Saturday, September 29, 2012

Skip It ... Just Skip It

Skipping It

Skip It ... Just Skip It

In life, you can't do everything, no matter how hard you try. You can't be everything for everyone. Some days, you can't even be anything for anyone. Sometimes, you just have to say, "I think I'll skip it."

You're allowed. You can check out of life's little dilemmas, its hopeless heartaches, its endless demands. When it's all too much, just skip it.

Like ... it's really OK to let the phone ring until hell freezes over when you need some time to yourself. Oh, sure, that call might be important, might be someone wanting to share tragic news, someone in need of your comfort, or better still, someone offering you a chance to win a free cruise, but so what? Skip it. Just skip it.

And like ... people who hang around you at home or at work. What's the deal? Everyone wants you to do this or do that for them. This one wants to know what's for dinner, and that one wants you to give them a ride to the market or the airport. What the schmuttering? Where is it written in blood that you will always be there for them? Shake your head once in a while, and tell those needy folks that you're skipping it today, and maybe tomorrow as well.

Got voices in your head? Got one of those little half-crazy internal executive assistants with some weird form of OCD, a prodding little nuisance that keeps reminding you to take control of your life, to make sure you eat properly, exercise daily, floss, say your prayers, or at least pretend to say them.

Oh yes, and then there's Marcy's birthday coming up, Angie is getting married, and Pete is getting buried. Whole lot of shaking going on ... so don't forget, don't forget ... good grief ... skip it, just skip all of it.

Knock, knock.

Who's there? No wait. I don't care. Stay out there, 'cause today I'm just skipping it.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Life's Little Instructions: Sing In The Shower

Your Morning Chuckle

Life's Little Instructions: Sing In The Shower

I am not one to sing in the shower, but I suspect it has therapeutic benefits, and I plan to start this morning.

Most people find the shower a final refuge from the madness of a hurly burly life. So why not bubble out a few verses of "That's Amore," "Que Sera, Sera," "Benny and the Jets," or maybe just do the "Na-na-na-naaa ..." sequence from "Hey Jude," and get more blather for your lather?

It really doesn't matter if you're a little off-key or a bit pitchy. After all, it's the shower, not the American Idol auditions. You can get the words wrong, lose track of the melody, bottlecap the rhythm — what the heck — it's your stage and usually your only audience will be the soap and that gnarly exfoliating set of colourful loofahs.

Anyone else, say disgusted family members or nosy neighbours, listen at their own risk.

So why not? Let 'er rip.

After all, in a world that expects you to get everything right, it's nice to have a place where you can get everything wrong and still walk out feeling cleansed and refreshed.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Lady Of The Daisies

She loves me, she loves me not ...

The Lady Of The Daisies

It was summer, many decades ago, and I was travelling with a stranger who had hitched a ride with me along the highway of my life several weeks previously, somewhere just outside some small, dusty town in Arizona.

As we drove north and east from the desert states, the air cooled and the landscape took on a greener hue. Along the way, she would sit cross-legged in the passenger seat of my van, and the scent of patchouli would drift from her hair. In between unfinished conversations, she would sing along to a cassette of Neil Young or The Stones. By the time we reached the mountains of Colorado, I was madly in love.

One quiet morning, she held a daisy that she had picked from the roadside at the last station where we stopped for gasoline and snacks wrapped in crinkled plastic. I watched as she plucked one petal after another from the flower.

"She loves me," she would say with a giggle as she released a petal into the passing air. Then, just as quickly, she would snatch another, and in a sterner voice, say, "She loves me not."

That moment has stayed with me through all my life. Something, something about the way she looked into my eyes as she recited that childhood cadence caught the fire of my imagination. Many years later, I would write a short story based on the incident, but the context of the story was far different from the original experience. I've never been sure why.

It was during our travels that I learned how true love knows no rhyme or reason, has no rules, no expectations, no handbook, no map that tells you the route from first kiss to everlasting bliss.

If anything, the intensity of my love for her seemed to have tossed me into a state of helplessness.

I discovered that love is definitely not something that you can pin down or measure or keep pressed in the back pages of the latest best seller. I learned that, in one breathless moment, love seems to arrive so easily and so simply at the doorway to your heart, but in another equally breathless moment, love may just as easily and just as simply disappear down the stairway that descends from all your hopes and dreams, and leave you in a spiral of loneliness.

