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.

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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.

Bathrobe Weather

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by davegerry
Wake me when it's over

Wake me when it’s over

We are currently experiencing the kind of weather that makes one never want to get out of bed. This has been going on for about a week. You retire for the night to the sound of pounding rain on the roof..and the same relentless drumming is still there in the morning.

Should you feel compelled to crawl out of bed, but be blessed with nothing better to do, I would suggest remaining in your bathrobe. It’s bathrobe weather, basically.

Bathrobe weather means it is your sworn duty to remain cosy. Cosy is key. You look outside and it’s as dark at 10am as it will be at 6pm. There is so much rain coming down that your eaves-troughs cannot handle the flow. Every petal from every summer flower has now been beaten soundly to the ground. Pelicans could high-dive in your birdbath. It is the kind of weather that makes you want to shave your head because there is no way to maintain any manner of presentable coif.

The problem with staying in a bathrobe from sunup to sundown is that you may associate this outfit with being ill. Some people need to feel the presence of buttons to achieve a state of wellness. So have some soup. Soup and slippers and a bathrobe are the keys to surviving these god-awful Pacific winters. (Don’t think too much about the fact that everyone in hospital has got the soup and slippers and bathrobe combo going too.)

Workplaces often have ‘casual Friday’s’….so why not a ‘bathrobe Tuesday’? It would be something to get on a bus full of people in bathrobes. It’s been my experience that half of them haven’t shaved anyway.

I would write more but bathrobe weather has drained every last vestige of motivation from my being.

Plus, the soup is ready. We’ll talk later.

Be Afraid…oh, and naked too!

Posted in High Definitions & Low Expectations with tags , , , on September 23, 2013 by davegerry

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Have you seen the new reality show Naked and Afraid?

Hoo-boy, you gotta tune in to this one folks!  It launched this summer and was, apparently, hugely watched on its channel…especially by men. Really? If the word ‘Naked’ is anywhere in the tv listings…men will find it.

So, Naked and Afraid puts two, self-proclaimed survivalists out in the wilderness (somewhere warm, naturally) and watches them try to get along for three weeks. The best part of the show for me is when they actually first meet….in the buff. They walk down the beach to greet each other. There’s an awkward moment. That’s when I’d be most afraid….of spontaneous laughter from the female, I suppose.

There’s a small camera crew that captures the shots of these two as they struggle with the elements, insects and , most of all,  awkward angles. If there’s an Emmy award for Best Pixillation, this show will win.

I’ve only seen two episodes but in both of those the male competitors basically folded. One, got so sunburned in the first few hours that he could not move. The other guy was apparently afraid of the water. These are what I call selective survivalists.

The women in the shows I saw were completely admirable. They built shelters, fashioned garments, climbed trees for coconuts. One of them built a lobster trap from twigs and caught dinner. Wow! And then the guys, who’d basically been sitting around nursing their boo-boos, accused the women of being too bossy. Hilarious.

I have never been a fan of television comedy that mocks the male.  It’s too damn easy to fall back into the cliche of the dumb guy. That’s a cheap laugh. Naked and Afraid, though, is building a serious case for feminine superiority. Of course, the women are naked. It wasn’t a fair fight from the start.

Stop me before I Repair Again

Posted in Manly Ways with tags , , on September 19, 2013 by davegerry
A slippery slope

A slippery slope

I just succeeded in applying a rust-laden coat of paint to part of a ceiling in our home. The rust was cloaked within tiny globs at the bottom of the paint can. The paint was old but still fluid. But, in an effort to be frugal, I thought I could salvage it. I carefully popped the lid and then stirred the old paint with an attachment on my electric drill. It worked beautifully..right up to the point where I rolled hundreds of, hitherto hidden, rusty bits across the ceiling. It now looks somewhat like the newly laid egg of a thrush. This is not what I was going for, folks.

Nothing makes me angrier than home repair gone awry and I always ask myself the same question. Why is nothing ever simple? I used to think poorly of people who let their properties go…now I realize the wisdom of their ways. If it ain’t broke…don’t fix it. Even if it is broke…don’t fix it yourself. This is why God created guys named Earl who drive panel trucks !

The greatest example of Yours Truly boldly (and stupidly) striding into territory that should have been avoided, occurred many years back when, early one lovely morning, I got it into my head to look behind a chromed plate in our upstairs shower. I didn’t need to do this. I just wanted to know if there was some kind of waterproofed sealant back there.

So I stood in shower, in nothing but pj bottoms, and unscrewed the universal knob that controls the water to the showerhead. After three turns of the last screw the knob blew off the wall like a shot out of a cannon. It hit me squarely in the chest and the resulting gusher (like a fire-hose) not only flung my glasses out of the stall, it pinned me squarely against the glass wall of the shower. Then (like in an episode of I Love Lucy) I tried to put the knob back…all the while channeling water into the hole behind the now absent plate.

The kids, having their Fruit Loops at the breakfast table below, began to notice water trickling out of the ceiling fixture.

I tore down the stairs, threw myself into the darkened, concrete crawl space beneath the house and scrambled frantically about until I found the shut off valve. Then I just sat there…gasping for air, damply in the dark. I had a welt on my chest, blood running from my knees and a pair of glasses imbedded in the bathroom ceiling. It is part of my therapy that I write about it here.

Next time you see something you think needs attention, do yourself a favour and call Earl.

The Case for a Kinder, Gentler Kitchen

Posted in Food, Glorious Food, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 13, 2013 by davegerry
knife:fork

The tools of civility, not combat.

I just saw a promo for a new tv cooking show where, once again, it’s some kind of culinary competition. This one will allow people to cheat, lie and openly sabotage the work of the other chefs. Charming.

I think it’s great we have entire channels devoted to the joy of food, but really folks, does it all have to be some kind of subhuman, gnarly race against time and technique? Why the hell does everything have to be a knock down, drag-em-out fight?

It’s cooking. It’s not the Roman coliseum.

This is what happens when you combine so-called reality television (a continued blight on our collective houses) with the planet-wide pleasure of preparing a meal. You get shlock…pure, unadulterated shlock. Is this what it takes now to hold the interest of an audience? You need to ratchet up the drama. You do serious harm to the dignity of the people on the screen by gratuitously dramatizing their back stories. (Of course, people go willingly into these things.) We all have crises in our  lives…but I don’t need to see any of it on a cooking show. Some of the most obnoxious personalities possible are now standing there, raging at the tv screen.  There’s Wagnerian music…slam dunk editing…phoney-baloney timelines.  The shows are over-produced and completely (if not clumsily) manipulative. In short, it’s garbage.

We have ourselves to blame. We have taken one of the great, bonding universal survival skills and turned it into theatre of the absurd. Time in the kitchen is supposed to nourish both the body and the soul. I don’t want to be screamed at, denigrated, humiliated or defeated.  I want to sample some sauce and sip some wine.

I want to come to the table renewed.