of course you do. We all do. Some to far greater extents than others.

The Speedway motor sounds are far too deafening to catch any more sleep and the racing cars keep knocking over the sheep you were counting jumping a fence.

Once the green START flag is raised, you might as well hold up the white flag of surrender and give up on any further zzzz‘s for that night.

I spent a good couple of hours during my “sleep time” a couple nights back reflecting, thinking foggy mountain circles on what I might write about this week.

This is a bit unusual for me. Tap tap tap.

More typically a blog topic idea comes fairly quickly at the start of each week; something catches my eye or my quirky imagination and then it’s my job to whip out a trusty lasso and wrangle the thought, the image, the idea into submission.

After doing this a couple of hundred times now, it’s rarely that difficult to electrify bright luminescence from the light bulb floating above my head.

My ADHD mind winds along the railway tracks, surmounting craggy hills, plunging down through lush green valleys, then presses through some dense Coquihalla fog as my writerly passageway gathers momentum and fills with a multitude of varying tangents… investing, running and other exercise modalities, gardening, writing, music writing and guitar playing, building things, Kama Sutra positions.

I try to read a lot of varied articles and book chapters to stimulate my thoughts, procreating the idea sex that directs me somewhere useful from a blog writing perspective.

This week the idea train had difficulty finding the station. I know it seems impossible, there being guiding tracks and all – clickety-clack – but nonetheless I struggled. A minor case of writer’s constipation?

Where did I end up when the train finally did pull into the station?

No dead ends.

1960 playground

CHILDHOOD

Back to childhood thoughts.

Eager boyhood dreams filled with impressions and memories about the innocent playfulness and the reality of childhood, then gazing into the grown-up future and living, loving and working as a big person.

I was virginally green, wide-eyed.

I thought big people were infallible.

Always right.

All knowing.

To be totally trusted.

Kind of like human forms of the God I heard and sang hymns about in church. I could have been abducted so easily, but then… who would have wanted me, this cherubic little hockey-playing paperboy?

It never occurred to me until years later – and it came as a shocking surprise I have to add – that grown-ups were… really… wait for it… little kids in big people clothes. Yup.

I could have written that 1988 movie “BIG” that starred Tom Hanks (I’m still dying to get a floor model piano that you play by jumping with your whole body) as a kid in a man-sized body playing in an adult world.

It hit the nail on the head.

We’re kids still inside, fallible, and nervously wondering if we have the right answers to the test questions.

big piano

The grassy playground beside my elementary school, Glen Echo, was a precursor, a SimLife preview of grown-up reality charged with more responsibilities and worries.

Years passed by and I grew bigger and older but I was still hopeful little Larry Green running around on the green park grass chasing after the Lucy-held football like Charlie Brown… chasing after the cute little Red-Haired Girl looking for love and affection… chasing after good marks in Arithmetic and Social Studies that would please my teacher Mrs. Putns… chasing after the excited crowd on the playground circling around one of the bigger bullies beating the bloody-nosed tar out of some poor pint-sized kid… chasing after a few dollars from my Hamilton Spectator paper route so I could buy that beautiful shiny bike with the banana seat (I soooo loved my bike with the banana seat!)

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What a gorgeous banana seat!

One day we wake up in an office cubicle or behind a cash register or computer keyboard.

Now we’re the grown-up. (Cue Elton John’s Circle of Life!)

The expectation and belief that adult-life is, would, be perfection and all-knowing is long gone in the realization that the playground grass has wilted but the players are pretty much still the same. It’s not a bad thing, rather only an eye-opening observation that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We spend our years in cycles, patterns that replay from childhood to grave.

Within those patterns from time to time we experience the very human but mysterious deja-vu sensation, a memory of a flower’s perfumed scent from summer camp, a flush of arousal reminiscent of a teenage kiss, a catchy song chorus that transports us to Grade 9 math class.

Forget Elton John, cast aside the Pride Rock scenario.

My BIG dream, once I finally fell asleep the other early morning was filled with another song.

Harry Chapin sang, “All My Life’s a Circle“,

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;

There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

moon road

WTF! WAS it TRUTH or FICTION?

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It’s all a lie.

We lie to ourselves without even trying.

Over the past few years there’s been lots of talk about False Memory Syndrome.

We’re swimming in a raging turbulent river of false memories – both in our personal stories and those that chronicle the entirety of humankind.

I’ve been reminded lately that what we “know” to be totally true from our younger years may just be a fractional truth with a good-sized dollop of “memory muscle on steroids”. False memory syndrome.