Thinking back, I remember parting ways with the lady of the daisies somewhere south of the black hills of Dakota. She left, almost nonchalantly, after coffee one morning to hitch a ride east to see "the freaks," as she said to me with a bright smile, in some commune hidden somewhere in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.

When she left, I don't remember being shocked or dismayed. Nothing seemed permanent in those times, and while I'm sure my heart stalled as I watched her walk away, I must confess, it was far from broken. We never spoke of a future together, and we never confused happiness with permanence. One moment she loved me; the next moment she did not. Simple.

That day, as I headed north to Canada, I missed her for an hour or so, maybe more. It was only later that I found the scribbled note she had left under a pile of cassettes, and then I knew that she had been with me for a reason and that she had left me for an even better reason.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Photo Album Of My Life

Some Empty Pages

The Photo Album Of My Life

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. If you look closely, you will see the vague outlines of where the pictures once were, but I have had to remove them. I don’t know where they are now. I may have tossed them in a box somewhere perhaps, or worse, in a waste bin somewhere along the way to here. I know that I can be impulsive, sometimes even a little impetuous. Some call me unforgiving. That may be so.

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. I have had to offer some of my pictures up to the wind. I have had to let them fly out and away through the windows of my experience, never to return. I suppose I could say I never wanted to see them go, but I’m not sure that is so.

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. There comes a time in a friendship or in the battle for love, that letting go becomes the only chord left in a song that never reaches the bridge or chorus. It’s a dark moment in a dark room when the music stops. And I suppose, too often, the anger or the sadness you feel at that moment can freeze you in time, hold you like a snapshot locked in one place. I have never allowed that to be so. Those are the photographs I have had to remove, images of friends and lovers I have had to let go. I refuse to be subdued by my sadness or regret. A camera needs using. A life finds new photographs.

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. Things fall apart. Some of the friends I trusted over the years have tossed me aside like coins rattled into a blind man’s cup. I suppose I disappointed some of them in some hard choice I had to make. Still, I never expected that they would go. I never knew that the measure of a friendship could be so fragile. I never knew how quickly someone could betray a trust or break a confidence. Too often, I was nothing more than a marionette dangling from the strings of their self-interest. If I had known, I would have reached a wooden hand high above my head, and cut myself free long before the end of the show.

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. Love cools. Passion freezes far too quickly, like winter ice over any quiet lake. I miss these pictures of past loves most of all, but I never hesitated to take them out. I know how a lost love lingers, how every step away is fraught with hesitation and a confusion that asks you not to go. Words of doubt collide with vows of renewed commitment. Hope rises and falls like a roller coaster that has lost its track and flies off towards a disastrous end.Too often, I have remained belted in for that ride, all the while knowing the crash would come and knowing that I did not care that the crash was coming.

In the photo album of my life, you will find some empty pages. I suppose I remember each snapshot that is missing now. The faces of friends and lovers, those who have slipped from the watchfulness of my days and into the dark recesses of my memory, still come flickering forward from time to time. I barely recognise them now. I guess I could say I don’t miss them, but I do. They were a part of what I was and a fuse to what I would become. They deserve to be acknowledged. They deserve to have a place in my history. And so, I have honoured them with these empty pages. I offer them nothing more.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where Are You Now, Albert Flasher?

Catching Up On Old Friends

Where Are You Now, Albert Flasher?

I must admit that I am not a great fan of Facebook. For me, the site offers very little that interests me. Still, one of the best qualities of Facebook is that it is an extraordinarily powerful means of finding old friends, people who populated your past and have some interest in rekindling old relationships.

Old relationships are probably old for a reason. While it's true that some of those people may have been great friends when you were younger, I'm not so sure that always translates into being great friends in the present. People change, and even the physical appearance of an old friend can throw you for a loop. There is also the backlog of experience that has washed under the bridge between then and now. Babies were born and raised into adults, marriages came and went, money was never a problem until now — all sorts of events and life experiences reshape who a person is.

The trick is to discover whether or not a friend, from twenty or thirty years ago, can still be a friend today. Online, anything is possible, I suppose, and it's great to share some memories of days gone by. But, what happens when that everything-old-is-new-again, retro-friend suggests he or she drops into your current life for a "visit." For me, that's when the cat finds the ball of wool, and things start to unravel rather quickly.

