Thursday 31 October 2013

Time for a Change

I guess I will have to stop writing this at night. I can still write at night I suppose, but maybe just blogs to save for another time. It seems as if I am getting more and more muzzy headed in the evenings. Any ideas that I have had during the day have slipped out of an ear hole.

I’ve tried carrying a pen and a pad of paper, but what I write in the morning makes little or no sense at night. It is time for a change…well, not right now, but starting tomorrow.

See you then.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Old Jacket and a Burnt Cork

When I was going in to the library today, I saw a fairy princess. She was dressed all in white from her toes to the tip of her tiara, and her whiter than white wings sparkled with a thousand stars. She must have been just over a year and a half old, and her grandmother just couldn’t help but take a few pictures. Going in to the library, I was confronted with a tiny Iron Man and an equally tiny Thor. I suppose that some evil super villain could have blasted them with an age regression beam of some sort, but I would bet money that it had more to do with Halloween being tomorrow.
I picked up Hurricane and Tornado from school and daycare today and brought them home to help decorate the house for Halloween. They did a pretty good job and I like the idea that all of the decorations are no more than three and a half feet up the wall. They don’t work for free, and I wouldn’t expect them to, but they do work for gum and twizzlers. We also fed them some spaghetti and meat balls, but to tell the truth all that was eaten were the meat balls. When their mom picked them up, I sent them home with a treat bag as I am pretty sure we won’t see them tomorrow. They will be busy shaking down their neighbours for candy.

When I was watching that little princess earlier in the day, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a costume a real princess would wear on All Hallows Eve. Do you think that a real little princess would put on faded jeans, a t-shirt that reads “Mommies Alarm Clock” and a pair of scuffed, worn out running shoes and call herself a commoner? What would her neighbours think? Well, the ones in palaces would applaud the costume, but if she came around here, I would give her candy but mutter something about how she had not even tried.
I’ve mentioned that I was a mailman for most of my working career and none of the kids ever went out as a mailman. They had access to an authentic, perfect costume with all of the bells and whistles. I shouldn’t say never; I did dress Arwen as a mailman, but she was one and had no say in the matter. Incidentally, that might be the last time she didn’t have something to say. Those were the good old days…

I wonder if other families in similar situations had their kids dress up in their parents work clothes? Probably not, because I rarely, if ever, see little firemen, waitresses, city workers, construction workers or park rangers come up to the door demanding candy. I wonder why?

I remember a Halloween party when I was in high school. We were well into the party when there was a loud banging on the front door and a deep voice yelled, “Open up! It’s the POLICE!” Four of us were standing over the toilet ready to flush when I heard Don say “Fuck Bri, you scared the shit out of us!” There are times when dressing up as a cop isn’t a good idea. Okay, probably never.
There seems to be a move towards the more bloody and gory costumes. If there isn’t blood dripping from an exposed eye socket, it just isn’t a good costume. My favourite costume when I was a kid was that of a hobo. I’d wear one of dad’s old jackets, rub some burnt cork on my face and carry a stick with a bundle over my shoulder. That getup worked for years, and I got as much candy or more than the kids do today without any cash outlay at all. Plus, my parents didn’t have to come up with a more elaborate costume year after year.

Try giving your kids an old jacket and a burnt cork and see what they say.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Half As Much

My friend just returned from a three week visit to the UK. He’s originally from there so he and his wife have a good list of places and things they wanted to do while they were there. They are lucky in that they do have relatives still in the UK and those relatives actually want them to visit, which helps defray the cost of hotels.

You should never go on vacation worrying about what things are costing. You will have the rest of the year to develop ulcers and deal with the collection agencies. When Louise and I were in the UK a few years back, I found that things seemed to cost about twice what they would cost here. If a cup of tea were $1 in Canada, the same cup of tea (probably better tea) in England would cost £1 which at the time was close to double with the exchange rate. Beer was the same price, and it was just better on the other side of the pond. I’m not a beer drinker as a rule, but when it tasted that good, I changed my habits.

