Monthly Archives: September 2012

I am feeling utterly picture-less and getting no satisfaction from WP in this regard.

I have a whole ton of pictures with which I want to bore you senseless just like the old days when folks would invite you over to see their slides, but WP is being balky. Be patient. Eventually I’ll resolve the problem, I trust.

I’m back and a bit weary and I never want to stand in a queue again as long as I live

Yes, I am back and am filled with those ambivalent feelings that were best expressed by the late Jimmy Durante many years ago. “Did ya ever get the feelin’ that you wanted ta go, and then ya got the feelin’ that you wanted ta stay.” That’s about where I am. I’m bagged. Wonderful to see Max, but otherwise we’d both be happy to hit the road again. Much more later.

Sailing down to the Islands isn’t the worst way to spend some time

As of Friday we’re outta here for a couple of weeks as we embark on a sea cruise from Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands. (See us in the picture above).

I’m not sure quite what to expect. I was on a cruise way back in 1990. It was only four days duration along the west coast of Mexico and frankly I enjoyed it enough that I was sorry when the trip was over. Added to which I had come down with a crappy cold and just wanted to curl up in the stateroom bunk rather than contend with the wretched atmospheric quality of LA, whence we were disembarking.

This time we disembark at Honolulu after a number of days exploring Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. I know I’ve been there many times before, but not by ship.

This trip is considerably longer in duration this time and the ship is signic larger than that earlier one. Large enough I suspect to accommodate the population of a mid-sized community.

So, what will such a lengthy sea cruise be like? I have no preconceptions. Since we’ll be sailing into tropical waters I expect the iceberg threat is minimal so no chance to steam up the windows of a vintage Citroen with Kate Winslet in steerage. Drat.

I doubt if there is steerage on cruises. Or, maybe there is and that’s where we are. Does that mean we’ll have to dance polkas with eastern Europeans and listen to accordion music?

And I doubt to that there still exists the ritual morning floggings on the poop deck. Exactly what is a ‘poop deck’ anyway? Sounds unseemly. And in that context, no doubt keelhaulings are long since gone. Pity in a way. Always wanted to see how they did it.

I gather the object of modern cruises is just that, the cruise. Plus the other stuff. Most people say you end up eating yourself senseless and I notice our ship has about 11,000 dining options. Other people, I gather, drink themselves loopy. I no longer imbibe so I suspect I’ll only have the privilege of watching the show.

Will there be a Poirot type murder in one of the staterooms? That would be diverting.

I believe there is entertainment of various sorts. What are Leslie Uggams and John Byner up to these days? Well, they just might be on our ship.

And then there is the Captain’s Table thing? I mean, WTF is that all about? It’s not exactly as if the captain drives the ship any more:

“Ahar, Jim ‘Arkins, hoist the mizzenmast and splice the mainbrace and hand me the wheel, ahar.”

Not sure what captains do these days. If they’re coked up Italian skippers they seem to run up on rocks in vain attempts to impress an onshore girlfriend. But, evidently if you go to the captain’s dinner you are expected to dress appropriately. Why? Are the guests trying to impress him? Does he really care? If that’s what’s important to him, perhaps he doesn’t have enough to do.

“Guy at Table 13B had an open collar. I expect to see him in my wardroom at 8 bells to give him a dressing down and threaten him with the brig if it happens again!”

Otherwise, once that’s over with we’ll just have to bide our time wandering around, swimming, playing shuffleboard, losing quantities of money in the casino and I’ll be trying to make time with Leslie Uggams in her off hours since she’s always been a secret fantasy of mine.

I’ll fill you in when we’re back.



‘In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo’ (TS Eliot)

We have a quaint little art gallery in my immediate town. There are other galleries in the broader community, but this one is specifically in Comox and it’s known as the Pearl Ellis, in honor, I gather, in deference to the wife of a former mayor who, aside from her spousal connection, was also a kind of patron of the arts.

