Sunday, 30 September 2012

All of the Animals

I got one of my birthday presents today. I knew what it was, at least on paper, but today was the day. It was a ticket to the Zoo and brunch afterwards and I have been impatiently waiting for today for nearly a week now.

I know what you are thinking, “Big deal! I’ve been to the zoo before and although nice, it isn’t something to wet your pants over.” Normally I would agree with you, but the Calgary Zoo opened a brand new Penguin exhibit a few months back and I hadn’t made it yet. When Louise and I hitch hiked west in the seventies, we stopped for a while in Vancouver and I spent many very pleasurable hours watching, laughing and communing with the Penguins that were living in the Stanley Park Zoo. I don’t know if that zoo still exists, but I hope so because if it can give anyone else half the joy that I found there, then it is worth the effort and expense.

Not only did we get to see the Penguins today, we had a backstage pass to see the Penguins! We were taken on a tour of the cold rooms, medical and food prep areas. We saw how the food is prepared (just thawed really), how the vitamins and medicine would be delivered. We went into the food storage freezer which is kept at -20° C and saw the fishcicles. They make fake ice blocks for them to play with and the dedication of the workers is quite simply amazing. Each Penguin is known by name and their diet and medication is posted on a big white board in one of the rooms. There is a Penguin called Ray, named after Ray Charles because he has cataracts on both eyes. He will get and operation, but first the handlers have been getting him accustomed to being fed by hand while they hold his beak. This way, when he needs eye drops after the operation, it won’t be traumatic for either party.

We also got to stand in the enclosure and take pictures of the different Penguins and have our picture taken with the stars of the show. I am and was speechless! I could have stayed there and gone native; although I imagine having a fat, naked old man swimming in the pool would have a negative impact on attendance.

If you live near a zoo, there is a strong possibility that this kind of thing is available to you. I am aware that everyone doesn’t share my affection for Penguins, but the backstage passes are available for other animals. I don’t think you would want to stand in with the lions or tigers, but it just might be something you could give to your wife or boss. We did the same thing a few years back with Spike the elephant when he got a stainless steel cap on his tusk. Louise was working at SAIT than and they made the cap which enabled Spike to live a normal life. I saw Spike today and he was getting medieval on a tractor tire, eventually breaking the chain that held it in the air.

I have been one of those bozos that would complain about the cost of going to the zoo. Back in the old days it was cheap to go to the zoo. Well, back in the old days the animals were kept in simple cages or enclosures and the focus was on the people instead of the animals. I can’t begin to guess the costs of this Penguin exhibit, but it isn’t cheap. I won’t be saying that kind of crap anymore, because the zoo is doing a tremendous job and the dedicated zoo workers are more than likely working for far less than they deserve. Especially Nicki and Nicky our two lovely tour guides.

I would like to thank all of the animals.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

See You On The Other Side

I was just thinking about recess and what a great idea it is. I really miss recess now that I am an adult. It was always the best part of the school day, and I am sure that it would be the best part of an adult’s day too.

When I was in grade school I thought that recess was there in order to give the kids a break from all of that insane reading, writing and arithmetic stuff. Really, how much can a kid’s brain soak up at one sitting? It turns out that recess was there for the teachers to have a coffee and a smoke. They would more than likely bitch about how the kids they had had zero interest in learning and why should they bother to waste their time. They would catch up on their co-workers private lives and talk about work.

I always assume that every one is just like me and they talk about work when they are at work. I suppose that they could talk about other things, but I can’t imagine that a conversation would go on very long without getting back to the job.

I   can still feel the rush when that bell rang and we all tried to be the first out into the school yard. The teacher would make us line up or leave row by row, either way it was torture. Sometimes if the teacher was pissed off with you she would make you stand at the door and watch every other class leave. When you finally got to the playground, it was just too damned late! There was no sense going to the swings, because there were already too many people there. All of the best spots to stand would have been taken. Even your best friend would be playing with other guys. All that was left for you to do is to watch all o the other kids play. Gee, that sounds sad.

Recess gave you a chance to run and jump, play football or hockey, chase the fat kid (there was only one) all around the school yard, and my favourite, "Closies" You would try to see who could get the closest to the wall with a playing card. I was pretty good at it and I still have a few hundred. The cards weren’t worth anything back then, but it seems they have gone up in value. I wish everything was like that.

I am just bushed! I had a busy day of digging fence holes and all I want right now is to sit and vegetate in front of the TV. See you on the other side…

Friday, 28 September 2012

Happy Memories

I liked being in school not just because of the socializing or the availability of different kinds of drugs, but because there was a right and wrong. You knew pretty quickly that the answer to 7 X 4 – 13 wasn’t 7 ¼. Napoleon wasn’t a kind of three flavoured ice cream at all, but an 18th century Frenchman that shot the nose off of the Sphinx with a canon. You certainly knew just where you stood, unlike life after school.

It is when you get out in the real world that things start to come unravelled. Of course there are firm answers, but for a lot of life you just seem to learn as you go. Most men don’t know a thing about women that is in any way useful and continually prove that fact. Women know that men make good a good project and they set out to change the guy to become their idea of the perfect man. Relationships seem to grow like a plant in the garden. Sometimes they wither and die, but often if you are lucky they will grow and get stronger in spite of you. There are probably thousands of books on the subject, but you can’t learn emotions from books. You can learn to fake emotions from books but that seldom works.

When you raise kids, you try to do the right thing and sometimes you get lucky. I don’t think any parent tries to be a bad dad. We sometimes just don’t know where to start, it is so overwhelming. The only model we have is the one we grew up in. Our parents are the benchmark of child rearing and we try to emulate them. Well, except for the things they got wrong when they raised us. The other partner brings his or her ideas about being a parent into the marriage and if they are lucky, the two methods work well together and you raise kids you can be proud of.

It is kind of interesting to see the things that didn’t really work when you were raising your kids. You can tell by what your kids do or don’t do when they raise your grand kids. For the most part, I think Louise and I did a pretty good job. Okay, Louise did a pretty good job and I backed her up. Hurricane and Tornado are doing pretty well and Arwen has yet to choke either one of them. I guess you know how well you did as a parent by watching how good your kids are, and mine are wonderful people and good parents.

