Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Shootout--Outdoor Food

Patty and Reggie Girl have organized the Friday Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon with over 77 contributors. This week's theme, chosen by girlchef, is OUTDOOR FOOD.

There are links to many of the Friday Shoot Out participants from literally around the world at the bottom of my left panel. For a comprehensive list see Patty's blog. Maybe you'd like to join us as well and post photos of your community? Click here for everything you need to know to join the Friday Shootout Gang. Next weeks theme is POWER--How is your community powered.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.

The following photos were taken at our community picnic last September. My community association in cooperation with Toronto Parks Recreation and Forestry, hosts a free community picnic every year, complete with games for the kids, jumping castles, displays and free foods.

And yes, that strange looking guy in the white coat, white gloves, white hat and sun glasses is me. Taking my turn at cooking hot dogs.

And finally, a small shot of me finally getting to eat after cooking and serving over 700 burgers and hot dogs. Ah, the joys of being president of a Community Association!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Dreams Of Lindsay

Lightning flashes and rain begins to thunder against the roof.

Lindsay comes scampering out of the dark of the back office, slows to a halt at the reassuring sight of Barry and Linda in the livingroom, and then walks at a more dignified pace over to the fireplace.

What, me scared by a little lightning, she seems to say.

At the fireplace she begins to walk in circles, scratching periodically at the carpet. Round and round she goes scratching the carpet into a more comfortable nest, before she flops to the floor with a window rattling thump.

Somehow, Lindsay has never mastered the art of the graceful recline, when she's ready to lay down she just drops.

A distant thunder roars and rumbles across the sky and the beat of the rain increases.

Lindsay closes her eyes and is asleep within seconds.

Barry watches her with amazement. She looks so comfortable. By now she has recognized an unfortunate change in her daily routine. No longer does Barry take her for runs, or even walks around the block. He is wrestling with a nauseating dizziness that has confined him to his chair and bed. A world swirling vertigo that shows no sign of let up or improvement.

So Lindsay has stopped reminding him that the time for her walk is overdue. She isn't happy about it, but she has come to accept it.

In her sleep, Lindsay has rolled over on her side and her legs and nose have begun to twitch. Barry notices her eyes moving rapidly back and forth. Lindsay is deep in a dream.

No longer before the fireplace, Lindsay runs the pathways of the meadow at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. Everywhere she is enticed by fragrant scents that lead her off the path, deep into the bushes and tall grasses. Here the sun is always shining and a gentle winds ruffles the hair on her head and long floppy ears. She recalls her encounter with the coyote and the naked man, the grieving Hindi family and the fashion models. Her heart beats faster at the memories of running the beach at the bottom of the bluffs and watching a huge flock of seagulls take to the sky as she runs into the midst.

And then the telephone rings and Linda answers it. Lindsay reawakens to her place before the fire and the sound of the storm outside. She yawns and sighs and looks over at Barry, reading quietly in his chair.

Then closes her eyes once again and returns to sleep.


For more background information about me than you likely want to know, please check out Linda's blog today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Power of a Mountain and the Meaning of Dreams

It has been a discouraging couple of weeks, as my recent "Mr. Grumpy-pants" post may have suggested.

I continue to have frequent vertigo which has confined me to either my chair or my bed. Either I am continuing to be dehydrated, (despite drinking copious liquids throughout the day) or the chemo/radiation treatments have caused some structural damage to my heart.

I prefer the dehydration option. But I'll soon have to undergo some tests to discover what exactly is going on.

In the meantime, I've received some gifts that have lifted my spirits and that I want to acknowledge.

Kathryn Magendre, author of Tender Graces, has sent me the power of her mountain. Of course she doesn't know if her mountain has actual healing power, but she has gathered some representative artifacts of the mountain, including her favourite rubbing stone. Linda was especially touched by the gift and purchased a box to house them. The now sit on the table beside my chair.

Nolly Posh has had her own brush with cancer which led her to the healing philosophy of Dr. Ian Grawler. A cancer survivor himself, he credits meditation and an anti-cancer diet for creating a cancer unfriendly environment within his body for his healing. She sent me a couple of his CDs and I have recently purchased a copy of his book from his website.

Artist and Psycholgist Jeanette Stgermain
has taken the trouble to do a more complete analysis of the dream I published a week or so ago. Although limited by not knowing more about me, I found her comments very insightful:

"First I'll have to say, "wow, wow, wow." It is not often that someone comes out with a dream like this. I'll give you a narrative for all the details. All the details make up the whole pic.

"As I said before on your blog, the Reformation was a time of great change, religiously as well as socially. Luther's view that the bible should be able to be read by the common folks had huge consequences. It meant the common people started learning to read and write. So, education became available to the masses, whereas before only the noblemen and clergy were able to read.
It's easy so continue the line...till now - a time of great change.

