Monthly Archives: July 2013

Come fly with me — fly above the clouds, etc.

me and plane

Dorothy Parker once said she didn’t like writing, she liked “having written.” As a writer of sorts I agree with the divinely debauched Ms. P. But, I will also apply her thoughts on writing to flying. I do not like flying, but I like having flown because that means I have arrived intact at a destination I sought, rather than bobbing around mid-Pacific or mid-Atlantic with sharks homing in.

I don’t like flying for a number of other reasons as well. In the first place, it’s excruciatingly boring, and that boredom is only punctuated by moments of stark terror. Turbulence always unnerves me; the seats viciously uncomfortable and leave me with a numb-bum for ages afterwards; and the second the flight attendants block the passageway with the drink trolley, I know that I will have to pee more urgently than I’ve ever had to in my life.

I won’t even get into the excruciating and insultingly outrageous security checks we all have to undergo these days. The only people to have gained from those hideous exercises are the chronic exhibitionists. “Hey, please, I really want to show you my junk!”

I have had only a few very good moments on an airplane. I’ve never joined, nor been invited to join the ‘Mile High Club’ (sigh) but I have met some interesting people. Once, on a flight from Vancouver to Honolulu I was actually hit upon by a gorgeous flight attendant (back when they were still known as stewardi) who left no doubt that she would like me to join her for her three-day layover in Hawaii. She didn’t define exactly what she meant by ‘layover’, but being no naif (I don’t think), I got the gist of her invitation. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I was hugely married at the time and my wife was asleep in the seat immediately in front of where I was sitting.

But I will say I have had one flying experience that could never be matched by any prosaic commercial airline offering, and that was the time I flew in a Canadian Air Force T-bird. In gratitude for all the nice things I had written about our local airbase, CFB Comox, I was invited to take a flight in a vintage fighter jet. That was an event in my life that wasn’t boring. The pilot told me that such a flight is the closest you will get to the exultation of sex with your clothes on. He was right. After a full five-hour training session (in which I learned how to eject, God forbid, and other bits of esoterica) we took off in this bubble-topped rather venerable aircraft. It was amazingly exciting. I actually had the sensation of speed as we screamed across the Comox Valley and on towards the Beaufort range, and right out to Nootka Sound within mere minutes. We flew straight, we flew up (whence I found out what G-force really means), we flew down, jeopardizing my lunch, but I kept it down, we did rolls (not as unnerving as you might think), and anything else the pilot had in mind, or was directed to do.

Eventually we had to return, almost to my dismay. We came in by the back way from the west coast of the Island. Our plane and another fighter/trainer screamed at low altitude through a canyon in a scene most reminiscent of Star Wars. The pilot then asked if I would like to see the Glacier from the top. I did very much. He came in so low over the icecap that I felt I could step out of the cockpit and stroll around — except for the fact we were moving at hundreds of miles an hour.

At the end of the flight, I felt like the poet who penned ‘High Flight’. I truly felt like I had stuck out my hand and “touched the cheek of God.” You don’t get that on your average Air Canada flight, where a fella doesn’t even get a lousy bag of peanuts these days.

I might add that I’ve also never been upgraded. That comment is appropos of nothing other than I harbor a burning resentment in that regard.

Advertisements

Hoovering up in a Monday vacuum of inspiration

HotRod
Today is one of those Mondays. Not a manic one, or even a depressed one, just a meh one. Creative juices are not astir.

I like to pen a blog on a Monday but nothing is suggesting itself as wanting any sort of a ‘treatment’. I’ve only got snippets of thoughts. Not truly a writer’s block, just a dearth of inspiration. And that got me to thinking, or asking: Why do I do this at all?

Well, I think it’s primarily due to the fact I was a columnist for over two decades and even though I wrote my last column for publication years ago. The need to ‘turn something out’ gets in your blood and becomes part of your DNA, and like assorted hungers (namely food and sex) it periodically demands to be fed.

So, that’s where I am today: Hungry but unable to access mental sustenance.

