Frustrating as hell but it is my reality so I have to learn to suck it up

strokeIt has now been more than a year since I went off kilter.

I don’t mean I’ve gone wacky. That was already an established fact and I am proud of my wackiness. It keeps me sane, if that makes any sense.

No, I went off kilter physically in that my physical balance has been compromised. In other words, if I am not careful I will faw down and go boom. And I have done that a couple of times.

I am making a bit light of this because there is nothing much else I can do unless I want to sink into a major depressive funk. I have been through every test known to medical science. I have had an MRI, a CT-scan, an hour long session to assess my inner ear, a bit of blood-letting and the only thing I have avoided is leeches. I’ve been to my regular GP as well as specialists. I have had physio, I had a two month, twice a week balance training regimen with wonderful and knowledgeable trainer Jill Nelson. I mean, I can be a lazy bastard but the fact I have done all this stuff indicates how distressing this has been for me.

Ironically, I didn’t really notice anything was amiss at first. It was Wendy who noticed. We had been for a walk with dear Max in the Northeast Woods. As we got back to the car she noted: “Do you realize you are dragging your left foot slightly when we walk, especially on a long walk.” In truth, I hadn’t really noticed. The thing I had noticed, however, is that I didn’t swing my arms when I walked. Weird. When I would think about it, I’d get confused as to which one was meant to swing. And the more I thought about it, the more confusing it became.

Shortly after that I did my face plant. Straight forward and wham onto the kitchen floor. Off to emergency. Nose bloody but not broken, thank God. I do like to stay as pretty as I can. But it was then that I realized I had to concentrate on my balance or I can lose my centre of gravity in a trice. Fortunately, I have gotten pretty good with balance. I just have to concentrate and pay attention.

The root cause of my woes, as far as they can deduce, was the minor stroke I had in 2008. At the time there were no residual aftereffects. But the MRI indicated I had had some minor brain bleeds later and that is what they attribute my balance woes to. According to trainer Jill my job is to map out new pathways in my brain. Something that takes time and calls for much patience. She exhorted me to stay confident that it will happen. I have noticed that I now swing my arms when I walk and it’s quite natural to do once again. Small steps, but steps nevertheless.

I do hope it’s all working and I keep telling myself it could be worse. My problem is I love walking, and even hiking. I want it back and I don’t want to faw down no more.

Why I detest Donald Trump in 410 words

fucking trumpDon’t get me wrong here. I don’t loathe Donald Trump because he’s right wing. I have had a number of arch-conservative friends and while I don’t share their politics, I did not dislike them. So, that’s not it.

I don’t loathe him because he is a Republican. All my US relatives were good Republicans and I loved them dearly. They were GOP-ers of the Eisenhower and Reagan ilk. So, that’s not it. And furthermore, Trump is the farthest thing from a conventional Republican as any human could be.

To define my antagonism and fear of the reptilian man, let my say I loathe him because he is a lewd, crude, boorish and hideous excuse for humanity and how dare he run for the office he is running for. Nobody in prior history has come close to Trump in turdishness. Compared to Trump Al Capone was a class act.

In years past I never watched his hideous TV show. Even then I found him bullying and boorish and fucking plain mean. Like that repulsive kid in 9th grade (about his level of social maturity) Trump is instinctively capable of spotting a weakness in another and exploiting it to his own worth. Most 9th graders grow out of such behavior. Trump hasn’t. All of this leads me to suspect that he is a narcissistic sociopath and that possibility is frightening.

My rant here is not especially political in a conventional sense. Were I to live in the US I’d be gobsmacked with dismay thinking that Trump and Hillary were the best they could trot out. And be honest, if it weren’t for the existence of Trump Hillary likely wouldn’t have got the nod for her party. But with a prick like Trump on the other side they certainly weren’t going to send poor honorable Bernie into that rumble. You don’t send a knife to a gunfight, and with Trump it’d be a gunfight. So, you send in another street-fighter and have no delusions about Hillary, she can be dirty as needed. In that sense I am left with a wee bit of hope.