"The pageantry you saw played out before your eyes is every significant (and I'm jealous - not many people are given such perspective in their dreams).
The pageantry you saw are the 7 levels of society that are able to bring change.
1. Agriculture
2. Arts
3. Business
4. Education
5. religion
6. noblemen/governmental leaders
7. royalty/president/figurehead

"So, the change that your dream is telling you about, is as vast as in the time of the Reformation. That this whole thing is pulled by row boats, points to that this change is brought on by the works of men (in one of my blogs: row boats)

"The river is the river of life. The colors of your dream were common for that time.

"These were the details and it gives you a picture of the changes taking place then (in the Reformation) and now in society. It's a complete overhaul.

"Remember, the dream is for the dreamer. So it depends on how you see these things. And how you felt in the dream, and how you felt after. There is no question that this dream has significance for you personally. Also, because you can't forget about it! Your website tells me that you feel connected and place high value in your ancestry. I don't know enough of the Scottish history, how they all took these changes in the time of the Reformation.

"Another big part of your identity is your name. I know 2 other Barry's. They are both leaders, have organizational skills, are socially well-liked, and have a sense of humor. I know you do consulting, but I don't know shat kind of consulting and for what kind of firm. Your job may also have to do with your dream.

"Just brainstorming here, because I don't have all the puzzle pieces of you and your family:

"Maybe these changes have to do with your job and your unconscious is giving you heads up that things will change in the near future?
Has it happened to you that you "predicted" something would happen when you were consulting, and it did? Is this a warning dream - that you need to make changes, because your "whole" world is making changes, and you need to keep up with them?
Or is it, making changes on a broader scale, not just you and your wife?
Are these changes to be seen in light of what you're going through physically?"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Introducing Mr. Grump-Pants

"You're being Mr. Grumpy-Pants today", Linda said.

"NO," I replied. "I"m not."

"Yes," Linda replied to my reply. "You are. It's a sign you're getting better."

"I"m not getting better. That's why I'm grumpy. If I was grumpy. Which I'm not."

"Your colour is much better today and your voice is certainly stronger."

"It still hurts when I swallow anything. I get dizzy all the time. I feel trapped in the house. I feel guilty about all the work you have to do. I haven't been able to walk Lindsay since last weekend. I had to have you drive me home early from lunch with our daughter's yesterday because I got exhausted. I'm still on a very restricted diet. And my back is starting to hurt from sitting around all the time. Nothing is getting better."

"Mr Grumpy-pants." said Linda, in a case-closed kind of voice. "And how long did the doctors tell you the side effects of radiation would last?"

"Two weeks."

"And how long has it been since your last radiation?"

"A week."

"So how should you be feeling?"


"And how are you feeling?"


"Mr. Grumpy-pants."

"Well, after five months, I'm just getting tired of it all. I want my normal energy level back. I want to eat food because I love eating, not as part of some elaborate medical intervention where I need to take three pills at prescribed times just to keep the pain in check so I can swallow."

Linda's voice softened, "I know. But trust me, you are stronger, your colour is better. Its only because you're feeling better that you're getting impatient."

"I'm not impatient. It's just that everything is moving too slow."

"Mr. Grumpy-pants." said Linda.


Please check out the comments section to this post and follow the link to Anvil's blog for an extremely moving video.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Shoot-out: Reflections

Patty and Reggie Girl have organized the Friday Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon. This week's theme is reflections.

There are links to many of the Friday Shoot Out participants from literally around the world at the bottom of my left panel. For a comprehensive list see Patty's blog. Maybe you'd like to join us as well and post photos of your community? Click here for everything you need to know to join the Friday Shootout Gang. Next weeks theme is to be determined.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.


The Trans Canada VIA Train arriving at our local Guildwood GO/VIA station. Train engineers are scheduled to go on strike this weekend if a last minute deal isn't arrived at by then. They will be joining Toronto's garbage workers who have been on strike for over a month. Soon nothing will be working in Toronto.

Reflection of the forest where I take Lindsay for her runs, on a rainy day.

Houseboats are becoming more common at Bluffers Marina. It's a life style that appeals to me, but not one I would ever take up. Many of the houseboats have been winterized and are lived in all year round, even through Toronto's winters.

Lindsay is undeterred by life's puddles. A reflection of her adventurous nature?

Linda and I have fond memories of staying at my daughter Kathy's in-laws cottage in Northern Ontario. A very peaceful and beautiful place.

Although this beautiful home in Perth Ontario is another reflection of my vacation tastes

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lindsay Meets A Mischievous Breeze

The mischievous breeze was born over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and played for a while among the palm trees of St. Augustine. Then, picked up by a passing wind, it moved on to dance along the streets and gardens of Newman Georgia, before laughing along the stilled waters of the backyard crocodile ponds on the outskirts of Charleston. Doing a couple of backflips, the little breeze played among the valleys and hollers of West Virginia, before swooping through the flowerbeds of Exmore. Soaring into the air it darted among the flags and sails of the boats in Crisfield harbor until it was picked up by a strong wind and was flung across the mountains into Upper New York state.

