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Winter Games and Alzheimer’s Sex

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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.

Speed-Skating.jpg

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are There Ghosts Living In Your DNA? … Song For A Winter’s Night …

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winter night2

It was a rapturous moment … sitting in the just-darkened theatre.

The din of voices dimmed in harmony with the overhead lights.

As the light melted away, the honey-mellow sound of soft acoustic guitars rose like the swoosh of a hot air balloon lifting, and I felt that strange simultaneous mix of warmth and chill in those first melodic moments as I always do when I attend a concert.

Is there anything more soul-stirring than the first 30 seconds at the opening of a musical performance, whether rock, country, folk or classical?

It’s a mild, late fall evening on the western side of this rocky Canadian country and I’m listening – live for my first time ever – to the well-worn Canadian singer-songwriting icon named Gordon Lightfoot.

His voice is a wispy shadow of its original timbre – at least he sings on key, otherwise I’d go crazy – but the brilliance is buried inside his tones.

Lightfoot was a huge international phenomenon in the 1960’s and ’70’s with his lengthy song list that included The Canadian Railway Trilogy, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Sundown, Daylight Katy … and … Song For a Winter’s Night.

Song For A Winter’s Night is a metaphorical wonder of wintry snow and cold, and warm romance. True Canadiana.

There’s a lyrical beauty in it whether sung by Lightfoot himself or magically covered by another iconic Canadian, Sarah McLachlan.

I’m watching the stage, mesmerized, and as the song begins I silently ponder if the two versions could be pixie-dust consummated into a single duet akin to Natalie singing Unforgettable alongside her long-dead father Nat King Cole.

Gordon then

Gordie then…

 

SONG FOR A WINTER’S NIGHT

The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling
 
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
 
The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon each page
The words of love you sent me
 
If I could know within my heart,
that you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
 
The fire is dying now,
my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are drifting
 
If I could only have you near,
to breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with you
On this winter night with you
 
GordonLightfoot now

The same Gordie now …

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

The guitars return it home to a hazy finish of sleigh bells and I find my head in fluffy clouds of musical thought.

It’s here where a part of our existence dwells in a log cabin in the backwoods of northern Ontario or standing on a breathless wintry Saskatchewan lake frozen over with rabbit and deer tracks criss-crossing the barren snow-covered distance.

We close our eyes, our minds drifting like smoke from a moonlit chimney with curlicues of wonder and memory.

Often, a song carries us to an emotion-laden time and place where we experience our senses overflowing, telling us of the smells and sounds of euphoric good times or maybe, the heartbreakingly not-so-good.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a song takes us on a journey into a story of our inner heritage and even though we may have never felt the soothing warmth of a fire crackling to comfort us, we know inside ourselves what it means. It’s as if a mystical seed has been planted in our brains, a historic reminder of where we originated, who we are.

Each and every one of us is a product of countless generations that lived and loved and struggled, so it only makes sense that tiny fragments of those lives reside inside our makeup.

We tend to think of ourselves as an amalgam of our Ma and Pa, and maybe sometimes we see our grandparents contributing to our mix.

Child-JigsawPuzzle

 

But in reality, we are a huge jigsaw puzzle constructed of genetic pieces going back centuries. A corner piece that is the unexpected curl in your hair may originate in Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma Elizabeth’s DNA, a pun-filled sense of humour the little piece that was your G-G-Granddad’s mischievous demeanour.

Don’t ask me how listening to a musical tune brings these thoughts floating to the surface. Is it possible that the past is reaching out to me? Is there something in the words and tune that reflects something existing deeper within the chasms of my core structure?

Perhaps Song For A Winter’s Night has unearthed a wistful story of the lives of a man and a woman in my distant DNA.

Each impatiently yearns for the time when they can once again find solace and warmth in the other’s arms after a lengthy separation because of war, religious differences, or difficult times. It’s a story that somehow developed without the modern interruptions and connections of motorized vehicles, cellphones, or eHarmony.

Gordon Lightfoot won’t be with us for a whole lot longer – yet his lyrical memory will wander the musical stage for generations.

But the dimensions and associations that originate in his words, his melodies, like so many other gifted artists, linger on in our DNA to be shared the next time you sit in a theatre and sweet notes float over you, caressing you like a gentle river.

Goodbye

Summer Lovin’ … Tell Me More Tell Me More…

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Grease_Sandy

TRUE FACTOID: France’s Eiffel Tower can grow by more than 6 inches in summer due to the expansion of the iron on hot days.

RUMOUR: On the beach on a hot bikini summer day, many men find that the same … sorry … I got lost in a lustful side thought, won’t happen again.

……………………….

I can feel my hands gripping the wheel of my 1967 4-door brown Rambler American sedan, cruising along Hamilton’s Van Wagner’s Beach overlooking Lake Ontario, thick, humid air blowing through my long, dark 1970’s hair.