But, for Christ’s sake, are those two the best America can do? How terribly sad. Almost makes you long for the glory days of George Dubbya. At least the bozo was kind of a gent.

And, of course, Obama is a true gent, and in reaction to those 8 years we are left with the dregs of the system.

Let’s put those ubiquitous ‘sin-taxes’ to good use

alcohol-and-cigarettesOnce upon a time it was waggishly referred to as a “sin-tax”.

The sin-tax was the bite governments took in granting companies official sanction to sell those ‘legal’ drugs, alcohol and tobacco. So, as you went to purchase your bottle of ‘Old Cirrhosis Rye’, you paid about eight-cents for the actual substance, and many, many extra dollars for the privilege of indulging your vice and in some cases ruining your health, becoming obnoxious, pissing in your pants and wreaking havoc in the community and on the highways.

In other words, it was the ‘revenuers’ greedy hand in the matter that made the wickedness costly. With tobacco it is the same. Governments — and who can blame them? — realized early on that people really like this nicotine stuff; some even ‘have’ to use it, so they should pay dearly to get it. The government coffers should swell handsomely thanks to the indulgences of the ‘weak’. Blessedly they haven’t yet found a way to tax sex, but they are assuredly working on it.

Since booze and tobacco are not deemed necessities of life, they are, in effect, luxuries, and those who have the wherewithal to purchase luxuries should also give a big bite to the taxman. If you don’t have the wherewithal, but choose to indulge anyway, so be it. Those who would officially have their hand in your pocket are very democratic; they do not discriminate in terms of your household’s financial status. All in all, it’s a pretty good scheme, except for one element that is rarely addressed: it puts our governments in the drug-dealing business.

And today, ironically, you have the contradiction of government sanctioned and financed health districts fomenting against the lifestyle excesses of their clients, and indeed the government itself takes a high-handed (disguised as high-road) approach to these health-assaulting substances — especially tobacco — yet ‘Big Brother’ continues to rake in the bucks from the flogging of the stuff, at breakneck pace.

If everybody were to quit smoking and drinking tomorrow, governments would be faced with a crisis of monstrous proportion. Yet, somehow those in the corridors of power do not appreciate this hypocrisy. This is especially true in the case of tobacco. Government officially fulminates against the weed, and tries, Quixote-like, to drive a lance through ‘Big Tobacco’ via doomed-to-fail lawsuits. At the same time officialdom continues to garner benefits from its sale.

It has not escaped the scrutiny of many smokers that if the government were indeed serious about the evils of tobacco consumption it would just outlaw the stuff as the public health hazard it genuinely is. But, we know that will not happen. The government is, with no exaggeration, in the position of being the ‘clean ‘dealer’ of illicit drugs who despises his pathetic clients, but is prepared to take their money for the dope he can lay on them.

However, rather than rail against hypocrisy, which is to no avail, we’ll instead assume there are those in power who take such matters as smoking and excessive drinking seriously, and would genuinely like to do something about public consumption.

For them, I offer a modest, yet deadly serious proposal. Rather than mount futile lawsuits against the companies that deal in alcohol and tobacco, why not hit ‘them’ with a 10 percent tax that is specifically dedicated to helping those who run afoul of the product? Statistics suggest (though they vary, depending on whom you’re talking to) that 80 to 90 percent of those who drink alcohol, do so safely, sanely and sociably. However, 10 to 20 percent (at least) of drinkers are alcoholics. That 10 to 20 percent is responsible for the bulk of such social ills as domestic abuse, neglected children, impaired driving, road fatalities, assaults (both sexual and physical), psychiatric ward admissions, emergency room admissions, and so on, through a virtually endless list of costly societal woes.

Meanwhile, recovery and rehabilitation centres (a potential growth industry, to be sure) are strained well past the maximum in attempting to help those souls who are desperately attempting to get away from their addiction.

So, take that 10 percent tax on the distillers and brewers, and direct it towards funding alcohol rehabilitation facilities and their employees. In other words, why shouldn’t the manufacturers of the stuff pay part of what is needed to help those who become addicted to their product?

Likewise tobacco. Most smokers would love to quit. They know their habit (an addiction some deem to be more difficult than heroin to break) is health-robbing. They would like to live to a ripe old age, too. A 10 percent tax on tobacco products (to be borne by the companies) would at least make available some resources and materials to aid in that objective. We could establish smoke-ending clinics on an ongoing basis, financed by this new revenue. We would be enabled to make nicotine patches, and other smoking cessation material available gratis. Pump some of this money into research on new means of breaking the back of this nefarious addiction.

Such would be a proactive step by government, infinitely more effective and honest than lawsuits and draconian bits of legislation and would genuinely show concern rather than greedy hypocrisy. We need a new sin-tax that will genuinely deal with the sin and sinner alike in a positive way.

As it exists now, hypocritical and enabling governments are the biggest sinners of the lot.

A bit about what friendship is all about

– Simon and Garfunkel

Cristina and I have been dear friends for over 30 years. She is my ‘baby sister’ (she’s 20 years younger than I am) and I utterly adore her.

It has never been a romance. I toyed with the idea at one point but was mature enough to realize that moves in that direction stood a chance of screwing up the valuable ‘thing’ that we had. And what was that ‘thing’? True friendship; something that sex, as wonderful as it is, can mess up because it brings in complications.

Our initial encounter was weird enough. We met on a flight from Honolulu to Vancouver. My wife of the day had dozed off and Cris was sitting next to me in the third seat. On a six hour flight you can get to know a person quite well. She was a lot younger and very pretty, of Portuguese extraction and very charming and it turned out that she and I had gone to the same junior high, albeit two decades apart. She had just turned 21 and I was in my early 40s.

Long story short, we just really hit it off. And after we returned home we kept in touch, as one did in those days, via snail-mail and telephone. I would call her from work since I didn’t want to arouse suspicion at home.

And so it went over many years. I have mentioned that when I married Wendy I asked Cris to be my ‘best person’ and when she married (and her husband is a prince of a guy) I made the toast to the bride. In between and during a time I was ‘between marriages, as was she) she came and stayed with me. It was lovely and it was all about friendship.

She did not like my 2nd marriage and she saw things in my new spouse that I didn’t. She was pretty perceptive about that.

And finally, and the test of a friendship, she possibly saved my life one time. I was at the tail-end of my abuse of alcohol. I phoned her, not sure why at this point. But, I guess I was pissed at the time. Somewhere in the conversation I guess I passed out. Cris was in a panic. She called 911, since she was in Vancouver and I was in Comox. The police went to my apartment. I was expedited to emergency and St. Joe’s worked their magic and unbeknownst to me at the time, Cris’s intervention possibly saved me.

Now that is friendship and what it truly means.

Not only are some not ‘doing it’ they have no desire to ‘do it’

asexHuman sexuality is becoming too complicated for my liking. While it is well we have grown sufficiently in tolerance that we accept those of other persuasions and other predilections all I can say is why don’t we now just let people get on with what they do with which, and to whom, and be done with it.

Nowadays we make space for heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and the other people who like to indulge in acts that range from the charming and sensual, to the bizarre, to even the downright icky. That’s OK, though. Consenting adults and all that. I know I have no concerns with virtually anything done by consenting adults, as long as it makes them happy and hauls their ashes and they don’t frighten the horses.

But — and this is where the complications come in, according to British psychosexual studies — there is a group that maybe some of us were not aware of. Those who devote their lives (and governmental grants) to making findings, feel it behooves us to accommodate those of no sexual preferences whatsoever.

That’s right. Nothing. Na-da. Not only are there people who don’t do it, they don’t want to do it. If they’re not getting any they are also not fantasizing about making the beast with two backs.

This group within the general population has absolutely and utterly no interest whatsoever, regardless of the circumstances, in anything resembling coition. I know it would be a cheap shot to suggest I have dated members of this group, but haven’t many of us?

