The smokers stood outside in the heavy drizzle, seeking what little shelter they could find. Indian Summer had come to an end and in its place, the cold rains of late Fall had drenched the earth. Cigarettes in hand, the women looked determined, but they didn't look happy.
The parking next to the Gallery was full and we were forced to park the car at St. Joseph's church across the road and run through the puddles to the Gallery entrance. As we passed by them, the two smokers gave us looks of envy as we left the rain behind.
Opening night of the juried art show and the Gallery was full. Tables had been set with food and wine flowed in measured amounts into small plastic glasses.
We looked around for Linda's painting and finally found it toward the back of the gallery, looking quite at home among the other works of art. Her painting of two geese, one with wings outstretched, had taken several months of her time to complete. Many of the paintings had been done by professionals. A picture of a trout about to swallow a lure, was the work of a local artist whose illustrations often appear in Field and Stream.
We were surprised to find so many photographs. Linda had thought all the pictures on display would be paintings. Instead there were a range of photographs, collages, statues and paint. All demonstrating some aspect of "motion", the theme for the show.
A reporter from the local paper wandered the room snapping pictures and trying to avoid bumping into the crew from the television station.
We mingled with the crowd, many of whom seemed to know each other, listening to their conversations:
--"Yes, but is it Art or is it illustration?"
--"I had a couple of frames left over so I just grabbed a couple of things I'd done earlier, framed them, and brought them in to the show."
--"About half the works submitted to us, never made it into the show. It was a shame but we were overwhelmed and there's only so much room."
--"That picture of the goose flapping its wings, for example." A young bearded man waved a hand dismissively toward Linda's painting. "It's technically excellent but creatively trite. You can buy something comparable at any Wal-Mart for twenty five bucks."
I caught Linda in mid-air as she launched herself at her sanctimonious critic, her nails inches from his jugular vein, her hideous scream shocking the room to silence.
Well, alright, I made that last part up. In reality, she just rolled her eyes in a lady-like way and stuck out her tongue at him behind his back. Causing the reporter, who was just passing by, to choke on his drink. The young critic went on to make loudly dismissive comments about the rest of the works on display before leaving early with his adoring girlfriend.
At 7:30 the judges were introduced and the winners announced. The huge crowd moved back against the walls of the gallery, as far away from the coming judgment of their work as humanly possible. Linda's painting was not one of the top three or even the additional three honorable mentions. But she wasn't disappointed, the quality of work on display was exceptional and her painting clearly belonged in their company.
She got many appreciative comments. We met a lot of people in the local art community.
And I ate a lot of the shrimp ring and managed three of the tiny glasses of wine.
Outside the same three women were still smoking in the rain. Only this time they held little wine glasses.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Posted by Barry at 5:37 AM
Friday, January 30, 2009
"How old am I going to be?"
"90. You'll be 90 years old, mom."
"Oh my. I don't feel like 90, you know."
"I still feel as young as I was in my 20s when you and I first came to Canada to meet your dad."
"That was a long time ago."
"I'm still in good health, you know. I saw the doctor and do you know what he told me? He said, 'I can't find anything the matter with you.' And I told him that was because there was nothing wrong with me. He told me, 'Well then get out of here, woman', and smacked me on the bum."
"Well you know, just patted me on the bum. Just in fun. You know?"
"You are doing really well right now, mom."
"And I don't have a wrinkle on my face, do I?"
Her still pretty face is a mass of fine wrinkles, each one the mark of victory over a hard life that never ever gave her a break. She has fine hairs growing on her upper lip and her chin. She has cataract growing in one eye and is totally blind in the other, struck blind in her mid 70's one warm spring day while out for a walk. Her left eye suddenly experiencing a searing pain as if a bee had just stung her. The sight in that eye gone forever.
Although a meticulously neat woman her entire life, she has food stains on her blouse.
She looks at me with pride showing me her "wrinkleless" face.
"I like it here," she tells me, looking around the vast lobby of the senior's home. "I used to get so lonely living with you and Linda. And sweet Lindsay, of course. Lindsay tried her best, but its not like having people around. I know you both had to work. You couldn't help it. Now I have company here. As long as my money holds out."
"Your money is fine, mom. You have nothing to worry about."
"I saw the doctor the other day and he told me I'm in perfect health. He said, 'I can't find anything the matter with you woman. And he gave me a slap on the bum."
That medical took place over a year ago. The pat on the bum portion is a fairly new elaboration on a tale she frequently tells.
Beyond the narrowing of her memory, her blood pressure is an increasing worry. Her feet are swelling alarmingly and she is sometimes dizzy. She is riddled with arthritis and moves with pain. Her left knee was replaced five years ago and the artificial joint is becoming loose. To get around now she needs a walker for balance.
She is becoming increasingly forgetful.
"How old am I going to be?"
"90 mom. You're going to be 90. We're arranging a big party for you to celebrate."
"90! I can't believe I'm going to be 90. I feel just like the young woman I was after the War, when you and I first came to Canada on the Queen Mary. Do you remember that? Oh, of course you don't, you were only 3 at the time."
But I do remember. I remember it very well. Although I sometimes wish I could forget.
"Did I tell you I saw the doctor the other day?"
Top photo is of my mother and I on her 85th birthday. She will be 90 on February 27th.
Posted by Barry at 6:55 AM
Thursday, January 29, 2009
“Was that a Kerthunk?” I asked Linda.
“That was definitely a Kerthunk.” She assured me.
“Darn.” I got up from my chair.
Seeing me move from across the room, hope swelled in Lindsay’s breast. Was it time for her nightly walk already? She leaped to her feet.
I hurried through to the kitchen and around to the side door, Lindsay tight by my heels, and clicked on the outside light.
And there they were, two raccoons at my compost bin. The fluffy little robbers looked up at me with mild interest.
Ah oui, and will monsieur be joining us for dinner this evening?
Toronto is in the midst of a major recycling program with the goal of achieving an 80% reduction in the amount of garbage going to the local land fill. We now have bins for garbage, recyclables and compost. It was the small green compost bin the raccoons had knocked over and were busy sorting through the contents for the choicest tidbits.
Those delicacies not up to their refined sensibilities, they were scattering the length and breadth of my driveway.
“Arrrugh!” I roared, bursting through the doorway.
They gave me a look of mild rebuke. Who invited this buffoon to dine with us?
But they scurried away as I thumped down the stairs roaring like a demented banshee.
I started cleaning up the mess. There is an art to their thievery. If they tip the green bin just right, so that it hits the corner of our bottom step, it causes the clamp on the lid to pop open, with a satisfying Kerthunk.
The mass of rotting vegetables, meat bones and bags of Lindsay waste, was scooped back into the container, the lid clamp was tightly locked and I went in to wash my hands.
Hands dripping wet from the faucet, I pounded to the side door again like a banshee on crack! They had missed their trajectory this time and the lid had stayed in place. Seeing me coming they scattered at the first “Arrrugh!”
I screamed after them using all of the words the late George Carlin was unable to say on TV.
Until I realized the neighbors might be listening, and then I righted the compost bin, slunk ashamedly back into the house, tripping over Lindsay in the doorway and injuring her leg, the collision setting me off balance so that I bumped into the kitchen counter knocking two of the evenings dinner plates to the floor with an almighty shattering of china.
In the living room Linda startles to the crash and the sight of Lindsay limping past on three legs and comes running.
Standing amidst the wreckage of the evening meal, I have a lot of explaining to do.
And outside I hear…
Photo courtesy of photobucket
Posted by Barry at 5:26 AM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I wish I could draw an elegant line. Put charcoal to paper and trace an arc that that has grace and beauty. I wish I could sing with a voice that found notes with ease and brought smiles of appreciation to the faces of those who heard. I wish I could dance with with style and precision, instead of getting tangled in my own feet.