Toying with the gentle waves of Lake Ontario, the little breeze crossed the border into Canada without the now requisite passport and was lifted by the updraft at the base of the Scarborough Bluffs and was flung high into the air over the Meadow on top.

Far below it spied a stumbling scarecrow of a man out walking his black nosed waggy tailed dog. The dog was racing and prancing with glee among the tall grasses of the Meadow while the man followed along behind on shaky legs.

Delight filled the breast of the mischievous breeze and it swooped down and lifted the man's hat off his head, tossing it whirling high into the air.

Instead of being annoyed, as the breeze had expected, the man laughed and set off after his wind-born hat. But just as his fingers touched the brim of his hat, the little breeze lifted it again and set it swirling into the air, the man's little black dog in hot pursuit.

But at this point the breeze and the man and the dog were arrested by an angry noise.

A woman was standing on the pathway shaking her fist in a tomahawk chop and yelling "NO dog! Stay away from me! Stay away!"

Lindsay, for indeed the little black dog was she, hadn't even noticed the woman up to that point, her entire attention being focused on the suddenly animated hat. But the screaming and fist shaking was now proving far more interesting. Obviously this was a woman who wanted to play!

Her attention now diverted, Lindsay began to meander over to the playful woman, a smile on her lips and her tail wagging like a metronome.

Seeing Lindsay coming toward her, the woman shrieked louder and shook her fist more vigorously. Lindsay was delighted and nearly in love.

The man, however, being human and occasionally capable of a more sophisticated discernment, had come to the conclusion that play was not really what was on the woman's mind.

So he called Lindsay away. Obedient, but reluctant to leave such fun behind, Lindsay turned and ran back to him, just as the mischievous breeze lifted the hat off the woman's head and sent it sailing high over the air above the little dog, setting Lindsay off on another merry chase.

The woman was now in an apoplexy of rage. The man reluctantly called Lindsay off once more, clicked her leash on her collar and retrieved the woman's hat himself.

Carrying it over to her, he attempted to explain that yelling loudly and making agitated gestures were not the royal road to avoiding a dog's attention. But the woman just snatched her hat from his hand and went storming off along the path, various unprintable mutterings floating on the breeze behind her.

Much to the annoyance of the mischievous breeze, who once more lifted the hat from the woman's head and flung it far out over the edge of the bluffs and into the water's of the lake, 90 meters below.

There followed a stunned silence. Woman, man and dog rooted to the spot by what had just occurred.

It's job now done, the little breeze soared high into the air, caught a lift from the jet stream and went soaring across the Atlantic toward Europe, seeking other games to play and other people to play them with.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The End At Last

Suddenly traffic has come to a halt. We'd been making good time through surprisingly light traffic on our way to my last appointment with the radiation oncologist when things ground to a halt at Danforth and St. Clair.

Although we were high up in my daughter Kathy's Grand Caravan, we couldn't see past the 18 wheeler in front of us. But we could see the reflection of the flashing lights of the Emergency Services Vehicles ahead.

"Accident?" I guessed.

"Sure looks like it," agreed Kathy. "Let's hope they get things moving soon."

"Kathy, since we're stuck here anyway, tell your dad that story about Tim's last ball game," Linda suggested from the back seat.

Kathy brightened, "Oh you should have been there, it was amazing. Like something out of a movie. They have pitching machines this year that fire a perfect pitch for 8 year olds. Unfortunately, in the first game of the season, the boy ahead of Tim got hit on the head with the pitch and that terrified Tim. For the rest of the year he would shy away from the ball. The coaches were amazing, they were patient and constantly supported him, but he just wouldn't step up and swing.

"Until last night. He actually swung at the ball and got a hit. But then he was so surprised he just stood there, with everyone yelling 'Run Tim, run!' Which he finally did, with everyone on both teams, including the parents, cheering for him.

"Then the next batter got a hit to move him to second and then third. When the next batter came up everyone was yelling 'You've got to hit Tim home!' They didn't care about the guy getting a hit, they just wanted Tim to get home. And when the boy did hit the ball and Tim made it to home plate, everyone at the game rushed onto the field. The kids on both teams were yelling and hopping and screaming. You'd think they'd all just won the world series."

"Oh geez, I wish I'd been there for that! What a moment for Tim!"

Ahead of us, the traffic began to move again.

"I knew you'd love that story," said Linda.

"At bed time that night," Kathy laughed, "He told me, he might want to get another hit next time."

And suddenly we were through the intersection, past the fender bender, and back on our way to PMH.