Snippets of ideas have come to mind but none demanded to get a full treatment. As follows are items I thought might make worthy blogs, but lack of ambition or imagination seem to have quelled offering much more than a comment. So, brief comments are all I got:

– Magazines: I had noticed over the years that Wendy rarely picks up a mag, let alone buy one. Sometimes I’ll hand her an article and she’ll read it, but it’s not a voluntary impulse or a satisfaction of a need. I grew up in the golden age of magazines. In my childhood we got Life, Time, National Geographic and the Saturday Evening Post in the mail. When I became an adult and had moved past Mad and comic books I discovered National Lampoon, Playboy (of course, but just for the articles, y’see), Esquire (which used to be better) and Vanity Fair. Still read VF, though sometimes it’s unworthy. Still glance at Time, though it’s barely a shell of Henry Luce’s flagship, and Newsweek has gone digital, so screw Newsweek.
– Fly the fiendish skies: Glanced at a newspaper article this morning that told the tale of how Chinese air passengers are going apeshit at airports and attacking airline staff due to intolerable delays. Good to hear. I hope it catches on. It’s about time the public started retaliating for the insults and inconvenience and general wretchedness that aerial travel has become.
– American Graffiti (sort of): Went down yesterday to look at the magnificent vehicles – hotrods, customs, dragsters and the ilk in all their candy-apple red and green flaked livery and sporting the mammoth engines that go with the territory, all of it chrome delectability. And I noticed that most of the vehicle owners – those who had painstakingly created these bits of automotive brilliance – were old geezers like me. In other words, guys who had grown up in the era of American Graffiti . Scarcely a young buck in sight among the owners. Sad, that. Sad that a generation doesn’t know that the throbbing rumble of a Lakes pipe enhanced exhaust at the tail-end of a ridiculously overpowered engine can produce a better orgasm than an encounter with a 17-year-old girl will do.
– Royal bairn: Has been done to death by everybody and I refuse to go there ever again.

And that’s it. That’s all she wrote.

A good breaking of your fast will let you live forever

breakfast460

If you eat a good breakfast every day, you’ll never die – that’s just how healthy the practice is. OK, not quite healthy enough to establish immortality, but healthy enough that it can give you a longer innings.

They say.

Maybe it is so, or maybe it’s not. Regardless, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love those eateries that serve breakfast all day. Eggs Benny at noon, 3 pm, or 8 at night. All good.

I know there are some who balk at breakfast and I do not know why. It doesn’t matter what my breakfast consists of. If we’re on vacation I have to check out if the hotel has a decent restaurant or if there is a good coffee joint nearby. And then I can anticipate with a welcoming spirit the coming of morning. Hoo-boy, it’s breakfast time.

The components of brekkie are all welcomed by me: Cereal, hot or cold but preferably hot with a good bowl of oatmeal being cherished. When I ran a drug and alcohol rehab the item in biggest demand by the boys was oatmeal. Some of them may have been bad dudes but at least they learned to eat their porridge. When we took our cruise last year the little breakfast nook at the pool/Jacuzzi solarium served both oatmeal and grits. Both welcome.

And eggs, of course. Any manner of eggs: boiled, fried, scrambled, poached and assuredly of Benedict persuasion. Oeufs Benedict bring one closer to God in my esteem, which is why we always have them at Christmas and Easter. I make my own hollandaise (and it’s real hollandaise and filled with artery clogging butter and eggs) and never use the kit stuff. Our most favored version is the eggs and hollandaise atop home-made lox. To die for, believe me.

And then, of course, there is bacon and sausage. Never much for ham. Traveling in the Netherlands and Belgium it’s pleasing to look at their breakfasts which are decent in their own right. Multiple types of breads (rarely toasted), boiled eggs often, and then assorted cheeses and coldcuts. They work well for breakfast.

And the bread component must not be missed. Hot toast; croissants; crumpets; English muffins, etc. Love donuts and Danishes but never really big on them for breakfast. My ideal toast is multi-grain slathered in butter, natural peanut butter and honey.

