Thursday, December 27, 2012


Winter White


Here in Toronto, we are having our first major snowfall of the winter season.

When I lived on the Canadian prairies, we had snow by the end of October, and by Christmas, there were snow banks halfway up the street lamps along the city streets. Out west, snow is one of life's expectations, and people learn to live with shovelling one's way out of the house and driving over icy roads. Here, snow always seems to come as a surprise to people who live in Toronto.

During my first winter in Toronto, it didn't snow at all. There was plenty of rain, but none of the flaky white stuff to which I had spent a lifetime adapting. I thought I has moved to a tropical climate. My euphoria was short-lived.

The next winter brought a blanket of snow as deep as anything I had seen on the prairies, but here, there is no sense of harmony between people and winter. Snow is seen as an enemy of sorts, and the moment it appears, we set about trying to defend ourselves against Mother Nature's obvious attack on our way of life. It's a ritual that is as close to declaring war as Canadians have ever come.

In fact, one year, the snowfall was so bad that our mayor actually called in the army to assist in the battle against winter. Anyone who had lived in other parts of Canada got quite a chuckle out of that strategy, not because it was an obvious overreaction, but because our military really didn't seem to have anything better to do than help shuffle truckloads of snow south to Buffalo.

So, those who dreamed of a white Christmas missed having their dreams fulfilled by a couple of days, but this morning, they will wake up to the cold reality of below freezing temperatures and see the world covered with a flaky white blanket of snow.

Winter has arrived in Toronto, and suddenly everything about city life changes.

Snowploughs will work night and day, dump trucks will disperse salt everywhere, and everyone will grumble and moan while wondering when the next flight to Florida might be departing.

Winter coats, wool hats, earmuffs, mittens, and boots will be hauled out of the closet, and despite every precaution, people will still freeze their noses, cheeks, ears, and toes.

Kids, still high on Christmas sweets, will foolishly beg to go outside to play, and exasperated Moms and Dads will wrap them up as tight as pigs in a blanket in bulky, plastic snowsuits and thickly lined rubber boots, before sending them out into the mountains of snow in the backyard. There, instead of actually playing, most will be so constricted by their stiff, new winter apparel that they will simply fall into a snowdrift and be unable to right themselves again until someone has the good sense to hop, skip, and jump out the back door and pick them up before they disappear completely beneath a white oblivion.

Traffic will be the parody of the bumper car ride at summertime carnivals, and drivers will discover that a car on an icy road quickly develops a mind of its own and typically heads for the nearest guard rail along the freeway. Fenders will become benders, air bags will pop out of their dashboard hiding places, and insurance rates will soar.

As for me, well, I'll be wrapped up in my warm duvet and spending the day with a good book in bed. Before long, I'll probably drift off to sleep the storm away while dreaming of those long summer days by the pool.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Way Home

Little Drummer Boy

The Way Home

beyond cold curtains of icy lace
morning's light sifts silently through
the black limbs of numb trees
when a sudden shiver traces a distant memory
and wakes me from my dream
to air so still that it pleads for sound
rum pa pum pum

forgotten faces return to clear the frost
from the frozen windows of unconsciousness
and invisible arms lift me up
as mysterious hands become fingers of feeling
to wake my heart
with the warmth of love
pa rum pa pum pum

i remember you saying
that the world breaks everyone
and afterwards
many are stronger at the broken places
and so i stand on crumbling legs
to march again in hobbled footsteps
rum pa pum pum

all the roads before me converge
into a single path of hope
towards a deep well of light
and crashing through yesterday's starkest silence
at last i hear tomorrow's child striking the drum
each reassuring beat on beat measuring the way home
pa rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow Globe