Tomorrow I get to go with Hurricane and his mom to pick up a beaver uniform at the Scout shop. It has been quite a while since I was down there and it is sure to bring back many happy memories. I am so excited that I might not be able to sleep tonight.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

What Were We Doing

Today when I was driving along a road there were two city workers staring up to the top of a light pole. I knew they were city workers because as far as I could tell, they weren’t doing anything at all. One guy would point and describe a circle in the air with his index finger and the other guy would shake his head “No” and make the same circle with his hand. If you ask me they were both two or three bricks short of a full load and there was a very good chance that if you drove by that location three hours later, they would still be staring at the top of the pole and making circles in the air with their hands. And they would be getting overtime pay of course.

It reminded me of a time when I was in grade twelve or thirteen and my buddy Ken and I took the day off school and went downtown to check out Sam’s and A & A record stores. We had recently watched some spy movie that had the head quarters in a downtown Manhattan high rise building. The spy head quarters was on three floors somewhere in the middle of the building and was hidden by the simple means of not numbering the floors. The building had elevators that had 60 floors and there were 63 floors in the building. We thought it was ingenious.

It didn’t take our smoke addled brains long to start thinking that any of the buildings around us at Yonge and Bloor could house some spy agency. We went into one building and took a look at how many floors the elevators went up to. This particular one had forty two I think, so Ken and I went back outside to see if the elevator floors and the actual floors came out to the same number.

On the first count, I came up with thirty three and Ken counted forty seven. The problem with counting when you are in a smoke induced fog is that it is pretty much impossible to come up with five when you count the fingers on your hand. Shit! Going past that was a nightmare, especially for a math idiot savant like me. Minus the “savant” of course. We counted again and this time I was in the forties and Ken was around 39. We mulled over adding our figures together and then dividing by two, but that wouldn’t work. In the first place it kind of nullified the whole idea and in the second place it would involve addition and division which was nearly impossible for us.

We noticed that a small crowd had gathered around us. At first, we wondered what they were looking at, but then we realized they were looking up because we were. That was pretty cool. Ken was always pretty quick on the uptake and asked how many floors up that flag near the top was. Now we had about ten eyes counting floors. They must have been skipping school too, because they each came up with a different number. It is possible that there was some secret spy thingy that made it impossible to accurately count the number of floors. The more reasonable explanation is that one should never smoke good Acapulco Gold and attempt to count past twenty-one.

We wandered off south trying to find Sam’s and A & A’s, leaving the impromptu crowd arguing about how high the flag was. I thought that Sam’s was ten blocks from here and Ken was sure it was thirteen. We decided to keep count of the blocks as we walked.

Uhhhh…what were we doing?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Talked Nicely

I'm so tired, I can't even read this. Maybe you should just stop here.

Have you ever done something that you knew was stupid but went ahead anyways?

Last night we were at a restaurant and when the waitress brought the plate to Louise she told her to be careful of the plate as it just came out of the oven. Louise ate carefully, being sure not to touch the hot plate. I reached over right away to see how hot the waitress thought that “hot” was. Turns out that “hot” for the waitress is the universal “hot”. You know the kind, where your skin will blister and you know that you just did a stupid thing when you touched it.

I long ago found out that when the cup at Tim Horton’s has “HOT” written on it, they mean that you will lose the ability to taste if you don’t wait for it to cool down.

Who hasn’t tested to see it the “WET PAINT” sign is actually on wet paint. I do it every time that I see a sign like that, but only once was the paint actually wet. The trouble I had was that now my finger has some wet paint on it and there is really no way to wipe it off. You can’t wipe it on the wall, or you would just get more paint on your fingers. It’s wet, remember? I try to wipe it on my palm, hoping that it will somehow magically dry while it is on your palm. Now, I have a finger with slightly less wet paint on it and a palm with too much wet paint on it. Leaves really suck at absorbing paint, as does concrete, grass or steel handrails. The only thing that seems to work would be your pants and shirt, especially if you are trying to be really careful to keep your hands away from said items.

Last year I bought an electric fly swatter. It isn’t really a fly swatter, but looks more like a mini tennis racquet. There is a battery in the handle and the idea is to electrocute the fly when you swat at it. It actually does kind of work. If the fly does somehow stumble onto the wire mesh it is definitely dead. The problem is that it is hard to convince a fly to land on the racquet. Flies rarely do what you want them to do, even well behaved flies. What you really need are well behaved flies with suicidal tendencies. I guess if you were a fly and you didn’t like walking on shit, rotten fruit or long dead animals, you might just be prone to suicide. So, I have this electric swatter and all I want to do with it is to touch my tongue to the mesh and just see how strong a shock would be that would kill a fly.

This morning I was trying to kill about twenty minutes and decided that it would be a real good time to sharpen a plane iron. It wasn’t by the way, as I was too rushed to do a good job. I went through all of the steps, but I went trough them far too quickly. I usually test the sharpness of the blade by shaving a few hairs off of the back of my arm. It didn’t cut the hairs, so I knew that I would have to go through the whole process again. I was putting the blade on the far side of the bench to protect it, when I nicked my thumb and it started to bleed, The iron wasn’t really sharp, but not dull either. If I have time tomorrow I”ll be sure to finish the job.

Once, I even talked nicely to a tele marketer, but I won’t do that again. Then they think you are a friend and keep talking! Assholes

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Something Worthwhile

I’m just exhausted right now, and I can barely think, let alone write. It’s never stopped me before though, so once again into the breach!

I thought that when I retired I would have the time to do all of those things that work and life seem to keep you from doing. I was pretty sure that my garden and yard would look wonderful after I had retired. To tell you the truth, it still kind of looks like shit. The grass is patchy; there are some pathetic, anaemic looking bushes in the front garden. Can bushes even look anaemic?  The trees are over grown and the paving blocks could do with a realignment or replacement. It turns out that I don’t like gardening any more than I did when I was working, and then I at least had an excuse not to garden.

When I was working, I would let the house get a little too dusty and I would allow the dishes to pile up sometimes after dinner, to be done whenever I had he chance to wash, dry and put away. I am much better than I was when I was working, but far less tidy than I should be now that I am retired. It turns out that I don’t like cleaning either.

I managed to find time to do some wood working and carvings when I was working. It seems that now I have all of the time in the world, I can’t manage to get down stairs and carve for any length of time. I am going to change that starting tomorrow! No, really I am…really.

There are a couple of things that I wanted to do when I retired. I wanted to teach myself to play the guitar. I know that I will never be great, or even very good, but I would like to be able to strum a few chords and just enjoy the sound that comes into the world from my fingers. It is a hard go and to tell the truth I’m not as dedicated as I should be. I also wanted to learn how to draw. I have done some, but not often enough or long enough to get any good. I do eyes pretty well, and for a while there, I could draw a mean ball on a table with shadows.

What I have done, is to thoroughly enjoy myself by doing nothing. I visit people; I drink coffee and solve some of the world’s problems. I read, watch TV and read more books than I did while I was working. I look forwards to the times when I can see Hurricane and Tornado. I have learned to make killer Jam. I have learned not to make baked goods; too many aren’t really very good for you. I have made myself available to help my family and friends when they needed the help. I have been writing a blog and other things. I have built a couple of computers. I have wired two tiny Christmas trees (badly). I have walked the dog more than I used to, well, except for the past couple of weeks. I am sure he understands.

I guess that I have been busy, just not at the things I had planned to be busy doing. That’s cool, just so long as I fill the days with something worthwhile. 

Monday, 24 September 2012


Change is a funny thing, sometimes it will slap you in the face and at other times it will creep up so slowly you don’t even know it is there. I was talking to a friend the other day that is on a first name basis with 70 years old and he was telling me that the other day he went to move a box with some magazines in it and he couldn’t even lift it. In his prime he could have one handed it and put it on the top shelf without any problem at all. He still thinks of himself as a 30 year old man and is frustrated when he can’t do what he once did.

I guess that we have to be thankful that a lot of what we did in our thirties doesn’t interest us as much as it once did. Some things do, but since they just aren’t feasible any more why worry.

I was listening to a discussion yesterday about how slow the 3G iPhone was when it came to GPS navigation when my son was in Europe. The son-in-law agreed about having to wait while his search for a restaurant took too much time. I don’t have an iPhone, but I know what they are talking about. The other day I had to wait about a minute for the book I have been reading on my phone loaded up. It was hardly worth starting the program. This kind of stuff would be considered magic a hundred years ago and would more than likely get you burned at the stake.

I can remember when if you wanted to make a phone call you would either find a pay phone (they were all over the place), go home or go to the office. You didn’t call or text someone to finalize the details of a meeting, those would have been settled much earlier in person.  If you needed to find someplace in a foreign country you would refer to your paper map or consult the directions that had been given you days earlier. For me a restaurant search was driving down the road and as you drove past the restaurants you would decide if you wanted that kind of food.

Who would have thought even fifteen years ago that I could write my thoughts and within minutes and hours, people in the Ukraine, China, Russia and other exotic (to me) countries would get some enjoyment from them. Well, I hope they are getting some enjoyment. There is one guy in Eastern Europe that keeps sending me ads for Viagra, cheap watches and payday loans. No thanks to all of those. I guess we have to take the bad changes with the good ones.

I got a card for my birthday and the picture on the front is of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. They are just standing side by side. There are actually two pictures, one that was drawn when Charles Schultz first started the strip and a much more recent drawing. The years have been good to Charlie and Snoopy.

I just hope that the years have been as good to me…

Yeah...not so much!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

It Should Be Easy

I spent a good chunk of this weekend helping my son and his wife build a fence in their back yard. They have had a busy summer of home improvements. The big job was building a garage, which is quite an undertaking if you know what you are doing, but pretty much everyone that worked on the project had a smattering of knowledge and a surplus of opinions. It made for some fun times. The garage was erected and you’d think that was an end to it, but there is the electrical yet to be put in and now, since there is a trench already excavated, why not put in a gas line. I haven’t mentioned the soffit (yet to be completed), the stucco and stucco repair on the main house.

I know; crazy mofo’s. I guess they felt that their lives hadn’t been completely turned upside down so why not toss a fence into the mix. The good thing is that come next year there won’t be so much that needs doing. I don’t have the heart to tell them that life just doesn’t work like that, when Mother Nature sees a vacuum, she wants to fill it. So I was over there to be a strong back and a weak mind.

 In a perfect world, it would take a couple of hours to tear down the old fence, a couple of hours to dig some new holes and with any luck maybe get the posts put in by days end. Someday I hope to visit that world, but that day didn’t happen this weekend or in this world. The old fence came down pretty easy, but the posts wanted to stay in the ground and had t be jacked up. Good thing I brought a jack. That is pretty much when “good” stopped being an adjective that I would be able to use.

The holes proved to be exceedingly difficult to dig because of the tree roots that had grown in just where we planned to dig the holes. Each hole was a bitch and a half to dig! We used shovels, post hole shovels, saws, hatchets, axes, pry bars and more than a few of the most colourful words in the English language. I took solace in the fact that at least the materials hadn’t been delivered. THE MATERIALS HAVEN’T BEEN DELIVERED!! We kept poking away at the post holes and by about 4:30 the guy from Rona arrived.

I guess that Rona has hiring standards for their drivers that forbid a full set of teeth or intellect larger than a medium sized grapefruit and must have at least one “sleeve” of tattoos. When Brendan asked for him to put the load in the garage, he just kept saying with a stupid grin on his face, “That ain’t a’ happening! That ain’t a’ happening!” So, the Rona guy dropped the load in the alley and we got to take a break from post hole digging so that we could move several thousands pounds of cedar into the garage.

That pretty much killed all desire to finish, but we dug the last hole and even managed to place one post in place before packing it in for the day. I dragged my old saggy ass home and began to chew an assortment of over the counter pills, washed down with a hot soak in the tub.

Early this morning we found that all of the holes needed to be slightly large in one direction or the next. Perfect! It took most of the morning and a small portion of the afternoon to place the posts. The posts are all in and sometime this week we will tackle the rails and fence boards. I can’t imagine that we will run into any difficulty at all. It should be easy………

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Thanks Everyone

In a couple of days I will have completed six decades on the planet. It will pass pretty quietly without parties, parades or any fanfare whatsoever. That is the way it should be.

I can’t remember a lot of the time that I have been here. I think my first memory was when I was about three, crawling on the back window deck of a ’55 Buick. Not really earth shattering or even memorable for anyone except for a certain three year old. If you have read more than a few of these blogs you will have noticed that I do have memories of my childhood, but they are inconsistent and more than a little flighty. None of them really want to get nailed down I suppose. There are a few years from my mid teens to mid twenties when the memories are spotty and somewhat hazy.

I can’t remember what shirt I wore when I met the love of my life. I do remember it was in Tom Dallas’s Sport Shop on a weekday around 1:00. She was on a break from her job as a gas jockey and was wearing a yellow halter top and green shorts I think. Hey, I do remember what shirt I was wearing, a blue short sleeved post office shirt. I was happy to meet someone that was interesting to talk to and quite frankly, just a little (a lot) smarter than I was. I had no interest in finding a girl friend, having given it up as a lost cause.

Throughout my life, my memories of events just don’t seem to stick. I remember being in class when the teacher came in and announced that John Kennedy had been killed. I remember that Martin, Bobby and John were killed for what I considered to be senseless reasons. I guess we needed this as a society. There was a landing on the moon and that was just awesome, but I would have to Google it to find out the date.

There have been some innovations since I was born, the polio vaccine, credit cards, transistor radios, seatbelts in cars, the artificial heart, mini skirts, valium, manned spacecraft, barcodes, disposable lighters, the personal stereo, the abortion pill, Rubik’s cube, CD ROMs, cell phones, WWW, DVD’s, iPods and many, many more. I can remember my Data Processing teacher in high school telling us that some day in the future; computers might get as small as her desk. The point is that all of these things happened and I didn’t really pay that much attention to them. I use them and in some cases I thank God for them but I didn’t make a big deal of them when they first appeared.

No, what I remember are the people that have made this first sixty years worth remembering. I would like to thank all of the people that helped me through my troubled times, the happy times we shared, the laughs and the tears. Mostly laughs though. I had the pleasure of working with some of the finest people that are on the planet. Some of the biggest assholes too. My friends from high school have remained friends and although we are separated by thousands of miles, I just think of them and a smile comes to my lips. What  a joy to have all of them in my life!

It goes without saying that the reason I am here on the planet was to help create those incredible people that I have the privilege to call family. The world is a far better place with all of you here. I love you Louise, Arwen, Maegan and Brendan. You make my heart want to explode. Not for a while though I hope. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank God or whoever is in charge of things for Hurricane and Tornado. These two kids are worth living and dying for. What a thrill to have had the opportunity to know and spoil them. Cookies and chocolate whenever you want it guys.

Those that have gone on I miss you daily and if there is a Heaven we will get together and compare notes.

Thanks for being a part of this ride for the last sixty years everyone.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Evil Little Troll

I just read my online horoscope (no, I don’t believe in that…mostly) and it said that I was creative and imaginative, which is good or at least goodish. It went on to say that I shouldn’t act on every whim or share every thought.

I rarely act on a whim, I know what the definition of a “whim” is, but the word conjures up another image in my mind. I picture it as a creature with tiny feet and a roundish body which is dressed in Lincoln green with a mid to large neck and a goofy looking face that has a mouth too full of teeth, large oval eyes and the head comes to a sharp point which leaves next to no room for a brain. Strange looking creature!

I just read that last paragraph, and I suppose that I should be concerned, but some words just don’t seem to fit the definition that they are given. Of course I can’t think of any others right now, but trust me they are out there.

The part of the horoscope that really concerns me is the not sharing every thought part. That is kind of the whole idea behind blogging isn’t it? I don’t share every thought that I have, mainly because that would give “them” cause to institutionalize me. The longer I write this blog however, more of my thoughts are bound to creep out. I used to worry about being institutionalized, but now I am pretty sure I will be able to live out my life without a straight jacket or a room with padded walls.

There are no guarantees of course, but with all of the nut bars and whack-a-doodles prancing around, the chances of noticing me get slimmer every day. Just yesterday I saw a woman walk into a crowded room, take out here phone and then say “Would you mind being quiet? I can’t make out what they are saying.” My initial response after disbelief of course was that she probably shouldn’t have come into the crowded room to make her call. The abbreviated form of that sentence is “Fuck You!” In fact I was just about to say more or less the same thing when my buddy told her that he didn’t care about her conversation at all. She looked like an angry dwarf, but really, like an angry dwarf the most that she could do was get angry.

That reminds me of the guy that ran into the back of a smart car at a red light. The door opened and a little person got out and stomped over to the driver’s window of the car that hit him and said “I am not happy!” The guy in the car asked “Which one are you then?” There is some Randy Newman in all of us I suppose. Well, of course I mean in big people. There is no exact count of the number of little people in the world, but a rough estimate is between 20,000 and 175,000 world wide, or 1 in 40,000.
I have been thinking of doing some research on why so many cultures have tiny magical creatures as part of their myths and legends. There are leprechauns, fairies, pukwudgies, gnomes, lares, goblins, gremlins and of course Gary Bettman. You would be hard pressed to find a nastier, meaner, more arrogant little troll in any myth or fairy tale. “Gather round children and hear the story of how the evil little troll stole from the poor and gave to the rich, while single handed he managed to ruin the hopes and dreams of Canadian children and their beer drinking dads.”

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Neck Sucking Thing

I have been agonizing over a decision for the past month or so, and today I took the plunge. I, like so many others have to get my hair cut from time to time. I try to stretch that time out because I begrudge the fact that my body continues to grow hair in spite of my express orders not to. I know some people don’t mind getting their hair cut and I suspect that others even like it. Be that as it may, for the last couple of weeks I have known that my hair needed cutting.

The only time that it looked half ways decent was shortly after I got out of the shower and the mirror was fogged up. That foggy mirror is a blessing I can tell you. The hair was getting just too long! Not long enough for me to look cool, although when guys my age have really long hair it is really a cry for help, and a pathetic one at that. Oh, I know there are some people that look really good with long hair, my buddy Marsden is one, but I contend that he is the exception rather than the rule. I wouldn’t mind really long hair, but it is that in between stage that is really irritating. I had long hair for a number of years, but had to cut it in order to get a job way back in the deep recesses of time.

I mentioned my barber dilemma a while back I think. He was leaving the shop I have been going to for many years which is very close to home, and moving about a ten minute drive away. The reason that he changed locations had more to do with being bigoted than improving his ability to earn. He stopped me in the mall months ago and in a hurried whisper he told me of the move and asked if I would continue to support him. I didn’t really know what to say, he had hold of my arm and was about two feet into my personal space which made me pretty uncomfortable, so of course I said “Sure, why not?” My ploy worked, he let go of my arm and wandered off muttering to himself in search of other heads that he had known to try and convert them.

I had no intention of driving half way across the city to get my hair cut. I don’t even really like the guy and in fact I wrote a blog about him called “Human Sphincter”. He’s alright enough to cut my hair, but ten minutes uses up all of the possible weather, political and news conversations and for the last couple of minutes it is a very awkward silence until he holds the mirror up and I call him the Rembrandt of hair. No, to tell the truth I was kind of happy that he was leaving and maybe I might find someone that I could talk to for another five minutes.
I have put off the haircut because I just couldn’t decide if his happiness or mine was more important. Today I decided that I would go to the old barbershop and just get my hair cut no matter that the old place is a hangout for Lebanese. It is kind of like a Lebanese Floyd’s barber shop. Unfortunately, the car took me to the new shop where Dennis works. I got out and there he was, standing in the doorway like he was waiting for me to come. I suppose that it is possible that he was waiting for me, but I don’t want to think about that because it is way too creepy.
I sat in the chair and looked around. It was an old style shop with pictures of well cut hair and paintings of some crazy green land that had no real place in society. There were scissors, brushes, combs, bottles of blue liquid and the inevitable hair clippings on the floor. I asked how his summer was and he said “OK”. “How do you like the new place?”
“Weather has been great, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it has been OK”
“What about the hockey situation?” I said.
“Whatever they do is OK by me.”
We had ten minutes more of this kind of painful conversation and he finally undid the tissue collar to do a final trimming. He brought out the hair dryer and blew the gray hairs off of my lap, took the brush and applied it to my shoulders for any stray hairs that might still be around. Then, there was a sucking on my neck. I am going to assume that it is a new tool in the barber’s arsenal, because I don’t even want to think that Dennis was sucking my neck.

I got up and asked how much. He said “Fifty.” I said “FIFTY!!!!” to which he replied “No, fifteen.” I laughed, paid him and walked out into the afternoon sunshine feeling like a new man. I was happy too, because I didn’t really care who cut my hair, but by coming here I made Dennis very happy I think.

I am still weirded out by the neck sucking thing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Five Bucks on the Wrecking Machine

My buddy and I made our semi regular trip to the scrap metal recycler today. We don’t go very often, just when we have accumulated a fairly large amount of metal. I know, you are thinking “Just how much metal can you accumulate?” Well, as it turns out, today it was about 860 pounds which magically turned into $24.60.

Most of that was Ken’s, but I had a few pounds to contribute and you just never know, the next trip I may have a lot of metal. Ken’s neighbours give him metal that they don’t really know what to do with. Nice of them to drop off their junk don’t you think?

The reason we go to the Metal recycling place is that instead of charging us to drop the stuff off, we make money. Once we took the metal to the dump, knowing that they had a bin where you could put metal. We thought that dropping off the metal was free since the city just takes it to the scrappers anyways and gets paid for it. Not so, they charged us a ton because we had almost a ton. That was the last time we went there.

Normally a trip goes pretty smoothly, in and out in about ten minutes and then the coffee is on them. Today, they opened a different gate and when we got in, there was a line up. The way it works is that you drive on to a large scale, get weighed and then you are told where to go to off load the metal. Once you have off loaded the metal, you drive around the yard and back to the scales and get weighed empty. Then you go park the vehicle and go inside where you are given money. It took us about an hour and a half! They were slammed! WTF! How does a junk yard get busy?

The guys ahead of us were morons and seemed to take forever. I still can’t figure out what the problem was. I would have said something, but being a coward, more or less, I held my tongue and just baked in the front of the truck. The good thing is that we were in a junk yard and they have the neatest vehicles. They had the magnetic crane which would pick up a shit pile of metal from one pile and swing it over to drop it on another pile. It made no sense really, but it looked like a lot of fun. They had regular huge cranes as well and I saw them pick up a car just like in the movies. It was cool too. They had massive bull dozers which would push a pile of scrap around the yard. At one point, the crane picked up this huge… well, it looked like a brillo pad and used it to sweep the ground. I don’t think anyone really knew what they were doing, other than having a real fun time.

The people employed there more than likely think of what they do as a job, but I would willingly pay to have a chance to work one of those cranes or drive a bull dozer. That is the kind of shit I have on my bucket list, not climbing some big ass mountain or wrestling an angry alligator. I have to figure out a way to take Hurricane and Tornado there sometime pretty soon. There eyes would bug out and not go back in for months. I am pretty sure their mom would okay the trip. Pretty sure…

They should install a viewing stand. I would go and watch just as I am sure other old farts would. We could heckle the angry truck drivers. If they wore uniforms we could cheer on our favourite team, since there won’t be any hockey this year, watching a scrap yard might just be the new spectator sport.

I’ve got five bucks on the “Wrecking Machine” 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


This morning I was ready and waiting to go to work, but I had somehow managed to wake up and was ready with about fifteen minutes to spare. What to do? What to do? I fell back on my standard time waster, Spider Solitaire. I pulled out the iPad and had a game or to until it was time to head for work. I have played one version of Solitare or another ever since I picked up my first computer. The game comes loaded with Windows along with some others that I have never really been interested in.
Long before I owned a computer, I played Solitaire. I would play it on my bed (mind out of the gutter folks), I played it on the floor, I played it at the cottage, I played it driving up to the cottage, I played it on the kitchen table and I played it at school. You might think that I was a pretty lonely guy. That may be true, but I don’t think I was lonelier than anyone else; I just had stretches of time that needed filling every now and then. Solitaire managed to fill those empty spaces in my life quite nicely.

The only time that solitaire wasn’t fun was when someone would look over your shoulder and “help” you. “Hey, the nine of clubs goes on the ten of hearts!”