Traveling always increases my appetite for breakfast. There are some who go to England for tours of castles and battle scenes, museums, galleries, assorted bits of royal nonsense, and a countryside that remains (in my opinion) unexcelled. I go for those reasons as well, but mainly I go for breakfast – that wonderful English breakfast which is more civilizing to me than multi-generations of Windsors and their spawn. English breakfast is an institution.

It is eggs, bacon, sausage, fried tomato, kippers, toast and assorted other elements like baked beans. I never got the beans thing. To me beans are something flatulent cowboys consume around a campfire as they did in Blazing saddles, not something for breakfast. But, chacun a son gout. Speaking of Gallic breakfasts, I did miss toast when we lived in France for a few weeks, but they virtually made up for it with croissants flaky and wonderful and made with real butter. Still miss them.

Still a few hours until breakfast time and I’m already looking forward to it. Maybe waffles or pancakes? Haven’t had those in a few weeks so I may be due.

George Carlin once said that after he’d had a coronary he was advised to not consume bacon. So, he would go and fry up bacon on a Sunday morning just to get the heavenly aroma in the house.

I understand that.

Hey — you — get offa my cloud!

goose_step_1289913c

Sigmund Freud postulated that the primary motivating force behind humankind was sex. Many who followed him in the realms of theoretical ‘shrinkdom,’ disagreed. Except for those that agreed.

I (though not a psychoanalytical theorist very often) would like to agree with Freud. His idea makes life seem more raffish, more fun and frolicsome. But, I’m afraid I have to cast my lot with those who think otherwise.

I believe territory is considerably more significant to human beings than sex, much as I hate to admit it. Indeed, territory rules for virtually every creature that walks, runs, flies or swims.

An example of the power of territory (Robert Ardrey explained the whole territorial imperative thing better than I can) or the negative impact on human nature by lack of turf can be found, I think, in the decline and fall of communism worldwide – except in the cases of a couple of badly functioning enclaves. Communism was, in fact, doomed from the moment Karl Marx arrived at the theory, because he chose not to factor in territory. His dialectic deemed we would move beyond that stage under communism. His dialectic was, in that context (and many others), bullshit.

What Marx failed to take into account was the fact we humans don’t really want to ‘share.’ We, rich and poor alike, want our own, and we don’t want anybody else feeling entitled to get their hands on that which is ours.

If you are doubtful about whether human beings take territory seriously, I think warfare probably answers that question. We pay lip-service about wars being fought over philosophies, creeds and even wealth, or lack thereof, but mainly they are fought over territory. We want what you have. Oh yes, the natural resources will help us, too, but mainly we want to encroach on your place.

Ethnic bigotry is based on territory. Those people don’t look like us, act like us, eat like us, worship like us, even screw like us, therefore they are bad, and we don’t want them in our bailiwick. Why are they on my turf? Why are they in my neighborhood? Deservedly disdained ‘racial profiling’, a cheap-shot excuse for bigotry in a stressful time in history, is all about territory. The bottom line is, we don’t want “them Ay-rabs here.”

Territorialism is a visceral thing. If your home has been broken into, it goes straight to the guts. You feel you have been physically kicked, violated. If one of your nearest-and-dearest has been in any way assaulted, your impulse in the direction of homicide is understandable. Indeed, an opposite response would be questionable, so strong is your territorial imperative. “You have been in my home, you bastards! I want to kill you for that.” None of this has anything to do with the fact that your DVD or laptop has been lifted; it is the realization that somebody uninvited has been in your home – your bastion of safety. When I was in my teens, my father’s car was stolen from his place of work in Vancouver. A few weeks later they caught the little creep and his teenaged girlfriend in Las Vegas, and found the car. Dusty and dirty, but not too much the worse for wear. However, the car had also been the love-nest for the horny young runaways. When he got it back, the old man had it thoroughly detailed, and got it back spotless – literally and figuratively – but my mother was never again comfortable riding in what had been my dad’s first brand-new car. You see, somebody had used mother’s territory, uninvited in a manner that was to her despicable.