What we sometimes forget is why the friendship ended. Maybe that friend from the past was, at some point, a royal pain in the ass. Maybe he or she did something absolutely dastardly to you in your younger days. Maybe he or she slept with your girlfriend or boyfriend, maybe spread some unimaginable rumour about you that completely trashed your social life, maybe wrecked your car, maybe stole your money, maybe even blamed you for some misbehaviour or crime in which you had no part.

Worst of all, maybe you have forgotten all the bad about that person, and in your present life, maybe you are willing to welcome this person back into your life.

Up-close and personal is risky business.

When one of these phantoms from yesterday shows up at your door, will you be genuinely prepared to resurrect the friendship that you once had?

Starting over is rarely a successful undertaking, as thousands and thousands of couples who have broken up and then decided "to try it again" will acknowledge. People rarely undergo a significant transformation. People who disappointed you once will likely disappoint you again.

Sometimes, what was is better left in the was.



Monday, September 24, 2012

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

What You See ... Is What You See

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

Mirrors are funny things.

Some mirrors are very complimentary. They make you look great no matter how tall you are, no matter if you've added a pound or two to your backside, no matter what you're wearing. They just seem
to love you for who you are, and when you check yourself out, you're as handsome as Brad Pitt or as beautiful as Angelina Jolie.

Other mirrors ... not so friendly. No matter what you do, you can't please them. The reflection they throw back at you is an obvious imperfect refraction or some kind, and you look shockingly like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. These are the mirrors that some urban legends claim will "steal your soul." They don't really steal your soul, of course, but they rough it up pretty good.

Then, of course there are the three way mirrors, you know, the kind in department stores that give you a bird's eye view from three different angles. These are the worst of the mirrors.

After all, who wants to see themselves in three dimensions. What looks good on one side of you is tarnished by some droopy imperfection on the other side. One butt cheek looks as tight as a grape, the other looks more like a pumpkin ready for Hallowe'en carving. You know it can't be true, but there it is. Truth, reality ... right there in the mirror.

Mirrors at a summer carnival are just fun mirrors. Some make you look reeeeeally tall and skinny, and some make you look reeeeeally short and dumpy. The idea is to look at yourself distorted all to heck in these mirrors and say, "Oh, that's funny." The problem is that not many people say that. They look in these weird mirrors and wonder. I'm never sure what they're wondering. Maybe they're surprised to see a reflection too close to the way they think they really do look. Ah, these times of body image perplexity ... so strange.

Mirrors opposite or above a bed are full of naughty people. It doesn't matter what the people in these mirrors look like. Usually, they're having too good a time.

Windows are not mirrors, but sometimes, if the light is right, you'll see your reflection in a window. Don't be fooled by these wannabe mirrors. What you see in a window isn't you. A window is the devil's mirror. Trust me, you look nothing like the troll you see looking back at you from a window.

Then, of course, there are the mirrors of other people's eyes. Your family sees you differently from the way the cabbie on Main Street sees you. Your lover sees you differently from the way the pizza delivery boy sees you. I guess it's all about perception in such cases. You can't really know how all the people around you actually see you. Some will see a beauty queen; others will see a drag queen. Even time plays a part in this conundrum. One day, you look fabulously sexy in the eyes of your dinner date, but the next morning, you look like the whore of Babylon, and he doesn't even stay for toast and tea.

We live in an age of vanity, I suppose, and so we must have our mirrors to "prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet," as T S Eliot once noted. Just remember, don't always blame the mirror at the end of the hallway. How you "see" yourself in your own mind's eye can have the most profound effect on you. If you see yourself as a fat and ugly monstrosity, then no mirror in the world will change that perception. If you see yourself as the diva of everyone's desire, then I guess that is what you'll see in every passing mirror along life's journey. There is, of course, a middle ground, and most people have a fairly sane and reasonable self-image. OK, maybe not most, but some do ... right?

More importantly, feeling good about yourself need not always be based on one's real or imagined physical attributes. Sometimes it's what is NOT in the mirror that matters. What never shows up in any mirror is the quality of your character and your sense of purpose in life. See yourself as a loving, compassionate, and honest person, and that is hopefully what you will be in life. See yourself as a conniving, abusive, selfish thug, then that's probably who you are. Socrates once said, "Know thyself." I'm not sure, but he was probably onto something important.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Well, I'm off to the gym.