“Yeah, I saw it.” Even though you hadn’t actually seen that move, you didn’t appreciate the help. It is amazing how many people just can’t seem to understand that “solitaire” is French for “lonely”, “recluse”, “solitary”, and “loner”. They mean well I guess. However, by helping you play the game they are really saying “Well aren’t you stupid! Even a moron can tell that the red ten goes on the black jack.” They mean well…I guess, but when you have someone looking over your shoulder it is pretty hard to cheat. No, it isn’t pathetic to cheat when you are playing solitaire. It is just a way to learn from your mistakes and hone your card playing skills. Yeah…it is pretty pathetic.

There are over 1000 different solitaire games. ; Not all would be entertaining to all, but some where thee is someone that is bored enough to want to play even the worst of these games. When I was trying to look into card solitaire, I found very little information. Most of the information was about the different games you can play on the computer. I guess this is another way the computer has changed and continues to change the world. The youth of today won’t know what to do with themselves when confronted with a blackout and a deck of cards. I can see Hurricane asking “Hey Poppa, is there a “hint” button on the cards?” I imagine that a good portion of those thousand solitaire games will be forgotten except in some dusty old tome or in the dusty old mind of someone’s grandfather.

Someone will play the Statler Brothers “Flowers on the Wall” and wonder what they are talking about having a deck of 51.
I’m just about finished and it looks like I may have some time before I need to go to bed. I think I will forego the TV and play some solitaire…with cards!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Artie Set The Bar Pretty High.

I was watching “October Sky”, again, and there is a part at the end… I’m not worried about spoiling the movie for you because if you haven’t seen it yet, in all likelihood you never will watch it. Philistine! Anyways, there is this part at the end where Homer tells his dad that Werner Von Braun isn’t his hero, indicating that his dad is his hero. I have to admit that I tear up every time I see this. (“October Sky” is an anagram for the name of the book “Rocket Boys”.)

The term “hero” is bandied about quite a lot these days. It seems that almost everyone is a hero and perhaps that is true in a sense. Sports figures are often set up to be the heroes of little boys and girls and when a kid is caught up with one of these guys it is said to be hero worship. I am pretty sure that none of these guys would call themselves heroes. If someone helps an accident victim and doesn’t stay around to get the credit, then he is called a hero. Ever since 9/11 all firemen have become heroes, even those that had nothing to do with that tragedy. Yes, firemen do an amazing job and I can’t imagine life without having them around.

I guess by now you can tell that I really have no clear cut idea about what a hero is or isn’t. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern etc. were the heroes that I grew up with, but being fictional, it is pretty hard to hold them up as a standard to measure actual human heroes. Someone that runs into a burning building is a hero. Someone that saves a life by putting theirs at risk is a hero. Someone willing to die for a stranger is a hero. The thing that I have trouble with is that these people just do what they do without thinking. They know it is the proper thing to do and they do it. Wow! I wonder if I were put in that kind of situation would I do the same. I just won’t know until I am in that kind of situation.

I don’t know that I would. I would want to and afterwards I would make excuses as to why I didn’t get to do the heroic thing. It’s probably because the guy that didn’t hesitate got there first. Like I say, the accepted concept of hero is something that I just have trouble with.

I guess I can only deal with the small “h” hero. The guy that goes to work everyday and when he gets home, even when he is too tired to move, will get up and play with his kids. The guy that gets so mad at his family he can’t see straight and doesn’t say or do anything about it. The guy that would love to pick up and leave, but he stays where he is because it is the right thing to do. The guy that always tries to do the right thing, even when it is easier for him to not do the right thing. It is never really clear if this guy or that guy is a hero until he is a hero.

I suppose that we are surrounded by heroes and just aren’t aware they are lurking around every corner. You know, just like in the movie, I think the guy that is my hero would be my dad. He passed about fifteen years and ago and I think of him daily, wondering if there is a chance that I might someday be the hero he was.

Artie set the bar pretty high.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Except For The Wet Farts

For some inexplicable reason, I was thinking about people that don’t wear underwear today. I realize that some of you are thinking “That isn’t inexplicable Ken; you are male and therefore a pig!” That is true as far as it goes, but I wasn’t just thinking about Victoria Secret models.

When I went to school, there was this guy that I noticed and he always had a smile on his face and seemed to be one of the happiest, intelligent, most interesting, well adjusted teenager that I had met. Paul was the kind of guy that you wanted to be like. It wasn’t until I got to know him that I found out that Paul was always in commando mode. I wish now that I had asked him when and why he decided to stop wearing underwear. Now, whether or not being “free” was the reason he was well adjusted, happy, intelligent, and interesting was a factor or not, I am not prepared to speculate.

I have noticed that people without underwear tend to smile a lot more as a rule. That might just be a nervous smile. Going commando isn’t all fun and games though. There have been some young starlets that have regretted the decision when getting out of a limo with paparazzi around. Zippers can pose a real problem as well. I contend that there is nothing…nothing as painful as getting your privates caught in a zipper. I did it just once when I was eight or nine and I can still recall the agony some fifty years later.

The Scots are a nation without underwear, and they don’t seem terrible happy for the most part. Mind you, it can be quite cold and they are open to the weather as it were, which would put a frown on anyone’s face. They also seem to spend an inordinate amount of time throwing large poles in the air and making the most God awful noise by squeezing a bag filled with air. I can’t help but think they would be happier if they were to start wearing underwear. That’s just my opinion, no need to get your shorts in a knot.

When you are wearing underwear forgetting to do up your zipper is at most a little embarrassing. Without underwear the same thing can be totally humiliating. Well, unless of course you have been well blessed by Mother Nature. I have always liked the idea of an extra layer of protection between my delicate skin and the denim or corduroy.

I guess that when I am wearing a bathing suit it is sort of like going commando. Not really though because a lot of bathing suits have a kind of mesh liner that keeps everything that needs to be kept in place, in place. I remember I used to like skinny dipping, but the opportunity for that is long past for me. If I were to skinny dip now, there would be a good chance someone would snap a picture and it would start a whole new frenzy about finding Bigfoot.

