Tuesday 30 September 2014

Brown Bananas

I was talking to a buddy of mine about the economics of retirement. Since neither one of us really has a clue about economics, it was pretty odd.

We talked of private pensions, Canada pension, OAS, bridge supplements and the relative benefits of benefits. We both had a kind of general understanding since we are both recipients of pensions, but neither of us could call to mind any accurate figures or percentages. In the end, we knew that anything that was selling cheap or discounted was the best way to buy things. We were just happy to have pensions and wouldn’t it be nice to win the lottery.

There was a point in the conversation that our vision plan was discussed. Before we retired, I think we had $400 coverage every two years. Now that I am retired, the coverage is $350 every four years. It turns out that the Post Office wanted us to see well while we were delivering mail, but now we are retired, they don’t care if we walk blindly in front of a bus. I am pretty sure they would prefer that, it would save them pension money.

When I got home, I was still thinking about glasses. Mine are all right, but it would be nice to have another pair for when I lose this pair or sit on them. They are getting pretty scratched and either my head is getting wider or the arms of the glasses are bending. Time for a new pair, but I don’t qualify for another two years or so. What to do? What to do?
I checked out Clearly Contacts which is an online vision care company. The glasses that they sell are in the range of $50 to $100. Of course that is for single vision lenses and the price will go up for bi-focal and even more for coke bottle lenses. There is a relatively large variety of frames, and they are different prices. The up shot is that a pair of glasses from Clearly Contacts would be a third to half the price you would pay at a brick and mortar optical store. That’s pretty good, but I think I can do better.
 Zenni Optical Glasses
I found the Zenni Optical site on the internet. Zenni Optical is based in China and their glasses start at $6.95 a pair. For that price, you could toss your glasses at the referee or umpire when they make a bad call. You could give them to your buddy when he looks at an ugly girl and says she is “hot”. Now, I will admit that for $6.95 there is a very good chance that I would look like even more of an idiot than I normally do. But $6.95! I have bifocal lenses, so that would bump them up to $15 or $20, but I’m good with that.

I have talked about this before, but this time I am going to order the glasses. Well, maybe I will. If and when I get these glasses, I will post a picture on the blog and you can laugh at the old, bearded geek with the funny glasses. There is a chance, however small, that I’ll look great and you will wonder what that web site was for the Chinese optical place. I know you won’t remember Zenni Optical, so I’ll make it easy for you and call this blog “Brown Bananas”.

Monday 29 September 2014

Be Prepared

Sometimes I do things that don’t make any sense. Okay, a lot of the time I do things that don’t make any sense.
Last week I bought a Stanley Yankee 41Y push drill from the second hand store for one dollar. I suppose that the reason it was so cheap is that it didn’t have any drill bits that came with it and since they are specially made for the drill, normal bits won’t work. These drill bits are fluted as opposed to the modern spiral bits. Add to that the fact that the company hasn’t made bits for that drill since 1995. They discontinued the drill many years before that. I’m guessing because of the new drills both corded and cordless which are far superior in every way. The only situation where a Stanley Yankee drill would be better is in a total and prolonged blackout. Basically, it will come into its own if our civilization reverts back to the Stone Age.
Needless to say, I began to search the internet to find bits for my new, old drill. They are there to be found, but at about sixty times what I paid for the drill itself. That won’t work for me. I mulled over fabricating my own bits, but without a metal lathe and a few years of metal working experience, I would fail miserably. Interestingly enough, even though you leave Ebay and then return, the prices of these bits remained the same, time and time again.

I went back to the second hand store several times, but unfortunately I had no luck finding eight tiny bits in a store that spreads things out quite randomly. Meanwhile, back on Ebay the prices are the same as they were. I am prepared to wait. Sometimes, years can go by before an item you are looking for makes an appearance.

I don’t care, I have several drills to my name and unless our civilization totally collapses I should be fine. Besides, even if the civilization does collapse and we are in the Stone Age, it is a pretty remote chance that I will be able to save the day by drilling a few tiny holes in a board. I’d need a drill that would work in stone.

Today, I decided to go to the used tool store. I didn’t actually think they would have any of these bits, but it is a super cool place and fun just to browse. They have all sorts of tools on consignment, many of which I have no idea what they can possibly be used for. There is also a “Mantiques” area at the back of the store. They have all sorts of old tools for old fools, lots of toys that were new when I was a kid and an assortment of Playboy and Penthouse magazines in mint condition. They were protected over the years hiding under the bed I guess. It is a fun place.
I guess it is not surprising that they had a Stanley Yankee 41Y push drill in their display case. I asked to see it and what do you know? It came with the drill bits! It was far cheaper than buying the bits from Ebay, so of course I bought the drill. Now, I have two Stanley Yankee 41Y push drills and a set of drill bits that fit. I don’t know what I am going to do with them, I really don’t.

