Monthly Archives: November 2014

‘A mari usque ad mare’ and all that that entails


I don’t recall how old I was when I decided I didn’t want to be a Canadian. I think I was likely still in elementary school when it came to me that my ‘home and native land’ didn’t really interest me in any sort of patriotic way. Patriotic? I had no idea what that meant, all I knew was that my country didn’t sit right with me.

I had a Canadian inferiority complex.

I’m not certain when I became aware I was Canadian – hence, different.

I cannot say that my attitude originated due to a wealth of experience with other cultures. How could it have? I wasn’t even in junior high so my multicultural connections were non-existent. True, I had been to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins in Seattle a few times, but that was my only claim then to any cosmopolitan pretensions or interactions with denizens of the broader world.

mountyI know it was pointed out to me at a tender age that Americans subscribed to a different ethic than we did. It was back at the time of the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. My female cousin and I were terribly excited at the pending celebratory ‘thing’ though we had little idea what it was. Anyway, I asked my cousin if she was as thrilled as I was that we would be getting this Queen person to do whatever it was that Queens did, though we were pretty sure it involved wearing a crown and perhaps beheading bad people like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland was wont to do. My cousin professed to be thrilled by the prospect of it all.

At that point my Canadian-born but US citizen aunt intervened and stated that the Queen had nothing to do with my cousin since my cousin was American.

So now that I knew I was different, what exactly did that mean? I thought it was a bit of a pity that my cousin couldn’t have the Queen, too, but my aunt said she could only respect her as a significant ‘foreign’ person but that she meant nothing more than that. And there I’d been thinking she was everybody’s Queen.

My social studies classes didn’t help with my nationality confusion. I liked social studies, especially the history part of it what with Romans and Greeks and medieval knights and Crusades and so forth, and then found that none of those things had anything to do with Canadians, either.

graffitiWhat did we get in social studies? A bunch of ‘eastern’ written boring crap that had nothing to do with us out here in the west. We learned about French guys tramping through the wilderness of Ontario and Quebec with their damn birch bark canoes and bearing names none of us west-coasters could either pronounce or appreciate. Radisson? Huh? We gravitated to Davy Crockett.

And then later my horizons broadened. In the summer of my last year of high school the family took a trip to California. It was a place that was the epitome of exoticism to me. I had broken out of boring Canada, truly. California! The next place on the map was Mexico. I had become worldly, I believed. Worldliness does not include being Canadian, it seemed to me that it involved anything but being Canadian. I found I was able to feel at home in foreign climes and I worked diligently to ‘not’ seem Canadian because to me ‘Canadian’ translated to mels‘dorky’. I learned that summer that American public toilets are found in ‘restrooms’ never in boring old Canadian ‘washrooms’.

Then later in my life I moved to England for a year and I subconsciously strove to include UK lingo in my patter and hence I would seem even more cosmopolitan rather than boring Canadian. ‘Apartments’ became ‘flats’ and ‘elevators’ became ‘lifts’ in my parlance. And restrooms/washrooms became ‘loos’.

Yet, once I was back in Canada I began to appreciate the virtues of my country. In a disruptive era Canada wasn’t such a bad place in which to live. Especially my part of Canada.

OK, now here is my confession as a ‘bad’ Canadian, and that is that I have seen little of my own country and have always chosen to vacation abroad. No shame in that, to me. I accept that is who I am. As for my knowledge of ‘greater Canada’, it’s pretty sparse from a firsthand perspective. I have traveled as far as Montreal by train. Montreal was cool; Toronto is hugely overrated as a place of interest. I’ve not seen the Maritimes and would like to – someday. I have ridden the ‘iron rooster’ across the Prairies and the tiresomeness of Northern Ontario.

As for the Great White North. The concept of ‘North’ chills me literally and figuratively. I mean, I have flown over the vastness of the north many times, but have never wanted to alight in a land of a gazillion lakes and quintillion mosquitoes. If I want mosquitoes I shall go to the Cook Islands. So, my northern ventures in Canada ceased at Quesnel when I was 12. I don’t feel so bad. I had a colleague who felt Campbell River was a little too far north for him. He now lives in Mexico.

Am I proud of my ignorance of my home and native land? Actually, I am ambivalent. It is who I am, but I am actually and finally rather proud to be a Canuck, though I’m not so mad about our government. Truthfully I have never been mad about any of our governments and don’t get me started on Pierre Trudeau. And despite the my childish enchantment with the Coronation, I am now bemused by the fact we still have the ‘Royals’ and are meant to be enchanted by a ragtag family of foreigners. Oh well, cannot have it all.


Don’t be turning up your nose at my ‘Kate & Sidney’, it’s a lovely treat

kate and sid

She didn’t exactly say “Ewww” but I knew that was what she was thinking.

