Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another New Year

Another New Year

Over the years, I guess that I have made a thousand or so New Year's Resolutions.

For the life of me, I can't remember them at all.

I mean, I guess that I probably promised myself to eat better, sleep better, exercise better, just all around live better, but it seems that I have always fallen into the same old patterns of eating poorly, sleeping poorly, exercising poorly, and so by logical deduction not really living better at all.

Well, it's tough. It's tough to wake up on New Year's Day and just expect the whole person that is you to suddenly be another person that is not you.

After all, just because there's a big celebration somewhere, and just because you have to get a new calendar and remember to write a 2014 on all your cheques and official documents, all that is no guarantee that you're suddenly going to be a different person. As far as I can tell, nobody waves a magic wand and makes you healthier and happier. You just wake up the next morning pretty much the same person you were when you fell into bed the night before. OK, you may have a hickey on your neck, the source of which you possibly have absolutely no idea, but that doesn't really count.

Sucks, I guess. We could all use a little magic in our lives. We could all use a Blue Fairy to swoop down and transform our wooden existence with a little bliss. We could all stand to have a dream come true once in awhile.

Sadly, we are the "stuff that dreams are made on," but few of us ever get beyond continuing to just be stuff — ordinary, everyday people pushing forward while struggling with our demons and feelings of inadequacy.

Still, I think it's great that people are a wishful lot. Day to day, we are hopeful that life will get better. We need that hope, that wonder of better days ahead. Otherwise, what's the point of even getting out of bed?

This year, I've decided to forgo making any resolutions, save for one. I've decided that my one New Year's Resolution will be just that ... resolution.

I must admit that it's a stroke of genius, and you're welcome to steal the whole notion as well.

I'm not resolving to change anything or fix anything, but if something comes up as a bit of a problem, well I plan to meet that problem head-on with all my knowledge and experience that I can muster and work my through it.

Too often in the past, some problems have completely overpowered me and left me sort of drowning in a sea of confusion. Sure I'd look around for help from other people, but usually, the very people I reached out to would smack me over the head with a piece of driftwood and shout in my ear, "Good God, man, can't you see I'm drowning too."

So, no more.

Instead of facing life with the uncertainty of a 36-year-old virgin, I've decided to face life with unrelenting decisiveness and courage.

Say, for example, my doctor were to tell me that I had six months to live. I suppose that I could swoon dramatically and collapse into a state of utter self-pity, or maybe I could smile brightly and say, "Jeez, doc, I thought for a minute there you were going to say I had only three months to live."

You see it's not about disaster. Disaster always comes. You simply can't escape that fact. It is, however, about how you face disaster. You can collapse and crumble in the face of hardship, or you can find the resolve to meet every disaster head-on.

Now, don't get me wrong. Resolution is not a solution. That's why there's that little "re-" preface at the front of the word. I am positive, however, that the word "resolution" was constructed by some quick-witted neologist to suggest that resolution is, in fact, the necessary preface to a solution. Without the resolve to confront a problem, well I guess you're running away from it, and if you're running away from it, that nasty old dilemma will never be solved.

So, here's to facing the coming year, not with a whole laundry list of resolutions, but with just simple resolution. I may not be a "better" person in the coming year, but I will be a stronger person.

In strength, there is clarity. In clarity, there is understanding. In understanding, there is hope ... the very "stuff that dreams are made on."

Happy New Year.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Ice Cometh

Click to enlarge ...

An ice storm hit Toronto last week, and left a trail of devastation. Most people described it as the aftermath of a bombing ... not sure whether they meant Armerican drones ...