Indeed, the hideousness of rape lies not so much in the brutality of the act – which indeed is unspeakable – but primarily in the ultimate violation of territory. The body is the victim’s ultimate and absolute territory. What could we claim as more of our own than our very being?

Territory can be violated in other, less dramatic ways, but the end result can be distressing nevertheless. In my case that sense came about when I last visited my childhood community a few years ago. I mention that it was “a few years ago”, because I have never really had a desire to back. That’s because ‘they’ took it away from me. They wiped a chunk of my legacy territory from the map – metaphorically, at least.

I grew up in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. The Burnaby of my recall, in my little corner of that world, was a rural enclave, a refreshing haven from the larger centres. In the area around Deer Lake there were still small farms, wildlife in the manner of raccoons, deer, and even the odd bear. Roads were gravel; mucky in the winter, and dusty in the summer. Access to Vancouver in terms of transit, was limited. There was the convoluted BC Electric route that involved at least one transfer, or the less regular but preferred Pacific Stage bus line. It was direct and a fare cost a whole 15-cents for a kid. Best of all, at least until the mid-1950s, there was the Burnaby Lake Interurban line. I loved the trams and still have nostalgic dreams about them.

Burnaby today is an urban jungle, to my way of thinking. I do not recognize it and, at some inner level of despair, resent the fact that it has been changed so radically. Territoriality is violated when that which was cherished is taken indirectly away.

The last time I spent any time there, more than a decade ago, as I was waiting in a mass of traffic at an intersection that was once bordered by forest rather than high-rises, I fumed xenophobically: Who the hell are these people all around me? I don’t know any of them. They didn’t live here when I did. Why are they here? Where did they come from? This is ‘my’ town, not theirs. They are interlopers. I want my Burnaby back. My old school, Douglas Road Elementary is still there, but the neighborhood is from an alien planet and was plunked down when I was away.

But then, I thought, I probably look a little different, too. But, the point lingered in my mind
Back to Freud, in conclusion. Yes, sex is mighty important, thank God. But, in its essence, even sex is territorial. That is why we have the emotion of jealousy, and why adultery causes fits of consternation in not a few circles. Not so much because it’s sinful (the sinful nature is a matter for individual beliefs), but because it means somebody else is rooting around in another’s turf.

Anyway, it might have been well to have asked old Sigmund after he fled Austria to escape the Nazi boots tromping through Vienna following the Anschluss, whether he was thinking more about sex, or territory. Knowing him, it was probably sex.

Was fear a justifiable means of maintaining social order?

Interesting posting on Facebook the other day – oh, aren’t ‘all’ FB postings fascinating, my children? – pertaining to the fact that we didn’t have all this societal nonsense like crime, drug abuse, sexual assaults etc. back when parents still whaled the bejeezus out of their kids.

Knee-jerk crap, was my initial response. Yet it set me to thinking about the realities of when I was growing up – that golden era in which there was no juvie crime, drug abuse (alcohol’s not a drug, is it?), sexual assault and so forth – in which parents and teachers ruled their respective roosts.

And that was all to do with ‘respect’, no?

Don’t know about your case, but in mine it was largely due to fear.

My old man – admirable guy in many regards and worthy of respect – scared the shit out of me when he was angry. My mother, no, she was a pushover, but Dad was not Ward Cleaver or Sheriff Andy Taylor in which he and I would sit down and have a nice ‘chat’ if I’d transgressed.

 Nope. It’d be a tirade of what nowadays is called verbal abuse. Nope, no beatings or anything physical, but somehow the words hurt more. At such times I quite literally hated his guts. But, by the same token, I largely towed the mark and did as I was expected to. And so did most (albeit not all) of my friends vis-à-vis their paters familia. Those guys had been brought up in a harsher era and still imposed the only rules they understood.

 And, the teachers. The strap was still wielded in elementary and junior high schools, and I wasn’t a complete stranger to it. It was sadistic and quite terrifying – especially for an essentially good kid like I was. My principal when I was teaching maintained the strap was ineffective because it truly only worked on good kids. For rotten kids – and yes, we had them even then – it was almost a source of pride.