There’s an incredibly salty scent of Hutch’s french fries drifting on the breeze that makes my stomach rumble as I drive along. My right hand rests gently on the knee of my girlfriend who’s tempting me maybe even more than the french fries with her firm, tanned legs reaching from her navy blue stretch shorts to the floor.

The 8-track player that just about bankrupted me to buy, pumps out Beach Boys, America, Peter Frampton, and Eagles’ harmonies.

Intermingling with the music is the raucous percussive mating symphony of the little cicadas bursting from the trees.

And just like I still do today, I’m singing the harmony part unashamedly at the top of my lungs.

Even at that time, I was aware enough to think to myself, “could life get any better than this?

HUTCH's2

With July now sending its sizzling temperatures our way in the northern hemisphere, it puts me to wondering:

What songs are your favourite to croon along with?

And … What makes a great summer song? 

  • Is it the hint of romance?
  • Is it about youthfulness and escape?
  • The fast tom-tom beat in the background?
  • The perfect layering of harmonies?
  • Calypso rhythms?
  • The mention of buff tanned boys and bikini-clad girls on the beach?

I think the answer is yes to all of the above and a thousand other things that somehow give each of us an eyes-closed-floating-on-the-water feeling and the sense that the sultry sun is lighting us up from within. Hot liquid energy exudes from our pores when the music’s beat is absorbed.

 

Summerland to Peachland

The scene from Summerland’s fruit orchards and vineyards towards Peachland …

Every Thursday morning, I chauffeur myself along highway 97 through Peachland and Westbank to work in the lab in Kelowna, about 40 k north of my home in quaint little Summerland.

And on that one day each week I have about an hour and a half of driving (there and back) through Canada’s verdant Okanagan Valley orchards and vineyard scenery.

I cast my eyes out over the sparkling water for Ogopogo and imagine that every ripple in the water’s surface is actually the tip of the beast’s- akin to the Loch Ness Monster – dorsal fin.

It IS spectacular to make this winding journey in the summer months but this drive and this blog aren’t about the vistas of lakes and mountains … it’s about Summer Songs and Singing … in cars.

Cars are amazing things. They were built to move us rapidly from Point A to Point B, but I think the real reason cars were created – this is true, right? –  is 3-fold:

  1. to put babies to sleep
  2. to allow young children to prove/disprove Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest while bickering and slugging it out in the back seat, and
  3. make the best music studio for personal singing … ever.

Oh… and I suppose you could add:

4. which is to give young and old lovers alike the chance to test out their yoga skills in backseat lustful encounters.

The steamy shower stall may be your song studio of choice, but driving alone for periods of time in a motor vehicle is when I do my best singing. A car stereo system cranked up is the perfect accompaniment to belting out a song I love.

Car stereos give us all sorts of options for song choice. The old days of singing along with limited choices on a car radio are now replaced by not only the radio itself, but also CD’s, iPod tracks by the thousands, and satellite radio stations.

In an earlier post, I told you about my, and asked you for your, SADDEST songs … but this is summer and summer has its own vernacular, right?

Just to get you thinking along the summer song track, let me give you some examples of tunes that strike a summer chord for most of us.

Billboard 100’s Top 10 Summer Songs

Summer Songs

*Based on each track’s performance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart from August 4, 1958 — the inception of the chart — through the chart dated May 31, 2014.

10 Summer Nights, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (1978)

9 Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly & The Family Stone (1969)

8 Surfin’ U.S.A., The Beach Boys (1963)

Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)

6 Endless Summer Nights, Richard Marx (1988)

5 Surf City, Jan & Dean (1963)

4 Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini, Bryan Hyland (1960)

3 Wipe Out, The Surfaris (1962)

2 Summer In The City, The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)

1 California Gurls, Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg (2010)

Kind of interesting that 6 of the Top 10 were recorded in the 1960’s, isn’t it? Just one came from each of the 1970’s, ’80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s.

My own personal summer playlist will give me away and pinpoint me as a Baby Boomer whose formative years were the 60’s and 70’s… we all have an era that lives inside us as our own personal “Primetime”.

What does YOUR personal playlist sound like?

Let me list a few of my summer favourites:

  • Take It Easy … Eagles
  • Firework  Katy Perry
  • I’m Sexy And I Know It … LMFAO… there’s nothing like “wiggling” along the highway to this at 6 am! Makes it hard not to spill my Tim Hortons coffee in my lap which would make it a REAL hurtin’ song!
English: Katy Perry performing at the 2008 War...

(I’m behind Katy singing right along)

and finally, just for boppin’ through the  summer of 2014

  • HAPPY   Pharrell Williams
Then He Kissed Me

What would summer be without convertibles and  Beach Boys?

 

I could go on and on as I feel myself drifting back in time again just hearing the names to these songs. I can hear the old voices and smell the hot summer scents – even feel my heart quickening with the sun-kissed emotions of the moment.

