Monthly Archives: June 2011

I won! I won! Well, not the lottery, but this is nice, too

A meme! Haven’t had one of those cross my blog world realm in a while. And a meme combined with an award. Really haven’t had one of those in even a longer time. I thought you all no longer loved me and were leaving me to feel petulant and out-of-sorts.

However, I have been awarded The Versatile Blogger award by no one less than my dear old friend Leesa, who has recently returned to the Blogosphere, much to my delight. I missed her during her hiatus. Now, the striking Miss Leesa is smart, witty, and writes a fine, honest and thought-provoking blog. So, I feel highly honored that she holds me in good regard. Please pay her a call.

Now, my job is, aside from publicly thanking Miss Leesa and establishing a link, is to tell you 7 things about me that I might not have already divulged. I then have to present the award to some bloggers of my choice. The only hard part about that criterion is narrowing the thing down to a small number. However, I shall persevere and do so.

OK, my previously undivulged seven:

  1. A friend in university once bet me $10 that I couldn’t strike up an acquaintance with a female who was a complete stranger and succeed in dating her. I took the bet and (ahem) I won. I positioned myself at a table directly across from a young woman whom I found attractive and who looked like the sort of individual with whom I’d like to strike up an unsolicited conversation. Within half an hour we had exchanged vague pleasantries. Within an hour she yawned and stretched and said she was going out for a cigarette. I asked if I might join her. I did. I asked her what her name was. She gave it to me. It was the same surname as my next door neighbor. The gods were smiling on me. Turned out he was her first cousin. Perfect. We went for coffee. And we went out once. It was nice. No great romance but we were friends from that point on. My friend was pissed and out $10.
  2. I absolutely love to fish, but cannot do it. I have dreams about fishing for trout in a rushing river or snagging a salmon on the high seas. I used to do it and I loved it. Now I no longer can. I cannot mainly because I cannot kill. It’s too monumental an act for me. Not that I’m a wimp, because I’m not. And not that I don’t make exceptions if I must, and not that I don’t believe that animal culls are necessary at times, just don’t ask me to carry out the act. It is not within me to take the life of anything – except the odd harassing wasp (I’m not a complete idiot), and earwigs, mainly because they make my skin crawl and crawling skin trumps compassion. PS: I do eat fish.
  3. If we are going somewhere I map out in my mind where the restrooms are. Once you get to a certain age, and if you consume coffee (as do I) it is a prudent thing to do in order to avoid discomfort or mortifying disaster. As a wise person once said: “Never pass up an opportunity to pee.” I guess I am not alone considering the proliferation of TV ads for ‘urgent bladder’ products.
  4. I have 270 ‘friends’ on Facebook. I know I don’t have 270 friends in the world, but it’s fun, nonetheless. I also have nearly 30 friends in common with one dear friend. We have pondered why we happen to know virtually all the same people. Dunno. Anyway, people decry FB, but I still find it fun.
  5. When I was about 20 I had sex with my dad’s cousin’s wife. She was a mid-40s lady. It was at a party and we’d both had too much to drink. It was nice, even in retrospect. Never saw her again. Years later my father asked me: “Did you once have sex with (name withheld)?” I have no idea how he knew and I was a bit mortified, but I answered in the positive. “Good,” Dad replied. “I always hated my cousin.”
  6. I once stood at a urinal right next to former Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien. We chatted but both kept our eyes straight ahead.
  7. I am a passionate consumer of hotdogs. I think they are “nature’s nearly perfect food.” No, I don’t want to know what goes into them, either. But I love them in all their incarnations. But, and this is important, one must never put ketchup on a dog. Mustard, mayo, relish, sauerkraut, chili, whatever you fancy, but never ketchup. That is blasphemy.

Now, paying it forward I am looking in the direction of the following:

Jazz: – My little soul sister from Montreal whose blog I’ve been following for years. Writes a witty and sometimes even urbane blog. Also has a huge ability to dissect both the funny and bullshit sides of life. A woman after my own heart.

Pinklea: – My other little soul sister, this time from my hometown of Vancouver whom I think is terribly clever and intelligent and often extremely funny in a slice-of-life manner. I like her blog very much and visit regularly.