© Kennedy James. All rights reserved.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

whispers ...

whispers ...

i've painted over
the whispers of love
that you left indiscreetly
on the walls of the bedroom
brushed over all
the purrs and hums
and denouements
that wound us into
the single cocoon
of the secret sexual life
we shared
a life entwined by the ribbons
of deepest departures
and the cruellest dares ...

i think you would like the colour
a mustard yellow gone orange
blended something like
a sunset
irreconcilable in its
determination to end
the crispest blues
of daylight
and now that i've finished
i can't help but wonder
how easily the dark night
eclipses all the colours
of my life
when i remember
asking you to stay
and watching you walk away
without so much as
a single whisper


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So This Is Christmas

So This Is Christmas

I suppose that, on Christmas morning, I should be thinking of others. You know, the poor starving folks in Africa or, for that matter, the homeless wrecks wandering around just down the block. I should be finding compassion in my heart for the flea-infested dogs and cats that you see on television, the ones with those oh-so-tragic-eyes that all but beg you to come "rescue" them. Then there are the shut-ins, the bedridden patients dying in hospitals, the folks living alone in tiny apartments, who stew and bubble inside the broth of their psychoses, and of course the kids in the cancer wards who put on that brave face, again, just when the TV cameras show up.

I have no doubt that Christmas should be about giving, but I can never figure out why the plea for my hard-earned money comes with shit-on-a-stick. Why is it that the way to hijack someone's bank account has to be done by making you feel horrible? Charities seem to use Christmas as the perfect opportunity to coax a little cash out of your pocket by taking your guilt hostage and sending you a ransom note, which pretty much says, "How can you possibly live with yourself in your smug, comfortable world, while all these other people are so hard done by?"

Hey, I feel fine. I didn't cause the world to be a terrible place. I didn't create poverty, disease, or despair. I didn't buy beer for underage wannabe alcoholics. I didn't fire up a meth lab in my basement or hand out samples of crack cocaine in the local high school parking lot. And I sure as hell didn't start a war or leave land mines lying around for kids in foreign lands to discover while playing hop-scotch, the end result being that, even to this day, far too many young ones end up blowing off their feet. Nor did I dehumanize other cultures by burning down their villages or by torturing the inevitable prisoners of war until they were as good as dead. Nope, didn't do any of those things, nor am I responsible for any of the twenty-two other crimes of which I am presumably guilty.

I lived my life as best as I could. I never once took a hand-out or even a hand-up. I just muddled my way through thirty years at a job and lived from pay cheque to pay cheque. I raised two kids, had about a dozen dogs, drove hideously inexpensive cars with rusty fenders, bought a crappy, little house and did my best to get along with some unforgettably messed-up neighbours, coached hockey and little league baseball, and went to church on Sundays. For all intents and purposes, I paid my dues.

So, forgive me if my heart doesn't skip a beat when charitable institutions flood the world with their message of the-end-is-at-hand-misery, designed to demoralise me for doing what I could to make the best of life for me and my family. I know the world is full of misery. I have had my share as well. If I am better off than the starving hordes, the drug-addled street-walkers, the near-extinct breeds of animals, well, there's a reason for my good tidings. I kept my head on straight and always remembered that a penny saved is a penny earned. Of course, we no longer have pennies in Canada, so I guess the new reality is that a nickel saved is a nickel earned.

Regardless, no one is getting my nickels. The truth is that the tax man takes three cents out of every nickel that I have. So I'm left with only my two cents worth of babbling nonsense in the wind. Since we no longer have pennies in Canada, you can see my dilemma. I have figured it out, and in about six years and nine months, I'll be broke.

When that day comes, I suppose that I could look for some kind of charity to pick up the broken pieces of my life, but I won't. Call it stubbornness, pride, stupidity ... pick a noun ... I prefer to think of my life as built on a foundation of dignity. If the house crumbles, that foundation will always be there.

No, for me, charity begins at home. I'm far more interested in caring for my family than I am in solving the unending plight of the world. I'm far more interested in taking care of myself — my health, my emotional connections, my spiritual well-being — than I am in doling out a few dollars here and there to organizations whose main purpose is to feed the bums that have been living on the dole for most of their lives.

Maybe you're probably wondering what got me going on this topic, here on Christmas morning and all. Well, you see I've been writing this short story about three lesbians who live together — let's call them Faith, Hope, and Charity — and they don't have an easy time of it. I mean, two lesbians might work, but three is a bitch of a situation, so to speak. Anyway, the result is pretty tragic. One by one, they end up losing everything, mostly as a result of the petty jealousy they harbour in this off-the-wall ménage à trois. Before long, Faith commits suicide, and Hope is shot in a convenience store robbery, which probably doesn't sound at all convenient.