A Winter's Tale

Snow Globe

i am living in a snow globe
right there
in the little plastic house
beneath the tall Christmas tree
where everything is
draped in frosted white

and yes
i would have you come in
pour you steamed coffee over
beans of vanilla
and offer you
some shortbread
dusted with
green and red sprinkles
those crumbling cookies
arranged just so
on my Dutch grandmother's
fine china serving plate
the one hand-painted with
wreaths of poinsettias

and yes
we could talk and flirt
with sparkling tinsel eyes
that wander beneath
sanctity and the fireplace light
and we could dance and drift
through all my tiny rooms
and maybe
just maybe
we could
and we would
fall in love

but there is always the globe
that delicate swirl of glass
between us
and shake it as hard as you might
there's really no way in for you
and no way out for me

so tip and turn
twist and yearn
spin my watery globe if you must
you will see my white world billow and blow
and you will see me tumble to and fro
but for all your shaking high and low
there is something you should probably know
the truth is
i don't really mind the snow


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry.
— Emily Dickinson


Good grief. I had just fallen asleep, after watching a bit of television while simultaneously reading The Cat's Table, when the fire alarm went off.

Now, I live 25 floors above ground, so, whenever the fire alarms begins its horrendous "beep, beep beep," I am immediately faced with a critical decision.

It's possible that Mrs Cuthbertson on the third floor has fallen asleep while her crock pot bubbled dry and created a small, but insignificant, cloud of smoke that set off the heat sensors in the building.

It's possible that Ol' Bill, as we fondly know him here, has slipped into one of his thought clouds and simply pulled an alarm, not because there is a real fire, but because his hemorrhoids are acting up, and he has mistaken the burning sensation of his discomfort for an inferno of sorts.

Or, it's possible that there really is a fire raging somewhere below me, and the building is set to collapse underneath me at any given moment.

The critical decision? Is there really a fire?

Now, some of you will say that it's always best to err on the side of caution. However, consider this. When the fire alarm goes off, the elevators automatically shut down, and it's 25 flights of stairs to safety. For some of you, that might be a no-brainer, and you would find your way down to the ground in no time at all. Me? Well, with a bum knee, it's more a choice of nightmares. I can take a chance that there is no fire and do nothing. Then, if there really is a fire, yes, I suppose that I will surely die by fire. Or, I can try to navigate down the stairs, with the likelihood that my knee will almost certainly give up the ghost in the stairwell, and that, by the 15th floor, I will likely find myself hurtling down, step-by-step, to my inevitable demise.

Last night, as the fire alarm continued to bleep hideously that death was imminent, I chose to make a cup of tea.

It was a good guess. There was no fire.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Lines In The Sand

A Departure

Lines In The Sand

I sometimes dream of the younger me, the boy who grew to be the man I am today. I have no idea what goes into the making of a person. All the experiences we have encountered must affect how we live today. Some good, some bad, some happy and some cruelly tragic and sad.

Along the way, I guess the people with whom we share our lives must also have an effect. All so complicated.

Many years ago, I had a time of deep self-reflection. It was then that I decided that I needed boundaries. So I decided it was time to draw lines in the sand, lines that determine what I would allow and what I would not allow into my life.

I now have very strict principles that govern how I live. Some of those are based on those awkward things we call morals or values, but some are based on simple common sense. For example, I do not tolerate fools or liars. If people are not honest with me, then I close the door on them rather quickly.

Yesterday, in the aftermath of the Connecticut incident, I found myself drifting back into the room of metaphysics and contemplating spirituality, particularly as it relates to the randomness of life and death — well, you know, why the deaths of such innocent children and why a killing bullet never really stops.

For me, such philosophical meanderings are not allowed. Confusion, disbelief, doubt, and doting on life's tragic moments are on the other side of a line I do not cross. I allow my emotional responses to such events to be what they are. I do not look for consolation or validation of the way I feel. I simply feel, and that is enough.

I guess I live in the moment for the moment, with a sense that life is what it is, for good or bad, but I also believe that the future will always work itself out for the best. I have no sense of why things happen or whether, as many believe, everything happens for a reason. I suspect some things have no reason, and may be simply random events in a random universe.

Maybe there is, as some might say, "a purpose to everything under Heaven," but I think that I'll just leave such considerations to the mystics and those who believe they have an answer for every puzzling event that life throws in our paths.

