Saturday, 30 July 2016

Louise Penny

Sometime last year or a year before that, I was called for jury duty. I was thrilled, in six decades I had never been called and I was excited at the prospect of being part of a “jury of your peers”. I have known others that have been called three or four times, it is just the luck of the draw I suppose.

While we were waiting to be admitted, I was talking to several people about this and that, more to hear my own voice rather than hear what they had to say for themselves. Just as the doors opened, a woman grabbed my arm and said “You’re a talker, and you are sitting with me. It is going to be boring enough without anyone to talk to.” I agreed and had no problem being used in such a fashion.

I arrived at the courthouse at the appointed time and we were all (200 of us) herded into the large court. There we were given instructions on what to expect and how the system would go about selecting us. We were also told what the case was and just how long it was expected to last.

 Six months! Six months? I was expecting a week or two, not months. I have a life, well, not a real exciting one, but it is a life after all and six months would put a pretty big hole in my routine. Shit!

While they went about the selection process, my new friend and I talked, read and looked at people trying to decide if we would rather be dead than have that asshole as jury foreman. There were some people that I would chew my arm off before asking their opinion on anything, I found out that this was the first day of her retirement and if she were selected her winter plans would go down the drain. I laughed of course and reassured her that all of those plans could be put off for a year. She said something not lady like and pretty nasty.

She was sure that she wouldn’t be selected because lawyers don’t want anyone that is too smart on the jury. She was a professor at the university and told me the only thing lawyers hated worse than smart people were teachers. They asked too many questions. She didn’t get selected and I hope that she managed to have a fantastic winter skiing and not going into work.
While we were sitting staring off into space, I noticed the book she was reading was by Louise Penny. It was an Inspector Gamache mystery, the tenth book in the series. I didn’t know that at the time, I just wrote the title down for future reference. I figured that if a Professor of Literature was reading it then perhaps it might be worth a look. It took me well over a year to read it, but I was thrilled with it. Lucky for me there are twelve books in the series and with any luck more will be written by the time I finish the ones I have. I am rationing the reading of these books to one a month because they are so very good and I want them to last. They make you laugh and think. Well, they make me laugh and think.

If you haven’t red one of Louise Penny’s books, treat yourself they are wonderful.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Zombie Go

The other night Louise and I were sitting in the living room watching some mindless drivel on the tube. Since it is the summer and the weather has been uncharacteristically summery, we had the windows open to take advantage of one of those lovely evening breezes. There wasn’t much on TV, just reruns and some show about the coming zombie apocalypse. Although I have never watched one, I understand that these shows are pretty good and IF Zombies were real this is exactly how they would act. Oh, they aren’t real!
 Image result for zombies
There was a momentary pause in the sound from the TV and I heard some music coming from outside. It wasn’t the ice cream guy so I didn’t have to throw rocks at him, but there was a sound. I had had enough of scrolling down the list of crap shows and told Louise I was going to find just where the music was coming from. I got on my bike thinking that some neighbour was having a too loud, post Stampede party. Once on the bike I knew that the sound (a marching band?) was further away. Perhaps at the high school field where there was a soccer tournament happening. Nope, not there.
There is a Catholic school just a few blocks away and the music must be coming from there. I rode another few blocks only to find that the field behind the Catholic school was empty of marching bands. I stopped and wondered if this quest was worth my time, coming up with the answer that my time is worth very little and it was either this or shit TV. The next likely place was the mall parking lot which was just a mile or two away. There was nothing in the east parking lot and when I got to the west lot there was less than nothing.

I rode a little further but came to a stop and decided that shit TV was no doubt better than a search that if successful would find me watching a marching band practice. I turned around and pedaled my way back home.