A good array of pretty fine artists in this area and the wee gallery mounts some decent exhibitions. Some of the artists are relatively well-known and others are amateurs and hobbyists – like I am, for example. I am yet to gain the self-confidence with my painting to actually go on display, but there are those who think I should. I’ll see.

To make a long story short, I love galleries. Traveling in Europe I’d as soon spend time in a gallery than virtually anywhere else to get the feeling of the history and culture of a place.

Anyway, I am a member of this gallery (or musée, as my friend Jazz would call it.) and have been for some time. A couple of months ago I decided to lend a hand to do a bit more than just pay my annual membership fee, but instead to agree to act as a volunteer. To gallery-sit, as it were. Since the Pearl Ellis ahs no paid employees it relies exclusively on folks lending a hand.

It’s not really a big deal or sacrifice on my part to do the sitting. And it’s not exactly as if I, in my semi-retired state, have a hell of a lot else to do. And I like art and I like artists, so there you go.

I was initially tempted, in reference to the last paragraph to suggest it is a HUGE sacrifice on my part and the town should be grateful that I am prepared to give so unstintingly of myself considering the taxes I also pay and the undeniable fact that I separate my garbage and recycling. What the hell else do the bastards want from me? Good citizenship, too? Kee-rist! As I said, I thought of writing this paragraph but refrained from so doing, so aren’t you pleased you didn’t have to read my embittered spleen?

On Friday I did a stint from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here’s how it went. As you read on you will appreciate the intense pressure I’m under whilst I give of myself in such an admittedly generous manner:

–         Arrive at 9:57, I believe in punctuality and think it’s right up there with personal freshness and putting the seat back down, and it’s also a bit godly.

–         Check to see if any notes have been left for me to add to my taxing chores of the next three hours. Three hours? Seems like an interminable amount of time.

–         No notes. Good. Wouldn’t want to screw up and neglect attending to anything I didn’t want to attend to in the first place. Remind myself that this is not a ‘job’ job. I mean, you can’t fire a volunteer no matter how egregiously they might fuck up. I’m giving of myself, folks. Just thought I’d remind you.

–         Phone rings. Shit. Some asshole trying to sell a new Visa plan for the outfit. Give him short shrift.

–         I phone the person who is to take this shift tomorrow – one of my taxing duties. Get her. Feel relieved that’s out of the way. Kills time. Check my watch. It is 10:03.

–         Realize I forgot to set out the outdoor ‘gallery open’ sign. Tend to that. Secretly hope a lot of people didn’t enter because of my negligence. That’s the trouble with jobs, even voluntary ones; people add complications because they’re always wanting stuff. It’s like when I was boss of a rehab, I regularly thought that if I didn’t have a staff and clients it would be quite a nice way to spend a day.

–         People come in. Ask them to sign the guest book. One of my duties, you see. All else is in order. Now I can get back to the book I’ve been endeavoring to finish for some time now.

–         Take a walk around the gallery to look at what is on show. Some nice stuff. Immediately makes me feel inadequate about my own skills.

–         Check my watch: 10:23. Time is not exactly flying by in its winged chariot.

–         Read some more. Somebody else comes in. A nice lady, quite chatty. Wonder what the odds are, I ask myself, of somebody really ‘hot’ of the female persuasion thinking a gallery visit would be just the thing prior to her pole-dancing gig later on. Think the odds are stacked against me.

–         And so it goes. One of the artists on show comes by. Have a pleasant chat with her. She tries to convince me to mount some of my stuff in a members show.

–         I might add that each time somebody comes by I say a secret little prayer that goes: “Please feel no impulse to buy anything!” I know that’s not a very productive attitude but if somebody does want to buy something it means I have to haul out receipt books and other ‘business’ paraphernalia and attempt to remember all the steps involved, especially if the prospective purchaser wants to buy by credit card, and thus succeeds in complicating my life just that much more.

–         Eventually the time passes, the whole three hours of it. How did I, in the old days, handle eight, nine and sometimes even ten hours at a job task? Oh right, I got money for doing that. But, when my three hours are up I feel a bit like a kid at the beginning of summer vacation, in spite of myself.

