Saturday, September 29, 2007

We're all lovable screwups in our fashion

A popular term in the realm of counselling, psychology, social work, and other related fields in recent years has been ‘dysfunction’ and the related term ‘dysfunctional’, mainly used to describe a behavior, or a being who is, to state the case (clinically, of course), a fuckup.

My online dictionary defines dysfunction as follows:

dys·func·tion also dis·func·tion
n. Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.

Yep – fuckup.

When I was addiction counseling I tended to use “dysfunctional” a lot in reference to clients. And, it is true that at certain levels they were dysfunctional. Their addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, got in the way with their ability to cope at the mundane levels that applied to work, domestic tranquility, social responsibility, financial common sense, honesty, cooperation, and so forth.

Yet, at other levels, they were often highly intelligent, and especially creative. I had Native Indian clients who would turn out carvings that they bartered on the streets in return for a quick fix or cheap jug of wine. Carvings that should have been earning them thousands. But, they were dysfunctional in their inability to see that cause and effect. I had other clients who painted, who wrote, who turned a sterile rehab centre into a bit of a garden paradise. I was often amazed – and impressed.

But, why should I have been amazed. One area of their lives was messed up. The rest were intact. I also realized that all of us have our own areas of dysfunction – some not so bad, and other worse. I knew that I did, and I knew that I had also successfully addressed a lot of my own dysfunctions (albeit, they’re like scar tissue, they never really go away). It is only when a dysfunction comes to control all other behaviors that it becomes an individual, domestic, and sometimes a societal problem.

Yet, that said, I want go go back to creativity. I recall how comic Jonathan Winters (an admitted recovering alcoholic) once said he was loath to go into treatment because he was afraid of losing his comedic chops. It was the disinhibiting aspects of booze that led to his anarchic humor. Fortunately, he did quit the stuff, and continued to prosper in his realm.

A few years ago Jungian analyst Linda Schierse Leonard wrote a fascinating study of addiction and creativity called Witness to the Fire in which she pondered the connections between artistry and, OK, dysfunction, and cited how many who are addicted suffer the same fears that Winters did.

And, if we consider some of the great creative minds of all time, we can appreciate the fact that many of our most profound thinkers and artists were not entirely ‘functional’ and you just might not want to have them around to tea. At the same time, at what loss would we be if they hadn’t done what they did, despite being dysfunctional, in any conventional sense. Consider the following:

Kris Kristofferson: Brilliant mind, gifted songwriter (Sunday Morning Comin’ Down reveals a lot about the guy), as well as being a West Point graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, he was also for years an unrepentant drunk and drug abuser.

Albert Einstein: One of the great minds of all time, yet a lacklustre student and also a chronic womanizer. Yep, lovable old Al was a skirt-chaser, E=mc2 notwithstanding.

Dylan Thomas: Every coed's favorite poet, and gifted indeed he was, and everybody loves ‘Fern Hill’ and ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’. He was also a repulsive, out-of-control drunkard who stole from his friends, screwed around on his equally alcoholic wife, and snuffed it at 39.

Eugene O’Neill: Arguably the greatest American playwright was a chronic alcoholic for years, though he did get sober. At the same time, he likely never could have written The Iceman Cometh or Long Day’s Journey Into Night if he hadn’t been mightily messed up at one point. Same applies to Tennessee Williams.

Jerry Lee Lewis: The man was always a walking, talking mass of dysfunction at all levels, yet he was arguably much more pivotal than Presley in that he wrote and arranged his own stuff. And, damnit, the ‘Killer’ is still performing.

John Lennon: In my opinion the true creative force behind the Beatles (Paul was the ‘cute’ one), but an admitted chronic alcoholic and drug abuser, as well as having been a wife abuser in his first marriage.

Then again, George W. Bush also had problems with the old demon rum, but dysfunction doesn't always lead to creativity, I might add. Just sayin'.

Otherwise, I could keep on going with this, and so could you. My point being only that maybe we are too quick to consider people dysfunctional, and should maybe look more at what they gave, and in some cases continue to give us, without being too quick to judge. Ask yourself if all your perceived dysfunctions are necessarily negatives in your life.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The falling leaves drift past my window -- grimace

Winter is icumin in;
Lude sing “goddamn!”

-Ezra Pound

Well, it’s not quite winter yet, so pardon the hyperbole, but it is autumn and that can only lead to the winter of one’s discontent. I know fall has crept in on us because the Virginia creeper in the side garden is turning a flaming red. That is one of the very, very, very few nice things about fall. Since I don’t live in eastern Canada or New England, I must content myself with the creeper and the hue is very striking.

But, it’s fall, damnit. The whole thing started at the end of last week, and this morning – as wonderfully bright and sunny as it was – it almost felt like frost was in the air. That really sucks. I don’t like frost being in the air, or on the pumpkins or any of those other ‘fallish’ things. “These fallish things, remind me of you.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist that last line. Please disregard.

Every year about this time I have to face verbal onslaughts from autumn buffs that maintain, “It’s such a beautiful season!” Beautiful, be damned. It’s followed by winter. Winter is evil. It’s like having a relationship with a devastatingly attractive woman that you know is going to come to naught. The ride may be wonderful, but too soon it will end, and the horrors will begin. OK, maybe that’s a lame metaphor, but somehow it worked for me.

So, each year about this time, I try to think about the autumnal things I actually like.

I like:

- Pumpkin pie.
- The fragrance of burning leaves, but our town doesn’t permit home burning, so I’m screwed on that front.
- Curling up before the (indoor) fire
- Some entries in the new TV season, though not most.
- Very tiny munchkins in Halloween costumes, but nobody older than eight. Older, you’re just a greedy little ripoff artist. Oh, and it’s either full costume that shows genuine work and thought, or you’ll get nothing from me.

That’s about it. But, the many things I don’t like could possibly be sufficient to form the subject of my next book.

I primarily don’t like:

- Having to put the furnace on.
- Slippery streets in the morning.
- Rain, rain and more rain here on the wet west coast
- Rain combined with wind. A combo that can make me feel almost suicidal.
- Having to put on multi layers of clothing instead of shorts and T.
- Football. Not because it’s violent – I don’t frankly care what mayhem jocks want to perpetrate on each other – but because it’s boring. At least, to me it is.
- Winter sports: Cold and wet and hugely expensive. My idea of sport is snorkelling in an azure sea with a tropical sun beating down.
- The so-called ‘Holiday Season’. We have 12 months in the year, but for some reason everything is concentrated into 2 brief months duringthe dreariest time of year. Thus, we have to endure Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Or, for Jewish readers, feel free to include Chanukah in the mix.

There, that feels better, and may I share my fondest wish, and that is that somehow we miss winter entirely this year. I’d like autumn just fine if spring was the subsequent season.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unlike old Bob Fulghum, I didn't learn so much there

I preferred this to going to kindergarten. I'm the filthy urchin on the right. The name of the kid on the left, absolutely true, is Charlie Brown. I don't think it's the same one, however.
This morning I ran into a young female friend. She’s a single mom and she told me how she has gone back to school, with an end desire to get a degree in accounting. I was tempted to say that I didn’t think she was so into boredom, but I refrained. Anyway, the world always needs accountants – I guess.

Anyway, during our conversation, she told me of how her little boy had just begun kindergarten, so both Mom and kid were now at school. I thought that was nice. You know, just ‘nice’.

The conversation also put me in mind of the fact that I once went to kindergarten. Not a bad thing in itself except that I didn’t fully appreciate that KG was just the kickoff of a grand total of 17 years of formal education that were to follow.

Therefore, I offer you an excerpt from my yet-to-be-published book which, in this case, concerns my kindergarten career. I hope you enjoy because, when the day comes that it appears on bookstore shelves, I do hope you ‘buy.’