Peter and Joy had a great time and I think he said that they put on about 1500 miles on the rental car. He told of too narrow roads and oncoming buses that didn’t slow down causing some scratches and damage to the rental car. Luckily, when he turned the car in, those scratches weren’t mentioned. He will be scrutinizing his credit card charges for the next few months to see if the damage was added on. They went to Portsmouth, the Lake Country, Bath, and London of course and a whole bunch of destinations that he mentioned which drifted out of my memory almost as soon as he finished talking. Like I say, he had a great time.
He spent some time wandering around the ruins of Avalon of King Arthur fame. There wasn’t much left, but one or two thousand years or so will do that. What has always struck me is the skill and workmanship that went into the building of some of the castles and buildings. I guess they would have had lots of repair over the years, but the bones were built to last.
Peter went to Bath where the Romans built, well, baths over two thousand years ago. The buildings are still there, in a state of disrepair, but they are still there! Back before we had all of our technology, naturally occurring hot springs were of high value. Heating water was a major undertaking, which involved hauling water and firewood. Therefore it wouldn’t happen very often. The Romans built aqueducts to channel the water and catch basins/pools to bathe in. I wonder if the average guy got to use the baths. If I ever return, I will have to go and see this ancient engineering marvel.

Peter made the trip sound so nice, and I am sure it was. I know that I wouldn’t be the tourist that Peter was and would sit in a pub somewhere talking to people who have the same concerns (more or less) that I have. Work, family and the fucking government! I can stay home and talk to people here about that kind of stuff and it will cost me half as much.

Monday 28 October 2013

Or Have I

When I was in high school, I had trouble focusing on what I should have been focusing on. School work! I tried, honest I did. I would spend hours in my room with my text books and the three holed, loose leaf, lined sheets in front of me. I would diligently find the notation I made about each of my subjects homework for the evening and make a list of which was most important. I would sharpen my pencils even if I didn’t need a pencil and I’d make sure my pens were working. I was ready to get the work done.

You would think that with all of the preparations, I would have gotten my assignments done, which would have translated in good marks from teachers that could tell that I had put in a lot of effort at least. You would think…

What happened after the text books, pencils, paper and the list were ready is that I would look up and see my reflection in the mirror that took up a large portion of the wall in front of the desk. I guess Mom thought the mirror was a good decorating idea, and perhaps it was, just not for a teenage boy. I would look at my face or the blemishes that were there for hours. I would look into my own eyes and try to figure out what colour they were. I’ve been colour retarded since my early teens it seems. I call my eyes brown, but I suppose I would be right to say hazel or greeny brown with flecks of gold and a touch, just a touch of red. Well, that is what they looked like all of those years ago. I would look at my nose which was a bit too large for my face, my ears which were a bit too small for my head and there was something weird about my eyebrows. My hair stuck out in places is should be laying flat and it laid flat when it should have stuck out.

You don’t get to know your face so well if you spend your time reading text books or writing essays. I knew I should cover the mirror, but I was kind of happy that I had a reflection. If I didn’t, that would mean that I was a vampire and for some reason that became important to me. I guess I was caught up in the living dead craze years before everyone else.

I found myself looking at my reflection in the mirror just a while ago. I wasn’t avoiding school work or any kind of work. I have long ago come to know that I am not one of Dracula’s undead minions. My nose is still too big for my face, and my ears are growing to fit my head. I haven’t a clue what colour my eyes are anymore, because it’s hard to tell with the glare from my glasses and without the glasses it’s pretty hard to focus. My hair has finally been trained to do what it is told to do, more or less. No, tonight I was looking at an old guy that was looking back at me.

He looked kind of like that young teenage boy, but this guy had a lot more lines on his face. There are laugh lines that erupt when he smiles and there are lines when his face is at rest. You get old and your face gets wrinkles, no big deal. I was looking at some newer lines that have appeared on my forehead recently. Most of the forehead lines go horizontal, but these new guys are more like the rays of the sun, spreading up across my forehead. I don’t understand where they came from. There is no emotion or way to contort my face that will cause forehead wrinkles like a starburst. I haven’t earned these wrinkles!

…or have I? 

Sunday 27 October 2013

Your Choice

It’s been a long and tiring day, so no blog today.

I have aches and pains on my aches and pains. Yep, poor me…

Having said that, Louise and I drove past a sushi restaurant tonight and the sign out front said “Home Style Fish”. That isn’t a very compelling reason for me to go into the restaurant. On the one hand they are saying that you shouldn’t really bother coming because you could make food just as good at home. I have to hope that they are better at cooking fish than I am, because I don’t know anything about fish.

The only fish I cook well at home are those frozen, breaded fish sticks from Captain Highliner. Preheat the oven to 400°F, place frozen fish sticks on a shallow pan, bake 8 minutes, turn and bake another 8 minutes. Toss on a few frozen French fries and you are in fish heaven.

