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BABY It’s Cold Outside…

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“This is my brother Larry, the BABY!!”
My baby pic

Most would cringe and cower at these words, thinking “Oh shit, here we go again…”, mortified.

Most would hear those as fighting words.

Most would shudder especially when they reach 20, 30, 40, 50 years of age. BABY?!

Not me…

I always blushed with humble pride, almost as if I had done something skillful and miraculous to attain such an honour.

“Yes, well, it was nothing really, anyone who put in the 10,000 hours of intense effort could be the baby too.

But no 10,000 hours of training or effort are required to be the “baby”, simply luck of the birth order lottery.

Birth order… I guess it just has to be all the talk of Christmas and swaddled babies that somehow has me thinking about our own non-virgin births (I don’t want to tattle on your Mom and Dad, but yup, they did the dirty!) and the glittering point on the constellation where we shine within our family galaxy.

Reading things into birth order is akin to being a tea leaf reader or apprenticing as a Zodiac or Chinese Horoscope disciple. There may be some tenuous and practical connections, but the level of hogwash skepticism and requirement for faith is higher than that of pure science. If nothing else, it’s fun and entertaining, yes?

birthorder

……….

1st child: When the first swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.

2nd child: When the second swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass.

3rd child: When the third swallows a coin you deduct it from his allowance!!

……….

I was born the youngest i.e. the BABY… of 5.

Three or 4 years separated each of us, meaning that the range of eldest to youngest was about 15 years… 15 years and 13 days to be exact.

When you hit 60 years of age, the title “BABY” begins to feel ridiculous, almost an insult or joke on the bearer.

Even so, I’ve always kind of treasured my role, my spot as the youngest. Youngest has a cachet, a semblance of specialness and reverence.

To be introduced as the baby has been a high honour while at the same time one needing guarded vigilance and defence.

Vigilance because inevitably, introduction as the baby in the family also comes with a tag-on comment, “yeah, he has always gotten away with murder, he is so spoiled”. 

What the H…? My hockey-skilled pugnaciousness comes to the forefront when I’m described as “spoiled”.

Are you kidding me? Spoiled? Me? Spoiled? Screw you….

Spoiled?

I delivered newspapers and magazines door-to-door every day from the time I was enrolled in Mrs. Putns’ Grade 1 class all the way up til the day I got my first McJob at 15 … yeah, at McDonalds.

Spoiled?

I always felt left out and empty because my sibs could go see boobies and bums on the movie screen or sip Singapore Slings in the bar years before I could even attempt to sneak in.

Spoiled?!

I was never lavished with parental gifts of expensive bicycles or cars or lavish vacation trips to Mexico or Hawaii. My parents never paid a cent for my college education.

I’m sorry, do I sound defensive? Maybe just a tad?

OK, I’ll grant you that I coasted just a wee bit in elementary and high school when teachers recognized me as another “Green” kid.

Every one of my older siblings had skipped a grade in school, so it was naturally assumed I’d been bestowed with a heaping dollop of inherent intellect. No proof required. 2 + 2 = … 6?

Wrong!

Sometimes it took the whole school year for amiable Miss Taylor or Mr. French to realize that I had maggot brain and was the simpleton in the family group!

There’s even a 2007 study that shows a correlation between IQ and birth order: the more older siblings one has, the lower one’s IQ. Not my fault… Dummy’dom is my fate! Thanks Mom and Dad…

(ASIDE: A recent study at Brock University in Ontario noted: “… men may be more likely to be homosexual if they share their birth mother with older brothers. Each older brother increases a man’s odds of being homosexual by approximately 33%.”… so… dummy’dom but not gay’dom for me… life is like a 50/50 draw.)

IQ and birth order.gif

Now occasionally in school I was presented with Proof of Intelligence trials. Apparently, handing in one of my brother’s or sister’s previous year’s crumpled test sheets that they had aced wasn’t always accepted. WTF!?

One early testing trauma – my potential Waterloo – I encountered as the Baby was the Grade 6 Music Sight Reading Award. This was my opportunity to sink or swim in the family intellect pool.

Each of my 4 sibling elders had previously passed the challenging test of being capable of reading and singing music by sight from notation on the musical staff. The sight reading certificate was part of the Green family lore and pride.

Judgment day grew near… I spent sleepless juvenile nights awaiting my fate, a fate I felt certain would finally expose and recognize me as the “dunce” of the family.

The dreaded moment descended and Mrs. Brewer watched closely, her eyes burning into my sweaty-browed face, listening as I diligently sight read and sang the music sheet set in front of me…

… my most joyous childhood day was when I proudly received the Sight Singing certificate.

Now I’ve read that some qualities of a last born include being manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, and… loves surprises.

The surprise of passing my Sight Reading Test was much more than a minor moment of crossing a tricky obstacle, a youthful Tough Mudder challenge.

