Friday, January 28, 2011

Vehicle Vexation and Hyundai Hindrance

Yesterday was a very weird day. Sometimes we have those don't we? Nothing occurred that was particularly bad, and nothing happened that was especially good, unless you are, as I am, at an age where you consider waking up in the morning to be momentous.

Since the weather of late has been horrid, and I've been more housebound than I would like, I recently made the rather unfortunate choice of cutting my own hair...with nail scissors. I could almost hear my whiny teacher voice shrieking, "Scissors are for cutting paper, nothing else!" But I was undaunted. Like the kindergarten student who experiments with a newly discovered tool, using it to chew off massive chunks of locks, I could not be deterred. The result wasn't terrible, if I chose never to leave the house again. On the other hand, it wasn't salon quality either. Not even close!

Yesterday morning I decided to do something to improve on my coiff. My primary criteria were cheap and local. I needed a place that would be a step above my own bathroom and nail scissors. So I located a fairly inexpensive, unisex hairdresser and parked our old van in a spot with the vehicle pointing almost directly at the front door of the salon. The shop was located in a small strip mall that also houses a pet store, a bulk food store, a pizza place and the like. After confessing to the stylist what had happened, she went to work without comment or judgement. She trimmed and evened out my hair as best she could and I headed back to the van. That's when I saw a delivery truck that had been abandoned directly behind me. I was trapped.

"Why couldn't he park in one of the empty spots on either side of me?" I wondered.

 Since the strip mall had limited entertainment value, and I did not require another haircut, I sat in the van and waited. I waited and waited until the driver finally returned, got into his vehicle and left. He did not offer an apology. In fact, there was no evidence of guilt or remorse on his face. I was disgusted and rushed home to inform hubby. He was so immersed in his work that he would occasionally nod and respond with "uhhuh" as I blathered on about the rudeness of this driver.

In the afternoon, I was going to use my Hyundai rather than the van to travel to another town for a doctor's appointment. Hubby had left the car in the neighbour's driveway (another long story) and as I looked, I saw a vehicle parked directly behind it. "Arghhhhh"....I came back in the house, and trotted into his office where my beloved spouse was hard at work once again. I pointed out the window. He looked baffled. I said, "Look in the neighbour's driveway."

He responded with, "So? Ask them to move."

I sheepishly went back and tapped softly on my neighbour's door. She answered. While staring at my feet and turning several shades of fushia, I requested that the car be moved so that I might back out.

I arrived at the doctor's and parked my car between the appropriate lines in the lot. Something didn't feel right as I quickly selected my space, but alas, I was in a hurry and didn't give it another thought. Here's what I returned to discover.

BMW in front, Jeep behind. What's a Hyundai to do?
I was in a designated parking spot as were all the cars on either side of me. The Jeep behind wasn't there when I arrived, but was also appropriately parked between yellow lines. I was trapped yet again! After searching the medical centre, a fitness club, a flower shop and a travel agency and surveying the entire population of these buildings and offices, I determined that all I could do was wait. Once again, I waited and I waited, this time for almost an hour. The lot was meant for building tenants and customers and nobody laid claim to either the improperly parked BMW or the Jeep. The owner of the travel agency offered his sympathies and suggested calling the police.

It was at that moment that my problem solving skills finally kicked in. Who would drive a BMW and abandon it in the driveway of a parking lot? I dashed back up the stairs to the doctor's office and explained the problem to the receptionist, asking whether the doctor drives a BMW. She chuckled. Then she inquired why I hadn't asked sooner. The unamused expression on my face caused her to quickly grab her coat and request the doctor's keys. After trying for several minutes, she managed to make the BMW move.

Who would imagine that this could happen to me three times in one day? I rushed home thrilled that I had yet another story to tell hubby. "You'll never guess what happened to me...again. Remember this morning when I told you about the truck?" I said excitedly.

"Did she move it out of her driveway?" he asked.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jeans, Where Art Thou ?

I once worked with a tall, slightly heavy set, older woman named Meryl. She was always extremely stylish and had remarkable pieces of chunky jewelry which she acquired at specialty shops to match specific items in her wardrobe. Her clothing usually consisted of loose longish skirts and flowy tops. Most pieces were quite colourful and Meryl always had a confident air of sophistication that almost made me envious. Her outfits became such a part of her identity that whenever one of my friends and I went shopping and viewed a similar styled ensemble, we would say "That's a Meryl".