 “Yep – 27 on each hand, and I didn’t even wince. I just looked the bastard straight in the eye the whole time.”

 My relationship with my father improved once he and I both realized I was bigger than he was. Yet, you know, I regret the ethic of the day because it always rather tainted my view of the man who sired me. It kept me for a long time from wanting to know him better.

 And as harsh as parental and teacher discipline might have been, then there were the cops. Cops evoked a lot of uneasy feelings in the gut in those days. And verbal abuse and lack of basic kindness in dealing with the young was pretty much the norm in my experience.

So, did all of this abuse lead to a better society? Are frightened kids showing respect because they actually respect the institutions of their world, or because they’re afraid to be caught.

I have no answers for this, but I suspect the civil crime rate was relatively low in Nazi Germany, so I reckon those who advocate harsher measures might see draconian punishments as being worthy.

But, ironically, actual crime rates, including by juveniles, are lower now than they were when I was sporting acne.

 

Just don’t be reading my mucky little journal

secrot

I found during my stint at addictions counselling that the rehab business is filled with cute – sometimes trite, sometimes clichéd and boring, but periodidcally relatively wise – slogans, sayings and aphorisms.

“You’re only as sick as your secrets,” is a prominent one of those. And, in that, there is a certain wisdom. The wisdom involves denial, and if you are denying to yourself and others a behaviour or something that’s eating you up, then you will not get well until you face your reality. Well, you might not even then, but the attempt will give you a better shot at a more fulfilling life. Are you knocking off two quarts a day? Have you sold the family farm to finance a crack addiction? Are you screwing whoever has a pulse even though you are married or in a relationship? Well then, pal, you have some pretty heavy-duty secrets to address.

We all have secrets. Even the most saintly do. The Dalai Lama’s got some, I suspect, and that old Mother Teresa was just rife with them, including neglecting to mention her years as a liquid hash mule in Iran. I mean, who would’ve suspected. But, truly, life revolves around secrets. Gossip mags would do no business if they weren’t revealing so-called secrets; politicians would be in unemployment lines if they revealed all that they know or actually told the truth (for a change. I was in the ink-stained trade for a long time. And, while my paper never overtly lied, there were sins of omission prevalent in what we wrote. Or indeed could write, due to libel laws. I could tell people stuff I know about some politicians locally and farther afield that could keep us all in courts for decades and make litigation lawyers even richer.

Mind you, there are also certain things about me and my past that people could spread around but, bless them, (mostly) they haven’t. Phew.

In that context, there is the matter of keeping secrets. Somebody reveals an item to you “in confidence.” Well, of course, it is not going to stay in confidence. It is going to be passed on at the earliest possible instant. In fact, if you’re a normal human being, you probably can’t wait to reveal it to “somebody you trust won’t tell a soul,” which they will do as soon as they get the chance. Why not? I mean, the first person to break the code of secrecy was the one who told you in the first place.

And, with electronic communications of today it will go viral on the social net. Stepping out on the missus? Check out YouTube, or Facebook at the very least.

We like knowing ‘secrets’. To know a secret is to be empowered. You know something somebody else doesn’t and it’s at your discretion to reveal it – or not. But, you will in all likelihood.
 
Human secrets generally fall into various categories in terms of seriousness. They include:

Harmless secrets: Nothing spectacular here. Sort of guilty pleasures. Maybe you take some kind of kinky pleasure in the lingerie ads of the Sears catalogue, or maybe you secretly listen to hip-hop when the kids are at school.

Secrets that you will only share with the privileged: Your spouse knows many things about you that you would not like revealed to the general public unless you’re some sort of a sleaze. This is where doctors and therapists can come into the picture, too. In such cases, you may hold certain items back from you spouse that you might tell a shrink. TMI situations come into this, too. People will glibly reveal some bit of esoterica about themselves (especially if they have been tippling a little too extensively), and then utterly regret what they told another. Especially prevalent in drunken 3 a.m. phone calls.