Don’t get the impression I dislike the task. Nothing of the sort. It’s for a good cause and so it renders me just a little bit nobler in the mind – of me, for example.





Now this is simply for the sake of argument

My paternal grandfather was a lawyer. He was also a very bright, well-read and cultured chap. And there was nothing my grandfather liked more  – other than listening to the opera on the radio on Sunday afternoons – the entire goddamn opera, if you will – than a good argument.

And, he couldn’t stand losing an argument. Well, that was the lawyer and logician in him. Arguments to him were intellectual calisthenics. Didn’t matter what the subject was, he would persist with his points and with steely logic attempt to defeat his adversary.

When I got into my late teens I came to appreciate the process. That was around about the time I actually – momentarily — considered a legal career myself. The idea of me joining the ranks of the barrister/solicitor contingent appealed to my grandfather greatly and he tried to encourage me. In vain, alas. I obviously never went in the direction of .the bar – the bar of jurisprudence, that is.

Regardless of the direction of my professional aspirations, my grandfather did teach me how to argue a point and he would remorselessly shoot down any violations of the process. If I was to stand up against his points I had better come well-armed because he afforded no compassion for pikers in the realm. I needed facts and, if losing, I must never resort to ad hominem insults. If A equaled B, and B equaled C, then I’d better be able to prove that A also equaled C, or give up the fight. It was an area of mentorship, despite my lack of legal ambition, that did serve me well as a journalist, especially in mounting arguments in aditorial columns.

By the time I was in university I’d gotten pretty good at the process. I recall one argument that took place when my grandfather was visiting my parents for Sunday dinner. I don’t remember the topic of dispute but for the first time in my life I believed I’d beaten the old guy at his own game. I was firm in my resolve and with the smugness of youth I rejoiced in the fact I truly believed I’d vanquished him. While I hadn’t exactly left him sputtering, I did give him pause. The pause seemed like victory to me.

After he’d left for the evening I felt good. I had, I thought, earned my stripes. I had defeated the old master and that, I was sure, gave me some sort of master status. It would never be the same now that he had come up against a foe such as I was at the age of 20 or something equally ridiculous and callow.

I was wrong. The phone rang at 10 o’clock that night. It was my grandfather. He told me that he knew I was wrong but hadn’t been able to find the documentation to validate it. Back at his home he’d found it and shot my illogic to shit. He was prepared to admit, however, that he should have been better briefed before going into ‘court’ that evening.

Regardless of all of that, I have always taken pleasure in reasoned argument and debate and have only tempered that feeling later in life when I came to realize that not only do some people dislike argument for argument’s sake, but they find it somehow confrontational and disruptive of polite discourse. And some people are also given to personalizing arguments with such retorts as: “Oh yeah, sez you, shithead!” Such interchanges truly destroy the intellectuality of the exercise.

I also eventually came to realize that some arguments cannot ever be won and that there is no point in trying to win them, despite the fact that politicians and advocacy groups attempt to do this all the time.

Unwinnable arguments are those that call to the fore human feelings, intrinsic beliefs, bigotries, and plain boneheadedness, regardless of how firmly the arguer believes in his stupid damn ideas.

Yes, argument is a study in logic. When you pour on some human sentiment, then you spoil the broth irreparably and the issue will go nowhere.

Consequently, I have a mental list of subjects not really worthy or winnable of argument. They include:

The death penalty for certain crimes: I’m still primarily opposed, but I make exceptions I realize. I shed no tears for Ted Bundy, nor did I think the State of Florida was in any way remiss for frying the bastard.
– Abortion: I learned long ago to never venture into this realm. It’s much too personal and, as a male, I don’t feel I have any right unless I personally know what it’s like to be facing an unwanted pregnancy.
Homosexuality: I am not gay, but I have always – not just recently after it became trendy – believed that we find love where we do and who am I to judge or argue the point.
Drug Legalization: As an addictions counselor and one who has seen the addicted sitting across a desk from me many times, or going through the agonies of withdrawal (not a soothing sight) I have strong opinions about this. Others have differing opinions. It’s one I have had to learn to live with and it involves genuine attempts to get clean rather than currently in vogue ‘harm reduction’. Experience tells me I’m not out to lunch on this matter. Others in the same field might choose to differ. As for jailing users and the so-called ‘war on drugs’, that’s really worked peachily, hasn’t it?
Teenage sexuality: At one level, I think a healthy expression of sexuality is part of the human condition and who am I to stand in the way of a behavior that is intrinsic and was certainly very much a part of me when I was young. On the other hand, if I were the father of a teenage daughter (which I am not) I would be: “Not with my daughter you don’t, you little bastard!” But the always have indulged and always will, God love ‘em.
Religion: To indulge in such an argument is always fatuours, presumptuous and also insufferably arrogant. Whatever the tenets of the beliefs of another is never anybody’s business, and to try to dissuade somebody from the articles of his or her faith is stupid. You may take exception to Tom Cruise’s Scientology, but it remains his business. Go ahead and poke all the holes you want in what he holds dear, but you are wasting your breath. The number of wars throughout history that have been based on violating the religious beliefs of others are innumerable, and they still go on, as we all know. This is probably the most dangerous realm of argument of all.

As I suggested, it is not really worth anybody’s while to debate about the foregoing. At the same time, we shouldn’t avoid honest debate. It can be enjoyable and I have also found that if an argument mounted to counter my thoughts on any matter is well enough founded, I can even be persuaded to assume an alternate point-of-view.

And now for something completely different. Sorry, but they can’t all be fun

It would happen every summer. Mom would get a worried look on her face and inform us: “You can’t go down to the beach park to swim. Too many other kids there.”

She wasn’t intending to encourage lack of sociability on our part; she was reacting to a very real fear that used to manifest itself with the warm days of summer in which masses of kids would gather at swimming holes, fairs and public parks and playgrounds.

You see, I went to school with a good number of children who were like wounded soldiers bearing ghastly scars from a battle that persisted until the mid to late 1950s. Whenever great numbers of kids were gathered in warm weather there was the chance that the ‘nightmare’ illness of the day, polio, would be transmitted. Polio or infantile paralysis was highly contagious. And I’m friends with a number of adults today who still must deal with the repercussions of childhood bouts with the wretched illness that struck without warning and took its toll ruthlessly and rapidly.

And, you know, we didn’t need a lot of convincing to take precautions. We were as frightened as were the parents. You see, we had the examples in those wounded soldiers, the kids in leg braces, the kids with withered arms, the kids we were told had spent time in iron longs – great monstrous machines that enabled breathing in the unfortunates who’d lost respiratory ability. Some made it past the iron lungs, but others, sadly, did not

Usually, polio struck when children were very young – but not always. I had a high school friend, great guy, super jock who lived and breathed sports. He was hit at the end of ninth grade. By 10th grade he was on crutches and the musculature in one leg was shot to shit. By the next year he was able to get by with a leg brace and a cane.

He never played sports again. At best he would be named team manager and have to watch what he loved from the sidelines.

And sometimes even adults were hit, though that was rarer. But most people know about Franklin D. Roosevelt, also stuck in cumbersome braces for the rest of his life after he was hit by polio at age 39.

And then came Jonas Salk and his ‘wonder’ vaccine and polio went from a peak year of nearly 60,000 cases in 1952, to a mere 396 in 1963. The last case in the US was recorded in 1979. How amazing is that?

Sorry anti-vaccination fanatics but this drug saved lives and gave quality summers to countless children. I make no apology in suggesting you are dead wrong. Furthermore, when the Sabin oral vaccine came about a bit later kids no longer had to fear the jab.

Since 1985 Rotary Clubs International have mounted a serious campaign to try to rid the entire planet of the scourge of polio for there are still many pockets in which it spreads its horrors in such countries as India and parts of Africa. Easy for me to plug Rotary in its PolioPlus campaign since Wendy is a hard-working Rotarian.

