What Lies Within

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2014 by davegerry

toilet 2

After months of completely neglecting this blog I suddenly feel compelled to write about stools!

You know you’ve hit a truly marvellous stage of life when you have to be concerned about what’s coming out the other end. Couldn’t I just skip this part? (At my own peril, I suppose) It now seems that the annual physical at the doctor will require a sample. Oh, for the blissful bygone days of anonymous movements!

The last time I had to care about anyone’s bm was when one of my children, as a toddler, swallowed a penny. The doctor wanted proof that it had passed. It was my job to forensically find the buried treasure. I did, but I’ve never been the same.

Naturally, nobody wants to dwell on doo-doo. Once it’s out we want it gone..as soon as possible. No toilet flush is strong enough. No outhouse drop is deep enough.

If you haven’t faced the prospect of this most daunting harvest let me tell you how simple it’s become. In fact, I’d like to nominate the individual or laboratory team that has pared down the process for a Nobel prize.

When you go to a lab they give you the ‘kit’. This consists of your data sheet, a piece of biodegradable paper and a small vial containing a little plastic sample stick. The lab technician explains how it works…which has to be one of the most awkward seminars in history. Basically, they want the tiniest scintilla of stool. Just a little dab’ll do ya. The people who have to test this stuff as part of their job must have had a big party when they saw how little they now had to deal with. I can’t imagine what it was like before. Like a scene out of Borat, I guess. Technology has truly saved the day.

Despite the fact that you get a stool lecture and a complete instruction sheet (featuring anthropomorphic, cartoon-like humanoid figures who are sampling their stools)  you just know that there are many people who will screw this up. Too much. Too little. It get’s contaminated if it hits the water in the toilet bowl. I wonder what the world record is for negating a stool sample.  Do they cut you off after the 5th ill-fated attempt? If you can’t handle an allen wrench this might be a challenge.

It is possible for your sample to expire. You have to get it back to the lab within a week…but, don’t worry, they recommend keeping it in the fridge to preserve its…what? Goodness? Stoolability? What section of the fridge would be most appropriate? The cheese drawer?

The best part of the kit, for me, is the list of Frequently Asked Questions. I’m sure, people who work in medical labs sit around at cocktail parties and regale each other with what they heard this week. The FAQ’s generally centre around quantity and quality but there is one that is my true favourite : Can the test be mailed back by Canada Post?

Not unless you’re trying to make a statement.

It’s a blur

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 18, 2014 by davegerry
A moving tribute

A moving tribute

The Winter Olympics are half over and I’m all montaged out. There must be entire television production teams in Sochi completely dedicated to putting pictures to music…sometimes the sappiest music that has ever been penned. These are the montage teams, I guess.

After you’ve seen three or four montages on any single day, you’ve hit the montage threshold. By the way, some sports lend themselves to musical interpretation. Figure skating comes to mind…after all it’s actually performed to music. Curling..not so much. I can’t get weepy and sentimental over a series of curling edits…no matter how masterfully it is done.

The kiss of death for any Olympics is the weather delay. The time difference between major North American television markets and Russia is already working against live coverage…but if weather gets in the way, look out! That’s when you see a kaleidoscope of montages . The montage allows the broadcaster, who has been forced to yak endlessly, to take a breather and go to the bathroom. Gotta fill that air time with something.

On the last day of the Olympics, at some time during the closing ceremony show, we’ll get the Mother of all Montages. This will be a compendium of imagery collected from all the other compendiums. It will be designed to make us feel all warm and fuzzy…although I’ve never been a big fan of the fuzzy.

And then it will be over. For another four years. The editing teams will be off to Rio in 2016 for Summer Olympic montage production. There better be some girls from Ipanema in those montages. Gosh, I wonder what music they’ll use?

Knead to Know

Posted in Food, Glorious Food with tags , , , on February 13, 2014 by davegerry

DSC_0779

I really am turning into my father. This is fine with me as he was a rather extraordinary fellow in so many ways. I learned to cook from my dad. He was a great experimenter with ingredients as well as a notable forager of wild food.

He did not bake a lot…although, on the rare occasion he would make a loaf of bread, he would often knead it in the clothes dryer. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. I would wake up in the morning and think, ‘What the hell is he doing?’. I thought this was so strange at the time but now that I think about it, this actually made some sense. Nestling bread dough inside a clean, tied towel and letting it get nudged around in a barely warm environment probably led to better loaf.

My wife is not about to let me bring flour and cornmeal and yeast anywhere near her beloved Maytag. That’s okay. I have found a very good recipe for bread recently and have taken to baking up loaves as hostess gifts (instead of bringing wine) when we are invited over for dinner. I think people appreciate the effort. This recipe has to be started about 15 hours before you bake, but it is dead easy and the results, I humbly submit, look and taste as good as any artisan product. I am still alarmed at what people will pay for a loaf of boutiqued bread.

I remember interviewing a woman in the tiny Newfoundland town of Brigus. She was the ultimate matriarch of the community having borne more than 20 children. I sat in her cosy kitchen and listened as she described a lifestyle that , for many years, did not include such luxuries as indoor plumbing and a washing machine. She used a scrub board over a tub.She also home-baked all the bread for this massive brood. I can’t imagine how many loaves. That oven must have been going 24 hours a day! She baked as a matter of necessity and economy. That’s a lot different than knocking off a loaf because you just happen to be in the mood.

Still, regardless of motivation or methodology, few things that come out of a modern kitchen carry the cachet of fresh-baked bread.

Shine a Little Light

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 29, 2013 by davegerry
Light me up!

Light me up!

You’re looking at an incomplete picture. It’s a lantern without a boat. The lantern came to me at Christmas…a gift from the family…with a tag but no note because, well, no note was really needed. The message was hanging right there as sure as one of the ornaments on the tree…and the message was, ‘Get out there and get your next boat!’.

I’m looking, but finding the right sailboat at the right length in the right place at the right price..is no slam dunk.

I had a lovely little oil burning lantern given to me by my wife three boats ago. There’s been a lot of water under the keel since then. This was before there was a house. This was years before there were children. That copper lantern was hung on the stern rail of my last boat and served me well. It provided a lovely warm glow…suitable for a snug reading session in the cabin below or for a relaxed round of late night drinks, on deck, at a quiet anchorage under the stars. I really loved that last little lantern. It connected me to all the floating islands of my past

One day, under a fresh breeze, heeled over somewhere in the channel between Bowen and Gambier islands, the strap that held the lantern to the stern rail let go. I was there when it snapped and it happened so fast I couldn’t grab for it. So I just stood there and watched helplessly as the lantern splashed into the wake and sank….just like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of the movie ‘Titanic’. Only quicker. Gone. To the bottom of Howe Sound. My heart sank a little bit too.

A last glimpse of the last lantern.

A last glimpse of the last lantern.

Now I have a new lantern….all the way from a speciality manufacturer in Vermont. It needs to have its wick trimmed, oil reservoir filled and it needs to swing freely to throw that lovely warm light around a convivial cabin. This is now a lantern in urgent need of a vessel. Me too.

Can’t Stand It

Posted in Manly Ways, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 15, 2013 by davegerry

The annual limbo beneath the limbs

Where I limbo ‘neath the limbs

Every yuletide, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with the Christmas tree stand.

The Christmas tree stand is second only to the garden hose on my list of uncooperative inanimate objects. Some years are better than others. If I buy a fairly straight-trunked tree with fewer bushy branches down low, I am doing myself an immense favour. If you complicate just one of the engineering elements that constitute placing the tree in the stand…your life becomes a holiday hell!

I now have the tree in the stand this year but, because there are a number of attractive low-slung branches, which I am trying to retain, topping up the water reservoir has become a curious and painful blend of yoga and isometrics! I know there are stands out there with little plastic pipes and such that help deliver water to the tree…but I’m committed to this cast iron, rock solid, no-tipsy stand now….and I’m not buying another.

I still remember by father’s efforts at stabilizing the family Christmas tree using a a large bucket full of rocks. Once he had the trunk wedged into the rocks he would get on a ladder and wire the top of the tree to a nearby curtain rod. Sometimes the wire would loosen the trunk from the rocks and sometimes the rocks would pull down the curtain rod. Time for another rum and eggnog…oh, and hold the eggnog!

This year’s tree is sucking back liquid like Richard Burton. Every few hours I arm myself with a flashlight and a small ,long-spouted watering can, shimmy beneath the boughs and attempt to refill the reservoir. It is taxing muscles that I haven’t used in decades. It is ripping the teflon patch from my abdomen that was once placed there to contain a hernia. I am holding the watering can at arms length while propping myself up on one elbow and attempting to train the beam of the flashlight on the dark recesses of the reservoir so that I don’t overfill the container and thus make a mess on the carpet. I may make a mess on the carpet myself at this rate!  And to make this exercise even more uncomfortable, I am trying to see what I’m doing through a pair of progressive eyeglass lenses that are not remotely calibrated for this complicated depth of field.

This is why people buy plastic Christmas trees and spritz about the house with pine-scented Febreze.

Still, I find it oddly satisfying. As long as I can crawl under the tree I suppose I will. It’ll fall over one day and pin me to the floor with sap and tinsel. But there are worse ways to go.

50 Years

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2013 by davegerry

JFK

I am reposting this from a few years ago. The television is awash with the image of JFK. How can it possibly have been 50 years? I can’t say it better than I did originally.

_________________________________________________________________________________

I watched a PBS special on the Kennedys last night. I have seen it before but that did not stop me from viewing it again. And I cannot watch it without emotion. It is a well-measured piece of journalism which does nothing to gloss over the personal shortcomings that percolated beneath the public triumphs of the pre-eminent American political family.

The Kennedys are a sizable hunk of mythology to much of the population. But for some of us, old enough to remember, there’s a kind of collective, recollective scar that twitches to this day.

I have bookshelves full of titles on the Kennedys. Why?  I have, at times, obsessively immersed myself in their story. This is no mere ghoulish fascination but, rather, a futile attempt to connect with a hopeful yet desperate time. My friends know that if I could send myself back it would be to the year that I was 10 years old. 1963 was a watershed year. No one who lived through it does not carry a bit of its baggage in hand.

They sent us home from school early the day John F. Kennedy died. One minute I was tossing a basketball during recess..the next, we were all walking home at a very unfamiliar time of the afternoon. I remember coming through the front door to find that my mother was absolutely shattered. Shattered. I remember that she took me to a movie that same night (because she had promised to) and I will never forget that she sat there beside me quietly crying throughout the film. No ten-year old could truly understand what had just happened. But it didn’t matter because the impact had gone home. No child wants to see a parent in that kind of pain.

Five years passed.

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed just few months before my mother succumbed to cancer in the Autumn of 1968. It was the worst year of my life. I often wonder, despite her devotion to her family, if my mother ever doubted the sanity of the world..ever wondered if it was still a place worth living in… as she lay in bed, at home, waiting for the end.

Many, many years later I travelled to Dallas. I was there to produce some television but when I swept open the drapes in my hotel room I found that I was looking directly down into Dealey Plaza. Director Oliver Stone had just finished production of his film JFK. The Texas School Book Depository sign, put back for the movie, still sat atop the building.

I dropped everything and told the cameraman that before we did anything..anything at all..we would have to walk into Dealey Plaza. This was not negotiable.

We approached up the sidewalk in the same direction as the fateful motorcade and I looked up at the window. You had to look at the window. There was a tangible, physical pull. And then we turned the corner at the intersection and it was all there. All of it….the freeway overpass, the railway fence, the grassy knoll, the spot where Abraham Zapruder had stood, camera in hand. I could have walked it blindfolded. And it was overwhelming. It was the strongest sense of deja vu I had ever experienced and will likely ever experience. We have all seen this place so many times, from so many angles, that it is impossible to believe you have not visited before.

The plaza was full of people..most of whom were standing alone in their thoughts. They lingered by the curb, right about the spot where they presumed the President took the fatal bullet. (There is a plaque to mark the location now.) People looked at the window and they looked at the knoll and their gaze drifted back again to the street. And then they did the same sequence all over again…like a choreographed observational ballet. Everyone, in their mind’s eye, was cycling through the various theories. Most of all though, people cried. Just silent streams of tears. They wept for a moment that no one really wanted to remember but most were helpless to ignore.

There is an extraordinary museum dedicated to this event on the sixth floor of the old building. It is the biggest tourist draw in the city of Dallas, which for many years did its best to fight the legacy. But the people who pour through the door are there because of a compulsion they can’t completely define. It has to do with who you were and what you became and how that notable family and its fate left both a public and personal mark. If you go to Dallas you will feel it too….the communal, cathartic revelation that occurred curb side in a flash frozen corner of the 20th century.

Bon Voyage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by davegerry

plane

Yesterday’s mail brought my new passport. It took a week.  A week !  I couldn’t quite believe it. I’m pretty sure I was at the passport office longer than a week just waiting for my number to be called.

It’s always a marvellous thing when the system (any system) works the way it should. We have such low expectations now of bureaucracy that anything short of total failure is celebrated. No one is celebrating south of the border at the moment. Our American cousins are in a pickle and you have to feel for them. I keep reading posts from people online who are having their cherished travel plans disrupted because they can’t get access to the National Parks in the United States. People visiting Maui, for example, can no longer drive to the top of Haleakala to view the sunrise. The parks personnel have been furloughed. I guess visitors will have to settle for another day on some beach. There’s a first-world problem, folks.

But kudos to the people who handle Canadian passport applications. I’m good to go (literally) for another ten years.

What kind of traveller will I be by the time I need to have another passport photo taken? It would be wonderful if I was slightly more flexible…..more pliable than, say, a Kaiser porcelain hummingbird figurine. But people rarely loosen up as they age. We get more brittle.

I tend to be selectively clenched. I will agonize over a parking space for a rental car but have become far more forgiving when it comes to holiday wardrobe. One trip, I ended up in Bermuda without a single pair of shorts. My wife…who does all the packing…blamed me because I had not thrown the shorts on the bed with the other items of clothing. Fortunately, Bermuda is the World Retail Capital of Shorts…so I sweat nary a dewy drop.

No shorts? No sweat.

No shorts? No sweat.

Travel clothing selection seems to less stressful as you age. This is why you often see older couples in matching outfits. They’ve given up. They don’t give a damn anymore. I’m with her and she’s with me…and we don’t care who knows it. I like that. So I think we can get the luggage allotment down to just two bags in the future. One for the matching outfits…and the other for the medications.

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