Friday, March 31, 2006

These truths shall be self-evident

1. No matter how much money you have, it's always barely enough to get by on.

2. There is always a Plan B.

3. Never pee into the wind on a sailboat.

4. You will only stub your toe in bare-feet when you have an ingrown toenail.

5. No matter which route you take, there will always be roadwork -- especially when you're late for work or an appointment.

6. No matter how late you arrive for a doctor's or dentist's appointment, you will still have to wait half-an-hour.

7. After that half hour wait you will be ushered into that little examining room even though the doctor is still not yet ready to see you. Is it to give you hope, or to increase and prolong your anxiety?

8. If you're male, you couldn't get an 18-year-old hottie when you were 18, and now that you have the maturity, money and the car that might lure her, you're too old.

9. In life, if nothing changes, nothing changes.

10. You can be a godfather, a godmother, or a goddamned fool, but you can never be a god.

11. The queue you decide to join will always take the longest, and the little old lady with only two items to check out, who is just ahead of you, will have 47 store coupons (most of them outdated, or from another store) that she will demand to have checked. She will then hand the cashier 200 lottery tickets she wants scanned.

12. 'All' divorces are acrimonious, despite protestations of mutual agreement that will be uttered by both parties. At least one of the parties is truly pissed, and probably both are.

13. When the divorce is finalized and your ex states that he/she wants you to remain friends, that will never truly happen. The most you can hope for is a reserved politeness on meeting, in which both parties are waiting for the other to say something inflammatory.

14. Children will never love you back as much as you love them.

15. After having chastised a youngster for not visiting the bathroom prior to departure on a trip, you will be struck by an overwhelming urge to pee within half an hour of leaving your doorstep.

16. All airplane trips are frightening, uncomfortable, and hideously boring.

17. Cat hair does not cling to cats.

18. Anyone nitpicky enough to write a litter to the editor complaining about a typographical error, deserves the error.

19. Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; those who can't teach, either teach PE or chair the local teachers' union.

20. A person cannot step into the same river twice.

21. Unrequited love fantasies never become reality -- at least not in the way you wanted them to.

22. Or, they do, and that can be worse.

23. Your dreams are merely dreams, they do no foretell the future or resolve problems.

24. Beautiful women do not break wind, get greenery stuck in their teeth or become stricken with diarrhea. If they did it would destroy all illusion.

25. (bonus aphorism) There is no justice in the universe. If something genuinely fair seems to have transpired, it was a random fluke. So, life ain't fair. So, get over it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

There are no borders -- no boundaries

"So -- do you ever smoke up with your students?"
It was in the 1970s and he, a recent American emigre to Canada, was a teaching colleague in the high school at which I toiled. And he, of faded green corduroy jacket, wheat jeans, desert boots and semi-shaven visage, was not talking about tobacco.

"Huh?" I responded, as eloquently as I could.

"You should, you know. It gets you closer to them. It lets you get into their heads, and they can get into yours.

I don't want them to get into my head, I thought. I have enough trouble there myself without wanting to share it with young people who, even though they were only four or five years younger at the time, were ostensibly my charges. I believed in a certain separation of our roles. I was the teacher and they were the students and, as callow as I was myself at the time, I perceived that I had been hired to set forth a model, a mentor, an advisor, and sometimes even a confidante -- but not a dope-smoking 'cool dude' they could hang with.

This meant I was not going to smoke with them, or toke with them, or shag with them; I was not going to be part of the intimate details of their lives (unless they were in need of some slightly older, perhaps a teeny bit wiser and more experienced counsel. My students were sure as hell not going to be part of the intimate details of my life; and I was most definitely not going to have sex with my young female charges, as alluring as a few youthful fantasy figures might have been at the time. I was only human, after all. But, such things were just not done! So I believed then; so I still believe.

But, the more egalitarian approach to the melting of role boundaries between teacher and student taken by my colleague was readily embraced by increasing numbers of novitiate teachers from that time forward. Not to suggest that all fresh-from-college teachers shared doobies with their kids, or removed their panties, but the trend of melding the two groups became increasingly pervasive through the 1970s, '80s and into the modern era.

Sartorial changes exemplified this well. Gone were ties and jackets for male teachers; and skirts and dresses were abandoned by females for the sake of at first slack-suits for females and ultimately, jeans. OK, more practical for the females than inadvertently flashing their panties at hormonally charged young males suffering from Mrs. Robinson fantasies, I'll agree. The fact that such fantasies have been realized by a few young males in recent years becomes the subject of an entirely other tale for another time.

But let's say that the old boundaries, as dehumanizing and artificial as they were in many instances, still had their reasons. And those reasons are kind of like the reasons for the Ten Commandments. We don't follow them to the letter, but even in attempting to respect them, society is kept from collapsing into chaos.

But, you know, it's funny about boundaries. Years later I attended a 20 year reunion of one of the graduating classes. I had with me my domestic partner of the time. As she was considerably younger, her graduating year was the same as the one that this group was celebrating, albeit from a different high school.

"So, your sweetheart graduated the same year that I did," said a former female student of mine whom I happened to remember quite fondly for acceptable and probably unacceptable reasons. I replied to her in the affirmative.

"Damn," she said, slightly tipsily walking away. "That could have been me there."

I was very flattered, but had no regrets that I had been drearily steadfast in my attitude towards decorum back when I was teaching.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This incredible vastness

A few years ago I stood on a hillside on the lush island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific, and I gazed upon the incessantly pounding surf of the ocean that lay at my feet.

It is vast, this ocean. It is the largest single geographic feature on the planet. Those same waves wash near my home on the west coast of North America, yet there I was, in the vicinity of New Zealand, and even in my passage to Rarotonga -- a seemingly incessant ten hour flight from Los Angeles -- I had only covered a part of a body of water that, while massive, is still finite.

While I was on that hillside I was both thunderstruck by the magnificence of what I saw, yet was intensely frustrated in that I could not ever in this lifetime appreciate fully what lay before me. I was further struck by a kind of sadness that told me I would never be able to explore all the reaches of this ocean, let alone the parameters of the globe. Not in this lifetime, in any case.

Lifetimes are as finite as is the ocean, and very much smaller. My moment of pondering, and indeed revelation came about some two weeks after the horrors of September 11th, 2001 -- a day in which, despite how much we might want to deny it, the world was rendered a little different. Being in such a remote locale when the nightmare unfolded in New York, gave me pause. On the one hand, my wife and I were arguably in the safest spot in the world, but on the other there was fear in being so far away from all that was familiar.

Furthermore, for over a week following the attack so many thousands of miles away, there was no way to get off the island and back to familiar haunts, so we were trapped in an alien, albeit stunningly beautiful, oceanic enclave. I think there was maybe no time in my adult life in which I felt so vulnerable and so mortal. There was still so more of life and this world I wanted to explore -- still want to explore, so I surely didn't want that option to be over. I wanted to have the world at my disposal in my remaining years. I wanted to leave Rarotonga and go to neighboring Avarua, then French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, India, and then back to Europe for the first time in many years, all of Canada, all of the United States, and on and on. Yet, my tropical hillside musing told me I could not have that. I could only have that which my limited lifespan would permit.

