I guess sometimes there is an excuse to send in the clowns

doo doo da clown

Don’t you just hate it when somebody does something that screws with your prejudicial preconceptions? I know I do.

Case-in-point. I have always hated clowns. I make no apologies for that. When I was a young child I found them to be frightening. Actually, I think I still do. And I also find them irritating and colossally unfunny. I have only made a few exceptions in the clown realm, and they are Emmett Kelly, the classic sad-faced clown, and Krusty, the degenerate swine from The Simpsons who captures my acid view of clowns brilliantly.emmett%20kelly_7

If you are a clown in a parade, please do not approach me. You tap into a level of hostility that I normally reserve for international terrorists or those infuriating Shriners in their stupid scooters that can easily ruin any decent parade.

As I indicate, I make a couple of mild exceptions. And now (damn!) I have to add a third clown to my list of acceptables. That clown is Doo-Doo, AKA Shane Farberman of Toronto, a ‘working’ clown who, when taking a drive through the city with a couple of other clowns in the car (don’t put us on, clown-car, probably 40 or 50 other clowns therein) when he noticed a man terrorizing a couple of women on the street and preparing to attack them. The frightened duo were racing along the pavement to escape their pursuer when Doo-Doo stopped and exhorted them to climb into his vehicle. They hesitated at first (who could blame them; a car fulla clowns or a fiend on the street? Tough call) but then agreed to get in. krusty2

Thus Doo-Doo, to their immense gratitude, saved them from harm and has been highly commended. The man was arrested and was deemed to be under the influence of drugs.

Well, I admire the hell out of this and how many of us would do likewise?

I still think the clown thing is odd, though. I mean, in the case of Doo Doo, that is what he does for a living and that’s valid.

Actually one of the more chilling clown tales I ever read (cannot recall where) involved a man getting into an intimate relationship with a female clown. She would only agree to get horizontal with him provided she could keep her clown face on (he never did see her sans make-up). Since she was very ‘good’ in the sack he complied, and she also had a body to write home about. But the make-up was to stay in place. I cannot recall how the taleevil clown turned out, but the reader was left with the question if he would do likewise. You know, the offer and sex were brilliant, but the makeup stayed. Good question.

OK. That’s me on clowns. And thank you, Doo Doo. You’re a good man.

Despite all the trouble and strife in the world the return of the whales gives us hope


As I grow older and older,

And totter my way to the tomb,

I find that I care less-and-less

Who goes to bed with whom.”

The above is true. Have fun, kids. Even if it is an illicit liaison, it’s better to ‘do it’ than to go to your grave regretting that you didn’t do it.

There are other elements of aging and one of them is the fact that stuff hurts more and more and steps must be taken to rectify decades of neglect. For me, I have taken up going swimming early on Sunday mornings. Truly it does help with my back woes and also because it enables me to interact with people going through the same sort of shit that comes with age. I do hope I am still a bit charming because the rest of it all doesn’t enchant me.moby

And going swimming is the lead-in to the actual subject of this blog – sometimes it’s a circuitous journey to clear my creative throat — which is, whales. Whales are the issue because, apparently, they are back. Brilliant. This is one happenstance in a tortured world that makes me genuinely happy. I like whales very much. In Moby Dick I rooted for the big white behemoth, and screw Ahab. (I might add here that MD is arguably the most boring book ever penned) I would be happy if the Sea Shepherd boys were to blow Japanese whaling craft out of the water. And I think any nation that persists in whaling should be nuked. That’s what I think.

As it was a few centuries of whaling globally had reduced all species of the great cetaceans to mere handfuls in some cases. Others were wiped out altogether. Fortunately assorted moratoria against whaling in recent decades has resulted in a virtual rebirth of some particular species, though there is still a way to go.

I saw my first whale when I was about 17 during a road trip to California with my parents. As one does when traveling Highway 101 through Oregon, we stopped at the noted Sea Lion Caves. Interesting enough, but of much more interest to all the spectators were two sperm whales bobbing up and down in the surf at the entrance to the cave. ahab

Later in life, living on Baynes Sound I spied a few – very few – over the years. They weren’t truly ‘back’ yet. It wasn’t until my ex-wife, step-daughter and I went to Maui in the early 1990s that I saw a lot of humpback whales up close. Saw them and heard their eerie and enchanting song. I also found I could hear the song underwater when I was snorkeling even when the whales were miles away.