I have gone without the odd time when laundry day was postponed, but I never did feel that comfortable. Perhaps it takes a special type of person to live and thrive without underwear. I know it isn’t me, but I suspect those people are still out there, walking down the street with a smile on their faces and not a care in the world.

Well, except for wet farts.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Thanks Nicolas

Well, another night another seven or eight jars of Zucchini Salsa. I’m not even Mexican!

I mentioned before that Louise tried some at work and wanted to see if we could make some at home. It turns out that we can indeed make Salsa at home. The first batch was too hot, the second batch was just right, and God Himself only knows how the third batch will turn out. So far, we have about sixteen or seventeen jars of salsa downstairs and I think there are four in the refrigerator upstairs.

That is part of the canning process for me. Once the food is ready to be canned, you fill the jars, wipe the edge of the jars clean, place the lids on and tighten the twisty, screwy thingy. Then you place the sealed jars in boiling water for fifteen minutes. I think that is when the canning fairy makes his visit, waving his magic wand over the selected jars. Once removed from the bath, the jars are to sit undisturbed for twenty four hours. Wouldn’t that just be terrific? I would kill to be a jar of salsa or jam for the first 24 hours, but after that things go downhill.

Canning and preserving involves a lot of waiting in between steps, so it gives you a chance to let your mind wander. I began thinking about what it must have been like at this time of year for our ancestors. I was going to say a hundred years ago, but up until this past century, people have been responsible for looking after the food needs for the upcoming winter. I have done very little research, but I do know that it is possible to keep certain fruits and vegetables edible for months. The canning process would have been near miraculous when first discovered. We can thank the French government during the Napoleonic war for offering a handsome reward for any inventor that managed to think of a way to preserve large amounts of food that the army needed. In 1809 Nicolas Appert observed that food cooked and sealed in jars would remain good unless the seal was compromised. The article doesn’t mention whether or not Nicolas got his reward, but I somehow doubt it. Napoleon was a lying little twerp, or at least that is what I have heard.

It would have been so very important and time consuming. We have all of the modern machines that make the kitchen experience pleasant and relatively simple. Back in the day wood stoves would have to be kept at the right temperature, water hauled and of course there would be all of the cutting and chopping that the modern food processor makes simple. It is still involved, but much easier and during the winter it will be just awesome eating the salsa or jam that we put up. I think we might just expand our production next year and get into pickling or all of the other stuff that I don’t have a clue about. Not meat though, I can think of more than a few ways that could go horribly wrong.

I think some rhubarb jam might be a good idea. I had a friend ask me once how much jam can you possibly eat. I answered that it usually works out to one more jar than you have.

Friday, 14 September 2012

I Am a Nut Fugger

I was thinking today about how travel has changed over the years. My son and his wife just spent a couple of weeks in Italy and arrived home today. They probably spent the better part of the day in travelling to the airport, checking in, going through security, waiting to board, hours and hours of flight, debarking at Calgary, going to Customs and getting a ride home where the driver asks and expects answers about how your trip was. Really, all that you are interested in is getting home and sleeping in your own bed for the first time in weeks.

I don’t know how Brendan and Tara deal with the travel part, but to me it is a fucking nightmare! I love to be places, but the getting there just isn’t worth it to me. Thank God Louise makes me go through all of that rig-a-ma-role and behave like a real adult.

I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to travel in the past. Airplanes allow us to cover vast distances in a relatively short time frame. Before the last century the modes of travel were considerably slower and could be measured in weeks and months instead of hours. If you happened to miss a connection, it might be weeks before the next ship would be heading to your destination. I still don’t think I would have liked to travel and Louise would have had to make a pretty damned good argument to get me to go anywhere.

I come from a long line of sea faring folk. My family made their living plying the trade routes all over the world. They would begin and end in Liverpool, but the trips would be measured in years. I have read some descriptions of life on the sea and I can tell my great-great-great grandfather that there is no way I would follow in the family tradition. I am not sure how many people made a conscious decision to make the sea their life. In fact, I suspect that the decisions of a good portion of people who took to the sea were unconscious ones. Most likely, unconsciousness was brought on by a stout club to the side of the head when they were leaving the pub late at night.

When we picture travel in times of yore, it is always romantic and we are the captains or wealthy travellers that have to put up with only the one maid and one man servant. The reality is that if we were lucky we would have to work like dogs to pay our way and have to put up with crappy food and even worse living conditions. I think that travel was a way of life and not a vacation back then and it was something that you were driven to do. Very few would ever go anywhere and would more than likely live and die within a few miles of where they were born.

Louise and I moved across the country and that was a pretty traumatic undertaking for us. Communication was available, but somewhat costly and we really felt out of touch with all that we knew and had come to love. In time we made new connections and our life took root in Calgary. I suppose that was how things worked back in time. You would have no other choice but to make a go of it in your new locale. We as human beings can get used to pretty much anything and live anywhere. Just look at the nut fuggers that choose to live in the extremes of the arctic or in a desert. I am pretty sure my mom and dad thought that about me and my move out to Calgary. After all, we picked Calgary for no better reason than it was close to the mountains and there was a pretty good chance we could get jobs out here. Probably!

Come to think of it, I guess that I am a nut fugger.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Great Name For a Beer

 My son is on the other side of the world in a foreign airport as I write this. He doesn’t really speak the language and neither does his wife, but I suspect they will get along fine. Italy and the Italians have been playing host to the word for three thousand years at least. I suppose you could call being conquerors is sort of like playing host.

Brendan has spent the better part of two weeks lounging around a country famous for so many things, both good and bad. I am writing this and I find that I really don’t know very much about Italy other than it being in the Mediterranean, it’s the home of pizza and spaghetti, Sophia Lorne, it is shaped like a dominatrix’s boot, the Mafia and some of the best construction workers in the world.

I can remember that every Christmas My mom and dad would send a card to the fellow that built our house. It was a very nice house and well built too. His ancestors were probably responsible for building Hadrians wall in Northern EnglandHadrian was emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 CE and thought that it would be a great idea to build a wall across England. If he had talked to the Chinese emperors, they would have been able to tell him not to waste the time or money. Walls don’t really work in the long run and they are very expensive.
Hadrian didn’t talk to any Chinese and ended up building a wall about 120 Kilometres long from Wallsend (really?) on the river Tyne to the shore of Solway Firth. One of the reasons it was built was to keep the Barbarians out. If I were a barbarian, I wouldn’t go anywhere near where there were Romans. The Romans were vicious, aggressive serious minded race of over achievers. The barbarians just hung around most of the day wearing dresses, painting their faces blue, tossing large poles in the air and eating the foulest food you could stuff in a sheep’s stomach.