Remember the big house you grew up in? The one you visited again years later, and it’s much smaller than you recall?

My old home on Rainbow Drive in Hamilton sure is. How did 6 of us ever live together in that shoebox? How did my Dad ever squeeze an in-ground swimming pool into that tiny city lot?

Or the immensity and majesty of the horse you sat on for that now-yellowing photo taken by Mom, and how over the years the huge stallion where your legs didn’t quite reach the stirrups mysteriously transformed into a small pony.

We have a picture book of stories in our head, but is it reality, or the imaginings of a romantic mind?

mind images

Do you believe memories are real and trustworthy?

The second that a moment slips into our past, it becomes a malleable impression for kneading and manipulating by our inner interpreter.

Sure, obvious facts remain intact – the date and time of our birth, the names of our ancestors – but very quickly the steamy temperature of that humid August day in the Rockies and the whopping length of the fish that got away morph into a slippery new world of fiction.

How can I trust any collective knowledge we have about actual history? We constantly rewrite our own memories, and we constantly rewrite history. We see the past through the lens of our current, very personal, eyes.

When I was a schoolboy, explorer Christopher Columbus was a European hero who “discovered” North America and made my beautiful world possible. HAIL Columbus!

Somehow, while I was boyishly crushing on my pretty blond teacher Miss Taylor as she outlined Columbus’s glories at the front of my Grade 4 classroom, she left out that small part about Native peoples’ annihilations with weaponry and merciless viral diseases brought along in the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Not to mention that Leif Eriksson touched down in Newfoundland almost 500 years earlier.

Why would you lie to me Miss Taylor?

Our memories of events change, evolve, grow, embellish with time.

This all makes me suspicious of ANY history.

History and its stories for the most part are written from the memory banks of human beings, people looking back and recalling the events as they occurred from their own personal perspective. Hatred, love, compassion, heartbreak and ecstasy all change the nuance and colour of the crayon colouring of the picture.

This is the nature of all our lives and the reason that we men have hoisted this “6 inches can be divided four times by the length of a 12 inch ruler” fiction on women. (don’t worry if you missed my point here!)

The-fish-that-got-away.jpgAre we talking fish … or something else??

Sensational stories make for better history and also an improved recollection of the moments of our lives?

Who amongst us wishes to believe our days and life highlights were really just mundane minutes amplified from within.

I think we all want our lives to reflect something bigger, something better than they may have truly been. This is a good thing, because we should all believe we’ve lived a life of meaning and importance, whether a tadpole in a small pond, or a shark in a huge ocean.

My own interior false memory syndrome memory of my hockey prowess is built upon a single game played on soft outdoor ice on a November evening sometime in the mid-1960’s. Under the floodlights on that night I (factually) scored 7 goals for my Parkdale Steelers against the opponent team.

Yet years of inner mind-manipulation have transformed that one glorious event into something akin to how I was “this close” to being the next Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. I became a bigger “house” than the facts would ever bear out as true. And I’m just fine with that.

When I step down after performing, playing my guitar and singing on a small stage, the inner movie that shines on the walls of my mind is that of a famous rock star, a revisionist story of myself as Elton John.

Am I seeing and remembering reality or just an imagined vision? And … does it matter? What hurt am I inflicting by making myself bigger and better?

Have you noticed at family gatherings when aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters, chat about events of the past, the stories sound very different to your own even when they are about the same moment in time?

Those moments have all been sifted and recalled through a different filter in each mind present. What was so obviously happiness and joy for Aunt Cathy somehow looked like sadness or rejection from your perspective.

Your reality is different from mine. We each have to interpret our lives in a way that makes sense to us. The books, the music, the movies you love so much will not be exactly the same as those I treasure.

It’s not truly important that our memories and recollections of our own personal histories reflect “facts” and a full reality. Reality is of our own making and choosing – a collage of our own interpretations.

I’m still happily living in my own little “Walter Mitty” world where I depart from my enormous Downton Abbey Castle each morning to score the big game winning touchdown for my Hamilton Tiger-Cats before singing to a SOLD OUT audience that evening in Madison Square Gardens alongside Billy Joel.

It’s my party and I’ll decide which memories are true or false.

WTF! It’s all true. Just ask my “good pal” Martha Stewart, “… and that’s a  good thing!

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Winter Games and Alzheimer’s Sex

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Lucy-chocolate-factory

I’ve heard you asking…“Larry, why aren’t you writing about Idea Sex anymore?

Well …. I’ve listened and so … here’s another blog post about IDEA SEX! You’re welcome…

Today I’m mating my Teenage Virginity with BC Winter Games with Alzheimer’s Sex … you’ll understand in a minute.