My so-called ‘formal’ education began around the time the family moved into the new house on Price Street. By ‘formal’ I only mean that I had to be there. My cherished free time – and it had theretofore all been free time – was abruptly truncated by the loss of a few hours each weekday morning. I didn’t realize that this was the beginning of a reality that would dominate my life from the age of five to the age of twenty-four. Only I can judge if I learned anything in the process. I’m still uncertain as to whether those nearly twenty years were as well spent as they might have been. Probably not. Maybe definitely not.

My initial place of learning was known as Valley View Kindergarten and it was held in a little community hall a block or so away from my grandparents’ house, around the area that’s now occupied by the municipal hall and Burnaby Central Secondary. It was right across the street from Ross Hicks’ house, but that would pinpoint it only if you knew Ross Hicks and where he lived.

Valley View was a place to which a bunch of tiny tykes were sent off to spend three hours each day away from their mothers in order to gain a smattering of independence, and to also learn the rudiments of jungle gym use, naptime, learn that graham crackers were a paltry substitute for regular cookies, and how, though not why, girls and boys have different bathrooms.

In those days kindergarten wasn’t compulsory, but my mother sent me anyway, saying it was good for me, but primarily, what with a new baby and all, to get me out of her hair. I don’t really blame her.

I don’t remember much about kindergarten, and I’m not certain I learned anything of lasting value, unlike Robert Fulghum it seems. I remember how one particularly terrible kid was locked in a back room after he threw an apeshit tantrum and started kicking the teacher. Secured in the back room (which was only separated from where the rest of us sat by glass French doors), he cried until he vomited. I also got my first girlfriend at kindergarten. I’ll choose to let her remain nameless, but she had a cute little Prince Valiant haircut and came from a family of God-fearing folk who spent a lot of time perusing the Good Book. I would sometimes walk home with her through the woods, just like Hansel and Gretel. Sometimes we would hold hands, but our acts of intimacy never progressed beyond that.

I also remember one nap-time in which I, in my repose, realized that I could see right up to the top of the long legs of the teacher standing above me. For some reason I liked that, though I was unsure as to the ‘why’ at that time.

That was about it as far as my kindergarten career went. That educational interlude did it for me, and I was happy when it was over. Somehow it had become lost to me that kindergarten was only the beginning of a compulsory process designed to take much of the bliss out of my life and to send me in directions I didn’t think I wanted to go.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Probably better not to let the 'Bartman' go free

A few years ago I devised an entirely new psychological theory. It’s called Acknowledge your Inner Bart Simpson. I suppose I’ll have to also nod in the direction of Matt Groening for using his character in my theory, but the idea was mine. And I think it's brilliant, possibly even revolutionary.

It came about when I was at a clinical workshop a few years ago. A workshop attended by assorted counsellors (as I was at the time), social worker sorts, shrinks, nurses, etc. and we were bandying around various bits of stuff, and we got into Inner Child musings. I’m not going to disparage Inner Child considerations, because I believe there’s a lot of validity in getting in touch with that whimpering, simpering, pooping, peeing, frightened little wretch we all keep deep within us. At our most fundamental we remain forever frightened to go to school and be separated from Mom.

But, I threw out that I also believe we have an Inner Bart Simpson. Our Inner Bart is like that little demon on our shoulders when we’re tempted to do something bad. Now, the bad thing can be eating an extra slice of chocolate cake all the way through to having a torrid affair with your neighbor. My point was we all have such nefarious impulses within us, too. But, as we have become functional adults, we’ve learned to suppress that little Bart guy. But I think, quite seriously, that it is a mug's game to ignore him. He is there. No matter how functional, pious, responsible we might be as adults, there remains a lurking Bart.

What does our ‘Bart’ want to do, as opposed to what our big adult actually does? Well, he wants to:

- Bare his bum and run naked.
- Eat everything that is bad for him, and the more of it the better
- Ignore all and every health consideration
- Scream out profanities at the hypocritical and dogmatic
- Drive well over the speed limit in a fuel-thirsty pig of a vehicle with 200 horsepower more than necessary
- Have sex with absolutely everybody who tickles his fancy, even if she’s a complete stranger in a supermarket aisle. Oh, and have that encounter maybe in the supermarket aisle
- Drink like he doesn’t have a liver and never get hungover
- March always to his own drummer, with no consideration for the feelings of others.
- Be highly politically incorrect and say what “he really thinks” about certain strictures of society that demand that we never, ever offend anybody. Bart wants to offend

And it goes on and on. Now, I wasn’t suggesting the aforementioned were things I want to do, they are what Inner Bart wants to do. And, as with your inner child, be kind and gentle with Inner Bart. He needs nurturing, though not encouragement. Remember he always wants to break through if you weaken. Better for all if you don’t, but a lot more fun if you do.

Addendum: Now, to change the subject, I realize that with my last posting I forgot to include my ‘Awesome Dude Blogger’ recipients, and in that I will look to the following members of my own sex: Big Brother, Laughing Wolf, Groanin’ Jock, and East Coast Dweller. You all deserve the accolade, guys, so come and pick up your award by downloading the icon from my posting, and maybe passing it on to some folks of your own.

How very nice of her to give me this

Awesome in her own right blogger Lady MacLeod (if you haven't visited, you should) passed this along my way. I felt honored and, dare I say, humbled. Now, does it mean I am an 'awesome dude', an 'awesome blogger', a 'dude blogger', or what? Not entirely sure. Neither was she when she received it. In the first place she isn't a dude (thankfully), and she's much too attractive, deep and profound, not to mention genuinely witty and amazingly urbane to be considered a 'dude-ette', so whatever it is we accept our awards with grace.

I accept mine with grace. Thank you, Lady M.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Makes me almost, sorta, kinda proud to be a Canadian, in a manner of speaking

Now, I must confess something – I have never been to Saskatchewan. That’s likely a reality I share with many of my compatriots. I’ve been through Saskatchewan – on a train. I’ve been over Saskatchewan many times, in a plane. But as for actually setting my feet down there on that particular chunk of bold, bald prairie, not so much.

That notwithstanding, I have developed a huge affection for the residents of Dog River, Sask. Dog River, if you don’t know, is a tiny little fictitious prairie community consisting of a water tower, a bar, a gas-station cum general store, an eatery, and a main street you could probably spit the length of. In this urban scene is an eclectic mix of folk from a wise-acre (but very smart) employee of the store/gas station, a foxy city slicker high-maintenance broad who runs the eatery, two cops (male and female), a battling late middle age couple, the resident bonehead and ne’er do well, and the central character, personified by a former stand-up comic named (wait for it, because the name’s for real) Brent Butt.

I refer, of course, to Corner Gas. Corner Gas is utterly unique amongst Canadian TV offerings for, in the first place, people actually watch it, and secondly, because it’s genuinely funny and genuinely charming. We like these folks. Such a sentiment is an anomaly among viewers of Canadian TV who judge virtually everything by US or British standards of TV production.

Even more of an anomaly is that the people behind CG have actually succeeded in selling this delightful sitcom to the US, mainly because it has built up a sizable fan-base south of the 49th. And why not? Small town Saskatchewan is really not so very different from, say, small town Nebraska, or small town North Dakota.

I like CG, and look forward to airings of the show. The primary reasons I’m a bit enchanted with it are because it’s both homegrown, and it’s not lame. The ‘Lame Factor’ has been a killer of many Canadian TV series. The only ones to come to mind that managed to escape the LF were the Red-Green Show, Kids in the Hall and SCTV. Otherwise, sorry, la-a-a-ame!