I suppose I could pray for a prolonged blackout or the collapse of our civilization. That might be a little selfish of me, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Sunday 28 September 2014

This Blog

The words “stupid” and “stupidity” entered the English language in 1541 according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The dictionary defines “stupid” as lacking intelligence or common sense.

I have heard that the definition of stupid is that you know the truth, see the truth, but still believe the lies.

Personally, I think stupid is doing the same thing over and over and over again without learning anything and accomplishing even less.

It just occurred to me that I just described this blog…

Saturday 27 September 2014

I Feel Like a Dick

This is the first day that it really feels like autumn, and to tell you the truth, warm and sunny beats cool and grey every time. Can’t complain though, I want to but I have been told I can’t. I have decided that I am going to have a more positive and upbeat attitude to winter this year. I am going to make an effort to embrace the cold and relish all of the activities I can only do in the winter. Yep… that’s what I’m going to do…yep, uh-huh.

We have a love seat sitting with it’s back to a large front window that Buster can often been found perched on watching the world go by. Sometimes he sleeps in the sun, sometimes he watches us as we go about our lives, and sometimes he barks his fool head off at the outside world. Sometimes I tolerate the barking, sometimes I order him outside and sometimes I just lose my shit!

I have been losing it a lot more of late, and I am not sure if it is because Buster is barking more or I have less tolerance for the barking. It has become painfully clear that he doesn’t listen to me when I tell him to stop barking. I don’t think he ever did listen, but before he seemed to care a little. Now, he doesn’t seem to give a shit what I think. Somehow, Louise just ignores both of us, but to be frank, I think she is on Busters side.

In the past, I have moved the love seat so that it is on the opposite side of the living room. That works in that Buster can’t bark at what he can’t see. It doesn’t work on an interior design level; I think the living room has a better feng shui with the love seat against the window. I kind of like having Buster perched up there as well, it feels sort of Norman Rockwell…ish. Plus, any would be thieves see a dog and might think some where else will just be an easier score without a dog to deal with. When Buster dies, I might just get a real looking stuffed toy dog to sit on top of the love seat.

Pulling the blinds doesn’t work because they are vertical blinds and he just sticks his head between the slats and continues to bark. You would think that with all of the yelling and pulling of blinds he would take the hint. He just looks at me as if to say “I don’t give a shit what you think, I’m barking at that grey cat!”

A couple of weeks ago, I overturned the love seat so that he couldn’t use it to look out the window. My thinking was that if he can’t see, he can’t bark. I did this while Louise was watching TV. I made sure that she had an unobstructed view. I couldn’t have watched, but at least while I was working on the computer there wouldn’t be any barking. There was barking! When I stomped into the living room, Louise was watching TV and Buster was watching me from the top of the overturned love seat. I was livid! Buster was exultant! Louise was amused!

Today I figured out how to thwart Buster’s barking and not wreck the feng shui of the house at the same time. I took the cushions and placed them on top of the love seat leaning against the window, leaving no room where a small dog could stand or sit. I finally won! I out smarted something with a brain the size of a walnut and it only took me eight years. I explained to him that is why humans are at the top of the food chain and dogs do our bidding. Well, I had to go out and clean up his crap from the back yard before I explained, but I think he got the point.

You would think I’d feel exultant, but instead I kind of feel like a dick. I just put the cushions back in place and Buster is barking at leaves blowing across the lawn I guess. Louise is watching TV and I just turned itunes up on the computer.

Everything is back to normal

Friday 26 September 2014

Dreams End

You know that moment between sleep and wake?

One minute you are asleep and the next second you are awake. There is a little fuzziness that blurs the dividing line, but there is a difference. I guess that moment is what separates fantasy from reality. I passed through that line today, just after my nap and before my wake.

While I was mulling over whether it would be worthwhile moving from the horizontal to the vertical, I thought about the in between. That is the spot where dreams end and reality begins. I have been there many times over the years and sometimes I would have done anything for just a few more seconds of that dream. Sometimes I would have done anything to get out of the dream just a few seconds earlier. It is a funny place to be.

I can remember times that my dream ended and I was able to fall back asleep for a few moments to try and finish the dream. Although I went back, the dream wasn’t quite the same, kind of like I was forcing fantasy. Whatever neurons were firing during my REM sleep, they weren’t the same ones that fired when I drifted back into dreamland. The effect was similar, but noticeably different. In fact, generally I have woken up very disappointed and with no more desire to stay in bed.