I recently saw an episode of "Golden Girls" on what must have been the history channel or deja vu. It brought back memories of Meryl, her style, grace and elegance. I noticed that Bea Arthur wore similar articles. The skirt and top draped over her body were not only loose and comfortable looking, but probably multifunctional, great for work, dinners, movies, concerts and the like.

One thing about Meryl caused me some curiosity. She never wore bluejeans. Even when jeans were deemed appropriate and considered the obvious dress code for an event, she would simply respond when asked with "I don't wear jeans." This statement was direct and forceful and told us all we needed to know.

The rest of the staff was baffled because her physique was quite acceptable and she did occasionally appear in tailored pants and a jacket. Clearly, she had no aversion to wearing items other than dresses. Why wouldn't she opt for jeans like everyone else?

On occasion, I watch the t.v. programme  "What Not To Wear". They always find the perfect jean for their unsuspecting "victim". After all, there are so many styles and colours to choose from...skinny jeans, boot cut, high waist, low waist, flared leg, straight leg, pockets, no pockets, black, dark wash, acid wash and after all, who doesn't wear jeans? A blog entitled "Building a Basic Wardrobe" suggests that a good start for anyone beginning to create a practical wardrobe for themselves would be to purchase a dress, a skirt, a pair of jeans, blazer, shirt, pants and pumps. It sounded reasonable. Once you have those items, you were to add accessories to them by keeping in mind the original pieces.

It was then that I realized why this wouldn't totally work for me. I do not need the jeans. In fact, I no longer wear jeans and can't remember the last time I put on a pair. I don't feel right in them. There are those who find jeans comfortable and attractive. When I wear them, I find neither to be the case. I don't think they are particularly warm, flattering or age appropriate. I would rather wear my pj bottoms in public and clearly, many others agree with me. Having said that, jeans can have their uses. They were after all once considered prison garb are still durable as men's work pants. They look great on some youngish women with a blazer and tall boots. They are enjoyed by teens and apparently keep some of the male population warm from the knees to the ankles.

At some point, as I passed my half century of life, I stopped wearing jeans. It was not a conscious choice but rather I'd say a subconscious decision. I purged my closet and donated at least a dozen pairs to a shelter. Around that same time I discovered Lululemon yoga pants. They were a gift from my daughter. My closet now contains a number of these items in various colours and fabric weights. It's what I wear because they are so comfortable that I feel as though I'm wearing little or nothing. I'm not a Lululemon stock holder although when their quarterly earnings are announced, I always wish I were. Sometimes, I still wear dresses, blazers, nice pants and the like, just as Meryl did. I have a basic wardrobe, just no jeans.

Meryl found her comfort clothing, she looked good in it and rarely strayed from it. She didn't care what people said or thought and much to the bafflement of the younger generation, she kept her responses to any queries simple. I now know how she felt. It's nice to be at an age where there's no need or desire to conform or explain.

So, in case anyone ever asks, "I'm Hilde and I don't wear jeans."

Friday, January 21, 2011

All That Canada Needs, Now !

I love this country as much as the next person. After all, what's not to love? We have freedom, we have opportunity, we have multiculturalism, we have health care, we have gorgeous and diverse scenery, we have hockey, we have the C.B.C., we have a warship, we have a Queen who provides us with endless entertainment and fashion tips and as if that isn't enough, we have the option of visiting Cuba and smoking their cigars should we wish to do so.

We also have seasons. The spring with its blooms and buds stirs in us the excitement of the coming season of heat and road repairs. Then comes summer, sometimes short and often so brutally hot and humid that it makes Arizona look like a desirable place to cool off. Hard to believe that we need air conditioned homes, cars, offices, stores and malls. Fall is nice if you like cold rain, raking leaves and the anticipation of the next season. Oh yes, then there's the winter.