There must be a million songs that work their summer charm when it’s time to roll our car windows down ….

So Tell Me More, Tell Me More.

When you get a minute, tell me, if you had to choose just one song to sing in the sizzling summer heat of your car, what would it be?

Grease-Summer-Nights

The First Time Ever I Called You Queer …

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In the Elementary School System there are two separate,

Yet equally important groups.

The little boys who pull pony tails and trip girls in the playground at recess

And the little girls who giggle and skip rope.

THESE ARE THEIR STORIES

law-and-order-logo

Almost like the kids’ game RED ROVER, there were inviolable, uncrossable lines at Glen Echo School in Hamilton where I spent my formative Kindergarten to Grade 5 school years.

Truly, SCHOOL laws and BOY laws existed that were unwritten but well heeded until about Grade 6.

These KGB-like regulations secretly stated that boys and girls would never display any obvious signs of admiration, crushes, or lust upon their opposite numbers. Come to think of it, this may have been my earliest encounter with political correctness. Talk about blurred lines.

I was teased – and I teased others –  if I was seen to be currying favour – you know, pulling a pony tail or chasing a girl in the playground, the glaringly obvious signs of pre-pubertal true love.

Boy pulls girl's hair

It just goes to show that we conform to rules, written and unwritten, at an early age. It was clear to us boys that – at least publically – we hated girls because they were YUCKY. ‘Nuff said!

The sadly remarkable yet funny thing is, I knew inside myself that I was attracted to these little cuties in pleated skirts and white knee socks. I just wasn’t sure why.

There were no swelling or developed breasts that shifted my gaze from eye level. There were no curvaceous hips that wiggled seductively as they shuffled in little girl packs ahead of me down the linoleum hallway that, because some Grade 3 kid just puked up a hot dog from last night’s supper, smelled of pungent Dustbane.

It was and is a mystery.

I didn’t really understand these feelings I felt inside.

I just knew that it gave me a warm, pleasant feeling, and had a really strange, stiffening effect on that wee little dangly thing below the belt that I peed from. What was with that?

Louise C. was my first official public crush in Grade 6 – I dished out an extra 10 cents to hold her hand and take her to the Glen Brae Middle School sock hop – but as far back as Grade 1, I was covertly madly and deeply in love with Dale C.

She was that deadly combination of both pretty AND smart. I couldn’t take my eyes off her when she’d come in from recess –  a little whisper of apple flesh clinging delicately to the corner of her lip – and tug her white tights up higher around her waist. I was hypnotized by her strange girly magic.

In Grade 2, she must have gotten pregnant (I always suspected Billy or Jerome of schoolyard lust) or something because her family moved away and I never saw her again. Took me 4 years and a crush on Miss Taylor, my Grade 5 teacher to get over her.

Larry Grade 1 Glen Echo 2

My first crush Dale C is in this picture, but I’ll leave it to you to guess who she is by the “S” we’re holding together…

Things probably haven’t changed a lot on the infatuation front for today’s youngsters, but now I’m casting my sight in a slightly different direction.

Now that I’m an adult (sort of), and the world’s scope of understanding has expanded for me, I find myself wondering.

I was (am) a sexually-straight little guy. We all assumed in my childhood years – again, at least publically – that everyone around us was straight.

My question: When do little gay boy kids start crushing on other little boys, and lesbian girl kids on other little girls? 

The early unwritten rules I’ve just described about not expressing desire or lust must have killed the gay kids.

Why?

Well, for me, Grade 6 came along and suddenly the dam walls that prevented public lust came tumbling down. The classrooms and schoolyards were filled with little conclaves of tender couplings and busy matchmakers.

Billy and Sarah, Blake and Miranda, Frank and Cathy, Nicole and Keith.

Some of the romances lasted for minutes, others hours, the occasional one might stick for a week or two, just like today in Hollywood.

The prison doors were flung open wide, and public yearning was instantly de rigeur. Suddenly, I could drool all over Cathy and Adele and Carol. No questions. No ridicule.

But the dam – the prison walls – never collapsed for the gay kids. I assume there had to be a fair number of homosexual youngsters given what I see in today’s world. But in the real world playground there were no couples walking hand-in-hand like:

John and George, Britney and Madonna, Elton and David, Ellen and Portia.

ellen_portia

If anything, the walls of the dam grew stronger and more forceful for these kids. The level of ridicule and derision for queer youth became more heightened as the volume of sexual hormones rose.

By the time I passed through the front door of Glendale High School, the feelings of anger and mockery for homosexuality were at absurdly elevated levels. I can only imagine the frustration and self-hatred experienced by my LGBT classmates.

I’m living today with questions, and no small amount of guilt, for the way I must have treated my schoolmates who were attracted to their same-gender friends.

For the reality is, there were three, not two equally important groups in the system who had their stories, but we weren’t ready to listen.

Yet.

Are We Now?