When you are riding on a bike instead of driving in a car, you have more time to observe your surroundings. Sights, sounds and smells keep you engaged in the process of moving from A to B. I was waiting at a light to turn green when I noticed a couple in a pickup truck talking to a fellow bike rider. I assumed that they were asking directions from a local. The light turned green and as I road past the truck and bike I noticed that they weren’t talking at all, but were staring at their cell phones. Across the street there were thirty to forty people shuffling back and forth staring at their cell phones. It was more than a little unnerving.
If I were one of those that watched the zombie apocalypse shows, I would no doubt be thinking that I might need to get my chain saw gassed up and where might I be able to get my hands on a shotgun…quickly. It turned out that those people weren’t zombies; they were playing that Pokemon Go game. Something else I have no interest in.

I wonder how long it will be before they come up with Zombie Go.

Too Late...

Monday, 25 July 2016

Thunked Out

Today I decided that it would be a good day to straighten out the sidewalk blocks leading up to our house. For the past few years I have sworn at them every time that the snow shovel caught in a crack or on a raised block. Not this winter!!! Well, probably not, it all depends on how good a job I do I suppose.

It was a beautiful, sunny, summer day, a few clouds spread across the sky and no wind to speak of. There was the promise of a late day thunder storm, but I planned to pack it in long before any rain hit my head. The job is actually in the shade, so it was theoretically the perfect weather to work. It was the perfect weather to be at a beach or for a bike ride, but not for lifting concrete blocks, shovelling dirt and gravel and having ants crawl all over you. I will pace myself and probably finish sometime next week/month/year.

There was a point when my mouth felt as if I had been swallowing the gravel, so I took a water break. I swear to God that cool eight ounces of water was the best glass of water I had ever had. It tasted wonderful! So cool, so wet, so damned refreshing! It was about halfway thru the glass when I started thinking about packing it in for the day. That’s what water will do to you. If it were beer I suspect that the work day would have been over.

I am normally not very particular about my water being cold, just so long as there is plenty of it and that it is wet. I think that is because when I was working I would carry water with me and after an hour or so it would be tepid and it was either the tepid water or the plastic tasting water from someone’s garden hose. Usually by the time I considered drinking from a hose I was beyond being discriminating about the taste. One guy I know to a big gulp from a hose that was running in a driveway only to realize (too late) that it was the water draining from a waterbed. Yummmm!

There is nothing better tasting than an ice cold Coke! There is nothing better tasting than an ice cold beer! There is nothing that tastes worse than a warm Coke! There is nothing that tastes worse than a warm beer! Pretty much any drink tastes better cold.

That’s the way I have felt for my entire life and most of the people I know feel the same way more or less, except for the whack-a-doodles. Well, I felt that way until today.

It occurred to me that the taste of a drink doesn’t change with temperature; hot Coke and cold Coke have the same ingredients and therefore the same taste. The same applies to beer and other drinks of all kinds and descriptions. I don’t think cold is a taste. I’m almost certain that hot or cold is just personal preference. The English have been drinking warm beer for centuries. I have always assumed that it was because they were technologically backwards when it came to refrigeration. Perhaps they knew something that I didn’t. The drunk is the important factor, not the drink.

I will think on this some more and when I have thunked out I will settle the taste of cold and hot once and for all.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Dear God

I haven't asked you for a lot in this life. Well, I have asked for things but you chose to either ignore me or tell me NO. I understand...mostly.

I really don't think it was cool to have that whole "Free Love" movement and exclude me from it. Perhaps that was my fault, being just a little too shy. Personally, I don't think a small lotto win would have been a problem for you and it sure would have made parts of life just a little easier. Your call.

I have been blessed with health for myself and almost all of my family thanks for that. My kids were and are people to be proud of and I suspect that the world is a much better place for their being in it. Probably my grandkids too, but they have yet to make a mark in the world, just in my heart. I had the good fortune to have a job that I enjoyed and paid for a pretty good life. It could have been better, but we have gone over that missing lotto already. I couldn't ask for a better partner to travel though my life with. She could have done better, but I am glad that she was satisfied with "adequate".

Thanks for all of my blessings.