Or, you could go to the Sushi place in Chinatown and pay $20 for frozen fish sticks. It’s your choice.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday 26 October 2013


I was driving home today and I was thinking about misunderstanding. I suppose it would have been the better if I had given my full attention to driving, but it would have been better if I had been born rich. I wasn’t and I didn’t.

Sometimes I misunderstand something because I wasn’t paying attention or I didn’t get all of the information. I often misunderstand because I think I know what’s going on, when in fact I am totally ignorant. I often misunderstand because I don’t have the same frame of reference that the other person has. Many reasons…

One of the big regrets of my life is because of a misunderstanding. I knew what was happening and why, but I failed to clarify my actions and intentions. Someone was hurt badly, someone was hated and there will never be a resolution. Not the best thing to have hanging over a life.

Other times I have been hurt by a friend who expected me to do something which was totally against my morals. Still other times someone misunderstood how seriously I would take their actions and a friendship was lost.

I don’t know if misunderstandings can be turned around or forgotten. Perhaps some people can forget, but so far in this life I have been unable or unwilling to forgive and forget. That just might be why I am not a soul that is on his last life.

I understand that I will be going around a few more times.

Friday 25 October 2013

How much is enough?

I was sitting in a busy Tim Horton’s having a coffee today, and as I often do, I was wondering just how much the owner must make from his franchise. I know that it is profitable; it would have to be, because every Tim’s I have ever been in is pretty much busy all of the time.

Fifteen years ago I was told that on the average a Tim's location will sell 600 to 900 dozen donuts between 7:00 and 9:00 AM which covers the costs of the restaurant for the day and everything else is gravy. That is before the advent of the drive thru.

Sitting beside me were two guys looking at building plans. One of the guys was probably the owner of Tim’s and the other would have been the contractor. We started to talk and it turns out that they are leaving the planning stage and just about to enter the construction phase. They are going to put in a double drive through and gut the inside of the place. It will be a big job! I asked how long the Tim’s will be shut down and he said that they won’t miss a day of selling coffee and donuts because they will bring a trailer in to sell product while the construction is going on.

That kind of makes sense, because once you change locations, it is easier to keep going to the new spot. A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. I am paraphrasing Isaac Newton and more than likely incorrectly, but I guess what Newton meant is that once you change where you get your coffee, you are more than likely to keep getting it at the new place. I bet you didn't know Isaac Newton liked Coffee? I thought he was an apple juice kind of guy myself.

They said that all of the work will be done in five weeks. That’s pretty fast, but I guess if you toss enough money at a problem, miracles can be achieved. I was kind of hoping that the owner might give us a free coupon for a coffee, well I was until my buddy mentioned that we don’t usually come to this Tim’s. Thanks Ken! I doubt we would have gotten the coffee, but now we’ll never know.

How much is enough? This is a very busy location and there is always a line up. I doubt they are trying to alleviate the wait time inside, but they do want to move the drive thru people faster. I somehow doubt that us walk in people will get any different service. Drive through people maximise the profits, whereas “sit downers” take up space, time and the tables and floors need to be cleaned which takes time and as we all know, time is money.

I hope that the owner and his patrons both benefit from the construction, but I will go back to my regular Tim’s and wait for them to decide that they don’t have enough and need to expand.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Not For Me

Do you think it is too soon to be thinking about Christmas?

It might be, and as a rule it’s best to get Halloween out of the way first. I’ve heard that one should wait at least until the end of November and truthfully, that is a rule that I try to adhere to. However, this year I am having a hard time holding back the Christmas spirit.

The stores are always ready to start the advertising earlier and earlier every year. Christmas is their biggest income generator and it gives them a focal point. That’s their issue and not really mine. I am not a big spender at any time of year and I have a feeling that this year is going to take more of our cash to help those less fortunate. The homeless shelters are already full and the weather is still warmish. The spring floods have caused a shortage of affordable housing, leaving a lot of “working poor” without a place to live.
I wanted to put up the Christmas lights about a month ago, but have held back. They will be going up the first warm day after Halloween. I laughed too often when I was delivering mail as people on my route were up ladders in -20°C fumbling with tangles of lights. Just a side note, a guy that has been putting up lights in -20°C for a couple of hours has almost no sense of humour at all. I’m sure that I would have been punched if not for the fact their hands were too cold to make a fist. Needless to say, I didn’t get a tip from those houses at Christmas.
Today I was at the second hand store and they have some Christmas ornaments and baubles out on a shelf or two. Last year I picked up a cast iron tree stand. It doesn’t have a water reservoir, so it isn’t really very good for holding Christmas trees the way we do things now. I the old days in Europe, the tree would be brought in the day before Christmas, decorated Christmas Eve and removed the day after. Of course we are talking about fresh cut trees that don’t have a chance to dry out in two days, even considering that the “lights” were candles.

