Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sorry, dear uncle, but you left the party much too early for anyone’s liking


It came as an immeasurably unwelcome surprise to me this day to find that I had lost a favorite uncle on Christmas morning. Not just a favorite uncle but ‘the’ favorite uncle.

For a host of reasons I am not a terribly family-oriented individual, but certain members of my extended family meant the world to me. He was one who did, perhaps more than others.

I’m not about to be morbid about his demise, despite the fact that 85 isn’t terribly ancient in the context of today. That notwithstanding, we get the span we’re allotted and cannot do much about it. In the case of my uncle I am not about to reveal all that much about his private life, out of respect for his family. What I will note here instead is what the man I called Hughie meant to me.

My recollections of Hugh go back to the virtual mists of time. Back when I was about 5 my parents (they were building their own house that ultimately was to become my childhood home) lived at my grandparents’ house. Hughie was in university at the time and he and I shared a bedroom and in that time we got to know each other rather well. I liked him. He was a young dude at the time and much more benevolent in his views of life than were my parents. He was fun. That was pretty neat in a guy who was almost a grownup but didn’t yet have cantankerous views of life. I don’t know if he was ever cantankerous. Never was when he and I interacted.

Anyway, I suspect it’s fair to  use an overworked term and to suggest, we ‘bonded’ way back then. It was a bond that was to continue down through the years. We were even a bit similar in appearance. By the time I got to university I regarded him as something of an intellectual mentor. I might mention that he got married along the way and that his wife, my aunt, was a perfect fit and I loved her as much as I loved her husband. And between them they  had four children and ultimately, grandchildren. In my teens I babysat their kids.

It must be said that in his life he done good, like a lot of children of the Depression. If my grandmother had been Jewish she would have been thrilled that her ‘baby’ (he was the youngest of seven) became a ‘doctah’. First a GP and then specialized and became a noteworthy pathologist.

He was always a good person to talk to because one could have a real conversation about ‘ideas’. He was a well-read fount of knowledge about many things far removed from his clinical calling so time in his company was always well-spent. Combine that with the fact he was generous and caring at virtually all times. My biggest regret now is that due to geographic considerations I did not get to spend more time in his company through the years.

And he and my Aunt Margaret were fun. My parents weren’t particularly fun, but it was great to have an aunt and uncle who were a joy to hang with.

The last time I saw them both was in the summer of 2001. It was their 50th wedding anniversary and I am very happy we took the pains to be in attendance. I had no idea I’d get no further chances to so do. Hugh and I spoke on the phone a few times over the years. He had plans a while ago to write a book on the practice of pathology with an aim to dispelling some of the myths that prevail in popular TV shows in terms of a pathologists real role. I don’t know if he progressed with the project but I was immensely flattered that he wondered if I would edit his manuscript should it come to pass.

Whatever the case, I only know I was shocked and saddened to hear the news this morning. I removed an important and I thought (which is damn foolishness) everpresent light from my life and of course from the lives of those around him.

He was a wonderful man to know and I shall miss him greatly. So much more than a mere uncle.

 Photo is a scene of his beloved Galiano Island where my aunt and uncle had a residence.



2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 55,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Who knew that panda nosh could make wonderful sexy sheets?


I once upon a time would look in back pages of certain magazines I favored and perused ads for items of unspeakably exotic and revealing lingerie for one’s lady love(s), aphrodisiacs that were absolutely guaranteed to get a fellow all the action he might ever want, and especially those ubiquitous satin sheets that were assuredly about to give me and my partner or fantasy partner more sensual pleasure than even I might ever have imagined.

I never actually made any of the aforementioned purchases, I might add. But I knew all the cool dudes who got all the women had satin sheets. Hefner had them on his round bed. Probably Tom Jones had them. And maybe Elvis. I don’t think Andy Griffith did.

marilynHowever, back in the day I would sometimes think how nice it would be to have the torso caressed by satin rather than just basic old cotton. I mean, yeah, cotton trumps flannel, but you know, it’s awfully undecadent.

And then for Christmas this very year, we got ourselves some bamboo fibre sheets. Wait, I can hear you asking, what has bamboo got to do with satin sheets? They can make sheets out of bamboo? Who knew and definitely what next?

Bamboo grows in the tropics mainly. It’s the fastest growing plant of all and pandas love to eat the shoots. In fact, it is so fast growing that we believed a particular grim form of Asian torture consisting of tying some poor bugger down on a bamboo field and letting the plants grow right up through the hapless prisoner. And then there were burning bamboo shoots. Sinister-looking and racially insensitively treated wartime movies Japanese soldiers and guards were regularly given to sticking burning bamboo sticks under the fingernails of heroic white-guy POWs (who in their minds vowed to get revenge against what was popularly known in, say, 1942, as Yellow Peril. 

