Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Leisurologist Finally Retires



After 309 consecutive daily postings, and a smattering of after thoughts, this blog is officially done.

D.O.N.E. There will be no more postings.

The blog has been very generous to me. It has helped me to feel creative...a feeling that I crave. About fifteen years ago, when I used to paint, I was always saying that a day without feeling creative felt like a day wasted. Perhaps a bit harsh, but there was truth to my words. I wasn't kidding myself.

Writing a blog has given me creative license day after day, but it has also shackled me to the computer almost every morning. I don't particularly enjoy sitting in front of the computer as it feels very artificial to me. I don't think that I've evolved to live that life, so I'm happy to step back and let the sun illuminate my face, rather than the eerie blue light of the monitor.

The crater of creativity left by the absence of the blog is now being filled with the sound of music. Perhaps I'm being generous by calling my guitar strumming and picking 'music', but that's the direction in which I'm heading. I took up the guitar just over a year ago and I'm starting to take it seriously. I'm a slow learner but I'm committed.

Or should be.

Yes, my alter ego is still with me. Every time I screw up on the guitar, he's there to put me in my place.

You know, Ian, that Eagles song that you're working on sounds much better when you turn the amp down. It sounds okay when you set the volume at two, but even better at zero.

Now, I am going to take great pleasure in turning my alter ego down to zero, at least in print...

I'm outta here, and I'm taking him with me.

But...

No buts. We're toast. Ta ta for now. And thank you, the readers, for reading and commenting. It's been greatly appreciated and inspirational.

That's it?

Well, not exactly. I'll be back with another asinine project. It's what I do...just you wait.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Moose Whisperer



"Hey Bullwinkle, what weighs more, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?"

"Umm, a pound of bricks, of course."

Moose are so stupid, but only when it comes to measurement. Drop a human, Ben Mulroney and a moose off in a windswept wilderness swamp in January, and place your bets. Let's call it Survivor: Canada. I'm betting that the human will die in the barrens. So will Ben Mulroney, but only from a lack of exposure to hair care products and attention.

Bullwinkle, on the other hoof, will walk back to civilization, be showered with accolades, collect his million dollars, and then be struck by a semi while enjoying a celebratory lick of salt from the four lane. Moose don't do so well in public.

In Canada we have road signs that say 'Moose, next 17 kilometres', or something to that effect. In Maine, the signs read 'Moose, next 10 miles'. In Vermont, they do things differently. They are precise, which surprises me because the state is populated with deadheads, tree huggers and sap suckers. Instead of 'Moose, next 1 mile', they suggest that moose may be a problem for the next 5500 feet.

When I read a sign that says 'Moose, next 17 miles', I see it as a blanket statement to watch out for furry fridges on stilts that want to get to the back seat of my car through the windshield. When I see a sign that says 'Moose, next 5500 feet', I spend my time watching the odometer, not the road, trying to identify the exact spot where I no longer need to worry about moose. I expect to see a river or a cliff or a Ben and Jerry's factory, instead I just see more trees and a slight grade leading out of a valley.

I haven't longed for a job for a long time, but if I ever apply for one then I know what it's going to be. I want to be the person, who works for the state of Vermont's Department of Highways, who measures the territorial breadth of wandering moose.

What a job. What a career! I'd give up leisurology for that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Long Winded Varty



A friend recently loaned me a book that she thought I would like. She was right, and very thoughtful to have made the loan. The book was called The Long Winded Lady, and was written by a woman called Maeve Brennan.

Maeve Brennan wrote a column from 1954 to 1981 for The New Yorker magazine. Her column was called "Talk Of The Town" and, in my experience, was a showcase for one woman's ground floor, ordinary observations. But...

Her observations were extraordinarily ordinary.

I decided to write a column in the style of Maeve Brennan. It felt easy, to be honest, but it's far easier to emulate than originate. I tip my hat to Maeve Brennan. It took me one hour to hand write my column, and one hour to edit it. It's lengthy at 1649 words, perhaps even long winded. To that I aspire. Without further ado, here it is:

One sign lives on the beige awning which shadows the windows of the building in which I now find myself seated. Its dark letters say Reid’s United Books. Another sign has been professionally pasted to each and every window. It says Reads: Newsstand – Magazines – Café. Puzzling, but not inexplicable.

My de-caf coffee finds refuge on a small, black-topped round table that sits to the left of my wingless wingback chair. Before I really settle in I make eye contact with a woman who looks like my son’s former piano teacher. There is that awkward moment, when I’m thrown by the newfound colour of her hair, and I worry that I have made gestures towards a stranger. No, it is her and we make polite small talk across the buzzing café.

I wonder if those within earshot make it their business to listen to our chit-chat. Do they really care that my son has made forays into the obvious world of teen guitar strumming? I’m sure that some of them are listening, because I’d be listening if I were them. No one is here for the coffee.

But maybe they’re not like me. Maybe their lives are so full, so self-involved, that they hear or see nothing outside f themselves. One clean shaven man, who clearly must shave every morning or face the prospects of a grizzled thirty something face, is wearing headphones. I try to imagine to what he might be listening that could possibly be more engaging than my utterings or the music being piped through the café’s sound system. I look for speakers, but see only honey mustard coloured acoustic ceiling tiles, behind which the speakers must live.

I don’t know really know what an acoustic ceiling tile is, but those overhead sound good to my hungry ears. Two women, fifteen feet away, compete with the stereo speakers. One looks tired. Her face is a map of her life. The skin below her eyes sags in dark crescents. Her skin is unsmooth and ruddy, as though she had had been left out in the wind. There is no wind today.