The barbarians would no more try to cross into Roman territory back in 123 CE than they would want to cross into England now. Maybe for a drink or two and a liaison with some loose English/Roman gals, but not to actually stay for any length of time. The Romans were the ones that kept marching onto other people’s property and declaring it their own. There never has been nor will there ever be something called the Barbarian Empire, unless modern day Scots decide to market a new beer. That would be a great name for a beer.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Thanks Santa

Today it cooled off a little. The high was supposed to be about 12° or 13°, but with the sun and little wind it was still t-shirt weather…almost.

I rode the bike to work and after the first few minutes, it was a pretty good ride. My fingers were a little cold, but that is my fault for not wearing the proper gloves. When I got home, I watered the garden and did a few household chores. Pretty much a normal day in this life I have.
Bill and I decided that we would drive up to Airdrie and check out Cross Iron Mall in general and the Bass Pro Shop in particular. We parked in the lot and on the way to the store it started to snow. Yes, snow! I said WTF and Bill told me that it probably wouldn’t stay. Well, no shit Sherlock! Yesterday it was 20° C and today it snowed. Yes, just for a short while, but it snowed! I had to cover the garden tonight because there is a frost warning. I am not mentally prepared for frost warnings. Perhaps in a month or two after the trees have started losing their leaves it will be soon enough.  
Just part of the interior of the Bass Pro Outdoor World 
The Bass Pro Shop is a store devoted to hunting and fishing. Not just hunting and fishing, but everything that pertains to hunting and fishing even marginally. When you enter from the mall, there is a guy manning the turnstile just to make sure that if you are bringing in a gun or rifle to the store, it will be unloaded and trigger locked. I realize that most stores don’t have people bringing guns in on a regular basis, but this one does. I guess if you need to get repairs done or sights set then this is the place for you.

We spent some time in the boat and Quad area looking at the various fishing and sport vehicles. There was a boat there worth $51,000. You have to really like hunting and fishing to justify that kind of expense. There was a 300 HP outboard motor on one of the boats. The boat we had at my grams cottage was and aluminium row boat that had a 3 ½ HP motor. It was pretty slow, and we dreamt of having a really fast outboard like the Fry’s had. What I would have given for that 15 HP engine. I just can’t even fathom how fast a boat with 300 HP could move.

This store has everything. I bought some BBs for when I think Hurricane and Tornado are ready to shoot cans. That will more than likely be sometime before Arwen thinks they are ready. They have all sorts of camo clothing for kids and adults of course, right down to camo baby booties. There are stuffed animals all over the store and I hope that I never get as close to a real wolf as you can get to the stuffed ones at the Bass Pro Shop. They have a huge aquarium with prime specimens of the fish you might be able to catch in Alberta and BC. Kids and Poppas love to watch the fish.

I am sure there are Bass Pro Shops all over, and if you get a chance to go to one then you should do so. It is a real experience and a peak into a world I have little or no knowledge of. One Christmas as I was leaving the store, I noticed an item by the cash registers on the “impulse buy” shelf. It was called “Butt Out” and had these nasty looking plastic barbs attached to a handle. I guess what you do with it is once you have killed your deer; you would insert the “Butt Out” into the animals rectum, give it a twist and pull out the animals anal canal. What amazes me is that this is an “impulse buy” item, placed alongside of the gum and sport magazines. Weird!
 Hunters Specialties Butt Out 2 Big Game Dressing Tool
That Christmas, in my stocking I found my very own, “Butt Out”. Thanks Santa!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Never Go To Supper With A Giant

We were lucky enough to be able to look after Hurricane and Tornado tonight. They came over for supper and hung around until mom and dad came to get them.

When the boys got here they spilled the beans about how mom gave them Tim Bits before they came over. I think it was a form of payback for all of the times that I have loaded them up on sugar and sent them home for supper. Sure they were a little wired when they got here, but I just kind of expect a little uncontrolled nuttiness when the grand kids are visiting. They can pretty much do what they want around here and I will just smile and try to see how high they can jump on the bed. Arwen has a ways to go before she can spoil the kids “Poppa” style.

We had spaghetti and meat balls which is a perennial favourite, after all, who doesn’t like meatballs. It was and is a little messy, but that is why God invented soap and water. Hurricane left the table and told me in no uncertain terms that he was so full that he couldn’t eat another bite and his little shadow Tornado just nodded his head. I asked if he were sure and of course he said that he was. I told him that I couldn’t believe that he didn’t want any ice cream. Well, you have never seen a kid back pedal as fast as he did and before you could say “vanilla” he was in his chair. Those boys sure like their ice cream.
They had brought a movie over to watch after dinner, "The Lorax". I had never seen it so I was thrilled at the prospect. Hurricane has watched it so often that he will spontaneously stand and deliver monologues from the movie. Tornado has never really shown any real interest in the TV or movies at all, preferring to find something that needs to be taken apart and have those parts hidden. Surprisingly, he will watch “The Lorax” with rapt attention. He didn’t want to sit with Poppa (which kind of hurt) preferring instead to sit on his own holding his blanket.

They didn’t sit for as long as I had hoped, but that was cool. Eventually, it was time to go to bed. Hurricane knew that he wasn’t having a sleep over, but at his stage, Tornado wasn’t sure what was going on. I read them “To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” and Louise lay in the dark with them until they drifted off. It is possible I suppose that Louise “drifted” them off to sleep. Either way, it became quiet in the house again.

An hour or so later mom and dad came to pick the boys up. I marvel at the way kids can sleep through being man handled into their coats and slung under an arm to get them to the car. I have been that tired and if there were giants in the world I would love to see if they could carry me to a car that way. Mind you, you have to be suspicious of a giant’s motive. They are known for eating humans, so the chances of them just taking you for a ride are slim to none. Never go to supper with a giant!