 

1967 … Back to the Future …

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Grade 5 Glen Echo School 1967

My Grade 5 class 1967 – Glen Echo School, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada … I’m bottom row, second in from right.

Yeah, I was bleeding alright … all over the driveway.

And I screamed bloody murder with monster salty tears streaming down my chubby little cheeks.

My brother Gord’s friend Ron had pulled back hard on the rubber band and shot a U-shaped fence staple from a slingshot into my exposed lower leg from about 6 feet away. But it was a game, and so this end result should have been anticipated. Is it possible that maybe we weren’t the brightest kids?

When I pulled the two pronged galvanized projectile from my leg, the blood poured out pretty profusely. Everybody was apologetic and concerned and all, but you know, this was 1967 and I was 10 years old; these were the sorts of games we played to cement our childhoods.

Where were the parents you might ask? Oh puh-lease

Parents and kids of the 1950’s and 1960’s led pretty independent lives — we met at mealtimes, and outside of that, we were all mostly free to head in whatever direction we wanted. From any age.

But remember, this was a naively different time when we were still just standing at the front door of the haunted house that held all of the understanding of the dangers of child abuse and abductions, drugs, war atrocities, and all of the other scary things that go bump in the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My leg felt like this …

Boy's bloody leg

…but probably looked more like this.

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It was all normal stuff from an era that no longer exists.

Hell, as a 1990’s and 2000’s parent, I would never have dreamed of sending my kids outside to play at 8 in the morning, and then not expect to see them until they came running in starved at lunch time.

Not only would I have not dreamed this, but frantic neighbourhood watchers would have sent apoplectic police officers to my door before an hour had passed.

………………

Like a wistful Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, this blog post has me delving into ancient 20th century history.

And it’s truly unsettling from my perspective because the message that runs indelicately through my head is that this means my lifetime on our good earth is running low on ticks of the clock … and since we’re talking 20th century, that’s an analog clock, you know, the kind with hands that sweep around the circle.

Burn’s documentaries beautifully lay out history in sepia tones. Dreamy nostalgic music floats through while sentimental rivers of images appear like miniature puffs of smoke that recede into the pale blue sky. I like to think of my life’s experiences in sepia, it lends romanticism and import that would otherwise be absent.

1967 was a big year in the 20th century – for me, and the rest of the world too. I think that 1967 is the first year where I’m really cognizant of my being an individual person. This is striking because I was only 10 years old in ’67.

It was the year of Canada’s 100th birthday — or Centennial —  and there was a huge international party going on in Montreal called Expo 67. Across the land, Canadians spent the year wandering their streets, schools and businesses in geometric-striped or paisley shirts, and mini tent dresses, singing, “CaaaaaaNaaaaaDaaaaa… One little , two little, three Canadians … we love thee

I visited Expo 67 twice. I loved the awe-inspiring country pavilions — Iran’s brightly-toned blue tile walls, the Sputnik satellites hanging in the sloped-glass USSR building, the Buckminster Fuller geodesic-dome U.S. pavilion that had monorail trains gliding right through its middle. The breezes of the St. Lawrence River were filled with the intoxicating smells of foreign dishes with names we couldn’t pronounce.

It was so exciting that I hardly needed the extra adrenaline boost found in the amusement park area called LaRonde, it was that cool. At one point, I got lost from my parents and aunt and uncle in the park which really pissed off my Uncle Dwight. Come on, I was TEN!

Expo_67_Pavilion_of United_States_PC_004

Humankind began to grow up in the 1960’s. Incredibly, in 1967 many of us were just beginning to realize that war was a bloody miserable thing to march into. It really wasn’t the glorious, fun-filled tromp into camaraderie and dancing with easy local girls and drinking and singing we thought it was.

Television brought Vietnam into our living rooms each evening. There were terrible bloodbaths and chemical burns, and innocents shredded in the crossfire just like in World War 1 and World War 2 and every other war that had played out over the millennia, previously unseen in our living rooms. It was scary and painful and messy. We were all scared shitless of nuclear war annihilation.

We’d been Lee Harvey Oswald‘ed and Albert DeSalvo‘ed by now, but still had no signs yet of Richard Speck, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray, Clifford Robert Olson, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer to name just a slight few. We were semi-naive babies taking one last delicious suck on our thumbs.

But despite any worries of the time that existed, I loved 1967 for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • There was a shiny new (alright, 2 years old) Maple Leaf flag flying over the Expo 67 celebrations in Montreal.
  • Elvis married Priscilla.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
  • The Mad Men era where men were men and women were subservient was in its final throws.
  • The summer of free love bloomed in San Francisco.

Maple Leafs 1967

………………

It might be strange to you but an even more important cause for my love of all 1967 was the movies that hit the theatres. It was a classic year in cinema.