The world is not an artificial globe or a map. It is profoundly real. So is life. So is death. And death restricts us. As does life. Experience has limitations. Damn!

Maybe it's just because it's a sunny spring day and my feet are unrelentingly itchy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Goddamn -- goddamn the pusher man

Once upon a time it was waggishly referred to as a "sin-tax". The sin-tax was the bite governments took in granting companies official sanction to sell the 'legal' drugs, alcohol and tobacco. So, as you went to purchase your bottle of 'Old Cirrhosis Rye', you paid about eight-cents for the substance, and many, many extra dollars for the privilege of indulging your vice. In other words, it was the 'revenuers' greedy hand in the matter that made the wickedness costly.

With tobacco it is the same. Governments -- and who can blame them? -- realized early on that people really like this stuff; some even 'have' to use it, so they should pay dearly to get it. The government coffers should swell handsomely thanks to the indulgences of the 'weak'. Since booze and tobacco are not deemed necessities of life, they are, in effect, luxuries, and those who have the wherewithal to purchase luxuries should also give a big bite to the taxman. If you don't have the wherewithal, but choose to indulge anyway, so be it. Those who would officially have their hand in your pocket are very democratic; they do not discriminate in terms of financial status.

All in all, it's a pretty good scheme, except for one element that is rarely addressed: it puts our governments in the drug-dealing business. And today, ironically, you have the contradiction of government sanctioned and financed health districts fomenting against the lifestyle excesses of their clients, and indeed the government itself takes a high-handed (disguised as high-road) approach to these health-assaulting substances -- especially tobacco, as we've noted in recent months -- yet 'Big Brother' continues to rake in the bucks from the flogging of the stuff, at breakneck pace.

If everybody were to quit smoking and drinking tomorrow, governments would be faced with a crisis of monstrous proportion. Yet, somehow those in the corridors of power do not appreciate this hypocrisy. This is especially true in the case of tobacco. Government officially fulminates against the weed, and tries, Quixote-like, to drive a lance through 'Big Tobacco' via various doomed-to-fail lawsuits. At the same time officialdom continues to reap the benefits from its sale. It has not escaped many smokers that if the government were indeed serious about the evils of tobacco consumption it would just outlaw the stuff as the public health hazard it genuinely is.

But, we know that will not happen. The government is, with no exaggeration, in the position of the 'clean 'dealer' of illicit drugs who despises his pathetic clients, but is prepared to take their money for the dope he can lay on them.

However, rather than rail against hypocrisy, which is to no avail, we'll instead assume there are those in power who take such matters as smoking and excessive drinking seriously, and would genuinely like to do something about public consumption. For them, I offer a modest, yet deadly serious proposal. Rather than mount futile lawsuits against the companies that deal in alcohol and tobacco, why not hit 'them' with a 10 percent tax that is specifically dedicated to helping those who run afoul of the product?

Statistics suggest (though they vary, depending on whom you're talking to) that 80 to 90 percent of those who drink alcohol, do so safely, sanely and sociably. However, 10 to 20 percent (at least) of drinkers are alcoholics. That 10 to 20 percent is responsible for the bulk of such social ills as domestic abuse, neglected children, impaired driving, road fatalities, assaults (both sexual and physical), psychiatric ward admissions, emergency room admissions, and so on, through a virtually endless list of costly societal woes.

Meanwhile, recovery and rehabilitation centres (a potential growth industry, to be sure) are strained well past the maximum in attempting to help those souls who are desperately attempting to get away from their addiction. So, take that 10 percent tax on the distillers and brewers, and direct it towards funding alcohol rehabilitation facilities and their employees. In other words, why shouldn't the manufacturers of the stuff pay part of what is needed to help those who become addicted to their product?

Likewise tobacco. Most smokers would love to quit. They know their habit (an addiction some deem to be more difficult than heroin to break) is health-robbing. They would like to live to a ripe old age, too. A 10 percent tax on tobacco products (to be borne by the companies) would at least make available some resources and materials to aid in that objective .We could establish smoke-ending clinics on an ongoing basis, financed by this new revenue. We would be enabled to make nicotine patches, and other smoking cessation material available gratis. Pump some of this money into research on new means of breaking the back of this nefarious addiction. Such would be a proactive step by government, infinitely more effective and honest than lawsuits and draconian bits of legislation like the late (lamented, or unlamented, depending on whom you're talking to, WCB smoking ban in the workplace) and would genuinely show concern rather than greedy hypocrisy.

We need a new sin-tax that will genuinely deal with the sin and sinner alike in a positive way.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fry-fry, Miss American Pie

Whatever happened with the decree by the 'Nanny State' -- aka the sourpuss Vancouver Island Medical Health officer -- who wanted to keep young girls from baking their bods in the tanning parlors?

He wanted it passed into decree that no juveniles were to be entitled to partake of excesses of UV and, while he was at it, since he was in the territory of body geography, he wanted it rendered illegal for minors to adorn those fried bodies with tattoos.

I think the tattoo thing is carrying state control to a ludicrous extreme. In fact, after a vacation in Hawaii last year, I came to believe that it was some sort of generational genetic manifestation that all young females are now thrust from the womb bearing some sort of inscription on the lower back just above the panty-line. Such tattoos were so common there, that rare was the junior miss who did not bear one. Even demure looking young creatures had them. I think even those spending their summers at tropical Bible camps were so adorned. Hardly the biker bitches of yore who might have sported such epidermal art work.

Personally, I am not so much of a tattoo-person, since I am of a generation who associated such decoration with seafarin' men, criminals and assorted low-lifes. Doubtless, in modern context I am wrong, but I am comfortable with my biases and choose to keep them, thank-you.

But, back to the tanning salons, will the MHO also be mounting beach patrols to chase the scalliwags from the seaside, since the same rays as can be found in the parlors, also exude from the sun? But, back to reality. Why should I, as a citizen of an ostensibly free society, be particularly exercised if young females want to fry their little titties off? They are their little titties, to do with as they like. If they want to court melanoma, then that is their concern. Or, at the very least, their parents' concern, it certainly isn't mine. I would suggest instead that if our 'protect the people from themselves' fascists want to go around banning things that young people indulge in, why not ban those obnoxious, noisy, clattering and a thousand times more dangerous skateboards? I'd buy into that one. At the same time, how about upping the minimum driver's licence age to 21, so acned boneheads with thudding boom-boxes don't scream up and down my street (a park zone) at freeway speeds? That one would have my support, as well. In other words, if you're going to go around banning stuff, ban stuff that pisses me off. Tanned young females just do not piss me off.

Otherwise, increased state incursions on the freedom of the public to be stupid cuts nowhere with me. It is my right, and my kid's right to court destruction as he or I would choose. It's the way of a democracy, so leave my freedom alone.

Oh, and about body piercings, also faddish in recent years. When I read about 'corset' piercings, it just creeps me out. A female acquaintance of mine got her nipples pierced a few years ago, and that was enough for me. She chose to share that information. She even asked if I would like to see. Non-pierced -- oh, possibly, pierced, not so much? Just a little too 'pagan' for me. I won't even go to the other bits of anatomy that some, male and female, choose to skewer. But, corset piercity, for the uninitiated, consists of getting the body pierced in such a manner that then corset-like ties can be passed along the studs stuck in the body. The mind boggles, and I can only ask, why?

Anyway, I am losing the basic gist of all this. My premise is only that I do foolish things, you do foolish things, and if none of us are putting anyone else at risk, why should some sort of curmudgeonly authority deny us the right to be as silly as we damn well please?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No resurrections have yet manifested themselves

In a recent conversation I and another person came to the realization that it had been more than five years since Barry Schneider had died. Time goes fast when somebody's dead and the rest of us get on with our lives. We get on with our lives because we have no choice. What the dead do during that time period is something none of us know, other than via speculation or religious conviction.

I don't mean to make light of the demise of another, and I'm not. Barry, the RCMP constable who died via a drug overdose (he who was, ironically, the drug awareness coordinator for northern Vancouver Island), was my friend. A cherished friend -- whose clandestine proclivities of which I remained unaware -- of the sort that comes about rarely in this life. I had only known him for a few years, and got to know him via a series of newspaper articles I wrote on the drug scene in the Comox Valley. He was one of my major consultants during that extensive project, and we developed a great bond of friendship. We had a good time. I got invited into a sort of RCMP inner circle, and went as an 'embedded' reporter on drug raids and other enforcement activities and got some mighty fine stories out of it as a result. At the same time we found we clicked at other levels. We looked at certain aspects of life in much the same manner, had similar senses of humor and were always invariably comfortable in each other's company. Indeed, on the day he for whatever reason best known to him decided to shoot a speedball into his veins, he and I were supposed to meet for lunch.

Friendships, same sex friendships of such a nature are rare as we grow older, and I was delighted in having had such a thing with him after a long period in which virtually all my male friends were guys I had known forever. Yet, his death wasn't the first experience I'd had with the demise of a close male friend. About 20 years earlier one of my best friends from university died in a tragic boating accident. I still think about him on a regular basis. We had a good time. We regularly would sort out the flaws of the world, drink lots of beer, date assorted females and compare notes, and all the other things one does at that age.

My oldest male friend (we first met when we were 12) moved to Australia in the early 1990s, and I haven't heard from him since. I hope he's still alive. I still consider him close. Maybe that's weird. Another guy was a teaching colleague. We met in our first year teaching. He and his wife moved to Toronto (God knows for what reason) decades ago. Yet, in conversation we can still virtually pick up where we left off. We can still make each other laugh until tears run down our cheeks. We see each other every three or four years, but never really feel out of touch. It's good.

Otherwise, I have lots of acquaintances of my own sex. People I like, respect, and feel comfortable with, but they aren't really friends in the broader sense of the word. In honesty, I would say that the majority of my close friends are female. A woman's view of friendship is different from a man's, and I like that. Women are more intimate (not 'that' kind of intimate) more personal, and more honest than males are. I can share things with a really close female friend more readily than with a male. Things to do with vulnerabilities and fears. I would often be inclined to trust a tight female friend over a male because there is no sense of competition -- no 'dick wars', if you will.

Male friendships are different, and must be cherished, but on perhaps an emotionally disadvantaged plane.

I think that is why females live longer, and why God is probably female. I have no problem with that. I think I'd prefer to have a warm and comforting female God take me to her ample bosom.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Putting myself in deep Jeopardy

It has been suggested to me on a few occasions that I should audition for the TV show Jeopardy. But I'm not certain I have the hubris quotient to get me there. Furthermore, unless I could be another Ken Jennings I think I'd be mortified to be found wanting. I mean, I might be one of those poor sods who doesn't even make it to 'Final Jeopardy', and would have to shuffle off the stage knowing that Alex and the other two contestants would secretly jeer at me. Alex might even openly jeer at me, since he is from Sudbury, not a place known for the best social graces.

The reason it has been suggested to me stems from the fact I am, ahem, a trivia whiz. This is not vainglory; I truly am. I even have trophies for the assorted competitions I have won through all the years. And, I am an avid Jeopardy buff, and always have been. I go back to the old Art Fleming days when the answer cards were unveiled by hand. It is a magnificent show for the generally brain-dead medium that is normal network television. Not quite as challenging as the BBC's Mastermind, but a strong contender in terms of quality.

So, I will watch Jeopardy, and I will either snap out answers, or will rail at the mediocrity of the contestants. I always root for Canadians when they are on, and I generally root for female contestants. I don't know why. I guess because I like girls, and am stimulated in untoward ways by intelligent women. Sometimes contestants make me angry, however, and I will vent spleen at them. For example, I can be astonished when I can answer a question on American history, and I will get the answer whereas the Stateside contestant won't. "It's 'who is Zachary Taylor?', you fucking moron! How come I, as a Canadian, know your history better than you do?"

As for Final Jeopardy, I think I have won enough to easily equal Ken Jennings during the years I've been a fan. "So, why don't you go on?" asks my wife. I guess the reason I don't go on includes the points I made above, and also the misfortune that befell a friend of mine.

In the aforementioned Comox Valley trivia competitions, my leading opponent for the laurel was always Valley novelist, Matt Hughes. And, Matt is good. No doubt about that. And Matt knows he's good. Well, one time, Matt qualified for Jeopardy. He made it through all the auditions and testing, and got to be a competitor.

To make a long story short, he tanked.

He was utterly mortified.

"It's not enough to know all the answers, like you do at home," he said. "You also have to be so quick that you hit that buzzer even before Alex has finished asking the question. There are two challenges. One is the knowledge, the other is speed. Speed's more important. I just wasn't fast enough."

So, afraid of being mortified, I just watch, and rail from the sidelines.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

It could have been so much worse

Maritime disasters are not strangers on the challenging and potentially lethal coast of British Columbia. Bearing that in mind, it is well to recall some earlier tragedies and be grateful that the sinking of the Queen of the North, despite the loss of the ship, did not take the human toll that some similar misadventures have.

As was printed in the Edmonton Morning Bulletin on Oct. 27, 1918, witness the following saga:

"Pounded by mountainous waves and driven before a wind of terrible severity, the Canadian Pacific steamship Princess Sophia slid from the comparative safety of Vanderbilt Reef in the Lynn Canal, midway between Skagway and Juneau, early Friday evening and carried 343 persons, passengers and crew, men, women and children, to their death in raging northern waters. There were no survivors from the ship."

It is testament to the crew and the passengers of the Queen of the North that virtually all did survive. The survival of those people also came about as a result of some amazingly good fortune, including the fact that there was a Coast Guard cutter in the immediate area (what are the odds?); that the mishap occurred very near to a settlement (there aren't many of them in the region); and that the ferry was sparsely occupied. Can you imagine the results if there had been a full summertime quotient of passengers and vehicles? Can you imagine how much more rapidly the stricken ship would have gone down if there had been the weight of maybe 100 cars and trucks on the vehicle deck, rather than a mere 16?

Of course, in an immediate impulse to equate this misfortune with others, headline writers tend to shoot for the top, and go immediately to the horrific tale of the Titanic back in 1912. The analogy other than Ship versus impediment, ship loses is not apt. In the first place, there was a horrific loss of life on the Titanic, secondly it happened well out to sea, and thirdly, it was not equipped with sufficient lifeboats. Ironically, however, the Titanic was constructed with a number of flotation chambers (which the Queen of the North was not), but they just didn't work very well, considering the nature of the iceberg impact which ripped a huge gash along a number of the compartments and rendered them useless. When they scrutinize our own ship, they might find compartments wouldn't have helped in this case, either.

All in all, however, it is well to bear in mind that BC's huge ferry fleet has been remarkably tragedy free in its years of operation. You are certainly safer taking a ferry than you are driving to the corner store for a quart of milk, all things considered. Furthermore, it behooves us all to offer up a bit of gratitude to the crew of that ship, and feel reassured that these men and women do know what they are doing when disaster strikes.

Now, of course, we can all sit around as spectators and wait for the massive amounts of litigation to begin to unfold. That should be entertaining. But, as we are sitting around waiting, we might also bear in mind that as exquisite as our coastline mine be, it's pretty damn treacherous. If you read a history of its legacy in terms of toll on ships, you will realize that the folk on the Queen of the North are mighty blessed people.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The astonishing shall inherit the earth, alas

Just when I think the world can't get any stupider, there it goes and makes a liar of me. We used to joke when I was addictions counseling that injection sites for junkies were hardly fair to the poor downtrodden alcoholics. Why not bars, and even free booze for drunks? Why should they be left out in the streets drinking sterno?

Now I read where a man named Don MacPherson, who is the City of Vancouver's drug-policy coordinator, who some who have labored in the field of addictions counseling might deem to be a certifiable buffoon (although surely he can't be, since he's the coordinator of Vancouver's drug-policy), thinks chronic street alcoholics should get free booze. Ahh, the world is indeed a tolerant place.

Mr. MacPherson maintains that "(alcohol) maintenance can work.", which is a thought that flies in the face of virtually all conventional wisdom on the topic, and therefore a good shot of taxpayer supported plonk would make the world a happier place for the chronically zoned.

In the alcoholism recovery business, the attitude expressed by Mr. MacPherson is known as "enabling". Rather than getting the person to recognize he (or she) has a serious problem, we do what we can to make life easier.

Despite the fact that alcohol statistically kills more people than all our hard drugs combined, we not only hype the stuff via improving access and advertising blitzes, but now we want to give it free to those who have run afoul of it. So, let's go a step further. Booze is about on a death-toll par with tobacco, so why should smokers be left out in the rain, as they are now? How about some smoking parlors and maybe free smokes while we're at it? Seems fair, and it's surely just as logical as free gargle for the tipplers.

The foregoing was not a diatribe against alcohol. Used in moderation there is not only nothing wrong with it, and it can even be beneficial in some circumstances. Abused it's as lethal as any toxin. Therefore, we should continue to pay for it, and we should have to pay a lot for it.

Otherwise, and I didn't notice this mentioned in Mr. MacPherson's quaint comments, there is such a thing as treatment for alcoholism. And thousands of recovered alcoholics who lead fruitful and happy lives around the world can bear testament to the fact that of all major addictions, for most people it's probably the easiest one to arrest.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Acts of contrition and acts of contrition

If you were there at the time you will likely have noticed that John Profumo died last week at the rarefied age of 91. Not a bad innings for a guy who succeeded, thanks to a bit of philandering, and then lying about it, managed to topple a government and bring to an untimely end the fortunes of a political party that had held power for 12 years.

If you weren't there, I'll briefly take you back. Profumo was the War Minister in the Tory government of Harold Macmillan back in 1963. A few months earlier he had, being middle-age crazy at age 48, embarked on a torrid sexual affair with one Miss Christine Keeler, aged a tender 19. Miss Keeler (pictured left) was, however, much more worldly-wise than Mr. Profumo. She was, in fact, a call-girl in the employ of a society osteopath called Dr. Stephen Ward. One day at a party Mr. Profumo glimpsed Miss Keeler rising starkers out of a swimming pool. The little head took hold, and the rest is sordid history of the sort that has been repeated countless times throughout the history of the sexual interchanges between men terrified of growing old, and young ladies who look to gain entre to certain material and societal advantages by removing their knickers to accommodate. The rumpy-pumpy ensued over a few months, but ultimately the truth came out in the convoluted tale, and Mr. Profumo, when confronted denied-denied-denied. Ultimately he told the truth and mega-scandal erupted. Christine and her cute li'l blonde cohort Mandy Rice-Davies became causes celebre for a few brief moments, much in the manner Monica Lewinsky did in a later scandal. A waggish bit of doggerel at the time paraphrased Ogden Nash by offering: "Christine is keen, but Mandy is dandy." Enough about that. The government fell and Mr. Profumo slunk off in disgraced and made his amends (successfully) to his wife, the actress Valerie Hobson.
But, he did more than that. His sin, you see, wasn't so much letting his pecker wander -- that happens every day -- but lying, and continuing to lie when his back was to the wall.
What he did, and this is where he again became noble in a way. He shut up about it. He didn't run around wailing how sorry he was and how he hoped a nation would forgive him for his transgression. He instead turned his energies to good works, quietly, without ever calling attention to himself. For the next four decades he turned his energies to Toynbee Hall, an east end London charitable settlement. And, no task was too humble for Mr. Profumo. He did the washing up and he swept the corridors. He did the books and put in long and arduous hours for years and years. Ultimately he became chairman of Toynbee Hall as a result of his talents and his labors. He didn't seek an exalted position, it just became a natural.
My point at the end of all this is, we who get caught with our hands in the pubic honeypot -- I know, but I'll not explain further -- find that our first impulse is to lie and deny. But then, if we cannot escape the revelation, we desperately try to make amends to the wronged party in hopes we'll be forgiven. Sometimes we are. Sometimes we're not.
But, Mr. Profumo chose another route. What he did was to simply shut up, and get on with it. He knew the past couldn't be changed. Yet, perhaps he can now be judged for something well above and beyond springing out of his y-fronts at a rather pedestrian looking lass who was, like Monica, not really worth the price of the disgrace.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The splendiferous glories of spring

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered is the flour ...

Tomorrow is the first day of spring; that is a good thing, as it has been much, much too long in coming. Spring has nothing but virtue. Despite the Chaucer at the beginning, I know it's not yet April, but it will be soon. It was opined by the Bard that April was the cruelest month, but I disagree. I know that police statistics attest to the fact there are more suicides in April than any other month, and more old people die in April than in the winter, ironically enough, but I refuse to accept bad press as it pertains to spring. The guy in the picture -- OK, me -- was standing near the pond in the Royal Roads Japanese gardens last spring, and he was blissed by it being the time of year it was. He may have been blissed by other things, too, but he isn't saying. OK, I'm not saying. But, as Philip Larkin once wrote (or should have, if he didn't): "Hooray-hooray, it's the first of May. Outdoor screwing starts today!" So, you see spring is a time of growth -- indeed, fecundity, if you are inclined that way. But, if you are merely sensual, it is still a splendid time of the year for cuddly shenanigans.

The older I get, the more I find I detest the winter. It is a time of sadness, light-deprivation and, worst of all, damp cold. It's wretched and it's dead. I know it has a role to play in the cycle of life in our northern climes, but I would rather not be part of it. It works less and less for me each year.

But, spring. Delirious spring. I have spent the weekend in the garden. I feel vitalized. The life affirming sun is shining, and I offer my welcome to tomorrow when spring truly arrives. I don't even care if it rains tomorrow. It will still be spring, and there will be hope.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Testosterone-driven unwitting suicide

By God, if they keep killing themselves off this way we won't even have to worry about a forthcoming generation of males. We don't send them off to war, we kill them in high-powered automobiles. Just add a goodly dollop of booze, lots of hormones, a non-existent sense of judgment or sheer common-sense, a sweet young 'thang' just to give those hormones an extra boost, a rival young buck, and an overpowered bit of Japanese machinery, throw in a few outrageously irresponsible TV commercials from vehicle manufacturers who should hang their heads in eternal shame for their irresponsibility, and you have the formula for the headlines that keep coming, and coming and coming.

Way back at the beginning of the paragraph I said "we", in terms of responsibility, rather than the young morons who persist in killing themselves, along with innocent other motorists, pedestrians, and passengers. I mean "we" because of our abdication of responsibility in granting access to vehicles that nobody the age of the victims could actually afford without parental help (hell, I can't afford the gear they wrap around trees and one another); our negligence in knowing what are young people are doing in the wee smalls when they should be at home; the abysmally lacklustre penalties that are handed out for major driving infractions; and the dreadfully lax standards we demand before we issue that driver's license to somebody who has no business having one.

When I lived in England a number of years ago, I had only been driving for mere days before I noticed how well everybody drove. They all drive defensively, and they all know the rules-of-the-road, and they obey them. We get all exercised about speed in North America. Speed isn't the issue. The Brits drive fast. The Germans drive like bullets. They don't kill themselves and others left-right-and-centre because they know how to drive. Their driving tests demand it. The teenage girl who lived next door to me was going for her driving test one day. When she got home, I assumed she had passed, since she seemed very chipper. "Did you pass?" I asked. "Oh no, I failed, but I did much better than last time." She went on to tell me that virtually nobody gets a license the first time around. It's virtually unheard of.

And, there is something else there, too. That is that all vehicles are up to a rigid standard in terms of braking power, steering, tire quality, etc. That's because every vehicle must pass and annual MOT inspection. If it doesn't make it, it's off the road, bucko. That inspection is rigid, too.

But, we go on killing our young. Or, our young go on killing themselves, both due to their asinine behavior. Whatever works for you. And, we will continue to merrily do so until we grow up and maybe look towards a change in our approach to kiddies behind the wheel. Meanwhile, don't go out driving late at night. The risk is too great. Let them kill each other instead.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Off we go into the wild, blue -- oh no

Dorothy Parker once said she didn't like writing, she liked "having written." As a writer of sorts I agree with the divinely debauched Ms. P. But, I will also apply her thoughts on writing to flying. I do not like flying, but I like having flown because that means I have arrived intact at a destination I sought, rather than bobby around mid-Pacific with tiger sharks homing in.

I don't like flying for a number of other reasons as well. In the first place, its largely excruciatingly boring, and the boredom is only punctuated by moments of stark terror. Turbulence always unnerves me; the seats are always uncomfortable; and the second the flight attendants block the passageway with the drink trolley, I know that I will have to pee more urgently than I've ever had to in my life.

I have had only a few very good moments on an airplane. I've never joined, nor been invited to join the 'Mile High Club', but I have met some interesting people. I met a very young lady over 20 years ago on a flight who has become one of my best friends in this universe. I actually wanted her to be more than that at one time, but that didn't happen for a host of tiresomely practical reasons. Once, on a flight from Vancouver to Honolulu (on the wonderful and hugely lamented Wardair) I was actually hit upon by a gorgeous flight attendant who left no doubt that she would like me to join her for her three-day layover in Hawaii. She didn't define exactly what she meant by 'layover', but being no naif (I don't think), I got the gist of her invitation. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was hugely married at the time and my wife was asleep in the seat immediately in front of where I was sitting.

But, I can honestly say I have had one flying experience that could never be matched by any prosaic commercial airline offering, and that was the time I flew in a T-bird (pictured above). In gratitude for all the nice things I had written about CFB Comox, I was invited to take a flight in a vintage fighter jet. That was an event in my life that wasn't boring. The pilot told me that such a flight is the closest you will get to the exultation of sex with your clothes on. He was right. After a full five-hour training session (in which I learned how to eject, God forbid, and other bits of esoterica) we took off in this bubble-topped rather venerable aircraft. It was amazingly exciting. I actually had the sensation of speed as we screamed across the Comox Valley and on towards the Beaufort range, and right out to Nootka Sound within mere minutes. We flew straight, we flew up (whence I found out what G-force really means), we flew down, jeopardizing my lunch, but I kept it down, we did rolls (not as unnerving as you might think), and anything else the pilot had in mind, or was directed to do.

Eventually we had to return, almost to my dismay. We came in by the back way from the west coast of the Island. Our plane and another fighter/trainer screamed at low altitude through a canyon in a scene most reminiscent of Star Wars. The pilot then asked if I would like to see the Glacier from the top. I did very much. He came in so low over the icecap that I felt I could step out of the cockpit and stroll around -- except for the fact we were moving at hundreds of miles an hour.

At the end of the flight, I felt like the poet who penned 'High Flight'. I truly felt like I had stuck out my hand and "touched the cheek of God." You don't get that on your average Air Canada flight. You don't even get a lousy bag of peanuts any more.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Vancouver -- I hardly knew ye

One day in September my wife and I, enroute to Hawaii, had a day to kill in Vancouver. I hadn't been to downtown Vancouver in many, many years, which is sad for me, since this is the city in which I grew up and a city that, at certain levels, I love and cherish.

Staying in Richmond, we decided, being sans vehicle, we would take the bus. No complaints there. The service was quick and as pleasant as a bus trip can be, and let's face it, bus travel never qualifies as literally pleasant, anywhere in the world.

Anyway, we had a fairly pleasant afternoon window-shopping, meeting a dear friend for lunch, and just taking in the sights of a city that has changed so radically since my childhood and youth. Unfortunately, architectural orgasms notwithstanding, some of the changes have been notably unpleasant ones. We rarely could traverse a block without being panhandled at least once. There were a couple of instances in which we crossed the street because we did not relish passing by individuals that looked frankly intimidating. I am not easily intimidated. I have wandered city streets in major centres all over the globe. Yet, Vancouver intimidated me. A few days later, wandering around Honolulu (a city of equivalent size), we noted the fact that never once were we hit upon by scary looking dudes demanding money. Never once did we feel anything but safe. What is going on here?

A friend just back from Mexico told me how he was sharing a drink in a Mazatlan bar with a native of that city. The man was a qualified tradesperson. My friend asked, "Why not come to Vancouver? With your trade skills you could make much more money." The Mexican declined. "I don't want to go to Vancouver. It's too violent."

So, as we smugly decry the Mexican investigation of a couple of tragic murders of Canadians in Cancun, a Mexican suggests Vancouver scares him due to its violence potential. And, sadly, he's right. It is violent. Very violent. When was the last weekend that somebody wasn't gunned down on its streets? It happens all the time, and that's not just Vancouver Province hyperbole. I can honestly say that the last time I was in uberviolent LA, I felt no more queasiness in the bowels than I do in the city in which I grew up.

The province is currently hemorrhaging goodwill about the 2010 Games. Jolly nice. Are we going to do something to clean up the cesspit of Vancouver if we expect people to come and feel safe in our largest city. We'd better or it's going to bite the city and the province on the ass globally.

Who are what is to blame? Oh, I have my beliefs. Boy, do I have my beliefs, ranging from a boneheaded and cowardly judicial system to a lack of honest dealing with the social issues that lead to the depravities of the downtown Eastside and elsewhere. Beliefs that suggest all the wonderfulness of our society's largesse should be visited on the west side. A smugness that mistakenly informs those powers that are that Vancouver is a "world-class" city, when it is in fact an adolescent frontier town that has never really attained the sophistication it likes to think it has. As I said, I have my beliefs.

Vancouver, what are your beliefs and what are you going to do about it?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Whatever happened to neighbors?

Humorist -- very fine humorist -- Fran Leibowitz recounted one time how when she was in junior high, she would get off the school bus, and would, at the age of 14 or so, light up a cigarette immediately after alighting, and then embark on her half mile walk home through her neighborhood.
"By the time I got home, my mother already knew I'd been smoking," she said. Her mother knew because at the very least, three neighbors would have called her mother and informed her of young Fran's transgression.
The anecdote came to mind in a conversation over coffee yesterday morning with a man who is, in fact, a neighbor, but whom I know via other means. In any case, we were wondering how the world become some a weird, obsessive-compulsive and paranoid place, that nobody knows their neighbors. Indeed, neighborhoods in the old sense no longer exist. There are areas with houses and shops, but they are not truly neighborhoods as the idea was once understood.
For example, and back to my friend, Fran. While her mother would have chewed her out for her smoking, her mother would also have been grateful they'd blown he whistle on her daughter. Indeed, if Fran's mother hadn't been home, the neighbor would have chastised the child on her own, without parental permission. And the parents again would have been grateful. Neighbors were part of the network of both discipline and care.
I live near a park. A quite pleasant park and recreation area. And the park gets vandalized. It gets vandalized, not by outsiders, but by kids from the neighborhood. Not horrifyingly vandalized, but you know, the usual shit. graffiti spray painted on surfaces -- graffiti of the most vile and angry invective. Littering abounds, the remnants of illicit drinking sessions, bottles, cans and so forth can regularly be found. I haven't run across remnants of juvenile alfresco sexual activity, and I'd rather not, thank you. But, I'm sure those too can be found if one looks.
Why the graffiti? Why the vandalism? Why the contempt for a provided neighborhood recreational spot?
Alienation (aside from less-than-room-temperature-IQs) is the word that comes to mind. In other words, the brats who do this stuff have no sense of ownership, no sense of belonging, so they act out by defiling. That to me is the reason (by the way, a reason is never an excuse) for much misbehavior in our communities. Nobody owns our communities any more, other than weasels at banks and government offices, so people don't have pride, and they don't have trust, and they don't have neighbors who they want to let into their lives. What if those neighbors are perverts who are going to molest the kids? What if that up-scale dwelling is really a meth lab or marijuana grow? No, no, pull up the drawbridge and make no interchanges with these people.
When I was a kid, and even when I was an adult, neighbors used to get together for block parties, barbecues, or even meetings about an issue of common concern. No more. Can you even name your neighbors more than one house or apartment away? I bet not.
Biblically we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we are told to not covet our neighbors wife, no matter how hot she is. But, even in that, the biblical assumption is that you know these folk well enough to actually covet said hot and desperate housewife.
I'm not saying I can suggest an answer to this, but I think it's said that an important dynamic; indeed an important freedom has been supplanted by fear, mistrust and isolation. What a silly society we live in.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Walking the walk of fame is costly

Having never been famed in fable and/or story, I don't know how those who have such notoriety regard their karmic impact -- especially when they see their name used as an adjective -- and an adjective in a comic strip (see the last frame in the strip to the right). So, certain 50-ish foxiness seeking women are to be regarded as Kim Cattrallish.

That intrigues me. When she was a bubbly 15-year-old and told me with pants-wetting enthusiasm who much she longed to be a famous actress, she never suggested she also wanted to be featured prominently in a comic strip, let alone become a figure-of-speech. In it's own way, it's kind of a heady sort of fame. Actors are described as being Brando-ish, or Monroe-ish. Now they can be Cattrall-ish.

I remember once, many years ago, going to a production in a rinky-dink little theatre somewhere on Granville to see Miss Kimberly in a stage production. It was the first near-to-home venture she'd been in since she graduated both from Vanier Secondary, and the New York School of Dramatic arts. After the play was over in a venue scarcely larger than my living room, I told somebody present that I'd like to see Miss Cattrall. She was beside herself that a teacher had actually come to see her in a 'big city' production (in a teeny theatre, albeit). She was so touched she began to cry. I wonder if, now that she's an adjective, if she is still capable of crying at such a gesture.

Kim's done well. She's done amazingly well. She isn't perhaps the giant thespian that she would like to be, and having played a successful TV series slutbunny doesn't necessarily put you on a par with Dames Judi Dench or Helen Mirren. But, you know, Ms. Mirren (whom, along with Ms. Dench is one of my absolute favorites) is not averse to taking off her blouse if the role calls for it, so there is hope for Kim yet, and I wish that for her.

I last spoke person-to-person with Kim about 12 years ago. It was like old times. She was unspoiled and unpretentious. I hope she still is, now that she has been feature in a comic strip.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Where have all the parents gone?

So, here's the plan, little Tyrone and little Lucrezia have been putting on the avoirdupois at a significant pace, and they now qualify as being "obese". Have you noticed that in these caring times porky kids aren't to be called "fat", they are to be referred to as "obese?"

OK, and now all the forces of niceness and caring in our Nanny State have vouchsafed the idea of slapping a tax on soda pop since not-so-little-any-more Tyrone and Lucrezia are scarfing back this liquified tooth-rot to the tune of multitudes of bottles and cans per diem. Therefore, tax their Cokes and Pepsis just like tobacco and booze are taxed. Great plan. Notice how those taxes virtually eliminated cigarette and alcohol consumption?

Anyway, in our drive to have everybody live forever, let's hope the powers-that-are-whether-we-like-it-or-not shift this boneheaded and state-controlling-of-everything-we-do idea to the dustbin it deserves. Not that I necessarily approve of the holus-bolus consumption of a substance that when I was growing up was given "special treat" status in the Lidster household, and in most other households I was aware of in those days. It's just that, as is the case of virtually anything we might want to do that might not be good for us, we are capable, or not, of exercising our own good judgment.

The question I have to ask in this regard is, where are the parents? If a generation of children are growing up as little porkers, where are Mom and Dad? It's up to them to establish controls in their households. There was a pointed and apt letter from a teacher in the paper just recently in which she asked, when did it become a school's responsibility to invigilate what Tyrone and Lucrezia stuff into their greedy maws? And, of course, it isn't a school's job. It's a parent's job.
It's a parent's job to get T and L to get their fat little asses away from computer games and out onto the playground. It's a parent's job to make certain that T and L don't have huge quantities of cash with which to buy the aforementioned soda pop and other crud they might be stuffing in when they go to the store or eatery at lunchtime. I date myself when I say we weren't even allowed off the schoolgrounds at lunchtime, so that draconian bit of age-old discipline nipped junk-food store-treks right in the bud.

I reiterate. Where the hell are the parents? Are they the same alleged parents who permit their daughters to trot off to school looking like two-bit-a-go hookers when they are only 13? Are they the same parents who are relieved when T and L come home pissed as nits on booze, because "at least they weren't using drugs." As if, as T and L would say. Anyway, I suspect they are the same pseudo parents as the ones who let their charges, barely past pre-teen age, gather in masses in public parks late at night, on school nights. How terribly sad this all is. Why are these fake-parents so afraid to establish standards. Standards that T and L might eventually incorporate into their own lives.

Anyway, I have nothing against pop. I drink it rarely, but when I do drink it I enjoy it and I'll be damned if I want to pay an extra excise tax just because some public do-gooders want to establish even more controls and, at the same time, let those who should be responsible for their kids' behavior off the hook, yet again.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ahem -- to the ladies, a toast!

So, it is International Women's Day, so please only take the toast in the title as being both a genuine offering of respect, and also a commentary on the fact that the obsessively politically-correct and uber feminists find the term 'lady' to be demeaning, denigrating and outright insulting. I don't quite understand that, since I balk not at all at being considered a gentleman under most circumstances.
But, if I don't understand the abhorrence of the term 'lady', I equally don't understand misogyny as practiced by some of my own sex, not to mention some members of the female sex, ironically enough. I have always really liked women. No, not in that way. Oh, OK, in 'that' way too, but also in many other ways. I have been married to autonomous women. My wives have been professionals in their own right, and my current spouse is in the midst of getting her MBA, and I happen to think she is quite a brilliant human being. I'm used to women being in take charge positions. My boss for nearly 20 years was female, and it never really crossed my mind that I was subordinate to a female, because 'female' didn't enter into the equation. She was (and is) a talented and very hard-working person for whom I had, and still have, the utmost of respect.
In my family when I was growing up there were a number of professional women who were accomplished in many fields. One of my great aunts was a charter member of the Vancouver Business and Professional Women's Association, that was formed in 1918, or somesuch. I had another great aunt, who was a registered nurse, who divorced a drunken bum of a husband way back about the same time. So, you see, I'm used to tough broads, and I like them.
And, even in 'that' way, I've always found tough and forthright broads to be just a little darned alluring, and more so that mere girlie-girls because they know what they want.
At another level, in my particular political riding we have had three female MLAs over the years. At a personal level I like and respected them all, even if I didn't always agree with some of their political views.
So, I guess the bottom line is, gee whiz, I do like girls a whole lot, and I have female friends who range in age from 20 to over 80, and I value having them in my life.
So, to the women in my life, and all other women out there, long may you reign. You can be in charge whenever you want. You perhaps will do a better job than my own sex has done. Anyway, I've always harbored the sneaking suspicion that God is female. Progenitor of life, after all; makes sense, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hey -- maybe 'Lost' is a metaphor, huh?

As I read Tai's recent blog on how she had made no mention of the Olympics and wasn't prepared to write a word on the Oscars, all I thought was, me too. Phew, disregard of what is happening in the wider world of what we are told we are supposed to be in touch with, seems to be a bit ubiquitous.
Not only did I disregard the aforementioned elements of the universe of 2006 (it is 2006, isn't it?), but I cared not at all that I did.

There are reasons for my disregard of elements that others seem to regard with a passion. One of the reasons is, as I stated in an earlier blog, I hate to be controlled. Another reason is that sometimes I just don't give a shit about stuff that seems vacuous and nonsensical. A further reason is that I hate grabbing on to trends, just because it seems that everybody is doing it. It reminds me of the time years ago when my ex-wife kept exhorting me to go to Expo 86. I had no desire to go. Quite frankly, fun-loving guy that I can be otherwise, I hate fairs. I put them in the same category as clowns and mimes. They're forced upon one. I have never been to Disney-anything, and don't care a whit if I die without so doing. Anyway, my ex said to me at the time, that I "would regret" not attending Expo. I've checked a few times over the years since 1986. Nope, no regrets yet.

One thing in popular culture that has caught my attention, I must confess, almost regretfully because it seems to go against my grain, is my fascination with the TV series Lost. I began watching it in its first season, and I truly do hate to make the admission that I probably haven't missed an episode.

I have no idea why I like it so much, but I keep tuning in to see what twists will manifest themselves with each successive episode. There are some good things going for Lost. It's enticingly scripted and drops hints all over the place. The cast is almost universally watchable, even though most were virtual unknowns when it began. Evangeline Lilly (sigh) is in the cast, as good girl/bad girl, Kate (my kind of girl in some respects, if truth be known), and there can be no doubt that Fort Saskatchewan never before produced a creature of such delectability. Hey, I even saw her in person when I was in Hawaii last September. Real life is even better than the video presentation. But, I digress outrageously.