I do have a request of you. If you can find it in your heart would you please strike down Donald Trump with a lightning bolt, run away car, cerebral hemorrhage, aneurysm, massive heart attack or bring on a lone gunman. I know that what I ask is not the request of a good Christian, but if Louise can be satisfied with adequate then you should be also. 
 Image result for strike down donald trump cartoon
The good people of the United States seem to be losing the common sense that they were born with. If You could show them that fear is the enemy (Trump too) and that love and understanding is the way to their better future, I would really appreciate it. 
Thanks in advance...ken

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Great Uncle

Every family has at least one interesting character in it. I contend that really interesting families are made up entirely of the odd and eccentric. I often worry that we aren’t odd enough, but then I talk to one of the kids or Louise. We have a sign on the wall as you enter the house that reads “REMEMBER, AS FAR AS ANYONE KNOWS, WE’RE  A NICE, NORMAL FAMILY.” The moment we saw it Louise and I both knew it was the sign for us.

We aren’t that odd, but we wish we were at times. The truly odd people are frightening at times.

My mother had an uncle that would sit on a chair in the middle of the kitchen with a tumbler of scotch in his hand and his feet in a pail of water every Saturday night. When asked why he had his feet in a bucket of water he would reply that the ants couldn’t get to him that way. Everyone thought he was odd, but harmless so they let him be. I don’t know anything else about him, but I really like his outlook on life.

Today I was doing some work barefoot in the backyard and my feet got dirty. I could have used the hose to wash them off or gone in and washed them properly in the bathroom, but I decided that I would fill a plastic container with water and soak my feet while sitting on the swing in the backyard reading a book. I can’t describe to you how refreshing it was. The moment I put my feet in the water I was transported back to all of the times in my life that I have taken the time to soak my feet in water. I remember sitting on the dock at the cottage with my buddies laughing and keeping cool. On a rock half way up a mountain taking a break from the backpack and giving my feet a much needed rest. Wading in a kiddie pool with my kids and recently my grandkids, making sure that they were safe and cool. There was a fountain in Nathan Phillips Square that I remember cooling my feet in many times during my teen years.

Dipping your feet not only keeps them cool and clean, but it brings back wonderful memories. I am going to make a point of doing it more often.

Oh and by the way, not one ant managed to get to me while I was soaking my feet. My great uncle wasn’t so crazy after all!

Sunday, 17 July 2016


A few days ago, a friend on Facebook and her husband had a baby. Mother and son are doing fine and I suspect that the rest of the family are doing well too. There will be some adjustment of course, but that is what happens when a family expands. Everyone on Facebook and in person is very happy for them and wish the newcomer to the planet a very warm welcome.

They named their son Easton, which is a pretty cool name and I was sure that somewhere in the depths of my past I had known someone who had that name, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember who. It turns out that Easton is a sports equipment company and since the family is just crazy about baseball, the name makes sense.

One of the first things I do when I hear about a new birth is to try and anticipate what the kid will be called after the “Baby Boy” tag is removed. Parents wrack their brains to come up with the perfect name for what will be the perfect child. I am sure that my mom and dad did the same thing and even though I was named Kenneth, I was known as Kenny, Ken, Harrison and more than a few unflattering names during my lifetime. I was lucky; no one felt the need to give me a name like Dopey, Smelly, Master Bater, four-eyes or any of a million unpleasant names that can stick with you throughout your life.

I have thought of a few for Easton, but it is better that those names grow organically and hopefully are welcomed by little Easton. Kids can be cruel. Sometimes, the worst names are the ones your mom and dad use on a daily basis. It isn’t so bad when your parents are using them, but when your buddies hear those baby names you kind of wish you were dead.

When I was named in the early fifties, the name Kenneth was very popular for some reason. I did a quick search and couldn’t find any good reason. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the family had the name Ken. Maybe that was the point. In grade three, there were five Kens in my class and the teacher made us sit in different rows in order to keep track of us. Sometimes parents name their kids after a loved family member of pick a name that has nothing to do with the family so that neither side can get upset.