  • To Sir With Love
  • In Cold Blood
  • Wait Until Dark
  • The Graduate
  • Bonnie and Clyde

All great movies. Thoughtful, serious, funny, emotional movies.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said kids and parents went their separate directions?

Here’s a perfect example. On Saturday afternoons, I, along with one of my friends Jerome, Renato, Larry, or Frank would jump onto the Main West bus that traversed Hamilton from east to west. It was about a 30 minute ride to the central core of the city. We’d hop off downtown and find our way over to the cavernous 2,259 seat Capitol Theatre, or the majestic Palace with its huge balcony, or sometimes the relatively plain-Jane Tivoli.

Give the lady at the front kiosk your 25 cents kids’ admission, head to the snack bar for popcorn and a big chocolate bar and you could ensconce yourself in the theatre for the whole afternoon.

Why watch Bonnie and Clyde get gunned down in bloody slow motion just once when you could sit and watch it again a second time? Faye Dunaway was just way too pretty to leave behind after just one performance. Jesus, even Warren Beatty was too pretty to leave behind with only one viewing. And it took at least two viewings to understand Buck Barrow’s joke, “And she called him over and she said, “Son, whatever you do, don’t sell that cow!

You could enter the theatre at 11 am and not leave until 11 pm if you wanted. Of course, we didn’t because I had to deliver the Hamilton Spectator newspaper to my customers by 5 o’clock or I was dead meat.

Bonnie-and-Clyde-1967

I think that if I could play out my own Back to the Future scenario, 1967 would easily be my year of choice.

I’d luxuriate in the warmth of my long-gone Mom and Dad, and the rest of my family. I’d eat lots of MoJo’s and french fries at Van Wagner’s beach on Lake Ontario. I’d spend hours playing football in the park across the street from my house, pretending I was a famous Hamilton Tiger-Cat receiver like Garney Henley. I’d ogle poor blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark for even more hours at the Palace theatre.

More importantly, I could make sure I ran far and fast away from Ron with that damn staple-shooting slingshot.

Then today, I wouldn’t have to look down at the two bumpy little scars on my lower leg when I happily reminisce about my youth.

I’m Coming Out of the Closet … Again.

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Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

A year ago in this blog I came out of the INTROVERSION closet. And so in this, my 2nd annual coming-out post, I’ve selected a different closet from which to emerge.

Yin Yang, Hot Cold, Vanilla Chocolate.

The attraction of opposites is common and complementary.

I’m more like the repelling blend of oil and water within the world of gender roles. After all, what kind of real man likes romantic, sappy, poignant movies that tell stories of love lost and won, lost again and then re-won?

What kind of real man can endure Katherine Heigl or Rachel McAdams playing the hard-nosed but oh-so-soft female executive in a man’s world?

Most men’s heads are a vortex of sports, beer, cars, and sex. Real men thrive on action and violence and muscle cars. Real men don’t like quiche. Real men spit and swear.

I’m not a Harlequin romance reader or cheesy soap opera fan but I must — somewhat reluctantly — thrust my hand out of the macho-closet into the tissue-ready Chick-Flick world.

I’m the oil slick on the surface of this water-world of REAL men.

couple-watches-chick-flick

I like CHICK-FLICKS. Bite me.

Give me sweetly-saccharine Sandra, give me Blonde Reese (Legal or Illegal!), give me Chicago-syrupy Renee and Serendipitously-seductive Kate and Castaway Tom and Silver-lined Bradley and cutesy-Sleepless Meg.

Hold the Terminating Arnold, hold the Die-Hard Bruce, hold the Rambo Sylvester and Delta-Force Chuck.

I embrace this frilly feminine turf filled with feelings, relationships, and emotions. The rise and swell of sorrowful violins is tender therapy.

But really, chick-flicks are all about finding two hours of vicarious love in the form of a charismatic leading man or winsome heroine.

Like in a well-written novel, a clever chick-flick puts us squarely in the starring role — we peer from behind Audrey Hepburn’s neckline or Paul Newman’s blue eyes for a short time.

Let me recall some Chick-Flick history as a chart of my story:

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1960’s  “Honest to goodness it’s the absolute ultimate!” — Gidget (Sandra Dee)

Sandra Dee in GIDGET and Annette Funicello in the series of Beach movies were my early chick-flick loves. They were wholesome but in an ever-so-slightly slutty way. Men like wholesome sluts. It’s walking on the carnal ledge without cruising the dark side streets seeking the perfect hooker for 5 minutes (or 2 maybe) of fun and pleasure.

Julie Andrews sang, twirled, and beguiled us through the Salzburg mountains in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She teased us and made a nun’s habit vaguely naughty and sexy.

1970’s. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — LOVE STORY (Ali McGraw)

One of my favourite 1970’s movies was LOVE STORY. I had a mad crush on Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) with her pouty, intellectually preppy attitude. She also had a vulnerability that melted me into liquid chocolate.