Not only lame but, in the case of many comedies, outrageously ‘unfunny’. I mean, there has been a bit of crud kicking around the CBC for it seems like a half-century, called Royal Canadian Air Farce. Folks, these guys have honed unfunny to a fine art, and were arguably only surpassed by the always unfunny yet so-called "comedy" team of Wayne and Shuster. I also have an insider comment I cherish by a woman who worked with them that they were detestable, ego-driven swine. Man, when I set out to damn someone, I pull out all stops and even bring in reserves. Oh well, works for me.

Some people might like to cite Rick Mercer as being terrifically funny, witty, satirical and so forth. Sorry. In the first place he works for the CBC. Secondly, he was mildly amusing nearly a decade ago. Finally, Jon Stewart he ain’t, no matter how much he tries to be, and he really tries.

Which brings me back to CG. These people are funny for two reasons. In the first case, the writing is superlative, and secondly, the cast is not self-involved. The members are pretty much what you see and they never appear to belabor anything. Just a fine group of down-home, decent, and outrageously dysfunctional folks, just like the rest of us.


Monday, September 24, 2007

The sounds of silence

I see where mime guy extraordinaire Marcel Marceau has died at age 84. Not only was Marceau a mime artist, he was ‘the’ mime artist. Reportedly it was a quiet death. Sorry, couldn’t resist. So, I’m wondering, was he put in a real casket or just a metaphorical one?

Anyway, I don’t know how you feel about mime guys. Suffice it for me to say that my favorite scene in the otherwise kind of lame Woody Allen film, Scenes from a Mall, is when Woody decks the mime guy who has been following him and Bette Midler around for ages. It’s just one of those satisfying moments.

I don’t mean to disparage M. Marceau’s artistry. He set a standard to which other mime-ists had to aspire. On the other hand, he set a standard to which other mime-ists had to aspire. Which meant, of course, that there would have to be other mime-ists. But, despite the fact there are those who believe Marceau gave us yet another reason to hate the French, I was impressed by his ability to laugh at himself – albeit silently. This was best exemplified in the Mel Brooks film, Silent Movie, in which the only words uttered in the film are by Marceau. That was kind of cool.

But, you’ve probably deduced by this point that I despise mimes. That is not so. For example, I always found Shields and Yarnell (in relatively small doses) extremely funny. And Marceau himself, because he was scripted, was very good. The mimes I hate are street mimes and mall mimes. They’re in your face. If you show your detestation, they are even more in your face. Mostly, their routines are either stupid or derivative, and generally badly scripted, and rely too much on making onlookers feel uncomfortable.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike street performers, per se. I’ve heard street musicians that excel many highly paid performers, and I’ve even been known to pass the odd buck their way.

But, street mimes are different. I put them in the same category as people dressed up in costumes, pretending to be big bunnies or squirrels, or Mr. Peanut or somesuch. They come up and expect you to respond to their alter-ego. My response, in my mind at least, is: “I’m not five. I’m not going to pretend you’re a bunny. You’re an asshole dressed in a bunny suit. You’re not remotely amusing or charming.” Oh well, a bunny better than a giant turd like the guy promoting the bid in the city of Victoria for a new sewage processing operation so that the silly and self-impressed city might stop dumping their crud raw into Juan de Fuca Strait. Mr. Floaty is his name, and for me he provides a strong impulse to keep on flushing just because the concept is so disgusting. “Eww – don’t touch him, kids. Now we’re going to have to find a place to wash your hands.”

So, those are my thoughts on the mime matter.

Rest in Peace, M. Marceau.

Now, don’t get me started on clowns.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Name your AOTY winners, we want to hear them

I decided this day it was time for a good, old-fashioned rant. Haven’t done that for a while. Not that I feel negative. In fact, I feel great. Just back from vacation, and the weather is splendid. Nothing wrong at all. But, I still sensed a need to vent some spleen.

In that context, I have created a new award that is called the AOTY Award. AOTY is an acronym of sorts for ‘Asshole of the Year’ and there seems to be a surfeit of eligible candidates. If you find the term ‘asshole’ offends your sensibilities, then please substitute something appropriate like jerk, moron, cretin, thoughtless pig, self-indulgent flaming guttersnipe, and so on. I only chose asshole because it is the word that immediately springs to my lips when I experience certain behaviors by others.

Now, we all are capable to mistakes, and we’ve all been assholes at different times, but the majority of us are caring and socially responsible individuals who are heedful of how our behavior might impact others, so we, especially with maturity, have learned to approach the world with empathy as in, “If I do that thing, how will it make another feel? Furthermore, how do I feel if somebody does that to me?” It’s simple, see. It’s just your standard Golden Rule.

Anyway, the thought came to me because of a couple of incidents over the last week that gave me pause to consider just how moronic some people – people who otherwise have the right to vote and (more confounding) breed more of their ilk – can be.

The first incident was when we were back on Vancouver Island on our last vacation day early in the week. Five minutes off the ferry from Vancouver, and turning onto a freeway interchange there is a guy parked on the shoulder of the interchange entry road. My initial assumption was that his car had broken down, and I thought, what an unfortunate place. But then – but then!! – the bastard pulled right out in front of me and proceeded forward at about 30-per, and then pulled in behind another vehicle on the shoulder up ahead, and they both pulled out into traffic and proceeded a the aforementioned 30-ish. Wow, how did I know I was back on Vancouver Island? Mainly because this big chunk of rock boasts some of the worst drivers on the planet. So, that guy and his friend were my first AOTY recipients.

The next day, which was sunny and nice, Wendy and I decided to take a favorite walk at a spot known as the Courtenay Air Park. It’s a lovely spot, about a mile or so, right on the river estuary. As we entered the walkway I noticed there was a large locked iron gate across the walkway. Why? A few yards on I saw why. Some peabrain had driven his car down the path and up over the grass in this pastoral setting that is enjoyed by walkers, cyclists and skaters. Yet, a moron had to defile it by driving his car there. My second winner is this child who was obviously spawned by a mother somewhere, and sired by some sort of a father.

But wait, there are more. As follows is an eclectic array of winners, some named, some not.

1. All graffiti ‘artists’ who would defile public places. If you are genuinely talented at your craft, then take up legitimate are or sign on as a mural painter.

2. Canadian merchants who persist, despite the fact that the Canadian and US dollars are on par, in charging outrageously inflated prices for such things as books, music, vehicles, electronics and much more, and then offer lame excuses exhorting us to be patient while reaping huge profits at the expense of consumers. The most egregious example of this that I’ve seen lately was a book (of which I just completed a newspaper review) that is published in Canada, was printed in Canada and retails for $19.95. US price, $17.95!

3. George W. Bush who would deny subsidized medical aid to the poorest of kids, offering the excuse that it would be the thin edge of the wedge in permitting (gasp) the sort of ‘socialized medical care’ that is the pattern in virtually every other western nation. Hmm. Speaking of thin edge of the wedge, ever hear of Marie Antoinette?

4. Environmental ‘activists’ who fly from speaking engagement to speaking engagement in private jets, all the while decrying global warming and our general despoliation of the planet.

5. Medical researchers who offer us more and more frightening health scenarios in our daily papers, day after day, some of which are even contradictory to another “researchers say” article in the same paper. This is, of course, all in the name of keepin’ them old grant bucks a-comin’. The most important realization for all of us regarding health, and life in general, is that none of us will get out of it alive.

6. Newspapers, their publishers and their editors who believe that the pantieless and substance abusing antics of the Britneys Parises and Lindsays are actual real news of import to a well-informed public. I would like to suggest an award too to those who actually read this crud. Only problem is, then I’d have to give myself one.