At the hospital I was weighed in (78.9 kilos [174 lbs], down 3 from last time) and taken to the Examining Room to wait for the oncologist. Hopefully for the last time. After two hydrations and a concerted effort to keep my liquid intake up, I was hoping she wouldn't send me for still another two hour hydration.

Linda had been tracking my liquid intake throughout the previous day and gave the list to the doctor when she arrived. Adding up the various drinks she decided I'd had about a litre and a half of liquid.

"Not quite good enough," she said. You need two litres at a minimum. But I don't think we need to do another hydration. Just remember to drink more.

"You have a CT scan scheduled for the 7th and you're seeing the medical oncologist on the 16th, so I think we need to book another follow up for the 20th, here in radiology. If all goes well, we will turn you over to the surgeon to schedule your operation, fairly soon after that. We can't wait much more than 8 weeks before surgery because the scaring from the radiation will start to become rigid and it will make surgery more difficult."

"So, are we likely to see much change in the CT scan?" I asked.

"No, it's not likely we'll see any. Even if the radiation and chemo has killed all the cancer, it takes the body a long time to get rid of the residue. It might be months before we can say we've got it all. But, of course, in your case, where you're having your esophagus removed, we can do a biopsy much sooner. And, needless to say, can do a much more complete biopsy."

"Lucky me." I agreed.

"But for now," she smiled, "You're free to go. Free to forget about us for a few weeks. You've done extremely well and I'm very happy."

I thanked her for her kindness, as did Linda.

And we walked back to Kathy's mini van feeling a little anticlimactic, after five weeks of almost constant pain and struggle. Where was my cheering team surging onto the field? I guess, as adults, we are above that sort of display. That only happened for kids, or in the movies. Was I expecting the crowds in the hospital lobby to break into a spontaneous Bollywood dance number?

In the van, Linda said "Barry!"

I turned around to look at her, smiling, her hand held flat toward me for a high-five!

We slapped hands, and suddenly the world felt right again.

Friday, July 17, 2009


"Oh," said Linda, reading the last posting on my blog, a catch in her voice, "You were crying!"

"Well," I said, a little embarrassed, "I was. You know how run down and dehydrated I was getting, and being treated by the oncologist with such unexpected kindness, deeply touched me. But I'm feeling much better now."

The phone rang. It was my daughter in Guelph. She'd been reading my blog and was concerned.

"No, he's fine now," Linda assured her, looking across the room at me as if to make certain my mood hadn't changed in the last fifteen seconds. "Its been a tough week. Uncle John drove us down to the hospital yesterday for your dad's very last radiation treatment, and they needed to hydrate him a second time. He's been doing really well keeping his liquids down today."

Reassured, the conversation drifted off onto other things.

And when Linda hung up, the phone rang again.

It was my brother Keith. "I was just reading your blog," he told me.

"Maybe I should be more careful in what I write, or in how I write. I didn't mean to scare people. I was very run down from the weekend and I failed the posture test."

"The posture tests?"

"They take your blood pressure and pulse rate while you're sitting, then they have you stand up and take it again. I was 120 over 75 with a pulse of 79 while sitting, but 99 over 84 with a pulse of 111 when I stood up. That's why I was so dizzy. Dehydration."

"And today?'

"My pulse rate still goes up when I stand, but nothing like that and I've really been keeping up with my hydration. Linda's been my coach and keeping a log of everything I've been drinking. We have another appointment with the oncologist on Friday. Kathy's driving us down."

Somewhat reassured, we talked about other things and then disconnected.

The phone rang again.

And again.

Through the day.

I really have to be a little more careful in what I write. I seem to have frightened a lot of people.

On my blog the comments just kept building up. Loving, reassuring comments. Touching thoughtful comments.

And so today I'm drinking. And drinking. And eating. And feeling stronger.

Of course I wasn't able to get around to taking pictures of Lawn Art for today's Friday Shootout Post and scouring older pictures on my computer didn't reveal much of interest. But I did find the photo at the top of today's post, of the fountain in our backyard, surrounded by Forgetmenots.

Somehow, that just seemed a very appropriate image for today.

There have been a lot of people expressing a lot of concern that I will never forget.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Low Ebb Of A Soul And A Body In Crisis

The Cancer Volunteer Driver's car pulled smoothly up to the doors of Princess Margaret Hospital for my second to last round of radiation. I thanked the driver and hopped out and the world lurched and spun.

Stunned, I reached out and supported myself against the roof of the car. But the world still spun.

The hospital doors loomed before me, thronged with patients coming and going. I pushed myself away from the car and propelled myself on shaking legs toward the spinning doors where others exiting the building supplied the motive power. In terror of collapse, I searched the lobby desperately for a free seat.

And found one.

I literally collapsed into it and my private earthquake came to an abrupt end. Seemingly with no damage done.