Dreams end is also the exact moment that you would have died in a nightmare. I have often wondered if I hadn’t woken up just before I fell to my death, was shot, knifed, attacked by a pack of wolves, froze to death or was drowned, would I have actually died. There is no way to know, because I have always woken up. I suppose the only way for me to know is to die in my sleep during a dream. I am not that interested in finding out.

I have woken up from a dream so real that I stayed angry with “dream” Louise for days afterwards. I know it is a dream and absolutely not real, but I can’t help but feel that I was done wrong. Real or “dream” Louise, I think I deserve an apology.

I can still vividly remember a dream from when I was a little boy. I was walking home from school when I just knew that some gangsters were hunting me. I hid in the tall grass of the hydro field as they drove past, but they must have seen me get up in the rear view mirror of their limousine and they turned around. I panicked and bolted down the street, eventually running up to a house, through the front door and living room and leaving through the back door. The people didn’t even have time to react before I was out of the house. I ran to the end of the yard, hopped the fence and hid in the long grass of the train tracks. I heard shouting from the house, screaming and gunfire. Then there was silence.

The back door of the house opened and I was so scared that I couldn’t move from my hiding place in the grass. I thought I was going to be safe when I looked up and there was this man all in black, holding a gun in his outstretched hand. There was a little crooked smile on his face and I could see his finger tighten on the trigger. I woke up drenched in sweat, terrified but alive.

Once again, I had survived the dreams end…

Thursday 25 September 2014

Studying Mandarin

I belonged to the first generation that had the threat of nuclear warfare hanging over our heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Who knows how our generation was affected by the fear and terror of total annihilation?
If everyone was like me when they were a kid, I didn't even think about it. I suppose that every now and then in school, we would practice what to do in the event of a nuclear attack from Russia. That consisted of hiding under our desks with a towel over our heads until the teacher told us we could come out. Kids didn’t fear war. Well, Canadian kids didn't anyways. Unlike the Europeans and the Asians, we had no frame of reference and could only imagine war to be like it was on the TV. Kids feared teachers and parents, large dogs, bees, and monsters under the bed or in the closet.

I would imagine that the whole hiding under a desk approach was designed more to pacify the adults. The government had to show that they were in control of the situation and had a plan. If they really wanted us to be ready for a nuclear bomb, they should have had daily prayers and classes in the afterlife. Come to think about it, thee were daily prayers in class. If a bomb ever hit, we would be dead. Period! The politicians and a few whackos would be safe for a while in their bunkers until they ran out of food and water, then things would have gotten very real, very fast.

Every generation since that time has also lived under constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Today, to my knowledge, no one even gives it a second thought. There are nine countries with nuclear weapons, the United States, Russia, England, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. I am sure you will sleep better tonight knowing that.

Well, when one of those politically unstable countries develops nuclear capabilities, the rest of the world holds its collective breath to see just how unstable they really are. Right now, I am kind of worried that North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan or any other place where they call westerners “The Great Satan” might just want to blow something up to make the point that they are too a real nation!

I guess part of my lackadaisical attitude is due to living in Canada. We have no real sites that have any military or political significance. Plus, it is pretty cold here for a good portion of the year. We are pretty much liked throughout the world and if Prime Minister Harper could keep his mouth shut, everything should remain the same. Sure, we might be guilty by association; our politicians hang out with some pretty seedy politicians from those “bully” countries like USA, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. We are trying to suck up to China, but they don’t really need us for a friend.

In short, no one hates us enough drop a bomb on us. Maybe we should just sit back and let the “big boys” duke it out, then when everyone is at their weakest, we can step in with our converted fishing fleet and take over the world! We will of course be benevolent dictators, smiling at one moment and crushing any rebellion under our steel shod boots!

However, you just never know what the future will bring. That’s why I have a towel, a lead lined desk in the basement and have been studying Mandarin. Just to cover all of the bases…

Inspired by this picture sent by Kathy

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Stranger in the Black Coat

I tend to stress when I am in a situation that I can’t control or ignore. I have even passed out at times, partly because of the stress. Not often enough to be of any great concern, but I suppose that random bouts of unconsciousness is cause for some concern.

I found myself in just such a situation the other day. I was downtown in a city that was unknown to me and had to meet Louise and another friend at the train station to catch our connection. I can’t remember how we were separated, and really it doesn't much matter, all that mattered was getting to the station.

