Monthly Archives: May 2013

A well-manicured lawn and Stevie Nicks. All in a day’s work

lawncareThe boys are here to cut the grass. That is making me more excited than I was on my last date with Stevie Nicks. You might think I made that up, but you have no way of knowing, do you? So, I am going to add that to my mythology.

stevie-nicks-photoAnyway, the fact that the boys are here to cut the grass makes me say ‘yay! about that. That’s because it frustrates me having somebody else tend to the tonsorial needs of my turf and I hate having to wait for somebody else to decide when my grass needs cutting because that is often a couple of days after I’ve decided it needs cutting. I’m kind of turf-appearance anal if truth be known.

That’s mainly because a couple of seasons ago I gave up the ‘right’ to cut my own grass. My old mower had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced. And, being the enviro-minded sod that I am – as long as the enviro issue isn’t too inconvenient – I wanted to get one of those fancy rechargeable electric mowers. And then I saw what they cost, and then I thought how many visitations by a lawn service would it take to equal that cost. So, with some persuasion by Wendy, we opted for the lawn service.

And don’t get me wrong. These guys do a great service. They’re quite meticulous and they do all the edging and all the other wonderful things I was often inclined to neglect – until a ‘next time’ – that sometimes never arrived, especially if it was near the end of cutting season.

But, for me, it was difficult to give up the freedom to mow at my own whim. The decision was just another of ‘those’ signs – no, I don’t mean the sort that is alleviated by Cialis – of forsaking a certain freedom and pattern that had been with me for much of my life.

I began cutting my parents’ lawn when I was about 10 or so. With a hand-mower I puffed and fretted through the weed-festooned patch that passed as a lawn at the Domaine de Lidster. My old man generally thought I did a shitty job, but that’s just the sort of fun dude he was. Anyway, cutting the parental lawn ultimately led to other lawn cutting jobs around the neighborhood. It was OK. It meant a few bucks would come my way until I could nab me my first ‘real’ job at 16. Don’t mean to be smug, kids, but we were expected to ‘work’ when I was growing up.

Anyway, I didn’t bother much with lawn trimming again until I go a place of my own, and after that and many mowers later I continued down through the years.

I kind of liked the task. I could almost meditate at the time and some inspired thoughts – that mainly went nowhere – periodically arose. Quite a few columns and the odd blog came about when I was grass cutting. And even though I’m a bit allergic to freshly cut grass, I love the smell of knew-mown lawn.

And now that the boys are finished, I just may go out and catch me a whiff.




Prince Harry and Danny Partridge: Some chilling similarities

prince-harry-600So, if you were to ask me and if I were to have any say in the matter, I’d like to suggest that when the Queen (God forbid) passes on and joins all her Royal predecessors at some sort of celestial Windsor, that the Crown be passed to Prince Harry.

I know the lad is only third in the line-of-succession and when that Kate lady foals the poor blighter will be fourth. But, I want to get my vote in now.

As I say, there are a few people who have to be bumped off and dumped in butts of malmsey or some other Richard III tradition before young Harry assumes prominence, but damn it, that sort of thing used to happen all the time.

And let’s look at who stands between Harry and the coveted crown. Charles? Oh, come on. The guy is a tiresome eco-pedant who makes Al Gore seem like a fun fellow and his wife is, well, not to be unkind but, you know – no, I’d end up seeming unkind; Prince William. Gee, damn near as boring as Papa. Oh, I know the Royal formerly known as ‘Wills’ is terribly responsible and his missus is kind of a pretty thing. But, let’s face it, the two of them are about as boring as Brad and Angelina, if such a thing were possible.

Harry is different. Harry is a ‘lad’. He’s fun. He’s witty. The babes adore him, and most men wouldn’t mind sinking a pint of best bitter with him at the local.

dannyThe only aspect of Prince Harry that disarms me ever so slightly is the resemblance between him (the younger son, the so-called ‘spare’) and the younger son of the Partridge Family, Danny Bonaduce.

Let is consider the similarities:

–         they’re both ginger boys.

–         They’re both rather irreverent.

–         They both have been known to be hellraisers in their day.

–         Both have (probably) had ‘lost’ nights in Vegas.

–         Both pull in a lot of babes and have tempestuous relationships.

–         I don’t know if Danny has ever dressed up in Nazi regalia, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

–         Both can be very funny in a somewhat shocking manner.