7. ‘Big tobacco’ and its sins is an utter no brainer. Of course they are culpable in their assault on the world’s health in the name of profit. ‘Big booze’ is nearly as bad with its pushing, especially towards the young, of its potent potables without ever mentioning the horrors of overindulgence. But, what about ‘Big soda pop?’ The containers get larger and larger and the hype is constant. A lifetime of Diabetes II along with the award for that particular industry.

8. Price-fixing petroleum companies, especially in Canada. Not only do we pay exorbitantly high prices for our ‘essence’, when the price goes to a certain level (twice what it cost us on our recent US trip) then every station in town will be at exactly the same price within seconds. The companies maintain there is no price-fixing (they lie) and the government says there is nothing it can do It also lies.

There are more, many more potential AOTY award winners, but I thought I’d leave it at eight. If you have some of our own, I’d love to hear them.


Friday, September 21, 2007

St. Augustine and me -- we're good buddies

Blogger heartinsanfrancisco made an offer the other day in which five questions had been given to her and her objective was to respond to the five. I like things like this, and she stated in her blog that if anybody else wanted to try they should contact her and she would pose devise five custom-tailored questions for each individual responding.

I bit. I like being interviewed and, even though I’ve done a similar exercise to this in the past, I was game to try again. Therefore, here are my responses to the questions heart gave me. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll devise five questions just for you.

1. In a successful life of professional writing and many close relationships, what do you consider your greatest achievement to date, and why?

Interesting mix here of both professional and personal attainments. How to approach this? In the first place, I would wish I had been more persevering in my writing life. I think I could have gone much further. At the same time, I am pleased with the work I still turn out and I also think I write more effectively now at this age than I ever had before. Part of the reason for that, I believe, is that I’m not quite so ego-involved I know I’m a good writer, by any standard. So, if some bubblehead wants to reject a submission then, well, fuck him. It doesn’t detract from my skills, it would be his problem.

So, I think my most satisfying attainment with my writing was a series I did on the illicit drug scene in my community close to a decade ago. From that series I won a major provincial award, was the inspiration for establishing a community drug strategy committee, and made me decide to turn my hand to being part of the solution and become an accredited addictions counsellor, just so I might know more about the problem from another level.
That said, however, my most satisfying writing endeavor was my weekly newspaper column that ran from 1977 to 1996. My column was like a beguiling mistress and I never knew what she would bring me.

Now, at that personal level in terms of relationships. I think my greatest attainment in that regard, without question, has been and continues to be my marriage to Wendy. I think I finally got it right. I have had two marriages and sundry lovers over the years, but Wendy is the frosting on any cake. She is my comfort zone and that really has meaning.

2. If you were going to meditate in a cave for a year and could take only one book with you, what would it be?

I toss up in this one between the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I’ll opt for Shakespeare, not because I’m a pagan, but because the Bard answers virtually all questions about everything. So does the Bible, but Shakespeare is a little more poetic, with the notable exception of the ‘Song of Songs.’ The Bible rules with that one.

3. Pretend you have a crystal ball and describe the circumstances of your life in five years.

Well, I hope I’ll still be on the upper side of the lawn because I kind of like life. I hope I’ll be healthy and dynamic, have all my marbles, still love being a lover, and be in the same relationship I am now. I’d like to have published a book, and to have traveled to a few more places, to have learned the answers to a few more questions, to have made some renovations to the house, and to have felt that the previous half decade had been a fruitful one.

4. Since you have traveled extensively, what is your absolute
favorite place on earth? Explain why.

This one is very difficult to narrow down. There are three places I’ve visited that I genuinely loved. One is the southwest of England – Devon, Cornwall and Somerset; another is the west coast of Ireland; but finally I have to opt for my beloved Island of Kauai. That is my ‘soul’ place. I know that deep within my heart. When I go to Kauai it is just like going home at all levels. Why? The climate, the zephyr-like air, the azure waters, the wonderful jungle of the Hanalei Valley, the reef fish and the fact that the dawn "comes up like thunder."

5. If you could go back in time and be the historic character you most admire, what might you do differently to produce another result? Example: If I were Marie Antoinette, I would give the peasants bread.)

This one is truly difficult because first I have to decide if there is any historical character I like and admire enough that I would want to be him. I assume, being male, I have to be a ‘him’. All that considered, I think I wouldn’t have minded being St. Augustine of Hippo. In the first place, I would ultimately get to be a saint. Also, I could be a tearaway in my youth, get thoroughly laid and often – Augustine once prayed to God to grant him chastity – “But not yet!” You have to like that in a guy. But, eventually, Augustine was able to categorize the conflict between the temporal and divine worlds and to create an agreeable compromise in which the goodly could enjoy the fruits of both. Eventually I would be named one of the great philosophers of all time. Not a bad acknowledgement. Something Don Quixote was unable to do a few hundred years later. At the end of the day, Augustine would have been more at home with Sancho Panza than Don Quixote. What would I do differently? I think I would have stolen a fruit I liked more than peaches when I was a kid and then my larceny would have offered an even greater bonus than just the sin of theft.

So there you have my meandering responses. If you want to do this, too, just ask me.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

To P or not to P, that is the question

Musings on the letter ‘P’ is what this is all about. It’s actually a thematic meme that was sent my way by cs. Since I have huge respect for her and her thoughts via her blog, I am honoured to be chosen by her, and will endeavor to do my best.

The gist of the meme is to select seven subjects beginning with the letter P. Why P? I know not. It was one sent to her. To P or not to P, that is the question, no doubt. Depends on the state of your urgency, if a body is going to be crude about the wordplay. I promise I won’t, despite the possible word considerations P brings to mind. Nope, won’t go there. And why seven? Again, I have no idea. It is a number with mystical (not to mention crapshooting) connections, but otherwise, your guess is as good as mine.

P isn’t the easiest of letters from which to choose words of personal meaning. I mean, there are ‘pachyderm’ (and I do like elephants), and polymorph, and even pi, but I don’t feel a connection, anymore than I do with psoriasis (blessedly). But, here are my seven:

Petting: Back in the days before ‘making out’ there was petting. Petting was a little more extreme than ‘necking’, since necking was mainly hugging and kissing and stuff – but not so much ‘stuff.’ Petting implied the odd ‘copping’ of a feel, which gave full marks to your average 14-year-old lad in those much more innocent times. In fact, when I was very young petting was even a borderline dirty word because it did indeed have sexual implications, especially when the truly fortunate boy got into the realm of ‘heavy petting.’

Peanuts: Despite all the hysteria surrounding the simple goober due to that relatively small percentage of the population that suffers from a particularly dreadful allergy (and they have my complete sympathy), I believe that George Washington Carver should be named a saint. I rarely go through a day without peanut butter being consumed, and I only venture into the realm of completely natural PB, such as Adams, or even Safeway’s house brand, which is surprisingly good. Peanuts in all their manifestations are wonderful, and they are even healthy. Wonderful and healthy rarely appear in combination. Peanut satay and all the various uses of the peanut, especially in Indonesian, Malay and Thai cuisine make me a significant devotee of the grub from that part of the world.

Psychiatry and Psychology: It is arguable that more lives have been saved thanks to these fields of study than have been by all the antibiotics in the world. There are few misfortunes more agonizing than mental illness, and those experts in such fields who lift their fellows from the most dreadful (and dangerous) misery are to be hugely extolled.

Pedagogery: Only mentioned because I once was a teacher, and I think a rather good one. So did not a few of my charges. Good teachers are born and they offer approaches to life that will stay with their former students forever if the task has been carried out properly. Good teachers should be hugely rewarded. Bad teachers should be pilloried, drawn and quartered because their lack of talent also stays with the unfortunate who have had to endure them.