Today, you see trees in windows on November 1st and they stay on display for December and most of January. Those trees are artificial, but for the “purist”, who insist on a real tree, they need to have a constant supply of water to keep the needles on at least until Christmas. I was involved in the Scout Tree Lot for a number of years and the trees were cut, wrapped and frozen sometime in September for shipment in mid to late November. Even frozen, they will dry out and by the time the “purist” sets up their tree, it’s dropping needles every time someone walks by.
There was another cast iron tree stand at the 2nd hand store today and of course I bought it. I brought it home, cleaned it, put on a coating of wax and waited anxiously for Louise to get home to show her my prize. Thankfully, she is as nuts as I am about Christmas and was glad to see it. I imagine it will bring a few bucks for the kids at the estate sale. It is just a cool thing to have around. No…really!

Nope, it isn’t too soon to be thinking about Christmas! Not for me anyways.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Flu Shot

I decided that today was the day I should get my annual flu shot. I don’t know if it is effective or not, because if it works and I don’t get the flu then perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten the flu anyways. The years that I haven’t gotten the flu vaccine, and I haven’t gotten the flu, doesn’t mean that the vaccine that year wouldn’t have worked. Maybe I had a natural defence against the flu virus. Maybe I didn’t interact with anyone that was a carrier. Maybe I’m a carrier and because I am a carrier, I am immune. Who knows what goes on in the world of viruses?

So, I was going to get the vaccine after I took Tornado for skating lessons. I arrived a little early (better to be early than late) but had forgotten to bring something to read. I should put a book or two on my phone. It is a shit phone, but it would be nice to have something to read. I killed the time trying to find something to listen to on the radio (unsuccessfully), picked up Tornado and went to the rink. I don’t think Arwen should count on Tornado becoming a famous hockey player, figure skater, or even a barrel jumper. Anything involving ice bigger than a cube might be dangerous. Maybe he’ll warm to it the next time.

I left the rink and dropped Tornado at his playschool. My job was done, so I drove to the flu clinic. On the way, I passed a guy driving a Maserati into the parking lot of Walmart. That’s just not right.

I went into the clinic and took a number. I was the only guy in line, but the machine was there and who knows what the number is for? It might just be a draw of some kind and I could win a toaster. I know that isn’t very likely, but strange things happen when the government gets involved in medicine. I was called right away and told to fill out the form, which I did and then I handed it to another person who checked the information I just wrote down against my health card. She gave me the paperwork back and walked me five feet to another lady that told me to go over to the nurse that was holding up the sign that said NEXT PATIENT. I could have figured that out, but I guess they have to dumb everything down.

The nurse told me all of the potentially horrible things that could happen to me, fever, headache, muscle pain, breathing problems, facial swelling, allergic reactions and or numbness in feet, legs, arms or hands. Sure…no problem…go ahead. She gave me the shot and I had to wait for about fifteen minutes just in case I happen to have a serious side effect. What were those other things? While I was waiting, I kind of wished I had brought something to read. I should put a book or two on my phone. I looked around at the people that were waiting just like I was and to tell you the truth, none of them looked any too healthy. I decided that I would rather die in my car than take my chance of getting something from these people, so I left.

My arm is sore and I am pretty sure I can feel the flu germs multiplying in my body. There is a very good chance I could succumb over night and this will be my last entry. There’s also a very good chance that I am a hypochondriac. See you tomorrow…maybe

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Still Love You Dad

I grew up in Toronto Ontario and moved to Alberta when I was in my mid twenties. I have been here ever since except for a four year period when we moved back to Ontario because we had forgotten why we moved to Alberta in the first place.

When we first moved, communication with my friends and family was difficult and costly. Long distance phone calls were very expensive for a young couple just starting out in their careers and letter writing was unsatisfactory even if it were inexpensive. There was just too long a time between a letter written and reply received. For the first couple of months, we ran up phone bills of about $400 which at the time was almost half a month’s salary. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we were doing all of the calling, so we cut back our communication budget. That’s why we drifted away from friends for a decade or two.