For a while I sat quietly watching the passing parade, the endless swirl of the sick and dying as they moved with something resembling an odd dance through the massive lobby. I looked up at the tall graceful balconies high above me and took courage.

I had a brief appointment with the oncologist to discuss a frightening experience I'd had the night before when I suddenly began to throw up blood and then a half hour of radiation before I could go home and put all this behind me. But first I needed to get to my appointment because it wouldn't come out to the lobby to meet me. And there wasn't far to go, just around the corner to the elevators and down one story.

I got up slowly, tentatively and the world stayed still. Thankfully I shuffled on weak and shaking legs toward the elevators and found one just opening its door and headed in my direction.

At the radiation oncologist's department, I gave the receptionist my hospital card and the world started to spin again.

"I have to sit down," I said, collapsing into a nearby by chair. She looked at me with concern.

"Your appointment with the doctor is in the radiation clinic on the next floor down," she told me. "Would you like me to come with you?"

I was about to say no, just give me a minute and I'd be fine but suddenly realized I wouldn't be. So I just nodded my head and she came and took my arm and together we descended to the next floor, where she took over and quickly ushered me into the clinic.

I thanked her and the head nurse came and sat with me for a while discussing my various symptoms.

"The doctor needs you have some blood work," she explained "So I've sent for a porter to take you to the blood lab and bring you back to us again. So just make yourself comfortable until the porter comes."

But after fifteen minutes the porter still hadn't come.

"We have a spare bed," one of the other nurses suggested, "Why don't I just do his blood collection here, it looks like he's been through a lot and it would speed things up."

I fought my way across another earthquake zone to a curtained bed and lay on the cool crisp sheets. The day wasn't going at all as I had planned. But this felt good.

My blood taken, the oncologist arrived.

"Oh Barry," she said, a kind warmth in her eyes. "You look so terribly sad."

And she reached out and took my hand in a simple human gesture.

And for the first time since this all began five months ago, five months of battles cheerfully gone into, five months of receiving bad news after bad news, five months of loosing my work, my runs with along the top of the bluffs with Lindsay, five months of being able to keep up with simple chores around the house, five months loosing such everyday things as the ability to eat whatever and whenever I wanted, five months of loosing my sense of myself as a strong and vigorous man, five months of turning from a husband into a patient, something broke in me.

And I began to cry.

Suddenly, embarrassingly, profoundly, began to sob.

While the oncologist continued to hold my hand and the nurse went scurrying for Kleenex.

"It's been a long hard battle, hasn't it?" she said. "That last week of combined chemo and radiation is a terrible thing we have to put people through. Not many come through it was well as you have."

The nurse returned and I dried my eyes but my brain had turned to mush.

"You are terribly dehydrated," the oncologist went on. "We're gong to rehydrate you and you will start to feel much better. You'll get your strength back, I promise you. Now lay back and we'll get you a warm blanket."

And so I laid back on the bed and they got me a blanket and hooked me up to a two litre IV of liquid, turned off the light in the little cubicle and left me to watch the water dripping into my veins.

And gradually, slowly, drip by drip, I began to feel better. Calmer.

Until, at last, I slept.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the Headless Man (retold)

In a way this is cheating. I'm re-posting an article I originally wrote back in 2008. It is a creepy true story told as a Sherlock Holmes fable.

I had intended to retell the story in a more straight forward way since it is creepy enough to hold its own, but the past few post chemo days have been very rough and I don't have the energy.

What brings a fresh element to this tale is the discovery of video footage I actually shot the day this happened. You can see the fog rolling in, hear the sheep, see the Bed 'n Breakfast we stayed at on the Isle of Skye.

Hope you enjoy it.

"It reminds me of our adventure with the infernal Hound," I commented upon our return to our lodgings at 221B Bakers St.

"Indeed Watson, there are salient features reminiscent of the Baskeville case," replied Holmes, settling into his favoured chair. "Our dear friend the explorer and his wife have once again provided us with some amusement."

"Good Lord, Holmes, you cannot consider their frightening ordeal a form of amusement?"

"If you say so Watson," Holmes gave me a most peculiar look. "But consider. The explorers, Barry and Linda, were staying in a Bed and Breakfast located five miles from the town of Portree on the Isle of Skye, whilst the explorer conducted some research into his family history."

"Quite so," I agreed.

"Linda had had a most disturbing meal. The two were seated at a favoured table by a large picture window overlooking the majestic hills of Skye. The large sheep population of the Island dotted the hillside.

"Both the explorers had ordered the fresh lamb for their repast, wanting to savour the local cuisine. But as they commenced eating, Linda was horrified to notice the sheep beginning to gather at the fence outside their window. Staring at her as she ate."

"To that poor woman's mind it seemed the animals were gazing on her in judgment as she consumed one of their fellows."

"Quite put her off her meal," I commented.

"Were it not for Barry gallantly exchanging places with her, she would not have been able to continue.