So bamboo – despite the fact it is a brilliant plant in the sense it is infinitely renewable and grows fast (as mentioned) and means it can be used for construction and trees don’t need to be chopped down – has other uses. It can be made into fabric.

And such a fabric it is. It puts those old slippery satin sheets to shame. Such a heavenly sleep on panda grub.

It’s christmas break and I am feeling lazy so I am repeating the riveting tale of Mandy


OK. This is a repeat. It’s two days after Christmas and my creativity is at an ebb and I thought I would evoke some of the tropical feelings of a Hawaiian stay in this little piece.

The screensaver photo I used a while ago was a shot from our cruise to the Hawaiian Islands in the autumn of 2012. It was a bright and warm day in Waikiki and the setting is a rooftop swimming pool at the Hotel Miramar where we stayed for a few nights at the end of the cruise.

But in the photo, aside from the pool, deckchairs, etc. stands a bikini-clad young woman. She wasn’t the motivation for taking the picture – really, she wasn’t – but since she was there, poised at the edge of the water, tending to her upswept hair prior to dousing herself, I began to wonder about her.

It’s strange how somebody can be included in a photograph and hence, immortalized in my files, yet I know nothing about her. Do I want to know anything about her? Do any of you know her? Is she a sister, or daughter, or niece?

I have, however, developed a backstory of my own about her.

Her name is Amanda, but she goes by Mandy.

She was raised in the US Midwest (Minnesota, I think. OK with that, Pearl?) but currently lives in Portland, OR. She’s recently married, to a grade school teacher named Harvey. They were high school sweeties and things are OK between them. Not great. Just quite OK.

Judging by the photo, Mandy’s a ‘healthy’ girl. You know, grain-fed and all that. She was in 4-H and raised her own calf when she was 16.

Although I don’t recall having seen her face, I suspect she’s pretty. And, if it wouldn’t embarrass her, permit me to say she has a great bum. Good strong legs, too. Probably swims well.

She swims well, but she’s at the pool because the ocean, with all its sharks and all, not to mention “icky” salt taste doesn’t appeal to her.

She and old Harv went on a moonlight cruise the previous evening and Mandy got a little too heavily into the mai-tais, so she’ s not feeling all that well at the pool this lovely morning. Harvey feels worth, which is why he’s at the poolside bar around the corner in this picture having a refreshing brewski to get the dust out of his throat.

Love you, Mandy. And if you’re reading this, drop me a blog comment. And Portland’s a really nice town so, even though you’re homesick for St. Paul, think of the winters back there.

So, do you make up stories about the people you encounter in your travels? Wendy and I have great fun with it.

The Hipster’s Night Before Christmas revisited


I’ve run this each year for the last couple of them, but it’s such a brilliant piece of satire that I thought I’d do so again for you enjoyment. So, enjoy.


Jazzbo ‘Twas the night before Christmas’ Mad Magazine #52 Jan 1960

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad, Not a hipster was swinging, not even old Dad; The chimney was hung in the stocking routine, In hopes that “The Fat Man” would soon make the scene; The moon and the snow were, like, faking together, Which made the scene rock in the Day People weather, When, what to these peepers should come on real queer, But a real crazy sleigh, and eight swinging reindeer, As sidemen in combos pick up as they stomp, When they swing with the beat of a Dixieland romp, So up to the top of my bandstand they flew, With the sleigh full of loot, and St. Nicholas, too. His lids-Man, they sizzled! His dimples were smiles! His cheeks were like “Dizzy’s,” his break was like “Miles!” His puckered-up mouth was, like, blowing flat E, And his chin hid behind a real crazy goatee! He blew not a sound, but skipped right to his gig, And stashed all the stockings, then came on real big, And flashing a sign, like that old “Schnozzle” bit, And playing it hip, up the chimney he split; And then, in a quick riff, I dug on the roof, The jumpin’ and jivin’ of each swinging hoof. As I pulled in my noggin, and turned around fast, Down the chimney came Nick like a hot trumpet blast. The tip of a butt he had snagged in his choppers, And he took a few drags just like all cool be-boppers; He had a weird face, and a solid reet middle That bounced when he cracked, like a gutbucket fiddle! He was wrapped up to kill, Man, a real kookie dresser! And his rags were, like, way out! Pops! He was a gasser! A sack full of goodies hung down to his tail, And he looked like a postman with “Basie’s” fan mail. He was shaking with meat, meaning he was no square, And I flipped, ‘cause I’d always thought he was “longhair!” But the glint in his eye and the beat in his touch Soon gave me the message this cat was “too much!” He flew to his skids, to his group blew a lick, And they cut out real cool, on a wild frenzied kick. But I heard him sound off, with a razz-a-ma-tazz: “A cool Christmas to all, and, like all of that jazz!”