Her friend appears to be the type of woman who lives a comfortably plump existence. She is not fat, just comfortable in her clothes and skin. When she leaves the café to drive to her suburban home on the hill, I have no doubt she will drive away in a Toyota Camry. It will be beige. To my surprise she speaks of her landlord. She looks far too comfortable in her spruce green cardigan and coffee cream knit top to be someone who writes rent cheques. I’m surprised. Her car could be a Corolla, I suppose, but I doubt it.

Everyone in the café is needy, and that need extends far beyond the cup that holds their coffee. I, myself, need stimuli. Most people in the café sit along the perimeter, like tree top vultures encompassing the carcass of humanity. Comfy chairs line the perimeter of the room. The walls, like the acoustic ceiling tiles, are a matching honey-mustard. The middle of the café is populated with dark chestnut brown hardwood chairs, many of them occupied. These solid, unwelcoming chairs say ‘drink up and go’. They are largely ignored.

“Hey June, how’s your day so far?” asks a Castro capped man who appears to be hiding behind his platinum laptop. He’s speaking to his cell phone, which sits on the window ledge to his right. Overhead the sound of ‘Funky Town’ gives his call a funky backbeat in this unfunky town.
I struggle with people who make it their business to broadcast their business to those who don’t care to listen. Fortunately, I do care, at least on this mild February day. Things are not always so blissful.

“Hey, how are you?” I whirl around in the soup aisle of an imaginary grocery store where I’ve been before, ready to forego my quest for a sodium free broth in exchange for a friendly exchange. I’m feeling great, though troubled by the presence of MSG in the soup. I’m just about to exclaim ‘great’ to a friendly and familiar face when my jaw snaps shut and my tongue falls limp. An unfamiliar face speaks into a phone. I turn in embarrassment and fumble with the consommé. “I’m fine”, I mutter to myself.

The Castro capped man thanks AJ for helping with some looming crisis in the Truro office. AJ could be Andrew James or Alexander John. I like initial names, like K.C.Irving. They add mystery where often none exists, and besides, does the world really need another Alex or Andy? Of course AJ could be a woman, but what are the odds?

A lot of magazines spend a month or two in Reid’s/Reads. Time magazine has a rather striking cover, featuring the Man Of War. Initially, from across the room, I thought it said Man Of The Year, which was ironic because I didn’t recognize the dramatic face on the cover. The homme de guerre looked like the aged offspring of Conrad Black and a bulldog, and by that I’m not referring to Lady Black of Crossharbour. This man had bite.

Newsweek was less dramatic, offering only, in a disappointingly small font, that Antidepressants Don’t Work. In itself, a simultaneously uplifting and depressing thought. Coffee, anyone?
I realize as I’m writing this that my body is listing severely to port, while my neck is craned hard to starboard. I’m scribbling furiously. What must the coffee klatch be thinking of this intruder? And that’s just the point. I am here as much to notice, as to be noticed. I am the zipper that won’t close.

Castro cap is now looking for Gerard. Castro cap, I learn, has a name. It is Ed. I know this because Ed says “Ed here” while exofacing with Gerard. Ed runs his empire out of a coffee shop in Canada’s most innocuously conservative city, Fredericton. Even white bred Ottawa bows down.

Ed thinks that he might be able to swing by the Truro office during the week of the 22nd, as he’s got a seminar coming up with CBCL, an engineering firm in Halifax. Ed must give seminars to engineers, when not taking fashion tips from nearly dead Communists.

The woman with crescent eyes wears nice looking running sneakers, as though she might need to flee at any moment. Her black soled sneakers are accented by white and silver uppers, with sky blue stripes peeling off like rays of bent light. Her elevated foot, hanging from the knee draped across her other leg, bounces nervously for five seconds,and then stops abruptly. Again, it bounces for five seconds and stops. The pattern repeats.

Ed is now making plans to sell Gerard some septic piping or, at least, offer some pricing. I’m glad I’m not Ed. He grabs his long dead coffee and walks past me. He talks as he walks. Gerard is no doubt listening religiously while rolling a pencil around in his fingers. I’m glad I’m not Gerard.

Ed, in his dark coat, is now outside of Read’s, walking westerly along the sidewalk. His mouth and legs move competitively, though not quickly. He holds his phone in front of his body at chest level as though his entire chi, his life force, is being reflected or channelled back into his iPhone. I imagine that Ed is wholly unaware of the sidewalk passing under his feet: the cracks, the undulations, the stains, the stories. He doesn’t see the flags trying to wave from the bland beige brick facade across the street. Four of his five senses are on hold while his ears make the call.

Ed seems very happy with his lot in life, and then disappears off to a septic seminar, or perhaps to recharge his batteries.

There’s a couple sitting little more than an arm’s length away from me. They seem to be having an intimate conversation, the type long since abandoned by the married. His voice is low and bassy, which seems to fit his extra-large leather coat draped inside-out across his chair back. The lining is looking upward, admiring the acoustic ceiling tile, while the logo and XL tag spill down the backside, staring back at me. I try to identify the brand of his coat but I am unsuccessful. There’s a large, stylized and swooshy O, followed by four or five very small white letters. They mean nothing to me.

His hair is a similar dark colour to the chair in which he sits. His jacket and liner are black like the table top that houses his elbows and coffee. His companion sits across from him in a narrow corridor of focus. They should be somewhere else, but this is Friday at 10: 00 a.m. in Fredericton, and early check-ins are discouraged.

I take my plaid jacket off and let it slide between my back and the comfy chair in which I’ve taken up residence. No one will see the embarrassing label in my coat. The label was surgically removed by either the manufacturer or the discount retailer where it was purchased. My coat cost ten dollars and was purchased from a discount retailer.

I care, but I don’t. I’m just happy not to be giving sewer pipe seminars like Ed.

I’ve been in this identity challenged café or over an hour. At least half of the people still here were here when I arrived. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a life. My coffee, largely ignored, is down to its last cold sip. It’s time to go.