I didn't have any money, so the bus and taxi were out of the picture. There was only one thing I could do and when that guy drove up to the curb and ran into the store leaving his car running, I slipped in, put it in gear and was out of sight before I realized what I had done. It was one of those tiny European cars, but it ran and hopefully would get me where I wanted to go. If only I knew where the train station was and how to get there.

Asking for directions was out, all that I had learned of the language was “Can I open the window? and Can I close the window?” You would think that “How do I get to the train station?” would be the second phrase in the book, right after “How much?” I drove up a hill and below me I could see train tracks leading to the centre of what might possibly be the downtown station. I just pointed the car down and started to follow streets and alleys that went more or less right direction.

I was making pretty good time until this tall guy dressed in a black ankle length coat and riding a bicycle cut me off. I didn't even know how to swear! It didn't matter, because I had to be pretty close, just a few more alleys and I should be close enough that I will see or hear the train station. I drove up and down a few alleys and the guy in the black coat cut me off again and I ended up driving through an open air market.

Being the only car on a street filled with pedestrians makes you somewhat conspicuous. Add to that the fact that I was driving a stolen car and you can almost see the stress building up. I almost felt like I was one of the Blues Brothers when they were driving through the mall being chased by the cops. I knew I shouldn't be there but I was fascinated by all of the neat stores and interesting people. Well not the two cops up ahead that were looking at me and moving in my direction.

I couldn't go back and I couldn't really go forward at any speed. It looked like I would find out what the inside of a foreign jail looked like. Just when I thought I was a goner, that asshole in the black coat rode up on his bike, blocked the pedestrians so that I could drive down the alley and made my escape. It turns out that the train station was just two streets over. I probably met Louise and my buddy, made our connection and got out of the city without being arrested.

To think, if it weren't for the stranger in the black coat on the bike, the dream might have ended much differently. 

Tuesday 23 September 2014

I Blame the Chinese

Every second Monday, Louise has the day off because of hours she has made up over the past nine days. It is a pretty good deal, a long weekend every other week and on the odd occasion an extra long weekend when a “real” long weekend falls on her day off. Needless to say, she enjoys sleeping in n those days if at all possible.

Yesterday was one of those rare days that I had to get up early and she could sleep in. I am always cognisant of how important those days are for her and yesterday I set the alarm for 5:45 AM and set my internal alarm for 5:40 AM. The internal clock doesn’t have speakers so it is easy for your sleep partner to keep sleeping. Generally speaking, my internal clock is pretty effective, almost too effective. Yesterday it started to wake me at about 3:30 and every ten to fifteen minutes for the next two hours and ten minutes.

I got out of bed at 5:40 and turned the clocks alarm off so that Louise could keep dreaming while I got dressed and left for work. I didn’t hear any complaints, so I imagine I was successful and she got some much needed rest. I was tired, but since afternoon naps are sometimes even better than night sleep, I was good to go.

Since Louise had to work today, I had no need to set my internal alarm clock and could once again rely on our marvellous timepiece made in China. We have never had any trouble with this clock in all of the years we have used it, day in and day out it has performed splendidly. Well, until this morning…

Yesterday, when my internal alarm got me out of bed I turned that Chinese technical marvel off and forgot that it was off. Internal alarms are fine and good for the days that you set them, but unlike our Chinese clock it doesn’t stay set day after day. I suspect that in some corner of my brain there was a little voice telling my dream self that I had forgotten something. My dream brain more than likely thought that the forgotten thing was the winning lotto numbers the universe finally sent me. I have been waiting a very long time for those numbers. I am sure sluggy dream brain waded through the wisps of ideas and demons that lurk in the night time shadows of my brain to remember that the alarm was never turned back on.

Of course the link between sleep brain and waking body is tenuous at best. Eventually, my eyes opened up and managed to focus on the large, glowing numbers on the face of our clock. It was only about 45 minutes later than normal, but those are an action packed 45 minutes. I told Louise that we slept in and both of us levitated off the mattress and sped to perform our morning ablutions. I felt somewhat responsible for not setting the clock, since I didn’t set the clock, but to be fair Louise knows I am something of an airhead and should have checked the clock herself.

We both managed to get to work and even though we were a little late, to my knowledge the sun will rise tomorrow, babies will cry, the earth will spin and our Chinese clock (now reset) will continue to do what it was designed for. Waking people up who don’t really want to wake up at all. I blame the Chinese.

Monday 22 September 2014

A Warm Comfortable Nest

Yep…another day of beautiful fall weather.

Someone remind me of today when I am whining about how cold it is in February. It won’t stop the whining, but perhaps the memory of days like today will get me through the rest of the long and miserable winter.