"However, with Linda safe from the judgment of the local domesticated flock, they were both able to enjoy their dinner."

"Ah, but then we get to the meat of the matter, so to speak," I picked up the tale, "For the couple then decided to go for a walk in the night air before repairing for the evening.

"As I recall, they scaled the large hill overlooking the bed and breakfast to gain a view of the valley from this height. The large herd of sheep were everywhere to be seen, but the handsome couple were the only people abroad in the night."

Holmes verily squirmed in his comfortable chair, "And that, Watson, is when the fog rolled in. Unaccustomed to the suddenness and impenetrability of a Skye fog, the couple were caught unawares on the hillside, the bleating of the sheep, the only comfort in the gathering dark.

"They began their descent of the steep pathway, their vision limited to a mere yard before them. And that is when they heard the terrifying sound of footsteps in the night. Another soul was abroad in the gloaming, yet due to the fog, this mysterious companion could not be seen.

"The couple hurried to the bottom of the hill, the twisting and narrow path, limiting their speed. Being courteous, they then waited to greet the stranger who was also abroad in the foggy evening. But the footfalls of the other simply ceased. Not a soul emerged from the fog. They were quite alone. And their's had been the only pathway down the hillside."

"Puzzled, they retired to the warmth of the peat fire in the lounge, where the dear hostess of the establishment brought them some tea to warm them from the chilly night air."

"Whilst leafing through a tour book kindly left on the side table, Linda chanced upon a article that returned the chill of the night to her bones. She drew Barry's attention to the article with trembling hand.

"The very area in which their bed and breakfast resided was notorious for the appearance on foggy evenings of a headless man whose appearance had frightened several locals to their death.

"'You don't think, those footsteps could have been the headless man?', the dear woman questioned our friend.

"But for once, Barry was at a loss for words, the footsteps in the fog, a haunting memory reverberating in his troubled mind."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Shootout: Textures

Patty and Reggie Girl have organized the Friday Photo Shoot Out asking us to post photos of our local community every Friday. From a handful of participants it has grown into a world wide phenomenon. This week's theme, chosen by my wife Linda, is TEXTURE.

There are links to many of the Friday Shoot Out participants from literally around the world at the bottom of my left panel. For a comprehensive list see Patty's blog. Maybe you'd like to join us as well and post photos of your community? Click here for everything you need to know to join the Friday Shootout Gang. Next weeks theme is LAWN ART.

I live in Toronto, in the Scarborough area of Toronto, in the West Hill area of Scarborough. So West Hill will be the focus of my photos.

Wanting to step up my game, since my wife chose this weeks theme, I have decided to move beyond the rational boundaries of West Hill. My justification for this move is that the following pictures were taken right outside the Princess Margaret Hospital that has become almost a second home to me over the past five weeks.

The fact is that the Hospital sits on University Avenue, one of the most majestic of all streets in the City of Toronto. Of course it was designed that way as the lead up to Queen's Park the seat of the Legislature of the Province of Ontario, built in 1893 in the Romanesque style. The statue above is of Sir John A. MacDonald the first Prime Minister of Canada. (click on any picture to enlarge)

The Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Queen's Park shortly after these photos were taken yesterday and the grounds of the Legislature were filled with cheering Japanese-Canadians. Even in Japan the Royal family can only be seen on public occasions behind bullet proof glass. Here they walked through the crowd greeting people personally.

And this of course is Queen Victoria. Notice her smooth texture. Queen's Park, of course, was named after her, although it was her son Edward VII who formally opened the Legislature on her behalf. The statue of the Queen is at least three times her actual 5' height.

And speaking of smooth, this the Ontario Hydro Building.

The flowered boulevard runs the entire length of University.

Princess Margaret Hosptial sits in a block of major hospitals. The statues here are on the front lawn of the Sick Kids Hospital. Also on the same block are Mount Sinai and Toronto General Hospital

Statues can be found at every intersection along the boulevard, there black metalic surfaces a stark contrast to the numerous trees and flowers that line the way.

Texture, you want texture, just take a look at this canon. And if you don't agree we're turning this sucker around and pointing it at you.

The is the United States Consulate fitting snugly and unpretentiously into a corner of University Avenue.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lindsay Muses

It isn't easy being a dog, but it can often be comfortable.

Dogs come to understand quite a bit about the human culture and the personalities of their owners. They can recognize human behavioral patters with great ease and make predictions about changes in those patterns based on very subtle clues.

Lindsay can tell from the type of clothing I put on whether we are going for a run in the morning. It I put on the right clothing, she dances for joy at my feet and runs to the kitchen where we keep her leach.

If I put on the wrong clothing, she heads for the side door where I exit for the car and lays in front of the door. She wouldn't want to be left behind by shear accident, so she's giving me one last chance to take her for that run.