The man with the extra-large leather coat gets up just before me. The coat really is too big for his frame. Perhaps he bought it on sale, but I think he would have been happier with a large. Of course, he might favour wearing sweaters underneath. It’s quite warm today for a February day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Leisurologist: An Unofficial Portrait


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This image pretty much sums up the life of the leisurologist: lonely and bored. Everyone that I know is having 'fun' at work with their colleagues. My profession, I'll tell you, is sheer hell. I don't think, quite honestly, that most of you could handle it.
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It takes a special person to be a leisurologist.
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Define special, Ian.
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I'm not sure that I can. It's in the jeans.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Subway Is Ugly, Right?






Cities don't do much for me and I've never tried to hide that fact. I'm willing to admit that my recent visit to Montreal was very pleasant. Montreal, unlike Toronto, still feels exotic to me. Perhaps it's the way Montreal women dress, perhaps it's the colourful subway. Probablement le deux.
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Here's a few images from my adventures in subterranean Montreal.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The White Mountains


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I had the pleasure of visiting what was, until 1996, the windiest place on earth. It was Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Mount Washington held that blustery distinction until readings were taken from the backside of Ken Appleby's jeans. Though still sub-sonic, some blasts, known as toots in scientific terms, were clocked at 462 mph. That's exactly double those recorded on Mount Washington!
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At 6288 feet, Mount Washington is the third highest state peak in the eastern United States. It is located in the White Mountains National Park, and is part of the Presidential Range of mountains. The Presidential Range is home to peaks with such names as Washington, Madison, Adams and Eisenhower. There is no Mount Clinton, though consideration has been given by many.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Has the Leisurologist Died?




The Leisurologist has not died, but the blog is on life support. My goal of writing the blog for 365 consecutive days died two weekends ago while traveling through New England without a computer. My passion for travel and snowboarding was the ultimate reason for the blog's demise, but shouldn't that be the way of the leisurologist?

So I was unable to keep the blog alive on consecutive days. I managed 309 posts in a row...not bad, but now what? Indeed, what to do? What to do?

I've love writing. I love photography. I love creativity. I crave inspiration.

I'm going to decide the blog's ultimate fate when I return home.

Currently I'm sitting in the gorgeous drawing room of a Montreal home listening to Bizet being played on a $90 000 Steinway grand, tickled by one of Canada's finest players. It's the piano being tickled, but I'm tickled to be listening.

Oh yes, I'm sipping some sort of wine/brandy mix...very nice. I'll be tasting Scotch shortly, I'm told. The leisurologist is alive and well, only my writing is suffering. Don't cry for me Argentina, Minto or Jemseg...I'm doing just fine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Have I Created A Monster? We'll See...



Do you remember a snow storm a few years back when the City of Toronto had to enlist the Canadian army for help? Drastic measures.

That was ten years and one week ago. I'm about to embark on a visit to Toronto and, once again, it's time for drastic measures. My routing to Toronto will not be long-haul trucker efficient. There will be few tire tracks made on the Trans-Canada highway as I'm going to drive through New England. This means no truck stops, no hot hamburger sandwiches.

Thank you!

That was my colon speaking. There will be no shopping for Freightliner belt buckles or monstrous trucker buckles of any type. You know the ones, they're huge. They're ugly. They're shiny. They can be found on sale at most Canadian truck stops, right next to the mud flap aisle.

Given that I'm driving through the You Ess of Eh, I won't have to worry about my Tim Horton's fatwa, unless Tim has invaded New England. I saw a Tim Horton's in New York City, so anything is possible.

Umm, Ian, you said something about drastic measures?

Right. I'm going to be unable to post blogs while in New England. Between snowboarding, driving, and not having a laptop, it will be virtually impossible for me to post anything, so the blog will have to be cancelled for a couple of days.

You're joking, right?

Sort of. It's true that I won't be able to post anything, but perhaps this opens the door for a guest blogger to step in and fill my size twelve shoes.

Wow! It would take quite a man to fill your shoes, or a woman from the Amazon. That's sarcasm, by the way.

I've offered the job to my son.

But he's only a kid. He's seventeen. What's he going to write about? Video games, cars, and girls? Will he give us tips on how to win at Wii golf? Will he tell us why, with computers, we never need to go outdoors again? Perhaps he'll tell us about why Burger King is better than McDonald's. He'll write about skate shoes, won't he? Will he write like a textpert?

U no it, 4 sho.

I haven't got a clue what he'll write about, but I suspect that you'll be surprised. You might just read it and think it a shame the boy hadn't been involved in home schooling. There's a lot that he could teach his stupid old father.

Now you're talking like me! Maybe you could be a witty writer someday.

So, with any luck, Saturday and Sunday's blog will be guest written by 'the kid'. I've given him carte blanche to write about whatever he wants. He knows what carte blanche means, too. He's some smart.

Do you know what carte blanche means? It means that you've given him a blank, signed cheque and he's to fill in the amount.

Oh shit! Are you serious?

Yup. It can also mean, from Wikipedia, the following:

Full Powers, a term in international law referring to the authority of a person to sign a treaty or convention on behalf of a sovereign state.

That's what I meant. I see writing The Leisurologist blog to be equal to signing a treaty or convention on behalf of a sovereign state (me).

Right up there with the penning of the Magna Carta.

Magna Carta?? I don't know what that means. I don't speak French anyway. Hey...isn't that the company that Belinda Stronach's daddy owns?

First of all, Belinda Stronach's father owns a company called Magna International. Secondly, it's Latin, you dolt!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Bag (pipe) Squeezing Price Of Fun


'I'll nae be payin' that!', said my little voice in a Scottish brogue thicker than rib rappelling porridge.

When it comes to issues of expense, my little voice always speaks like Angus MacTightwad and, quite frankly, this makes me happy. Very happy. My little voice is the voice of reason, it tells me when I'm about to do something stupid involving money. It always speaks in a bold, no frills, sans-serif Arial font. Very Scottish. Very Presbyterian.