And, as personal bias I can attest that as much as I get a great kick out of Prince Harry and would like him to be king, I also found Danny to be my favorite Partridge – aside from Susan Dey (but that was for an entirely other reason). Oh, and Harry had a pretty knockout mom, much as TV Danny did in Shirley Jones. I have no idea what his real mom looks like.

It did pay me to increase my wordpower. Not a lot, but a bit

more readers disgustI was an odd child, I suppose. While regular and need I say ‘normal’ kids who are exposed to family strife live in dread that their parents might get divorced, I used to lie awake at night praying the battling senior Lidsters would pack it in.

 I once said that to my late mother-in-law and she replied: “You don’t really mean that.” I responded that she had no idea how much I did mean it. Maybe if they’d been honest about the deficits of their relationship they might have bailed and grabbed much pleasanter lives for themselves.

 Or, maybe my attitude merely serves to explain my own checkered marital history. Never did have much of an example of how a good one works and it’s only taken me many decades and a lot of tribulation to get to a point where I think I might have worked it out.

 Anyway, domestic life chez Lidster has nothing to do with this blog. What this blog is about is just one little source of confrontation between my parents, and that lay with Reader’s Digest. Wait – I can hear you thinking – how can an innocuous little magazine be a source of marital strife? Well, to Mumsy, who was a practicing intellectual snob, every issue of RD delivered to our home was as invidious as pooping in the front parlor. “Readers’ Disgust” is what she called it in her very own disdainful manner.

 Even more offensive to her were the RD condensed books – “More challenging than Classics Comics but not as hard as the real thing,” I believe the slogan went. No it didn’t. I made that up – which the old man also got delivered. I didn’t read those, prefering the real deal with any book.

 Otherwise, in truth, I didn’t mind RD, though I had to be circumspect in my perusals thereof. Mom would have actually preferred I read Playboy because in the day it contained articles and interviews that actually promoted thought. But, the point being that if there was nothing else to pick up I’d check out the old man’s RDs.

I never confessed (much as I’ve never confessed to a lot of transgressions) that I actually didn’t mind it, especially little regular features like ‘Laughter, the Best Medicine’ and ‘Lives Like That’. But, the one I liked the most was – and this is the actual motivation for this blog – ‘It Pays to Increase Your Wordpower’. This feature would list a bunch of rarely used terms and ask you if you (multiple choice) knew what they meant.

As an aspirant scribe even back then I wanted to gain mastery of a vocabulary outside the mundane and came of the belief that if a certain word was used three times it would be mine forevermore. I gather Dickens followed a similar process. Or maybe not. I made that one up, as well.

Anyway – how am I doing wordpower-wise? If OK, I can only thank RD. Sorry, Mom.



No matter how tension-fraught the world becomes, there’s always Grandmas

twetty and grannyAs I had coffee with a friend yesterday morning he recounted how his lady-friend is shortly to be a grandmother – for the 2nd time.

:”What is it about women becoming grandmothers?” he queried. “She’s more ga-ga over this pending grandkid than she is about her own children. I mean, she’s just beside herself with excitement.”

Well, I reckon we could go into a lot of psychological motivations and theories here, but I think with a grandmother a woman finally has the freedom to indulge a kid in a manner she couldn’t with her immediate offspring. There is no ‘test’ involved in the case of grandchildren, so they can be spoiled rotten.

I come into this topic with a huge bias. I loved my maternal grandmother arguably more than I ever loved anybody. Certainly more than I loved her daughter – my own mother. As I have mentioned before, she died in an accident when I was 14 and I still miss her.

So yeah, Grandmas are mightily special in the life of a child. When I lived in England in 1980-81 there was a huge musical hit in an item called Grandma We Love You, by the munchkins in the choir of St. Winifred’s School. A silly little throwaway but, in the land of Clapton, the Stones and David Bowie this dumb thing sat on the charts for weeks. Why? Because callous would be the person who didn’t love their grandma.

Who is that wonderfully benevolent cartoon figure other than Grannie, who looks out for the well-being of Tweety Bird? Grannies do that.