The ‘she’ was a young checkout clerk in a local grocery store and what prompted her grimace is that I was checking out a pack of beef kidney. The ultimate destination of the kidney was one of my killer steak-and-kidney pies.

She went on to say that the thought of kidney was not appealing, much as liver wasn’t inviting. I sang the virtues of liver, bacon and onion all grilled together, but she wasn’t buying that palaver. Dumb kid.

That’s OK,” she said. “I think it may be a generational thing. My parents don’t get my love of sushi.”

I told her that I also loved sushi.

That confused the bejabbers out of her and I decided to let the matter drop rather than pompously telling her she should broaden her culinary horizons.

I know a lot of people are uneasy with the consumption of offal, but I say more fool them. My mainstays in that regard are both kidney and liver. Not much into brains or heart and tripe is just really tripey and beckons me not. Like chewing inner-tubes, it is.

offalI think for me it is my UK background. The Brits eat a lot of that stuff, and when I spent my year abroad living in England I developed a taste for bits of exotica like kidneys on toast for breakfast. My wife, despite the fact she loves my S&K pie, refuses to go that far. I grew up with ‘Kate and Sidney’, as my mother called it and to me a good pie thereof is as much a treat as a fine steak.

I think the problem some people have with kidneys is their function. They are there to handle the matter of pee and that seems like a repellant thing to the squeamish. That’s silly. It’s a bit like Archie Bunker being repulsed the time Edith was cooking beef tongue and said he wasn’t going to eat something that was in a cow’s mouth, so he asked instead for hard-boiled eggs, not considering the eggs’ place of origin or expulsion.

Anyway, kidneys do what they do and they bother me not at all in that regard. Some people boil them before they put them in a stew or pie — “boil the piss out of them”, as my dear late mother-in-law used to say. I tend to fry them briefly, just until they change color, and that works fine. Oh, and cut the white shit out of them, too. It looks questionable.

All in all people are entitled to their tastes and aversions, however. I have very few food aversions, though I draw the line at insects, and I don’t much fancy snails. I don’t dislike the idea, I just don’t care for their rather gritty texture. And what’s with raw oysters? You don’t eat them, you just swallow them. It’s a sensation like having a bad cold. But, breaded and fried up; heavenly.

And so is my steak and kidney pie. I can hardly wait to make it.

Just don’t tell me what I ‘have’ to do and we shall be fine


Remember those horrible Mary Richards parties on the old Mary Tyler Moore Show? She would plan and plan for weeks and they would royally bomb. Nobody would have good time, and the entire atmosphere would be dismal and dreary with people starting to check their watches at 9 p.m. They were like that because the shindigs were ‘planned’. There was no spontaneity because her guests felt forced.

People hate feeling forced, especially if they are being forced to have a good time. For me, and I suspect for many of you, it just doesn’t work that way. You have probably found that your absolutely best times in life have been impromptu sets of circumstances in which everything just clicked into place.

romanceIt’s like planning for sex. You have soft music, maybe a comforting Jacuzzi bubble bath together, scented candles, champagne, sexy lingerie, and everything that should make for a carnal encounter par excellence. And it fizzles. What you recall, in fact, are those delicious encounters on a walk in the woods, or in a car, or someplace where you couldn’t wait (sometimes literally) to get your hands on each other and to come together with the most amazing fireworks. Those are the ones you remember because nothing was planned. Good old-fashioned horniness was allowed to prevail and it was wonderful.

So, the forcing thing, the planning thing, really gets my goat. Don’t try to demand that I have a good time, or even support your venture. Back in 1987 there was a thing called Expo in Vancouver. It was an extravagant world’s fair. The hype went on and on for months before the thing happened. I didn’t go.

I didn’t go because everybody, especially ‘officialdom’ told me I must. My late (and often lamented) mother-in-law told me I “should” go. Wow, “should”, that’s the kiss of death for me. “You’ll regret not going,” she said. I’ve never for a smidgen of a second regretted not having gone.

Then we had the Olympics. We were constantly and consistently told that in Vancouver in 2010 the heavens were possibly going to open up and maybe Jesus himself was going to come down and bless these games, and that is what justified spending 27 trillion of my tax dollars to hype this stuff and build the infrastructure. Infrastructure that is actually thoroughly needed for regular old folk to get by in life, but no, this infrastructure is for 2010. The infrastructure’s value ultimately didn’t, in terms of value to the public, amount to what the oldtimers used to call “a pinch of coonshit,” and they are still waiting to fill up the condo development.

And, they were telling me I ‘must’ go. They were telling me I ‘must’ support what they’re doing. Know what? I didn’t go. I thus far haven’t regretted that decision for a microsecond.

Then later they decided to spend public money in extolling the virtues of the Olympics and to assess ‘my’ views. I am ever so disappointed they didn’t call so I could tell them my views.