You might be asking yourself, or me, Ken, if you don’t like winter then why on earth do you live in Canada. Yes, that is a valid point and there are more than a few reasons. I suppose the first and perhaps the base reason is that when my ancestors were tossed out from one of the good countries, they were stupid enough to pick Canada as their destination. Why? Who knows what was rattling around in that tiny little skull, probably the promise of free land? I guess the idea that if something sounds too good to be true, then more than likely it is hadn’t been invented yet.

Once here they would have fast found out that life as they knew it was pretty much over. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when that long dead ancestor experienced his first deep, cold winter day. They thought that hell was a burning inferno, but there are many different hells, one for each and every one of us. He was stuck here and would soon get used to the seasons, three out of four ain’t bad.

Fast forward to me, because everyone in between was too busy living their lives or fighting wars to think about leaving. Actually, the wars in other countries were a very good incentive to stay here. No one has wanted Canada badly enough to fight for it over the centuries. Well, perhaps the US, but once we kicked them out, we became the best of friends. Things may change in the near future, it seems that we have an abundance of raw materials and don’t want to give them up without proper payment.

Back to me, I actually loved winter for most of my life. When I was a kid, snow and cold were fantastic playmates. Snow was a material that you could make into forts or weapons; you could dig in it and slide on it. Did I mention that you could also eat it? Just stay clear of the yellow snow. Canada is very big into hockey and therefore, we had ice rinks all over the place that we could skate on, slide on and yes, even play hockey. If you were lucky, a couple of times a year it would snow so much that you would get a snow day when school was cancelled. School was cancelled and you could play in the snow all day!

Snow didn’t have the same appeal as an adult, but there were fun things to do in the winter. I at various times have cross country skied, downhill skied, snow shoed and of course tobogganed. There was that time in Edmonton when we got smashed and went down the ski hill on a tarp. Only once! I spent the better part of my winter work day walking outside for thirty years. Most days it was literally walking in a winter wonderland, most days.

Maybe it is because I am older and my body likes to be warmer. Maybe I don’t generate the same kind of internal fire that I once did. Maybe sixty years of cold winters is enough for a guy. This is the last winter we will have to stay in Canada because Louise retires after the winter of 2015. We may spend time in one of those southern states that welcome our white Canadian bodies and money. We might spend time on an island in the Pacific. We might just stay home and crank the heat up and watch the grandkids make forts and weapons; and dig and slide in the snow. Winter isn’t that bad if you can look out at it from a warm, comfortable nest that you have spent a lifetime creating.

Sunday 21 September 2014

I Liked the Cake

The family will be over soon to have dinner and help me celebrate my birthday. The only ones that are excited about it are Hurricane and Tornado, because for them, birthdays are still a big deal. They count their age in half years and getting one year older opens up different doors for them. Not to mention going up a grade in school for each year. Tornado will start “real” school next year. So exciting!

The passing of years have long ceased to have any excitement for me. A couple of weeks ago I was telling Louise that I don’t feel any different now that I am almost 63. She called me an idiot and said that I am going to be 62. Cool, I’m younger than I thought. My mind is going, but I won’t be as old as I think I am when it goes completely. I get to have one of my favourite meals, Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. There will be potatoes and carrots fresh from the garden and I have it on good authority that a Black Forest cake will be making an appearance. Of course it will be a landmark event.

I can remember when my dad and mom were my age, and just how impossible it was to buy anything for them. I’d ask them what they wanted and I would get “You to be happy” or `There really isn’t anything that I want”. “How can you not want anything?” I would think. You aren’t millionaires, you are on a government pension, and there must be something that you want.

Well, I am now in the same position as they were. There isn’t anything that I want and if it is truly something that I want, I will get it when I want it, not wait until my next birthday. I suppose there are things that I want, but those things are more dreams than real. A mansion in Hawaii and another in England would really tickle my fancy. A bobcat and a few acres of land that I can move back and forth with the bobcat would be pretty cool. I would love to have a cottage on a nice lake in southern Ontario with a nice view of the lake, a rowboat to get out on the water and a nice room to write in. Those are all doable if I can somehow come into a modest fortune in the near future.

The things that really matter can only be given to yourself. I would like to have more confidence in my abilities and wouldn’t it be nice to know that people like you for who you are. It would be awesome if I could set a feasible schedule for myself and have it work out. I could spend more time doing and less time thinking about doing. I suppose I could go on and on and still not get anything done.

Maybe this will be the year. Maybe I will get so involved in life that I will start counting my life by half or even quarter years.

The boys helped me blow out the candles on the cake. For them, that was much more fun than the eating of cake. I liked the cake!