What about me? That's what I do!

No, you're my sarcastic alter ego. You put me down and cause me to doubt myself in all things not involving money. You cause me to question my entire existence. You make me insecure. You make me apprehensive. You turn me into some limp, vaguely human form comprised of oatmeal innards with a cream of wheat personality. You also speak in an Italic font, indicative of the mental Mafioso.

Oh good! I like that. So tell me why the little voice is talking to you right now, or you'll get whacked?

I'm about to pay $75 U.S. to snowboard for one day at Sunday River (ME). I half expect to hand the money over to some balaclava wearing Robin Hoodie who insists on being paid in cash. I'll probably buy lunch at the resort's restaurant. Scones and tea: $14.95, no doubt. Jam for scones, $4.95. Butter? $2.95. Water: free (it's in the water closet).

Hey, what's the big deal? Your tax dollars pay a colo-rectal surgeon $250 an hour to stick a roto...well, never mind. So why whine about $75 for a day of glorious mountain snowboarding?

I think we all have a sense for the value of an activity. I don't like opera enough to fork over two hundred clams for a decent seat at the Met. Fortunately, Wendy gets me tickets for free (cue the bagpipes and watch Ian dance his happy, Scottish I-just-beat-the-system dance). I once sat in the General Director's private box. 'Garcon, une autre fraise-chocolat, s'il vous plait'.

Did you know that, in Scottish country dancing, protocol dictates that you have a new partner for every dance? Better yet, it's traditional for the lassies to ask the blokes. Finally, I might get to dance...if you could consider two splayed and bickering hooves, moving in opposite directions, to be dancing.

Getting back on track, let's talk about another Scottish past-time: golf. I like golf but I don't love it. I certainly don't $75 love it, thus I've never paid more than $30 for a round of golf. Even at $30, my sporran grumbled for a fortnight afterwards.

I once paid $30 for my son and I to bowl a few strings. I don't $30 love bowling. I don't $3 like bowling. I don't know how to make the 'cent' sign, but let's just say that I less-than-a-loony like bowling. When you have size 12 feet and you slap on a pair of tumor toed bowling shoes, it's hard to feel good about one's self.

I like snowboarding a lot, but I don't $75 like it, but that's what I'm going to pay for a day on the slopes at Sunday River. I don't begrudge the money grubbing, Escalade driving shareholders of the corporation that owns Sunday River, but there is a certain sadness in knowing that I'd have to sell my chesterfield (that's a couch, kids) and my meat locker in order to take my family skiing for a day.

Baseball is no different. It's like treating your wife and kids to a ball game at Yankee Stadium; if you walk out of there with any change from a six-hundred dollar bill, then you're doing well. Oh...what? The kids want a hot dog, better get out the Mastercard.

Life is expensive. And fun is getting ridiculously expensive. The day may come when I have to get a job so I can afford to have fun, but if I have a job, then there's not much time to have fun. It's the classic leisurologist trap. I suppose the secret to a happy existence is to find a job that is challenging, rewarding and fun. Or not have a job and snowboard somewhere other than Sunday River at 75 bucks a pop.

I have a year long pass at Poley Mountain in Sussex for $250. That puts thing in perspective. Sunday River, one day: $75 U.S.. Poley Mountain, one hundred days: $250. When I snowboard at Poley, I can hear the bagpipes echoing through the valley.

I'm not sure what will be going through my head when I snowboard at Sunday River, but I have an idea.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A (Small) Mountain Of Inspiration


Once in a while I wake up and think that I have nothing on my brain worth writing about, but I write anyway.
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Haven't you done that 306 days in a row, except for the two days when guest bloggers, Wendy Nielsen and Jean Gaudet, gave us something worthwhile to read?
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There are times when I've got something that I want to write about, but I have no time to do it. This morning is a combination of the two. I'm a bear of little brain, and unlike the Rolling Stones, ti-iiiiiii-eee-ime isn't on my side, this morning.
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My job as Senior Leisurologist demands that I go snowboarding. I have a reputation to uphold, after all. Ten centimetres of fresh snow is trying to fall, wooing me away from the keyboard. It would be rude to ignore it, so off I go...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mass Consumption


When I was little, mass meant 'my ass', i.e. Mom, I fell skateboarding, mass hurts. When I was fourteen I took note of a show on television called 'Mass For Shut-ins'. The title always had me perplexed, until a few years later while attending a Roman Catholic church service with a friend. I didn't enjoy it, mostly because sitting on the pews made mass hurt.

In high school, mass became a concept for Physics class, taught to me by my diminutive, marathon running teacher, Mr.Simmons. That was a long time ago, but if I remember correctly a body's mass also determines the degree to which it generates or is affected by a gravitational field. If a first body of mass M is placed at a distance r from a second body of mass m, the first body experiences an attractive force F given by F = GMm/R2 where G is the universal constant of gravitation, equal to 6.67×10−11 kg−1 m3 s−2.

Physics was always such a breeze for me.

Not.

Mr.Simmons was married to Mrs.Simmons, that's how things worked when I was a boy, usually, unless you were Richard Simmons (I always wondered if he was gay). Mrs.Simmons was my grade eight teacher who awarded me the Best Actor trophy for my class (fortunately little, runny-nosed Bradley Pitt was sick during drama week).

I can just imagine the conversations that Mr. and Mrs.Simmons had over dinner:

Mr.Simmons: I've got one student in my top level Physics class who I think has a learning disability. Either that, or he's really stupid. His name is Varty, Ian Varty.

Mrs.Simmons: Ian Varty! He was a student in my grade eight class. I remember that he was a brilliant comic actor. He's probably just pretending to be dumb...he's just acting.