Polynesia: I have already mentioned before how much I like the Hawaiian Islands, but I also like the whole of Polynesia, the culture, and especially the people. It’s something to do with the vastness of the Pacific and the fact that these people – who we of European and North American extraction deigned to refer to as ‘savages’ – via celestial navigation exclusively made the huge journey from what is now French Polynesia to the Hawaiian Islands, literally thousands of miles away and a place to which they’d never been. They also traveled from the Cook Islands to New Zealand, and arguably visited the shores of both North and South America. And I also happen to like the sound of the trade winds ruffling coconut palm fronds.

Panties: I promised to not be salacious, and I will not. I just happen to like the word, not to mention the garment, of all cuts and materials. Women have told me they don’t really like the word and feel it has both cutesy and sexual undertones. Probably. So, they prefer underpants, pants, undies, knickers or whatever else this nether garment might go by. But for me, hey, a rose by any name, etc.

Plumeria: My absolute favorite tropical tree. Call it a frangipani if you will, but that doesn’t change the enticing fragrance that lets me know I’m in the tropics.

Ponderosa Pine: I also, while speaking of matters botanical, love the plants of the dry belt, and the magnificent ponderosa with its huge needles and massive cones exemplifies a place that smells of sage and dryness. Having just been there I found I remained as charmed.

Oops, I did eight. Oh well, that’s OK. Cs did six. I don’t think it’s arbitrary that it must be seven. If so, then I guess I will have to be punished.

Now, I am supposed to tag five worthy souls to continue this on. If you accept the tag, please do so. If not, don’t worry about it. So, my taggees are jmb, Liz, Jazz, Wolfgirl, and Leesa.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

'NICE" -- Moi???

A while ago Big Brother accorded me a 'nice' award. I was, of course, hugely appreciative as I am infinitely pleased by all honorifics that might come my way. So, whether or not I deserve it, I shall cherish it and, of course, post it in my sidebar.

But, as is the case with all such matters, there is a price that goes along with the ego-boosting reward, and that is to choose five others equally deserving. In that, of course, I think I should define 'nice' as I understand the meaning of the word. Nice isn't always a positive, as a matter of fact, as when Oliver Hardy used to say to Stan Laurel, "Here's another nice mess you've gotten us into."

But, I'll assume we are looking for nice in another realm; a more positive realm. In my definition of nice I include positive thoughts, uplifting passages, provocative meaning, humor, honesty and a host of other considerations.

Big Brother has already included a number of recipients of this award that I too would have selected, but there are sufficient others on my list that I could easily find five or twenty-five, so no problem.

Here is the five I have chosen:

Heartinsanfrancisco: She is a kind of favorite soulmate of mind and we find our minds click in similar realms with great regularity. And, she is a west-coaster and regardless of the border between our two nations, the simpatico is there.

aliemalie: This terribly smart and well-traveled young Texan keeps me honest and allows me to see the world through her eyes that happen to be both tender and sophisticated.

Janice: My favorite poet/artist. Her haikus and other lyrical, pastoral musings are created at a prodigious rate and they are invariably gems. I go to Janice daily for my time of sweet and thoughtful meditation.

Andrea: A consummate artist and a sensitive, intelligent and thought-provoking blogger, Andrea has so many gifts that she amazes me on a regular basis. I am still longing to see one of her shows, and shall do so sometime.

Bibi: Ms. Vicki is a writer, editor, publisher of remarkable talent and I am so happy I discovered her musings a few months ago. If you haven't been there, you should. She also owns a border collie, and that makes her a truly fine human being.

So, there is my fivesome. It was difficult to pare the list down, and if I missed you this time, I'll get you next time.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A veritable plethora of meanderings

Yesterday morning we gassed up the car in Bellingham WA and the fuel was a mere $2.92 a gallon. Here it runs around $1.05 (or more) for a &%$#$@ litre. Why is that? Furthermore, why is it in &^%$#@ litres to begin with? Oh, I know why, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. That's one of the reasons, among many others, why I like traveling in the US -- it's like a retro trip for me -- a retro trip to a certain sanity that used to punctuate my youth. Maybe it is no more sane in essence, but for me it is. Gallons and miles. That I can reason with and I don't have to convert. Ah -- just like the old days. Only problem is, the car's speedometer is in kph, not mph, so I still had to do some converting. I know why our system is so galling. It's all to do with the repulsive, evil and utterly unlamented (at least in the West) Pierre Trudeau. But again, that's another matter.
Anyway, we are home again, and that always fills me with mixed feelings. I mean, I love my home, and I love having had a fine vacation and being home safe-and-sound with nothing nasty or scary having intervened. But, at the same time, being home means being back to reality. Vacations are always an altered universe.
We spent our last days of any substance with a drive around shoreline of Upper Klamath Lake, and it was quite beautiful, as shown. And, we finally saw pelicans. White pelicans. And they are huge, and boast wingspans of up to 10 feet (or three metres for those who might be obsessive about metric). I'd been disappointed on the coast because we saw no brown pelicans -- other than the corpse of one that was being handily devoured by a group of cadaverous seagulls. So the white pelicans made up for that.
After leaving the Klamath area we headed through the mountains and out to the Interstate where we forged forth for the state capital of Salem. Salem is a very nice town. We stayed for two nights, and I could have easily welcomed more nights than that. At one point we took a wrong turn while we were in Salem and ended up driving past the state penitentiary. The same penitentiary that once housed one Randall McMurphy before he faked loopiness in hopes of getting into the state mental insitute, also nearby. The tale is, of course, all told in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, since Salem was once the home of that wonderful old beatnik and hugely talented writer, Ken Kesey. So, it struck me that Salem was a good place to spend a little time.
Anyway, it's a very nice town -- not too big and not too small, and it boasts one of the finest smaller art galleries of my experience. I wrote a few weeks ago about the abomination that is the Victoria Art Gallery, and how it cost us $12 a pop to see exhibits I wouldn't normally spend two bits on. The Salem Gallery's entry fee was -- free. Just for that day. It was homecoming weekend, so there were freebies all over town. Normally it costs $3 per person, and with that you get a multifaceted array of exceptional art. Most enjoyable for us -- an age thing I guess -- was two galleries devoted to Fillmore West music concerts from the late 1960s. This was psychedelia triumphant, and did you know you could actually go to hear the 'Dead' or 'Big Brother' for about $5 a ticket back then? I didn't.
We left Salem and drove north. We thought we would reach the border too late in the day for an easy crossing, so we stayed in Bellingham, a few miles south. It was just fine. Added to which, I was very familiar with the area since my aunt and uncle had a beach cottage a few miles from Bellingham when I was a kid, so I spent many summers in that 'hood. Again, just like going home.
The drive from Seattle north on that pentultimate day was actually quite nasty, with pelting rain and the Interstate absolutely cluttered with cars, and punctuated by the incident with the semi that threw a wheel off somewhere along the way and it bounced mightily among the cars which frantically braked in the rain. Amazingly, and blessedly, it hit no one. If it had, our journey home might have turned out quite horribly different.
So now, here I am, and I have to get some work done. Why, oh why don't I win the lottery?


Sunday, September 16, 2007

A sad little bit of history from a harsher time

In the tiny hamlet of Fort Klamath, Oregon there lie the remnants of the US Cavalry fort that give the community, high on an alpine plateau, its name There isn't much left of the old fort these days, although there remains a superb museum, with an even more superb curator who will be happy to wax poetically and interestingly about the history of the place. I reveled in chatting with him and found him immensely knowledgeable.

One of the most intriguing facets of the remainder of the fort, which stems back to the 1860s, is found in four lonely looking white grave markers. Grave markers containing the remains of four individuals with such enchanting names as Captain Jack, Boston Charley, and two others which escape me at the moment. Their remains lie there because the foursome was executed by the army. And, the foursome were Modoc Indians.