Now let’s take a few moments to consider what ‘sexy’ really means


“Why do you have a picture of Marilyn Monroe tucked away in your desk?’ asked my mother when I was about 11. There was, by the way, no presumption of privacy for kids chez Lidster. Good job we didn’t have the Internet in those days or I would have ended up grounded for life.

I’m sure I turned crimson and likely mumbled something inane. The photo in question was the classic one from The Seven Year Itch (still my favorite Monroe film, though I certainly wouldn’t have gotten the nuances to adultery fantasy in the day) in which her character stands over a subway grate in NYC and her skirt blows up and briefly exposes her grown-up lady underpants.

“Why do you like her?’ my wretched mother persisted.

“I think she’s sexy,” I said, feeling even more mortified.

“Do you know what sexy means?” cher maman asked, quite cruely, I thought, even at the time. Of course I didn’t know back then what sexy meant. Those were much more innocent times and I was hardly a paragon of sophistication at age 11. But, I suspected it meant something dirty, just like those calendars the old man kept in his workshop.

Before much more time had passed I came to know well what sexy meant, and la Monroe was, for many years, part of the fantasy image of fevered longing. Much as she was for a lot of men, as we know. And much as she still is for a lot of men, including me. And that’s despite the fact that were she still with us, rather than having died at a dreadfully early age, she would be 87-years-old today.

Her premature death has always been steeped in controversy. Was it a drug overdose? Was it suicide? Was she bumped off by the Kennedy mafia?

Those who knew Marilyn are of many opinions about her. First off, dumb blonde she wasn’t. Second-off, fucked up blonde she was. Items I’ve read indicate she was a very sexual woman and was, according to those who knew, an ‘easy lay’.

And men took advantage of the easy access to a person who was arguably the most beautiful woman in filmdom. Most beautiful and most difficult and ultimately unacceptably unreliable. She had demons galore, the worst of which was she was pathologically needy. How could someone so stunning be needy? Many reasons, which I won’t delve into. Many of you know her story so there’s no need.

In her early death she joined that almost macabre legion of the ‘immortals’ in the business, and most notable one (there are many others) was arguably James Dean, who can pack as much impact now as he did when he died so many years ago. Or, as my stepdaughter once said after having watched Rebel Without a Cause, “I don’t care if he would be as old as my grandfather now, he’s still incredibly cool.

Monroe, likewise. I can watch The Seven Year Itch today and love her as much as I did way back then. I guess that’s a legacy of sorts, but likely not the one she’d like to have had.

Charley! My old pal! How are you doing ya @#$$&*%%%!


Middle aged woman approaches equivalent at coffee the other morning.

“How are you doing, girlfriend?” and assorted pleasantries ensue between two obvious longtime female buddies who might not have seen each other for a while. A nice little reunion.

And the ‘girlfriend’ thing, which has evolved in popularity in recent years sounds to me like an Oprah salutation. Nothing wrong with that. It’s rather sweet and affectionate and captures the nuances of a friendship between two females. More about that anon.

A man would never approach another man with a “How you doing, boyfriend?” For a host of reasons most guys would find such a greeting at the very least, odd.

Males are more basic than that and, whereas female greetings tend to be overtly affectionate in world choices – and men use those affectionate words, too, but only direct them at females – male greetings often include what others might perceive as insults.

“How ya doin’ you old bastard; why you sonofabitch, look who it is; hey, you old asshole; you big shit;” or “Big nuts,” which was the default greeting of an old friend of mine to virtually any male he encountered. “Eww,”  some females might be excused for thinking. But, not at all. Those comments are all meant with affection and indicative of a closeness of connection.

Part of my point here is that society allows women to be more overtly affectionate with each other than it grants men. Of men I am speaking only of heterosexual males, they sort of which I am. For gay males I would be presumptuous to assume, and there is absolutely no judgment implied in that statement. I have had a number of gay male friends (and gay female friends) but in either case i don’t discuss their interactions with members of their sexes.

Straight women, however, are permitted to interact in physical ways and via affectionate terms. They hug, and they cheek kiss and make comments on appearances and, I’ve been told, even check out the boobs and bums of members of their own gender. You don’t get a guy looking at the crotch of another male, and there is an absolutely understood ethic to be involved when standing next to another male at a urinal, which is stare straight ahead or look at the ceiling – never, ever to the side.

There have been some changes in recent years and that is a welcome thing. I know males with whom I feel close enough that i can do a ‘guy hug’.

But I’d always still rather hug a girl.