Pearl: Wonderfully accomplished writer who braves Midwestern winters and offers insights about riding the bus that most of us never considered. She’s also a published writer and if you’ve never visited then you have been missing out.

Dumdad: From the other side of Paris, this erstwhile newspaper scribe and I established a nice bond quite a while ago. He is also a music buff extraordinaire and an insightful and funny guy.

Choochoo: I have not been in her realm for too long, but since coming on board a few months ago I have never regretted my connections with this very funny, and often slightly irreverent individual. If you haven’t paid a call, you should.

Heart in San Francisco: Guilty with an explanation is one of my longest duration blog connections and I cherish it. Susan is a very special person who, despite facing adversity in her life, maintains an outlook that is both passionate and always reasoned. And, mainly I usually agree with her, and that must make her good person, right? Anyway, how could a person who grew up in the Village and now lives in SF not be cool?

So, there you have it. If you haven’t visited the folks mentioned, do yourself a favor. And for those who did not make the cut, believe me it was a difficult decision. I wouldn’t have chosen any of you as blog contacts if I didn’t value what your write.

Once upon a time I trod in a brave new world, and was left with no regrets

I have a confession to make.

Not one of ‘those’ kinds of confessions – I have a few of those, too, but I’m not about to share them here – but a confession of a slightly different order.

People who are happily (or tolerably) ensconced in ongoing relationships don’t often understand that the dating world is a bit of a jungle and fraught with perils and insecurities. They should have a little more tolerance for their partnerless friends.

While you might think that there are potential love and life partners galore out there for those that are seeking, you would be wrong. Oh, there are ‘people’, but are they people with whom you’d like to make an ongoing commitment? People with whom you’d like to not just make the beast with two backs, stare at across the breakfast table, and about whom you would be prepared to accept bad breath or flatulence? It’s tough.

So, my confession stems from the fact that I once-upon-a-time online dated. I not only online dated but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and through that process I met a lot of rather neat people many of whom I’d probably have been able to establish a long duration relationship with.

This was during my period as a single guy, after the breakup of my 2nd marriage and BW (Before Wendy).

In that time I did meet a number of interesting women. Some of whom became friends. Some of whom even became friends with benefits. That was all good. But, until Wendy came along I hadn’t met anybody without certain impediments standing in our way – oh, such as their being married, and stuff – or certain lifestyle attitudes that wouldn’t sit so well with me for the long haul but would be fine for a brief encounter.

So, I turned to the wide world of the Internet and it was quite a fascinating adventure for a few months.

The real problem was that your ‘catchment area’ is geographically widespread. Some of the most delightful, and in some cases enticing connections were with women who lived many miles/provinces/states away. In a way I remained undeterred by geography because I was at least increasing my circle of friends.

At the end of it all my life match wasn’t to be found in the ether, but it could have been if a woman who lived right in my area, and whom I came to fancy fairly rapidly hadn’t appeared on the scene.

Part of the process in online dating is, however, honesty on your part, and hoped for honesty on the part of the contact. Not always the case, I was to find.

For example:

–         Mah southern belle: This was a most alluring woman. She was also, it turned out, very married and wanting an adventure. Appealing (I saw a picture), sexy and sexual, and just amazingly suggestive. The irony was that she was the headmistress of a posh girl’s school. When we took to phoning each other we got into conversations (she in her office) that decency would forbid me reprinting here, but they were enjoyable. And I loved her Scarlett O’Hara pronunciations. Obviously this one was doomed to not really go anywhere.

–         The ‘zipless’ (thanks Erica Jong) lady: This was the woman who made it clear that she wanted literally a one-night-stand and absolutely nothing resmbling a relationship. She simply wanted to get laid. Being a polite and obliging soul, I acceded to her wishes.

But otherwise, the women were pretty much what and whom they said they were, and some have remained friends down all the years, and I remain in contact with a couple of special ones, like:

The middle school teacher from a Midwestern state with whom we both knew we could have gone somewhere were it not for geography and the fact that she was raising two teen daughters of whom her controlling ex had informed her he would seek full custody of should she dare to move them out of state. Consequently, she didn’t. We still email, however.

But, three of them I dated in real time. One of them, a lovely, intelligent and charming woman from Toronto actually came out and stayed with me and we had a wonderful time in all the ways a man and woman can have a wonderful time. At the same time we knew that certain aspects of life and philosophies would impede us sticking it out for the long haul. But, we remain friends to this day.