Secrets you don’t want revealed: These include such items as childhood sexual abuse, infidelity, breaches of the law, substance abuse, spousal abuse, incidents of driving while intoxicated, inappropriate sexual overtures to others. The ‘elephant in the room’ sort of secret falls into this category. Thank God none of those apply to me or any of my readers. Right?

Secrets you have difficulty admitting to yourself and would be mortified if somebody else were to ever find out: Surprisingly enough, or maybe not surprisingly, we all have these. These are found in our innermost thoughts (and agonies). Such secrets are highly guilt-inducing and will sometimes prompt expressions of disgust or even behaviors in which others are assailed for beliefs that the assailant actually holds. Here you get gay-bashing by the closet gay-in-denial, anti-pornography crusades by the porno-addicted; and racist or sexist jokes (“Hey, it was only meant to be funny; I don’t really believe that”) by people who ‘really do believe that.’ Such secrets can also involve sexual feelings or attitudes that might be anathema to others, so those who hold on to such secrets are often in a deep moral struggle.

As for me, my life is an open-book. At least those aspects of my life I choose to reveal.

 

I am a very bad little colonial boy

da queen

“OFF WITH THIS COLONIAL KNAVE’S HEAD!”

First a disclaimer for those who might think I am speaking out of some sort of ridiculous Anglophobic impulse.

It’s nothing of the sort. In that you will find evidence in the following items:

–         I truly love England. It’s my second favorite country in the world after my own. I believe London to still be the greatest and most fascinating large city on the planet.

–         I have lived in England and cherish the memory and wish it could have been a longer stay – like maybe forever — than a mere year.

–         My heritage is exclusively Anglo-Saxon.

–         I’ve been told that I speak with a slight English accent. I don’t really believe that but cannot truly hear myself when I speak.

–         I have studied English history extensively and know it reasonably well and am versed in all the traditions of old Blighty.

– I have relatives and friends in England whom I cherish, and a cousin in England whom I adore and don’t see often enough.

All that said, though, I am not English. I was born in Canada. My parents were both born in Canada. One grandfather came here at 12 and one grandmother at 18. Pretty much Canadian by the end of their lives.

Yet the prime minister of this here country seems to think I really want to be an Englishman, and if not an Englishman, then at least a colonial. Latest moves on his part – when he should be doing maybe kinda important stuff like looking out for the environment, checking on the economy, getting rid of Senate crumbums, listening to the woes of pissed-off provinces – indicate a longing for red postal vans with Royal Mail and a Brit coat-of-arms on them, the Red Ensign, and the singing of God Save the Queen as a school ritual each morning with a big photo of Her Majesty dominating every school classroom, like they did when I was in school. That’s it. He’s longing for the days when I was in school and before that swinish bastard Trudeau (Sr) defiled all that was holy.

You know what, I don’t want to go back to there, even though Steve thinks putting neo-colonial pips on military uniforms will fix much of what is wrong with Canada.

In that context, I don’t give a rats about Kate’s pending baby other than to wish mother and child good health. Otherwise, they’re not on my radar nor are any members of their clan. I mean, the Queen is very nice and dutiful and all and I respect her greatly as a hard-working, honest and dedicated individual. Long may she reign. But, despite what Steve thinks I don’t think she reigns over me. Or at least that she should reign over me, mainly because I live in a foreign country and hold little truck with the concept of empires.

So, there has been a bit of a foofrah of late over whether Kate has a girl and whether that girl should jump the queue and give the finger to the concept of male primogeniture. You know, if young Brenda comes first her baby brother, Harvey, goes down the list. It’s already been opined that not all Canadians are comfortable with this. In the first place, who asked? Nobody asked me. And secondly, why would any Canadian actually give a shit? Personally, I’m of the King Ralph point-of-view. Let some other distant cousin take over the reigns. New blood and all.

What I would like, truly like, is for Canada to finally grow up and shuck the vestiges of the past. I would also like us to take over the Turks and Caicos Islands and also to adopt Adele.