It's the winter which makes it not only expensive to live in Canada, but causes many of us to be less healthy than we could be. We need winter tires, ice scrapers and snow brushes, extra heat and hydro, snow removal machines or at least a shovel, ice melter, plows, sand and salt, heavy clothing including at least one each of coats, hats, mitts, boots, scarves, snowpants, not to mention all the winter sports equipment, clothing and padding. Is it any wonder the ski-doo, the snowblower and hibernation were all invented by Canadians?

So, in the midst of all this, why has it been impossible for the government to see the need for a tropical island? For all the tourist dollars that go south every year, we could probably sustain such a place quite easily. Just think of the revenue, if we make certain that it has a theme park, a golf course and docking facilities. Families could go there instead of heading to Disney. Snowbirds could spend their months in Canada's own warm paradise instead of heading for Florida. Golfers could go there instead of to Myrtle Beach and finally, cruise ships could dock and help provide tourist dollars. Besides that, no high priced passports would be required by citizens.

At one time, there was talk of making the Turks and Caicos, with its temperature range of a low of 21C and a seasonal high of 29C, a part of Canada. After all, it's a British territory and many Canadians already vacation there. First mention of annexation was way back in 1917. The idea resurfaced in the 1980's, then again in the 90's when there was 90% public approval for the idea. So what happened? There were some constitutional issues, which led Nova Scotia to offer to take on Turks and Caicos as a part of their province. Once again, the idea was shelved and the popularity of a move in this direction declined during the most recent decade. All hope has not been lost, however. Rumour has it that in this year, 2011, the positions of Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police will be held by Canadians. This suggests that a good cleanup is needed before we might consider Turks and Caicos as an acceptable addition to Canada. Perhaps then?

Now, here's my best argument for acquiring these islands. The Queen is quite elderly now. From personal experience I have come to realize that the older we get, the more sensitive we are to a cold climate. When she tours her colonies, I'm pretty certain the Queen would be more affable to the idea of visiting a part of Canada if it were located in the Caribbean. I know I would.
Greetings Subjects. It is truly an honour to be in Canada's newest, warmest and southernmost province...Turks and Caicos.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Simple Wisdom or Stupid Stereotypes?

Well, I now know how grandmas are supposed to look and feel. Will I be ready? I am currently a step-grandma but am not sure that counts. When the time comes, however, I believe I will be prepared thanks to the marvels of  modern communication. Television and movies have taught me all I need to know about being a grandmother. I will be required to have gray or white, short, possibly permed hair, wear a flowered dress, support hose and stylish beige shoes with velcro closures. On rare occasions, I might even wear "slacks" and black laced footwear. There will be an apron firmly affixed to where my waist used to be. It will be removed when I am not busy baking cookies or tending to my plants. I will be somewhat feeble, unless I had the foresight to purchase the "Freedom 55" plan, in which case I will be living in the tropics, playing tennis in a skimpy white outfit while wearing my bladder control undergarments. My pill collection will include a suitcase full of drugs that have a few minor side effects. I will know this, because I will be reminded daily while doing what seniors do, watching the news. Some of these side effects can include headache, drowsiness, weakness in the joints, brittle bones, hearing loss, backpain, heart burn, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, numbness in the extremities, loss of hair and teeth, and will not allow me to drink alcohol or use any heavy machinery. Apparently, vacuuming is out. Try to stop me from drinking! I notice these ads never say "Do not eat okra while taking this drug."

I trust that all the aforementioned information on being a grandma is accurate because, having been a member of the teaching profession, I have been amazed at how educators are often portrayed. Firstly, don't even bother to go into the profession unless you are an opinionated, shreiking, middle aged woman who wears glasses or if you are a nerdish man in a suit or lab coat...who wears glasses. The exception is the phys ed teacher who is always clothed in a tracksuit and whistle. That individual doesn't require glasses to make his/her charges do 50 pushups or run 20 laps for whatever their most recent offense. The classroom teachers of course are there to be tricked, taken advantage of or mocked. Often, they are made to look foolish and uninformed during a parent-teacher conference. Then there are the shows where a teacher single handedly turns a group of knife wielding truants into model citizens...very realistic.