Another I dated was just that, a date, and a friend. No romance but we liked each other’s company and we remain in sporadic contact.

The third was not a good experience. In her case, as attractive as she was physically (and she was), she was also – I believe the clinical term is ‘just plain wacky’. I mean, really she was, though again I’ll go into no details.

Anyway, I do not accept people who disdain online dating and suggest that the loveless should meet somebody in real time like at work, despite the fact most employers frown on workplace liaisons; at church (as if); or in bars? Well, I have met a few ‘interesting’ women in bars but woiuldn’t want to spend the rest of my life with any of them. Added to which, I had already quit drinking when I was on my quest, so that wouldn’t have worked.

But, I ask myself, were I to find myself single again would I scope out the computer-dating world? In a heartbeat.

As so-so films go it was fairly OK

While we were staying in Fort Klamath, Oregon on our recent vacation we had to deal with the fact there was no broadcast TV in that relatively remote area up near Crater Lake.

Not a big deal for the operators of the small resort happily provide gratis to borrow a good selection of commercial DVDs and VHS movies. It’s kind of nice to just laze back in the evening and watch old films.

One, among a number that we viewed over the few days that we were there was A River Runs Through It. I’d seen the film a few years ago and had forgotten what a fine piece of cinematic work it was, and what poignancy a well-acted and very human tale of life in early 20th century Montana could evoke.

In other words, it is a really good film and well deserves to be placed alongside other fine films I have viewed over the years. I don’t know what kind of laurels it earned, but some I hope, as cynical as I am about awards of any kind, finding the process corrupt and political. Except, of course, in the case of the few journalistic awards I have (ahem) won. Those were all thoroughly well-earned, I tell ya.

Anyway, last evening we finally got around to watching a movie about which there was huge foofrah last year, including Oscar awards and other such stuff. We watched it on DVD rather than in a theatrical presentation mainly because I am too cheap to pay outrageous popcorn prices, most cinema patrons are loud, vulgar cellphone yapping boors, and very few current films are worth the full ticket price. Nope, I’d rather watch any film at home.

Anyway, the one we saw was The King’s Speech. Now, when that movie was current critics and viewers were virtually wetting themselves over the wonderfulness of the film, the acting, and the riveting story.

Well, I am sorry to say that if I were to offer a critical opinion about it, the only single word I could come up with would be “meh!” The best I can muster is that it was an amazingly so-so film.

The principals, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter were just fine in their roles, and Helena is still agreeable eye-candy although, fine actress that she is, she didn’t need to really stretch herself.

The tale is straightforward enough. Prior to assuming the throne (which was thrust upon him in unwelcome manner after his deadbeat lush brother, the Prince of Wales, chose his crass Baltimore strumpet over kingship) the future George VI had a painful stammer. Not a good thing for a guy who was going to have to make the odd speech. Anyway, long to short, he engages the services of lay speech therapist Rush who makes it all better by using such unconventional therapies as having Prince Albert (later George VI) sing the lyrics to Stephen Foster songs and iterate heatedly such unkingly epithets as “Shit!” and “Fuck!”. Bet the Queen didn’t know that pater had such a potty-mouth when called upon to use it.

Anyway, George gets all better and offers a number of stirring speeches during World War Two and becomes much beloved. And in real life he actually was, and deserved to be.

However, through all this, I failed to be enchanted by the tale. In the first place, I am not really so entranced by the trials and tribulations of the overprivileged as the filmmakers seemed to think one should be, and secondly, there wasn’t really all that much drama to the story. I mean, big deal. Speech therapists fix people’s impediments every day of the week.

And I must (it’s in my curmudgeonly nature) quibble over the historical inaccuracies, including complete misreads on the politics of such notables as Churchill and Stanley Baldwin. Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury is presented as a kind of prissy, controlling pill of whom I think that the new king should have considered as a candidate for beheading.

Final quibbles. After war breaks out the Family Royal is sitting around watching a newsreel of Hitler fulminating at some rally. Young Elizabeth (who looks to be about 10, whereas she was actually 16 at that time, but the filmmakers seemed to not want to hire a new young actress to represent a teenage princess) pipes up “I do wish we knew what he was saying.” Of course they would have known what he was saying. The Windsor clan were bloody Huns, for heaven’s sake, so I reckon they knew the lingo quite well.