Last week, we volunteered to make a few sandwiches and lunches for aspiring young athletes from across and up and down the province of British Columbia. Right, just a few.

Maybe … let’s see … 5,000,000 sandwiches constructed from 10,000,000 slabs of whole-wheat bread layered with sliced ham or beef, plastic-wrapped (OK… it was 5,000 sandwiches! But it felt like 5 million) … then pitched into brown paper bags to cuddle with a banana, an English Bay chocolate chip cookie, Kellogg’s granola bar, SunRype juice box, and a packet of mustard.

Truthfully, the lunches were extremely boring … which errant sock drawer did the organizers’ creativity gene get lost in?  Lunch of champions? Perhaps not.

The work itself was reminiscent of watching TV’s Laverne and Shirley on the beer-making assembly line, or Lucille Ball standing by the conveyor belt as chocolates raced past her. Fun, but a touch mind-numbing too.

sandwich assembly line

A lot of random musings roll through your head – like fluffy clouds drifting lazily across an azure sky – when you’re on an assembly line.

But mainly? SEX.

Things like, how –as a guy –  you spent your entire teenage years dreaming and wondering what it would be like to lose your virginity. Scrumptious virginity-plundering sex with a satin-skinned, sweet, floral-scented honey.

Carnal fantasizing yet feeling the pure undefiled terror of not knowing what to do, how to do, where to do … oh the numbness and freedom of the assembly line.

After fabricating the daily athlete energy packs, we’d wander about to the various sports sites and observe the up-and-coming potential Olympians.

There were moments of breathtaking inspiration watching a sleek speedskater zoom ahead of the pack like he was wearing a jet pack, pulling away from the other skaters as if they had parachutes dragging from behind.

Or the tiny little fella, maybe 11 or 12 years old with figure skates holding his feet to the ice … watching as this minuscule dynamo, solitary on the expansive ice surface, floated upwards, spinning round and round, almost taking off into orbit, before finally, slow-motion returning to the icy earth with balletic grace and an excited grin of satisfaction.

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But while I watched on, I found myself becoming more interested in the anxious parents gazing over their young charges.

I scanned the faces of the young parents emoting their own hopes and aspirations, replaying the life they had lived or wished they had lived.

Dreams enjoyed, dreams quashed.

The drama and grace of their child’s activity played out on the drawing board of their faces.

Then the memories began resurfacing.

I began re-living the inner atmosphere of fear, of pride, of the emotion and pleasure, the soul-searing heartbreak and joy of raising these creatures from a precious pairing of two individual gametes to this remarkable moment.

Because 10, 15, 20 years ago? That was me.  Sitting … cheering … jumping up yelling out a hurray … lowering my head into my hands in frustration.

Snapping back to the present, the milieu was like an out-of-body experience. I was a heavenly angel calmly observing the whole scenario detached from above.

Harry Chapin sang about this still-life moment in All My Life’s a Circle, the rising of the sun each morning, the day’s commute to and from school or work, the birthday and Christmas celebrations.

This circle of life where – as my adult son and I discussed only yesterday –  one day we’re listening impatiently to our father’s unwanted words of advice or reprimand, then, in what feels like a few short breaths later, hear ourselves repeating those same words to our own offspring.

It was a shock the first time I heard my father’s voice coming from my mouth.

And it occurred to me while watching this sports’ stuff, you know, the kids, the coaches, the parents, it was great fun at the time but like Alzheimer’s sex, as much fun and as enjoyable as it is, you forget about it.

The beauty, the excitement, and the delicious passion of the moment drifts further and further back in dusty eddies and recesses in your mind.

Eventually, barely realizing the loss, it becomes a mirage beyond sight, almost as if it never happened …

… until …

… you go to the Winter Games and the electrified feeling of being a sport’s parent returns.

You get to enjoy the present moment and the excitement and enthusiasm while simultaneously feeling an inner joy at the passionate memory of similar moments in your life.

I admit that I fear and maybe even shrink from the notion of growing older. I relish and prefer the sunny days when my thoughts revolved around the loss of my teenage virginity more than I look forward to twilight Alzheimer’s Sex.

I can’t turn back the clock or slow the aging process in any meaningful way, but I can capture moments of grace and beauty surrounding me today and enjoy the warmly satisfying reconnection to earlier days.

For me, it’s like concocting a fancy new cocktail in my bartender job … Idea Sex is another way of marrying our present adventures with our past.

ALZHEIMER