The Modocs were a tiny tribe, some 400 strong, who were not only at war with the US, but were also at war with, and hated more than they even did the army, the much larger Klamath tribe. The American government in order to settle the Modoc matter for once and for all decided it would be better to give the Modoc lands over to the Klamath people. This was a very ill-considered move and caused their chief, the aforementioned Captain Jack (his 'white guy' name, needless to say) to take matters into his own hands, and the hands of his tiny tribe.

What happened was this:

On the morning of April 11, the commissioners, General Canby, Alfred B. Meacham, Rev. E. Thomas, and L. S. Dyer, with Frank and Toby Riddle as interpreters, met with Boston Charley Bogus Charley, Captain Jack (pictured), John Schonchin, Black Jim, and Hooker Jim. After some talk, during which it became evident that the Modoc were armed, General Canby informed Captain Jack that the commission could not meet his terms until orders came from Washington. In an angry mood John Schonchin demanded Hot Creek for a reservation. Captain Jack got up and walked away a few steps. Two Modocs, Brancho (Barncho) and Slolux, armed with rifles, ran forward from where they had been hiding among the rocks. Captain Jack turned giving the signal to fire. The first shot from Captain Jack's revolver killed General Canby. Reverend Thomas fell mortally wounded. Meacham fell seriously wounded. Dyer and Riddle escaped by running. Had not Toby Riddle cried out, "The soldiers are coming!", Meacham would no doubt have been killed.All efforts for peace ended when the Modocs carried out their plans to kill the commissioner. A cross marks the place where General Canby and Reverend Thomas fell victims to the Modoc.

General Canby, it is worth noting, was the only standing general to die during the Indian Wars in the US. And, in carrying out such an attack, Captain Jack and at least three of his warriors effectively signed their death notification, and they were summarily expedited.

Ultimately matters were sorted out, and it is to the army's credit, and to the credit of the fort's commander, that they demanded that the four Modocs should be accorded full military funerals, and be buried within the confines of the fort as a mark of respect for noble adversaries.

And that is a tiny precis of the tale of Captain Jack, somebody I'd not met before but was happy to make his acquaintance in the little hamlet of Fort Klamath, high in the Cascades of southern Oregon.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Some things are almost too good

Most of us have aspirations to see certain places and things in the world before we die, and we only hope if the place or thing actually manifests itself for us, that we will not be disappointed because it will turn out to be less than we had hoped for.
But, to balance such possible disappointments, there are also those situations in which the place or thing turns out to be as good or better than we had hoped it might be. Those are nice moments. I've had some of those. I've had visitations that turned out to be not only as good as I anticipated, but actually even better.
They include:
* The awe-inspiring Na Pali on the Island of Kauai.
* Vienna -- any aspect of Vienna.
* The Colosseum in Rome
* The tropical South Pacific.
* Michelangelo's 'David'.
Among others.
And now, I have just had another -- which is why I haven't been around for a few days. No internet connection where I was.
My other was this: Crater Lake in Southern Oregon.
For years, driving up Interstate 5 on a number of occasions I had thought, we really should take the dogleg up to Crater Lake since everybody says it is so incredible. But, you know, time was pressing, and it's a hell of a long way out of the way, so I never go around to it. But, this time we were determined. And, my word, but it was worth it. It is truly quite awe-inspiring. Yes, there are the superlatives, such as with an average depth of nearly 2,000 feet it is the deepest lake in the US and the sixth deepest in the world. It has a blue hue that is almost orgasmic (that is, if a blue hue can be orgasmic -- maybe it can. We all have our orgasmic things, after all), and it is located in a fabulous national park that boasts other wonders, such as the amazing canyon pictured above.
Anyway, it did take us a while to get there, We took some rather precipitous roads and the lake sits at a very high elevation. More about that later. Anyone reading this from, say, Denver can ignore my elevation comments. And get there we did. We were both quite enraptured by it all.
My only glitch was that I am acrophobic, as I have mentioned before. And, Crater Lake, since it is in a volcanic crater, lies below some amazingly terrifying precipices, all the way around. Needless to say, I didn't walk to the edge. If I got too close I got just a tad weak-kneed and sweaty. But, it didn't detract from my overall experience at all. I just didn't stand quite as close to the edge as non-acrophobic Wendy did.
Otherwise, our stay in the area was lovely. We stayed in the tiny, tiny town of Fort Klamath, just above the headwaters of Klamath Lake, in a lovely little resort on a pretty stream (as shown). That countryside around Fort Klamath is splendidly pastoral with huge cattle ranches. And it is dead flat. Idyllic, to be sure. But, Wendy and I both noticed that we felt chronically headachy and a bit queasy in the stomach. I mentioned this to the owner of the resort, and his response was simple: "It's the altitude," he said. How can that be?, I thought. We came down out of the hills around Crater Lake to this lovely flat land. He explained. The lovely flat land is a very long way from sea level (which I, in my ignorance, had assumed), but is actually a huge alpine meadow sitting atop a flat-top mountain. Our altitude was 4,100 feet. Aha! A touch of altitude sickness.
Anyway, we got over it, and all I can say is if you want a unique adventure, I will extoll the virtues of Crater Lake and the area.
Otherwise, happy to be connected again. I missed you people. And, I'll visit your individual blogs tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You just knew life would never be the same

Six years ago today we were on the Island of Rarotonga in the South Pacific and, while I am sure there are spots equally idyllic, but I've not been to any. At the same time, there are few places more remote. The beauty and remoteness had been our dual quests on make the long journey, and prior to September 11th we couldn't have been happier with our choices.

Then, when the hideous events of six years ago today unfolded, we felt as vulnerable as if we had been front and centre where it all unfolded. There is no haven, despite our delusions.

Furthermore, and we knew it well, 9/11 was one of those days, like December 7th, 1941, June 6th 1944, or November 23rd, 1963, that after the sun set on that awful night, we would awaken to a different world, and a world that could never go back to what it had been.

And it never has.

May your thoughts on this day, however, be positive ones, because the species has huge strength to survive, so let us do that.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Control freaks rule, whether we like it or not

I've decided to take a break from my travelogue for today so that I might wax philosophical, and possibly even mildly curmudgeonly. Anyway, I'm just chilling here in Brookings, OR for the day and there is nothing much new to report. Oh, we did drive into California this morning and it wasn't sunny at all, and the redwoods were enshrouded in foggy mist. But, it was nice anyway. And, tomorrow we are heading out in the direction of Crater Lake, which should be very nice by all accounts. I'll let you know.

But, today, I want to talk about control. This stems from a conversation Wendy and I had yesterday. What we concluded is the whole of history is about control, if you think about it. You name it, it's about control. Education, religion of the organized sort, policing, the military, and our homes. Parenting is all about control (some of us wish there were more of it, judging from the behavior of some kids today), and even a domestic relationship involves assorted forms of control, in which one person will attempt to be dominant over another. In that context, control can sometimes be a nasty business, which might involve even domestic violence, which is a hideous manifestation of behavior and not an area I want to visit here.

What I want to talk about is a more pernicious form of control than even raging might suggest itself as being, and that is passive aggression. How the conversation came about is that we were driving along and reminiscing about our past lives which included, in both cases, having once been married to passive aggressives. In fact, both our first spouses were in that behavior realm. It's not a nice one.

My first wife didn't write the book on passive aggression, for she inherited the tome. Her father, I believe invented it. Ever smiling, he ruled his family with an iron will, but they didn't realize it because he was such a 'nice guy.' And, his wife and his kids didn't realize that 'Dad' always knew best, and always, always got his own way, and he never once had to raise his voice. My dad was a raging sonofabitch, and that I could handle because I always knew what to expect. My first wife's father used a more lethal weapon in his control arsenal -- guilt. You never, ever wanted to 'disappoint' dear old Dad because he always means well.