OK. Any more films you want me to review?

 

 

Here’s a guaranteed way to get nothing for something

 

Yesterday was a first for me.

I went to our local gambling den.

No, I haven’t fallen into the depths of depravity, at least not as far as games of chance go. Quite basically, I don’t gamble. I regard gambling as akin to taking a roll of bills and lighting them on fire. The end result is, in my opinion, about the same. True, I do buy a lottery ticket once a week, but have no delusions about the odds of winning. It’s just a kind of pro forma thing that I’ve done for ages. Otherwise a Vegas ambience is not for me. Anyway, Elvis is dead and I detest Celine.

But I was to meet a friend for lunch and she suggested that it might be fun to go to the casino. Not to gamble, but simply to have lunch in a different setting. Of course, the casino wasn’t at all like I had envisioned it to me – OK, the ‘romantic’ in me had envisioned it. It was smoke-filled, populated with dodgy characters with scarred faces and pencil-thin moustaches, and babes with cleavage and boobs out to there, but all looking slightly debauched and cynical, kinda place. A bit like Rick’s in Casablanca, minus Rick, Ilsa and especially fez-topped Sydney Greenstreet.

I feared it might have the feeling of a hookah-parlor Wendy and I once visited in Brussels (at the invitation of friends there who insisted it was the ‘coolest place.’ It wasn’t. Immediately in there we wanted to leave. But, our friend had worked in the Middle East for a year prior to going to Belgium and had gotten seduced by the allure the water-pipe. So, we went in. I partook of the aromatic tobacco concoction (nothing more virulent). Wendy refrained as she has never smoked and wasn’t about to start in a Belgian back alley venue in which we were served by a swarthy looking dude who looked like he ran a white-slavery racket on the side.

As a contrast, the casino was clean and neat, smoke-free (PC requirements demand there be no partaking of tobacco, but booze and money squandering seem to be de rigueur for such places. Who am I to judge? Well, I can judge, and can judge such nonsensical hypocrisy outrageously, but what’s the point?

So anyway, once within we wandered about. Checked out the eatery, which was a couple of tables and a counter, and boasted a menu that made Dairy Queen seem inspired in terms of culinary offerings. We decided to go elsewhere for a bite.

But, before we left we glanced around to feel the vibe of the casino. It was just what it said it was. There were slot-machines and bingo video terminals and all the other hi-tech crap designed to get people who could ill-afford it to part with their cash and maybe-maybe-maybe (or maybe-maybe-maybe –NOT, being the more likely scenario) win something to justify their extravagance.

Personally, I think that if you are about paying for ‘vice’, then hire a hooker. At least you’re guaranteed to get something in return. But, that’s just me.

But, what did strike me was the age demographic of those indulging in those games of chance. They were ‘old’. Not middle-aged. Not even late middle-aged. They were old farts. I would guess a mean age in the neighborhood of 70 or more, all diligently squandering their kids’ potential inheritances.

OK, these were people who had no doubt worked hard all their lives and were entitled to a bit of fun. I guess my point is, how is this fun? How is flushing away your money (that you probably worked hard for) fun? Go on a cruise. Take that trip to Tahiti that you always meant to take. Get yourself a nice car.

But gambling? When all the odds are against you? I just don’t get. I always wanted a guaranteed return with my vices.

You can’t always get what you want — and that’s probably just as well

I have written before about the things I haven’t done and that I would like to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Some of them, maybe even most of them, will not happen, but in moments of idle speculation I still think I’d like to:

See the pyramids along the Nile (I’ve already seen the sunrise on a tropic isle, and that was a good thing),

gaze upon the Taj Mahal (without the hassle of getting there, or as poet Philip Larkin said how he’d like to visit China but come back home to sleep in his own bed),

stay in the most expensive penthouse suite to be found in London or New York City, and while staying there, order in pizza.

be intimate with everybody I have fantasized about being intimate with (and come on, you all do) just to see if the reality lives up to the speculation

have a conversation about Bogey with Lauren Bacall,

learn how to surf

win a Pulitzer Prize for writing,

win a Nobel Prize for writing and simply for being a very wise man, rather than just a wiseguy,

have a best-seller published,

own a Bentley convertible,

have a brief but torrid affair with Gwyneth Paltrow,

referee an intellectual barroom brawl between Donald Trump and Gonzo guy Hunter S. Thompson. Let’s see, Trump’s a teetotaller and Thompson’s dead, so it should be a fairly even match.