I have noticed a recent trend for parents to make up names or put odd spelling to common names. I suppose they want their child to be special. The kid is going to be special no matter what name is given. I think it was better when names were given by the village elder, those names had meaning. I have heard once that no one under thirty should be allowed to name a child.

Anyways, Happy zero Birthday to little Easton, have a great life and know that your mom and dad spent a lot of time, love and thought on your name.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Getting Back To Normal

I remember once when my dad was visiting that his fingertips cracked and bled. The natural oils and moisture in his skin had been sucked out by Calgary’s dry air. I have heard that a dry, desert like climate is good for some respiratory diseases, but not so good for soft, eastern skin.

I was raised in the humid eastern part of Canada and fondly remember how green and lush everything was. It still is by the way and whenever I visit I marvel at the riot of vegetation that is everywhere. Even the downtown concrete jungles have patches of grass that flourishes in spite of neglect. We have trouble getting our greenery to flourish when we lavish attention on it. I guess that is what 2100 miles can do to a climate.

For the past week or so we have had the benefit of a rainy, humid climate. I just heard on the news that it will be with us for another week until the Stampede is over. Sucks for the Stampede, but my lawn and garden have never grown so well. I guess they would have if I took the time to water them and pull the odd weed out, but I figure that if God wants to water and weed the garden then he will send someone to do it. If He wants to give me a winning lotto ticket, I will hire a gardener to look after my greenery and He can spent His time working on eradication of starvation and cancer.

I have noticed that my skin is less dry and the skin on the back of my hands doesn’t look like old parchment any longer. The inside of my nostrils no longer have razor sharp bits that cut into the tender walls. The weather probably sucks for people with TB, but not many people suffer from TB any longer, just the anti-vaxxers and they is a dying breed. Literally!

I should be happy to have a moist climate but it just doesn’t feel right. I am used to seeing brown grass in the middle of July, not the painfully green stuff there is this year. The lawn needs cutting every three or four days, thankfully, I broke down and bought a gas mower last year and retired the push mower I had been using for twenty years. Life is just easier that way. I have to worry about clearing down spouts which rarely got any use in other years. Every day I have to go out in between rains storms and pluck a bag of mushrooms from the lawn. I’m sure they have lain dormant since the bison roamed the prairie. I mentioned the Stampede earlier, and the attendance is down, profits are down and all of the vendors are down. I think it might also have something to do with the massive lay offs in the oil patch.

I know this weather won’t last, can’t last. The snow pack from last winter was minimal and this rain is topping up the aquifers and putting smiles on farmer’s faces. The grass will soon turn brown and more than likely my fingers will crack and bleed. It will be nice getting back to normal.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Look Into The Past

Shortly after we moved into this house, I acquired a heavy, metal fire pit. It wasn’t pretty and I suspect that it was made from material stolen from the oilfield, but it worked quite nicely. When we couldn’t go camping, we could still toast marshmallows and hot dogs over an open fire. Everyone in the house loved to poke at the fire, but Louise not only got the most enjoyment from poking, but she was really good at keeping the flame. There is something comforting about a fire.

The kids got older and toasting marshmallows with mom and dad lost some of its appeal. Okay, all of its appeal was lost. One day Louise and I stumbled upon a Chiminea shop and before I could stutter that w-we a-already had an f-fire pit; I was setting the Chiminea up in the backyard. I am not sure what happened to the steel fire pit, but I’m sure that it went somewhere that it wasn’t appreciated.
Oddly enough, we have never had very many fires since we bought the Chiminea. I think that without the kids and their excitement, we found the television more compelling to watch. It had a place of prominence in the backyard for many years, but a few years back I tucked it under an overhang of the house and the new BBQ took the choice spot in the yard. The BBQ is used far more often. The thing that you have to understand about Calgary is that even in the summer it gets cold at night and there just isn’t enough room to huddle around the small opening in the Chiminea.

Last night, I was outside reading and thought how nice it would be to have a fire to warm my thoughts and body. I hauled the Chiminea out from under the overhang and before you know it I had a pleasant little fire burning. Louise came out for a time and we sat staring into the flickering flames letting our minds dance with the flames. It was pretty special. Louise went in and I sat waiting for the fire to die down.
While I was waiting, I stared at the interior walls while the fire burnt down. The sides are clay and in my minds eye I saw the walls of a cave thousands of years ago. To the beings sitting in that cave, the fire was so much more than something to entertain the kids with. Fire was protection from animals, warmth, a way to prepare food and it helped to extend the daytime. Fire was life.

Looking into the fire I felt connected to my distant ancestors. Perhaps that is why we all love a campfire; it allows us to travel back in time when we were afraid of anything out of the light. There were real monsters in the dark back then. Generally speaking, I prefer imaginary monsters under the bed and electric lights. It was nice to look into the past last night, and perhaps I will  time travel again soon . 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Stampede 2016

Well, another year has come and gone and in 12 hours the 2016 version of the greatest outdoor show on earth begins. Yep, it’s Stampede time once again. For nine or ten days Calgary will celebrate all things western. There will be eating, drinking, Chuckwagon racing, bull riding, bronc busting, candy floss eating, midway riding, pancake eating, cowboy hat and boot wearing and more country music played than anyone should ever hear.

Should be fun!

I am not as into the experience as a lot of people are, but I encourage them to have fun. I have done pretty much all of that stuff over the years and have no real desire to do it over again. I know that Louise would like to go and watch the Chuckwagon races, but I am content to watch them on TV. The rodeo part is fun, but I have trouble understanding why anyone in their right mind would sit astride a bull to see how long it takes before they are thrown off and very probably trampled. Each to his/her own I guess.

It is good for the city financially and to tell the truth, the population really needs something that is fun and will let them forget their troubles for a while. The economy has taken an awful hit for the past year or so and a lot of people don’t have a lot to be happy about. Even the parties that are the norm have been scaled back or even cancelled in some cases. You can’t spend a lot on a party when you have laid off a large portion of your work force. Things will get better.

The parade is starting around 9:00 AM and I plan on getting to my favourite place to watch a little early. Not too early, because I can always pause the show while I get a coffee or need to use the bathroom. The weather isn’t a concern because it rarely rains in the livingroom. It should be fun this year because Louise can watch with me from the other end of the couch.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Beautiful Day

There is a house just around the corner or two that has served to mark time for me.

When we moved into this house, the kids were small, I was thin and nary a grey hair on my head. The house around the corner was owned by an older Italian couple whose kids had grown and moved out. The front lawn was well kept and there were several beautiful flower beds that displayed colour from the spring till autumn. It was the backyard that I envied however. Most of the yard was planted in potatoes and other root crops that would be harvested and preserved. In the back quarter was a large, walk in greenhouse that was filled with crops  more sensitive to the cold. I always marvelled at the tomato plants that grew right to the ceiling and hung heavy with fruit. That man had a green thumb and a good part of his arm was green as well.

The years passed and although I would have liked to have a garden like the one around the corner, I knew that I just didn’t like gardening enough. I was happy just to keep watch and silently envy the bounty that was on that table.

About five or six years ago, the greenhouse only had a few tomato plants and they didn’t do too well. That year the back yard was levelled and sod was laid where potato plants once grew. The flower beds were still kept up, but the lawn was just a little less manicured. I suppose that the work of keeping the garden was just too much for the old man. I would see him sitting on the front stoop every now and then. I never knew his name, but we were on waving terms and managed a “Beautiful day!” every now and then.

I haven’t seen the old man for a couple of years now and I suspect that he has moved into a care facility or passed on. Last year, the greenhouse was torn down and a new retaining wall was poured. I think the son has been doing what he can to the place to keep his mom happy, but it is hard to find the time to do all that is needed on your own house. I have noticed that for the past couple of years a care worker comes to the house every day to look after the old woman I suppose. Last week she was sitting on the front stoop with her bottle of oxygen and I waved and said “Beautiful day!” as I walked by. She waved back but I could tell that she wasn’t sure who I was.

Today when I was walking by, there was a moving van in the back alley and a young guy was laying down moving blankets on the ground. He was all smiles and looked very happy to be alive. I smiled back at him, waved and gave him a “Beautiful day!” I don’t know if he was moving the old girl out and himself in, or if he were a grandson getting some of the furniture for his first apartment. It was a lovely day to be moving furniture.

If you stay in one place long enough, the world will move past and you can see time in a very real way. I’ve watched my neighbourhood age and the people in it age with it. This neighbourhood is in a transition stage right now, the young couples have raised their families and are thinking about moving to homes that are less difficult to maintain. A new crop of young people will move in and their kids will fill the area with squeals of joy and laughter.

Such is life.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

I Hate Karma

One of the inevitable things that happen when you are a letter carrier is that you will step in dog shit. Sometimes it would be just a tiny bit that would fill a section of tread on your shoe. You wouldn’t notice it at the time, but later when you are at the depot having lunch, there would be a subtle smell that would make you start looking at the other guys, wondering just what it was they were eating.

Of course the odd time you would step into something left by a German Shepherd, Saint Bernard or a small bear. It would fill the tread on your shoe and ooze up both sides, on the rand and more than likely it would end up on your pant cuff. I would spend five minutes trying to get it off by scraping it on a curb, tree, grass and on the steps of the house where you picked it up. Hopefully they would have indoor/outdoor carpet on the steps. The smell would definitely stay with you for most of the day.

Now that I have retired and don’t walk on lawns as much as I used to, I rarely step into dog shit. I have had a few close calls when walking Buster, but luckily for me, he usually has his nose in it before I catch up. Most people are pretty good about picking up after their dogs and the ones that don’t I have managed to avoid so far.

Every now and then however I get the smell lingering about me. Of course the first thing I do is check out my shoes and from there I move outward to Louise and then Buster. Buster wouldn’t care if his feet were covered, he would probably think he’d struck the jackpot. I am pretty careful when I pick up Buster’s droppings and I always spend a time with soap and water when I get back from the walk.

Sometimes, I will smell shit while I am watching TV. Sometimes I haven’t been outside and it had been hours or days since Buster and I ventured forth. I am pretty good about washing and if I get that smell, I make sure to spend even more time with soap and hot water. Sometimes, even after washing, the smell lingers, Could there be shit in my nose? How would it get there? How do I get rid of it? I’m pretty sure that if I sprayed the hose on full strength into both nostrils the smell would disappear, but I might actually do serious damage to my brain.

It must be in my mind. Why would my mind do that? Payback for wiping my shit covered foot on that guy’s front step maybe. I hate Karma! 

Saturday, 2 July 2016


I have just a few people that read this blog on a more or less regular basis. The vast majority of page views that I get are from robot/evil bastards that have some nefarious intentions when it comes to the blog. I am sure some of them just want me to learn how to improve my writing by paying them money. Some want to sell me something or want to sell someone else something through my blog…somehow. Some just want money.

The rest of the page views come from normal web surfers that stumbled on my blog when they were looking for something else. It would be nice to think they enjoyed the page view and read a few more.

Any way, I just haven’t been feeling much like writing lately which is why the blogs are hit or miss. I will often have an idea, but at the end of the day I just don’t think it is worth the bother for me to write or you to read. I am in a bit of a funk! Just wondering what “IT” is all about I guess and so far I haven’t been able to get a handle on it.

I think things will return to normal, I hope things return to normal. I suppose that at the end of the day there is plenty of blog for the grandkids to read when I die and that is the ultimate reason I write. I wish my grandmother had kept a diary or a journal even if it were just silly little stories.

I don’t say this to get the one or two people to tell me to keep writing, but rather to explain to them why it is hit or miss. Maybe I need the shitty winter weather to return, better yet…Christmas!