I love my gym. It has walls completely covered with mirrors, and not just any mirrors, I suspect. These must be special order mirrors because, when I'm there stretching and flexing my muscles as I hoist those 10 lb dumbbells almost over my head, I swear I look a great deal like Arnold Schwarzenegger, just without the hair and the accent.




Saturday, September 22, 2012

Necessary Solitude

Fortress Of Solitude

Necessary Solitude

Sometimes, life throws you, flips you out the Emergency Exit at the back of the bus, and leaves you in the gutter of heartache and loneliness.

I've seen it happen time and time again. I've been there too, amidst the broken promises and the lies. It's tough, tough to live in a world that suddenly seems uncaring, tough to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

Then, sometimes, there is that special person in your life who holds your head above the water and keeps you from drowning in the sea of despair. Sometimes, it's a member of your family, sometimes it's a lover, sometimes it's a good friend.

Everyone needs someone.

When I was a kid, I read Superman comic books. I marvelled at his Fortress of Solitude, some remote cave of ice in the Arctic north. It was the superhero's place to spend time alone with his thoughts, a place to re-evaluate the terms of his existence.

Since those boyhood days, I must confess that the concept of "necessary solitude" has stayed with me for my entire life. I have spent long stretches of time away from the hurry-bury avalanche of life. For years, I believed that the only way to a true sense of inner peace was by finding a separate peace.

With age and presumably some wisdom, I'm not sure we are meant to travel this road of life alone. I'm not sure we were meant to be solitary singers, offering our hesitant voices a capella to an indifferent audience, while the band checks out for a gig in Fargo, North Dakota.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Amor Platonicus

Uh-oh ...

Amor Platonicus

Platonic love?

Love without making love?

Good for priests and nuns, good for hyperidealists and idiosurrealists, but not for me.

Now, don't get me wrong. I completely understand that, in some relationships, sex may be physically impossible. Health issues can turn off the tap, so to speak, but even then, you don't always need a gurgling hose in hand to make love.

Passion can be fulfilled in many forms, and a gentle caress of words can travel many miles to unite flesh to flesh. Well, it needn't be gentle, I suppose.

I think intimacy, in all its variations, is what differentiates a relationship from a friendship. You can have a friendship with someone you love, but you can't have a relationship with someone with whom you don't make love or have some form of intimate relations.

Passionate love requires, no, demands its connection beyond the insistence, "I love you." Passionate love seeks fulfilment, in every sense of the word. Without that intimate connection, you only have mashed potatoes without the gravy, rice without the soy sauce, roast beef without the horseradish, strawberries without the whipped cream ...

Yeah, I don't know why the food metaphors either.

Oh, and don't be whining about being too stressed, too tired, too fat, too old, too whatever-your-excuse-is. The message you're sending is that you don't give a corn dog about the other person.

And don't be saying, "We both decided it was best this way." One of you decided. Trust me, the other is just playing along in total frustration or, worse still, fulfilling the need somewhere else.

Love relationship without love making? Pfffft ... who you fooling?

C'mon ... time to get your groove on.



Thursday, September 20, 2012


Living In Generica


What's your take on generic products?

Is that chicken noodle soup in the can with a plain wrapper the same soup that you find in a fancy red and white Campbell's soup can? I mean, doesn't all the chicken soup come from the same vat?

I have to admit that I do buy generic/store-brand stuff.

Take peanut butter, for example. I only buy 100% pure peanuts ground into peanut butter without any sugar or salt or anything else added. Is it possible that my 100% generic brand peanut butter is different from, say, Kraft® 100% peanut butter. Is there something about these generic peanuts that I should know? Are the peanuts in the generic brand less peanuty than the peanuts in the Kraft® version? Are the generic peanuts smaller, genetic abominations, sorted by child workers in Thailand? Are the generic peanuts crushed and turned into butter by illegal nut-aliens skirting the Arizona border guards and sneaking into the peanut butter factories with forged papers?

I have tried both generic peanut butter and brand name peanut butter, and to be honest, I can't tell the difference.

Now, I'll admit that some generic products never seem to meet the mark of good taste.

Generic coffee, for example, isn't really coffee. Well, it may be coffee in name, but generic coffee usually tastes like high point axle fluid. OK, I have no idea what high point axle fluid tastes like, but I suspect it is something quite unpleasant. I once bought some generic Colombian coffee. It was in a plain, but bright, yellow wrapper, and on that wrapper there was not a single claim that the coffee was from the country, Colombia. For all I know, the coffee could have been bagged in Columbia, a town of about 1580 people in Herkimer County, New York.

At any rate, I brewed a pot of those ill-begotten coffee grounds, and after one sip of the murky brew swirling like a muddy puddle in my coffee cup, I said a good Hail Mary and swore an oath of allegiance to Folgers® from then until perpetuity.

Of course, there is a whole big issue about generic drugs as well. Do you buy generic ASA or generic ibuprofen? Or do you reach for the brand name products, like Aspirin® or Advil®? Do you believe that the generic drug makers leave something out of their ASA or their ibuprofen? Or do you believe that all these concoctions are identical, except in price?

We live in a generic-gone-mad world. Everything we buy seems to have some unpretentious, unsolicitous, unadvertised, plain-wrapper counterpart.

So far, we don't seem to have generic people, but I can see that coming.

Before long, it's likely that women looking for a husband will soon get to decide between a generic man or a brand name man. The generic man will be pretty much the same as the brand name man, except he'll wear mostly black and white or possibly canary yellow clothes. He may be a little shorter, maybe a little less imaginative than the brand name man, but the two will be more or less the same when it comes to matters that count.

Like his brand name counterpart, the generic man will snore, leave the toilet seat up or pee on it when it's down, drive too fast, tell blonde jokes, fix things around the house so that they will never work again, wash the whites with the coloured items, put regular dish soap in the dishwasher, well, you name it. What a brand name guy would do, so too will a generic guy.

The only real difference will be that, unlike the brand name man, the generic man will be something of a spendthrift. Instead of driving an expensive BMW, he'll putt along in an economical Ford. Instead of owning a nice house in the 'burbs with a white wooden picket fence, he'll buy half a duplex near the industrial zoned area of town. Instead of buying the kids brand name clothing for school, he'll shop at the flea market and look for "knock-offs."

Oh, and I guess this is important, when you decide to cash in a generic husband by divorcing him, well there won't be as big a payday as you might have hoped for. Something to keep in mind , but all in all, a generic man is really not a bad deal, considering he will cost much less in those bothersome, time-consuming sexual demands and will require little, if any, emotional commitment.

I have to go. Time for a bowl of the not-quite-good-enough generic granola that I bought several weeks ago. After all, someone has to eat it ...



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuna for Tuesday ... Give Or Take A Day


Tuna for Tuesday ... Give Or Take A Day

Sometimes I think that too much sympathy is a bad thing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for the po'me complex that some people have. I always seem to get sucked into thinking that I can help, that I can put together some revitalizing words of encouragement and hope to make those blue meanies go away.

But lately, I've come to realise that some po'me people can't exist outside of their pain, whether that pain be physical or psychological, real or imagined. In those cases, all you do by offering sympathy is reinforce that po'me state of mind.

Most po'mes only want attention, but some hard case po'mes want validation. By agreeing with a po'me that they are suffering some grave injustice of the world, we acknowledge that that po'me is a victim. With enough of this kind of wrong-minded encouragement, the po'me becomes hooked on an obsessive need for more kindness, more caring, more "Huggs." Before long, the po-me becomes an habitual woe-is-me.

Self-pity is addictive. Some people thrive on it, possibly because they don't know another way of living. They'll say they want lobster for dinner, but end up simply settling for a tuna sandwich, because that is what they think they deserve.

Settling is not allowed.

I think that's a rule somewhere.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tattle-Tale Heart

A First Kiss

Tattle-Tale Heart

Somewhere, sometime, perhaps long ago, perhaps not so long ago, you did it. For the very first time, you did it.

It happened one misty midnight, during a sun-drizzled afternoon in your parents' basement, or sometime in the twilight of evening behind the fog curtains in a car parked so discreetly out by the cliffs, and you did it.

It was everything you hoped for; it was a absolute disaster of disconnected body parts. It was full of passion; it was full of fear. It was a symphony of desirous whispers; it was a requiem of tearful sobs. But you did it.

And now, as you remember it, you look back with wonder or you look back with some regret. Who can say?

No matter how you remember it, you will never forget it.

Some things in life are like that ...



Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moon Walking

The Original Moon Walk

Moon Walking

I read, the other day, that Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82.
Neil Armstrong
Sad. I fondly remember watching him become the first man to walk on the moon in the summer of '69.

At the time, I wasn't completely sure if I was happy or disappointed with the fact that humankind had reached such a lofty goal. Space travel ... the stuff of pure speculation and science fiction until that day when Mr Armstrong made footprints on the powdered beach of the Sea of Tranquillity on the moon's surface.

I worried that the moon may have lost some of its mystery, its glamour, its place in the mythological meanderings of human consciousness.

So much is associated with that hazy globe of reflected light. For many people from distant parts of the world, it connects them in an almost spiritual way, since the moon one sees is the same moon the other sees. It is what they can always share and what evokes thoughts of the other.

For others, it's a shining affirmation of love, a symbol of a constancy, light in darkness. Certainly it's the stuff of so much poetry, that I have often hesitated to ever use the moon in anything I write. Somehow, I just have the feeling that it's all been said before and probably more eloquently than I could ever muster.

Then there's all that folklore is attached to the moon as well. Werewolves, Swiss cheese, man-in-the-moon, I guess the list is almost endless.

You probably won't believe this, but, like Neil Armstrong, I have walked on the moon. I like to feel light as air and bounce through moon dust with reckless abandon. I know that I may fall into a crater or rip my spacesuit on a moon rock, so what?

What is life but a series of gambles anyway?

The little joys that we gather into our scrapbook memories are really so few, and I get tired of repeating things over and over again. Too often we take the safe route on our way to the next destination. For me, the thrill is not on the safe road. The thrill is in travelling uncharted paths. The thrill is in taking a leap into the unknown and discovering new experiences. It's a leap of faith, I suppose. The chances are that you may never make it through in one piece or that, even if you do make it through, you won't recognise yourself on the other side.

I get tired of being myself. I get tired of being the same. The great joy of life is always change — changing who you are, changing what you think, changing where you live, changing why you live. It's easy to say, "Well, that's just the way I am ..." but saying such things is just an easy excuse to ignore the challenge of change, an easy excuse to hide whenever you are confronted with a challenge to see life from another perspective.

It's easy to stay locked in a way of life, in a habitual existence. But, where's the unexpected? Where's the sudden fear of the unknown? Where's the drama of stepping into a crater and laughing all the time you're falling into empty space?

So many people need to feel in control of destiny. I wonder if they're just fooling themselves? I'm not sure any of us control destiny. Maybe there is a plan, and maybe there isn't. Either way, the idea that "this is what I want" or "that is what I want" is probably nothing more than a way to trick yourself into believing that you can write your own life story.

I prefer to subscribe to what I call the "Little Bang Theory." We rocket through our lives, and we collide with others in a way that veers us off course again and again, always in another, unexpected direction. That is how our personal "little universe" is created and continues to grow. I guess I see life as a kind of cosmic pinball game. We bounce from bumper to bumper, place to place, person to person, and we really have no control over what direction we are headed next.

For me, that's the excitement of every new day.



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sometimes You Get Salsa . . .

Which Door Will You Choose?

Sometimes You Get Salsa . . .

You’re standing on a street in the middle of a severe rainstorm with no raincoat, no rubber boots, no umbrella, nothing but the skin you were born in. Along the side walk in front of you, there are a hundred doors of various shapes and colours. Not one of those doors is locked. All you have to do is step through any one of them, and you’ll be out of the rain.

Each door is different, and each has a little sign on it. One door reads, “This door leads to heartache.” Another reads, “This door leads to great personal loss.” And still another reads, “This door leads to broken dreams.”

As you continue along the street, every sign on every door seems to promise yet another tragedy, another impending disaster in life. It’s all a bit perplexing, to say the least. After all, who needs another shot to the heart or a blow to the head? Where’s the door that reads, ”This door leads to happiness”? Where’s the door that reads, ”This door leads to undying love”? Where’s the door that reads, ”This door leads to lifelong security”?

Try as you might, you can’t find such a door. It’s just not there.

So there you are, drowning and freezing in the rain, and wondering what to do next.

Sometimes, life is just like that — a choice of nightmares.

Now, I know some of you will say that you have a faith in a higher power that you believe will see you through every crisis in life. Some will say that you have a lifelong companion and that you trust love to be the strength that guides you through every hardship. Others will say that it’s your children who keep you going and who make every struggle in life worthwhile.

Nothing wrong with being an optimist, but the sad truth is that faith has paralysing moments of doubt, even the strongest relationships crumble, and children leave, sometimes quite unexpectedly.

Some days, it’s going to be just you standing there in the freezing rain in front of a hundred hopeless doors. Some days, everything you believe to be true may simply come unglued. That, I'm afraid, is just one of the dilemmas of being human and being alive.

What the hell, pick any door, walk through it, and get out of the rain.

You don’t get to live life to the fullest without some heartache, some loss, or some horrible tragedy. Don’t want it? Don’t think you can handle it? Fine. Draw a circle around yourself, and don’t let anyone else in. Live separate from everything and everyone. Spray Scotchgard all over you, stand in the rain, and count off the years in quiet contemplation like a monk or a nun in deep seclusion somewhere in the Pyrenees Mountains.

If, however, you want a full life, then I’m afraid you will have to step through a few cruel doors of experience along the way. Try to meet each of these tragic moments as a test of the strength and courage that is within you. Don’t feel defeated. Don’t complain. Just step on through the door, and know that it’s not raining on every street.

Life . . . how wonderful and how painful. A strange and different recipe for each of us.

Just remember that, while it's easy to enjoy all that is good in life, you should never be afraid to accept a little hardship from time to time. Life's diner doesn’t always serve just chicken soup for the soul. Be prepared for a touch of heartburn when the cook goes a little crazy with the salsa.



Friday, September 14, 2012

i'm living in the forest now ...

Under Autumn's Canopy

i'm living in the forest now ...

i'm living in the forest now
past where the river flows into the lake
over Precambrian rock and purple thistle
down an unbeaten path through the shimmering poplar leaves
that turn the brightest yellow
just before the coming of snow

i'm living in the shadows now
dressed in rags and straw
while hanging from a wooden cross
to chase away the blue-black crows
who spy me slipping away from life
away from where i no longer find myself whole

i'm living away from tenderness now
embattled by some constant sorrow
that sketches your face in the flames of firelight
and through the cracks of each dark hour
i know i am slowly disappearing from time
but nothing here cares enough to hold me back

i'm living a tumbledown existence now
stealing solace from fragile memories
of the days when we were we
the hopeful hours before you let life go
and if i dream of you under the blanket of starry sleep
i do not remember dreaming when i wake

i'm living for just myself now
a half of what i was before
but somehow i still hear your voice softly singing
in the wind that ripples through the shimmering poplar leaves
that turn the brightest yellow
just before the coming of snow

Thursday, September 13, 2012

You Say You Want A Devolution ...

Brrrrrrrr ...

You Say You Want A Devolution ...

Science would have us believe that we have evolved from lower forms of life.

The first round of evolution apparently didn't fare too well. Life forms sort of took the wrong turnpike, and instead of creating thoughtful, sentient beings, evolution produced those huge and unruly creatures know as dinosaurs. That era ended with some sort of cosmic catastrophe. Someone clicked the reset button on the global deep freeze and cleared the table of most life forms.

Phase two saw all kinds of wriggly wiggly things that somehow, through the power of hocus and pocus, created WWE wrestlers and the rest of the human race.

So far, so good.

We seem to be trucking along at a feverish, 10 mph over the speed limit, pace. After, all, we have conquered so many frontiers in science, medicine, religion, roller ball, well, just about anything you can think of. We have poked our noses into the how and why of everything to improve the quality of our lives.

Some of this tinkering didn't turn out so well. After all, some wag figured out how to split the atom and create one whopper of a bomb. So, about 140,000 Japanese had to become molten flesh puddles on the side walks of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before someone suggested that maybe such a bomb wasn't really a great idea after all. So it goes. We still have them of course. After all, one never knows better than Jim Jones when mass suicide might be the last and only alternative.

You have to admit that it's been quite a ride, and certainly not all bad. We have made great advances in most areas of our lives.

Take the giant flat-screen, high-definition, DDD, surround-sound TV, for example, stuck right up on the wall where your Chairman Mao poster used to be. Cripes almighty, Sunday football never looked better.

Then there's double-stuffed Oreos®, Pop-Tarts®, hybrid cars for high breed folks with a chunk of collateral cash under their beds, lightning-fast computers, iPhones, iPods, iPads, and iDon't-Know-What-Elses.

Oh, and let's not forget the pills. We have all kinds of pills for just about everything or anything that ails you. We have pills that will ease a bad headache, pills that will stop you from farting, and even pills that will defend against the attack of those pro-recreational spermatozoa, because some people simply want the fun of sex but not the consequence.

Most importantly, we have created pills that have prolonged life beyond anyone's wildest expectations. How great is that? We may have managed to create a generation of seniors like never before — let's call it Gen-ZZZ — near the end, near that final, consummate sleep, but chemically still hanging in there, baby, still hanging in there. Sure, they're maybe not real functional, maybe not real happy sitting in dirty Depends®, but even though they may not have a clue about who they are or what's going on around them, ain't nobody passing through the golden gates of eternity until all else fails.

Yes, through the centuries, we have proved that humankind is limited only by the depth and height of imagination. I've come to believe that anything is possible, and the future is so bright, I may have to keep wearing my shades until I reach my own exclamation mark or whatever punctuation might metaphorically signal my still-in-all-likelihood-inevitable end.

Of course, things could go wrong.

What if the evolutionary process were to reverse itself? What if we begin to devolve, slip backwards in time through the annals of natural selection, or slide down the greasy great chain of being? What if we begin to turn back into those wriggly wiggly things that first climbed out of the primordial swamp?

Think about it. There are signs that devolution has already begun. I mean, we have rap music, mixed martial arts fighting, women with cannonball-hard boobs, the Hair Club For Men®, drug addicts, alcoholics-in-denial, terrorists, oh the list seems endless with regards to how far we have de-progressed.

Somewhere along the line, I think a switch might have clicked into reverse mode, and it's only a matter of time before we find ourselves yearning to crawl back into our neighbourhood wetlands, bogs, and moors to try out our new gills.

I don't mind the idea of devolution so much. I suspect it might be better that the alternative, say, another unexpected catastrophe that leaves us dead in the streets while the earth fills up the void with frigid Arctic waters, for what I guess would be another go at getting it right.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The Double Whammy


When I woke up this morning, I got to thinking about that age-old phrase, "tit-for-tat."

Most people think of a "tit-for-a-tat" as some kind of retaliation. For example, if you throw a can of mace into your neighbour's yard in an attempt to shut their damn always-barking Doberman Pincers up, you might find that such a "tat" would warrant a rather severe "tit" in return.

Your neighbour might well be justified in throwing a live grenade in the middle of your next barbecue party or defoliate your prize rose garden with something like agent orange, which if I remember my Viet Nam Protest days correctly, is a kind of psychedelic Roundup, a nifty little garden product that eliminates everything and anything green in this world.

I think "tit-for-tat" is a pretty cool expression, but I can't for the life of me figure out why it's meant to suggest only something negative. For some reason, this innocent looking phrase implies the need for some kind of revenge.

I'm not a revenge kind of guy. In fact, there's a very popular television series in North America called, Revenge, but I couldn't get past watching a couple of episodes. There is something sinister about seeking revenge, and for the most part, it's mostly a waste of time and effort. I can't be bothered with it. Unless, of course, someone harmed my children. Then, that person would want to be watching his or her back. Well, that's just what a father does, I guess.

I'm never sure how words or phrases adopt a particular emotional context. Couldn't "tit-for-tat" also have a more positive equivalence, sort of like a "you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" kind of scenario.

I mean, if I do something nice for you, like bring you your favourite coffee from Starbucks on my way home from a hard day a work, it would seem to me that, since I have done you a "tat," then somewhere down the road, I should be able to expect a "tit" in return. I think such an expectation is justified.

Of course, if you can't offer a "tit" for my "tat," I suppose any kind of nicety would do, maybe make me a nice breakfast in bed or some such thing. Still, I must confess that I think I would prefer a "tit," thanks just the same.




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