This week I've been leaving early for the Hospital and she's been getting no morning runs at all. I'm carrying a pouch of 5FU that is being pumped into my body 22 hours of a day. Wheezing in and wheezing out every few seconds. Lindsay has learned that that fanny pack and that noise add up to no early morning run, and she has given up even asking. Even hoping.

Instead she hops up on her chair and watches me go with saddened eyes.

The sadness lasts about thirty seconds after my driver pulls his car out of my drive, then she goes and barks at the back door for Linda to let her out into our large yard, where she delight in chasing away all the birds and inspecting all the trees for squirrel (or even better raccoons).

We are haring some work done around the house this week. Work I normally would have done but am no long able. The grass is being cut by a company and student painters are repainting our kitchen cabinets and our outside decks.

There were four students here yesterday and today both the student group and the grass cutters will be here.

I kid Linda that while I'm gone to the hospital to be pumped fun of poison, she fills the house with men.

Yes, she says, but she's got to pay them.

However their various and unpredictable comings and goings make for an interesting day for Lindsay who has to stick her long black nose into everything that's going on.

Which the men thought was cute at first and then a little distracting, so Linda was forced to keep her in the living room for much of the day.

Ah well, tomorrow I come off the pump, and if I continue to survive the week as well as I am currently, by the weekend we should be able to get out for a run again.

In her chair, Lindsay wags her tail with faint hope, as if reading my thoughts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Casual Conversation

Over the past few weeks we've become our own little group, our own "movable feast". The composition of the group changes daily, but by now we've all ridden together and know each other's story.

Today our Cancer Society Volunteer Driver is a young Russian woman with spiked red hair and a surprisingly harsh laugh. She is finding her way to our homes using a GPS Monitor, our various addresses pre-programmed and a pleasant female voice guiding her through a maze of backstreets.

On the radio, Neil Diamond is singing about his love for "Cracklin' Rosie", that store brought woman.

Robert, in the front passenger seat, is squirming and restless, glancing back at us as if to work up the courage to make a statement.

"Did you say something, Robert?" I prompt.

"No, no! Nothing," he says, turning his gaze resolutely toward the front window. For about ten seconds, and then he turns quickly back to the three of us in the back seat. "Do you mind if I ask, how do you handle casual conversations?"

"Casual conversations?"

"You know, you pass someone, they say "Hi, how are you?", you say "Fine, and you?", they say "Fine" and you both go your separate ways. Except nothing is really fine with you these days, so it feels like you're telling them a lie."

"Saying I have cancer does tend to turn casual conversation into something a lot more serious, and complicated, and maybe turn into a lot longer conversation than either of you have time for." I agree.

"And how many times do you have the energy to be up for such a conversation?" Robert shakes his head vigorously.

Cari, the accountant, on my left, is eager to join in, "Oh, I know just what you mean. I was at the hairdressers yesterday and she was making polite conversation, asking me what I was doing with my afternoon. If I tell her I'm going for radiation at Princess Margaret Hospital, that becomes a whole different kind of conversation than I had the strength for."

"For some people it brings out the need to tell you horror stories about family members or friends who've just had the worst experiences. I mean real nightmares!" Rube, the dental hygienist, on my right, agrees.

"So how do you handle those conversations, Rube?" I ask.

"I just tell them I'm fine. I mean I haven't lost my hair or anything, I don't look ill, and if I don't know them well or don't have the time, I just say I'm fine. I mean, they don't really want to know how you're doing. They're just saying hi."

"But does that feel like a lie," Robert asks.

"Never," says Cari adamantly. "Like Rube says, it's just a social convention, that kind of talk. They won't even remember passing you by five seconds later. And if you start telling everyone about your cancer you start feeling like a drama queen."

"I guess," Robert agrees reluctantly.

"I guess you have to play it by ear," I say. "If you have the time and know the person well enough, you might tell them. If not then its fine to just say you're okay."

"So how is everyone this morning?" asks the Russian driver, breaking into her odd harsh laugh.

We laugh along with her and the car winds its torturous way deeper into the city and our various treatment protocols at PMH. Our little group now lost in thought about the individual fates that await us.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Dream

I normally don't remember my dreams, but then this was no normal dream.

For one thing, it didn't come to me in my own bed in the stillness of the night. It invaded the nightmare my life had become during my first week of combined chemo/radiation treatment. I hadn't been able to eat or drink for two days and was lying in bed in the Cancer Day Care hooked up to an IV pumping cisplatin into my veins.

When I fell asleep.

And discovered myself on the banks of the Thames River in London during the time of the Reformation. Before me, filling the entire span of the river, a giant five story stage was being pulled down the length of the Thames by teams in four row boats, thick ropes attaching them to the stage.

I was strangely aware that I was dreaming while at the same time experiencing this ancient time as all too real.