Of course, I cannot get used to newfangled grandmothers who are entirely unlike mine. I mean – and I guess that’s from the perspective of age – some of them look like pretty hot babes to me. Grandmas aren’t supposed to be hot babes. They are supposed to smell of lavender and like mine sit by the kitchen stove knitting and reading and certainly never looking like what one would call ‘hot’. She wore Granny clothes and drank tea not martinis. I once spied my grandmother smoking a cigarette at a social gathering. I was rather shocked.

I realized the other day that when my grandmother died she was actually two years younger than I am now. Now that was a wide-awake moment

Walk to school? Why, what a revolutionary idea

classSomebody vouchsafed an ‘interesting’ idea in the paper the other day: He suggested that for a host of reasons it might be a good idea for children to start walking to and from school instead of being driven by parents.

What a revolutionary and indeed retrograde comment. Children walk? Children who live more than a block from their classroom actually applying a little bit of ‘shank’s mare’ (as my granny used to call it)?

calvinIn all seriousness, I applaud the idea and I have been for years trying to get my head around why children are ferried back and forth. I mean, I know they are. I live a mere block away from an elementary school and I see the vehicles plying the roads to drop them off in the morning and then pick them up in the afternoon.

These are elementary kids from the neighborhood and I’ll bet none of them live more than a half-mile distant from the school.

In ‘my day’ (I find I say that a lot of late) we all walked (mainly dawdled as we were in no rush to arrive) we walked one-and-one-tenth mile to school and one-and-one-tenth mile from school each and every day regardless of weather. And since that was back in pre-climate change days we had (I like to think) almost incessant blizzards from September to June. But, we did it and I (and many of my peers) survived to tell the tale.

But wait, there’s more. As I look at an old class photo (the one shown is fourth grade, see if you can find me. The teacher, by the way, was a complete asshole) there ain’t a fat kid in the lot. We was too po’ to be fat. No, really, we ate OK. We actually ate pretty healthfully compared with today. It was just that we walked everywhere we wanted to go. And when school was done, we had ‘chores’ – really kids. Ask Mom and Dad what chores were – and then we just fooled around physically; played games; played sandlot sports; hiked,  rode our bikes far away sometimes. Once when I was about 12 a gang of us rode our bikes to the US border (about 25 miles distant) and we were chagrined when they wouldn’t let a bunch of 12-year-olds across. Bloody Yanks. So, we rode home again.

The point being, we didn’t loll about inside watching TV. It would be decades before video games were to show up – wanna play a game, play Monopoly. There was no texting and there was a party-line land-line phone. Our lives weren’t sedentary.

And, as we were kids we had no money so we didn’t gorge out on crap. We got ‘meals’ and sometimes a snack after school. “Have some celery with cheese, Junior, it’s good for you! And that’s it until supper. You want pop? What is it, your birthday?” So, hence the picture with the paucity of fat kids. Slim kids who walked to school.

Of course, some diligent parents drive their kids because they are of the belief that the streets are crawling with perverts and other evil people dead set on harming their youngsters. Well, there were perverts and evil people throughout history and that’s sort of called ‘life and its risks’. Read Tom Sawyer and know that way back Tom and Huck ran into some pretty evil dudes, including Huck’s drunken old man.

“Don’t talk to strangers,” we were warned, and that was about it. Oh, and “Don’t play with pointed sticks, you’ll put somebody’s eye out.” Never did know anybody who got his eye put out by a pointed stick.

And when school beckoned in its ghastly way, we walked.

And then I fell for Betty and Veronica in an unwholesome manner and my childhood went away

thwack_soundeffect_thwack_vintage_comic_book_sound_effects-1979pxI am quite fond of the comedy Big Bang Theory. I think the cast is talented and very funny and I have in my life had fantasies over such a girl as Penny. What red-blooded lad hasn’t?

biddy and salonicaBut, one thing I don’t get, and perhaps that’s because times have changed, is the obsession by these highly-educated, remarkably intelligent grown men with comic books. Aside from a foray into some of the more brilliant, rebellious and salacious underground comics of the hippie ‘70s I left comic books aside once I realized I was looking at Archie comics no longer for the humor but for the respective racks of Betty and Veronica. Then I knew it was time to grow up.

But I once had a wonderful relationship with comic books and I admire the art and storytelling to this day. Of course, I also worked as a cartoonist for a number of years as a kind of newspaper sideline.

Anyway, here is how it was in the day.