1980’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan)

The decade began with AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN when Debra Winger wooed me with her blue-collar longings and husky voice and ended  WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Meg Ryan was the perfect chick-flick lead — she pulled at my heartstrings with her neurotic tendencies and operatic restaurant orgasms. Why is quirkiness so appealing?

1990’s “Go to the Mattresses.” — You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks)

1995  brought us WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. Sandra Bullock was my girl of the decade with her crush on comatose hunk Peter Gallagher while honourable Bill Pullman drooled all over her back. Meg Ryan’s cute-vulnerable act continued in a close second place with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

2000’s “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”  — Serendipity (Jeremy Piven)

The new millenium began and a new cinematic crush walked into my life as Kate Beckinsale brought a serendipitous attraction into SERENDIPITY in 2001. A year later, Mandy Moore sang and stole my heart in A WALK TO REMEMBER Like Ali McGraw in LOVE STORY, this movie reminded me that dying girls can be hot.

2010’s “I don’t want to fall asleep. Okay? Don’t let me fall asleep. Promise.” — SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Keira Knightley)

We’re barely into the second decade of the 2000’s but already I’ve been smitten with Keira Knightley in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. Once again, the quirky factor drew me in. I may be detecting a trend here — quirky + dying = irresistible.

Seeking-a-Friend-For-The-End-Of-The-World

So there you have it, I’ve outed myself … again. But I am egalitarian. It’s not only the female leads that make a chick-flick eminently watchable.

Strangely, I’ve developed man crushes on Tom Hanks (YOU’VE GOT MAIL),  John Cusack (SERENDIPITY), and Steve Carell (SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD / DAN IN REAL LIFE) too. The easy humour and vulnerability of the male leading man roles remind me that masculinity is far more than the stereotypical grunting and rutting of the penis owner.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, chick-flicks encompass the meaning of human existence. We work to live, but we love in order to breathe and feel and experience the depths of our emotional consciousness.

I’ve lived and loved my life to the passionate background beat of cinematic romance for more than five decades.

The greater fear that rises within me now is how I might survive the upcoming Chick-Lit-Flick armageddon 50 SHADES OF GREY. Don’t get me started on that one…

50-shades-of-bad-boys

Just Another Thursday? … The Day My Mother Died

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The sun rose that morning the same as every day before but at the end of the day it set on a totally different world than I had ever known.

Bird at sunrise

It was a lovely Thursday April morning, very springlike and mild. The sun struck the young ash tree just starting to leaf out, casting a long shadow across the grass at the front of our house.

Our small, brown-brick home looked across the street at the expansive grassy school yard and field that housed my three childhood educational homes: Glen Echo, Glen Brae, and Glendale schools – there sure wasn’t a lot of naming creativity at the school board in Hamilton’s 1950’s era.

I was 15 years old and in the last of the three schools, Glendale, nearing the end of my Grade 11 year. I was biting at the bit for three months to pass quickly when I would turn 16 and could get my beginner’s licence for driving a car. I couldn’t wait.

The morning routine went along as normal. My father had retired 8 months earlier at his 65th birthday, and my 5-years younger Mom was getting herself ready to go off to her clerical job at an “Office Overload” temp hiring office.

Dad had experienced a heart attack while shovelling heavy snow ten years earlier. As a result, the entire family had become laser-focused on the state of his health and even a decade later still worried about a reoccurrence. Mom was always making sure that none of us siblings said or did anything that might upset him.

I personally worried more about my Mom’s health. She was a smoker, she was moderately overweight, and when she climbed up the dozen or so stairs from the basement laundry room, she was often wheezing and completely out of breath.

My night dreams were regularly filled with dark visions of her lying peacefully in a casket.

Like my mother, I was a worrier. I would lie in my bed, tearing up before I nodded off, brooding about her and how losing her would affect me.

dying dream

The morning pattern that day was disturbed when I came into the kitchen to get some breakfast and Mom was bent over the kitchen sink, vomiting.

Mom was never sick. This was pretty surprising.

Are you OK?“, I asked.

She deflected my concerns in her calm motherly way.

I’m fine. I’ll feel better in a few.

A few minutes later she was being driven off to work by my father and I was heading across the road to my classes where I fully expected to get a red reward peg from Mr. Mason in French class for answering some minor question correctly. “Tres bien Larry“, he would say, but with a quirky look on his face. Mr. Mason was an eccentric.

The work/schoolday finished and we all returned to our place at home. Mom took a few minutes to make some filterless cigarettes.

She used a little rolling machine that made about 6 cigarettes at a time in one long cylinder. She would lick her finger over and over and smooth her saliva across the glue edge before the final turn of the knobs on the sides that would pop out the completed smoke tubes. After turning the machine over and setting the tobacco roll into the little mitre tray on the backside, she would then cut the long tube into individual cigarettes using a razor blade.