I realize that there are many more stereotypes on t.v. It's just that these two areas have hit close to home. So why are these particular individuals portrayed in this manner? I'm not certain. Perhaps it's to make them readily identifiable to the public. For example, a hip youngish grandmother who attends Zumba classes, dances to the beat of the "Black Eyed Peas", rock climbs and plays Wii games might not be viewed as being as credible in the role. On the other hand, the image of a woman quilting, knitting or crocheting while sitting rocking, in a darkly curtained, doily covered living room, awaiting the visit of her family immediately screams  "GRANDMOTHER" !  As for the teachers, I suppose it's the same sort of thing. Although I must say that one more recent show portrays educators quite differently. Do we now see them as they really are...youngish, narrow minded, rude, obsessive, argumentative, petty dictators with social emotional issues and no regard for anyone's opinion but their own? I'm not sure which is worse, the writers' and advertisers' depiction of the grandmas, or their images of teachers.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hilde's Handy Hints for Wasting a Weary Winter...

Wow, who knew it could be so much fun to clean and organize? I am so proud of my accomplishments that I could just scream. The weather has been horrid. I've been housebound for what feels like eons and yet, I have a sense of fulfillment which I can't begin to explain.

I don't dare share my efforts with my non retired career minded friends. They would remind me of how old and boring I've become. I remember when I was once one of them, enveloped in work. I'd come home after a long day, do the bare necessities...perhaps a load of laundry, eat some unidentifiable fridge leftovers, veg out in front of the tube and fall asleep exhausted. On good days, I'd make it upstairs to bed and sometimes there was even time to blow my nose or shave my legs. Next morning, begin again, same routine.

It was worse when the children were small because I also had to fit in their lessons, their school events,  remind them about homework, do a lot of nagging about their paper route, plus I had to cook. Apparently, good moms feed their kids.
Front hall closet even has hangers for guest coats.

Since I am unable to share my new found helpful hints with the aforementioned hard working friends I will illustrate these significant changes in my home and lifestyle on my blog. I am about half way done. It seems, that I can easily, efficiently and competently complete half of any job. If this snowy, freezing weather goes on much longer, I might be forced to get the whole house done. In fact, if my hubby dares stand still too long, he just might find himself with a label firmly affixed to his forehead detailing his contents.
Clothes colour co-ordinated albeit mostly black.

I even sorted and filed the coupons and recipes. No longer are there bits of random scribbled on papers and magazine clippings hidden in the back of cookbooks. Gone are the piles of outdated coupons that haven't been used because of their lack of order. Yes, these too, are labelled and filed.
Important hint - be sure to highlight expiry dates.
I expect that any eulogy about me will include this most important of all my newly acquired skills. It might sound something like this. "She was a ferocious filer, the master of bins, the siren of symmetry, and the queen of colour coding. When we think of her, we will always remember the cleanliness of her closets." 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Working for Fun Not Profit

It's a new year. I have now fully retired. Since there's only so much shopping, reading, house cleaning, tv viewing, exercising, travelling, furniture moving and puttering I care to do, it's time to commit to something new. I shall fill the void with meaningful courses, hobbies and community service activities. I have studied the options.

My resources are limited, so unlike some who are able to open private schools in South Africa, reconstruct homes in Haiti, monitor elections in the Sudan or educate teachers in the Dominican Republic, my age and lifestyle have forced me to offer my services locally.

Volunteer work in schools and with children is out. I'm old now. My patience for noise and organized chaos, are diminishing. Besides, I have done that type of work for so long that I refuse to share my skills and talents for free. Seniors are more appealing and I've often been intrigued by the ads for "junior seniors helping senior seniors"...a definite possibility. I'll consider it.

I was at a meeting recently where a woman approached me and convinced me that I should help at a hospital auxiliary used clothing and gift shop. "Great idea", I said, thinking about the amount of "stuff" I could unload from home during each weekly shift. I picked up an application form, filled it out and went downtown to the police department to get the compulsory police check.

"Do you have a letter from the organization you're volunteering at?" I was asked.

 I cringed at the use of a preposition at the end of the sentence, gathered my wits and responded, "Uhhhh, no, but they want a police check with the application."

"Well, you'll need a letter from them before you can get the police check. It'll cost you $5.65, unless you prefer to get one without a letter in which case it costs $28."  She looked at me suspiciously as if I were some kind of alien and added "Do you even live in this town?"