I’d arrived. I truly belonged in the family, here was the proof!

I still possess and proudly admire the certificate to this day.

……….

Baby it’s cold outside. Christmas grows nearer and I love watching some TV Christmas classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Isn’t it charming and captivating when Clarice tells young Rudolph that he’s cute ?

And on this bright mid-December morning, wouldn’t you agree that it’s equally charming when child and family therapist Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues says:

“The youngest can be cute because of ‘forever being the baby.'”

I’m cute! I’m cuuuutttteeeee…

Last born

HOGWASH!

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.

summer end.jpg

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.

end of university.jpg

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

BAM!! Head On Back To School …

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mixeddrinks

Would you prefer a MAI-TAI or a ROCKY MOUNTAIN BEAR FUCKER?

I can make you one.

I could make you a BURT REYNOLDS shooter or a JAGERBOMB or a MANHATTAN. I could make you any one of a hundred or more mixed alcohol-based drinks.

Of course you’re asking WHY?

Well, as of yesterday I’m a certified graduate of Bartending School.

Yup, I spent this past week in a mock-up barroom with 3 other students and an instructor learning how to mix drinks from vodka, rum, tequila, gin, whisky (sorry, whiskey if you’re American!), scotch and a dozen or more liqueurs of a crazy kaleidoscope of colours and flavours.

In reality the spirit bottles were filled with coloured water or the course would have cost me 10 times more.

When you make 100 GIMLETS or SINGAPORE SLINGS or 50 BROKEN DOWN GOLF CARTS for practice you can’t afford the ingredients without Trump or Gates as your last name.

cocktail tom cruise

Learning should never stop. Many people die at 25 but are not put in the cold hard ground or the flaming hot crematorium oven until 75.

The learning stopped for them early.

……………….

I used to love eating at buffets … mmm … smorgasbords!

So many choices, a little of this, a little of that. Before I knew it my plate was filled to overflowing and I would sit down and consume it like a gluttonous boar who’d never seen a morsel of food before.

I kinda loved it then, but I hate it now. I’m older and my cuisinary buffet table has to morph into something with a different set of nutrients.

Whaddya mean, the buffet table has to change?

Life has become my buffet table. I want to sample liberally from it for the rest of my days. When I learn or try something different and outside my usual life experience, I feel alive.

A little volcano surfing, a little chicken raising, a little step dancing, a little cooking Moroccan tajine or Nicaraguan Indio Viejo, a little bartending. I’m looking to expand my list of samplers many times over because it makes my life a richer place to inhabit.

And if I want to make it an Emeril moment and yell out “BAM!!“, then what I really like is to visit a foreign locale and study something … anything.

This takes the whole concept of learning and life experiences up a huge logarithmic notch.

I learn about something I’m fascinated by AND I live surrounded by a different culture, different foods, different sights, different smells, different people.

It becomes an orgasmic life smorgasbord without equal… kind of like a shooter drink I assembled this week called a SCREAMING ORGASM!! (Recipe?? equal parts Amaretto, Kahlua, and Irish Cream with a smidge of vodka layered on the top.)

Meg Ryan orgasm

Nope… that’s a different breed of screaming orgasm …

It’s been years since I was in real school. When I think about formal types of education I sometimes think about how difficult the classes will be and then I second guess myself.

I can’t, I shouldn’t, I’m afraid, I’m shy.

The array of courses available means that I can study everything and anything I want to. I love the TV show Law & Order because of all the legal wrangling and technicality nuances involved, so I could take a class in criminal justice and learn firsthand how professionals do it!

Now imagine if I did the same at a college in New York City… “BAM!”

Maybe you dream about writing your family memoir. You could take a genealogy program and then a creative writing course. Do it at a school in India or Ireland where your grandmother was born and you have “BAM!”

Want to give a funny but emotion-laden speech at your daughter’s wedding? Sign on to a public speaking course… in Ottawa where silly people stand and give silly speeches every day. “BAM!”

There are a million reasons to learn something new and a million resources to make it happen.

And best of all?

Not only do you learn a new skill, or acquire new knowledge, but you surround yourself with other active minds… people young, and sometimes older, who have an enthusiasm for learning and reaching and being more.

Amauta

We studied Spanish at a school near Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru five years ago. Each week we found ourselves in a group of mostly young 20- and 30-somethings from a host of different countries.

We learned a language we can use in a whack of mostly winter-warm countries and absorbed an amazing cultural buffet of Incan history and architecture and Guinea Pig cuisine.

Summertime is here and it’s time to mix up some icy-cold fluffy drinks to sip by the edge of Lake Okanagan.

Drop in and ask me for whatever zany colourful fluffy drink appeals to you.

It’ll be good practice for my new-found bartending skills.

Maybe we can sign up for a wake boarding class while you’re here.

“BAM!!”

Okanagan Wake Boarding

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?