They were just like machine-made except they had no filter on the end. When she smoked one, little bits of tobacco would leak out the end into her mouth and she would have to fish them off the tip of her tongue using her thumb and forefinger like tweezers.

A classic home-grown cigarette-making machine…

Homemade cigarettes saved the family money, and the household budget was usually tight.

My family culture was to begin working from the moment you could walk. This meant taking on paper routes or magazine delivery jobs, or orchard fruit-picking from the start of elementary school onwards. I was the 5th and last in a 5-person lineup of siblings who delivered the Hamilton Spectator newspaper.

At 15, I was not just sick and tired of delivering newspapers but also feeling much too mature for such juvenile work, so I quit the “family” firm.

The idleness of being jobless at 15 was too much for my parents to understand or accept, so on her way out the door to go for dinner that evening with my Dad’s sister Nina and brother-in-law Dwight, Mom popped her head inside my bedroom door where I was laid out on my bed.

“Larry, you might want to drop by McDonalds and fill in an application form.”

Those were her last words to me. 

Not very exciting.

It sounded like a polite request, but I knew it was much closer to a General’s command.

I was scared silly at the thought of seeking out a “real” job. It was like going to the dentist. There were managers at the local McDonalds who extracted teeth without freezing when asked about job openings and I knew it. So when I said, “Yeah, I will soon Mom”, I really meant “Yeah, when Hell freezes over”.

McDonalds Stoney Creek

Hell DID Freeze Over! This McDonalds became my teenage work home for 4 years after my Mom died…

A few hours passed. I continued to laze around unproductively throughout the evening until I heard a sharp knocking and a muffled yelling voice coming from the front door.

What the hell?

Startled, I hurriedly opened the front door where my Aunt Nina stood, “Your mother has fainted in the driveway.”

I followed her to the side of the house, adrenalin already surging, heart pounding.

Coming around the corner in the twilight, just behind our Ford Meteor car, I spotted my mother laid out on her back on the asphalt surface of the driveway, eyes closed, skin ashen-toned, her dress askew from the sudden tumble.

I wanted so badly to believe that she had just fainted as Aunt Nina said, but my inner soul told me this was far more serious than a simple faint. This was death, or close to it, laying on the ground, and it was my Mom.

My Dad and aunt and uncle were too shocked to know what to do.

I didn’t know what to do either when I bent over her and could hear only a very slight, quiet gasping intake of breath. None of us knew the slightest about medical resuscitation, CPR or artifical respiration.

We were all in a state of denial, but I knew we needed outside help. I ran into the house and dialled 0 for an Operator (911? No such thing in 1973). The Operator patched me through to ambulance dispatch and even though I could scarcely breathe through my fear, I blurted out that my Mom had fainted or  – I finally admitted it out loud – had a heart attack.

The lady calmly asked for my address and said an ambulance would arrive shortly.

I returned outside and in the confusion and panic we picked my mother up by the shoulders and legs and carried her into the house and laid her on the living room couch. The same couch we had sat together on a couple of years earlier on a hot July night to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon for the first time.

Helplessly – hopefully –  we waited the 3 or 4 minutes before an ambulance backed into the driveway. The 2 male attendants came in and did a quick assessment and then strapped an oxygen mask to my mother’s face as they lifted her onto the wheeled stretcher.

The shallow, raspy breathing sounds I’d heard her making earlier had disappeared now.

Lifting her into the ambulance, they climbed aboard along with my father and headed off with sirens in full wailing song.

My aunt, uncle, and I jumped into our family car and drove in pursuit of the siren’s din towards the Hamilton General Hospital Emergency room. The siren’s sound faded and disappeared in the distance. We couldn’t race through red lights the way an ambulance in full flight could.

Hamilton General Hospital

It was dark, the air was still when we pulled into the hospital parking lot.  Hurriedly, we rushed past the now-familiar ambulance parked by the entrance to the ER and through the whoosh of the sliding glass doors. The small waiting room just inside and to our right was empty of anyone except for my Dad.

He stood when he saw us and walked the few feet to where we stopped.

His face was red with a desperate look of anguish.

He simply said, “She’s gone.”

She’s Gone …

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We like to think that each day is different and special, like little individual snowflakes wafting gently from the winter sky… unique.

In truth, most days just blend into the rest and we can’t remember what happened last Wednesday, much less October 19, 2002.

But the occasional day stands alone in our mind as memorable, and we remember the sun, the trees, the sweet, pungent smell of lilac in the air at the corner of our street.

Days like Tuesday, September 11, 2001 or Friday, November 22, 1963 or Thursday, September 28, 1972 (bonus points if you can name the events of these 3 dates!).

For me, Thursday, April 12, 1973 was a day like no other. The day my mother died.

It replays in my mind from time to time and the vision, the memory, becomes slightly more translucent as each year passes. But the emotions and heart-pounding I felt that day remain strong and intense.

I don’t want to lose them, as painful as they can be because they remind me of the special place my mother held in my life, my heart.