I can do none of those things, but I can appreciate the skill of those who can. I can admire their artistry, even if how it's done is a mystery that eludes me.
I've been asked to show a few more examples of my wife's art. And I am happy to oblige.
She drew "Frank's Boot" after a visit to a distant cousin of mine. It is a very moving painting. The boot belonged to my cousin's son who had committed suicide two years before our visit and sits at the entry of his beautiful cottage. The boot is the last of his son's belongings that the man owns and supports the life of its flowers, while the shoe lace hangs like a tear down its side.
Linda sent the painting to my cousin where it now sits on a brass easel in this livingroom. The original boot has now deteriorated to the point where it can no longer act as a planter but the painting preserves its memory.
Linda followed the success of Canada's women's hockey team at the last Winter Olympics with great pride. As a sport for women, hockey has not caught on with the general public the way figure skating has, especially outside Canada. The Canadian team was by far the most talented, crushing the opposition. What caught Linda's eye at the celebration following the final game was the individuality of the women's skates in contrast to the sameness of their uniforms. The painting was part of an exhibition and has been sold to a private collector.
My personal favourite is her painting of the small chickadee sitting on the branch of a tree in a cold spring rain. The bird is so tiny and alone and wet, but is perfectly at home in nature in a way that is forever lost to us. The painting hangs in my daughter's home in Guelph.
For those interested, here is a link to an earlier posting on Linda and my answer to the perennial question, What is Art?
Posted by Barry at 6:49 AM
Monday, January 26, 2009
The incessant snow had stopped and temperatures had plummeted freezing the drifts of snow into the consistency of cement. Walking the well trodden pathway high above the Scarborough Bluffs, the snow crunched under our feet like breaking glass.
I had returned late Sunday afternoon from a visit with my daughter in Guelph and was now taking Lindsay for a late day run to burn off the accumulated energy of two days inactivity.
The sun was low in the sky and massive in size, a great red stop light staring us in the face as we trudged west along the crest of the bluffs. I tried my best to ignore it.
Tail wagging with glee, Lindsay was following trails of scent that would take her far off the pathway and back again, her distance covering three times my own.
To the left of us, the great lake was frozen beneath a thin layer of ice, the sun sucking mist from its waters that rose into the air like spirits rising from the dead.
I was lost in thought, replaying the visit to my daughter in my head, so I didn't notice the strange change in Lindsay's pattern of behaviour until I literally tripped over her.
"What are you doing, Lins?" I asked, realizing she had been walking closely ahead of me for some minutes, instead of ranging free like a rubber band shot into the air.
She looked up at me as if to apologize for being in the way, but made no move to run on ahead.
I trudged on, the brittle snow cracking loudly beneath my feet.
Lindsay would walk ahead of me a couple of steps and then pause for me to catch up before moving on another few steps. Her nose was high in the air, twitching to a scent that puzzled and alarmed her.
And that's when we came on the killing ground.
A three foot patch of the pathway was covered with blood and tufts of hair, all that remained of a raccoon.
Lindsay examined the patch hesitantly, scratching at the ground to release more of the scent into the air.
I clipped on her leash and pulled her away.
"Okay, girl, I think this is the end of our walk for today." I said turning back.
To find the pathway blocked by a large, scrawny, long legged dog standing sideways across the path about ten meters ahead of me. Its head slightly lowered, menacingly, it was as still as a statue. The thin puffs of steam that escaped its mouth into the frigid air, the only sign of life.
Lindsay normally greets other dogs with same the tail wagging enthusiasm she reserves for people. Now she stood rigid, the hair on her back standing up.
I thought about the kill zone behind me. The animal ahead of me was no dog, no pet used to human company. It had no collar, its long gray hair unkempt on its taunt frame, its eyes unwaveringly focused, not on me, but on Lindsay.
Lindsay who is about the size of a large raccoon.
The playful barking of a dog broke the spell that held us rigid on the pathway. Excited female voices shouted and laughed in the cold air of the late afternoon. A group of dog walkers were moving up the path toward us. At any second they would round the corner behind the coyote and he would find himself between us and them.
Lindsay growled softly at my feet. I glanced quickly down at her and when I looked up, the coyote was gone.
A boxer and two German shepherds broke into view, followed by two women in loud, excited conversation. Their dogs stopped at the sight of us, their noses picking up the scent of raccoon blood and the wild odour of coyote.
I told the women what I'd seen and their dogs ran past us to examine the remains of the raccoon. The frightened women rushed to click on their leashes and pull them away.
We walked together back to the car park, aware of the lengthening shadows and the deepening chill, all the dogs nervous and alert.
It was the end of the walk for today. And maybe the end of our walk along the bluffs for sometime to come.
Posted by Barry at 6:31 AM
Friday, January 23, 2009
I am reclined in the dental chair, a little bib around my neck, a brace in my mouth, a light shining in my eyes, a suction tube slurping up my saliva and being deafened by the piercing shriek of a dental drill.
Or was I the one doing the shrieking?
No I'm sure it was the drill.
"So Barry," my dentist asks as if we were having a normal conversation, "Have you reached your Obama saturation point yet?"
"Augh haf gneunjd it awl" I reply, sensibly.
"Yes me too," he answers as if he understood me.
"This is the first Inauguration Gladys remembers," he tells me, smiling at his pretty, young dental assistant.
"Politics never really interested me before," she tells him. "But this has just been thrilling. I might just start getting interested in politics."
"So you don't remember Bush's Inauguration four years ago?" the dentist prods her.
"Ighutd Bfdh sintly puht" I remind him.
"No I was just interested in studying for collage. And music." she tells him, ignoring me.
"Well you're not alone, I don't think anyone remembers that," he eases up on the drilling and removes the brace. "You can rinse now, Barry. "
"Do you know what Obama's nickname was at college?" I ask, my mouth no longer full of dental implements.
They both look at me with the same astonishment they might give Lindsay if she suddenly started speaking English.
"I've no idea," the dentist stammers.
"Barry. His nickname was 'Barry'."
"You don't say."
"I do, the same as my name. He's the first President Barry. And do you know why it's called an inauguration?" I ask, determined to get in as much of the conversation as I van before the drilling starts again.
I take silence for assent, "It comes from the ancient Roman Augurs, priests who would sacrifice birds prior to auspicious events and read their entrails to forecast the likely success of a battle or the reign of a new Emperor. I read about it on the Life At Willow Manor Blog.
The dentist lowers my seat back down, replaces the brace and fires up the drill.
"That's disgusting," Gladys tells me. "What kind of poor birds would they sacrifice?"
"Thek wund xmnt thub enralds of a ruv."
"Eeewww." she reacts in horror.
"So you don't remember the Bush Inauguration at all?" Dentist goes back to his earlier question.
Having grossed out the dental assistant, I just relax and let them go about their work, replacing my old and crumbling fillings with new mercury free porcelain ones.
It augurs well for the future.
Linda and I are away visiting our daughter and her family for the weekend. No new post until Monday. Thanks for visiting.
Posted by Barry at 10:55 PM
She was as dead as any ship could be.
Destroyed in 1915 by a summer gale that crushed her against the shores of the Scarborough Bluffs and ripped her to pieces, her remains were scattered along ten kilometers of shoreline. Her boiler and walkway were all that protruded above the surface of the lake and had become the plaything of local children.
Lindsay and I stood on the edge of the bluffs and looked down at the remnants of her boiler appearing and disappearing between the waves. The Alexandria's days as one of the most graceful steamers on the Great Lakes were over.
Strangely, the death of Alexandria was to save the life of a fellow ship in the C.S.L. line. Another of the retired C.S.L. steamers, the Belleville was an iron-hulled passenger and freight vessel which had been built back in 1865 as Spartan.
At the time of the Alexandria's loss the Belleville had been stripped in preparation for dismantling. But with the loss of Alexandria her life was saved and she was refitted and brought back into service for the Montreal-Toronto run where she plied the waters of the lake for another eight years.
For seven of those years the Alexandria lay in her watery grave, undisturbed save for the cries of young children and the odd seagull. Then in 1922 the Western Reserve Navigation Company was refitting the old sidewheeler Colonial for their cross-Lake Erie service. However, her great sidewheels were beyond repair and her owners set out to search for a pair of feathering wheels which might be suitable.
They found them, still in tact, under the cold waters of Lake Ontario off the Scarborough Bluffs. An expedition under the leadership of Capt. Frank Hamilton was dispatched to Toronto. For the first time in nearly a decade the Alexandria's wheels were brought to the surface and found to be in wonderful shape despite the ship's savage beating. After reconditioning, they were placed aboard Colonial where they churned the waters of Lake Erie until September 1st, 1926 when the 41-year-old vessel was destroyed by fire off Barcelona, New York.
Forty-nine years was a fine long life for a fire prone wooden steamer like Alexandria, but the old lady must have set some kind of a record by giving life to another vessel seven years after her own demise.
I called Linday away from the bluffs and we walked back to the car, our lonely visit to the Alexander was over. We left her alone in her watery grave.
Posted by Barry at 6:05 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It's an unusual day. A fairly strong wind is blowing off the Lake onto the shore lifting large waves that crash into the beach at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs.
I'm taking Lindsay to Sylvan Park for her morning run because these conditions are too special to waste. Sylvan is located mid way along the ten kilometer length of the Bluffs at the end of Sylvan Drive deep in the heart of Guildwood Village.
If you don't know the park is there, you'll never find it in the maze of suburban streets. The bluffs are much taller here, close to their 90 meter maximum. And from the top of the bluffs on days when a strong wind blows onto the shore you can still see her in the troughs of the waves.
Her great boiler and some of her decking are all that's left of the Alexandra. And those are usually hidden just below the surface of the Lake.
On Tuesday August 3rd, 1915, the 49 year old Alexandria was bound for Toronto when she ran into a massive storm. Capt. Bloomfield was steaming for the safety of the Toronto harbour hoping that the old wooden side wheeler would hold together long enough to survive. With only 300 tons of cargo aboard, she was riding high in the water and was easy prey for the raging wind and the heavy seas.
Her 50 horsepower was simply not enough to hold her on her course and she was pushed further and further towards the lee shore with each battering wave. Although the light of Toronto's Eastern Gap was in sight, she finally lost her battle and the old ship rammed onto the sands at the base of the Scarborough Bluffs.
Alerted by the forlorne peal of the ship's horn, the top of the bluffs was soon lined with spectators leaning into the savage wind and rain to watch the 173-foot, 863-ton Alexandria's fight to the death. They didn't have long to wait.The crushing seas soon began to dismantle the vessel and once she started to go it didn't take long.
The hull began to break up about 8:00 p.m. when about 50 feet of the bow broke off. The terrified crew then took to the boats but the waves were vicious and all twenty-two of her crew were tossed into the churning waters. Clinging to lifelines rigged from the beach, and with the help of those on shore, all the men reached safety by midnight. No sooner had the last man reached shore, than the stern section of the ship tore away from the wreck and broke up.
The following morning winds had died down and the lake quieted. The wreckage lay scattered along the shoreline. I still find pieces of it even today. What was left of the Alexandria had been pushed very close inshore during the night and now she lay facing in a westerly direction and listing over on her port side. The cabin had been badly smashed by the waves and the top section of the funnel had disappeared over the side.
Her cargo of pickles, canned vegetables, potatoes and sugar had been washed away and residents along the shore as far west as Ward's Island stocked their shelves for the winter with supplies from the stricken steamer. Quite a few sheds were also built that year from her planking.
Succeeding storms soon broke up what was left of Alexandria's woodwork and all that remained above water was the walking beam and the upper portion of the boiler, these being quite visible, especially at times of low water. For over twenty years these relics were a feature of the eastern shoreline. For many years the local children used the walking beam as a diving platform.
But in due course, with the high water and the erosion of the shoreline, the last visible remains of Alexandria disappeared from sight and local residents were left with their memories of the stormy night that "Alex" came ashore. And a few jars of pickles.
But it isn't only on days like today that she still comes alive again, fleetingly glimpsed between the waves, the ghost of another time and another era. No there is more to her story than that.
Linsdsay hovers near the snow covered edge of the bluffs, barking down at the remnants of the ship as if spooked. And perhaps she is, because it wasn't many years after the Alexandria went to her watery grave crushed and smashed by the savage waves, that her great paddle wheels were seen prowling the waters of the Great Lakes again.
But that is a story for tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Photobucket
Posted by Barry at 7:57 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I am becoming profoundly bored with myself.
It seems I can't go anywhere these days without running into me.
We were out at the Mall again yesterday, doing our bit to stimulate the economy, and I turned around and there I was, grinning back at me. I turned away and there I was again, now looking slightly disturbed. I wheeled about and found myself staring into my started eyes from no more than a few feet away.
I was everywhere.
I was inescapable.
"I'm becoming bored with myself," I told Linda.
"You need a new hat," she replied.
"A new hat. You can't keep wearing that same old hat. We need to find you a new one."
"But that's not what I was trying to say," I replied. "There are too many mirrors in Malls these day. I keep seeing myself everywhere."
"In your old hat," said Linda.
"My hat doesn't have anything to do with it."
"You need a new hat to match your new winter coat."
So now I have a new hat.
I'm still everywhere, only I look better.
Drawing courtesy of Photobucket
Posted by Barry at 5:06 AM
Monday, January 19, 2009
I was having lunch on my own last Wednesday. True to my intent to eat a healthier diet, I was having a salad with a few strips of chicken and picturing the long and healthy life that stretched before me.
The food court around me was filled with families, business people, police, judges and lawyers and hardened criminals (the Ontario Court of Appeal is nearby). Everyone was talking, laughing and eating; although not necessarily in that order.
I started to have a series of strange little hiccups. I wondered if a drink would help. So I took a mouthful of green tea, but when I swallowed it, it just came spewing back up.
Then I noticed a funny little pressure in my neck, and realized I had a piece of chicken stuck in my throat. Lodged in my throat. Wedged tightly in my throat.
I was surrounded by an ocean of people. None of whom were looking my way.
I wondered if I could breathe. Was this how I would die? I took a breath and realized the chicken was wedged below where the windpipe and the esophagus part company. I could breathe.
That was good. I wouldn't smother to death. The worst that would happen is that I would starve, the chicken clogging the entrance to my stomach. On the plus side, loosing ten or twenty pounds would make my doctor happy and save significantly on my food food bills.
I wondered about asking for help. Would someone doing the Heimlich Maneuver cause the piece of chicken to move back up my throat to where it would block the windpipe? And then would I die?
You can see how calm and rational was being.
The noisy world around me carried on. The only attention I was getting was from people carrying trays, searching for a place to sit and wondering if I was finished.
I hoped I wasn't finished.
With some annoyance the tray carrying passersby glanced from the full plate of food in front of me to my obvious passivity. Get busy guy, their glance seemed to say. We need your table.
Then I could feel the chicken piece move down my throat, slightly. Painfully. Peristalsis was doing its job, finally.
I took hope. And started to worry about having to wait so long my tea would get cold. That was an improvement over worrying about dying in the food court.
The chicken piece moved some more.
I made sure I was still breathing.
And then it finally passed through the esophageal sphincter and entered my stomach. Although I could still feel a soreness where it had once been lodged.
My private little drama had taken about five minutes. I doubt there was a soul who noticed.
I chewed the rest of my lunch with much greater care.
And thought about how odd life is.
Posted by Barry at 5:44 AM
Sunday, January 18, 2009
True, it's a Monday evening, not the busiest time at any Mall, but today it is downright eerie. There are so few people I could turn the aisles of the Mall into a Go Cart track without fear of running anyone over.
Clerks stand at the entrance to their stores and talk to their neighbours.
Here and there, signs are going up. Linens N Things liquidation sale. Danili, Going Out Of Business. Antonio's, Men's Fine Clothing, 80% Off Everything Must Go Sale.
It's so quiet in the Mall you can hear the annoying background music, and wish it would stop.
"I wish it would stop," says Linda.
"Yep, that music's really annoying," I agree.
"No not that," Linda looks at me intensely, "All the store closings. I love these stores. The poor people who work in them! What will they do?"
I shrug. I just don't know.
Linda goes into the Walking On A Cloud shoe store and the clerk is delighted to see her. But we're only here to return a pair of shoes that didn't fit Linda's mother and hope to exchange them for a larger pair.
Even so, the clerk is delighted. It at least gives her something to do.
I walk back to Antonio's Mens Fine Clothing. Corduroy jackets are on sale for $89, regularly $389. I try one on and it fits perfectly.
"It will fit even better, with a dress shirt," the clerk tells me He's an older man who has worked here for years.
"Its a great deal," I say.
He just shakes his head sadly and rings my order through.
I meet Linda back in the empty Mall and we look up and down its length in wonder, picturing the recent Christmas rush.
"Maybe its just because its Monday and its so soon after Christmas," she says.
"Maybe it is," I agree.
But I don't think so.
Posted by Barry at 7:57 AM
Saturday, January 17, 2009
After his dog had stuck her nose into yoga, had danced with nudists, had performed "unnatural" acts with the Golden next door, the man believed he had lost all the modesty and niceness he once possessed.
He was premature in that evaluation.
It was in the early spring of 2008. An ominous calm lay heavy on the land. The Great Lake at the bottom on the bluffs had barely the strength to lap upon the beach.
None of which affected Lindsay in any way as she raced around the pathway that led to the beach like a Macy's Day Parade balloon in sudden deflation.
Barry trundled after her, climbing carefully down the 15 foot cascade of rocks to the beach below.
Where Lindsay had come to a complete stop.
A Hindi family had spred a beautiful Asian blanket on the sand. A mother in a richly coloured sari, her son in a simple white garment by her side and a Priest in orange robes knelt before a brazier from which a clean white smoke rose languidly into the air. On the carpet beside them, surrounded by flowers, was a simple urn.
The Priest was chanting softly and was oblivious to the entranced black and white audience standing a few feet away from him.
Barry would have called her back and taken her west along the beach, but she had already passed beyond them and he was afraid, very afraid, that if he called her she would disrupt their ceremony.
The Priest chanted and Lindsay stood transfixed. Barry held his breath.
One of Lindsay's (many) faults is an excessive friendliness. She had never met a person who didn't delight her to distraction. A polite dog, she also never missed an opportunity to greet people, especially strangers. Especially strangers who were down on her level.
Until now, when she simply stood and watched and listened.
Amazed, and not believing his luck or his eyes, Barry decided the safest course would be for him to quietly pass the family by and continue on down the beach. He walked down to the water's edge and passed the little intimate ceremony as quietly and respectfully as he could.
Once passed them, he signaled Lindsay to follow.
She ran toward him, paused and looked back at the family, ran on, paused and looked back again. It wasn't until they were a considerable distance away and Lindsay had turned her attention to a group of seagulls on the shore, that Barry began to breath again.
And that is when the Priest began tapping a small gong whose crystaline sound rang out along the beach.
Lindsay screeched to a halt.
Oh Lord, this wasn't going to be good.
Lindsay turned toward the sound.
Lindsay raced back down the beach as if it were calling her to dinner.
Visions, horrible nightmarish visions, were flashing through Barry's brain.
And then she did the most unlindsay-like thing. She halted at the edge of the carpet.
Gong! The Priest chanted. And the woman and young boy were in tears, their eyes transfixed, not on the dog standing inches away from them, but on the small urn beside them.
All of nature seemed to hold its breath.
The Priest rang the gong one more time, raised his hands and chanted louder.
And Lindsay lay down on the beach and watched, respectfully.
Based on past experience, Barry didn't trust her. So he quietly walked up beside her and slipped on her leach.
Her eyes transfixed on the ceremony, Lindsay came away with great reluctance. She paused to look back at the family many times before finally they were a safe distance away. Barry led her up another path to the top of the bluffs, and walked back to the car park before he began to breath again.
Lindsay had behaved respectfully.
Maybe she was starting to grow up?
Barry wondered what unexpected adventures that would bring.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Like many young girls, Lindsay took an interest in exotic far Eastern religions. She studied Yoga at one point and was fascinated by Hindi ceremony at another.
The no longer quite so nice or modest man had no idea she had taken a spiritual bent when he set out to take her for a walk along the bluffs one calm and sunny early morning in spring.
Indeed, it has been argued, by Linda, that Lindsay had no idea Yoga existed when they set off that morning. If she is correct, then Lindsay's discovery that day would have come as a revelation.
Normally, in the early morning hours, man and dog have the beach at the bottom of the bluffs to themselves. But not always. You can never tell what may be hiding in the bushes or lurking around the next bend.
And so it was on that morning, that as Lindsay turned a corner on the bluffs she encountered a beautiful and lithe woman doing yoga on the beach. The woman considered herself all alone on a promontory with waves from the great lake crashing against the rocks in counter-point to the serenity of her mood.
Her commune with Nature was soon to become a deeper, and more direct, experience than she had anticipated.
She was doing the sun salutation, much to Lindsay's amazement. The little dog had seen nothing like it. And wanted to know more.
Lindsay had run on ahead of Barry and when he rounded the corner he was struck by an incredible sight.
In her discovery of Yoga Lindsay had been drawn by some deep inner spiritual urging toward the graceful movements of the woman on the beach. Who was facing the waters of the lake and unaware a small dog was cautiously approaching her neither regions.
Before Barry could shout out a warning, the woman reached that part in the sun salutation where she raised her bum high in the sky to a point where it unexpectedly reached the cold wet nose of her newest acolyte.
Lindsay ran off, terrified.
And Barry had a lot of explaining to do. And a lot of apologizing. He didn't know Yogis could get so angry.
Little did he know Lindsay, having mastered yoga, would next be taking an interest in Hindi ceremonies.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The nice but no longer quite so modest man knew the time would come. It was not a story he wanted to tell and it certainly wasn't one that involved a pretty sight. But it was part of Lindsay's life and honesty demanded it be told.
She was five when she met the naked man in the bushes. Lindsay was simply going about her doggy business during a run along the top of the Scarborough Bluffs, following every interesting scent that came the way of her cold, black, twitchy nose.
Barry was following along behind her, lost in thought as usual and paying little attention. It was a bright and sunny day in August. Usually Barry avoided the trail on the top of the bluffs in late summer because it became over grown and difficult to see the poison ivy that flourished in unsuspecting patches.
So they should have been walking along the beach at the bottom of the bluffs that day, but, as fate would have it, they weren't.
Ahead of him Lindsay was prancing along the pathway at twice his speed when she suddenly encountered a surprising smell, whirled about and plunged into the bushes at the side of the path.
Her plunge into the thicket was immediately accompanied by a resounding shriek and a totally naked man who came levitating out of the brush. He was short and more than a little pudgy and was emitting an ear splitting squeal.
Startled to his core, Barry came to an abrupt halt.
Lindsay flew out of the bushes behind the man who continued shrieking and hopping up in down in terror.
Much to Lindsay's great delight.
Here was a man who knew really how to play! The more he hopped the more excited she got, her tail wagging with joy.
Barry, however, was not happy to see that his innocent little dog had taken up dancing with the neighbourhood pervert but before he could do or say anything, the man dashed off with a kind of waddling hop, squealing still, down a side pathway.
Lindsay continuing to dance and hop around him.
Gradually the squeals became more distant and the meadow at the top of the bluffs grew quiet.
Barry waited trying to process what he had just witnessed. As he waited he became aware that where the man had been hiding was not just a patch of bush and grass but was alive with more potent stuff. It was everywhere. The man had been sitting naked, by the side of the path, in a patch of poison ivy.
There was no sign of any clothing strewn about. How had the naked man come to be there? What had he been doing? Was he waiting to jump out and expose himself to passers by? On a trail that almost no one used in the late summer?
Lindsay came prancing back, eyes alive with joy, her dance with nudists done for the day.
Wasn't that fun, she seemed to say.
About that, Barry wasn't sure. But it did give him a great story to bring home to Linda.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Three years have passed.
When the nice but no longer quite so modest man thinks of Lindsay, the image of blurred motion comes to mind. He has spent many fruitless hours attempting to photograph Lindsay only to end up with pictures of a dog tail exiting stage left.
As an English Springer Spaniel she has abundant energy. Without a couple of very long walks each day, her need to move creates chaos within the house. Of course this has proven beneficial to the man, who has lost weight and gained some muscle tone. He has taken to calling Lindsay his personal trainer.
However, she is also a profoundly accomplished sleeper. Never more so than on the night of October 25th 2003.
At 2:30 in the morning, the man was awakened by a thump on the deck at the back of his home. He rose quietly from his bed and peeked out the bedroom window. where he saw two men on his back deck.
"What is it," whispered Linda.
"Somebody's on our deck. I'm phoning the police." the man whispered back.
Meanwhile, Lindsay the guard dog was fast asleep in the living room, snoring softly.
The man quietly phoned the police and within two minutes, six police cars were parked at the front of his home, their lights flashing n the dark. It reminded the man of his last visit to a carnival.
Lindsay, meanwhile, remained fast asleep in the living room, snoring softly.
The sound of felons running and cursing could be heard as they leaped from the deck and raced down the length of the backyard.
Lindsay, meanwhile, remained fast asleep in the living room, snoring softly.
The man and woman got up and looked out the french doors at the rear of the house. Their yard was filled with police, rushing to and fro, flashlights piercing the dark like light sabers stabbing into the night.
Lindsay, meanwhile, remained comfortable asleep in the living room, snoring softly.
Still another police car arrived at the front of their property, this time it was the K9 Unit. Two police dogs and their handlers rushed from the car and ran down the side of the home. The nice but no longer quite so modest couple's back yard was now filled with police and the K9 Unit yelling and talking and discussing the situation.
Lindsay, meanwhile, remained fast asleep in the living room, wriggling comfortably.
One of the German Shepherds picked up the scent and went tearing off down the lawn leaping up and over the six foot back yard fence. The police all rushed from the yard in hot pursuit.
Fully awake now, Linda made coffee and the man and the woman sat and discussed the events of the evening. About half an hour later, a police officer came knocking politely on their door.
Enraged, Lindsay appeared out of nowhere, barking furiously at the police man, leaping repeatedly up the length of the door to the small window at the top where she could see his policeman's face.
The kind but no long quite so modest man held her back and attempted to calm her down. "Where were you when the bad guys were trying to break in," the man asked her.
"That's a great dog you've got there," the policeman told Linda. "I'm surprised anyone would try to break in here with your dog to protect you."
It was probably the tension of the evening, but that struck Linda as so funny she began to laugh. Through tears she explained how Lindsay had slept through everything until the officer arrived.
They never caught the two men but the police dogs tracked them back to the main road at the top of the street. However the men, or more likely teenage boys, did leave the bikes they arrived on in the driveway and these were confiscated. The police cars pulled away and the home returned to its usual peace and calm.
The nice but no longer quite so modest couple were awake for several more hours. Lindsay, meanwhile, having saved us from the police, went comfortably back to sleep.
Posted by Barry at 5:35 AM
Monday, January 12, 2009
The nice but modest man and the nice but modest woman survived Lindsay's puppyhood. Several pairs of Linda's shoes, a brace of pillows, four of Barry's favourite books, the odd stuffed toy, many pairs of Barry's socks, a couple of figurines, a smattering of reports Linda had written for school and several carpets did not.
But the nice but modest couple put all of this behind them. Lindsay's puppy behaviour was a little extreme, but she was after all a puppy and these things happen.
Then one memorable day Jake arrived.
The home next door to Barry and Linda's was sold and the new neighbours had an old golden retriever named Jake. With whom Lindsay fell passionately in love.
Jake had not been in the backyard of his new home more than ten minutes before Lindsay had discovered a space under the fence and had crawled through to say hello. Although Barry called her, she could not find her way back
So Barry was forced to visit his new neighbours to ask permission to retrieve his dog. Being dog people they understood and Lindsay was retrieved.
Barry found the space under the fence and blocked it with a couple of large stones.
The next day Lindsay found another space. And the day after that.
Barry was running out of things to block spaces he had never noticed before.
The following day the neighbour came knocking on his door.
"You better come and get your dog," the neighbour said, "She's doing to Jake what boy dogs are supposed to do to girl dogs."
Barry hurried to the backyard next door and sure enough found Lindsay firmly attached to the rear end of Jake, a look of wild glee in her little doggy eyes. Jake was politely standing still with a look of profound boredom, mixed with a tinge of embarrassment on his face.
"That ain't natural," the neighbor complained.
Barry took his "unnatural" dog home and the next day he visited Home Depot and returned with a trunk full of 6" X 6" x 10' beams which he proceeded to lay all along the length of his backyard fence, blocking every possible and even impossible space.
Within five minutes Lindsay was next door humping Jake again. She had simply dug a small tunnel under the beams.
Barry returned to Home Depot and purchased a great length of chicken wire. He laid the wire so that it extended four feet away from the fence creating a distance that would make digging a tunnel a logistical impossibility.
Lindsay simply pushed the wire back, dug under the fence and went back to humping Jake.
Barry was finally forced to tie Lindsay to a leash any time she was in the back yard. Where she would immediately tangle herself into a mess and proceed to bark and yawl until the entire neighbourhood was disturbed.
At the end of a year the new neighbours moved taking Jake with them. What role Lindsay had to play in their decision making it is impossible to say. Barry and Linda were simply glad to see them go.
"Just think what it would have been like if she hadn't been spayed," Linda said.
They had survived Lindsay's first and only romance but in the course of that year they had lost some of their modesty.
The rest of their modesty and much of their niceness were soon to be tested.
Posted by Barry at 8:15 PM
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Once upon a time there lived a nice and modest man who lived with a nice and modest woman in a nice and modest community in a nice and modest city.
The man and woman were happy with their lives and had accomplished much in their time upon the earth. Both had good jobs. They had a nice but modest home. They had raised two nice but modest daughters who had married nice but modest men.
With their daughters gone from the home, the nice but modest couple were feeling lonely.
"Why don't we get a dog?" the woman asked the man one day. "When we got married the first thing we did was get a dog."
"Well, maybe not the first thing, but it was pretty close," agreed the man.
"We've always had an animal around the house," the woman reminded him.
A friend of theirs knew of a breeder who had English Springer Spaniel puppies for sale, so they went one day to have a look. There were five little puppies, four of them a rusty brown colour and one of them black and white.
The four rust coloured puppies were bouncing and playing with each other. The little black puppy was fast asleep.
"The little black puppy is adorable," said the woman.
"Don't let her being asleep fool you," warned the breeder. "That little one's the friskiest of the bunch. She'll be an alpha dog when she grows up."
"We've both had dogs all our lives," the man reassured the breeder. "We're very comfortable with dogs."
"Well then," said the breeder, "Don't say I didn't warn you. Lets go sign the papers and she's yours"
And so the nice and modest man and the nice and modest woman signed the papers and paid the breeder for the puppy.
The breeder picked up the little dog and handed him to the man. "She's yours now," he said.
The nice and modest man cuddled the tender little life in his arms and lost his heart to her.
And then she peed on him.
"Golly," said the man, or something like that.
And then puppy bit him on the nose. With razor sharp little puppy teeth.
"Golly, golly, golly!" said the man, or something like that!
And that was how Lindsay came to live with the Barry and Linda.
Before she was done, their lives would be neither nice nor modest ever again.
But they also would never be lonely.
Posted by Barry at 9:11 PM
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Norm, my step brother, was the first to arrive, much to his surprise. He prides himself on being "fashionably late" but had mistaken the start time for our party and was early.
I was talking with Norm, but it was my brother Keith and his wife Lynda I was thinking about. Keith had had by-pass surgery just a couple of months ago and then, on boxing day, his dog Jasper died. The loss was unexpected and devastating to them. A case of life throwing one blow too many your way.
Keith had phoned just before Norm arrived to say they were clearing out Jasper's things and to ask if we would like what was left of Jasper's dog food. I had told him to bring it over. There was a clear quiver in his voice beneath the surface normalcy.
Lindsay was staying with friends, she being too much of a party animal for our subdued affair, but different food would be a nice treat for her return.
This would be Keith's first big social gathering since his surgery. He has lost twenty pounds and is looking better. He is scheduled to return to work on Monday.
My youngest daughter Heather and her family were next to arrive, their children shy and sleepy after their long drive in from Guelph. They were quickly followed by my other daughter Kathy and her new baby. Kathy's husband and son were at a Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre and would be with us in thought, but only if they gave us a thought during the game. Which wasn't likely (the Leafs lost anyway).
Next came my brother John and his wife, who actually live closest to us.
Keith and Lynda had still not arrived and it wasn't like them to be late.
I was busy getting everyone drinks and finding games for the kids to play. Linda was busy with hor d'oeuvres and snacks. Everyone was talking and joking with everyone else. There was a lot of laughing going on. And music.
Linda's older sister Marg and her husband arrived. They had the furthest to come, from Burlington.
It was now two hours into the party but still no Keith and Lynda. I was wondering if I should phone them?
And then they were here, smiles on strained faces, a large bag of dog food and treats in Keith's arms, that Jasper would now never eat. Lynda telling me Lindsay would love the dog treats, they were gourmet dog biscuits she had brought hoping to coax Jasper to eat over Christmas. I gave them each a hug and took the bag from Keith.
For them, the difficult part of the evening was now over.
After dinner, my granddaughter Natasha (8) played her violin while I made coffee and threw another log on the fire.
Then, family by family, they put on coats and headed back out into the cold and drives home of varying distances. At least it wasn't snowing.
I picked up Lindsay from Nigel's, and she ran excitedly around the living room identifying the scents of people she had missed. Nose quivering, tail wagging.
I got out the package of gourmet dog treats that had already been opened for a Jasper who could not be tempted.
Lindsay had no such compunction. She is full of life and appetite.
The photo of my granddaughter playing the violin was taken by my brother Keith using his cellphone.
Posted by Barry at 11:04 PM
Friday, January 9, 2009
Lindsay, the English Springer Spaniel, always on the alert for signs and patterns, doesn't like what she sees. Her humans are engaged in a ritual activity that she remembers from previous unpleasant experiences, and from which no good ever ensues.
The first thing she notices is a heightened level of activity. Normally this is a good thing. Lindsay loves to see her humans in motion, instead of their usual sloth, drugging themselves into a state of alertness with vile cups of coffee.
Today they are running around moving things. Picking this up and putting it there, the garbage bin slowly filling to over flowing. The last of the Christmas decorations coming down, the old stuff reappearing. Barry setting the candles on the mantle, Linda putting them where they belong on the mantle. Barry putting the table back where the Christmas Tree once stood and arranging the lamp and photographs. Linda rearranging the lamp and photographs.
Linda on her knees washing the bathroom floor. Barry doing something similar in the kitchen. Barry hauling out the dreaded vacuum cleaner that sends Lindsay racing for the safety of the back office. Linda still cleaning the bathroom floor. Barry beginning to dust the tables. Linda redoing the kitchen floor Barry so recently cleaned.
Then the oven coming on and wonderful aromas beginning to fill the home. Lindsay should enjoy that but she is still in the furthest corner of the back office because, by now, the pattern is obvious Her humans are going to host a party. If she stays quiet and out of sight, they just might forget her. It's not likely, but it is the only chance she has.
Now kitchen table cloths are being ironed and hors d'oeuves suddenly appearing. Wine is being brought up from the basement and Barry is unpacking a box of liquor and exotic beer that he purchased the day before.
Lindsay continues to hide. Quietly.
The clock is ticking and the pace of the humans is picking up. They rush to and fro and then fro and to, somehow managing not to collide with each other.
And then it is off to the showers, hairdryers blasting, clothes thrown on and then a rush to the living room where they collapse into their favourite chairs, trying to look as if they have been relaxing there all day with nothing better to do than await their guests.
And for the first time in the day there is silence.
Until Linda utters the dread words. "The dog."
Somewhere in a dark corner far, far away, a little black dog hears the words and begins to quiver.
"Lindsay! I forgot about her." Barry leaps to his feet. "I better get her over to Nigels right away."
You see, there is a problem with Lindsay. She is too friendly, far too friendly, and is overwhelmed by young children, wound-up to the point of ecstasy by their presence. One on one she is tolerable. But multiple children is excitement beyond restraint.
Which of course terrorizes the children. And today the new baby is coming for her first New Years with the entire family, so Lindsay has to go to visit Nigel.
Lindsay loves Nigel. She just hates going to Nigels, because she knows she is missing out on the joy of playing with children. It is very sad.
Barry finds her hiding in her favourite place to hide, in the furthest corner of the back office, clips on her leash and leads her out to the car.
He talks to her encouragingly on the brief drive and then they are there. Lindsay remembers Nigel's house and her mood begins to lift. Her tail begins to wag.
Nigel and his wife greet her at the door and she runs to them with joy. Not the joy she would take in getting to play with young children, but joy none the less.
Perhaps this day won't be so bad after all.
And later, there will be left overs.
The graph of the woman cleaning is from Photobucket
Posted by Barry at 5:10 PM
Thursday, January 8, 2009
When we moved to Powassan in 1972 we didn't know the town's undertaker lived across the road. It wasn't one of the selling features of the town the real estate agent thought to mention. We also didn't know the ivy clinging to the wall of his two story house was home to a colony of bats that would rise out of the vines at dusk every evening, alive with a ravenous hunger.
We also didn't know that those who died in the winter could not be buried in the frozen ground until the spring, and that the bodies were stored in the windowless building at the back of his yard. That would have given a whole new meaning to the phrase, the dead of winter.
Of course Max didn't exactly look like the scary picture at the top of this blog. He was a small town funeral director who couldn't get away with putting on a false air of solemnity. He was a large fun loving man who knew more jokes than Jay Leno.
If we were sitting on our front porch on a warm summer weekend when a funeral procession would pass on the way to the cemetery, Max would always lean out the window of the hearse, wave and say something like, "I've got room in the back if you're interested."
I'd yell back, "Sorry, can't afford it right now."
He would get in the last word as the hearse drifted at a dignified pace up the street, "That's alright, we take credit!"
Sadly Max passed away himself in his early 40's. And his funeral parlor burned to the ground a few months later.
Not long after my wife and our little family had moved back to Toronto, we received an engraved invitation to the opening of the new funeral parlor. Max eldest son had taken over the family business, had rebuilt and was holding a wine and cheese party for selected guests along with an open house with a tour of the new facilities.
We've been invited to parties in some strange places before, but never a funeral parlor. Who could resist?
It was certainly the strangest party I ever attended. People standing and casually chatting throughout the facility including the embalming room with its large drain in the floor under the embalming table for all the bodily fluids.
The trouble is, I've never been able to look at red wine the same way since.
The image of the Undertaker is from Photobucket
The photo of the Powassan sign is my own
Posted by Barry at 10:01 PM
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The next day Linda did something I never expected. She phoned as if the night before had been a perfectly normal evening, instead of something out of the Three Stooges, and asked me to go out with her.
Given the previous day's disastrous date, I guess she was afraid I might have been too embarrassed to call her.
Although if something is important enough to me, I'm not all that easily discouraged.
Correctly guessing at my financial situation, she invited me for a walk on the boardwalk along Toronto's Beaches. The previous day's freak October snow had melted away and we sat for a while on an old park bench in the warmth of the autumn sun and watched the passing parade. Linda loves to people watch and the boardwalk brings out some amazing characters.
I used my left over two dollars to buy us each a hot chocolate.
We talked and walked and teased and laughed and mended the cracks my ineptness had introduced on Saturday night. We admired the chocolate foam mustache on each other's upper lip.
Over the next weeks and months we went for more walks, and pub dances, and friend's parties, and and wrote term papers together, and went to family functions. We phoned each other and talked for hours.
A year and a half later we were married and this May 2, will be our 39th Wedding Anniversary.
So here's to my beautiful Linda who knew when and how to call and who has given me the 39 happiest years of my life.
You are my life's treasure and I love you.
Posted by Barry at 10:15 PM
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I had romance on my mind but had made a classic male college student error. A tactical error.
If the definition of stupidity is repeating actions that have always produced one result expecting this time they will lead to a different outcome, then I had been stupid. Not that my stupidity had ever been in any doubt.
I had met a beautiful girl and with the help of a full moon, a hay wagon, a chilled evening and the example of other romantic couples all around me, had been inspired to take her hand and bring her close.
Now I had asked her out on a Saturday night date and was going to be working without the full moon, or the hay ride, or the romance of other couples for inspiration. But that was not my tactical error.
My error was going out with the guys for a drink on Friday night, expecting I could stop at two, when I would still have enough money left to pay for a Saturday night date with Linda.
I did not stop at two. Or four. And by the end of the evening, I was left with only ten dollars for the most important Saturday Night date of my life. For I had felt strange stirrings about this particular girl and wanted desperately to show her a wonderful time.
Linda had been left with the impression we were going out to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Even in 1970, ten dollars would be laughably inadequate for that.
So I was inspired to rethink the plans for the evening. We would go to a movie instead. Yes, that's what we would do. Linda would love it.
I showed up for the date on time, meeting her at the door of her apartment, heart pounding and terror coursing through my veins. The terror ratcheted up a notch when she appeared in a beautiful new dress, ready for the romantic dinner I had implied would be the date for the evening. Linda had picked up the implication from my saying, "Would you like to go out to a fancy restaurant for dinner on Saturday."
She was so beautiful my heart almost stopped, but fear kick started it back into action.
"It was thinking," I said, as we drove to the theatre, "Maybe we could go to a movie instead?"
Being a good sport, Linda's face lit up with delight, "What a wonderful idea, what are we going to see?"
"Well, I thought we'd go to the Golden Mile theatre."
"That would be nice, I used to go there when I was a little girl. What's playing?"
"The Golden Mile has lots of free parking."
"Yes it does. What movie's playing there?"
"Its a new movie. A comedy."
"I love comedies. What's it called."
My wriggle room had run out. "Twenty-three Skidoo."
Linda looked doubtful. "Twenty-three Skidoo?"
"I think its about those new snow mobiles. It stars Jackie Gleason. And, whoops, here we are at the theatre!"
Now back in 1968 ten dollars was still a tight stretch for two people at a movie theatre. Tickets cost $2.00 each, at a minimum popcorn and a drink cost a dollar and if we went to a restaurant for a coffee after the show, there wouldn't be much left out of a ten.
While Linda saved our seats, I picked up the food.
Linda looked at my purchase, strangely. "I didn't know drink sizes came this small," she said. "And this bag of popcorn is really....cute."
"My pleasure," I said.
Strangely enough, Twenty-three Skidoo proved not to be very funny. Or Romantic. Despite Jackie Gleason. And when we came out of the theatre we discovered it had snowed. And Linda was wearing open toed shoes, in expectation of a nice meal, in a fancy restaurant.
And when I went to fetch the car, it was stuck in the snow. And, although I rocked the car back and forth to free it, nothing was working. It needed just that little extra push to get free.
I had taken so long, Linda came trudging through the snow, in her open toed shoes, to see what was keeping me. I asked if she would drive the car while I pushed; but she had never learned to drive, especially a stick shift. So...
Fueled by a rising anger at a romantic evening gone wrong in every way possible, Linda grabbed the rear bumper of the car and gave a mighty shove, the car broke free, the slippery soles of her expensive open toed shoes shot backwards and she plunged face first into the snow. In her expensive new dress.
Later, she was in no mood to go to a restaurant for a coffee. At the door of her apartment, she shook my hand and left the impression she was not totally pissed off by the evening.
Even I was able to see through that.
And I arrived back at my home without a good night kiss and with the sad lack of any expectation of a future opportunity.
But, on the bright side, I had $2.00 in change still in my pocket.
Posted by Barry at 5:26 AM
Monday, January 5, 2009
If I'd known I was going to be the Blog Of Note for the day, I would have prepared a warmer welcome for you.
I didn't know, but I'm still delighted to see you! Call this a happy surprise for both of us.
I just wanted to explain the blog a little. It is a series of short anecdotes, most amusing, some sad, some frightening, most of them have a strong basis in reality (the one on Carl Jung directly below this being the rare exception).
The majority of the posts are stand alone but some tell tales too long for a single posting and these are identified as parts 1, 2 3 etc of a story. To make sense of these they are better read in sequence. This being a blog, that means that the first part will always be the one furthest down the blog.
I hope you enjoy your stay and feel free to leave a comment to let me know you've been here.
Sorry there is no cake to offer.
Posted by Barry at 3:42 PM
"How did you get in here? You do not have ze appointment, nein?" The elderly man was struggling to get his pipe lit.
"Well I was just passing by and I saw the light was on and I have this problem, see, so..."
"Zo you thought zat nice Dr. Carl Jung won't mind my dropping in unannounced for ze appointment" the elderly psychiatrist leaned back comfortably in his chair. "You thought, zat old man, has nothing better to do these days than listen to me babble about my little complexes, nein?"
"Well, I knew you'd been dead for 50 years so I thought you wouldn't be too busy to see me." I sat down in the chair opposite.
"Zat is still no excuse for rudeness." Jung looked scowled at the schedule on his desk. "Hasn't been updated since 1961. So, as it happens I have a few minutes to spare. What is your problem, mien herr?"
"Well I write this blog over at blogspot. I kind of tell anecdotes about my life and talk about taking my dog for runs along the bluffs and..."
Jung slammed his hand on his desk top. "Vas is this babbling. You think I haf time for zis babbling? Tell me your problem or go back where you came from!"
"Well, my problem is I have this story to tell, about the first date I went on with my wife, but it kind of casts me in a bad light."
"Zo don't tell zis story, zen." Jung looked fiercely over the top of his mustache. "It is enough that ve know the shadow side of our lives. Ve do not need to babble zem to za vorld!"
"But that's my problem, see. I don't want people to think badly of me, but at the same time I want to tell the story. It's a very funny story."
"Ah ze anima und ze animus. Ze two sides of you are in ze battle, no?" he asked with a kinder tone to his voice. "You are battling with ze dark forces of your nature, mein herr"
"Well, I wouldn't go that far. It's just a funny story. Only people may be laughing at me, not with me when they..."
Jung puffed thoughtfully on his pipe. "You are ze introvert, nein? And you are struggling with ze extrovert side of your nature in writing zis blog thing, nien? That is ze archetypal battle; but that is not what is going on here, is it, mein herr?"
"You are toying with ze famous Dr. Jung and with ze readers of your blog, are you not. They want to hear the rest of the story und you are giving them zis drivel." Jung paused for a moment, his eyes suddenly alight with understanding. "Wait a minute! Zis is not ze true complex you are here to discuss, is it? You are here only to delay ze revelation. You are building ze suspense zo people will come by tomorrow in ze even greater numbers to read your blog, is it not zo? You are playing games with us."
"Well I ..."
Jung waved a long and intimidating finger at me, "You are a despicable human being, an evil stunted toad. Zat is my analysis of you. Now get out of my office!"
I ran for the door.
"Wait," Jung bellowed! "That vill be $100 for ze analysis. Cash. Ve don't accept credit cards in Heaven! Und Part 3 of zis story had better be good!"
Posted by Barry at 7:15 AM
Saturday, January 3, 2009
This should really be titled, How I Almost Failed To meet My Wife Despite All Of Nature Going Out Of Its Way To Create The Perfect Moment And The Woman Being More Than Willing.
Let me confess a failing. I have been called charming; but I'm not. Charming is being entertaining for a purpose, with an ulterior goal in mind. It is a form of seduction. It is a much more sophisticated state than I will ever attain.
I yearn to be charming, but I am only entertaining. The entertainment is my goal. I want people to be having the best experience possible. And if it comes across as flirtatious at times, just wait ten seconds because I'm about to say something funny that will blow any romantic mood right out of the water.
I met my wife on a hay ride under a full moon. It was our first year in college and we shared a number of classes together as did many of the others on the hay wagon.
She liked me and had even engineered to be seated next to me. I was being entertaining (see above explanation), people were in a good mood, laughing, the moon was shining down, the horses were plodding along their bells gently jingling in the back ground.
There were so many of us on the wagon that we were pressed tightly together. I could feel the warmth of her hip next to mine. Oh yes I remember that part well. Some of the boys had their arms around some of the girls. Some of the girls had rested their heads on the shoulders of some of the boys.
A full harvest moon was shining.
When the axle broke on the cart.
The farmer apologized and we all had to walk back to the farm house together for the corn roast.
There was a light chill in the air and this beautiful woman walking next to me was laughing happily. Did I mention the full moon that rode the skies overhead?
She told me that her hands were getting chilly. I, helpfully, suggested she put them in her jacket pocket.
She explained that the pockets on that jacket weren't deep enough to put her hands in. It was a dilemma and I was a dunce, and her hands were still cold.
Fortunately my wife's best friend, Elaina, was walking behind us with her boyfriend and becoming increasingly exacerbated by my obtuseness. Elaina was not what you would call a subtle woman.
She came up behind me and whispered, loudly, in my ear, "She wants you to hold her hand you idiot!"
My wife smiled at me sweetly.
The moon shone down like the light bulb of a major discovery glowing over my head.
Thus spake zarthustra, from the opening sequence of 2001 a Space Odyssey, was suddenly playing in my ears.
I stopped being entertaining and reached out and took her hand, her small cold hand, in mine. We walked the rest of the way back to the campfire and the corn roast in silence.
That night we sang songs, we laughed some more, we sat close, I put my arm around her.
And then we went our separate ways.
But the next time I saw her at college, I invited her out.
And on that date I did something so stupid she kids me about it still. But that's a story for another time.
Posted by Barry at 6:39 AM
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Following a blast from her whistle and a great bellow of steam, her massive pistons began to churn and the long train pulled smoothly away from Pier 21 in Halifax. The war brides crowded the windows for a last glimpse of the Queen Mary, her superstructure clearly towering over the buildings at the pier.
On board that great ship they had enjoyed their first taste of white bread and real butter in over five years. They breakfasted on unrationed food, enjoyed the latest movies and the ship's band. They had been treated to a luxury few thought to see again.
They had been greeted at Pier 21 by a line of mounties in red surge uniforms, a large military band playing patriotic tunes, a crush of reporters and thousands of well wishers all waving the Union Jack.
It was a sweltering day in late May, 1946 and the women were not dressed for the heat. They had come expecting a land of ice and snow. Instead they faced a long slow ride in 80 degree temperatures with no air conditioning. They had as far to go across land as their voyage across the Atlantic.
Along the way crowds gathered beside the tracks to wave and cheer them on.
Periodically the train would stop and small groups of women and children would detrain to the welcoming arms of their husbands and to meet their new families for the first time.
At one crossroads, in an otherwise empty landscape, the train shuttered to a stop and a woman detrained with her young child and luggage; but no one was there to greet her. She sat on her luggage, periodically walking to a curve in the road to get a better view down its length. The train waited a full hour, blowing its whistle periodically, but still no one came and eventually one of the Red Cross volunteers who accompanied the brides came down and rested a hand on her shoulder. The woman got back on board and they continued to Toronto.
My mother often thought of that poor woman through the years, alone in a strange land, isolated among the joyful reunions taking place all around her, everyone on board feeling her embarrassment.
Had her husband mistaken the place, or the date (the train certainly wasn't keeping to any schedule), or had he just been conning her all those years? Everyone on board thinking, could that be me when my turn comes?
The slow and stately journey continued, the train sometimes sitting on a side track for hours to let regularly scheduled trains pass while everyone on board baked in the merciless sun. But at every stop the number of women on board lessened and my mother and I had more room to ourselves and a degree of comfort.
Finally, two days after leaving Halifax, the conductor walked through the carriages announcing Toronto's Union Station was less than half an hour away.
There was a rush for the washrooms and some last minute grooming. The sound of the train's engine began to echo as it pulled into the station. The platforms were empty until the train came to a full stop. Then some women leaped from the train and ran excitedly to the exits.
My mother and I waited for the rush to subside while she gathered our few things together. Then she took my hand and we stepped down from the train and joined the flow of women moving to the exits and down the stairs into the massive hall of the station.
It was chaos. Thousands of people had come out to greet them. Anxious husbands, his parents and other family members had all gathered for a first glimpse of the bride they had heard so much about. Reporters were everywhere snapping photos for the next day's paper.
It had been three years since my mother had seen my father and then he had always been in uniform. The only uniforms here were the police and the Red Cross escorts who had been with the women from the beginning.
It was a shock when she saw him step shyly out from the crowd. At six foot three he towered over everyone near him, dressed in sports coat and cloth cap. He pulled off his cap and twisted it anxiously. And smiled a big grin of pure delight.
I held back, frightened by the noise and the crowd, but my mother suddenly rushed forward pulling me until I had to run to keep up, letting go of my hand only at the last minute as she ran into his embrace.
I stood there, uncertain what to do.
Then a short lady in a polka dot dress bent down beside me.
"Hello," she said. "I'm your Aunt Nelly. Welcome to Canada."
Posted by Barry at 6:23 AM