Never having had the chance to hang out (in a disreputable manner) with the late Princess Diana despite my great big crush on her. Gee, she probably didn’t even know how I felt.

Get a nice vacation home in the Hanalei Valley of Kauai

On the other hand, there are some things I haven’t done and that I have no desire to do, or even if I had some vague inkling of desire to do them, my better judgment suggests to me that it might be best if I let them stay where they are. A writer years ago suggested that one should perhaps try everything with the possible exceptions of incest, homicide, and opium smoking. Since I have tried none of those, I think too it would be better if I didn’t try at this stage.

So, as follows are the things I haven’t done and even if I have been curious none of them ever been activated nor likely ever will:

Injected drugs

Bitch-slapped anybody

Screamed obscenities in the street

Had sex in public (semi-public doesn’t count if there’s nobody else around)

Participated in a riot

Served time in prison

Stuck my tongue on a frozen pipe in wintertime

Uttered profanities in a place of worship

Thrown a bigoted comment at a member of a minority

Been overly familiar with the Queen. I have taken a number of close-up photos of her while on the job, but I wasn’t even tempted to say: “So, how ya doin’, babe? Bet you find these royal tours a drag.”

Committed a violent crime

Bungie-jumped

Sky-dived

Extreme skied. In fact, I haven’t skied at all since I was about 16 and by now I don’t really have a great desire to be cold and wet or to fracture whatever limbs I might have. Truth be known, I hate winter sports, mainly because I hate winter.

Gone snorkelling in shark-infested waters. I mean, I have gone snorkelling right in the same area where the little Hawaiian girl had her arm chomped off, but what are the odds?

Suffered from public incontinence (yet, at least)

Acquired an STD.

Cross-dressed – oh, maybe at Halloween when I was a kid, but that somehow doesn’t count

Worn garments made from the pelts or skins of endangered species

Spanked a child. Corporal punishment may have some virtues, but somehow it seems not right for a grown adult to slug a kid. Call me a softie, if you will

Likewise, I have never physically hurt an animal, nor would I, unless maybe it was a wolverine about to take out my throat.

In that context, I have no desire to hunt. I have no issue with those who do hunt, for meat (never for trophies), but I don’t choose to shoot some little Bambi.

OK, now that I have shown what a softie I am, it might be better to bring this to an end. I would, however, love to hear some of your taboos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, fair is fair. Happy Father’s Day, Dad (such as you were)

I’ve never been very much on either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. That may stem from the fact I was never very much on my parents. Sometimes I liked them OK, and other times I loathed them. Mainly I grew up in a sort of neutral low-emotion zone in respect to their presence in my life.

However, as time has gone by I’ve noticed a kind of change in myself. While I have wrestled for years with the emotional desert left in me due to my lacking-in-affection parents (and I have been forced to seek my affection elsewhere as a consequence) and I am amazed and gratified at times that I am able to express love, and gratefully have had it expressed to me. But, this has been a learned behavior within me.

I don’t know if my parents loved me, and at this late date there’s no way to find out. But, there has been an interesting evolution in my feelings over the years, and I have chosen this Father’s Day to express my thoughts on that evolution. Somehow it seems apt.

Dad died in 1996. Mother preceded him in 1992. Anyway, my dad was 80 when he went, but he had lost most of his interest in life after his wife’s death, so he mainly just drifted away. Sad in its own way, and terribly wasteful.

Anyway, I wasn’t gobsmacked by his death. Indeed, I was unclear about my feelings. I certainly didn’t feel any conventional manifestations of grief – at least grief of the kind of sobbing bullshit you see in the movies. In honesty I have been much more moved by the deaths of a few friends over the years.