I don't have answers.

Fortunately, I don't have questions either.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

In The Arms Of Angels

Video slideshow in memory of the victims of the shooting yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut.

My prayers are with all the families and friends of the victims, especially those who lost their children.

May God Bless America, when you need it most.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Found For Friday

Something Found

Found For Friday

Words drift across the Internet like found poems in a forgotten drawer ...



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kristmas Kisses: A Primer For Surviving The Holidays

Yeah, maybe not ...

Kristmas Kisses: A Primer For Surviving The Holidays

Now that the holiday season is fast approaching, many of you will be getting out and about to visit friends and family. My experience with all this sudden socializing is that a whole lot of kissing takes place as people mingle at various Christmas functions.

For example, at the office Christmas party, you may be called upon to kiss some of your colleagues. Usually, such kisses involve a single air kiss somewhere in the proximity of one of your ears, unless you live in Europe, where most people prefer the double air kiss, one invisible peck per cheek.

On the odd occasion, however, there will be one individual who dives in for a kiss on the lips. Such impertinence may catch you by surprise, but it's important to remember not to be overly bemused. This bold adventure is really no big deal and probably innocent enough unless, of course, that individual slips you the peppermint tongue. Then, there may be something else going on. Remain calm. Do not moan, groan, or suddenly reach for an erotic zone. Above all else, it is probably not advisable to send your tongue back to that person. Doing so might be interpreted as a signal that you have the rest of the night free and that maybe the two of you could find a room at the inn. Should there be no rooms at the inn, seemingly a typical scenario during the Christmas season, you could well end up in a car idling somewhere on the back forty of the Walmart parking lot, where all kinds of extra giving and receiving could take place.

Family functions also usually involve a certain amount of kissing. Once again, greeting members of the "family" with a kiss seems innocent enough. I must report, however, that on more than one occasion during my married years when I attended such get-togethers with the in-laws, there was one of my ex's younger sisters who took the salutatory kiss to a whole other level. Not only was the kiss somewhat provocative, but the manner in which she ran her fingers down my back sent a shiver right back up my spine, and for the life of me I don't know why, but my own hands drifted over her derrière.

Such a greeting is definitely not advisable. It confuses the whole festive purpose of the evening, and the folks around you get as prickly as the needles on that Boy Scout Christmas tree. Worse still, when you return home later that evening to fall into bed with your spouse, you may find a whole new meaning to the term, "silent night," and you'd be a fool to expect your sleigh bells to be jingling anytime soon.

Since many say that Christmas is for kids, there will most likely always be young children around, and little people under the age of about five or six years love to kiss. It's as if they are high on nutmeg or secretly practising for their future romances.

Personally, I avoid kissing kids. If the situation is so awkward that I absolutely must offer a kiss to some pre-school coddler, I aim for the top of his or her head. Over the years, I have discovered that every other inch of a toddler's anatomy seems a little too well-basted and dripping with daycare bacteria.

No, for me, kissing a kid today almost guarantees that tomorrow will find me with a sore throat, watery eyes, and a fever spiking me into the Emergency Ward at the local hospital. Don't get me wrong. I love kids, but I prefer them at a reasonably safe distance.

Given my disinclination to kiss kids, it should come as no surprise that I vehemently refuse to kiss people's pets. Why is it that some people treat their cats, dogs, gerbils, or whatever as part of the family?

I have found dog owners to be especially troublesome. Many dog owners seem to have some kind of cross-breeding addiction for the tongue-wagging smooches of their household hounds, and you no sooner get in the door than they are pushing little Coco in your face. There is no rule of etiquette that says you must kiss someone's yappy Lhasa Apso. I know where that pooch's tongue has been for most of the day, so that little critter can hump and humbugger my leg all night long, but there is no way in hell that the little varmint is getting anywhere near my mouth.