Cheap jokes aside, however, if we are to be genuinely ‘inclusive’ in this society, as we seem to be hell-bent on, then we had better pay heed to these guys and gals. This is all true. They have found a collection of folks in society that has never had sex, has never hankered after sexual congress, and has not only virtually, but literally no libido whatsoever. Those same scientists (whom I suspect look remarkably like the science nerd on The Simpsons) are so involved in this study that they believe it is only fair that these people, like homosexuals, heterosexuals, metrosexuals, transsexuals, etc. deserve their own category — nonsexuals.

How weird is that and, just how many people are we talking about who have never had an attack of the horny vapors? Evidently somewhere in the realm of 1.05 percent of the population. Not exactly stunning numbers, but if you multiply by populations of assorted places around the world, it does make for a goodly, if not necessarily enchanting, crowd. For example, the US has a population of 295 million, and that means that there are around 3 million folks who are ‘not’ going to get too friendly with your spouse late in the evening at a party, if male, they are ‘not’ going to think all the girls in the bar are looking better at closing time. In fact, they are not going to care what the girls (or the boys) look like. They’re just not interested.

I suppose there are advantages to being in that uncharmed 1.05 percent. You never have to worry about looking your best, since you are not trying to attract anyone. You don’t have to fret over possible halitosis and you’ll never need to buy deodorant. You won’t even worry if you have crap stuck in your teeth. There is, admittedly, a certain freedom therein.

Furthermore, you’ll never have to wonder, if single, whom you are going to be with on a Saturday night or New Year’s Eve. You never have to worry about unwanted pregnancy, STD transmission, or having to launder the sheets ‘yet again this week,’ Or indeed if your undies have one more wearing in them before you change them. One woman in Edmonton was reported to have said she has thoroughly enjoyed never having been aroused by anybody at any time, because this has left her life so uncomplicated and enabled her to get on with important things. What important things? Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I just cheapened myself by writing that.

All I can say in conclusion is chacun a son gout, I suppose. But, I must also be thankful that I am in the 99.95 per cent group, despite the number of complications in the old ‘coupling’ field I’ve had to deal with in my life.

My misspent youth in the wide-world of chastity-belt lingerie

panity girdleOoh, a panty-girdle,” I once exclaimed, maybe a little too enthusiastically during a scene in which a woman was disrobing in an early episode of Mad Men a few years ago. I found it oddly arousing.

“I thought you told me you hated panty-girdles,” Wendy replied, looking askance at me in that manner in which only she can look askance..

“Pure nostalgia,” I said. “I did hate them at one, obvious, level but the scene still had some sweet associations.”

The sweet association being that if you had come to the realization your date was trussed in a panty girdle, you had actually made it past 2nd base. Revelation of undergarb was, in the context of that day, early 3rd base to be sure.

And the panty-girdle, even if it could be an impediment to amour was still a female undergarment and therefore had a charm in itself.

The ‘nice’ girls of the, ‘50s and early ‘60s generally wore panty girdles. They were something of a combination of chastity belt and fashion statement. As fashion statement (as opposed to chastity belt, to which I’ll attest was their primary purpose) they were deemed desirable in that they were slimming. In truth, which is why they were favored by parents of young females, they were intended to be an anti-aphrodisiac in that the wearer was rendered from behind with the appearance that she had only one bum cheek with no suggestive cleft in the middle. The sort of thing designed to keep randy boys thinking of trigonometry and other enlightened topics.

Panty girdles varied in fortifications. Some were pinned up with wire and bone and were virtually impenetrable, alas. Others were a little more welcoming, sometimes even cute, but they still gave an artificial appearance to the wearer and did thwart amorous ambitions if they became too overt.

According to one girl friend they were also a bit on the impractical side in times of dire urinary emergency, in which it was sometimes difficult to get them down quickly enough.

My first steady girlfriend wore a panty girdle always. While she was quite ardent in physical affection, she would not remove the garment or choose alternative garb for dates. Frustration prevailed – as it should have, no doubt, in the days before the birth-control pill.