On the stage the entire pageantry of that time was being played out each on its own different level. On the ground floor of the stage, peasants were busy tilling the fields, caring for livestock and dancing to the sound of a flute.

On the next level shop keepers were hawking their wares, keeping their books, manufacturing their various products.

On the middle level the clergy were preaching and praying and shaking their incense.

Above them the nobles were feasting and jousting fighting off the enemies of the realm.

While high above them all, the King sat on his throne laughing and waving to the vast crowds who lined the river banks.

"This can't be real," I recall thinking in the midst of my dream. "A stage this size would act like a vast sail and could never be pulled down river by row boats. Even modern boats with powerful engines would never be able to keep such a thing property aligned. Not to mention upright."

And then I woke up, marveling at the capacity of the human brain to create such a vision in such detail. The dream was rich in browns and grays, I could feel the breeze, smell the pungent aroma of the river water at my feet.

Jeannette Stgermain's blog
has a three part series on dreams, and it got me thinking about this one.

Does this strange dream have meaning? Is anyone out there into dream interpretation? Insights anyone? Of have you had similar dreams, or even more interesting ones you'd care to share?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Verdict on Barry

Suddenly my blog was not loading properly. Kathryn was the first to mention it. She could only get the frame to load, but none of the posts.

Then others began to have the same problem, even going to Linda's blog to let her know they were having trouble.

I was having no trouble with Firefox but when I tried accessing the page with Internet Explorer I had the same problem as everyone else. So I tried fiddling with elements within the posts, deleting some of the larger pictures but that resolved nothing. The page still wouldn't download properly.

In the end I switched to a new template and gave myself a whole new look. One that downloads fast no matter which browser I use. So I think I solved the problem, but please let me know it you're still having trouble.

And I hope you like the new look.

Meanwhile, back in the world of reality, yesterday was judgment day for me. It was the day my various oncologists put their collective heads together, reviewed the battery of tests they had ordered, in order to determine if I was fit to withstand the battering I was about to receive during the final week of treatment.

The dreaded fifth week of combined chemo and radiation. Not everyone can tolerate the fifth week, but survival rates go up significantly for those who can.

So I wanted to be in their number. No matter how ill the treatment made me.

And the first week of combined chemo/radiation had made me very ill indeed.

Fortunately all the test results came back negative. Which is a good thing. Positive means they had positively found a problem, but they hadn't

Although my white cell count was a near thing. My immune system has taken a battering by four weeks of daily radiation. A normal healthy white cell rating is 3. The lowest white cell rating they will consider for the fifth week is 1.5

Mine was 1.6.

So I have to become "bubble boy" for a couple of weeks because the fifth week is going to knock me well below 1.5 before its done. I won't have much resistance to disease by the time this is all over.

And of course my oldest daughter has a cold, so I'll only be talking to her by phone.

In the meantime, I have recovered from Thursdays downturn and am eating and feeling quite well again and have the weekend to get myself as strong as I can before Monday when I strap on the dread 5FU pack for 24 hour chemo.

This time next week, of course, it will all be over but for the surgery. And I get a month or two off to rebuild before that happens.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Shoot Out

Sorry, no Friday Shoot Out today. I had a bad day yesterday and have an early morning appointment at the hospital today.

I did receive a beautiful flower basket from the staff at my work yesterday along with a card signed by everyone on staff.

I'll try to get something up tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lindsay And The Earth Box Caper: A Verdict

Once Upon A Time, Barry brought an Earth Box. It was a pretty little contraption that would give him something other than his illness to think about. And it would eventually feed him wholesome organic vegetables, with minimal effort required.

And it was good.

But it was not to be.

An evil witch (as opposed to the good witches who visit this blog and leave kindly comments), cast a spell upon his efforts and within days his Earth Box was in tatters and his plants ripped asunder (Barry has always wanted to use the word "asunder")

Suspicion fell upon many a likely culprit including a squirrel, a cat, a raccoon and Lindsay Magoo. A feral black cat has been visiting the neighbourhood recently, yowling in the night and driving housebound Lindsay to distraction.

Raccoons have been attempting to raid Barry's compose bin and driving housebound Barry to distraction.

Squirrels have not been seen regularly.

In the end, after much pondering and soul searching (and administering a lie detector test to Lindsay) she was exonerated. She is far too pretty to have committed such a dastardly act.

Neighbours have righteously pointed the finger at the masked raccoons who have committed similar acts of wanton destruction upon their own gardens.

And so Lindsay is free at last to roam the vast spaces of Barry and Linda's back yard, free from suspicion.

And Barry rescued two of the plants and placed the Earth Box up on a table beside his deck where they have thrived and promise still to bear him the fruits of his labours.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Barry, Linda and Lindsay also want to wish all our Canadian Friends a Happy Canada Day 2009. I hope you enjoy this incredible version of our National Anthem from the CBC: