Monthly Archives: November 2010

The most fun of all will be getting to watch it dry

Dorothy Parker once said (in words to that effect) that writing was not much fun. The joy lay in “having written”. In other words, when the task is done then the fruits of those labors can be reveled in if a body has written to one’s satisfaction.

I think the same can be said of home-decorating. For about two years we have been “talking about” redecorating our living room-dining room combo. We have repainted literally every other room in the house and they all look just swell. But, the most cavernous rooms are yet to see brush and roller.

But, about a month ago we finally broke down and bought the paint. We thought that would spur us to immediate action. We cannot get to “having painted” unless we start to do it. Right? In the 30-odd days since then the paint (brushes, rollers, masking tape etc.) have been reposing in the garage, unattended. The best I’ve managed to offer about the matter is to say: “Got to get to that paintin’ one of these days, Ma,” sounding considerably like Pa Kettle.

But, yesterday we decided to (as WC Fields would have it) take the bull by the tail and look the situation in the face. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and I almost astonished myself to hear myself saying: “Let’s take the pictures off the wall in the dining room and maybe empty out the (huge and commodious) bookcase. Then I can patch anything that needs patching, and maybe we can at least get the dining room part done, before we attack the living room.” To my near consternation, Wendy agreed that it was time and it was a good idea. It was only a suggestion, I was about to say, but then swallowed my pending indolence and actually got up began moving pictures from the wall.

Taking down the pictures. How can that be so difficult. That done, the memsahib then said: “Where do you want to put the books?” Oh God, she wants to do the bookcase. That is really going to be like work.

But, we did that, too. And it was an enchanting, almost enlightening experience to so do. I hadn’t really looked through the collection that was contained therein. You see, I inherited some rather ancient volumes from grandparents on two sides of my family. Some of these were unearthed, including a goodly handful of 18th Century tomes (and many 19th century ones, including a six volume leather-bound set of the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne). The ones from the earlier century were the more intriguing since they were printed with that typographical affectation known as the ‘long S’, in which all lower-case esses (except for the final one in a word) look like the letter ‘f’. Once I read why that was done, but I can no longer remember. Now, don’t get me wrong about these books. I know they’re valuable and I truly should get them appraised so that I can spend the rest of my declining years lying under a palm beside an azure sea and not give a fig about painting rooms. Worked for Gauguin, so why not me?

Anyway, we got the books shifted. I then patched assorted holes and blemishes, and hopefully by next weekend we can turn our labors to the actual painting of the dining room. That will be good.

But, when that is done, we’ll have no choice but to tackle the living room. The prospect fills me with angst. You see, the LR has a high vaulted ceiling. I look up and it reminds me of the time I once saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. All those lovely Michelangelo paintings with which we are all familiar are virtually in the stratosphere when viewed from the floor when one is stuff into a room with seemingly hundreds of sweaty people in a Roman summer, all of us gawping heavenward.

But, I know when the dining room is done, it will have to be taken on, including the aspect that involves climbing up real high on a shaky ladder. 

Shit. I look forward most definitely to “having painted” that one.

The great snow-tire conspiracy

We had a huge, nasty, disgusting, and unrepentant inundation of snow on Thursday. It was a detestable turn-of-events. I wrote last week of the severe cold that had been visited upon us in unwarranted fashion, and with the chill I knew that it would only end with a snowfall as temperatures climbed. And that is exactly what happened.

Snow, if you didn’t know, is God’s way of saying: “You’re all hopeless and vile and I’m going to screw you up so you can’t do anything other than risk a coronary by trying to get rid of what I threw at you. And, when you do get that driveway cleared I am going to see that two things happen: One, the triple-overtime earning snowplow drivers are going to fill up the entrance to your drive and walkway with dirty, nasty ‘street’ snow that is all hard and icy and filled with pebbles and possibly used condoms and hypodermic syringes. Secondly, once that’s done, I’m going to make it snow again.”

“Oh, and don’t trust those bonehead forecasters,” God adds. “They all work for me and that is why they are 100% wrong all the time, yet never get fired. So, I had to laugh when you actually bit on that few flurries bit; you know, the crap the forecasters handed you that led you to believe that maybe you’d get out the next day and do some Christmas shopping (as if. This is me, Mr. Dec. 23rd you’re talking about); maybe look for a tree, and get all Christmas spirity. Well, screw you. You’ve messed with me too much lately, and you don’t deserve any breaks.”

At least, that’s how I see the origins of the end of week ghastliness. 

We got, I think I heard, about 10 centimetres. That translates to, in ‘real’ measurements, like the kind I grew up with, hence understand, about 17-feet – or so it seems.

The good thing for me is that I didn’t need to go anywhere. The bad thing for me was that Wendy did – like to work. Fortunately she drives a 4WD so it wasn’t a mammoth source of concern. But, that left me with the doubly bad thing, and that was shovelling out the driveway prior to her return. I mean, I could have left it and struggled with the guilt of looking like a slug and wastrel, or I could have turned myself to the task. I chose the latter, with visions of the number of dutiful morons like myself who succumb to coronaries while being obliging husbands. Being attuned to possible telltale chest pains I turned myself to the task. And I succeeded and didn’t die – yet.

I was happy I didn’t have to go out because my car isn’t entirely equipped for snow. In the first place it’s a low-to-the-road sport car that is just perfect for summer streets, and not so much for slush and snow. It’s not terrible, but if I can avoid taking to the streets, I do. Otherwise, I might end up like my blogger friend Pinklea, who recently told of her woes with the snows. Check out her posting ‘Stuck’ rather than having me elaborate on the situation.

You see, my car is equipped with all-seasons and I refuse to do the winter tires thing. Much of the world that gets snow has never heard of snow-tires and that suits me. Despite protestations from our dictatorial provincial vehicle insurer (the only game in town) that we all must have snow tires, I don’t buy their argument. If you are sliding towards rear-ending the vehicle in front, snow tires won’t make an iota of difference. All that slide means is that you were driving badly.

And that’s the big issue around here when it snows. Nobody is very used to it, and many, many people drive badly, which means too fast for conditions. 

For years and years all-seasons were just dandy, and I’ve always found them good, and haven’t been stuck in ages. Suddenly the cry has gone up that everyone must get snow tires. Hmm, I see tire company collusion in this.

In the meantime, I’ll just bide my time and wait for spring. It will come again, won’t it?

A vile canard is more than just a rotten Gallic duck

“If you were my husband,” American-born British Parliamentarian, Lady Astor once said to Winston Churchill, whom she detested, “I would poison your coffee.”

“If you were my wife,” Churchill replied. “I’d drink it.”

Indeed, legend holds that Churchill, so astute in many respects, was also a consummate master of the snappy, appropriate and witheringly insulting comeback.

Another interchange between Churchill, and I believe it was Nancy Astor again, was reported to have gone like this:

“Mr. Churchill, you are drunk,” the teetotaller was alleged to have said to the hefty brandy tippler at a social occasion.

“And you, madam, are ugly,” he replied. “But in the morning, I shall be sober.

There is no way of knowing how many of these tales are apocryphal, but they do serve to show that the immaculately timed and aimed insult, for which there can be virtually no face-saving reply is a talent that separates humankind from the lower orders. 

The brilliant riposte sets is apart from primordial ooze-dwellers because it is non-physical violence. While an insult can lead to a carpet search for bloody, shattered bridgework, it is true, or even a duel, the person who has hurled the insult remains the victor, regardless of what takes place afterwards. It’s a bit like listening to insult-master Don Rickles. His popularity arises from a conflict within the rest of us, which goes: “How can he say that? I wish I’d said that.”

The master or mistress of the insult must be adept with the language, slow to anger, and possessing of a superlative sense of timing. He or she must sense instinctively that momentary lull in the conversation that has left the gate wide open for a savagely stinging remark.

Too late off the mark never works. It must be direct and utterly appropriate to the moment, such as was the case when a young Clare Boothe Luce stepped aside to permit wit Dorothy Parker to enter a room first. 

“Age before beauty,” said Miss Luce.

“Pearls before swine,” responded Miss Parker, without missing a beat.

Now, that interchange would have been considerably less noteworthy had Parker gone home, brooded, and then telephoned Luce five hours later when the apt riposte had manifested itself in her mind. Timing and speed of comeback count for everything.

Such, alas, is the situation in which most of us find ourselves. Stung by a nasty bit of sniping at the office or a cocktail party, we get home and take the insult we received on a spouse, children or the dog. “If only I’d said ….” We sputter and fume. But, nothing to equal the original insult comes to mind – until three a.m. when we awaken from a feverish sleep with “the most unkindest cut of all” manifesting itself in our minds like that perfect vision of paradise. But, by now it is too late, and we know it. The accompanying stress has shortened our lives by 3.7 minutes.

The English are very good at the well-aimed insult that will send lesser mortals to Purgatory with withering irony and sarcasm that hits like a howitzer once the recipient realizes what has been said.

Churchill, for example, came upon his talent quite naturally  — he was a survivor of the English school system. Nobody in the world is so verbally cruel as the English schoolmaster or mistress, who will test the ‘pluck’ and bladder control of their tiny charges with verbal lashings that leave more lasting scars than any mere caning. Those children that survive go on to become leaders like Churchill. Those who can’t make the cut become wishy-washy, hypocritical Tony Blairs, or sneak into the back door of the Tory Party and become the ilk that the redoubtable Margaret Thatcher called “wets.”

Among other nationalities, Italians seem quite adept at verbal insults. The rhythm of the language lends itself to linguistic jabs when Italians get involved in a row – often as frequently as every five minutes. The thrust and parry of the verbal insult is accentuated with a well-bitten thumb and assorted lewd gestures that seem to add to the overall effect. 

Meanwhile, the heaviest insults among African-Americans and Latinos seem to often relate to the sexual proclivities of the female members of the family combined with the inadequacies in that regard of the male members, along with questions about the insultee’s legitimacy.

The Irish have great long religiously inspired poetic curses that leave the victim without doubt he has been grievously insulted, not only for the duration of his lifetime, but for all of eternity.

Canadians, meanwhile, shouldn’t feel inferior because the best they can muster is a few crude copulatory or excretory invectives. Our insults, after all, originate with our politicians, and they regularly deliver the cruellest cuts of all.

Covers the ground but nothing much else

In light of my recent blog on airport security, I received this from a friend. You may have seen it, or not. In any case enjoy:

If you want to know who’s at fault here, blame Mexico

There have been many brass-monkey jokes bandied around these parts in the last couple of days.

That’s because, for the time of year, not to mention our geographic situation, it is inordinately cold. As I write it is minus-five Celsius, or 22F in the system of temperature deduction I grew up with and still, frankly, cherish.

For the record, I don’t ‘do’ cold. It’s not that I dislike it; it is that I detest, revile, and despise cold. I am a tropical man. I cherish palm trees and being in a place that has never even seen a skiff of snow. I also don’t ‘do’ snow. “Oh, but it’s so pretty,” say assorted buffoons as a justification of our disgusting situation of the moment.

No it’s not pretty. It’s nasty. A few minutes after it falls it has been rendered dirty with footprints, and is highlighted with amber spots from dog pee. At least, I hope it’s just dog pee. 

My only solace is that over the last decade hundreds of Albertans, buoyed by their ill-gotten gains from the petroleum industry, decided to flee their disgusting climate for my ordinarily benevolent one. They artificially drove up prices and put a huge strain on our infrastructure, so screw them. Go back to Edmonton, or wherever, I say and take your goddamn winter weather with you. Anyway, I suspect they are not finding this place so benevolent at the current moment. And I do get a modicum of glee from that.

Cold pierces me to the fundament. It pierces me even more than some others because, due to a not-terribly-serious clinical condition, I am prescribed blood thinners that render me more sensitive to cold than regular civilians are.

Now, it is fair that many of you to the south think of Canada as the frozen north. For most of Canada, for most of the winter, it makes North Dakota look benevolent. But, the west coast is normally stuck with the adjective ‘balmy’ because that’s what it normally is. Vancouver is generally not much different in winter temp from San Francisco. Indeed, we even have some palm trees, including the one I have had for years in my front yard.

So, God of climate, I can only ask, WTF? We have often gone through the entirety of winter without a hint of snow, and few nighttime temps below freezing. But, this year is a shitty anomaly. 

They say the problem originates with La Nina, the ‘little girl’ cold current that manifests in the Pacific off the coast of Mexico every few years. I’d say that gives Mexico even more to answer for. Despite the advantages they have gained from NAFTA, it seems they feel they reserve the right to screw up our winter climate every few years. Of course, it’s all a ploy by Mexico, because the most favored destinations for winter weary Canucks are such warm spots as Cancun and Cabo. This year they’ll be bringing in tourists in droves, drug wars and resort explosions notwithstanding.

Fly the ‘friendly’ skies … of international paranoia

I have a new hero. His name is Jon Tyner. He’s the ‘Don’t touch my junk’ guy who had the balls to stand up to what we have permitted in the name of airport security these days.

I say ‘we’ have allowed it because few of us have the balls of a Jon Tyner sufficient to tell the mokes who work for Homeland Security, and its equivalents elsewhere in the world, including Canada, to piss off with indignities to my person, or my wife’s person, or my next-door neighbor’s person or any of the other non-terrorists of my acquaintance who either need to or choose to fly on airplanes.

Tyner was arrested and escorted from San Diego Airport last week when he refused to go through a full body scan. Here’s how the report goes: 

“When Tyner was given the alternative of the thorough pat down, he refused that as well. His famous line which earned him thousands of fans all across the internet was “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” Tyner recorded the whole experience of going through security by turning on the recording feature of his phone.”

Kudos to Mr. Tyner. He did it for us and he expressed how so many of us feel about such invasions of our privacy and our rights as citizens of ostensibly free societies. 

Of course the penalty for standing up for your rights is, as Mr. Tyner found, is getting the boot and no access to your flight, even though no crime had been committed. Did we give this right to the people in charge? If not, why have they assumed it and why are most people not even whimpering about it.

When I first heard of the body scans, I cringed. Not because I am overly modest, but there is time, place and circumstance in such realms. Morons at airport security don’t qualify as people with a right of access to my ‘junk’. That is reserved for myself, my doctor and my spouse, and even in the case of my doctor and my spouse, I have the right of refusal, although in the latter it would likely be a matter of ‘as if’.

Such a right belongs to any of us. That right. Mr. Tyner saw this invasive procedure as “sexual assault” and in any other circumstances it would be deemed as such. And there are cases galore of people being so invaded in the name of a dubious international security. One woman reported having a hand thrust down her panties in the name of something or other.

Yes, it’s an insecure world, and yes there are terrorists. Terrorists that are probably sophisticated enough to thwart airport security checks. Probably? Definitely. We know that because too many have breezed through while ordinary citizens like Jon Tyner are confronted with indignities.

I have flown since increased security measures came into being, and they haven’t been pleasant, but I have gritted my teeth and kept my mouth shut. I haven’t faced the body scan thing yet, and I am not quite sure how I’ll approach it. I guess if I want to go to Europe or Hawaii, I’ll be forced to bear with it – very resentfully and wistfully, dude to the fact that we once had free societies.

As for now, a train or a road trip look increasingly appealing.

Thanks for what you did, Jon Tyner. Now, if the airlines began to show similar courage we might get some of our rights back, and they might get some of their trade back. 

Meanwhile, the more terror we show, the more the bad guys are winning.

No, really we are grateful. It’s just that the time has come to say ‘aloha’

Periodically I have automotive dreams. The dreams are always the same. I am back at my childhood home and while there I ponder the old detached garage. Nobody else is around, and I decide I should have a look inside.

Within will be one of my former cars, looking in remarkably fine repair. I am shocked, yet delighted. I thought this car was long gone, yet here it is. Why did I get rid of it, I ask myself. Let’s say it’s the old ’53 Chev I had in my late teens. I climb within and, in the accuracy of dream recall, the dashboard looks just like it did when last I saw it – decades before.

I put the key in the ignition – for some reason I have the correct key with me. I crank it over and it starts up beautifully. I am thrilled. I now have an extra car, and it is a former one that I cherished. 

This scenario has included many former vehicles over the years and it is some kind of proof that motor vehicles have souls. Souls capable of possessing the psyche through eternity. 

There is another element of the spirituality of a car that leads me to the soul-conclusion, and that lies in saying goodbye to an old vehicle when trade-in time comes around. 

If I have liked a car, then there is always a pang of seeming disloyalty on the day it is to be sent on its way to be replaced by a brash newcomer. Somewhere within it seems that the car knows it has gone past its due date.

Wendy has been going through that lately and I empathize and sympathize. Today is the last day with us for her old Mazda 626. It has been a good car in the years since 2002 that it has been sitting in our garage or taking us to assorted destinations.

We’ve gone on some great road trips with it, with nary a glitch in functioning as it should have. When Wendy was working in Victoria it took her back and forth with stalwart resolve to serve as it was expected to. It never let her down. It was a pleasant, albeit uninspiring car. It was woefully lacking in power with the vehicle too large for its small engine. And it had reached a point in which it had nearly as many miles on the clock as a Havana taxicab.

It is being replaced by a beautiful, high-end, slightly used SUV. We’ve tried it out. It’s a beauty. Sorry, old Mazda, but the time is nigh. As painful as it is, we must shun you now for a brash and slightly tarty newcomer.

“I just feel so disloyal,” Wendy said this morning as she was prepared to depart for her place of business in the poor old, soon-to-be recycled one way or another, Mazda. “It has served me so well, somehow it doesn’t deserve to be just cast aside.”

“Well,” I said, “You’ve been divorced before. Sometimes it just has to happen, and then you just move on and eventually everything is OK again.” 

I then leaned over and kissed the Mazda on her hood. It was the least I could do.

“See you in my dreams, kiddo,” is what I said as she departed in reverse out the garage door and down the driveway to the street, off to whatever new adventure awaits her.