In recent years Rotary has been involved in a joint venture in this campaign with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and that foundation has sunk millions upon millions into the cause.

The goal is to have polio go the way smallpox has on the planet, that is: non-existent.

To regular readers I recognize this is a slightly different blog for me but I felt a need to transmit the message.

I promise lighter fare next time.





The senator and the bobbysoxer. Don’t pretend you’re not the tiniest bit envious, guys

Way back many years ago Charlie Chaplin married Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene. Charlie was 54 and she was a mere 18. Her old man disowned her. But, she and Charlie were married right up to his death 35-years later.

Bogey was 25-years older than Betty Bacall. That’s a whole generation. Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau was 30-years older than wife Margaret. Margaret may have been a bit of a pea-brain, but she was a looker with and without her pants on (referencing that notorious Studio 54 photo) and was able to provide her geezer with another generation of Trudeaus, or better or for worse depending on your politics.

And so it goes. We can all cite all sorts of notables and familiar folk in which there is a great age discrepancy, and yet the relationships often work. Trudeau’s didn’t but that is not necessarily the norm. Many such marriages and/or bondings work out just fine. By the way, it works both ways. There are a number of instances in which the female partner is much older than the male, as in the Case of Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon.

Now, closer-to-home (and this may indicate my bias in regards to age discrepancies or geezers taking up with younger partners. My own wife is 13-years younger than I am. My 2nd wife was 12 years younger. In neither case has the difference in age been a factor, and in the case of the break up of my #2 alliance, age had nothing to do with it.

Periodically there will be a film or TV reference that is greeted with a “Huh? Before my time.” And I will confess that I may be brilliant in my music lore of the ‘50s through the early ‘80s, Wendy is much more attuned with current stuff. I will hear something, suggest I like it and be greeted with, “You know that, don’t you? It’s Smashing Pumpkins (or some such)” Well, no, I don’t. But if you want to know about Roxy Music or the Velvet Underground or that Clyde McPhatter was lead singer of the Drifters before Ben E. King, then I’m your man.

I like to fool myself in thinking I offer some maturity, wisdom, dignity and aplomb (not to mention – ahem – ‘staying power’) to the nuptial mix. Anyway, it works, as it has with many other couples. What woman wants a callow punk who has just cleared up his zits as opposed to a Cary Grant? Oh, I’d be the CG figure, by the way. In my fantasies. A young reporter once said to CG: “I’d really like to be Cary Grant.” To which Grant responded, “So would I, son, so would I.”

An added bonus for us is that most of our friends are her age or even younger, and that tends to keep me much more current. Frankly, and not to be unkind, I find my contemporaries kind of, well, old in their thinking. There is also statistical evidence that indicates being married to a younger spouse can lead to greater longevity. Works for me.

This little screed comes about because of the interesting tale of Canadian Senator Rod Zimmer (age 69) and his wife of a year, one Maygan Sensenberger (age 23). She’s not only 23, but she is a looker by anybody’s standards.

Anyway, one day last week Ms. Sensenberger went apeshit on a commercial airplane and reportedly got into a heated row with the senator and allegedly threatened to cut his throat.

“Silly old bastard,” was the gist of commentary arising from the situation. “He should have known better; she’s in it for the money, the bimbo; no fool like an old fool,” and all the other bits of nastiness people could muster. Actually not as many men as women were excessively critical which could be seen as meaning there was a little envy therein as in “Wisht I had me onea them.”

Anyway, family rallied to the situation and according to some of her friends and family she and the senator had been keeping company for a while before their marriage and that she loved the old coot very much and was very happy with him, and just got a bit loaded on a plane and went off the rails a bit. It happens.

Judicial results are pending, but according to scuttlebutt she’s not planning to leave, nor is he planning to give her the boot.

Good on them.

Chronology doesn’t necessarily count for everything. Maybe there’s also love involved. I like to think so.