We didn’t make enough money to fly out to visit on any kind of regular basis. It cost more to fly to Toronto than it did to Hawaii, but we couldn’t afford either trip. We did travel a little, but it fell on our parents to visit us and at the time I thought that they actually came to see the grand kids. We looked forward to visits from both sets of parents and although they drove us crazy, it didn’t diminish the love we felt for them at all. Well, not much…

Whenever my dad would come out he wanted to tackle projects around the house. I would get home from work and he would allow me time for a coffee or tea and then we had to drive to the Home Depot to pick up paint, wood, nails or just kind of look around. It was fun, dad was quite the handyman and he and I would walk up and down the aisles and he would try to pass on some wisdom to his rather slow son.

One trip, dad decided that we needed to paint the ceilings as they had discoloured where the rafters were. We went and picked up a couple of rollers, drop cloths and some white, latex ceiling paint. We moved all of the furniture to one side, covered it with the drop cloths and started rolling the paint on. It turned out that as we would roll the paint on the “popcorn” texture, the ceiling started to drop off! We discovered that you can’t use a latex based paint but needed an oil based paint which would keep the texture where it belonged and not on the floor. We eventually did a pretty good job.

On another trip, dad decided that the shed at the side of the house needed to have shingles. I had just thrown it up temporarily a few years before and as far as I was concerned, it was doing the job. I knew that dad would rather be working than sitting and talking, so off we went to the Home Depot for some shingles and nails. We got out the ladder and up on the roof to do the prep work. We got to the far end and both of us fell through the roof. We were in a tangled heap on the dirt floor of the shed and dad looked at me and said “Your carpentry skills need a little work. Don’t tell the women about this!”

We went back to the Home Depot to pick up some plywood for the roof of the shed, some nails and a lecture about how doing the minimum work possible is never the best idea. The shed is still keeping water and snow out after all of these years.

Dad passed away 16 years ago today, and I think of him every day. I also try to build things that will at least hold my weight and I never tell the women about a mistake unless it is spurting from a cut on my wrist. On the anniversary of his death, I go to the Home Depot and walk up and down the aisles just looking at stuff and thinking about how much fun dad would have had helping Brendan build his garage, Arwen with her deck or Maegan with the dishwasher and thermostat. I know he wouldn’t have had any difficulty drilling into Maegan’s wall.

Still love you dad. 

Monday 21 October 2013

The Wheel of Time

When I was visiting in Ontario last month, a friend of mind gave me a present for my birthday. I’m not really comfortable receiving presents, and I am not sure why. I suppose that I either don’t feel I deserve one or that now I have to deal with the emotions involved in the whole present giving thing. I do appreciate gifts, but like I say, I’m not sure how to deal with them other than being grateful.
The gift that Cathy gave to me was a book which is always appreciated. The book is “The Eye Of The World” by Robert Jordan. She told me that it was a fantasy adventure book that harkens back to Tolkien. Since I am a big, big fan of Tolkien, I was kind of intrigued. I didn’t have time to look at it until this week and when I did, I noticed that it was Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series. I am always hesitant of starting Book 1 of anything, because I have been caught up in serial books before.
I started reading the “Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean Auel in 1980 and I read every book in the series until I read “Land of the Painted Caves” the last of the series in 2011. That’s six books over a period of 31 years which is a considerable time and emotional commitment. Jean had some legal problems which held up the publishing of different books from time to time. I am still hoping for book seven, but somehow I have the feeling that jean or I will die before the next book is written.
I have also been following Anne McCaffrey for a long time. I read the first Dragon book in 1964 and have been reading ever since. Anne died in 2011, but her son Todd has co-written the last few books in the series with her and I think he will continue to write Dragon books for the foreseeable future. They aren’t quite as good as his mom’s books, but I have a near fifty year investment in this series.
Like millions of other people, I eagerly read and waited for the Harry Potter books to be written and then the movies. I have read Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov from my teen years until they died. 
There is an excitement that is hard to explain when waiting for an author to write his or her next book, and when that last book is written or the author passes away, a hole opens in your mind that can never quite be filled.

I am hesitant to start a new series of books, and although I was grateful for Cathy’s gift, I was also worried about what kind of investment that I was signing up for. I Googled Robert Jordan and found that he had passed away in 2007, after writing 14 books in the series. The first book is over 800 pages and according to my research, I have about 12,000 pages to go. Thanks Cathy, I was kind of wondering what I was going to do with my life for the foreseeable future.