Well, Wife #1 learned well at his tutelage. Again, rarely was a voice raised, rarely did the smile leave her face, but her bite could be as deadly as that of Cleopatra's asp. I spent a number of years wreathed in guilt, even when I'd done nothing wrong (which was actually true -- sometimes). When we broke up I, of course, had to be the wronging party because my ex was such a 'nice' person. She was a frail and pretty little thing of whom it could not be said butter would melt in her mouth. She always did the 'right' thing, after all.

What amazed Wendy and I as each recounted their domestic tale, was how similar our stories were. The blessing is, we both attempt to eschew both passive aggression and control as much as is humanly possible. It works.

Next time, as long as I haven't bored you, some more travel tales.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Things I've learned on this road trip

This current excursion is the first road trip I've taken in a very long time. Our travels usually involve the stresses of airplanes, airport hassles, security checks by utter incompetents and being expedited to faraway places. This time, as a change, and because our time isn't voluminous, we decided to hit the road. We're happy we did and are having a great time.
But, in doing the road tip and going from place-to place, I have learned some stuff. One of the important ones is that I have a two-day tolerance for junk food. I cannot believe the guy who wrote Supersize Me didn't die during his month. After two days I end up feeling bloated, nauseous, gassy (pardon!), and generally out-of-sorts. Doesn't matter what the joint is, the alleged food becomes repulsive. Consequently, we are endeavoring to prepare our own fare as much as possible. Today, for our drive south, we packed a picnic lunch. We stopped at a state park over the ocean, ate our simple sandwiches and it was heavenly. The gull we shared our lunch with thought so, too.
Something else I have learned is that this year's souvenir is next year's yard sale item. Wandering through Old Town Florence (pictured above) is very cool. But, shop-after-shop offers to hungry tourists virtually the exactly same items of crap. Nothing much I want to take home, sorry. Mind you, I'm not big on souvenirs at the best of times. My souvenirs are my memories and my photos, and that's all I need, not a tacky T-shirt or a crummy coffee mug.
Today we moved south. We are currently in Brookings, right near the California state line and it is disappointingly foggy after a very bright day in Florence, yesterday. But, it's good, anyway, and as I have already told Angela, we are staying in just the hostelry she suggested, even though she hadn't yet suggested it when we made the decision. We're going to be here for a couple of days, and then move on, hopefully to go up to Crater Lake early in the week.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

In Italy it's called Firenze

So, here we are in Florence, Oregon, about half way along the coastline and I have come to a few conclusions about Oregon since we began, and most of them are good. Oh, by the way, excuse the paucity of pictures in this posting, but I only have a crappy ethernet connection in this otherwise fine hostelry. So, electronically I feel like I'm stuck in about 1977.
Anyway, Oregon conclusions. Highway 101 is amazingly scenic, but so much for my preconception that the crowds would disappear after Labor Day. Congested and a pretty rudimentary road to boot would pretty much cover it. However, that is not a negative. The vistas are spectacular and periodically they are punctuated by pastoral agricultural (hmm, think that's redundant) regions.
Other conclusions include the fact that Oregon is truly a tourism oriented state, and every attempt is made to render a stay a charming one. There is also a huge bonus to an Oregon visit: No Sales Tax! If something is posted as costing $3.95 it will cost $3.95 at the till, not $270, as might be the case in BC with all its hideous taxation ripoffs. Uh-oh, feel curmudgeonliness coming on.
Anyway, yesterday we drove from charming Cannon Beach to equally charming (but different) Florence. We made a brief stop at Tillamook so we could experience the ritual cutting of the cheese, and also to sample some mighty fine ice cream. Actually, we bought about 17 pounds of Tillamook Cheese, which is practically free compared with what we'd pay at home.
In Florence, one partakes of the splendors of sand dunes that go on forever and they are magnificent beyond compare. In answer to Bibi, we were going to do the ATV dune buggy thing, and then just decided we didn't feel like the noise this morning. The hike and fresh air did it for us. But, we may on our way out as we head to Brookings down near the California state line.
So, the weather is splendid, Old Town Florence (where we are staying) is cool, and the river breeze is refreshing. All is good at the moment, and I''ll be back soon. Thank you for your thoughts on the last posting.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dateline: Cannon Beach, Oregon.

So, this is basically the view we have outside our window at the moment. Just a brief message to let you know that we are in full-blown vacation mode; have found a great place to stay; had an easy trip down from Victoria. What could be better?

As I said, I would keep you posted whenever I got the chance as we went along, and I will definitely do so. Bonus being we have free wireless in the Tolovana Inn, which we found for our first night's stay.

I love the coast of Oregon and haven't been down her in many years -- probably more than 20, but it's all familiar once again.

Left Victoria yesterday morning on the MV Coho and made a fog-enshrouded passage to Port Angeles WA. An easy ride south with little traffic all the way. Were in Cannon Beach by 2 p.m., and that was after stopping for lunch in the little milltown of Raymond, WA.

Cannon Beach is as 'yuppified' as I remember it being, but it's still a cool spot. Our plan is to meander along this coast and the N. California coast and just see where we get, since we have to be back home by the 17th of the month as work encroaches for both of us. I shall, dear friends, keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Where have all the young satirists gone?

The other day I was browsing the magazine rack at our local supermarket and realized there was nothing, absolutely nothing I wanted to purchase. All that existed was a bunch of dreary glossies concerned with either specialty matters (travel, sewing, being a 20-year-old studmuffin, being a 17-year-old bimbo, or whatever scandals the scandal-ridden have been involved in lately), or boring hi-tech stuff.

There once was a time. There was a time in which I spent a considerable sum on magazines of various sorts, all the way from Newsweek, to Rolling Stone, to Playboy (which I actually ‘read’ for the articles – yeah – I did – really!). But, the biggest magazine drawing card for me was the satirical mags. Having been weaned on Mad, I took to the National Lampoon like some simile to some equally lame metaphor. The Lampoon when it originated was wonderful. It was intelligent, it was irreverent, it was dirty, and it was ‘in-yer-face’ brilliant. Most of the founders, Doug Kenney, Tony Hendra, PJ O’Rourke, were Harvard alums and had cut their teeth on the equally brilliant (in those days) Harvard Lampoon.

As it is, I own the entire first year of the NL and I cherish it as a nostalgic possession. But, there were other satirical periodicals of the time, such as Spy Magazine, the Canadian Frank, and in the UK, Private Eye. All were ruthless in their intelligent skewering of virtually everybody.

In that context, I want to get to my (ahem) thesis, which is: Satire was a product of the so-called ‘Boomer’ and pre-boomer generation, and that satire is now dead. There is virtually no good satire on the horizon. Yes, there have been good satirical movies in recent recall, like Spinal Tap, and the brilliant and warped cinematic offerings of the Coen brothers, but the makers of such material are all from ‘my’ generation.

You can also cite The Simpsons, but Groening is my generation and probably appeals mostly to those of my generation.

Think of the brilliant satirical stuff from the 70s. The whole Monty Python oeuvre, Saturday Night Live (in its original incarnation, not now), SCTV, Soap, and so on. All products of an earlier generation. Airplane and films of its ilk all stem from an earlier time.

My point is, this insane world we have today is overripe for lambasting in the most ruthless and brilliantly funny way, but it’s not happening for the young. Why not? Don’t cite Jon Stewart because he again is earlier generation, so are Colbert, Lewis Black and so on.

We need satire. When the old satirists are too enfeebled and alzheimerish to produce any longer, who will take up the slack? I need it. And, judging from the blogs of many of my dear friends, so do you. You people write some awfully brilliant stuff. Let’s get together and start a magazine and show them how it should be done.