Then they all became increasingly ubiquitous. Whales all ovah da place. I just love it. When Wendy and I went to Alaska in October we went on a whale watching jaunt. We saw over 40 of the behemoths, including a breaching one. Other than the other kind of orgasm, that’s a pretty orgasmic experience.

Welcome back big guys.

What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger — right?


This just in! Bacon is once again bad for us. In so saying I am put in mind of my good friend Debra who is a bacon fanatic extraordinaire. I also mention it because bacon was once considered sort of OK, but now it (along with assorted other processed meats, take that Oscar Mayer!) is said to cause cancer. Word to the wise to medical researchers, life causes cancer. butter_webcrop

But, this time it’s bacon – virtually everybody’s favorite brekky confection. If bacon is bearing the brunt of this opprobrium you can be sure that wieners, salami, bologna and everything else in meat-time fun is lumped into the mix.

The cliche medical motto is “Do no harm.” How is proscribing everything that people love a matter of doing no harm? It’s harming pleasure centres.

I am not a fanatic bacon muncher. We often have it for Sunday breakfast and if we are traveling and eating breakfast in a restaurant I always have it. And the BLT is among the prince of sandwiches to me. I once had a ‘bacon butty’ in a greasy-spoon in the north of England. And ‘greasy’ was the apt word in this case. The bread was soggy from bacon fat. It was delicious and likely knocked seven years off my life span.doctors-smoke-camels1

Anyway, I like it and like all good things I consume it in moderation, though I confess to having favorite brands of this processed piggy.

But, you know it’s like other things. The research wizards say something is bad, and then they say it’s good, and then they indict it once again. You just cannot win. So, carry on carrying on, I say, because next month the rules will change. I mean, if you have a long enough memory, you’ll recall how doctors once gave glowing testimonials in magazine ads for certain brands of cigarettes. Well, now it seems they want to categorize bacon with butts.

Coffee used to be bad for us, and then recently they found it has a positive role as a senile dementia preventive.

Butter was evil and we were exhorted to switch to margarine. I never did. I hate margarine, or as Sheldon once opined on Big Bang Theory about a certain toast spread — “I can easily believe this is not butter.” Now of course Marge has come under the gun (Yes!) as being chock-a-block with transfats. Woo-hoo, butter is off the hook and in the US, eateries have been exhorted to switch to butter.

Will they turn around on bacon? I have no idea. But I am not going to lose much sleep over the indictment. Some things, after all, are sacred. Right, Debra?

I’m not a philosopher, just a fellow living his life as best he can


While 2015 has had its up-and-down moments; my particular annus horribilis was 1996. It was wretched from beginning to end, this past year has been wretched in bits – like when Max left us.gn

Lost loves are meant to stay that way. There is a reason they are lost.

If there were a single word essence to my philosophy it would be ‘forgiveness.’

In one of her drunken rambles my mother once said in reference to two of her sons (both of whom were present): “You were always the smart one and Colin was the good looking one. Thus damning us both. Forgiveness still comes hard for this one. Maybe someday.

I love my brother, Colin, dearly. And he me. We both cherish that and need it. Mom did not sour that relationship though I think she wanted to. For whatever reason.

Ants are intriguing
. They ‘speak’ to one another. There are more of them than there are of us. They are likely more important.DSCN2312

Because I was ‘too talkative’
in my third grade class the teacher banished me to sit on the ‘girls’ side of the room I was in heaven. I suspect that was where it all began.

Maybe I was a class clown, but never thought of myself as such. But I was funny. I know that now.

A kid in junior high once asked me how I knew a particular fact. I said I had read it. “Is that all you do is read?” he asked disdainfully. He became a plumber. He probably made more money than I ever did.

The stupidest waste of a year of my life came when I, after I got my degree, decided to take secondary teacher training. It was all inane. You either are a teacher or not, and no half-baked pedant can teach you to be one. I was a natural teacher, though I didn’t stick it out. I hated the politics.DSCN1333

Good reporters follow the wisdom of the old guys. Read some H.L. Mencken and Ernie Pyle and you don’t need much more.

In loving ‘more’ is not necessarily ‘better.’

Every man should someday meet with a femme fatale. You learn from that – if you survive. I survived, after a fashion, though I’m not sure I entirely recovered.

Drug addicts have found their ‘happy place’, but it is a brief one punctuated by depravity, dishonesty and despair.

I believe in God but I don’t need somebody in a white backwards collar to interpret God for me. I don’t go to church and have no yen to. I do love the great cathedrals of Europe, however.