Mr.Simmons: Well, in that case, he is a very talented actor.

I probably learned more about Physics in grade seven, admiring/contemplating Ms.Spinney's magnificently upturned banana boobs. They defied gravity:

Gravity: You can't do that.

Ms.Spinney's Left Boob: Not only can we do that, we are doing that!

Ms.Spinney's Right Boob: In your face, Gravity. You can't stop us.

Ms.Spinney's Left Boob: Hey Righty, look at me, I'm counting ceiling tiles. What are you doing?

Ms.Spinney's Right Boob: Oh, not much, just a little astronomy.

Today, in the new millennium, I think of mass in terms of consumerism. I saw an image in the post Boxing Day Fredericton newspaper which captured two hundred bargain crazy junkies lining up outside to get into Future Shop for the post Christmas deals (note: quantities limited to two per store, no rain cheques, see you soon....suckas). I wouldn't line up to get a 96" plasma HD/AWOL/ADHD/KFC/SOL tv for $99. I wouldn't line up for anything retail, besides if I wanted a 96" plasma tv I could probably find one by accident at Costco.

Costco is quite the place. I walked into Costco looking to buy a pack of double AA batteries and I walked out with a 96" plasma tv, a foosball table and some jeans that I don't really like because they make mass look big, but they were on sale and who was I to resist a bargain? There is a tendency toward mass over consumption at Costco, and that's why I don't have a membership.

It's too bad that I don't have a membership, because a friend of mine wanted me to bring some King Cole tea to Toronto when I visit. I could have surprised her with a really big box of it. Just my luck...Costco has the lifetime supply cartons on sale this week. Inside each crate is two hundred and forty pillow-sized tea bags! It's almost incomprehensible.

M'ead hurts just thinking about it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pat Robertson: Wash Your Mouth Out, Then Shut It...Please


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Pat Robertson is a well known and influential southern Baptist mouthpiece. Based on what I know of him, I'd like to suggest that he's also an asshole. There is a small possibility that he's old and delusional, and for that he could be excused, but his track record shows that age likely isn't a factor.
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Haiti, the country and the people, has been hurting for a long time. The recent earthquake was just another kick to Haiti's crotch, but by whom? If you listened to what Pat Robertson said on national television, then you might believe that Haiti was simply being smited for its 'pact with the devil'.
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In my opinion, Haiti was unlucky enough to be located over a fault line in the earth's crust. I doubt that other earthquake ravaged places had 'pacts with the devil', places like China, Iran and California. What about tsunamis or hurricanes. Did Katrina wash New Orleans clean? What about tornadoes that seem to have an appetite for the bible belt? How does Pat explain when people, who send greenbacks to his Christian corporations, get their trailers and torsoes ripped apart by tornadoes. Maybe those unfortunates made a 'pact with the devil' themselves...the devil they know. The devil they watch on tv.
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What a ludicrous statement that Pat Robertson made. Ludicrous and hurtful. I have to be careful not to slip into Pat's snake skin loafers.
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We all say things occasionally that we don't mean, sadly some of them get uttered on national television. No one is perfect...I'm living proof. So are you. The test of any man or woman's mettle is what they do once they've made a mistake.
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Pat Robertson has a chance to make amends. Now is the time. He should recant his statement and apologize to the people of Haiti. It's unlikely since he really believes what he says to be true. His god works a bit differently from the god of others, it would appear.
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Perhaps Pat doesn't really believe what he's saying. Perhaps he's just appealing to the charitable red necks of society who approve of their loving god smiting the poor, the different, the non-democratic, the less than Christian. Maybe that's the business model that works for his corporations. Regardless, I find his words to be despicable, even devilish.
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At least Jerry Falwell (1933-2007), another flamboyant tele-vandal-ists, had the good sense to attack the Teletubbies, and not a country that was on the ground bleeding. Jack Van Impe, the talking bible, concentrates his hate on the evil European Union, among others.
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Gawd, what a strange world we live in. It's little wonder that I don't watch television, go to church or take my Teletubby dolls out in public.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gee! Oh!! Graphic!!!



Last week I exhibited an image of myself that generated some discussion.

Was that the black & white image you sent to Playgirl? You know, the one with the Ski-Doo, the rope and the snowboard.

Shush! What happens in Jemseg stays in Jemseg! And no, that's not the one. I'm referring to the self portrait that went along with my blog entitled 'We're All Brilliant Women'. That was the blog about that Halifax Broad who writes with profane self deprecating eloquence.

Oh yes, I remember that one. So what about it?

Well, my son saw my self portrait and asked me if it was inspired by the portrait that National Geographic photographer, Steve McCurry, took more than two decades ago of the Afghan girl. That picture, and the story of the remarkable reunion of photographer and subject, can be found on National Geographic's web site, or follow the link I just provided. I'll admit that some of my links are frivolous...this one is not.

I agree. It's quite a story and offers some insight into life in war torn Afghanistan as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Arched Villains


The only thing better than one is two, right?

This holds true for friends, dollars, eyes and testicles, but not for Big Macs.

Four all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a couple of sesame seed buns.

That's what I was singing when I went into a McDonald's one day back in the mid nineteen seventies. I stepped up to the counter and proudly ordered two Big Macs, both for myself. I was a big boy, and I wanted to prove it by lining my stomach with a man meal. I paid for my burgers, wrapped my grubby paws around the blood red plastic tray, and found a table. I sat down, scanned the room for threats beyond my tray, Grimaced at the decor, then concentrated at the task at hand.

My first bite, as always, was the best. Each subsequent bite was less warmly greeted, but the final bite, of Big Mac number one, felt triumphant. One down, one to go. Big Mac number one was like hiking to Everest base camp. It was a bit of work, but absolutely doable. Big Mac number two was like climbing the summit.