Her voice, her laughter, and her warmth live inside me.

Memories

Have You Had a BM Today?

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No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

But do you think you’d read this if I entitled the post, “How Do you Handle All the Information Coming At You?” BORING!

You, like me, are flailing in a floodstorm of information that swirls and sucks us in and down. Every time we come to the surface to catch our breath, another huge wave of data crashes over our heads and pushes downwards like the Ocean Ranger in the cold Atlantic. Blogs like this, Work Stuff, Newspapers, E-mails, Facebook, E-zines, Huffington Posts, Flipboards, Tumblr, Pinterest…wave after wave.

So here I am sending you more information (opinion) about information…don’t shoot me yet!

Overwhelmed-Woman1

My alimentary canal has a way of dealing with excess overload….I jam food in one end, chew it up, swallow, squeeze and peristalsize it through my amazing internal composting system. Then it exits from the other end after my body has digested and sucked out all of the good – and not so good – stuff it needs.

The end result is a Bowel Movement. Nutrients In, Garbage Out (NIGO). It’s as cool as it is remarkable.

I want a brain that can do the same thing.

I can’t keep up with the enormous flow of conversations, images, facts, figures and opinion coming at me from right, left, above and below ground. There’s a runaway firehose spewing and swelling with megabytes of information gushing at my gaping eyes and I’m blown over by the pressure.

fire hydrant

And yet strangely, I like all of this information.

There’s something gratifyingly pleasing about being able to know just about anything imaginable in a Google Heartbeat. It makes my world a richer, more engaging place.

  I feel…as though the physical stuff of my brain were expanding, larger and larger, throbbing quicker and quicker with new blood – and there is no more delicious sensation than this.”

Virginia Woolf

As amazing as the digestive tract is, the brain is even MORE awe-inspiring … but perplexing. Information flows in, I crunch and masticate and try to absorb the important nutrients of information. This is where the intestines and the brain diverge somewhat.

Once the information enters my system, I want my brain to distinguish the juicy, salient info-nutrients from the trite. After extracting and storing all of the good stuff for future and easily accessible use, it should dump the useless and undigestible and trivial.

A couple of small examples of the volume of material that I’m talking about:

  • This blog I write is on a website called WORDPRESS. As of today, there are 62 million individual blogsites on their servers. Each day, 100,000 brand new blogs are initiated, and each month 39 million new blog posts are published.
  • In the New York Times recently, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg claims, “… that a copy of the daily New York Times contains more information than the average 17th-century Englishman encountered in a lifetime”. This may be a stretch, but it makes a point.

Information overload, Information glut, Information fatigue.

Just like a Bowel Movement … I want a Brain Movement (yes, the other BM!). Information In, Garbage Out (IIGO)

The brain is still a puzzle to us in many ways. In a hundred years, our great-grandchildren will be rolling on the floor laughing at our rudimentary knowledge and understanding of this pound of pug-looking, crinkly tissue. I can see them chortling derisively at this world you and I know.

I get frustrated when I can’t remember details that I swore to myself I would never lose. I can win a game of Trivial Pursuit because I’ll remember minute, bizarre, unimportant facts. Memory is a wonderful and frustrating piece of work. It gives us so much, and sadly still, leaves us so little in terms of a lifetime of people, impressions and moments. The voices of dead relatives, the uncomfortable moments in high school, the night we lost our virginity, the time of our greatest triumph, a heartbreak, a joy. Some memories live on, and so many are lost.

We know we can only capture and retain so much so we draw… and we write…. and we take photographs. Jim Croce sings, Photographs and Memories … “Christmas cards you sent to me, all that I have are these to remember you”. If only my brain could absorb and keep all the good stuff like my small intestine does and poop out the bad.

Yes, there are things we can do to improve our chances of maintaining the crucial, but it’s still just a fraction of what I would like.

In Ancient Greece there was a girl who was in love with a boy. But he had to leave, so the story goes that on their last night together the girl brought a lamp and set it so it threw her lover’s shadow on the wall. She traced the outline of his shadow so she would never forget what he looked like. The next day, the boy was gone, but that outline was still there. A memory captured.

There’s the old expression about “getting your head out of your ass”. Perhaps this is just where our heads should be…like a good bowel, learning to keep the good and jettisoning the superfluous.

My Brain is Full

Are we at risk of using up our mental space? Or, will our brain’s elasticity stretch even bigger to accommodate the crashing waves of information.

So, what do you think? Too much information? Can we keep up?  Should we even try to keep up? What is the information age REALLY doing for us … to us?

We desperately desire to retain our mental faculties and memory. Yet, in the end, we will, each of us, lie in our death bed with all of our thoughts and memories crammed into our dessicating cranium like sawdust scattered on the workroom floor. Just waiting to blow away in the next gust of the eternal breeze.

The vestiges of a story of a life.

Harry Chapin