I do hope you will be proud to say: “I knew him when he was still a nobody. Cool, but a nobody”

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There is a book manuscript out there sitting with a publisher and the MS has my name on it. They emailed me and told me they had it – many months ago– and I have heard nothing since.

That may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing. And, I gather from writerly friends that such inaction is kind of the norm. So I’ll live with it and see what happens.

And, forever resolute, I have another manuscript that I am about to send off today. And I’ll see if I hear about that one – or not. Once that one has gone I only have two to go as I lay myself bare to the fates and whims of the gods.

And so it goes. But I am going to be positive about it all and I am going to fantasize that they love the MS as much as I do, and as I have shown through my dogged editings of the sort, again known to writers, as a powerful means of procrastination. If you are editing you are doing something productive and you are also avoiding laying your soul raw to the whims of some publisher.

But let us conjecture that in the best of all possible worlds, they love it and want to publish it. I mean, other people get published – people get utter shit published, so why not me? Not that my manuscript is utter shit; it’s brilliant.george-orwell

So, they publish me (in my fantasy), what will that bring me? Here is what I conjecture the fallout should be.

– Fame: I will be written up in the press and will be interviewed by the media, both print and electronic. You’ll see me time and again on local news broadcasts to the excessive degree that you will be prompted to ask: “Is that asshole on again?”

Wider Fame: When I take time out from my book signing chores I will likely be invited onto the talk show circuit. I am only sorry that Dave retired but perhaps they could bring him back for a one-off, just to boost me and my book. CBC will, of course, be a natural and I can be as pretentious and pseudo-intellectual with the rest of them, as seems to be their wont with a lot of author guests. The rest of the time I will be wined and dined by notables and invited to chi-chi cocktail parties in the Big Apple and in Mayfair. A presentation to the Queen may be a bit much to ask for, but you never know.

Groupies: Rock stars get groupies so why shouldn’t I get intellectual and soulful sweet young things throwing themselves at me and making offers of favors that can only make me ask myself, why didn’t I get into this racket when I was younger, unmarried and maybe a teeny bit more studly?

Icon status: The idolatry accorded certain authors is much deserved. It’s a hard job of work writing a book and I am always prepared to accord favorite writers whatever kudos I can. I am only sorry that Douglas Adams has passed from the scene for I know I would kiss his ring finger if I could.

Hanging out with the Big Guys: Once I am a respected author I can wander over to Bill Bryson’s house, have a coffee with him and the two of us can ruminate on the wonderfulness we have brought to the world of readers.

– Get back at all who doubted me: I can turn to all those former teachers and academics and say: “In yer face. I’m a famous writer and you’re not. Nyah!”

If you love the ocean you will clean up after yourself just like Mom said

DSCN0586Surrounding the island of Rarotonga well off in the tropical South Pacific is a crystalline lagoon called Muri. Muri Lagoon is what you have always dreamed such a lagoon should be — clear, warm, and pulsating with finned creatures the colors of the rainbow and more; angel fish, Moorish idols, wrasses, trevallies, puffer fish, cornet fish, parrot fish, the odd ray, and even sharks and barracudas in the darker depths. The decor is punctuated by corals of again magnificent hues. It’s heavenly.

On the far side of Muri is a network of tiny islands — known as ‘motus’, in Maori — and they look like everybody’s image of the tiny tropical desert island: white sand beaches surrounding a dense jungle of palms, hibiscus, frangipani and hundreds of other tropical plants.aerial-muri-lagoon

We took little kayaks over to one of them on a particular day. When we disembarked we stood on the beach and practically orgasmed over the absolute stunning beauty of it all. How could it get better than this? We knew not how.

Since the motu wasn’t so very large, we decided to walk right around it. We pulled the kayaks well up the beach towards the jungle so the tide wouldn’t catch them. We then beat a hasty retreat back towards the water, since the mosquitoes were attacking us in droves — hey, even paradise can have a downside, like dengue fever and malaria, and we weren’t about to take chances. Anyway, back closer to the water, the ‘mozzies’ were no problem. We set off on our trek.

On the Muri side the water was still and serene, but as we rounded the bend we could hear the ever-increasing roar of the open Pacific. The Pacific is hardly ‘pacific’. It roars. It sounds like a 747 taking off. Energy spawned by thousands of miles of water finally finding a point of land tends to lead to a thundering presence that is mind-boggling. You could not sleep on such a beach, so great is the magnificent crashing of the waves.garbage

We wandered along in sheer delight, but then I noticed there was a downside in being on this open ocean side. The ocean is not clean. All along the beach there was garbage, the effluvia of humanity. I don’t shock easily, but I was shocked, nevertheless. How could this be? The Pacific is so massive. Hawaii is five hours flying time to the north, and the mainland of North America five hours more. French Polynesia is a few hundred miles to the east, but it’s pretty small geography-wise, so it couldn’t produce much. Australia and New Zealand are a few hours to the south and west.

I looked at the crap — cartons, bottles, disposable cigarette lighters (lots of disposable cigarette lighters), even tampon injectors. Those that had discernible labels had writings from around the globe, Asian languages, English, French, German, Russian, Polish. And, even more distressing, fish nets. Tangled and ugly fishnets. We were in heaven on earth and were also up to our ankles in the shit of earth. And, I could only conclude that this shit is all coming from ships. Our waterborne transport believes it has the right to jettison it’s crap into this exquisite and huge ocean. Problem is, even it ain’t large enough to handle our ‘disposables.’

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary concerning an expedition made to the northwest Hawaiian Islands by a Cousteau group. And there, on Midway, Laysan, Hermes Reef and French Frigate Shoals, it was the same old shit. We, with impunity, fill the ocean was stuff that is not only unsightly, but a huge risk to wildlife. The beautiful green, sweet and benevolent sea turtles, with eyes too sweet to ever be in the head of a reptile, think that plastic bags are jellyfish — a mainstay of turtle diet. Plastic bags aren’t jelly fish. Turtles eat them and either choke to death, or tie up their guts. Makes you want to weep, those of you who have ever swum with turtles.

Wayward fishnets, meanwhile, snare dolphins and turtles, and even whales, since the hideous craft that deep net fish (often illegally) will cut off the nets rather than risk arrest. If that isn’t their fear, they will also cut them off if they get snarled.

I don’t write this is a rabid environmentalist, and I do get tired of those who would politicize that which should just be common sense among the less than brain-dead, but goddamn, when I see the disrespect we have for a huge body of water, and the way in which we violate it, I am saddened and can only conclude we deserve whatever is coming our way.

Don’t have an organics orgasm unless that’s what rings your bell

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You see it in your supermarket produce section. Yours eyes light on wilty looking swiss chard, and wizened raspberries that cost twice as much as the regular offerings elsewhere in that department and you know that you are perusing ‘organic’ items.

Yes, it does cost more and looks rather tawdry but, my heavens, it’s organic and such purchases are much like praying as they just might put you nearer to the godhead and your conscience will be cleansed because you are not buying into the vileness of corporate ‘Amurka’, or Canada for that matter, since these days it’s difficult to tell the difference.chard

Now, despite your suspicions, I am not about to go all cynical and curmudgeonly and with a sense of superiority, inform you that the whole organic thing is a ruse and that it’s basically a bullshit rip-off – well, I am not going to entirely say that in the sense I respect your right to waste your money as you choose. On the other hand, there are considerations to be reckoned with.

We tend to think that organic food is more environmentally cuddly, and in one sense it is and that is because it doesn’t contaminate with pesticides, chemicals and other evil stuff. But the downside is that it doesn’t grow as productively as more conventionally grown veggies and hence demands about twice as much land for the same harvestable crop.

As far as being more nutritious, there are no studies that confirm that your organic corn is better for you than Monsanto-tainted GMO stuff, but chacun a son mythology. If eating inferior sized and expensive ears makes you feel better about yourself, then fill your boots.cfia-canada-organic-logo-24

Does it taste better? Well, shelf-life is shelf-life and it’s all a matter of buying what is good in season. Organic will taste much like inorganic, there’ll just be a bit less of it for your buck. If the organic comes from elsewhere it’ll be just as travel-weary as any other product.

Some believe it is cleaner and perhaps you needn’t wash it. Not so fast. It may not contain directly applied pesticides and herbicides but you have no way of knowing what is in the runoff water draining into those untainted fields.

You might think you are supporting small farmers. Think again, the big corporate cereal companies push a lot of so-called organic brands like Cascadian Farms for General Mills and Back to Nature, owned by Kraft – the same people who make that yucky agent orange Mac and Cheese.

If you are making purchases from local farms for products that are labeled ‘organic’ you can be sure it’s the real thing as the rules for such labeling are very stringent. But, for commercial products it’s a bit different. Products labeled organic must consist of 95% organcially produced ingredients, but those that tell you they are “made with organic ingredients” only need to be 70% pure in that regard.

Eat healthy, folks, but as the old adage states Caveat Emptor.

If we know nothing else we do know the simple truism that holds that everything must end

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I am rarely completely faithful with any television series. I’ll like something for a while and then grow weary of the characters and their shenanigans and move on to something else.

I watched Downton Abbey for its first seasons and enjoyed it well enough. They production values were good and the acting excellent and the story lines, at least up through the First World War tended to, if not rivet the viewer, at least interest.

But, this year I had had enough. I watched the first episode and DVR’d the rest. I realized with that first one I was nearly bored to insensitivity. It came to me that I didn’t give a damn about a bunch of heedless toffs or their toadying underlings downstairs. So I think I’ll probably scrap the unwatched episodes and won’t feel bad about doing so.madmen

The other series I watched (almost) in its entirety, was Lost. With that one we come to the crux of this discussion – finales – last episodes – how do the people who make these vehicles pull it all together and leave you feeling satisfied. In fact, they don’t. The final episode of Lost, frankly, sucked. Much as did the final episodes of other beloved long-living series like MASH, Seinfeld, or Friends. To bring a vehicle to an agreeable, non-cliche conclusion seems to be beyond TV creative ‘geniuses’ and that is irksome, and it brings me to today’s topic. Mad Men.

I can say with no equivocation that I watched every single episode of the series that concluded this past Sunday. For seven long years I followed the trials, tribulations, boozing marathons, chain-smoking and fuckaramas of Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete, Peggy, bountiful Joan and the rest and didn’t miss one of them.Coca-Cola-Bio-Cooler-4

And then we came to the grand conclusion. How were they going to pull all of that together and leave people satisfied? Well, I guess they couldn’t. Or, at least they didn’t leave this faithful viewer satisfied. Mainly what they left me was confused.

At the final scene our beloved rogue Don is at a hippie retreat in N. California, obviously modelled after the Esalen Institute. He is at one with all the meditators as they sit on a bluff at an exquisite hillside overlooking the Pacific and in unison uttering their “omm”. What, Don Draper doing this? Or so it seems. He had just completed a Kerouac-style trans-continental journey that saw him shuck all his worldly possessions after having walked from his job. Ultimately he ends up in LA, ravaged with alcoholism and shitfaced drunk at the home of his hippie female friend from a few seasons ago. He’s a mess. Long story short, she takes him to the retreat – where they got the money there is no indication – and he gets his head together.martooni

So, you think he has maybe shucked the Madison Avenue bullshit? Maybe, or maybe not. It’s left to you. Right after the Omm moment that image passes to one of the most famous ads of all time – Coke’s “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing”, and Coke is Don’t account.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. Is he saved or is he going to continue being the same callow bastard he was all along.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the gang – Roger Sterling (whom I grew to like more and more) ends up with Don’s ex mother-in-law and seems very content with this ‘older’ woman. Peggy links up with her creative partner; lovely Joan starts a brilliant business of her own, and a slightly redeemed Pete gets back with his ex and we are to assume they all live happily ever after – or not. The one who seems to end up on the poopy end of the stick is Don’s ex, Betty, who is dying of lung cancer. Hardly seems fair somehow. And if she’s dying of cancer, why isn’t Don dying of cirrhosis?

Some found Mad Men a little too dark to be an entertainment. Some had such a visceral loathing for the Don Drapers of the world, they chose to watch something less dispiriting in lieu. I get that.

But, for me, having been a young man during that era, I got it – and at two levels. I got the lifestyle, and feel blessed in having gotten out of it alive. And even though I was never in advertising, I was closely associated with it in all my newspaper work, and was once even married to somebody in the racket. It, to an outsider, is a challenging and often soul-destroying calling – just like on Mad Men. Therefore in their striving, and sometimes in their excesses, I can give them a nod of understanding, if not approval.

This will likely be the most awesome thing you have ever read — or at least have read today

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So, I got myself out of bed this morning, went for a pee, turned on the coffee, had a good jolting cup of dark roast, made a soft-boiled egg for breakfast and had some toast with it.”

Awesome!”

Then, once finished I went and took a nice hot shower. The water was soothing and pleasant and I hummed a solo from Parsifal whilst I tended to my ablutions.

Awesome!”

You will be familiar with this, in which virtually every statement or happenstance in life is responded to, far-far too frequently with a word that was henceforth reserved to the most astonishing events imaginable.

Awesome in its true context refers to something breathtaking, staggering, pee-in-your-panties stunning, a first glimpse of the Taj Mahal amazing, a peer over the precipice of the Grand Canyon riveting. youre-awesome

It does not need to be applied to your neighbors’ new Hyndai, or his new girlfriend for that matter even if she is constructed like Christina Hendricks on Mad Men. You don’t have a fine meal that is awesome, it might be tasty, it might be delicious, it might be the best grub you have ever scarfed, but unless, in tasting that first morsel, you heard heavenly choirs and the voice of God, it was not fucking ‘Awesome!’ OK? So stop using that term when you are applying it to the prosaic happenings of life.

Nothing wrong with nice, swell, dandy, tickety-boo, great and so forth.

This is not to say I am arrogantly suggesting that awesome must never be used, but save it for the good stuff. You know, it’s a bit like the cheapening of the word ‘fuck’ in recent years. Both should be reserved for the good stuff.

Have I had experiences I would describe as awesome in that they evoked a sense of personal awe? I have indeed. Some of them were:

– Seeing the Roman Colosseum floodlit at the end of a dark street at twilight.

– The Na Pali coast on the north side of Kauai

– happening upon a rehearsal of the King’s College Choir in Cambridge

– watching the voracious crocodiles in Costa Rica

– Muri Lagoon in Rarotonga

-the Schoenbrun Palace in Vienna

-Michelangelo’s David in Florence

– Flying over the Comox Glacier in a T-Bird jet

Those are some of my visits with awesomeness. Otherwise it’s just a matter of degree and if we continue to overuse a word it loses its impactful value.

Do I love myself — yet? Well, I don’t want to go too far with the issue

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Do you like yourself?

More importantly, do you love yourself?

No, I don’t mean ‘that way’ love yourself. That’s your business, I mean, as a human being, would you like to have ‘you’ as a friend to rely on and whose company you would enjoy?

I get torn about the matter.

I have known myself since the moment I began being myself, yet sometimes I am not sure if I like myself.

Yet, like Whitman do “I celebrate myself and sing myself”? Well, I do sing myself in the shower sometimes if I am in the mood. But I cannot honestly say that I am a narcissist and that vexes me a little. In all seriousness I wish I loved myself more.

It’s not really about lack of self-confidence or egocentricity but about being comfortable in my own being. I have loved a number of people in my life, both platonic and emotional love with my own sex (I am straight) and sexual and emotional love with the opposite sex. And I have been loved back and I cherish all such loves.

And I love deeply when I do love and I don’t go out of love when, in a couple of cases, legal dissolution demanded that I do. Sorry, dears, I still love you. And there are others, who will not be listed, whom I have loved and still love.

I am not secure enough in myself to have not had moments of neediness and codependency, despite how much I fight the impulse to be so. At such times I am all “Fuck you! You have no right to make me feel this way.” Missing the point that ‘I am making me feel that way, nobody else is.’ T’was ever thus.

I have a few other facets of me that I am, quite frankly, just plain tired of. They have hung around too long. Anxiety is a big one. What am I anxious about? Nothing to the degree that it has kept me from exploring many adventures in my life – some of them even less than healthy ones, yet I don’t regret having made the explorations.

Regret is another one I am tired of. I don’t think I have done anything truly terrible to anybody, but I did do some things to people near to me that I had no right to do. I have made my amends to those people, but that is a false exercise in a way. I’ll slather on? anodyne homilies and bits of niceness and my motivation is, of course, “now that I’ve done that, will you love me again?” So, you see even in making an amend there is a hidden selfishness and an agenda.

Hey, I laid my fucking soul bare? What else do you want?”

For you to have not done that thing in the first place.”

Hmm. That’s are hard one to get around.

So, there are still flaws left within me but most of them I can live with, even if they irk me, and I also no longer need to obliviate myself with substances and tawdry sex. I only like classy sex and take no stuff stronger than coffee or tea.

Journal of bygone plague years that nobody should wish to revisit

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I had the usual childhood visitations of chickenpox and measles, and a few colds and bouts of the flu, but nothing very much laid me low for very long. In that I was fortunate because some kids who got seriously ill in the 1950s didn’t even make it out of that decade. It was also a time in which they yanked everything that was considered a threat. I was almost resentful that my tonsils hadn’t been extricated since almost every kid I went to school with seemed to have been through that little surgical trauma. A tonsilectomy wasn’t quite as cool as a broken arm — no cast to sign — but it was certainly a sort of mini-martyrdom that appealed to kids.

“Yeah — I did the tonsil thing. It was brutal. Blood everywhere, but I didn’t cry.

“Wow!”

I was a bit resentful of my middle brother who came down with the mumps. When he got them, my mother followed the protocol of the day by exposing my youngest brother and me to him during his contagious stage in hopes that we would get them too — in childhood, to avoid a later visitation of testiculus giganticus in adulthood. It didn’t work. I resented that. If you remain well, then you must go to school

There were, of course, more severe illnesses at the time. There were such things as rheumatic fever, and I knew one kid who had to take a year off school because of that, and he was left with a weakened heart and could play no sports. I thought it was kind of neat that he got to cop out of PE, which was a fond dream of mine. On the other hand, I didn’t fully appreciate all the ramifications of a permanently compromised cardiac function.

By that point in history there were antibiotics, and that was a blessing. Without penicillin and other ‘confections’ the postwar kid population would have been smaller, no doubt. Yet, while such drugs existed, they were used sparingly, unlike today when so-called ‘superbugs’ have been rendered immune themselves due to overuse and abuse of prescribed meds. Indeed, I don’t think I ever had a prescribed antibiotic until I was an adult, at which time a doctor doing the prescribing asked me if I was allergic to penicillin. “I haven’t got a clue,” I replied. “I don’t think I’ve ever had it.”

As drugs were used sparingly, attitudes in my childhood were mighty casual about disinfecting anything a kid came in contact with. Bacteria were not a particular taboo, and I only remember being chastised when I was very little for two ideas that seemed like good ones at the time: eating dirt (I don’t know why), and attempting to drink out of a puddle in the driveway. I’d seen the cat do it, and it hadn’t hurt the cat.

Otherwise, we came in contact with a lot of dirt, crud and filth, and didn’t even wash our hands all that often. Therefore, I submit that my generation developed immune systems that were pretty close to those possessed by the strong ones who survive in the back-streets of Calcutta.

The specter of one particular illness filled every parent and kid with dread, and had a powerful impact in that less-sensitive time: polio. Most children in the 1950s knew at least one other kid who had been struck with the illness that chilled parents to the bone every time their offspring even got the sniffles in the summertime.
Summertime was polio-time since the hideous illness spread with warm weather, and public recreational spots – like beaches and swimming pools – were deemed to be the places where infantile paralysis beasties swarmed. Those concerns were somewhat valid, though not entirely.

So, we went to school with kids who had leg-braces, and withered arms, or were wheelchair bound, and we’d all heard the tales of even less fortunate contemporaries who had ended up in ghastly iron-lungs. In fact, the iron-lung thing was sometimes used as a threat if we, as kids, thought we might be able to sneak off to the beach.

“Do you want to end up in an iron-lung? What’s wrong with you, for heaven’s sake?”

“But-but-it’s summer. It’s the beach.”

“Go outside and play with your little brother and don’t let me hear any more about the beach.”

For personal, and for more far-reaching reasons there is much truth to the understanding that an entire generation of parents and kids would have gratefully kissed the ground upon which the good Doctors Salk and Sabin walked were they given the chance. Via their research skills a postwar nightmare was brought to an end.