My second steady began with a panty girdle when we were first dating, but ultimately abandoned it. This was reflective of two things. One was that change in fashions that was manifesting in the 1960s, and the other was my plaintive and whiny entreaties.

“Why aren’t you wearing your panty girdle these days?” her mother once asked when she was emptying the washer.

“Because Ian doesn’t like them,” she replied, unthinkingly.

“HMMM!” responded her mother, a little too testily.

The panty girdle died a deserved death from the mid 1960s on. It died for a number of reasons, but the first one was fashion. The mini-skirt came into vogue, and simultaneously, so did pantyhose. The old-fashioned garters and stockings (the only ‘good’ thing about panty girdles) were relegated to past tense.

It was also a more sexually liberated time, thanks to the pill and changing mores in those pre STD days. If a girl had a pretty bum she wanted to show off both cheeks of it. Thoughtful of them, I’d say. Furthermore, despite the minis, girls regularly were decked out in jeans by that time, and panty girdles just looked plain silly under jeans.

I welcomed the change, as did most females. But, you’ll forgive me for the tiny nostalgia pang with that Mad Men episode. Those ‘weren’t’ the days, but they had their moments.

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually

hello_my_name_is_ian_by_eizblackbibleGoofing around on Facebook a while back when Will and Grace or whoever she of the pert royal bum is called I thought of a few possible alternate names for the new royal lass. My thoughts were revolving around the idea that this hyperprivileged newborn should be Christened with a nomenclature that departs from the conventional Royal monikers and maybe go a bit working-class in a spirit of inclusiveness and go for Brenda or Martha.

Or, how about soothing the Scots — who were particularly obnoxious at that time — and opt for ‘Heather’. My Facebook friend Kate suggested they should go with ‘Princess’ Leia. I mean, a bit of pop culture inclusivity. Why not? Personally I would opt for a particular folk heroine of mine who is as truly British as you can get, and that is Boudicca, after the dazzling queen of the Iceni in days of yore.

But she ended up stuck with a boring royal name. (NB she already has with a Catherine, Elizabeth and a predictable Diana thrown together, with Camilla having been rejected, obviously).

There is a particular problem with names, and that is that they are given to newborns by parents with the person impacted having no voice in the matter. And if the parents are trying to show how cool and hip they are, they will join innumerable other parents who are trying to be cool and hip and hence witness all the poor sonsabitches born in the 1960s who got stuck with ‘Dylan’, i mean thousands, maybe millions were so christened. Prior to Bob grabbing onto the name because he thought it sounded more poetic than Zimmerman, the only ‘Dylan’ a priori had been the Thomas one, you know, the Welsh drunkard and fine poet.

In that context I, for example, never liked my name when I was a child. I didn’t know any other ‘Ians’ so I thought it was a silly name and wide-open to mockery. “Ian-Ian; the big fat pee-on” and other bits of verbal revelry at my expense. Why couldn’t my parents have called me ‘Al’ or ‘Spike’? When I was in junior high I went to a school that boasted a lot of Italiano kids with names like ‘Carmine’ or ‘Mario’ or ‘Sal’. You know, street gang names. How cool would that be? But ‘Ian’?

I got a little more comfortable with my name to a degree when a kid moved down the street when I was in fourth grade and he was also named Ian. Nice kid and became a good friend. But, he was a member of a family that had recently immigrated from England. And, as was the vogue of the day with ‘limey’ kids (sorry, that was what we called them) he wore bloody short pants!

I have gotten to know a few other Ians over the years and am more or less comfortable with the nomenclature, but it was also when I was in fourth grade insult was added to that name injury in that I had to wear glasses. That meant I was stuck with ‘four-eyes’ and ‘goggles’ at least until Buddy Holly came along and rendered specs kind of cool. Michael Caine as Harry Palmer (inspiring name, what?) cinched the deal. He was a cool and hip London bloke in the ’60s. Nothing much cooler than that, then.

Anyway, by the time I became an adult I got comfortable with, and even rather proud of my name. And as things go in life getting older is more challenging than fretting about what your parents called you.