Frankly, I am weary of untaxing and offensive smut and vulgarity. If you want to be smutty and vulgar, temper it with a message. Messages are needed.

Thank you. I shall now exit the podium.

I shall also say I am now officially off on vacation and will be hitting the road early tomorrow a.m. However, I am taking my laptop with me, so if I can post, I shall do so. If I cannot, suffice it to say I love you all and will be back soon.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

By golly, it could be a Wonderful World

Since jmb suggested I was, by dint of recent postings, becoming excessively curmudgeonly (I’m not, really. I’m the sweetest, most charming, not to mention stunningly handsome man of my age you could come across; I also have a really tiny ego) I have decided what with this crappy, rainy, Labor Day weekend, I am going to be more upbeat and positive.

And positive I am. For one thing, as all the little wretches are returning to school on Tuesday, I’m heading off on a couple of weeks’ vacation (more about that later) and have completed all my tasks (writing contracts and others) prior to taking off. So, I feel good about life.

By the way, as an aside, how many others feel that little twinge of back-to-school anxiety on this weekend, even though they’ve been away for years or decades? Just wondering if that was just me, or if it was universal.

Back to my positive and upbeat blog. What I am looking at is the fact (not stemming from curmudgeonliness but considering reality) that there are things in this life that maybe we should have, but don’t. For all of our vast technologies, life might be even sweeter, or at least more sensible if we had the following ten things:

1. Thinking aids: Sort of like hearing-aids. A device you could attach to the side of your head during times of mental fatigue, just to give a boost. Less addictive and more healthful than cocaine, your thinking aid could get you through that tough exam or legal interrogation without stress.

2. Mouse flavoured cat food: Vermin wreak untold havoc in granaries and food sources around the world. Cats like to eat mice. I’m amazed that the Tender Vittles folk haven’t considered this one.

3. A gender specific toilet seat: Your bathroom would have a sex detector as you enter and approach the toilet. If you are male, the seat will rise. If you are female, it will stay stationary. Mind you, if you are male and have that old ‘other’ need, I guess you’d have to punch that info in.

4. Lighted toilet bowl: Not to be excessively obsessed with potty functions, but why not have, especially for males, a faint light in the bowl for neat and tidy 3 a.m. functioning?

5. ‘You’re busted!’ ignition function: If we are really serious about eliminating the nightmare of intoxicated drivers and the havoc they cause in the lives of the innocent, and we should be, we should also be prepared to get tough. I think we need a device that not only locks the ignition if a drunk tries to start the vehicle up, it should also strap the guy behind the wheel and immediately alert the police who can bust him on the spot.

6. Bras with Velcro strips instead of hooks: Don’t think this needs to be explained in more detail as to the wherefores and whys.

7. Boredom beater: When trapped in a tiresome and tedious conversation, why suffer? Your boredom beater will emit a continuing blast of white noise that will render the verbal pollution of the tiresome jerk silent. He will flap his gums and you will hear nothing. Don’t worry about not responding, because bores aren’t at all interested in what you have to say, anyway.

8.Star Trek Transporters for real: Love to travel but hate the process? Afraid of terrorists? Dislike sharing an aluminum tube with obnoxious drunks, assholes, crying babies and people with questionable personal freshness? Of course you do. We all do. So, why aren’t our geeks really working to make Transporters a reality? Imagine, you would just go to a place, pay the conventional fee you’d play for a disgusting plane trip, and there you would be in a trice, in Hawaii or Marrakech. Your luggage could be transported at the same time.

9. Income tax lotteries: Everybody hates the taxman, and for good reason. The bastards rob us and put money into causes we don’t necessarily espouse. Consequently, everybody from Leona Helmseley (shudder) to the guy across the street is tempted to cheat. This is galling for the revenuers. Well, the answer is simple. People spend huge sums on lotteries in which they have one chance out of 10 zillion of winning. Why not a tax lottery with good odds in which say the odds were one out of 10,000. The bad guys would still collect their filthy lucre, and the rest of us would have fun playing?

10. Print a big banner headline in every newspaper everywhere that states simply:Life is lethal. Get over it.’ Then there will be no more conflicting articles telling us on a daily basis that everything we’re doing is bad for our health and we should cut it out. Of course ‘everything’ is bad for our health, or we would live forever.

If you have any suggestions of your own, I’d love to hear them.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dream along with me ...

Welcome to my nightmare!

I know that’s not original, so I must acknowledge Alice Cooper. Consider yourself acknowledged, Alice.

But, welcome, nevertheless. I will begin with an apology. Sometimes when people describe their dreams to one, one realizes in short order that the dream is more interesting to the dreamer than it is to the listener. But, here goes, anyway.

I dream quite vividly, and in color. In this, however, I am not going to look at the mundane dreams, but will look at exceptional dreams, more specifically, nightmares. And most specifically, one particular nightmare. But first I want to find out whether others have experienced a slightly different dream phenomenon, and that is one known by various names, but commonly, the ‘waking dream.’

Waking dreams are those that lose the surreal watermarks of conventional dreams, but instead offer a logic and scene so vivid that the dreamer finds it difficult to differentiate the dream from reality.

I have had two or three of those, if I recall, with the most recent being the most noteworthy. Here goes:

It was a few weeks after my second wife and I had split. I had moved to an apartment. I was in a state of considerable distress. I had no desire for the marriage to come to an end, despite the tension-fraught months leading to the split. I thought we could work things out. I still believe we could have if the will had been there. It wasn’t – on her part. It wasn’t until later I realized that I was just another bit-player in her relationship legacy. But, that doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I was highly distressed to have been ejected by a woman I loved deeply, and her daughter, whom I parentally adored. I slept one night. And then, there I was, back at the house we shared. I was there to pick up some clothes that were still in my closet. She let me in, through the garage door (I don’t know why). The house was in semi-darkness. I recall her saying little to me. I passed by the living room and my stepdaughter was sitting and staring into space. She didn’t acknowledge me. To make a long story short, I got my stuff and I split, with a feeling of great depression. All around, indoors and out, was dull and dingy, suiting my mood. And then I was back in my own bed in my dreary little apartment. I was utterly confounded because everything had been so realistic; people, time, place and movement. I could have sworn that it had really happened, and it remains in my mind that it was virtually a real event.
South Sea islanders believe our dreams are real, and they are just another aspect of our lives.

The nightmare I mentioned was one that took place when I was about seven. It’s only notable that after so many years, I still remember it with absolute clarity. I am in the basement, at my father’s workshop. He is labouring away on some power tool or other. He has bought me a dog. A black and white sort of Springer spaniel pup. It’s very cute, and I loved dogs. I am happy they have got me a dog. I go to leave the workshop when the dog’s face assumes a fiendish bearing and it reaches out with some sort of hand-like appendage and grabs my ankle. The dog is under some basement rubbish and is trying to drag me under the rubbish. I am terrified. I call to my father for help, but the machinery noise makes him ignore me. I drag myself to the basement stairs, with the dog still holding me, laboriously move up the stairs and look around the corner. My mother is in the kitchen, chopping vegetables. I cry out to her, but she seems oblivious and ignores me, just as my father had. The dog drags me down the stairs.

At that point, I guess I awakened, in stark terror. Terror enough that my dream scenario still is with me. You could read all sorts of psychological origins into that dream; fear of rejection being the most prominent. Rejection by parents who were rarely demonstrably loving, and therefore never earned my trust. Truly they didn’t, but that’s a whole other story.

OK. So there are my dreams. If you have had any notable dreams or nightmares you’d be willing to share, I’d like to read about them. If you've had the same ones I had, now that wouild be really nightmarish.

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