Saturday 20 September 2014

Life Doesn't Make Sense

I knew that it was only a matter of time until I posted one of my previous blogs. I did it last night and Brian was kind (?) enough to let me know. You would think that it would be a blog from a year or two ago that I had forgotten all about. No, it was from two weeks ago. I had forgotten it, but probably due to a weak mind. Oh well, it is still as relevant today as it was two weeks ago.

The reason I picked a blog from the “never used” file is that I didn’t really want to write what I had been thinking of all day. One of the fellows that I used to work with passed away a couple of days ago. Yes, I am getting to the age when my contemporaries are leaving us, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. I can’t say that I was a friend of his, but we were friendly and probably could have been friends if our lives hadn’t taken us in different directions.

Donny came from Viet Nam and lived in “interesting” times while he was there. He had to escape by swimming across a river in his underwear. On the way to Canada he lived in several countries and I’m sure he had a few more adventures. You would think I would have found out more information about his fascinating story, me being the “nosey Nellie” that I am. I mean, for me to leave home in the dark and swim across a river in my underwear would take some very serious people with guns trying to kill me. Or, half a bottle of pretty much any liquor.

I have gone years without knowing the story and now all of a sudden I am consumed with knowing what the hell happened. I am pretty sure that at the service tomorrow won’t be the proper time to ask his family and unless they mistake me for a very good friend, I will never see them again. I suppose it is possible there will be a history of Donny posted in the chapel, and maybe there will be pictures of him in wet underwear, but I somehow doubt it. There may be some other friends there that were more curious than I was all of those years ago and managed to ferret out the story. We will see I guess.

Donny was younger than me, well I think he was but I am very bad at guessing the age of Asian people. I see a guy and think he is in his mid fifties and he turns out to be in his late 70’s. I’m actually pretty bad about guessing the age of Caucasian people too. Anyone of African heritage defies any of my attempts to guess their age. Most humans I am pretty bad at in general. Animals and fish all look the same to me whether they are young or old. I can tell if a dog is really old if the muzzle is greying and it is having trouble walking or seeing. A dead give away is if they are incontinent.

There is a viewing of Donnie tonight, but I discussed it with Louise and it was decided that it is best if I go to the service tomorrow. The reason is that at a service there isn’t as much opportunity for me to talk and say something inappropriate or flat out stupid. I probably will, but the less time I am allowed to talk, the better for all concerned. It isn’t that I am not respectful, but I am respectful in my own way which isn’t always the same way others are respectful.

I know, I’ll just speculate on the mysteries of life and why a good person dies before his time. Life doesn’t make sense, and sometimes neither does death.

Friday 19 September 2014

Becoming Undead

For most of my working life, I have managed to avoid rush hour. Generally I would start work before the rush started and I finished working hours before the afternoon rush would start.

I suppose that there have been times when I have been caught up in rush hour, but there haven’t been enough of them to stand out in my mind. I guess I am one of the lucky ones that have been able to piss away and hour or more a day doing something other than sit in traffic. However, if I do have a need to get into rush hour traffic I tend to get more than a little anxious. Thankfully, very few people who are retired find a need to experience gridlock.

Today, I had to venture into the morning rush just like any other normal “workie”. I have been called to do my civic duty and show up for jury selection. The jury selection process is another blog entirely, so I won’t spend any time on it now. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get downtown by 8:00 AM, but being sort of anal, I decided that an hour should be enough. I left home at 7:00AM and stepped off of the LRT at 7:48AM. I guess that isn’t bad, but I have gone downtown on my bike in just over 45 minutes and didn’t have to pay the Transit Commission $3 for the privilege.

I stood on the platform surrounded by my fellow travelers. Unlike me, this trip wasn’t new or interesting for them; it was just another day. I guess I was too early for the commuters that liked their jobs and looked forward to another productive day. These people appeared to have slept in their clothes and gone without a morning coffee or the good healthy breakfast that the Canada Food Guide suggests. Maybe they will perk up once we get on the train.

The train was standing room only and populated by the same kind of people that had been on the platform. There wasn’t a smile in sight, and I was really looking for one. All that I saw was a bunch of half-asleep people who had their noses in a cell phone. There were a few people who were pretending to sleep, but that’s just because an old, infirm woman was swaying back and forth in front of them. There were two guys from the last century who were actually reading a newspaper, you know, the kind with actual paper that refuses to fold nicely.

I learned the trick of reading a newspaper on the transit many years ago. It takes a little practice, but once you master it, you look like a commuting God. Unfortunately, since I never had to commute on a bus or train, no one ever worshipped at my feet.