Lost is as corny as hell at some levels, with all the formulaic sci-fi stuff being troweled on as obviously as Bill Shatner's ego (speaking of cornball sci-fi), but it tweaks enough that I find I want to come back each week. I have concluded, regardless of the outcome, that the people are stuck in a microcosm, which is, of course, a metaphor for life. Duh. Hey, that wasn't hard. We never know what's around the next corner. There are Maxwell Smart 'Golliwoggles' in the jungle, and we fall in love and lust with people who aren't always good for us, and the primary drive is to survive and not to let the bad guys, whoever they might be, prevail.

I don't know how Lost will come out. I don't even really care. It's only a TV show. I just want the writers to keep pumping out scripts that are a little bit enchanting and highly entertaining. And, I want to decide if I want Kate, at the end of it all, to turn out to be just a sweetie-pie girl next door, or the horny homicidal psycho who is her alter-ego. I'll just have to wait and see.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Rebel with some causes

Sometimes I still balk at strictures in my life. On one hand I am a decent, law-abiding, relatively hardworking individual, who pays his taxes, serves on boards and committees, and does the 'right thing', whatever that might happen to be. On the other hand, sometimes I don't want to do the 'right' thing. Sometimes I want to cut away and be a "man behaving badly."

But, the penalties for bad behavior are often harsher than what I would want to face at this point in my life. Added to which, I genuinely hate disappointing people, or making them feel wretched as a result of an action of mine. Yet, no J. Alfred Prufrock am I. I want to dare to do more than merely "eat a peach." Much more.

When I was younger and maybe more self-involved, there were times when I caroused too much, drank too much, and found myself in the arms and beds of wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful) females with whom I had no business being in those aforementioned arms or beds. In retrospect, it was great. It was liberating, it made me feel that I had extended a digit towards convention and had fulfilled my own hedonistic aspirations. The memories of such encounters are still good ones. At the same time, there was always guilt. I consoled myself that I was reacting to the restrictions of very controlling spouses, therefore, I was justified. Bullshit, in a word. And, I no longer do that, and no longer want to do that because, I am blessed in sharing home, hearth and bed with a person who is remarkably uncontrolling. Consequently, there is nothing to rebel against.

As with so many things, I blame my "poetic" propensities to 'act out' on the very harsh and controlling upbringing I underwent. This isn't in my imagination. My parents were powerfully Victorian and couched no deviation from the mainstream. Consequently, as kids will do, I deviated as much as possible. I wasn't a well-behaved student; I rarely if ever studied; and I cut whatever educational corners I could, but still left myself sufficient wiggle-room to actually make it through school, to graduate, and to also graduate from university.

My parents, my father especially, never wavered in his attempts to control me. Throughout my 20s and even 30s, he would state his opinion about my inadequacies. One day I exploded at him and told him quite frankly: "I don't need to listen to you or your opinions about my failures. I am the chair of the English department at a large secondary school. There are two men in that department who are actually your age. They're quite prepared to listen to my opinions, so butt the hell out." He, as an aside, never tried to pull such rank again.

So now, with a lot of history behind me, and being relatively content with my life, I still sometimes look around me and wonder, as did Miss Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?" If so, then so be it. But sometimes those peaches do look awfully good.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The age of the outrageous slob

I just got home from a memorial service for a former colleague and longtime friend. He was also an individual well-known in the community, and was married to a woman who was this riding's MLA for many years.
There were probably more than 500 people in attendance, which was as it should be, as he was a great person, not to mention being a great guy. I liked him very much. We utterly disagreed about politics, but that didn't detract for a second from my high regard for him as not only an idealistically committed soul, but also one of the more intelligent human beings I've had the privilege to know.
But, what struck me with those half a thousand good and grieving folk is how many were dressed like slobs. This was a memorial service. This was about 'respect', so why would you attend such a thing looking like you had just been for a walk in the woods, or perhaps had given your car a lube job along the way?
The most grievous offenders were the people in my age grouping, well into middle age. You know, the vestigial hippies and their ilk. I will grant that many people were nicely and appropriately dressed, but why weren't they all? I've seen this happen a lot, not just at funerals and memorial services, but also at weddings.
How did this happen? Where did 'Sunday best' go? Is this a smalltown phenomenon, or is it also found in larger urban centres. Yes, we like to think we're all very democratic at heart, and that garb shouldn't signify differences in status. At the same time, do we no longer dress for the occasion. I know that few people dress up to go to dinner, even at a classy restaurant, alas, but are funerals off the hook, too? Do some people never change their garb regardless of the event for which they're in attendance?
Too bad, if that's the case. I'm old enough to remember when men wore a jacket and tie to take an airplane trip. Maybe that's excessive, but it was kind of nice, too.

Maybe Paul was dead after all

Now, let's get one thing straight at the very beginning, I do not support the Newfoundland seal hunt -- at least not in the way it's carried out. I love animals, sometimes much more than people, and the concept of cruelty appalls me at many levels. And, those baby seals are so excruciatingly cute. Let's face it, we're all suckers for cute. The divinity made young animals cute to improve their survival capacity because adult animals avoid (sometimes) harming the cutie-pies in their midst.
That notwithstanding, a body has to make a living, and certain fiscally hardpressed Newfoundlanders have made a supplemental income in a harsh society by providing the maws of the overprivileged with seal pelts -- especially the pelts of those baby seals. It's an ugly thing. Would I indulge in such an activity were I hungry enough, or were my children hungry enough? I cannot answer that. Neither can most of us who haven't been there.
All of that notwithstanding, what is with fad of the moment, unspeakably pampered Paul bloody McCartney coming to the ice floes to grandstand about something he knows absolutely nothing about? And, he brought his tiresome and unaccomplished wife to help spread the gospel according to St. Paul on Larry King, yet. What on earth does Paul know about the issue? He knows no more about it than that equally insufferable, egotistical and rich paddy called Bono knows about world poverty. Yet, both these obscenely rich minor musical talents feel they have the right to lecture us all about our transgressions. McCartney, who amasses more money in a minute than the average Newfie does in a year is going to point out to them the error of their ways?
You know Paul, I think. He was once in a short-lived musical group in the 1960s called the Beatles. He was the 'cute' Beatle. He was, if truth be known, never much more than the cute Beatle, despite his protestations to the contrary. But, see my comments earlier about cute, and you'll understand why he got so many largely undeserved accolades. People like cute. In my bias, he wasn't worthy of holding the coats of either John Lennon or George Harrison in terms of musical worth. This is Mr. Ebony and Ivory, in case you've forgotten.
Anyway, 'Sir' (speaking of unwarranted accolades) Paul, go home, count your money, fire up a doobie and reflect on how you attempted to steer some impoverished Newfoundlanders into the paths of righteousness.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Technorati Profile

So, it's come down to this, has it?

So here I am. I had a fine blog going for myself in months past -- in fact it looked very much like this one. But then I had a complete and utter computer nervous breakdown in which hard-drive was utterly fried. So, new HD installed many many dollars later, and now I'm back -- sorta. Problem is, I lost my password to the old one and try as I might, nobody seems able to give it back to me. So, I had to start all over again. I want my friends back. I miss them. Please contact me here, I'm very, very lonely.