A friend went on three spiritual pilgrimages to India in vain attempt to find his true spirituality. Eventually he found it was inside himself all the time and he could have saved the airfare.

likes to sell itself as a ‘world-class city.’ It is nothing of the sort. True world-class cities (and there are others) that I have spent time in include London, San Francisco, Montreal, and Dublin. Dublin may seem like a bit of a backwater, but there is more history and soul (albeit often misguided) on a single block of O’Connell Street than in the whole of Vancouver.

The best Chinese restaurant
I ever visited was in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

I got Griffin, my cat, at the beginning of 1997. He got old and spare of shank, and left us at the age of 20.

I rarely cry. I mist, but rarely cry. But I did in early 1997. Great racking sobs that lasted hours. I think it was needed. That was amended, however, when Max left. Just mentioning his name brought tears to my eyes. The passing of my parents was easiere to take.

Love may keep us together, but money seems to be a vital part of the equation, too.

I’ve had many crushes in my life. I always remember them, and sometimes they have lasted down the years. They must never be realized. That destroys the mythology.

Paris is burning yet again and we all should weep


When we spent a few weeks in the lovely and historic French city of Grenoble in 2006 our hotel was situated right next to the so-called ‘Arab Quarter’ of the ville.

And something that became apparent to us in relatively short-order is that people who originated in Algeria, Morocco, or even the Cote d’Ivoire, Islamic folk regardless of their ethnicity, were generally friendlier and more gracious than the French. Followers of Allah make comprise about 10% of the population of France, so not an entity to be disregarded.DSCN0743

Not that the French were all ungracious. I don’t like that sort of generalization. It’s a beautiful country with an amazing cultural history but we did not find we were welcomed with open arms particularly, nor were many pains given to accommodate anglophone us, no matter how much we tried with the language, and we did try, believe me. But I am saying our experience with the Arabic population was more positive than it was with people who did not seem to care much about our well-being. Once, for example some items – relatively trivial items – were pilfered from our room. It was obvious that the culprit had to be the chambermaid. We complained at the front desk, and all we got was the old Gallic shrug. Kind of the Gallic version of “shit happens.”

This is not a diatribe to indict the French, especially in light of recent events. It is only to point out that we did not find the Islamic element to be a negative one. Au contraire, as they say in them there parts. I know this offering is simplistic and experiential, but I cannot wonder that if we, as visitors were not treated as warmly as we might have been, how the Arabic element of that society is treated.

None of this is to excuse the atrocious events of the past few days. Events that cost the lives of many innocent people in the name of – what? Also, and it distresses me to note, that it was a circumstance that evoked some of the most biased and unfair impulses of certain people in the social media. Indeed, I saw bigoted comments that repelled me and for the first time ever caused me to dump my connectedness with a couple of contacts. They evinced attitudes that I found bigoted, unfair, and just fucking dumb. In my opinion.

Isis, it is believed, is inspired by hatred of the West. And hatred can be a powerful motivator and is as old as history. Horrid and wretched such impulses are and we have seen it elsewhere, too. The worst thing to do is confuse fanatic attitudes with a belief system that is globally huge and ain’t gonna go away.

We must learn to live with those who don’t subscribe to our values, whatever those values might be. The French have been living with that 10 percent of its population for decades and they haven’t always been successful, but we can assume the 10 percent is as horrified by what happened days ago as are the Gallic French and all the rest of the world.

I keep on with this fool’s game only because it’s what I do


One of the most distressing comments ever made to me was uttered by my second wife when we were on the verge of calling it a matrimonial day (not at all a good time), when she said: “I often had the impression that you thought I always had one foot out the door in our relationship. You’d be right about that.”

So yes, I have intervals of insecurity. Those intervals include most of my sentient hours, and some even sneak in when I am sleeping and awaken me fraught with anxiety.

Anyway, that incident was long ago and far away and I got past it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still harbor insecurities. One of my biggest revolves around what I do, which is write – just like I am doing right now. My biggest insecurity in this regard is that I have lost my mojo; that I no longer do it as well as I at least thought I did in the past. A huge mistake for me is to look at earlier writings in my collection of blogs. An even huger, gargantuan mistake is to look at my former published writings – you know when people actually paid me for this shit.frustrated-writer-2

And as I ponder columns and op-ed pieces freelanced to assorted publications everywhere from London to Vancouver and Victoria, I wonder if I could still rise to that occasion. Rising to an occasion of any type becomes a distressing thing with age, and writerly occasion rising is just as threatening to the ego as is failure in that other realm that I semi-smuttily alluded to, if you caught my drift.