I looked at my fellow early morning travelers and saw the inspiration for all of these “undead” movies, books and TV shows. Vacant stares, mouths hanging open, slovenly appearance and that general undead vibe marked them all for me. I don’t watch any of those shows, but I am pretty sure they pick their next “victim” by how different the person looks. I looked at my reflection in the rain-streaked window and saw a wide-awake, smiling, alert and well-coifed older, bearded gentleman. Perfect to be the next person to have his brain eaten.

I stopped the smile right away, unfocused my eyes and let my mouth hang open with just a hint of drool at the corner. I made it to my stop, but just barely and I am still looking for trouble to appear behind me at any moment. I think I will ride my bike downtown tomorrow, it’s quicker and there is less chance of becoming undead.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Never Mind…

The other day I read my horoscope and it kind of worried me.

“Something you thought was a permanent part of your world will disappear but there is no need to feel sad. Something better will fill the space.”

I don’t want to lose something that is a part of my world. Permanent or otherwise. Since I read that, I have been thinking about the things in my life I can afford to lose. I will be the first to admit that the garage and the basement are pretty well filled with my stuff. A lot of people call it garbage, but to me everything seems like fine collectibles. I suppose that I could have some of this stuff disappear. I wouldn’t like it, but the promise is that something better will take its place.

I am having a little problem believing that the universe has spent the better part of five or six billion years aligning itself so that Sally Brompton, who does the horoscopes for Metro News, can predict that I will clean out my garage. It is possible that a silly, dilettante of a God could do this, but the Christian God has proven Himself to be an angry, vindictive and cruel.

“Thanks God for thinking about me and my stuff, but I think I can handle it myself. Why don’t you go and see what you can do about the starving children or crushing poverty most of the world lives in. Maybe You can straighten out with the major religions that the God they worship is You and You just want everyone to get along. Perhaps you could send a bishop, an imam and a rabbi over to my place to clean out the garage. Baby steps God…baby steps!”

You know, perhaps Sally was talking about things more esoteric. Perhaps I am going to lose my friends. They are a big part of my life, but quite frankly I have been thinking about getting a friend upgrade. The trouble is, I don’t really socialize much anymore and unless these “new” friends plan on appearing on my doorstep, it probably won’t happen. Tell you what Sally; if you tell Gemini’s, Leos and some Aquarians that they should seek out an older, overweight, bearded Libra, I will get behind losing my old friends. I’m just going to wait until the first of the new friends show up if that’s alright with you.

I guess it might be that I am supposed to do some deep soul searching and become a better person. Whenever I do try to do any soul searching, I generally fall asleep before making any headway. Actually, I am already a pretty good person, well, except for being willing to dump my old friends for no better reason than some starry eyed cat loving new age groupie told me that it may work out better. Hey, maybe I am supposed to do all that soul searching and discover that when all is said and done, my life is just the way the universe intended it to be all of those billions of years ago.

Never mind…

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Soft Porn

You know, I love a good story. Actually, I love bad stories and mediocre stories. I guess I just love stories. Good stories are great because they are good stories. Mediocre stories are worthwhile because they are pretty close to good and with just a little imagination, I could make it into a good story. The bad stories would generally have the kernel of a good idea and have taught me that having a good idea doesn’t mean that you will have a good story.

I am sure this was so when I was a small fry, but my memories of those early years is spotty at best. I don’t remember mom and dad reading to me, but I do have some books I saved when I cleared out mom and dad’s place that are definitely pre school books. I like to think that they kept them all of those years because they had fond memories of reading to my brother and me. Of course, they could be from later in their life when they looked after neighbours kids. No, I’m going with the happy memories of me when I was a toddler.

I remember that Gram used to tell us stories to pass the time in the car ride up to the cottage. It was amazing to me that she knew all of those stories by heart. One of our favourite ones was about these two kids who were marooned on a desert island with an older sailor. She told of how they survived and how that older sailor eventually died leaving the two kids alone and afraid. Looking back, I am sure that she would have made up parts as she went along, but we loved hearing the story over and over and over again. I knew that Gram was from an island (Newfoundland) and in that secret place inside; I was convinced that she was the girl in the story.

Hollywood made a movie from that story in the 80’s, called “The Blue Lagoon”. It was a kind of soft porn coming of age story that starred Brooke Sheilds and Christopher Akins. I think that when Henry De Vere Stacpoole penned his masterpiece in 1908, adventure was what he was going for, not soft porn.

I have loved reading since Mrs. Cunningham’s class in grade 6. She was the one that really opened my mind to the magic of stories I could find no further away than the local bookmobile that came to Parkway Plaza every Wednesday.