So, after all the shortbread and eggnog, after all the fruitcake and hot toddies, after all the good tidings of comfort and joy, is it really all that important to wet the stamp of any Christmas occasion with a kiss? Won't a warm handshake do? A wink of the eye? A nudge or a smile? From where I stand, Kristmas Kisses usually do more harm than good, and I assure you, I am definitely not standing under the mistletoe.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phasers On Stunned

The Urge To Purge

Phasers On Stunned

Some of you will remember that television show called Star Trek. I believe there were three or four reincarnations of the original series.

In the show, they had some weird devices on the 24th century starship, Enterprise. One of those devices was the "food replicator," which somehow had the ability to synthesize food and drink by magically turning energy into mass.

So, all you had to do was walk up to a kind of cubby hole in the wall and ask for whatever you wanted to eat and drink. In a matter of seconds, your entrée would be ready for you on a tray, and I don't believe a single case of dysentery or food poisoning was ever reported in the ship's log.

Yesterday, I was out and about, and on my way home, I decided to go to a 21st century version of the food replicator, better known to most of you as the "drive-thru window."

The Drive-Thru
Here in North America, most of the fast-food chains have drive-thru windows. Without having to leave your car, you pull up to a two-way audio terminal, usually at the side of the restaurant, and you order what you want to eat from a disembodied voice, presumably belonging to someone inside the restaurant.

Then you pull your car up to a small window, usually at the back of the restaurant, and your food is waiting there for you. It's not quite as miraculous as the food replicator on Star Trek, but it's a fast and convenient way to skip cooking for yourself.

However, there is probably one important difference between the 24th century and the 21st century versions of instant cuisine. There is definitely no guarantee that today's drive-thru menu will be as nutritionally sound as you might hope. In fact, foraging for food from a window at the back of a restaurant usually finds me suffering from a plague of what I call "bowling ball malaise." Briefly put, "bowling ball malaise" is the sensation of having a bowling ball in your wee tummy after you have consumed any kind of fast food, a sensation combined with an urgency to roll that ball down the alley and into the gutter, if you get my drift.

OK, the truth is that, like most people, I get ridiculously hopped up on some kind of appetite overdrive when I am at that little box where you order food. Instead of ordering something sensible, I order two bacon cheeseburgers, fries, a milkshake, a couple of pie sticks, and so on and so on. I simply run down the menu sign, with its tempting photos of full-meal deals, and I keep requesting more and more food-addict combos until I have ordered a medley of synthetic fat-fusion, gourmandizing jazz. Should the voice on the other end of this fulsome communication offer to "super size" or "biggie up" my selections, I seem unable to say anything but, "Of course." As a result, when I get to the pick-up window, the attendant hands me enough food to feed the entire Iraqi Navy.

Matters go from bad to worse when I actually eat most everything I ordered, sometimes even pulling bits of this or that out of the bag during my hasty drive home.

Yesterday was no exception.

The reult? A severe case of bowling ball malaise, and a long night of sitting on the toilet, coaxing my gluttonous maximus to fire at will, all the while engaging in some kind of pseudo-prayer, as in, "Lord, lord, lord, bring on the transfiguration already, and purge me of my unyielding excesses."

I have never been a quick study, and it seems that my memory banks fail me time and time again when it comes to the consumption of fast food. I know better, and yet I continue to indulge in such a constipated ritual of self-abuse.

Sometimes I think that all this imprudent disregard for my well-being might simply have something to do my humanity, with humanity's reckless abandonment, you know, like that little aphorism from Star Trek, which encouraged all of us "to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Or maybe, a better motto might be that well-worn phrase, "you are what you eat." Maybe that is why, after every time I eat fast food, I feel like shit, which I must confess is both my undoing and my salvation.



Monday, December 10, 2012

A Killing Frost


A Killing Frost

I see you
have dressed yourself in snow again
now that the stormy nights of summer
have exhausted your passion for lovemaking
and have left you complacently standing
like some lesser figure in a wintry tableau
there in the far corner of the yard.

I see you
there with a stove pipe carefully tilted on your head
with eyes the darkest colour of coal
and with arms disjointed and as thin as twigs
locked in an anomalous arthritic pose.