Every store worth its salt had a huge array of these ten-cent sources of magic. Classics Illustrated cost a whole fifteen-cents, and the fact that they gave the basic plotlines for many literary works enables not a few students to get through freshman literature courses at university without even having to resort to the challenge suggested by Cole’s Notes, which demanded actual reading.             

But, I speak more of the regular comic books. I only got a lousy fifteen-cents a week allowance (my parents weren’t poor, just cheap), and that paltry sum left me little flexibility in purchasing power. Coming home from Douglas Road School on allowance day called for a stop at the Rio.  Rio referred to the Rio Vista, a grimy truck stop coffee bar and general store connected to an even grimier cocky-locky type motel – oh, we had heard the tales, even by the tender age of ten. Anyway, at the Rio a kid could get a brown paper bag of French fries (chips, as we called them in those days) for a lowly five-cents. Or, I could take that nickel and get a chocolate bar, or divide it all up for penny candy. For that same nickel you could get fifteen jawbreakers. A bottle of pop was out, however, because that would cost seven cents and that would only leave eight cents from my allowance. Comics were a dime. And, a new comic was generally a must.

Kids’ tastes in comics varied. Some like actioners like Superman or Batman. I didn’t mind Batman as much because I liked ‘his’ costume, but not Robin’s. Some kids liked westerns, but they were never a drawing card for me. Horror comics scared the snot out of me and evoked nightmares. No, mainly I liked the funny ones. Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, or the Disney compendia called Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories – whatever happened to Bucky Bug? Little Lulu was brilliantly funny and hilariously scripted. Despite the fact the heroine was a girl, she wasn’t a girly-girl so there was no shame in a boy liking Lulu. Anyway, you could always protest that you read for Tubby’s (and it was still politically acceptable to call a fat kid ‘Tubby’ – oops, guess I should have said obese) exploits. And finally, and even more so as I got older, there was Archie. Not as good as the Archie in the funnies, but popular nevertheless.

Around that same time, however, my world of comic book love changed. A kid brought to school some comics that looked like the normal and real thing until I began perusing. This comic was called MAD and this astonishing brilliant satirical offering opened me to a new world of not only hilarity, it also provided me with my introduction to satire. Life would never be the same.

At the height of my comic book collecting, purchasing, trading and other comic related activities, I owned over two-hundred of them. And then I got older and lost interest, and they were discarded. I weep when I think of what they would be worth today. For some reason I was able to keep three, and I still have them. In my possession are a 1952 Bugs Bunny, a 1953 Walt Disney, and a 1955 MAD Magazine – only the second magazine after the Gaines people had switched over from comic book format. But once, damn it, I had them ‘all.’

Here’s a health unto her Majesty and her great big panties

vikkiWhat follows is a repeat from a blog on this date in 2008 (with a few adjustments). And since it is that same Victoria Day holiday I felt it was still apt and because it is a holiday I don’t feel particularly ambitious or creative. Enjoy, I hope.

It was in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum that many years ago I saw a sight that haunts me to this day.

It was a pair of Queen Victoria’s underpants. I don’t know how they got them and wondered if some 19th century pervert had rummaged through her laundry hamper. But, the point is, they were huge! You could have accommodated a troop of Boy Scouts in them.

Not only were they huge – they were crotchless! That’s right, the lady parts of this paragon of rectitude were uncovered.

Did that mean that the Queen of Britain and her Empire was a bit on the kinky side and always ready for action? Well, maybe she was. There was that John Brown rumor, after all. But, it was for another reason that they were gusset-less. And supposedly she and her husband Prince Albert had a riotous sex life with the supposedly prim queen being particularly avid. I mean, good heavens, they spawned about 200 princelings and princesses who worked hard later on to bring about World War One.

Ladies of her day wore commodious skirts, sometimes hooped, and mightily difficult to hitch up when nature called. Consequently, they would merely stand in place – hopefully somewhere out on the lawn, maybe near the croquet pitch, and simply pee down their legs. Neither very sanitary or esthetically dainty, and I don’t mean to be indelicate here, but sometimes a gal has to do what she has to do. Oh, and that is the primary reason for the crotchlessness, I have heard. I wasn’t there to observe.

I only mention all of this stuff because today, in Canada, and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, it is Victoria Day.

So, here’s a toast to the old Queen and her voluminous knickers. Long may they both reign, in our hearts, at least.