Now, there are so many venues for me to hear, see and read good stories it is difficult to choose. Maegan pointed me in the direction of pod casts when she visited this summer and although I have yet to master the how’s, whys and when’s, I do keep thinking about them. The libraries are filled with more books, movies and magazines than I will ever be able to get to in my life time. I do keep trying though.

I have stories rolling around in my head that have been there for decades. I am not getting any younger and if I ever want to see those yarns in black and white, I had best start putting them down on paper. It would be kind of cool to have someone’s grandmother telling one of my stories on a long trip to keep the kids entertained. Then, to have one of those kids find magic in the written word would be the dream of a lifetime.

I also wouldn’t mind someone turning it into soft porn. 

Tuesday 16 September 2014


I was creeping on facebook a little while ago. I’m not really proud of it but it is much better than peeping into strange windows late at night. Not a lot better, but marginally better.

I have a theory that if you want to learn what a person is like, all you need to do is just look to their friends. The friends reveal their likes, dislikes, preferences in movies; music and their interests stand out by the groups they are members of. If you study a large enough sample of person’s friends, you can deduce what the person is like.

No one tells the truth on facebook, they are hiding things from family, employers and those same “friends” I was just talking about. I almost never tell the truth on facebook and I certainly don’t use it as a forum to air my displeasure with people, politics and society in general. I have a blog for that.

It turns out that although someone might be able to make those deductions, that someone isn’t me. I am just a 21st century Peeping Tom with a curiosity that borders on disturbing. I should be in therapy or digital jail, but I roam the internet like that bird in the Beatles video “Free as a Bird”. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x11t1f_beatles-free-as-a-bird_music Okay, I don’t have a message backwards, forwards or even sideways. Well, perhaps the message might be to strengthen your facebook security.

Well, I kind of got off topic. The thing I wanted to talk about is a book that I found on one of my “surfing” excursions. The person mentioned that although most people (people like me I suppose) have seen the movie “The Princess Bride”, but few have read the book. I decided that was a shortfall that I could do something about. I got myself a copy of “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman and read it. The basic story is the same as the movie, but of course the book gives more background than the movie. If anything, I am looking forward to seeing the movie and bringing my new found knowledge of that world that I picked up from the book.
You know, in my mind that last paragraph was much longer. The information was supposed to fill the entire blog tonight. I don’t know if I have forgotten most of the things I was going to say, or if it just isn’t that interesting. I suspect that I might be the only one to find the book significantly different than the movie and worthy of a mention in a blog.

I did enjoy watching the video “Free as a Bird” and like everything “Beatles”, you can find all of the song references from the song on the internet. 


Monday 15 September 2014

Greasy But Fun

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this before, but I am pretty good at bicycle repair. Not the super, high tech bikes that go for thousands of dollars, but your normal kind of bike that most everyone on the planet has one of.

I learned how to do bike repair when the kids were at home and we had five to ten bikes at any one time. Of course the bikes were in constant need of maintenance, kids being kids. I rode more often back then and a bike constantly in motion is in constant need of repair.

I liked the simplicity of a bicycle, if you could keep the derailleur properly adjusted, the tires inflated and the bearings greased the bike wouldn’t give you any trouble. There are some repairs that aren’t worth the effort, and if you know bikes at all, it is possible to pick up a good used bike for less than the parts would cost. In fact, I often would buy second hand bikes just for the parts.

I have never paid more than $75 for a bike that I ride. I would like to get an expensive bike, but unfortunately those are the bikes that get stolen. No one wants to steal one of my bikes, even though they run beautifully. I suspect that if I were to really get into cycling I would have a reason to get a bike that would stand up a little better in the long run. I don’t see that happening, but you never know where life will take you.

I haven’t done a lot of bike work in the last couple of years. It is just Louise and I now and once a bike is in good running condition, regular maintenance will keep it that way. It is a shame to have acquired knowledge and not have an outlet to apply it. Every year I consider getting work at a bike shop, but my knowledge is old and there would be a learning curve to get up to speed on the modern bikes. I suppose I could do it, maybe next year. I wouldn’t mind teaching Hurricane and Tornado some of the things I have learned, but that may be a couple of years from now when they are willing to focus properly.
I will be riding my bike to a job for the next couple of weeks, so I needed to do a little adjustment here, a polish there and some lubrication. It was fun. Maybe tomorrow I will re-grease the bearings and look to see if I need to change the chain ring or the freewheel. They are probably worn, but I’ll need to decide if I can live with the wear or not.
Should be fun, greasy, but fun.