"Errr....yes, I do." I responded surprised at the implied accusation. "Thanks. I expect I'll be back."

Off I went. I added a note to my volunteer application form, stating the aforementioned police check info and the necessity for a letter. I dropped it off at the hospital and haven't heard a word since. Apparently, the hospital already has 600 volunteers. That's what happens in a town where the average age is senior. Lots of volunteers.

"I think I'll try the library", I said to myself.

So I either uploaded or downloaded the volunteer form from their website, printed it off, filled it out in detail and headed to the library.

"The volunteer co-ordinator will call you today or tomorrow," I was told.

It's now a week later. I haven't heard a word.

While I was clipping out information on art classes, cake decorating and stained glass window design, I noticed a course calendar from a local college tucked into the middle of the newspaper. I looked through the booklet and noted an interesting course entitled "Photoshop...Picture Manipulation".

"That could be fun, or strenuous, or difficult, or confusing," I said to myself. "Oh well, what's the worst thing that could happen?" Thoughts of overwhelming amounts of technological data, complex instructions and other scary scenarios raced through my head. I brushed them away with a tiny little brain broom created by my imagination. "I'm patient. I'm smart. I'm capable...I'm, gulp...a little nervous."

So I trotted over to the college, took a deep breath and signed up. A six week course beginning at the end of the month. I hope I encounter lots of beginners. I hate going to a class full of keeners who already know it all and immediately try to impress the instructor by asking questions wayyy beyond the basic, "How do I turn on the computer?"

So, no volunteer opportunities as yet but I am registered for one course. If nothing else, that will give me something to blog about. "Photoshop for Phools" or "Manipulation for Morons"...hmmm...Those are definitely more fitting titles for a person with my level of technological skill.

 I'm back to focusing on the possibility of helping in a seniors' home. I saw a notice requesting people to come along on field trips and do seasonal decorating. Sounds right up my alley. Guess I'll give it a try. Perhaps the seniors are not overrun by volunteer seniors offering to help in the senior facility.

How tough can senior field trips be to supervise? Seniors are less likely to run off than four and five year olds, and if they do, I'm pretty confident I can catch them. Their speech is probably at least as clear and easy to understand as that of a kindergartener and they have about the same number of real teeth. I doubt that I'll have to insist they wear their coats, hats and mitts and hopefully, they won't be losing these items along the way. And best of all, I won't get into any trouble with parents for things real or imagined which may happen on the trip.

So these are my current ideas for community involvement. Along with my continued attempts at writing, streetwalking (I'm not done yet), photo organizing, decorating and painting, I will hopefully keep myself amused for awhile. Oh, and don't count out the belly dancing just yet. It's still on my "to do" list. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In The Midst of Chaos...Beer!

The news from the "big city" lately has been nothing short of horrid and distressing. Besides the arrival of several long awaited snowstorms, there have been fires, bomb threats, police activity which included a need for the swat team, pedestrians run over by streetcars and the most recent and saddest, an officer down, killed by a suspect driving a stolen snowplow. How awful. My condolences to family, friends and fellow officers.

In the midst of all this chaos, I have been following a news story which has provided me with some amusement. For a number of days now, there has been a traffic issue west of the city. The reason? Six giant beer vats are being transported from Hamilton to the Molson Coors Brewery in Toronto. The vats are 45 metres long, 8 metres high and 7 metres wide and are said to be able to hold the equivalent of six million bottles of beer. That's a little more than I could drink in a lifetime and about a fifth of the amount consumed annually at Munich's Oktoberfest.

The route was carefully planned to avoid overpasses and cause minimal hydro, signal and cable outages. The vats left for their destination last Friday, January 7th, have been travelling during the night and parking alongside the road during the day. They are moving at a rate of 12 km per trip. A snail could slither faster. The vats were scheduled to arrive at their destination yesterday, Tuesday. They didn't. The reason for the slow rate is that hydro wires need to be raised out of the way as the vats progress. Sometimes, poles need to be removed and resoldered. Last night, the vats stood still in anticipation of the latest snowstorm.

