Thursday, April 30, 2009
The image above has almost nothing to do with today's blog posting, so put your imagination in your back pocket and let's get on with the story...
A relative of mine recently came home with a message on his/her report card. Note: the gender of the guilty party has been protected so as to offer no clue to her/his identity. The teacher's comment was that he/she had been "a bit silly this week." When questioned further, it turned out that she/he had been rather outspoken in class. Apparently the teacher had said to the class "If you all work hard and get your assignment done early, we can all go for a walk around the schoolyard," to which the guilty relative blurted out "NAKED!"
Class dismissed! Let's change the channel for a few minutes...
I haven't watched television, at home, for over three years (with one exception). I find watching the news, particularly just before bedtime, to be too depressing. I don't want to end my day with a hangover. The result is that I'm utterly out of touch with what's going on in the world...just the way I like it. I never watch sitcoms either. Or reality shows. I've never seen Oprah, though I'll confess to having watched Dock Tore Fee Al during a weak moment.
You might surmise that I'm pretty ignorant. After all, I live in what amounts to the backwoods of New Brunswick (akin to the Clampett's ancestral home of Bugtussle), I don't have a job (though I do have a profession), and I don't watch television. You'd be amazed at the volume of information I take in through radio and the internet. I also absorb scads through meaningful conversations with friends and family. This morning was no exception.
After breakfast I was discussing the Olympics with my son and my parents. I declared that the one thing that would bring about my return, to the boob tube, would be if the Olympic Games were performed in the nude. I half expected my son to point out that I was embarrassing him by publicly broadcasting my fantastical thoughts (I think this is one of his greatest fears, that his father, the quasi personification of Family Guy's Peter Griffin, will say something stupid in public). To my surprise, Julian commended my 'originality' by reminding me that the ancient Olympic Games were performed in the buff, long before television, digital cameras and Hugh Hefner were invented.
It was Olympia 720 B.C. when the Games first went commando (note: the Hef was born around 540 B.C.). I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a male contestant waiting, under a blazing sun, for the race to begin. Beyond self consciousness, I thought of sunburn. My mind drifted further....
To the Winter Games. In stark contrast to the Summer Games, sunburn would no longer be an issue. I saw snow and ice. I saw nude curling! What a thrill for the spectators. Of all the Olympic athletes, it's the curlers who would be the most interesting bare-skinned box of Cracker Jacks. I said 'interesting', not pretty. Bare-arsed bobsledding could be fun. The skeleton might become a self-fulfilling prophecy by the end of the run. I'd be 'over the moon' to see naked figure skating. Trust me, it's not a sexual thing, I just think the world would be a happier place if we never saw another figure skating outfit again.
I'll bet the image at the top of my Olympic post (not a euphemism) is still a mysterious choice. Put yourself in my shoes...how could I possibly produce an image that relates to the nude Winter Olympics? I've got over 80 000 images from which to choose, but none convey any sense of au naturel athleticism. I finally settled on an image that speaks to shrinkage...it's the best I could do.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
It was an assault on my senses. My rental home for a fortnight was a playground for tropical fruit trees like papaya and banana. Ketchup and lemon hibiscus blossoms littered the lawn like fallen Christmas tree ornaments. The pervasive scent of frangipani scaled fences and ran screaming beyond. Impenetrably lush mountains cascaded below a blue jay sky toward a luminescent aqua ocean which spat upon the shore.
It was December 2005 and I was on the island of Maui.
Maui is like a upside-down salad bowl sitting on dry toast, surrounded by Gatorade...and I say this as a positive. It has a leafy freshness balanced by an arid underside of sand and volcanic rock. The ocean is a relentlessly refreshing mélange of blue, green and frothy white. The only thing that could possibly dissuade me from a lifetime of Maui bliss, beside the lack of a green card, would be my brothers and sisters. By that, I mean humankind.
The human fingerprint is everywhere, Maui is no exception. There are undercurrents of unrest in Maui, among 'natives' and non-natives. The problem is the availability of affordable land. The wealthy mainlanders, who want to own a piece of paradise, are buying up Maui. The native population, the working backbone of the tourism industry, have little hope of owning their own bungalows. This story plays out all over the world.
It's worth asking the question, what is native? Does ownership rest with the first group of people to get somewhere? Should the Vikings return to Newfoundland to claim what is rightfully theirs? Do Americans, and this includes native Hawaiians, now own the moon? They got there first.
I've never forgotten my first visit to Maui's Ho'okipa Beach, arguably the most famous windsurfing beach in the world. It was everything that I hoped that it would be, and less. I remember seeing a decal pasted on the Ho'okipa sign, it read:
Welcome to HAWAII, NOW GO HOME.
That's been sitting in my stomach for over three years.
As a Canadian, I've had to digest of lot of bad weather over the years. At least I have enough land to be able to throw my snow somewhere without impinging on my neighbours. As a New Brunswicker living in a rural setting, I've lived like a Maui millionaire in terms of land. There's plenty for everyone in New Brunswick. Well, maybe not quite everyone.
The collage of images above was not taken in Maui. The signs do not belong to a junk yard, or to a crack dealer, though that's what you might surmise. Amazingly, those signs live in my quaint little hamlet of Cambridge-Narrows, and they dot the periphery of one property! There is no escape.
The signs don't really say 'no trespassing', or 'keep out'. They say 'I have a problem getting along with others'. It seems odd, to me, that you would want to broadcast this fact, but look around, it's not that uncommon. From Maui, to Gaza, to Cambridge-Narrows, we've all got our issues. We could blame overpopulation but the fact is that 'civilization', and I use that term loosely, has been squabbling over land for eons, long before Maui was discovered.
For all the signs that abound, there's no sign of abatement.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
As a sixteen-year-old in the late 1970s, I used to love to play pinball. I still walk past pinball machines, however infrequently, with a sense of lost youth. Hours were spent playing my favourite machine, Joker Poker. It wasn't an altogether unhealthy past-time. I was standing up, thus exercising my legs. My arms would be flapping and twitching, smacking the flipper buttons desperately. My hips would gyrate to the point of levitation. Sometimes I'd get quite worked up, swinging the machine from side to side until the inevitable 'tilt' button lit up and I watched the game go limp. When you gave the pinball machine a Richter worthy shakedown, you paid a price.