I see you
with your half-smile lips
a little too red
and a nose that mimics a crooked carrot
from which a single icicle warms
in the late afternoon sun and drips indifferently
in random rivulets that crease the length of your perfect body
with the beautiful imperfections of age and ice.

I see you
in the slant of sunset
and every spark of last light ignites
my desire for you still
even as I watch you from the window
behind drapes of silky sheer frost
quietly crackling across the glass
and creating vaporous designs that plume and bloom
until the pane is full
and you disappear completely
into the moonless night.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

Remembering John ...

John Lennon

Remembering John ...

Miss you, John ...


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Outside In

Inside Out

Outside In

Yesterday, someone suggested that I start "thinking outside the box."

I never knew I was in a box, but now that I think about it, I guess I am.

It's a nice box though. Two washrooms. I like that. Two can pee for the price of one.

OK, so I'm stepping outside the box.

Wow ... who knew it would be so surreal?

Pink flamingos doing the wa-watusi over there, and a Tibetan pig riding a motorcycle over here.

There's a bit of a circus feel to this place, outside the box. I know I'm supposed to be thinking, but I really don't know what to think.

Maybe I'm supposed to think less literally about things.

Outside the box, I guess almost anything goes.

Want a pizza supreme? Hey, there it is.

Want to ride a windmill? Well, take a whirl.

It seems like anything is possible outside the box.

You know, I sort of miss my box. It was a safe place to be. Inside the box, everything is, well, predictable. I know who I am, and for the most part, I know who you are. There are rules inside the box. We survive because we have certain expectations that we agree to.

Out here, everything is just a bit chaotic.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a firm believer in chaos theory. For most of my life, nothing else could explain my weird and wonderful experiences. Still, sometimes, it gets to be a bit much.

Outside the box is like a vacation in Bilouxi. You meet the weird, homeless guy hustling nickels from you and the mad old woman who is shouting, "It's the end of the world," but after that little bit of entertainment, you have to figure out how you're going to manage some of life's more urgent needs — like the need for food or shelter and all the way up the Maslow pyramid to some of those higher order needs, like the need for sex, I mean, the need for love.

I don't think there is much sex outside the box. Well, there is, I suppose, but it's the low-octane kind and, sadly, the kind that doesn't give you much of a ride. Stuff like cyber-sex and hand-jivin', if you get my drift.

Whoa, there. Hey, I'm not used to you grabbing my tush like that. What are you thinking? I know, I know, we're outside the box and all, but still ...

... oh, I get it. You're trying to get me back inside the box, aren't you?


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Two Seasons Of Love

Summer Side

Two Seasons Of Love

you lie on the summer side of the bed
where the sheets are warm
and the air tropical
where your body sips fruity drinks
through a straw from a hurricane glass
where the winds are fragrant
with the scent of bougainvillea
where you slip into dreams
of handsome young men
mostly naked and
strutting by the water's edge
of a aquamarine lagoon
where your body purrs
from moment to moment
with the fire of desire
and darkens to gold
under the bright sun

i lie on the winter side of the bed
where snow swirls in gusts
around my feet
turning my toes into
cubes of ice
where the frost nips at my manhood
with freezing disregard
and shrinks my desire
to the size of cracking acorns
where our love falls dormant
under heaping banks
of cold white flurries
drifting up against the wall
between us
beneath the icicles that fall
from the ceiling
and pierce my heart


Monday, December 03, 2012

Road Rage

The One-Finger Salute

Road Rage

The other day, I was driving to Walmart to buy Charmin Extra-Soft Toilet Paper, which was on sale if you bought the 48 roll package — sort of a lifetime supply for most people who, like me, live alone.

I turned right onto Queen Street by way of one of those Yield lanes, and as I came into the main flow of traffic, I signalled and pulled into the slowest lane.