I didn’t write any of this cynically. I don’t object to athletic events. I often wander to the park down the way to watch the kids play Little League ball. I do that because nobody tells me I have to do so. It’s spontaneous.

So, do you quietly think of the ‘J-word’ when it comes to that Christmas citrus treat?

jap oranges

I once mentioned in a conversation with an older Japanese-Canadian gentleman that when I was a very young child, not too many years after the end of World War Two our family, as did most Canadian families, referred to mandarin oranges as ‘Jap Oranges.’

I see,” he said, nodding thoughtfully. “That was what we called them, too.”

That mollified me slightly. But, whatever you want to call them, mandarin oranges are traditionally an important aspect of the Christmas season. Like evergreen fronds, they even smell like the Yule. I don’t know how this Asian treat came to be associated with a very western holiday season. My mother attested that it was because they were in season in the Orient at winter. Made sense.

But, like so many things from my childhood, even mandarins have been compromised, if not ruined. Merchandisers want the season to last as long as it can be milked for the sake of profit. So, variations on the mandarin theme are around all year now, with clementines, satsumas and tangerines to be found in their abundance in your store’s produce section.

And then, come early October, the ‘real’ Christmastime version in the big boxes appear to welcome the season despite the fact it isn’t even Halloween yet. Like the flogging of eggnog, it seems they can never be too early.

I object. I object because such craven merchandising takes some of the fun out of what should be a seasonal adventure. Much like the playing of Christmas songs and the mounting of outdoor lights prematurely tends to make me want to vomit. Make it special. It’s sort of like sex. If somebody is giving it away to all and sundry at the drop of a hat or pair of Victoria’s Secret panties then it’s no where near as exciting as an encounter with somebody who had played a bit hard-to-get. I mean, it’s still good and all, just not quite as good.

Slutty mandarins just aren’t quite as good, either.

Nowadays, too, it seems like the bulk of oranges come from China. Originally, as in when I was a tad, they always came from Japan. And they didn’t come in crappy cardboard boxes, they came in wonderful little white-pine wooden boxes and each orange was wrapped in turquoise paper. That made them seem even more treat-like. Sort of like li’l Christmas presents and Mom only hoped when the old man pried the box open with a claw hammer that not too many of the oranges had gone rotten in their long trip in the hold of the Osaka Maru.

Those wooden boxes were great and not only did they hold the oranges, the pine made great kindling to start up the living room open fire on Christmas morning.

Dealing with a bore or, in other words, please shoot me now


Did you ever want to scream at somebody: “Just shut the fuck up you’re boring me to death!”

I have wanted to.

Have you done so?

No, neither have I. But if you have actually done so I could not sufficiently express my gratitude to you for having pointed out to the culprit that life is short – much too short for me to be standing here and listening to the same old egocentric drivel I have heard too many times from you.

I got myself trapped by a fellow at a mall the other day. It was one of those situations in which I scrupulously tried to avoid eye-contact in the hope he wouldn’t notice me. I failed. He nabbed me and I had to bear with his onslaught of drivel, repeated for the 30th time bits of information of interest only to him, and maddeningly narcissitic egocentricism.

Once he had his prey there was little chance of escape. He went on, and on, and on, and on, and on about incidents and situations and people with whom I had no familiarity. No, I don’t know your fucking brother-in-law and have no desire to, but I bet he lives in dread of seeing you pull into the drive.

boringPart way through the (one way) conversation I realized I had to pee – badly. But I couldn’t risk going to the restroom for fear he’d decide to come in and take the urinal next to mine, so I just soldiered on and tried to forget my urgency. Surely he’d have to finish soon. Surely he’d have to go and eat, or something.

Did I tell you about (whatever)?” Of course he has. A hundred times, or so it seems. And no, I am not interested in who you are dating since you and your missus broke up and believe me I never, ever want to hear the reasons why you broke up and please don’t dare to go to the sexual problems you had with her.

She left because she was so bored that her options were to either quit the scene or kill you – you asshole!” At least that was what I wanted to say.

In reference to the person in question, my wife is more tolerant than I am and she opines it’s likely because he is so lonely, and that is rather sad.

So, would you want to spend time with him?” I ask

God, no. I can’t stand his company,” she replies.

According to an article in Psychology Today there are nine symptoms in being a crashing, stunning, tear-inducing bore. They are:

Negative egocentrism:The #1 most boring way of behaving was what the researchers described as “being negative and complaining, talking about one’s problems, displaying disinterest in others.” Banality: “talking about trivial or superficial things, being interested in only one topic, and repeating the same stories and jokes again and again.” Low affectivity: showing little enthusiasm, speaking in a monotone, engaging in very little eye contact, behaving in a very unexpressive way. Tediousness: “talking slowly, pausing a long time before responding, taking a long time to make one’s points, and dragging conversations on.” Passivity: having little to say, not having any opinions, being too predictable or too likely to try to conform with what everyone else is saying. Self-preoccupation: talking all about yourself. Seriousness: coming across as very serious, rarely smiling. Boring ingratiation: “trying to be funny or nice in order to impress other people.” Distraction: doing things that interfere with the conversation, getting sidetracked too easily, and engaging in too much small talk

Yep, those pretty much do it for me. All of the above.