But, some busybody suggested that I ‘should’ experience my (seemingly nonexistent) grief. In the first place Dad did not want a service of any kind. So – and Pop, be careful about what you wish for – I didn’t lift a finger to give him one. This deeply hurt his sister, but I protested that had been his wish. In retrospect I have come to realize there is a cathartic value to such ceremonies, and if it were today he would have gotten a service of some king, like it or not.

OK, the suggestion was that I should write him a posthumous letter. I did so. It was to be a letter of love and respect for what he gave me in my life. Well, it started out to be just that. But, it quickly turned southward and became a mammoth vent in which I unleashed all my resentments and a whole lot of anger. It was indeed cathartic, but not necessarily in the manner intended.

Anyway, that was 15 years ago.

I must confess I have changed a bit since then. First, and it came about slowly; I have had inklings that I actually miss the cantankerous bugger. He did give me more than I appreciated at the time, and it has often happened that I’ve had inklings that I’d like to sit down and natter about things with him.

There were other things I found out. I realized that he genuinely loved his daughter-in-law, my first wife, and missed her horribly when she and I split. I also found that he had saved every column I ever wrote and was very proud of my journalistic attainments, such as they were. He never told me he’d done this with my columns, nor ever told my ex how much he loved her. Sad, that.

But, it wasn’t in him to do that.

But at least those little factoids are part of his legacy within me.

So, Dad, I can unabashedly wish you a Happy Father’s Day. I think you deserve that.

‘Do I have to thank Gran for the Christmas gift, Ma?’

The Christmas when I was seven my more-Presbyterian-than-John Knox grandmother gave me a King James Bible for Christmas. Notwithstanding I was hoping for a bike, the Good Book was what I got.

I guess Gran was concerned about my spiritual well-being despite the fact that age 7 I hadn’t had much chance to violate any of the commandments.

Anyway, a book was a book and I learned to read (quite well, thank you) at a fairly precocious age so I decided that since this had been presented to me, I’d make the best of the gift, and I would read it. I would read it from cover-to-cover – Genesis to Revelation.

In truth, I got to about Chapter 2 of Genesis and then gave it up as a hopeless cause. I think maybe my spirituality became a bit of a hopeless cause from that point as well.

Too bad in a way. I didn’t yet realize that there was ‘good’ even salacious stuff in the Bible. ‘Song of Songs’ for example was never much dwelt upon in either Sunday school or daily Bible readings at school. To my understanding to ‘know’ in a biblical sense meant the same as conventional knowledge as in, “Hi Rachel. Nice to see ya.” It wasn’t until later that I realized that knowing in a Biblical sense meant a much closer sort of knowledge of Rachel’s (good old Rachel) nether parts. And therefore it followed that there would be a lot of ‘begatting’.

Kind of like George Carlin’s recounting of sitting in a Catholic school class and hearing a nun iterate the word ‘cock’, as in “The cock crowed three times,” Wow, how enlightening it was for him. “Hey, man, cock is in the Bible!”

In truth throughout my childhood and youth the Bible was very much part of our lives, whether or not we wanted it to be. In school, each and every day, we had the Bible reading. Most of us (including me) paid very little attention to this imposed spiritual element in an otherwise public school system. What right had they to impose this on a bunch of kids from different backgrounds – blah-blah-blah?”

It wasn’t until later, especially after I’d become a semi-serious student of literature, that I came to realize that the tales of the Bible were integral to western culture. You don’t know the allusions in the Bible you will have a much harder time interpreting Shakespeare, Eliot, Faulkner, Steinbeck (East of Eden didn’t arise in a vacuum any more than the tale of Cal and his brother isn’t truly the story Cain and Abel) and much more.

As far as Bibles go I prefer the King James version. Aside from the fact it was the one with which I grew up, it is also the most poetic of them all. The language, while at times difficult, it also beautifully lyrical, especially in the Psalms and Song of Solomon. Don’t foist modern versions on me. They have lost the essence and early 17th century beauty of the original.

So, in a way I am happy to have had the Bible imposed upon me in childhood, despite the fact I’m no more reverent than when I was at age seven.

Oh, and I’ve still never finished it. It’s like War and Peace and Joyce’s Ulysses (I’ve read the dirty parts, but so have many) in that it’s likely it will never happen. Right now I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobio and the words of St. Keef are keeping me connected. If anyone ever showed there is redemption for all us sinners, he might be the one.