At the next stop light, I was stunned to find the contorted face of a menopausal soccer mom in my driver's side window. She was whooping and wailing over her misconception that I had cut her off. I powered down my window to hear her tell me that I was a "stupid son-of-a-bitch" who had no "mother-fucking business" being on the road. My initial impression of her was that she was awfully brave, because had her moustache been just a little thicker, I might have stepped from my van and settled matters mano a mano.

I didn't, of course, and simply said to her in my quietest voice, "Go back to your car." Then I powered my window back up and waited for the light to turn green so that I could simply drive away from the hideous sideshow that was playing (for a limited engagement) there in the middle of morning traffic.

Road rage ... it has reached epidemic proportions.

I have never understood what happens to some people when they get behind the driving wheel of an automobile. Many drivers seem to fall into a fugue or some kind of temporary insanity. Otherwise peace-loving people — family folks with two kids, a cocker spaniel, and a mortgage — suddenly seem overwhelmed with an urge to kill every other driver in their path.

How do you know if you are prone to road rage?

Well, if the words to your favourite song on the car radio suddenly turn into screaming obscenities, then you probably suffer from road rage.

If you find yourself giving every nearby driver a one-finger salute, then you probably suffer from road rage.

If one of your hands seems to be stuck to the horn with some kind of invisible crazy-glue, then you probably suffer from road rage.

If you can't pass a car without craning your head out your side window just to make sure a real person is driving and not some dog or crash test dummy, and if, when you see that the driver is in fact a normal person, you have to make your stupidest, most dumbfounded look while you mouth the words, "What the fuck?", then you probably suffer from road rage.

If you pull up behind a stopped school bus full of kids giving you the raspberries out the back window and you start sticking out your tongue or generating some obscene pantomime of oral sex, then you probably suffer from road rage.

Even if you do nothing but fume and fret, fuss and fidget, as you come to a standstill in the middle of traffic, then you probably suffer from passive-aggressive road rage.

Yes, all the world sometimes seems a little off kilter. There's not much you can do to escape the shortcomings and the inept driving habits of others.

The best that I can offer is that you try to remain calm, cool, and collected. Try to remember that you will eventually get to your destination, and hopefully that 48 roll package of Charmin Extra-Soft Toilet Paper will still be there waiting for you. If every last package is gone, don't give in to the temptation to slam your shopping cart into the Chips Ahoy! display. That would be symptomatic of shopping rage, very similar to road rage, but a topic best left to another occasion.



Saturday, December 01, 2012

Things I Miss ... The Neuralgia of Nostalgia

Left Behind

Things I Miss ... The Neuralgia of Nostalgia

I'm rarely sentimental
about things fundamental
but some days I miss
things like this ...

  • coffee served in real cups
  • sleeping in past noon
  • Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip
  • gas station attendants
  • chrome
  • boom boxes
  • crinolines
  • coloured toilet paper
  • going steady
  • my Davy Crockett hat
  • 45 records
  • Woolworth's Five and Dime
  • tobogganing
  • the Saturday matinée at the neighbourhood cinema
  • reading interesting cereal boxes
  • getting more than one Valentine's card
  • marbles
  • Brylcreem
  • The Ed Sullivan Show
  • TV dinners in aluminium plates
  • drive-in movies
  • drive-in restaurants
  • birthday parties
  • blue-soled Keds
  • flying a cardboard box
  • root beer floats
  • lime cokes
  • The Hardy Boys
  • climbing trees
  • backyard skating rinks
  • Viewmaster film strips
  • turtleneck sweaters
  • bumper cars
  • Bob Hope on the Oscars
  • Wynola
  • tree forts
  • having cousins
  • desert boots
  • two cans and a long string
  • peepholes
  • walking on railway tracks
  • pin-up models who actually left something to your imagination
  • sock-hops
  • snack bars in department stores
  • face-to-face social networks
  • rocket radios
  • camping
  • comic books
  • teddy bears
  • the circus
  • playing pretend

There are lots of different people I miss as well
Some have likely gone to Heaven, others are probably in Hell,
But I guess it's pretty obvious and something that can't be hid,
The thing I miss most is just being a kid ...



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