So that leaves Charity, and she is so destitute and broken apart by her slide down the snake of fate that she turns in her gay but unhappy lifestyle and marries a rich old man, just to make ends meet. The old guy is quite the philanthropist, which means he gives wads of cash to so-called "worthy" causes, but the turn of the screw in his maniacal brain is that he thinks taking on this destitute lesbian is also an act of charity. I suppose it might be just that, except he expects certain "favours" in return for his generosity. To the hapless lesbian, these "favours" disgust her to no end, but what's a girl to do? It's that dilemma where, if you want the Gucci, you need to provide the hoochie-koochie. So she does. And in doing so, she sacrifices her dignity in the cruellest of ways.

It's a sad story with a happy ending because the last lesbian survives. OK, maybe it's not a truly "happy" ending, maybe "bittersweet" is a better word to describe it. Anyway, after I finished writing the story, I was a little befuddled, because I liked writing it, but it made me angry. There was something distasteful about the fact that the young lady, Charity, lives only as a result of the indulgence of some old geezer with money who exploits her weaknesses. Maybe there's a lesson in that ... not sure.

Then, at some point in the last week, I happened to watch the "official" video to John Lennon's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," and I thought, "Well, that's a bunch of bullshit."

I don't know who made the video, but it wasn't John Lennon. Such a great song, and such a damnable, guilt-wrenching video. All I can think is that the person who put that video together maybe missed the point of Christmas altogether. After all, the refrain is the salutation, "Happy Christmas," not "Life is horrible, and you're a piece of stinking shoe crap for letting it stay that way."

I think everyone should feel fabulous at Christmas. Why some folks would want you to feel like you're part of some despicable plot causing the horrendous suffering of humanity all over the world is beyond my comprehension.

Not my fault. Not my fault. Nope, not my fault.

I've come to see Christmas through the eyes of my grandchildren. They could care less about what's going on in the dark corners of this miserable world, just as long as Santa comes through with that Hug-Me-Elmo. Sure it's a bit self-indulgent, but why shouldn't Christmas be a time to celebrate our successes over and above covering the shaky, outstretched palms of every miserable wretch whose only success in life was failure? I'm not apologising for a world-gone-wrong, other than to say, "Sorry, there's no room at the inn."

So, Happy Christmas. War is not over, and never will be, but so what? Have another eggnog or hot-buttered rum, scoff down more turkey or ham than your little tummy can handle, ease up to another slice of Christmas cake, and whatever you do today, enjoy your Christmas because it is your Christmas and no one elses. Lord knows, we spend enough of our lives feeling oppressed by the oppressed and victimized by every victim championed by one "worthy" cause or another. So pass me another helping of Christmas pudding if you would. I'm sick and tired of living on a diet of humble pie.



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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

To you and yours, a very Merry Christmas ...




Sunday, December 15, 2013

Is It The Tinsel?

Is It The Tinsel?

Is it the tinsel?

Is it the candy canes?

Is it the whole Santa Claus thing, with the elves, the sled, and the flying reindeer, one with an unrelenting, blinking red nose?

For many people, Christmas is not a time of Joyeux Noël. Instead, the Christmas season sends them reeling into world of regret and unhappiness. While young and old are bubbling with excitement and expectation, some folks live in dread and despair until the Christmas season is done and gone.

Is it the glitzy wrapping paper?

Is it the absurdly decorated Christmas tree, with its twinkling lights, and its little manger effect at its base?

Is it the Christmas cake, the Christmas cookies, the Christmas ham?

I suspect that this phenomenon, known as the Christmas "blues," is not as uncommon as many of us think. Too many people live on the outside of things these days. Too many people feel excluded, as if they are looking in some candy store window, but for whatever reason, can't go inside and enjoy the sweetness of the candy store life.

As the years wear on, we tend to lose things. We lose our change purse, we lose our glasses, we lose our way in the mall, and we lose people. Friends, who were once close, fade into the past. Family members pass on into the great beyond. Husbands or wives decide to hijack the joint savings account and head for parts unknown. Children discover lives of their own. It all happens slowly, but it seems to happen inevitably. Before we know it, we wake up to discover a new feeling grinding up the essence of our being. We wake up to the recognition that we are alone.

Is it the eggnog?

Is it those cranberry-nut-poinsettia-sprig-of-pine wreaths on every door you pass?

Is it the snowman dressed in a scarf and an old top hat in the Lombardi's front yard?

Living alone and being alone are not the same thing. At some point in life, most of us will find ourselves living alone, but living alone is easy, and some would even say preferable to living with someone else. Being alone is deadly. Being alone is that sense of being of little or no importance to anyone in life, not even to yourself. It is that state of drifting aimlessly through time towards the door at the end of the hall, you know, the one with the bright light seeping through the keyhole.

Instead of seeing time as something to fill with interesting and passionate experiences, some people see it only as an empty space between waking and sleeping, a space they can't seem to fill with anything other than moronic television shows, food sedation, Rx drugs, alcohol, and who knows what. This is the life of self-loathing, the life of stasis, in which nothing ever changes because change risks everything, and let's be honest, who really wants another anxiety attack?

Is it the Christmas stockings hung with great care?

Is it the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker Suite?

Is it having to watch It's A Wonderful Life for the 37th time?

Being alone is never more apparent than it is at Christmas time. Every which way you turn, people are making plans for one get-together or another. Jude is having lunch with Darcy. Brandon is taking the entire family ice skating. The Walkers are coming over for drinks and favours. Allan and June have Missy's school Christmas pageant next Tuesday. Muriel is leaving for Florida to visit her son-the-doctor. Yes, it seems everyone's social calendar suddenly explodes with exciting events.

Except ... such is not the case for everyone. Some people look down at their dance card, and find it's empty. Who's to blame? Who's to blame?

Is it the Christmas carols?

Is it the Salvation Army kettle attended by someone dinging a little bell?

Is it the gingerbread house decorated with M&M's stuck permanently in that ridiculously impervious icing?

Well, no one is to blame. Not your friends, not your family, not your children, not even yourself. If you feel left out at Christmas time, well here's a tip for you. You're not just left out during the holiday season, you're more than likely left out through the entire year. Don't blame your plight on Christmas.

After all, some folks live in the village, and some folks live out-of-town. Some folks have busy lives, and some folks have no lives. If you are one of the latter, you have either chosen that path or you have somehow simply let yourself inadvertently drop out of the maddening crowd. So make a choice. Accept your loneliness, or begin to build bridges back to the rest of humanity.

Is it the Christmas cards?

Is it the jolly jingles?

Is it the star of wonder?

If you choose to find your way back into a community of like-minded individuals, here's yet another tip. Forget the ones who have let you go once before. Sister or brother, son or daughter, if they have previously displayed a tendency not to want you around, it's a safe bet that, no matter how hard you try, they still won't want you around. Let them go their own way, and you go yours.

Yes, I know, blood is blood, family is family, but human nature is also human nature. And human nature is such that what has been forsaken cannot always be undone. No, you're best to find new friends and new relationships and let them become your new family. Replace the whole blood obsession with a good bottle of wine and some friendly camaraderie. For that matter, get stinking drunk, tell dirty jokes, and pass out on some stranger's couch with or without your underwear intact.

In other words, smash all your inhibitions and self-doubts into powdery snowflakes and learn to enjoy life. You know, people don't like people who don't like themselves. So, refresh/reload the page, format the hard drive and get rid of all that worthless spam that people have been leaving on the doorstep of your life for all these years. It's never too late to start over, until it's too late. And then it's too late, and just imagine how pissy you will feel then.

Is it the scented candles?

Is it the mistletoe?

Is it that no-room-at-the inn birth of Jesus scenario?

Of course, some people will choose not to change their lives. And so, Christmas will once again be the bane of their existence. They'll feel sorry for themselves, and wrap themselves up in the dark and dreary bows of depression. For those people, I also have something hopeful to offer. There's an old saying that "Misery loves company." If that is true, well, you might get lucky. Someone might show up.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Erin's Poppets

My daughter's daughters and, thereby, my granddaughters ...

I have spoken with Santa on his i-CandyCane phone through the North Cellular Pole Network, and he assures me that their presents are completely made, wrapped in sparkling paper, and ready to pack on the sled.

Oooo ... the excitement mounts ...



Sunday, December 08, 2013

Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping

It's that time of year again.