Each morning, I tune in to Breakfast Television in anticipation of the latest movement report of the "Beer Vat Convoy" as it's been dubbed. I find it fascinating. It invokes all kinds of images in my imagination. In fact, it occurred to me that this would be a wonderful title for a new reality t.v. series, certainly as fascinating as "Village on a Diet" or "Stars in Rehab". The show could include the true confessions of the convoy drivers, the trials and tribulations of the hydro wire lifters, the innermost thoughts of the mechanics and pole welders and the frustrations of the rush hour commuters who have been narrowed to one lane of traffic. I think I'm on to something here.

One of the hosts of BT said that there have not been a lot of complaints about the beer convoy inconvenience. She went on to ask "would people be as tolerant if they were prune juice vats"? Funny.

It's all about the beer...Oktoberfest.

Today, I decided I'd like to see the vats. Is it something I need to add to my bucket list..."beer vat convoy viewing"? No. But nonetheless, it's a sight that is out of the ordinary, not something one would likely have the opportunity to view in a lifetime. I want to be one of the people who sees. Now I need to figure the logistics of how to make an unnecessary trip from east of the city to the west side in January.

There are those who would say, "beer vats, who cares?"         

To them I respond, "You just don't understand."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Obsessed with Jon and Stalking Donny

"Stalking" by definition means pursuing, following or tracking persistently. "Obsessing" on the other hand is defined as thinking about persistently. The word "persistent" seems to be the common thread. I've been told that I'm both obsessed and a stalker. I'm not so sure. If occasionally seeking out a person or two that one admires and whose talents one enjoys is interpreted as "obsessing" or "stalking" I guess it's true. I like to think of it more as seizing an opportunity. I have been fortunate enough to seize a few.

My "victims" as it were are none other than Jon Bon Jovi and Donny Osmond. They don't have that much in common except that they are both talented musicians, fine specimens of the male species and as far as I can see, nice people who have done good works with their fame and wealth.
Jon Bon Jovi in Toronto, August 2010

Toronto too...woohoo! Great seats eh?
 I didn't always know who Jon Bon Jovi was. In fact, I probably paid no attention or didn't care. He had been one of the long haired, creepy people of rock when I was younger. Who knew he'd age so nicely?

I really first noticed him on a 2002 t.v. show which I viewed from time to time, "Ally McBeal". I wondered how I had missed admiring such an obvious talent. I remember that when he sat strumming his guitar and singing, I was hooked...a new fan! I sought out info on Jon and his group and over the next eight years, watched every t.v. special and Oprah episode which featured the group. I was impressed with the housing he provided after the flooding in New Orleans. Who wouldn't want to live on Jon Bon Jovi Blvd.? How rare is it too for a rocker to have been married to the same person for 18 years? His songs have inspirational lyrics and my cell ringtone...well, for several reasons is set to "Livin' On A Prayer". I've seen him live on three occasions and although he will be back on tour in February, I will not be attending this show. Two concerts in one year would be too much for even this diehard fan.  Perhaps I'm not all that obsessed after all.
While tracking Donny, Jon was a bonus find
 at Mme Tussaud's Wax Museum in Vegas.
My history with Donny Osmond is a little longer. When I was about 11 years old, we had our first real t.v. Dad built it using whatever tubes, transistors, solder and other items he owned or found in the trash where he once worked. He also created a case, out of plywood stained brown with dark trim. It was massive...a full 17" screen and had the most clear black and white picture! We were so lucky. The family would gather to watch whatever were the essential entertainment shows of the time...Ed Sullivan, Country Hoedown, Andy Williams and the like. This is where I first saw a cute little Donny Osmond as part of the Osmond Brothers, a kid, a little kid. I paid no attention.

Donny signing autographs in Toronto
 As an adult, I saw the show "Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Donny, as Joseph was quite a fetching sight. He too had aged well. I discovered that the performances needed school choirs and immediately began my search for singers. I assembled a choir which included my own two talented children. We auditioned, made it to the finals but sadly were not selected as one of the four schools to participate in the production. A consolation prize of free tickets for family and friends were welcomed as once again I got to see and hear Donny. Since he was now living locally, what else could I do but show up when Donny made a public appearance at a local department store? I dragged a friend. We lined up. I saw Donny. She began to call me a stalker.
Joseph's Coat

It's me...with him...way back when !