What I am saying is that some of my age-old stuff was quite good. Good enough to actually earn me a few awards and also to give me a pay-cheque on a regular basis.

So if writing distresses me and makes me insecure, why do I persist in doing it. The answer is simple and complex at the same time, but mainly it’s because writing is what I ‘do’. I have no choice in the matter. Like eating meals or going to the toilet, I also have to write. It saddens me that visiting the potty is sometimes more productive.

Of course part of my inspiration for writing stems from the fact I read. And I read good writers. And in so doing I only increase my insecurity. Douglas Adams and Bill Bryson piss me off because they are (were, in the case of Adams) so blessedly accomplished, and so droll, and so inspiring and so frustrating. Even if I go for a detective yarn I am inclined in the direction of the likes of PD James. Even in her late 80s she was turning out prose that was sans pareil and too erudite for the crime genre in which she wrote.

Anyway, this puppy is going to be posted as a blog. Hope y’all read it and maybe even like it. I am always open to compliments. And I will try not to think about the two manuscripts that sit with a couple of publishers about which I have heard nothing for months and months and months and months.

Take a few minutes out from your busy day


This is a repeat of an item I run every year at Remembrance Day. It, to me, captures what it means.

Near Great Yarmouth in the English County of Norfolk, a few miles along the Beccles Road there is a placid little lake known as Fritton Decoy (pictured above and so called because of a mean-spirited little ruse of olden times that used to involve luring wild ducks into large nets in a rather unsporting manner). It lies a few miles from where I lived in England in 1980-81, and I was given to driving up there just to walk through the placid lakeshore park.

Included at the park-site was an impressive little war museum. One exhibit that struck me was the wreckage of a USAAF Thunderbolt fighter plane. One sunny day back in 1944 this craft and a sister Thunderbolt were taking off to do bomber escort duty over the North Sea. Somebody miscalculated and the two planes collided and plummeted into the lake. It was only years later they were pulled out of its deep, cold waters. Along with the aircraft also came the remains of the two young pilots whose brief lives had ended abruptly that bright springtime morning.

There was poignancy about the whole thing that struck me profoundly and I wrote a long piece about it for Remembrance Day one year. I think it was one of the better things I’ve ever written, primarily because I was so moved by the whole thing. Unfortunately, I’d have to sift through boxes of old stuff to find it, or I’d offer a reprint.

Aside from the tragic loss of two lives, I was left with the thought that I have never been called upon to do such a thing as take up arms in anger for the sake of my country.

This doesn’t make me feel guilty, but it does leave me feeling immensely grateful both that I was spared but that there were others who had, and continue to make those sacrifices.

Tomorrow, November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, and Veterans Day in the US, and I cannot help but be struck by the magnitude and horrors of the lives of those who did serve – and continue to serve. Essentially I am an avowed pacifist with Quakerish tendencies, yet maybe there were times when such dreadful jobs needed to be carried out. I have known many veterans of many conflicts, and most are fine and decent men (and women), but at a certain level I know I cannot relate.

Almost exactly two years ago I was sitting in a train travelling rapidly from Lille, France to Brussels. It was a wondrously bright late morning. The flat fields were all that pastoral should be, with cows and sheep and hedgerows, punctuated by small deciduous copses. It was all terribly nice.

And then a thought hit me like a thunderclap to a degree that I almost gasped aloud in my seat on that sleek French train. This place that I was passing through was the ‘Western Front’ of World War One. This serene scene was the muddy and filthy, rat, excreta and corpse-strewn trenches in which literally thousands of young men from many nations lost their lives for the sake of preserving the wealth and privilege of a handful of bankrupt and disgusting little monarchies and aristocracies. This was the neighborhood of Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge, and not too far from the Somme and the Marne and Ypres.

Many years earlier I was idly looking in shop windows on a street in Amsterdam. In one shop there was a display of vintage photographs. A particular photo struck me, as it was a scene out the window of this same shop, looking into the street I was passing along. The only difference was the old picture was dated 1940, and the bustling street of trolleycars, vehicles and bicycles was instead populated by jackbooted Nazi stormtroopers.

Later on that same day we went to the Anne Frank House, No more needs to be said about that visit.

The madness of the world continues, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or the Congo Republic and politics remain as hideous as they always were, but please spare a thought tomorrow for those who, for whatever reasons, patriotism, guilt, need for adventure, were (and are) there. Spare, however, fewer good thoughts for those that sent them. They don’t deserve it, in my esteem.

God of our fathers, known of old–

Lord of our far-flung battle line

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine–

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!
– R. Kipling, Recessional