Everyone is out shopping for that special gift for that special someone.

I have discovered this year that I now have four grandchildren. I'm not sure where they all came from, how they all snuck in the side door, so to speak, but there they are, with their bright young faces looking up at me expectantly. I know the look. It has consumerism written all over it. You can't miss the twinkle in their eyes, and the message is pretty clear, even through the chocolate smear just under the youngest's lower lip.

Kids and Christmas ... just reeks of gifts, I'm afraid. And apparently grandfathers are not exempt from dolling out some ducats from a hard-earned pension to provide a gift-wrapped doodad of unknown origin (presumably China, God forbid) for each of the eagerly awaiting, almost forlorn faces of these popperhead little ones who dangle too closely around your knees.

So I've been out shopping. Target, Walmart, Sears, Sportschek, The Gap, Old Navy, even The Dollar Store. Here some cash, there some cash, everywhere some cash, cash.

And just when you think you're done, you're not done.

There is always that something else that catches your eye. It's a never-ending elevator ride down into an infernal abyss that ends, I suspect, with a crash in the bargain basement of bankruptcy.

This year, my strategy has been to wheel that creaky shopping cart around the toy department, and just pile in a bunch of tools, not any toy in particular, and certainly not a toy that I think grandchild #1 or grandchild #4 will particularly like, just a bunch of toys that I think are cool. Surprisingly, there are more such toys available than I thought possible.

All these new age, little plastic gizmos are wonderfully fascinating. You push a button here or pull a lever there, and the darn things do stuff. They make noise, gear up a bunch of bells and whistles, play tunes, and even talk to you in some remote, seductive voice reminiscent of a woman I once knew in bed. So, who am I to resist?

Before I know it, the shopping cart is full, and I'm whistling, beeping, chirping, barking, roaring, and being told how smart I am, as I careen my way to the checkout.

I wish that I were someone's grandkid. I'd have a ball with all the newfangled, 21st century toys. I mean we've come a long way, baby ... because my memories of Christmas, the ones that slip down the chimney of reminiscence, call up visions of hoping against hope that you'd get a Mr Potato Head or a bag of marbles or, if luck would have it, a new set of Roy Rogers six guns with a ten-gallon cowboy hat and bespangled vest to match.

Of course, what you got was a pair of flannel pyjamas or in the worst-case scenario that I remember, a clock radio, a rotary-dial, turquoise clock radio.
Who buys a five-year-old a clock radio? I can only guess that there was a great sale on them somewhere, because my sisters got the identical gift. I suppose that overfed elf in the red velvet suit must have had it in his mind that we required some kind of lesson in punctuality. At the time, I wondered if jolly ol' Saint Nick really gave a shit, although I suppose I didn't think of it in that terminology.

Don't think me ungrateful. That clock radio served me well, right into my twenties. Some days, it woke me up when I wanted to wake up, and other days, it woke me up when I had no plans to get up at all. It had a mind of its own, a quality I greatly admire. I'm not sure what Thrift Store it ended up in, but I guess, if I had it today, I could probably sell it on Ebay as an antique and recover a bit of the cash that I've spent on real toys for real kids.

Well, there's the truth of the matter. Back in the 50s, we weren't real kids. We were just something that went well with the two cars in the garage and the yappy cocker spaniel.

Maybe it's these memories that have driven me to make Christmas a time of reaping riches, first for my own kids, and now for the grandkids. The impulse is all wrong, of course, because Christmas should be time of family, friendship, and a celebration of some kind of spiritual reawakening. Well, divorce killed the family fuzzy-all-over feeling, even my best friends have disappeared, and as for the spiritual reawakening, the best that I can offer is a couple of Hallelujahs over a glass of eggnog laced with Jamaican rum.

So, hey, I'm determined to celebrate Christmas by making my grandkids happy with an avalanche of toys. Spend a lot of money ... hope for a little gratitude.

You might be thinking that I'm missing the real spirit of Christmas, but I think I've hit the the proverbial nail on the head. It's not the most profound gig to dole out the presents and then be sent packing to eat a Christmas TV dinner alone in front of Big Bang Theory reruns , but it's what's left, and it'll have to do.



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