PS: Hope I didn’t bore you with this blog.

Take a moment to remember the always unseen Mrs. Wolowitz, not to mention Marni Nixon


Poor Mrs. Wolowitz. The uber shrill prototypical Jewish mother, needy, obsessed with her son, and constantly concerned with her bowel movement functions is no more.

Or, more to the point, poor Carol Ann Susi, who provided the braying voice of that Yiddishe Momme with spurs on has passed away at the untimely age of 62, never having been seen by the audience of the most popular comedy on television, the Big Bang Theory. How odd to have been so omnipresent but to just be a voice in the background with her plaintive cries of “Howaahd!” directed at her sexually obsessed horndog engineer and space cadet son.

carol annIt must be odd to have a successful TV career based almost exclusively on being a braying and unattractive voice and who conveyed an image (a la the script) of being obese, slatternly and who spent many of her waking hours sitting on the potty when she wasn’t turning out Howard’s favorite brisket.

In real life Miss Susi was an attractive and unobese womana who had actually shown her face periodically in the odd TV show, like Seinfeld, but we all knew her best as an unappealing voice. An odd career to be sure. I like to call it the Marni Nixon syndrome.

You might not think you know Marni Nixon, but you do. Well, at least you know her voice. She was the ultimate voice in film depictions of those Broadway musicals you possibly love if you are a filmed musicals buff.

marniSo, Marni was Deborah Kerr’s voice in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. In fact there was a great to-do in the day when Hepburn got the My Fair Lady role for the film, considering the fact that Julie Andrews had owned the role on Broadway and was a brilliant singer, whereas Miss Hepburn, lovely and talented performer that she was, couldn’t sing for shit. But, she was considered bigger box office in the day.

Well, I guess for both women it was a living in a hardscrabble business and as my Cockney landlady used to say about the perversities of life: “Mustn’t grumble, it could be worse.”

Voting day came and went and I hope you were there. If you weren’t, then shut the eff up


The day after an election it is human nature to look at the tally sheet and exclaim: “How the darn heck did that dildo get in (or back in)?

Well, the first question that exclaimer must ask him or herself is, did I actually get off my ass and go out to the polling place? If not, then the answer is self-explanatory. That dipshit got in because other dipshits like you couldn’t be bothered to do what you should have done.

Needless to say, I voted yesterday. I have always voted even if I find the slate offered me detestable. The obvious point is that having the right to vote is a privilege and if you don’t exercise it you are a knave, a poltroon and a crappy citizen.

groucheI have always voted despite how jaded I got by politics and politicians over the years in the newspaper trade. I had the privilege, I guess, of seeing them not always at their best. I’ve had them be rude to me, and I have been rude back. I’ve dealt with politicians I found to be arrogant assholes, and others I ended up liking more than I had anticipated. And my liking or disliking had nothing to do with where they sat on the political spectrum or how much I agreed or disagreed with them philosophically.

Locally, for example, I loved Karen Sanford like a big sister and we couldn’t greet without a hug. This is despite the fact I never voted for her at any time. We may have been at some philosophical odds, but never at human odds. Provincially I was extremely fond at a personal level with Stan Ha gen, who was a truly decent man at all levels.

I once, years ago, met Christy Clark. What can I say? I liked her on first impressions even though I detest some of her attitudes today.

In the bigger world, I found Jean Chretien to be one of the more charming and witty men to meet. A chap with no pretentiousness whatsoever. Likewise Michael Ignatieff, despite the fact he was a piss-poor political candidate, was an extemely gracious and pleasant man. On the other hand, one of the most insufferably arrogant federal politicians I ever encountered was Ed Broadbent, and his disdain for the ink-stained wretch such as I was could only have been matched provincially by Pat McGeer who was a self-impressed jerk.

quimbyIn closing, however, I shall return to the municipal realm, and I have dealt with many of our local reps, both good and bad, though the years. But, even if I indict, I commend those who choose to run and serve their communities.

My favorite moment, however, took place at a municipal council meeting many years ago, and I won’t say which council. At one point a councillor stood up to indict me, as a reporter, for something I wrote in the paper after a previous meeting, and he demanded a retraction.

Did the reporter misquote you?” asked another council member.

Well, no,” said the councillor in question.

Well, what is your problem?” asked the other councillor.

What he printed wasn’t what I meant to say.”