Tilt was bad.
Now, take a look at the image of the sunrise above. It's attractive, but certainly nothing special. We've all seen sunrises like this, many of us have photographed them to great acclaim. Somewhere on earth there's always a sunrise. As I type this there's probably one happening in Ontario, Jamaica and Chile. We're pretty accustomed to sunrises. Some people probably never give them a first thought, let alone a second.
What if we changed our perspective on the sunrise, to something like this....
This image was taken just seconds after the previous one, yet to my eyes, it's entirely more interesting. It's the same scene, just framed to include less sky. Tilt has added dynamic motion to this image...and curiosity. It's no longer just an image of a sunrise; it's a question, or a comment, or a reaction...even if that reaction is 'huh?'.
Tilt is good.
Think about tilt in terms of your life...could things be more dynamic?
Monday, April 27, 2009
I love New Zealand. It's as fine a country as I've ever seen. It would be no great hardship, on my part, to list 74 reasons why New Zealand bowled me over. To find fault with New Zealand, now that would be troublesome, as I can think of only one thing that didn't suit my palate. No surprise, really, that I was befuddled by an item that appeared regularly on breakfast menus across the land of the long white cloud (Aotearoa, aka New Zealand).
Before I spill the beans, let me just say that I found the food in New Zealand to be quite wonderful. They don't have, what I would call, a traditional cuisine that's easily identifiable, like Thailand, India or Sudbury. I'm far from being a qualified food critic or culinary savant, but if forcibly coerced into describing the Kiwi cuisine, I might suggest that they've put their own spin on the California fusion thing. Is it obvious to you, the reader, that I have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to food, with a few exceptions?
I am qualified to to state that a British food hangover still exists. Need a meat pie? No problem. Finding a meat pie in New Zealand is as easy as finding a Timbit in Moncton. Segueing to coffee for a moment, there are cafes in every little Kiwi town or village, sometimes in the most unlikely of places, like ruralnowhereville. The focus of these cafes is always on the coffee, it's never about unrolling a paper cup and winning something that you've always wanted, like a Sea-Doo. This focus seems to satisfy the locals because I don't remember seeing any empty coffee cups littering the roadside. The aftertaste is of coffee, not losing (note: I make this comment because I once counted 54 discarded Tim Horton's cups in a 20 kilometre stretch of rural New Brunswick road. This road was not remotely close to any Tim Horton's location).
Okay, it's time to address the one thing that could bring the flourishing New Zealand tourist industry to its knees...
Pasta with toast.
It sounded innocuous enough, after all, I like pasta and I like toast. I don't make a habit of ordering pasta for breakfast, but I'm willing to embrace the culinary traditions of most cultures. I've eaten haggis in Scotland. I've ingested a Twinkie in Maine in the 1980s (it's still about two-thirds of the way down my colon). A chicken fried steak in Oklahoma didn't slow me down, though it did fetch up on the Twinkie. Have I made my point? I'm no one's dinner table patsy.
Pasta with toast appears to be a traditional dish. The first time I saw it on a Kiwi menu, I laughed out loud and wondered what it might be like, then I ordered something appetizing. My mind wandered off into the kitchen to sneak a peek, but the door was locked. The second time I encountered pasta with toast on a menu, I bit the bullet (which might have felt better in my mouth), and ordered it.
The dish was brought to my table. I tried to disguise the look of surprise on my face. I was unsuccessful.
Alphagetti without the joy of being able to spell words like 'grotesque' with my meal, which is what I sorely wanted to do. The noodles were long and somewhat thick, not unlike intestines. Every fiber in my body twitched for bacon and eggs, or granola with yogurt, or toast.
Excuse me, Miss, where's my toast?
I never got around to asking that question, because I finally spotted my toast desperately trying to free itself from the train wreck on top. I had visions of a side plate stacked with sourdough toast, fresh creamery butter and homemade preserves. Instead, I watched Wonder bread drown under a can of New Zealand's famous Watties spaghetti. Apocalypse on a plate. For this, Sir James Wattie was knighted (I'm sure that he must have bread Corgies on the side, or something equally worthy of royal favour).
So....New Zealand is far from perfect, but it's still pretty good. Here's my advice if you're traveling to New Zealand. Drink wine. Lots of it. Take a bottle, or two, of Marlborough's famed Sauvignon Blanc to bed with you. Wine, in New Zealand, is so inexpensive that you'll love it (it's one of my 74 reasons to visit). Another one of my 74 reasons to visit is a New Zealand hangover. The hangover itself is not the reason, it's just that you'll be feeling too awful to eat breakfast. I see this as a positive.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
During a recent vacation to New Zealand, I was struck by the sense that New Zealanders, as a society, are more intelligent than Canadians.
Blasphemy. Treason. True?
I don't actually think that the Kiwis, as individuals, are more intelligent. We're probably all equal. It's the government of New Zealand that impressed me. I can't fine tune my argument with devastatingly conclusive examples as it was one of those gut feel situations. It felt like the government assumed that individuals would behave responsibly, and it gave them the benefit of the doubt. Liberal thinking like this fosters a climate where individuals take responsibility for their own actions.
Any examples that I could give might seem trivial, but collectively they left left me feeling that we, as Canadians, could do better. Heading south of the 49th parallel for a moment, do you remember the landmark 1994 trial which saw a woman successfully sue McDonald's after she burned herself from hot coffee? The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.86 million after spilling a cup of coffee on her crotch. Madness. Could that happen in the land of the Canadian beaver?
Yes, quite frankly, it could. I was listening to CBC radio this past Tuesday, when a story caught my ear. It was the tale of a New Brunswick man who successfully sued a cottage owner after he dove off the cottage owner's wharf and became paralyzed. I don't care to get into all of the details
(tragedies and liabilities...http://www.cbc.ca/maritimenoon/stories.html), but it's worth mentioning a few points from the story. The man dove off a wharf that he had never been on before, into water he didn't know, at 1:30 a.m., while drinking. A New Brunswick judge ruled in his favour, and found the property owners negligent. Apparently, they should have had a sign warning of the shallowness of the water.
The feedback to the radio broadcast was sympathetic to the cottage owner. Everyone felt badly for the paralyzed man but, at the end of the day, the consensus was that we need to take responsibility for our actions and accept the consequences of bad judgement. It seems so obvious, painfully so.
I guess that the judge and I attended different schools of thought. I don't want to see a sign posted every time there's a danger. There would be so many signs that we'd be tripping over them....and suing successfully for the resultant injuries. That would lead to signs warning about signs. Are you young and searching for a lucrative career choice? I'd recommend law, medicine or sign making.
I think we're in danger of becoming stupid, we may already be there. It's worthy of further discussion....why don't you drop by my house for a cup of coffee so we can discuss these issues?
When you come to my house, I want you to stop at the edge of the property and look up. You'll see many big trees. These trees have branches. Potentially, any of these branches could fall on your head. I could put up warning signs and offer you a hard hat. I also have a lawn. The very existence of a lawn suggests that it's safe to walk on, but nothing could be farther from the truth. There are many hidden dangers on my lawn, first and foremost are some chipmunk holes. The chipmunks, while developing their underground burrows, often cause depressions on the lawn. It's feasible that you could twist an ankle while walking on my lawn. If you were walking on my lawn with a hot coffee, you could twist your ankle, fall to the ground and subsequently burn yourself. Then a tree branch might fall on you.
For the twisted ankle, I'd suggest that you sue the chipmunk. For the coffee burn, sue the kettle manufacturer. For the tree branch....well, you were warned so don't even think about suing me. I'll kick your ass, literally, if you try to sue me. Don't like the thought of that? Sue the shoe company. My defence will be that I wouldn't kick you if I was in bare feet, therefore it's not my fault.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Gullible, by definition, means being easily duped or deceived.
During yesterday's photo shoot I hadn't planned on photographing seagulls. I had hoped for something exotic like a glossy ibis or a mink. I was gullible; deceived by my perceived need for something to be believed. Seagulls, like pigeons, are so common that they're almost invisible, until they leave their business card on your windshield.
One way to get noticed is to shit on someone. If you really want attention, try showering a group with 'love' from above. Shawn Graham, our premier, knows all about this. This time he's dumped on the wrong group...the people of Gagetown, the people of the lower St.John River valley, the people of rural New Brunswick. He had no idea the rural troops would mobilize as they have.
The removal of the Gagetown ferry was ill-advised. The manner in which it was proposed was just plain rude (remembering that, on March 17, our Premier announced that the ferry would be gone forever on March 31). Thanks for the heads up (which is the position we were all in when Shawn flew over). Splat!
I hope that common sense prevails with regard to the Gagetown ferry. I want to be able to look up to our provincial government in the future, not down upon them. If the ferry is terminated, a lot of us will be looking down on the government, as we fly over them.
Friday, April 24, 2009
The greatest challenge facing any leisurologist, assuming that there are others, is finding someone with whom to play. Everyone my age has a j__, has a j__. I really struggle with that word, but I think that you know what I mean...employment. I've found the perfect solution to my dilemma...
I hang out with retirees. The benefit of hanging out with retired guys is that they make me look really young. Kidding, I am really young, it's not just a look. The real 'beauty' (I use that term literally since we're quite a group of 'lookers') is that we've, okay, they've all had interesting careers, travels and life experiences; they bring a lot to the table. I've formed a photographic relationship with five of them. By photographic relationship I mean we've formed a photographic club which meets once or twice a month. We call ourselves the Cambridge-Narrows Photographic Arts Club, aka The PhArts Club!
I hold the title of Most Esteemed President. Sometimes people call us the old PhArts Club, but I take offence to that. We're not old, we just dress that way (see image above). If you look at the image, you might wonder why there are are only four of the six PhArts in the photo. I'm not quite sure where the other two were, I'm quite forgetful. They may have just wandered off into the swamp (don't worry, they wear name tags and they're always returned). The other two had commitments, probably driving their wives to the hairdressers for a perm, or perhaps the shoot conflicted with a shuffleboard tournament. Maybe they had a World War One veterans' meeting at the Legion. Of course none of the PhArts fought in World War One, but some of their children may have.
I've arranged for a PhArts shoot this morning. We're off to photograph the wildlife along the flooded plains of the St.John River. There will only be four of our six members there today, the other two are MIA or AWOL.
Think of us as a group of pension-drawing senior statesmen who attend 66% of our scheduled meetings. And, no, we don't appreciate being compared to the Senate, we're much better looking.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
The earthquake ravaged building had collapsed with the two of them pinned inside. He was 33 years old, she was 28. They were still conscious and talking, but in dire straights. They could hear rescuers coming to their aid, then the fire broke out.
If you're anything like me, you sit around campfires and watch the flames as they flicker and frolic. The heat both pushes you back and pulls you in, but have you ever given any serious thought to the nature of fire and our modern day relationship with it? I hadn't, until last night.
I was listening to CBC Radio's Ideas, a thought provoking program to which I am not a faithful listener. Every now and again, I find myself in a situation where I'm completely entranced by Ideas. Last night, driving home from yoga in Oromocto, was one of those nights. Rain drizzled itself across my windshield. The wipers marched back and forth with military precision. Wafts of ground fog were pierced by the headlights, punctuating the obsidian landscape. I clutched the steering wheel as I listened. Outside, wind-stirred water from the flood-swollen river lapped the edges of the road. My senses were alive, but none so much as smell. All I could smell was fear, and smoke.
CBC's program last evening took me to 1989 San Francisco. I was in that collapsed building. The earthquake couldn't kill me, or my spirit. The smoke? The fire? Now that was an altogether different situation. I strained to hear the voices of salvation as they became more faint.
I'm not going to tell the story from Ideas. If you want to listen to it, click here. Don't click if you're in a frivolous frame of mind, you won't appreciate what you hear. The Ideas program was called Visions Of Fire. You'll find the San Francisco story about 11 minutes into Part 2. It's not an uplifting tale but it needs to be heard. It provokes quality thought (translation: it doesn't involve the now ubiquitous Simon Cowell). It also draws attention to the quality of CBC's radio programming.
Governments make a big deal about educating our youth and I'm all for shipping our tax dollars down that lane. Literate youth will help to float the Canada of the future, but why stop with youth? I see CBC Radio as a master's degree for the masses. It's education that transcends all ages and demographics. It's as Canadian as the maple leaf, beaver, Bluenose, caribou, loon and polar bear...and I'm willing to spend my money to keep it going. There's no use funding a university without professors, and that's how I feel the CBC cutbacks will affect my ongoing education.
Without a vibrant CBC, we'll all be dining on pop n' chips broadcasting. Our distended bellies will support our hollow heads, unable to question the folly of the Harper government.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I was awake at 4:12 a.m., this morning, happily listening to the rain pattering on my roof. It occurred to me that people living in condos or apartments rarely, if ever, have that pleasure. I suppose those who live in the house of pent do, but not the commoners below. I pity those who don't have patter in their lives, they're missing one of life's little gifts. I then drifted back to sleep, leaving behind the hour of enlightenment.
It's 9 a.m. now and I'm still reflecting on the rewards of rural living (not to suggest that it doesn't rain on the roofs of city dwellers). Yesterday was a day that I'll remember for a long time to come. My son, Julian, has been eagerly awaiting news from Dalhousie University as to whether he would be receiving a scholarship. Every day we've been going to our local post office, pestering post mistress Sylvia to see if anything had arrived. Yesterday was no exception, we even arrived before the mail had been sorted. Late for an appointment in town, we left before the mail had been completely sorted, with no news of any kind.
We arrived home in Cambridge-Narrows after the post office had closed so there was no chance of any groundbreaking developments. A little disappointed, we went into our house and listened to our voice messages from earlier in the day.
"It's Sylvia, I think that I might have the thing that Julian was looking for..."
Wow, that's impressive. How often does the Canada Post make personal calls? Sylvia is more than the post mistress, she's a friend, and a great friend at that! Now we were in a real quandry...desperate to get the letter, but too polite to beg Sylvia to open up the post office after hours. That's what we wanted to do but we thought the better of it. We resigned ourselves to suffering through the evening and waiting until morning. Wendy had hatched a plan whereby we'd get the letter at 9:00:01 a.m. the following morning and Julian would call us from school. Our thoughts then drifted back toward our supper plans.
Knock, knock, knock...patters on our door.
Who would be at our door at 6 p.m, suppertime....perhaps the Jehovah's!? Even better, it was Sylvia. Knowing how much we were anticipating this letter, she went back to the post office and hand delivered the letter to Julian. Regardless of what news the letter contained, this act of kindness and thoughtfulness is one example of why we continue to live in Cambridge-Narrows....the people. People like Sylvia.
Julian opened the letter nervously. Sadly, I didn't have my camera at the ready to capture his expression. I've recreated it below...
Dalhousie University has offered him a $34 000 scholarship. He'll be going there in the autumn and living in residence. I hope that he never forgets the sound of raindrops on his rooftop.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I was out in my yard yesterday, minding my own business, when all of a sudden a ruckus exploded above my head. I looked up and there he was... the diminutive, yet menacing red squirrel. His eyes watched my every move. His ears, like horns of the devil, heard every leaf crackle under my step. His mouth was in constant motion, chirping and squawking, as if to say 'hey fatboy, I'm up here, try and catch me'. I'm not fat, which should give you some sense as to the nature of the varmint. He's a fecal agitator of the first order. I wouldn't have shed a tear had a hawk swooped by and picked him off the branch. At the same time, I love the red squirrel.
He taunts, he teases. If the red squirrel was human, he'd be a teenager. If he was a student, he'd be the class clown. He'd be the redhead at the back of the class, always twitching. As a teacher, you'd simultaneously like him and hate him. He's full of ebullience and you wouldn't want to contain his joie de vivre...you just want to rein it in a bit, likely with duct tape.
The red squirrel is the kind of animal that would drop acorns on your head, just for a lark. He's playfully aggressive. I've seen red squirrels chase grey squirrels around my yard. It wasn't playful though. The grey squirrel looked like a picnic ham being chased by a 1990 Oprah Winfrey (during the insatiable O era).
The grey squirrel is a bushy ball of fur, twice the size of the red squirrel with half the bravado. My grey squirrels are shy. When they see me, they run to a tree and launch themselves skyward. Perhaps they know that on my kitchen shelf sits a copy of the Joy Of Cooking. On page 515 of said book, it instructs how to 'skin a squirrel'. The authors, Rombauer and Becker, have obviously given the matter some thought, they go so far as to suggest that grey squirrels are the best (red squirrels are too gamy). No wonder the grey squirrels are nervous. It's worth mentioning that the authors are from Missouri (I would have guessed Appalachia). Both Tennessee and Arkansas, which border Missouri, have annual coon, as in raccoon, dinners. Enough said. All this food talk has me drooling, perhaps I'll have some lunch...why not skunk or muskrat? Certainly not chipmunk.
The chipmunk is the most lovable of all the squirrels. Cute, friendly, approachable. The chipmunk has manners, as though privately tutored by Emily Post. You can rest assured that Ms. Post, the American doyenne of all things proper, never dined on squirrel. I have nothing bad to say about chipmunks, especially because they make holes in my wicked neighbour's beloved lawn. He loves that lawn more than he loves people. It's just weird.
One year my neighbour trapped over 50 squirrels and chipmunks because they were putting holes in his precious lawn and eating all his birdseed (duh!). He's the kind of guy who would coat himself in honey and run naked through the forest for exercise, then get pissed off when a bear licked his back. He doesn't understand nature.
Have you ever played the game where you try to equate a human to an animal? I know people who remind me of chipmunks. I also know people who are like red squirrels. I live next to someone who's reminds me of a jac......, a donkey.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I'm driving along the streets of a fictitious city which I'll call Rothesay. My stomach announces that it's time to eat so I scan the horizon for something that looks suitable. I see the golden aches (not a typo) and don't even give it a first thought. To my left is a restaurant called 'Lettuce', strange name for an eatery. I assume that they're salad specialists. The next place that I drive past is called 'Cucumber'...how odd to have two restaurants named after vegetables. There's a Dairy Queen on my right. I'm a slow learner, having gone to Dairy Queen dozens of times over the years. I don't want fast food, that's for sure, because it has no soul.
I keep driving. On my left is a restaurant called 'Tomato'. That seems like a strange name for a place to eat, but less so, since I've already seen two restaurants inspired, seemingly, from the produce department. There's a Tim Horton's up ahead. The nice thing about Tim Horton's is that their soup is never frozen. That doesn't mean that it's made fresh, simply that there's so much salt in it that it wouldn't freeze if left in a glacier. This isn't, strictly speaking, true...take what I say with a grain of salt.
Ohhhh! What's that? I see a sign for a restaurant on my right. Pomodori. I've never heard of it before...it sounds so deliciously exotic, almost sexy. Pomodori is probably some European word which I could never fully comprehend. Underneath P-O-M-O-D-O-R-I it says wood fired pizza. Pizza, hmm. I enjoy it but in a blindfolded taste test, do you think I could tell the difference between Greco, Pizza Delight, Pizza Pizza, Pizza Twice or Pizza Repeated Repeatedly? Not a chance. In North America, there appears to be one recipe that all pizza joints share. The two words 'wood fired' give me hope that this place might be different.
Looking at the outside of the building gives me no inkling as to what my experience will be. Willing to gamble on the name alone, I step inside. I'm greeted by a friendly smile. My eyes are immediately distracted ten feet beyond the smile where I spy a spaceship, of sorts. Well, it's actually more like a metallic igloo, on stilts, with a gleaming copper dome and shiny steel chimney. The oven. It's a work of art.
I scan the menu board and order a pizza margherita. Margherita - red, white and green of Italy, named for Queen Margherita - dressed with pomodori sauce, slivered onion, fresh basil and fresh bocconcini. $7.74. Pomodori sauce sounds one hell of a lot more interesting than tomato sauce. I expect something magnificent.
I sit down and before I have a chance to fully absorb my surroundings, my pizza has arrived. Quick food, and stove pipe hot. The pizza is generous in diameter, thin in crust. I smile. The pomodori sauce looks like tomato sauce. Oh well, everything else about the pizza seems deliciously different. I take a nervous bite. Wow! I'm struck by the pomodori sauce, it's nothing like the tomato sauce of which my buds of taste have grown apathetic over the years. Most tomato sauces taste overprocessed and muddy. On the tomato family tree, they're ketchup's red-headed stepson. The pomodori sauce tastes clean...full of goodness, and light! I've always fixated on toppings, but now it's all about the bottoms. The pomodori sauce, for me, becomes the focus of my pleasure. I've never felt this way before....oh gosh, I think I'm in love. Margherita, will you marry me?
There's more to the Pomodori story, but I'm not going to tell it now. It's all good and it's yours to discover. There is one last thing that we need to shed some light upon...hang on a second while I get my English-Italian dictionary. Let's see....l, m, n, o, p. Pomice. Pomidoro, close. Pomo. Pomodoro. Pomodori, there it is. Let's see what it means. It means....oh my gawd...it means....
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I spend too much time at the computer. I'm not apologizing to anyone, except myself, for this indisgretion. The joy of computers, particularly using Photoshop, is that they allow for such god-like creativity. The problem is that they keep me from the 'real world'...the world of sunshine, fresh air, running water.
That is what I need. I've been using the computer for the first hour of this sunny, Sunday morning. I should free myself from my cordless, easy to use mouse. I should walk away from the keyboard. I should take my advice.
I think I can. I think I can. I thought I could. I thought I could.
Well, I'm still here. Just a quick word about the joy of Photoshop. The image above was of an uninspired set of footprints in the snow. A little drugless help from Photoshop and it's now something stimulating, at least to me. The act of creating it was stimulating.
Speaking of stimulating, there's currently two American mergansers flying around my yard, checking out a hole in an oak tree...suitable for nesting, perhaps. I'm going to grab my camera, walk away from the computer, and celebrate the real world. The real world has feathers, something the world of computers will never have (though never discount what the good folks at Apple will come up with next). The iPhone already wipes your bum and ties your shoes, why shouldn't it fly??
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I'm standing in the grocery store line trying to amuse myself. I'm usually quite self-sufficient in this department, busy snooping in other people's carts. It's quite staggering what some people buy. Not to be judgemental, but I can't imagine sitting down at my dinner table washing down fish sticks n' fries with two litres of Pepsi. Odd that I have no problem imagining them doing it. It's tragic...so I turn my attention elsewhere.
The celebrity glam mags call to me. Wow, Cosmopolitan magazine has an article about 'Your Va Jay Jay...Fascinating New Facts About Your Lovely Lady Parts'. The team of Cosmopolitan scientists must have been working feverishly back at the lab to make these startling new discoveries. I wonder if the researchers at Scientific American were miffed that the Cosmo crew scooped them (yet again). There goes the Nobel prize for medicine.
Is it just me, or are you tired of being treated like a moron?
Star magazine offers 'Stars Without Makeup!' Hey! They look just like, well, us...and apparently the Olsen twins aren't raccoons after all. Stop laughing Avril Lavigne...you know you want to paint your face and knock over some garbage cans. I can see it in your eyes.
These magazines are not there to amuse us while waiting to pay for our groceries. These magazines are there because they sell...and they sell well. I'm not much into celebrity adulation (this may come as a shock to you). If Paris Hilton windsurfed nude in front of my house while juggling donuts, I probably wouldn't get my camera out. I say 'probably' because I'm really into windsurfing and if she was on one of the new 2009 boards, then I might be tempted.
When a hooded merganser (pictured above) paddles past my place in morning's first light, I'd happily belly drag through a field of mouse traps to make the image. As it were, I had to skulk carefully behind a small pine tree to get close enough to document the hoody. It's all good training for the day when I sell my soul and become a paparazzi. I'll make lots of money and I won't have much to worry about, except...
Should I send Paris apple fritters or honey glazed?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Have you ever been told to act your age? That bites. Someone is trying to fit you into their ideal of a magical behavioural template. Long live the individual, I say, for any demographic. I'll take Jean Chrétien choking an activist any day over grandpa in a rocking chair. I'll take Pierre Trudeau giving some placard carrying protesters the finger over Stephen Harper in Argyle socks and matching vest. I'm not promoting aggressive politicians, but I do appreciate that they weren't 'playing a role'. They appeared to be comfortable in their own skin. Lucky thugs.
My son enjoys the luxury of knowing his grandparents. I wasn't lucky enough to know mine in any meaningful way. The one grandparent who I did meet was my Scottish grandmother. She was the stereotypical old woman who represented the past. Watching her as a child made me wonder if she ever had a day of hilarity in her entire life. She probably had a few, but not in her eighties.
I watch my own parents in their eighties. My father gave up windsurfing at the age of eighty-two. He still rides his mountain bike at age eighty-five. He actively gardens, walks, does his morning exercises, shovels his own driveway, mows his own lawn, and so on. My mother, less fit than my dad, is as playful as a teenager. She desperately wants to play ping pong when she visits my home. A replaced hip a few years doesn't slow her down, it speeds her up!
We recently gave mom and dad a very inexpensive ping pong kit so they can play ping pong on their dining room table. Secretly I hope the neighbours see them playing ping pong through their window. They'll think my parents have lost it...that their behaviour is rather odd for grey haired pensioners. They're definitely not 'acting' their age. What is age but a bedraggled state of mind anyway?
'Act your age' is about as useful a saying as 'bite me'. If we did either, you probably wouldn't like us.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Every village wants to be able to stand on its own two legs, and the Village of Gagetown is no exception. Shawn Graham, the Premier of New Brunswick, needs to save some money, so he's going to chop off one of Gagetown's legs. He's going to do it quickly and without much thought. He's not going to use a scalpel. There will be no prosthetic compromise offered.
Here he comes...carrying a hatchet.
He's not a doctor. He's probably never met the patient, let alone walked a mile in Gagetown's shoes.
The patient is the Village of Gagetown; the leg is the Gagetown ferry. Without it, Gagetown will never run again. Sure it can hobble along for years, but effectively, this is a death sentence to a village that was once groomed to be the capital city of New Brunswick.
My, how it's fallen from grace.
The government of New Brunswick will argue that there's a bridge just upriver from Gagetown should anyone want to get to the other side. Yes, there is a bridge, part of our four lane highway system that crosses the province. It's a wonderful highway, busy with transport trucks, RVs and cars. It takes tourists away from our province as much as it brings them here, but it is not a tourist attraction. It gets people from point A to point B quickly, not much more.
The ferry is a tourist attraction...plain and simple. It's all about the journey, not the destination.
The government of Shawn Graham doesn't get this, because they don't live here. When I visit Gagetown, it's partly because the Village of Gagetown is beautiful, and partly because the drive is stunning. The drive includes the Gagetown ferry. There is no drive without the Gagetown ferry. The circle will be broken.
Shawn, if you could "be, in this place" then you'd understand. The Gagetown ferry is to Gagetown what the Hartland Bridge is to Hartland. It may not make the most sense, but it makes us different. We are different. We are the people of the river, and we have been for a long, long time.
Mister Premier, we invite you to cross our ferry. You'll enjoy it so much that you'll probably want to cross it twice. A double crossing is always more satisfying, don't you think? I suspect that the Village of Gagetown is willing to reach a compromise that sees the taxpayers of New Brunswick save some money, yet keeps the ferry running seasonally. The Village of Gagetown is always willing to lend the province a hand, but a leg is out of the question.
New Brunswick is blessed with an abundance of wildlife and whether you stumble upon it or you actively pursue it, knowing that it's out there keeps you on your toes. During the springtime, it's difficult not to see moose hanging around the edge of flooded swamps, unless of course you're driving at night. I'm completely paranoid about moose at night. I used to drive my son to school in Oromocto every day. Over a four year period I counted 28 moose, 14 of them were dead as a result of colliding with vehicles (almosty certainly nocturnal collisions). I'm not sure how the humans fared.
Monday, April 13, 2009
A man shows up at my door with a time machine. He tells me that I can escape the dreary weather of April by simply climbing into his contraption. 'What's the catch?', I ask. He replies that I'll just lose the remaining days in April and I'll be 18 days older. No big deal, right?
April is not my favourite month. Winter lingers, spring pauses. This morning was no different. My feet hit the cold floor, then my fingers pried apart the bedroom blinds only to see a paper white world. Snow. Damn it! Socks saved my feet from further torment and I pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater. That's when the knock came at my door.
I stared at the man at the door, he looked like death. Beyond him, the snow fell onto my limp ochre lawn. Freeze or melt. Freeze or melt. The snow itself was torn. The time machine sat on a trailer in my driveway, delivered behind a large black truck. Snow gathered on both the truck and trailer. I knew what had to be done, so I put on a pair of boots and walked slowly toward the time machine. It hissed and pinged and rumbled. The snow that touched its metallic surface quickly turned to tears. I touched its surface, my hand felt warm. The man opened the door and I took one step inside. I paused to daydream of May. Trees blushed green. Tulip blossoms, sweet like Skittles, danced in the wind. The sky blue sky smiled. Then my mind raced back to April.
What about the raccoon?
I ran from the time machine, my heart pounding. The man chased me back to the house but I slipped through the door and double locked it behind me. The man scowled, walked back to his truck and grudgingly left April with me.
April gave me raccoons in a tree. They were cold, wet, miserable and probably scared. I was just cold and wet. To myself I said 'suck it up, buttercup.... blossoms are in your future', and if they're not, I should at least celebrate soggy raccoons in a tree.
There will come a time when eighteen days in April will seem like the greatest gift, so why would I ever try to postpone the party?
So if you've got a time machine and you're looking for customers, don't bother knocking at my door...I'm not interested in trading the present for the future. 'Oh, what's that? Your machine can take me back to the past?' Interestingly enough, I don't think I'd give up my raccoons for another kick at the can.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Easter has me confused. On Good Friday I saw the Easter Beaver. On Saturday I was at a family member's home where they raise chickens. They have only twelve chickens, flying comfortably under the Colonel's radar. They're egg laying chickens anyway, not candidates for a crispy outer coating. Every morning these chickens lay eggs but not one of them laid a chocolate egg in my presence. That came as no real surprise, because it's the Easter bunny that brings the eggs, right?
To make things even more befuddling, they also had a pet rabbit living in the chicken coop, but it laid no eggs of any constitution. A few days earlier I had seen a Cadbury bunny laying chocolate eggs on television, so I knew how things worked. I was nobody's fool.
For lunch we had hamburgers, quite baffling by definition since they're made of cattle, not of pork. There were also hot dogs, rumoured to be of porcine provenance but named after canines. It hardly mattered as I wolfed them down. For dessert we enjoyed a delicious chocolate cake, no doubt made from eggs. Chocolate eggs, that is. I look up....my wife is wearing a pig snout and eating chocolate cake.
I lose it.
When I finally regain composure someone suggests that Jesus was involved with Easter. Huh?
I now sheepishly end this post.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Apparently there's some mythical creature called the easter bunny that visits people and leaves chocolate eggs scattered all over their houses. Well, I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but that's not the way things happen where I live. There are no rabbits, or bunnies, in Cambridge-Narrows...that's because I'm visited by the Easter Beaver.
Beavers are a very much misunderstood animal. People always talk about the busy beaver but I ask you 'have you ever seen one working in the winter'? No, they plunk their lazy asses down indoors all winter and just lay around. They spend the spring, summer and fall playing around in the water...you call that a work ethic? If the Royal Order of Leisurologists (Canadian chapter) ever seek out a mascot...well, I don't need to point out the obvious.
The beaver is supposed to be a Canadian icon like the maple leaf or the timbit?? People, it's a lazy rodent and nothing more. Sure it appears on our money, but so does the queen , a sailboat and an caribou that little kids call a moose. The beaver has hobbies...deforestation and flooding. It's fifty pounds of teeth and terror but for one day a year it shows its tender side and visits the good people of Cambridge-Narrows.
The Easter Beaver brought me a white chocolate bunny. How do I know it was the Easter Beaver and not the bunny? I'd love to explain my reasoning but there's a large tree that's fallen on my lawn and I've got to go tidy things up.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I've been a Group Of Seven admirer for about twenty years now. Their impressionistic canvasses depicting the Canadian landscape were, um, very Canadian. And quite juicy! I was on the Cambridge-Narrows bridge this morning with my camera and I saw a scene that reminded me of the Group Of Seven's work. I challenged myself to be the eigth member of the Group of Seven. Using Photoshop I think that I came close.
Or am I simply the Group Of One?
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Every parent wants to street proof their child and I'm no exception, but when your child is a 6'1", 220 pound football player, you no longer worry about the obvious societal threats. Now you worry about the obscure (which, to most of us, is the obvious).
You should be.
When my son was little, I would worry about him being abducted while we ambled along the sidewalks of Manhattan. I wasn't worried about anything bad happening to him; I was worried, yet delighted, because he had no innate fear of strangers. He would chat up anyone about anything. One time on a New York City bus a woman sat next to him, he turned to her and asked, "what do you like to eat for breakfast?" She replied "raisin bran." That was the end of the conversation for my four year old.
Later during that same New York visit, while strolling without purpose through Macy's, I let go of his hand while trying on a deeply discounted new shirt. I looked down in utter horror, the sleeves of the new shirt were too short for my long arms. It happens all the time. My son was standing nearby wondering why the pained look on my face, naively never really understanding the intricacies of shopping. We carried on and I was once again thinking how easy it would be to lose him in the endless maze of merchandise. I could turn my back for a few seconds, and he could be on a one way escalator ride to Brooklyn. Only years later I would find out that he had met up with some pancake eating family with whom he had integrated seamlessly.
Fast forward to 2009. My son is now seventeen and still doesn't understand the intricacies of shopping. In five months he'll be off to university and not particularly well versed in the tactics of urban survival. So I do what any good father would do, I hand him $200 and ask him to go buy the family groceries for the week. I don't hand him a list of every single item that I want, a dumbed-down monkey could carry out that task. Instead, I say, "buy what you think we need for the week." I head into my yoga class and we reconvene in one hour and fifteen minutes.
For the 'little guy', it was an education. He's taught algebra and studies mitochondria at school, but that doesn't help him extricate a shopping cart from the grocery store pile. He tugged and tugged at the shopping carts, examining the carts closely to see if some grocery store Beelzebub had welded them together as part of some belated April Fool's joke.
Smile, you're on Candid Camera!
He stood back and weighed his options. He could use one of the smaller granny carts, but that was simply unacceptable. He bided his time until some cart savvy adult came along and separated them. Now safely inside the store with a liberated cart, he headed to the produce department.
That would be something important to buy. Let's see. I'll just have to get one of these clear plastic bags from the dispenser. As seasoned shoppers, we've all had our tussles with the produce bags. Personally, I pull violently on the roll in hope of separating one bag. As often as not, I end up with four bags and am guilted into buying four times the produce that I actually need. I still have kumquats in the fridge from 2004, don't know what to do with them. My son managed to get one bag from the roll, but he tore a cantaloupe sized hole in the side while doing so. Back to the roll. Second time, no problem. Now let's see, I'll just open up the bag to put the pears in. Hmmm. It doesn't seem to want to open. Grrrr. Ack. Aha. Voila! The tissue-thin bag is finally unlocked and the pears fall happily inside.
This is all part of my street-proofing plan. It was a Wednesday evening when he got the groceries so I introduced him to shopping during non-prime time. I won't be so generous in the future. The streets are a mean place...the malls are even worse. My next plan is to drop him into Wal-Mart on the day that government welfare cheques are issued. I fear for his safety, after all it was the Fredericton Wal-Mart where a hapless employee was rolled back, then trampled by crazed Tickle-Me-Elmo shoppers in 1996.
So what will I do to protect my son while shopping at Wal-Mart? I'm not going to tell you, but let's just say don't be surprised if you see someone in football gear pushing a granny cart.
But wait, there's more....
....I wouldn't want you to think that I'm a bad father. Of course I'd never leave him alone in a Wal-Mart! What kind of a monster do you think I am? I'll be shadowing him the whole time, a ghostly cheesehead wearing figure, always looking out for his son's best interests.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I'm all over Google these days because the search results are often more entertaining than the content. For example, I typed in 'famous leisurologists', hoping to find some information for this morning's post. Google asked me if what I really meant was 'leis urologist'. Of course, Googlebot, that's what I was really researching...flower-wearing Hawaiian urologists. I won't fault the Googlebot for trying to read my mind, after all, look with what it has to work. Good luck trying to read my mind.
I didn't find the above picture by searching 'leis urologist' in Google. I was a bit pissed off to find nothing interesting in my urological search so I had to create my own image. Should I upload my image to Google, in case someone else is searching leis urologist?
Needless to say, I found very little about leisurologists online. It's not that we're an endangered species (though, in fact, we are), it's more that we never really prospered in the first place. Let's start by examining what a leisurologist is...
A leisurologist is a stay at home man or woman, who forsakes Oprah, the Young and the Restless, Dr.Phil, Regis and Kelly, and The View for a life of outdoor leisure pursuits. Sure, there's couch time, but it is not used frivolously (see Oprah, the Young and the Restless, Dr.Phil, Regis and Kelly, The View and blog posting). It's used to read, create or self-enlighten.
The 'catch' in this profession is the kids. Without the kids a leisurologist would basically be a younger version of the Hef sans job, bunnies and mansion. Sure, you could argue that The Hef has kids, but who do you think he tucks into bed at night?
A leisurologist takes parenting very seriously, but the split second that a window of opportunity presents itself, he/she is gone. During the early years of parenting, with kids at home, the leisurologist has to lay low, to the point of being dormant. The leisurologist comes into his/her own during the following times:
grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12....
...but only after the dishes, vacuuming and laundry are done.
Are you thinking that leisurology sounds like 1950s housewifery without the apron and the nine-to-five husband who drives a Buick? Perhaps it is. The traditional roles of men and women no longer mean anything in our society. Anyone can be anything. It takes strategy to become a leisurologist though.
Many couples living in non-hinter areas need two paychecks to furnish their over-sized homes and meet their mortgage commitments. It's just the way it is in western society. If you want to become a leisurologist and live in an urban environment...good luck! Unless, of course, you marry a urologist.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
"Just a spoonful of sugar, or maple syrup, makes the medicine go down."
There! I've finally worked a Mary Poppins quote into my everyday life. I can die now. Well, I'm not quite ready...I still need to clip a snippet from The Sound Of Music and it'll be a cold day in Salzburg before I cough one up. Besides, the hills are alive with the sound of maple sap, and I've got 'work' to do.
please excuse the seemingly obvious lack of segue from Mary Poppins to Marshall McLuhan, but here goes...
I'd like to indulge myself in a McLuhanian moment. Marshall famously said "the medium is the message." This quote came from the 1960s (a doobie-us time). I was never quite sure that I got what Marshall was saying..until now. In Mary Poppins terms, the sugar is the medicine. In Ian Poppins terms, the maple syrup is the medicine. Maple syrup has replaced the mud in my head with free-flowing amber insight, as though I've tapped into a deeper level of consciousness.
I can easily segue from maple syrup to McCrea Farms because McCrea Farms happens to know a thing or two about using maple syrup to make people happy. They recently hosted two weekends of maple syrup and pancake breakfasts, combined with tours of their sugarbush. Approximately six-hundred people enjoyed the breakfast and tour. At least one person did it twice (I'm telling you, it's an addiction!). Nothing says springtime more than fresh maple taffy poured over hard-packed snow. I'm not sure that you can call yourself Canadian until you've experienced it. Note: to the defence of the treeless Inuit, I've never slept in an igloo or eaten blubber, and I'm fully aware that we all have our own version of what makes one a true Canadian. To the rest of you yellow-bellied, non-sapsuckers....what are you waiting for??
The pancake breakfast was wonderful and very generous. The McCrea family made everyone feel at home and despite the obvious chore of feeding six-hundred people over two weekends, they did it with smiles and good humour. They were happy to showcase their operation and proud of the eight generations that made/make it a reality. It's pure pleasure to watch people who are proud of their past and their present. The maple tours are finished for this year, but they'll be offered again next spring. In the meantime, check out their web site for more information about life on a working farm, including farm-stay vacations.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
In a desperate attempt to infuse the landscape with colour, I've placed my polyester lei from Oahu in a wooden bowl. It screams tropics. It also screams factory in China...my apologies. Next thing you know I'll be putting tacky palm trees along the perimeter of my property (wait, that's already been done by my neighbour). The lei does offer a dash of life to an otherwise black and white day, so it shall remain there until the grass is green and the skies are blue.
This image isn't gorgeous. Hell, it isn't even pretty but if you look carefully in the background you'll see two white-tail deer bounding past. Without the deer, it's just a dollar store promo pic, and not a good one at that.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I saw the eagle on the ice this afternoon. It was under the bridge, near the deer so I grabbed my camera and high-tailed it onto the bridge. Leaning over the railing, I saw no eagle. I looked and looked and looked but the eagle was gone. I then looked back toward my property and the eagle was grinning smuggly from one of my pines.
I did manage to get a few shots of the eagle earlier in the afternoon. This eagle is not the one I've been chasing all week. This one is probably a three year old and he/she hasn't got his/her full white head and tail.
Did you know that the word 'bald' means white in zoological terms? Of course you did.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
With any luck, this will be the last image of a dead deer that I will post. I'd like to move on to something more upbeat like daffodils. I've been watching this deer slowly disappear for about 10 days now and it's been an education. The lake ice is melting and I suspect the carcass will slip into the lake later today. The eagles and crows will be miserable but they've had quite a time of it. The crows will, no doubt, resort to their old feeding habits (attacking my Tuesday morning garbage bag). The eagles are also opportunists and they'll find something...they always do.
There's a primitive aspect to this morning's image...it reminds me of a cave painting or something elemental. Nature is truly the great canvas, we simply amble about her gallery.