Left foot. Chew down. Right foot. Chew up. Repeat.

The last few bites of Le Mac Grand Deuxième were like climbing over the Hillary Step and making that do or die dash to the peak. Statistically speaking, one in ten, who summit Everest, dies. I'm not sure about the death rate among teenagers who eat two Big Macs. I left the restaurant and promptly Ralph Malphed my lunch all over eastern Canada. My stomach had been hamburgled; its contents stolen away from me.

It took me about five years before I could eat a Big Mac again. In hindsight, those were the best five years of my life. I didn't boycott McDonald's at the time, because what happened was my fault, not theirs, but I am currently considering a fatwa against McDonald's for other reasons.

Before I go any further, I just want to clarify my association with McDonald's. Since becoming a part-time coffee drinker, about two years ago, I've been struggling to find a decent coffee. My fatwa against Tim and his low brow roll-up-the-rimmers has made it difficult to find coffee in Canada, so I turned to the golden arches. McDonald's coffee is acceptable (head hung in shame). McDonald's food is not. Under no circumstances will my tongue ever see a Big Mac dancing upon it...or anything else they serve at McDonald's. I'd rather lick road salt off a highway like a knee bent moose in the dark than choke down a sodden McBurger.

Yeesh. I feel like hurling just thinking about it.

So why the possibility of a fatwa against McDonald's, Ian?

It's to punish them for my last three visits, as follows:

1) My Christmastime visit: Wendy and I enjoyed a pleasant evening with a very sociable friend in late December. As we were leaving Fredericton, I had the novel idea to grab a coffee at Ronald's drive through.

Don't you mean 'drive-thru'?

U know what I meant. Anyway, I pulled up to the speaker and said "I'd like a large coffee, puleez." The (no doubt) pimple-faced voice told me that he couldn't sell me anything. Keep in mind that these words were spoken to me by a McDonald's employee at 9:50 p.m., on a Friday night. I continued the dialogue with the zit box, asking for some clarification. I was told that they were 'transferring over the system', whatever that meant, and they couldn't sell me anything at all for at least ten minutes. I offered to give him the exact change for a coffee which he could ring in later. Professor Whitehead said 'no can do'. He held all the cards, the little bastard. Instead of being high-fived for my ingenuity, coffee in hand, I was Oxy-fived and squeezed out of the drive through.

'Drive-thru', you dim wit. I tolda ya once...

I drove off in a huff, unable to beat the system, or outsmart a blemished boy.

2) This past Thursday night, after indoor wall climbing at Base Gagetown, I decided that a coffee was in order. I needed petrol for my car (I get gas from beans), and there just happened to be a Micky Dees attached to the petrol station. I stepped up to the counter and innocently ordered a large coffee.

Zoinks....the girl couldn't find any large coffee cups. She spoke to the manager who suggested looking 'out back'. Based on the time she took, 'out back' meant through (thru) the back door of the building, across the parking lot, across a football field, across another football field, then into the storage room. My heart rate climbed. Anxiety will do that to a leisurologist.

She finally returned with the crushing news that they were out of large cups. I thru (not bad!) myself upon the floor, writhing and moaning. She offered to put a large quantity of coffee into two small cups, but I've never been a two-fisted drinker.

Hopefully no one from your days at Agricultural College is reading your colourful recollection of your less than sober past.

I declined the two small cups, remembering that two isn't always better than one. I said I'll just have a medium coffee. She poured me a medium coffee, then offered me a refund, but she'd have to find the manager to process the refund first. I don't know where the manager was, and neither did she, apparently. I suspect that the manager was having a toke out behind a pallet full of large coffee cups.

I walked into McDonald's cleanshaven, and by now I looked like I was ready to join ZZ Top. All I wanted was a gee dee coffee, not to spend my middle years in a fast food/slow coffee joint. I finally gave up, even though the manager had been sourced, suggesting that my refund be given to a charity. It amounted to twenty cents plus applicable taxes...pretty generous for a half Scotsman. I left in a half huff.

3) Last night I was returning from an evening of snowboarding at Crabbe Mountain. A coffee seemed like a nice way to cap off the evening and keep me warm and awake for the drive home to the Narrows. I rolled into Freddy Beach at 10 p.m. and considered my options. I could go to Sweetwater's for a dance, a coffee and a brawl with horny army bucks, or I could go to McDonald's. I chose McDonald's.

I was with a friend at the time, so we decided to go into the restaurant (that's unusually generous, Ian, calling it a restaurant) and sit down with our coffee. We walked in and found the place to be quite busy, at least judging by the line-up leading to the one and only cashier, who looked to be too young to even consider sprouting pimples. I looked at the cattle lined up in front of me, then I looked at my watch. It was 10:00 p.m. precisely.

To my left was McDonald's feeble attempt to create some McCafe 'ambiance' (again, very generous use of the language). There was a gas fireplace, not ablaze, and four funky red chairs set into an intimate square. Between each pairing of chaise rouges, was a table. Both tables were piled high with McDonald's wrappers, packaging and gnarled fries.

It took a good ten minutes to finally make it to the front line, my progress impeded by customers clutching gift certificates and two-for-one coupons. The newbie at the cash needed to call in back-ups to process anything other than cash or debit. He seemed to have trouble finding the manager, who undoubtedly was toking behind the KFC next door.

I ordered a large coffee, and as luck would have it, they had plenty of large coffee cups. Unfortunately, they had no coffee. Till boy wasn't quite adequately trained to take money and make coffee, so another McChild arrived after a couple of minutes and started a fresh pot.

My friend ordered a McCafe mocha, which took as long to make as my coffee because they were out of milk. I dreamt up a fantasy scene where the stoned manager was 'out back' milking KFC chickens in a mad attempt to get Dave his mocha. People who were in the line behind me were carrying their trays full of grease and sugar past me as I waited for my coffee. It was maddening. I should have just ordered two Big macs, vomited, and left satisfied.

I decided not to 'enjoy' my coffee in the 'fast food' restaurant. From the time I entered the building to the time I left, twenty-two minutes of my life had expired. I could have used that time more productively, perhaps watching a TiVo tweaked commercial-less re-run of HeeHaw, or writing a novel, or licking salt off the highway.

As I exited McDonald's I glanced at the four red chairs and the tables between them. The wrappers and rubbish were still piled high, after twenty-two festering minutes.

McDonald's is dead.

I left in a Beaufort Scale 12 huff (Very widespread damage to vegetation. Some windows may break; mobile homes and poorly constructed sheds and barns are damaged. Debris may be hurled about.)

Sounds like a fatwa is in the offing, Ian?

No, I'm feeling atypically generous. I'm not quite ready to be through with them just yet.

You mean 'thru'?

U no it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Yes, But Do The Olympics Recognize It?


Ping pong not wild enough for ya?

I recently had a Facebook dialogue with a friend, and it involved the sport of poor man's tennis, aka ping pong. Here's our conversation (edited):

She: <in a post to her FB friends at large> my legs are finally recovering from the crazy game of ping pong! Who would have thought ping pong would have crippled me for 3 days!!!!!

The Leisurologist: I'd kick your ass at ping pong! <Ian always taunts his friends, especially at sports in which he feels a sense of relative superiority. Sports like ping pong and Scrabble.>

She: I'm sure you would! My ass sucks at ping pong, especially extreme ping pong!

The Leisurologist: What's extreme ping pong? Isn't ping pong extreme enough on its own? Extreme ping pong must involve beer...or brownies. Likely both.

She: lol...beer! well regular old ping pong wasn't enough fun so we played "run around the ping pong table"...4 people rotate around the table trying to keep the ball in play. Surprising VERY hard to get over 10 hits. Our record is 41 but that was after 3 hours of trying and probably 900 attempts!

So! There's a new sport that I've never played. Extreme ping pong. I searched 'extreme ping pong' on youtube but only came up with images of Chinese men standing what looked like fifty feet apart, smashing a ping pong ball back and forth. It was extreme all right, but hardly social. Or remotely attainable.

I like ping pong but, in the same manner that skiing became more fun when one one ski was lost (now called snowboarding), I like the idea of tweaking the game. I hope to try extreme ping pong some day, as members of the tribe of Varty are always up for a new challenge. And if it involves beer, you know me, I'm all over it. I just can't get enough beer in me.

What?!?! You drank like seven beer last year, and didn't touch the brownies.

I was once part of a group that invented a new sport based loosely on ping pong. In the early 1970s, in my Fredericton basement, we invented a game called gnip gnop (`gah nip `gah nop). It involved hitting the ping pong ball back and forth in the air so that it never touched the ground. The game died off in the 80s and 90s, but was resurrected two years ago by my son Julian and me. Our record is over two hundred consecutive hits. Can you top that?

Why did you call it 'gnip gnop', Ian?

Because 'elbat sinnet' sounded too serious, and a bit too Middle Eastern.

You got a problem with the Middle East, mister?

Yup. Getting back to ping pong,...I'm feeling rather generous. I'm willing to offer a bottle of Motts Landing Chantilly Blush wine to the first person who can beat me at ping pong. There is only one restriction to this offer:

I must be playing with Excalibur.

Excalibur is my beloved forty year old ping pong paddle that is held together by spit, sweat and, more than anything else, electrical tape. The grip is gone, hence the electrical tape. The rubberized surface has long since worn off, making spins all but impossible. You'll not see me whirling the ball back at you, you'll just hear the sound of thunder when the hollow white orb gets spanked by Excalibur. When you play ping pong against me, it's a hard knock life. For you. And...

You.

Will.

Get.

Spanked.

So.......any challengers?

Note: to my athletic friend Aimée...just because you're good at tennis, don't think that for one second that you can apply your talent (or geniosity??) to a smaller court with a teeny, tiny net. It's a different game, sister.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Paddling The Blue Canoe In Winter


Yesterday there were three strange men in my car. They weren't strange in the sense that I didn't know them, as I knew all three of them very well. In fact, I knew one of them, the driver, as well as I've ever known anyone. One man sat in the passenger seat, one in the back seat behind the passenger, and the other one was the driver...me.

During our drive I heard the backseat passenger mention the word 'depression' and I pounced on it like a pet tiger. I'm always on the hunt for new blog topics, and depression seems to be rampant these days, so why not ask a few questions.

One of my passengers claimed that he typically became depressed around the end of February when he had become sick and tired of winter. He said that this year it was coming on early. His 'cure' for seasonal depression was to keep busy and/or travel somewhere warm.

My other passenger claimed to get depressed every December when the daylight was at its lowest. He has yet to discover a remedy, so he just suffers through December until the days supposedly get longer on the twenty-first. It's more of a symbolic victory on the equinox as it's still miserably dark out, even before the afternoon soaps are done. It isn't until mid January that we notice that it's light outside at 5 p.m.. It's a small victory, but a victory nevertheless.

Typically I'm bummed out in November and December. Most of my beloved summer pursuits come to a screeching halt in November. The autumn leaves lay brown beneath my feet. The bare branches above echo the feeling in my heart...stripped. The cold and the dark come early and last far too long. This year I escaped the blues/blahs by making a concerted effort to keep busy, travel, be productive, and creative. It also didn't hurt that November's weather was unusually glorious. Weather, it would seem, is the root of many of our feelings of discontent.

This autumn/winter I made a conscious effort to keep busy with challenging projects that cover new ground, and it seems to have worked. This late autumn was the best I've had in recent memory. My memory sucks, but who cares? I feel happy.