Vegas 2010
It is nearing the anniversary of one of my last opportunities. So eager was I to see the Donny and Marie show, that I dragged yet another friend to Vegas in February 2010. We were sitting in excellent seats, so close to the stage that we could clearly see the droplets of perspiration on Donny's forehead. What an amazing show. As he wandered down and shook hands along the VIP ramp, an area which seated people who purchased more costly tickets, I leapt up from my chair, waved frantically, clammered over a fairly large set of female twins and seized the opportunity. It was an impulse. I reached for his hand. He grabbed mine and shook it. His hand was clammy and sweaty. Yes, I washed my hands after. My friend hid under her chair and pretended she didn't know me.
Donny has generated millions for charitable organizations particularly those involving children. On his 53rd birthday, he and Marie performed to sold out audiences in a Broadway Christmas event. I wasn't there. Perhaps I'm not a stalker after all. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Touch My Words and I Will Haunt You...or Worse!

I don't profess to be some kind of literary genius. I like reading and writing and I now do both for enjoyment rather than to learn something new, although I believe that you always learn something new. My days of highlighting text books and poring over a professional library are over. I find some non fiction works intriguing although I don't often read them anymore unless I am intensely fascinated by a topic or require a new low fat recipe.

Words and images are wonderful and there are many authors whom I greatly admire. There are also several who have killed countless trees for no apparent reason except that their one time status as a "New York Times bestselling author" allows them the right to continue writing drivel. I shall not name names at this point, and I am almost ashamed to admit that I have actually read countless such "steeley" efforts. One such author, and I use the term loosely, is so prolific that I'm fairly certain that she doesn't even pen all her own works anymore. In fact, some of the paperbacks are reminiscent of the writings of a ten year old schoolgirl experimenting with words and being liberal with language. Then there are those writers who try to launch the careers of their untalented children by "co-authoring" mysteries or encouraging their offspring to use their parent's well known moniker in bold font. This saddens me since there are plenty of good writers out there and the odds of having anything published run statistically in the area of one in a million.

Fortunately, literary masterpieces, works that will no doubt endure are still being written. There are authors who research the politics and history of their topics so incredibly well, paint such vivid images or write such convoluted yet fascinating scenarios, that their work will likely stand the test of time and show up as "classic" at some point in the future. And so they should. They should be read and appreciated exactly as they were written in this current century. An author's work, whether good or bad is an author's work.

No doubt, there will be controversy in the future as to whether many of this century's books are suitable, language appropriate, politically correct for use in various school systems, just as classics like "Catcher in the Rye", "The Scarlet Letter", "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "Brave New World" and "Lord of the Flies", to name a few, have created issues over recent decades. Once considered sexually explicit, "Madam Bovary" and "Moll Flanders" are tame compared to any movies or television programmes available nowadays. Socialist views, once considered heinous and corrupt are espoused successfully by many countries.

For the last few days, Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn", a social commentary on life and slavery published in 1885 has been front and centre in the news. The reason? It uses the "n" word to refer to a slave and black person over two hundred times. A publishing company, NewSouth Books, working with a Twain scholar, Alan Gribben, has seen fit to change the original wording to render it "less offensive". Less offensive! Less offensive? I am offended at the prospect of someone having the nerve, the right, the gall to change the words of a man as brilliant, insightful and benevelent as Mark Twain. Mark Twain, an ardent supporter of abolition and emancipation. Mark Twain, a man who personally paid for the education of several black people. Mark Twain a genius ahead of his time.

The Calgary Herald says " Huckleberry Finn has long been the target of zealous sorts who want to scrub it clean of the era of slavery in the United States' troubled history. Their battle has mainly centred around banning it from school libraries...." The same article also asks why stop here? Many other pieces of literature contain the word in question eg. "Gone With The Wind" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" . That's the point isn't it? Do we need people to go through every book ever written to "cleanse" these works of anything potentially offensive? Once this is done, do we re-edit based on the political correctness of the day? Will all this sanitizing eventually render an author's work mediocre and unrecognizable? And then I ask, why stop with literature? Why not rewrite history books to make the past more pleasant and acceptable? Let's leave out all the facts that offend, shock or potentially make us nervous, uncomfortable or unhappy. Omit data that makes a particular country look bad...oh wait, there are some countries who already do that aren't there? Aren't we glad we don't live in any of those places? Aren't we fortunate to have freedom of speech? Or do we?

Perhaps the point of the recent controversy is to re-ignite interest in and sell more copies of "Huckleberry Finn". If that's the case, clever.

It's only my opinion, but I don't believe that anyone should have the right to change someone else's words. Whether those words have come from a brilliant scholar or some old woman writing a blog, leave them alone!

Just a warning, should anyone attempt to change my words, I shall haunt them to the end of time!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Dad Said...

As with many elderly, particularly those with certain medical conditions, my dad occasionally said strange, random and even a few offensive things during the months prior to his death. This was most surprising since all through his life he chose his words almost too carefully. He was usually kind and tried to be tolerant and as accepting as possible of everyone...well, except for those with tattoos, piercings and droopy pants but that's another topic. As a younger man, he mentally edited and censored his thoughts ad infinitum. In fact, he used to joke that by the time his clever comment or interjection was ready, the countries of the world had changed their borders and all the maps had been reprinted.

I suppose we've all had that happen. "Why didn't I say that?" or perhaps the opposite, "Why did I just let that come out of my mouth?" I'm not certain which is worse although in my experience, no amount of backpedalling can erase the latter. Trying usually makes matters worse.

After he'd had a few mini strokes, only some of what dad said made sense and words could often be construed as random and angry. Like a small child seeking approval, he'd repeat his comments and await a response. We tried to ignore improprieties. Sometimes he spoke in tongues...well, German and it was a bonus if there were people close by who actually understood the language. But dad was always still in there. The wheels were turning.

What a struggle it must have been to connect the ideas with the words. Occasionally, when he spoke, his thoughts didn't match the topic of conversation and his comments trailed off in mid sentence, leaving us dangling or scrambling to fill in the blanks.

On days when he was completely lucid and aware, there'd be his familiar grin followed by a zinger which, as always caused us to double over laughing, tears streaming from our eyes. To his credit, dad was able to chuckle at himself as well. I remember the day I offered to move a pair of overstuffed electric armchairs out of the corners of his condo.

"I can do it. I don't need your help. I can move them myself." he said.

To which I responded, "Dad, you can't even move your own self."

We both laughed.

Once in awhile, he'd mutter and make one of his all too familiar mind boggling comments. I'd stop in amazement to hear yet another valuable piece of insight into the state of the economy, the environment, the election, space and planets, evolution, the Japanese work ethic, the string theory or matters of spiritual significance. I would nod my head smiling enviously, wishing that I had been fortunate enough to inherit a larger portion of that brain power.

My young adult children recently mentioned that they found it unusual that their Opa commented on a new hooded robe that we gave my stepmom last Christmas. "Remember when Opa asked if it was a hoodie? Nobody his age usually even knows that word or what it is."

"Yeah, that was cool," they repeated in unison. "He called it a hooooooodie." And we all chuckled at the memory.

One Saturday this past summer as dad sat in my kitchen reading his "Scientific American" magazine, he sadly admitted, "I can't do it anymore. I once could have written this stuff myself and now I have to read it over and over and I still don't always understand it." It was as painful for him to admit that as it was for me to hear.

Some of dad's insights were simple and to the point. Some were based on a lifetime of experiences and some were a result of his newer more recent day to day life as an elderly person with certain issues. On aging, he shared, "Getting older sucks. Each year you find yourself doing more socially unacceptable things." I'd quietly hand him a tissue and he'd smile appreciatively, and wipe his drippy nose without need for further communication.

Dad knew things. He always knew things. He made it a point to know things. Even when he had trouble remembering, connecting and processing, he still knew. I could see it in his eyes.

Near the end, of course, he was no longer hiding behind the veil of social acceptance. He did what he could and said whatever he wanted. I liked his bluntness, his jokes and his opinions and I liked learning what he really thought. It certainly wouldn't have knowingly been his choice, but it was what it was. And what it was, was 80 years of honesty, stored, saved up and broadcast to the world during his last two years of life.