Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pete Seeger



"You are never too old to change the world."
                    — Pete Seeger


Sad to report that Pete Seeger, the voice of folk music and social change through over six decades, has died at the age of 94.

He will be sorely missed.

 






 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

D.I.V.O.R.C.E




D.I.V.O.R.C.E

Toni Tennille, left, and Daryl Dragon, the singing duo "The Captain and Tenille
I can't say that I was surprised when, just the other day, I heard that The Captain and Tennille — who are both in their 70s — are divorcing after nearly four decades of marriage. After all, the divorce rate in North America is reportedly over 50%. To be honest, I have always wondered why that percentage isn't much, much higher.

Relationships that blossom in the spring of life often wither in the fall. Love and expectation can turn to anger and disillusionment. That change seems normal enough to me. After all, it's tough to keep the fire burning when the fuel of passion begins to run dry. So it goes. Things fall apart and people go their separate ways, often with the misguided belief that something better waits for them outside the marriage.

Of course, the exact opposite is often true. What waits for them is invariably a series of more failures.

I think what people fail to see is that a relationship falls apart, not because there is something lacking in your partner, but because there is something lacking in you. Sure, it's easy to blame the other person, but ultimately the blame has to do what chickens do and come home to roost.

Now don't get me wrong. I would be the last one to suggest that someone should stay in a crappy relationship. My point is that just one person doesn't make the whole thing crappy. It's simple mathematics — takes two halves to make a whole — and my guess is that both halves of the relationship were crappy.

Anyone who knows me very well will tell you that I do not believe in marriage. I believe in loving relationships, but the moment you put the marriage stamp on that love, it's like you have a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode and tear all those idealistic hopes and dreams asunder. That beautiful wedding that everyone paid an arm and a leg for becomes a distant memory, and you get to pay twice as much for the lawyers and assorted ne'er-do-wells that make you twice as financially strapped as you were when you were married.

Of course, the world is full of eternal optimists, and some people remarry after divorce. I have never been able to figure out why the law allows anyone to pursue a second, third or even fourth marriage. The serial divorcee compounds damage on damage and wreaks more havoc in the world than some of the worst criminals that we lock up in penitentiaries for a lifetime or two. These repeat offenders are really no better than marriage terrorists, blowing up one relationship here and another relationship there. There ought to be a law to stop them. Maybe we need to give "home" land security a completely new meaning and purpose.

I must say, however, that, while no longer a foolish believer in marriage, I have come to be a strong advocate for a single, heartfelt divorce. I mean, just think about it ... marriage is a tenuous, 50%-chance-of-success arrangement at best, but divorce ... ah, divorce is permanent. When you sign that marriage licence, you're just guessing it will last. When you sign that divorce decree, you can be damn sure it's going to last. There's something to be said for knowing what tomorrow will bring instead of wondering if you should "step away" or stay.

Love and marriage might get you a horse and carriage, but divorce gets you so much more ...

  • Divorce? Those "friends" of his or hers will disappear like water down the drain, and you'll know at last that Suzie was a slug or Andrew a two-faced bastard.

  • Divorce? Money won't matter. You won't have any.

  • Divorce? That house you bought will turn into a tiny condo or apartment. Hey, less to clean.

  • Divorce? You'll never have to worry about the fine print of a new car warranty again.

  • Divorce? No more interfering in-laws, and more importantly, no more jellied salads at those mandatory Sunday dinners!

  • Divorce? Your kids will suddenly find a whole new social group with which to interact. The burden of having two parents will fall from their tiny shoulders in the twinkling of an eye, and they will finally be able to relate to the television shows that they watch and fit in with the "cool" kids at school.

  • Divorce? Burp, fart, and pick your nose or bum whenever deemed necessary.

  • Divorce? All the take-away food you can handle.

  • Divorce? It's the absolute wonder of being alone without feeling alone.

  • Divorce? Ah, yes, all those hours of sinful flirtation and cyber-philandering on social media, without having to clear your computer's history afterwards.

  • Divorce?
You see, marriage may be the gateway to everlasting happiness, but divorce is the key that opens the lock ...
 

 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Once Upon A Time ...



Once Upon A Time ...

Once upon a time, there was a story ... about ... well ... you ...

We all have a story in which we live. We create the characters, the settings, the mood, the conflicts, the theme, and even the inevitable climax.

Some of our stories are happy, some sad, some tragic, some just downright morose. Whatever way our story bends, whatever feelings evolve from the day-to-day occurrences in our little narrative, we seem to struggle through the bad times as best as we can, and we barely notice the good.

Some days, we stop and wonder if we should change the plotline by adding a few new characters, if we should seek a new setting in which to live, or maybe, should we have the strength of purpose, if we should attempt to resolve some of the conflicts that have driven our story forward from the days when we were young. Most days, however, we simply let the story unfold, as if it had a life of its own and was completely separate from us.

Too often, we forget that we are the author of our lives. We allow chance and circumstance, friends and foes, time and space to write the long passages of description that place us in an oasis of happiness or a quandary of hopelessness. We engage in moments of comfortable dialogue that is either truly a comfort or simply a string of familiar words, words we have practised over and over again, until eventually, they become meaningless.

Instead of writing the story, we become the story. We become the person other people expect us to be. We dare not change the course of our narrative for fear that we will lose sight of the very things — the people, the situations, the monotone script — that we have come to know and trust. Instead of breaking through the repetition of a mundane existence, we settle in for a good long read through the pages of a life that has no twists and turns, no dangerous decisions, no unexpected unfolding of events.

In the end, by the time we turn the last page over and prepare to close the book forever, we look back over the chapters of our experience and wonder how the events of our lives might have been different, if only we had paid more attention to an opportunity here or had steered clear of an obvious impasse there.

You see, every story wants revision, wants a second or third rewriting, but life proceeds too quickly to allow for some kind of reconsideration through the more objective eyes of an astute editorial assistant. We are always on our own, and before we are able to rethink the consequences of our actions and reactions, we publish ourselves for all the world to peruse. We reveal the raw pages of who we are, the words and punctuation of our dreams and our despair, and turn the matter over to others who will skim past the most important passages and focus on the failures of our rhetoric, our inability to describe in word or image just who we once were, who we are now, and who we hope to become.

Worst of all, we will be judged, applauded or disgraced, by all who have happened upon the story of our lives.

Once upon a time, there was a story ... and you were either its hero or its victim, someone who actively inspired events or who passively followed the course of events along the safest storyline available. Before you scribble "The End" across the bottom of your final sheet of paper, do so without regret or remorse. We imagine ourselves one way, surely at our best, but we must also inscribe our best across the hearts of those who gather, late at night, to hear us tell what we dreamed of becoming, no matter how short of the mark we fell.
 







 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

One Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest




One Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest

This morning in the gym, I happened to mention that I had not had a flu shot.

Bellows of aghast and dismay filled the room, as my workout crew squawked and shuddered at my indifference to protecting myself from the H5N1 flu virus that is currently all the rage in Canada.

My good friend, the cardiologist, even called me a "fool" in his most bombastic, paternal tone of voice.

So, given all this hoopla, I decided that I would, in fact, get a flu shot after years of ignoring the tiny prick that apparently has the seminal stuff to save lives.

Here, the flu shot is available almost everywhere. Doctors have it, dentists have it, pharmacies have it, even Walmart and Costco have it. It is so readily available that I suspect even the homeless guy outside the liquor store probably has a supply.

I decided to head to my local pharmacy for a dip and dab of vaccine.

Now, offhand, you would think the process would be an easy ride, but not so. I asked the pharmacist if he had flu-shots available, and yes, he did. However, first the cautionary tale and the paperwork.

"Do you have any allergies?" he asked with something of a furrowed brow.

"No," I suggested blandly.

"You're not allergic to eggs?" he continued.

"Well, not too sure about that, but my doctor says that I'm not," I muttered. "If I am," I continued, "what could happen?"

"Within the first few minutes," he offered in a stern voice, "you will get a rash. That will be followed by a swelling of the tongue and throat, causing you severe respiratory problems. Then, you will likely pass out."

"Pass out? Or pass away?" I returned with some alarm.

"Well," he quickly interjected, "passing away is obviously the worst case scenario. But don't worry, we have an EpiPen here. We would inject you with epinephrine, and then call 9-1-1 for an ambulance to take you to the hospital for further treatment."

My mind rolled over. Ambulance? Hospital? Cripes, I had things to do today.

"How common are such reactions?" I wondered.

"Not at all common," he said in almost a whisper, presumably not to alarm anyone, before adding, "but I will ask you to sit for 10 to 15 minutes after the shot, just to make sure you are not having a reaction."

I was alarmed.

Still, I had come this far, so I adopted my most heroic persona and said, "I'm sure I'll be fine."

"Good," he finished with a kind of affirmation. "I'll just need you to fill out some paperwork."

The paperwork of which he spoke was much like any standard medical form ...

    High Blood Pressure

    Heart Disease

    Diabetes

    Ulcer

    Cataracts

    Varicose Veins

    Hemorrhoids

Well, the usual stuff ... I always check everything, just to be on the safe side.

The difference on this particular flu shot form, however, was that there was also a disclaimer that absolved the shooter from any liability should the shootee suddenly develop life-threatening symptoms of any kind. Immediately below that tidy little bit of legalese, you signed your life away.

By this time, I had had my fill of filling stuff in, and so I just signed and figured we should just get on with it. You would probably never suspect it of me, but I do have a certain fatalistic side, and I figured I'd live or die, but either way I was damn well not going to get the flu.

Once the paperwork was complete, I was shuffled off to sit quietly in a small waiting room, where the pharmacist left me for a minute and then returned with a mottled orange fishing tackle box.

"Really?" I thought to myself. I mean, couldn't he have something a little more professional than a tackle box that unfolded like an accordion to reveal a menagerie of swabs, needles, Ziploc gloves, and assorted other medical paraphernalia. For a brief moment, I felt like the catch-of-the-day.

Now, I am not afraid of needles. In fact, I think I like them just a little too much. So, when the pharmacist went through the drama of holding the needle up to the light and tapping in gently, just like in the movies, I was impressed.

"You do that with a certain flair," I offered, "considering ..."

He looked at me with a curious expression, as if I had somehow insulted him or belittled the moment.

"Just being careful," he snapped.

Careful? Careful? Careful of what? Careful not to inject me with an air bubble that would find its way to my heart and blow a hole in my aorta?

It's odd that just when you think you are in "good hands," you are suddenly struck with the notion that you are really about to be the victim of a weekend fisherman.

Then the moment arrived when he first swabbed my shoulder and stuck that needle all the way down to my ribs.

It didn't hurt much at all. Honestly, just a little jab, a snick, a prickle, a stab ... until, of course, my mind caught wind of what was going on and began to ring the fire alarm.

Involuntarily, I stood up. After all, no matter where you are, when the fire alarm goes off, you are supposed to vacate the building. As I bolted upright, I'm afraid that I sent the more demure pharmacist hurtling across the room. His face went a whiter shade of pale, and he looked at me as if this moment might be the promised end.

I quickly apologised and sat back down, but he was no longer a willing participant in this unfolding one-act play. He exited stage-left, and didn't return for a good 20 minutes with his assistant by his side.

"Any reactions?" he asked in a soft, reassuring voice.

"No," I replied, "everything seems fine."

"Not feeling light-headed, like you're going to faint?"

Well, I always feel light-headed and on the verge of fainting, so I had to do some inner calculations to measure if I felt any more light-headed than usual.

"No, I'm good," I concluded.

"Good," he said with a growing sense of self-assurance. "Please feel free to call me if you do develop any unusual symptoms over the next 12 hours."

My mind went blank.

"What would you call 'unusual'?" I asked. And then for the sake of a little levity, I added, "Do you think I might grow another finger or toe?"

He didn't laugh.

"Any problems, let me know," he said with a tone of voice that obviously was meant to bring down the curtain on this entire escapade and, by way of putting an exclamation mark on the whole procedure, he opened the door for me while offering, "Enjoy the rest of your day."

So off I went, a little unsure if I should be driving with vaccine racing through my body, but here I am, home and chillin', drifting around inside the music of Jimi Hendrix for some odd reason, but still able to write this little piece of triviality for you.

Oh sure, the words are bouncing all over the screen, there's a dull A♭ hum in my head that wasn't there this morning, and I feel a little feverish, but otherwise I'm doing fine.

Tomorrow, I'll probably be in bed with the flu.

Send cookies ...
 








 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

To Serve and Project



To Serve and Project

One thing that I can say for the police force in my end of town, they are ever vigilant.

Oh sure, people get murdered once in a while, there are gang fights in the mall, houses are broken into and trashed, drunks drive, well, drunk, and elderly ladies walking to church are robbed of everything but their Depends.

Crimes, like these, go on day after day, but there is one crime the police will not tolerate. If you're driving while talking on your cell phone, you'll get caught and punished immediately with a $125 (CAD) fine, along with the bonus feature of having a couple of "points" strapped to your licence.

Now, I have no idea what these "points" are, because, quite honestly, I have never incurred any "points." I suspect that "points" are like strikes in baseball. Rack up enough "points" and you're out ... of something ... but out nevertheless.

Well, this morning I was fresh out of toilet paper, so I decided to trek through the pre-dawn light to Walmart, where I'd heard there was a BIG sale on toilet paper. And there was. No sooner had I wheeled my Streptococcus-infected cart into the store, when I saw a giant pyramid of bundles of Charmin (Ultra-Soft/Mega-Rolls). I would say that experience was like turning a corner and experiencing a vista of Mecca, but that might be a bit of an exaggeration.

So I bought two bundles of these soft-on-the-bum wipes and headed back home.

That was when I was stopped by the police, no more than a block from the Walmart parking lot.

I was surprised.

I checked my seatbelt ... done up snugly, checked if my lights were on in the dusky morning light ... they were, considered if I had been speeding ... was sure that I hadn't been. Still, when those red, white, and blue police car lights are flashing behind you, you stop. So, I pulled to the side of the road, but I must say that I was a bit bemused and somewhat perturbed by the interruption to my day.

A burly, young police officer strolled casually with ticket book in hand to my side window. She might have been attractive in another lifetime, but in her current state of employment, she looked a little like a cross between Medussa and Hulk Hogan.

"Licence and registration," she growled.

I handed them over without saying a word.

"Do you know why I'm stopping you?" she asked in a husky voice.

"No idea," I offered.

"You were driving while talking on your cell phone."

My brain stalled.

"Officer," I said somewhat hesitantly, "I don't have my cell phone with me."

"Mr James," she retorted, "I saw you talking while pulling through the intersection."

"Officer," I repeated, "I honestly do not have a cell phone with me."

With that, she stepped back, and commanded that I step out of the vehicle.

When I managed to unbuckle myself and get out, she politely turned me around, and with what I can only describe as "expert hands," she quickly frisked me from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

No cell phone.

"Is your phone in your vehicle, Mr James?" she asked with a certain amount of growing frustration.

"No," I offered.

"Mr James, I am going to inspect your vehicle," she said blankly, and she did so.

No cell phone.

"Mr James," she insisted, "I saw you talking while pulling through the intersection. Please show me your phone."

"Officer," I groaned, "I have no phone with me, I swear."

"Then why were you talking as you pulled through the intersection?"

"To be honest, I don't remember talking, but," I conceded, "if I was talking, I suppose I was talking to myself."

"To yourself?"

"Yes," I confirmed, "once I drifted past the age of 60, I picked up the habit of talking to myself. I trust that is not against the law."

A smirk crossed her face. "No," she begrudgingly agreed, "that is not against the law, but when you drive, you are expected to maintain 100% concentration on your driving. No more talking to yourself while driving, do you understand?"

"I do," I replied with the certainty of a bridegroom who spent the night before his wedding with one of the bridesmaids.

She handed me my licence and registration, turned on a dime, and said, "Have a good morning, Mr James."

"Thank you, you too," spilled from my lips, and fortunately I managed to stop the expletive, "bitch," that was rolling through my brain before it could find its way into speech.

As I left the crime scene, I wondered to myself whether or not I had a case for reporting the incident as a clear example of police profiling. Since I am neither black nor gay, I dismissed the idea without too much thought, but the notion made for a great conversation with myself all the rest of the way home.
 






 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Pillow Talk




Pillow Talk

Ooooo ... it's the dead of winter here in frosty Canada. Going out this morning was like venturing across the frozen tundra on one of those never-ending walks in the Arctic. I think there's some kind of parable regarding how Eskimos would walk into the freezing air until they dropped and died. Actually, I'm not sure if there really has ever been a parable about that. I may have just made it up. Still, if you went walking outside today, you wouldn't last long before you'd just be another frozen fillet in the cosmic freezer north of the Mason-Dixon line. Wait ... does the Mason-Dixon line run east to west or north to south? Arrrgh ... geometry was never my strong suit. Neither was geography ...

The smart person would stay indoors on days like this, but not me. I decided that I just had to go to Target and buy some new pillows. After all, they were on sale, and two of the pillows on my bed are like river boulders. If I happen to end up, in the tossing and turning I call sleep, lying on one of those sacks of concrete, I wake up with a sore ear and some subtle bruising on the side of my head. So, hopefully, I've corrected that little life problem.

The more that I think about it, pillows really are an important aspect of daily life. Some people know their pillows far better than they know anyone else in life. So, it's no wonder that most people have a favourite pillow, and God forbid, you should try to take it away from them. Stealing that "special" pillow from under someone's nocturnal head approximates kidnapping that sleepyhead's first born. You're sure to get a good kick in the ribs or regions thereabouts for being such a midnight scrounger.

Some people even go to great lengths to protect their pillows with a plastic covering and a delicately decorated pillow case. Not me. I should think putting plastic over a pillow somehow defeats the purpose of finding comfort there as you lie in bed after a hectic day. That plastic shielding is nothing more than an army issue condom dividing your expectant head from the pleasure of the softest, downy mound of sweet comfort.

Neither do I have a yen for decorated pillow cases. My pillow cases are always a solid colour, sometimes just bleach white. I once tried some patterned sheets and pillowcases, but I felt like there was some kind of psychedelic riot going on throughout the night. My kind of insomnia requires a certain amount of serenity, so I leave the purple haze or the hearts and flowers designs to the Ambien crowd.

Now, the pillows that I bought are designed especially for "side sleepers." It says so, right on the package. I thought that little piece of information was somewhat odd. I even looked for pillows for other kinds of sleepers, but I couldn't find any. I mean, what if you were an "on-your-back-sleeper" or a "tummy-sleeper?" Would these pillows suddenly be useless? Fortunately, I do sleep on my side, or more accurately, from side to side to side ... ad nauseum ...

Over time, I have also discovered that pillows have some kind of magic ingredient that makes them anywhere from "extra-firm" to "super-soft." I am a connoisseur of the in-between. Not too hard, and not too soft. It's a delicate balance, I know, but somewhere in that range is the perfect softness. I used to buy "extra-firm" pillows, based on the misconception that, over a few months, that extra-firmness would metamorphose into a sweet spot of some kind of luxurious and perfect submission of softness. I say this is a misconception, because from my experience, pillows go from one measure of bounce to no measure of bounce whatsoever. Pillows, it seems, have a life expectancy, and when they hear the death rattle of their "best-before" date, they just suddenly go as flat as a possum with a yen for moonlit hitch-hiking on some interstate highway.

Needless to say, there is a connection between pillows and making love. However, while rummaging through the bins of down and down-alternative headrests in Target, I quickly realised that there were no pillows specifically marked as love-making pillows. I'm not sure what kind of pillow you like when it comes to the gyrations of making love, nor do I really want to consider or imagine where you stick those pillows in the up-and-down rhapsody, but I know I like a pillow that is fairly firm. If I happen to be on the bottom of the dance, I like my head propped up somewhat. Why? Oh, I don't know. I guess that I like to watch. When you're on top, it hardly matters. You're just a sail up there trying to keep the boat steady and constantly struggling to ensure the mizzen mast is where it's supposed to be.

The more that I think about it, I guess the best pillow is a naturally soft D-cup or better. Maybe that's what I'm missing in my life these days and what's keeping me awake ...

 







 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Phil Everly



Phil Everly, dead at the age of 74 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The Beatles, early in their career, once referred to themselves as "the English Everly Brothers." And Bob Dylan once said, "We owe these guys everything. They started it all."

The Everlys' hit records included the then-titillating "Wake Up Little Susie" and the universally identifiable "Bye Bye Love," each featuring their twined voices with lyrics that mirrored the fatalism of country music and a rocking backbeat that more upbeat pop. These sounds and ideas would be warped by their devotees into a new kind of music that would ricochet around the world.

In all, their career spanned five decades, although they performed separately from 1973 to 1983. In their heyday between 1957 and 1962, they had 19 top 40 hits.

Yet another voice from the golden era of rock music is lost. Time passes slowly, but it passes inevitably.

 




 








 
 


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