I asked another friend about his feelings on depression. He said that he keeps too busy to get depressed. I wouldn't suggest that keeping busy is the cure for depression or the blues, but it worked for him and it works for me, at least in my limited non-clinical study.

Do you ever feel depressed? I think most people get a taste for it at some point in their lives. I don't know much about depression as I'm more of an armchair philosopher than a chaise lounge psychologist (though, come to think of it, I do own a chaise). I think for some people it would be good to be busier than they might normally choose. By that I mean busy in a creative or physical way...I'm not talking about bringing files home from work. That doesn't sound like therapy.

I'm learning how to play the guitar. It fills a void that needs filling. I've also invested my time and energies in some home projects that are creative. Do I know what I'm doing? Hmmm....just barely, and that's what makes life exciting. If I knew how to do all this stuff then I'd likely be bored and depressed.

Funnily enough, even the blog is therapeutic. I start every morning with a blank page, and sometimes a blank stare, then I begin to craft something that's never been done before. It's cheaper than coffee and it doesn't stain my teeth. Like Martha says, it's a good thing.

What might you do to paddle your blue canoe to a more interesting place? Give it some thought.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We're All Brilliant Women



A friend (who are these people?) sent me an intriguing e-mail two sleeps ago. The message told me, in no uncertain terms, that "if u haven't discovered this blog...then you're really missing out." My friend makes her living as a child psychologist, so I take her advice both personally and professionally.

There was one other piece of information in her brief missive that left me perplexed. Here's what she wrote:

"Be sure to share this with all the brilliant women in your lives."

I wasn't offended that she considered me to be one of the "brilliant women" in her life. I wasn't surprised either, because I once tried to have her include me in a girls' weekend in New York. She and her umpteen sisters were planning a weekend in New York City, and I was going to be there at the same time visiting my wife, so I thought that I could be a 'sister'. Sadly, they went at the wrong time of the month for me, after I had left NYC (a coincidence?), so I never got to do what girls do. I'm not sure what that is, but I suspect that it involves drinks with umbrellas, shopping, and some joyful Broadway productions involving dancers.

I wasn't sad that the girls' weekend never happened. I just stayed at home, comforting myself by stuffing Easy-Bake Oven cookies into my face and watching Oprah and her big fat billionaire ass.

Speaking of big fat asses, the blog that my friend sent me now appears on the sidebar of my blog. It's called HalifaxBroad and it's highly entertaining. I don't know much about the author, other than she appears to be clinging to a career in advertising, she has a son who she calls 'the little bastard', and she apparently has an ass upon which you could land a helicopter. We're not talking about a small chopper bum. Her ass sounds like the kind of place where Sea Kings hope to crash.

Of course, we all know that most writers exaggerate. The best of the best, like Bill Bryson, embellish a bit. Writers of blogs are the worst by far. They're often outright liars, mainly because they have no one (i.e. publisher, editor, friends) to hold them accountable. I never fully understood how writing worked when I was a body double for actor John Holmes, but now that I have a blog myself I'm more than aware of how the truth is spun like a tipsy dreidel.

The writer of the HalifaxBroad blog has quite a twisted sense of humour which greatly appeals to my braided mind. It's a little disconcerting that she uses so much profanity in her writing, but I guess I can forgive her for that, the fucking bitch.

If you're offended my my comment, then you haven't read her blog yet. Now get cracking!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Fine Crisp Evening



Well, it's not St.Barth's or Bora Bora, but Cambridge-Narrows has it's own charm, even at minus ten degrees in the taunt of night. I always enjoy those last thirty minutes before the western sky reels its inky sheets in for the night. Last evening's light had me inspired enough to leave my warm bread home (and half glass of Mott's Landing rosé) to take my camera to the frozen, crackling shore. I was not disappointed.

Earlier in the day, yesterday, a lone deer made a nervous trek across the lake ice. The ice is plenty thick, so no fear there, it's just that deer hooves, like stilettos, are ill equipped for ice. This is why you rarely see hookers or cud chewing ruminants playing ice hockey. It's worth noting that the Halifax hockey team are called the Mooseheads, not the moose hooves, for a reason.

Today I may do the same (go on the ice), though I hope to be moved by the wind. This may be the day for the year's first kite ski. The forecast is for a generous high of minus nine degrees with a thirty kilometre wind from the northwest...that gives a wind chill of minus twenty-five degrees. Where on earth would I rather be?

St.Barth's, Bora Bora...sure, but the Canadian winter is quite glorious if you embrace it before it embraces you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jeers For Skiers


This morning's blog was inspired by one of my biggest fans, literally. Towering above me at 6' 5", and tipping the beleaguered scales at a Jaredesque 255 pounds, it's one of my big brothers. I have two big brothers; the one who I just mentioned, and the even bigger one!

I feel like a malnourished Viking when I'm in the presence of my two battleship brothers. As the baby of the family, it's little wonder that my growth was stunted. By the time my brothers picked the carcass clean, there wasn't much left for 'the baby'. As an adult, my stats are a paltry 6'3"of height and a meagre 190 lbs of mass (mostly gut). I'm not big enough for the NBA or NFL. I couldn't cut it in the WNBA or even on a Brazilian women's beach volleyball team (though I've offered to coach!). It hasn't been easy for me, living life as a dwarf in the shadow of giants.

When I was little I didn't get much respect from my brothers. As they were six and eight years older than me, they saw me as nothing more than a nuisance. I was the tag in their shirt that rubbed them the wrong way. I was the buzzing gnat trying to feed off them; too small to be seen, but annoying nevertheless. I made a good foot rest, not much more.

I never got much respect from them until I turned sixteen and got my FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate). It's amazing how a twenty gauge shotgun will get you respect. Of course I'm kidding. I still wasn't respected, even as I tried to be a marauding Viking. I knew I should have bought a battle axe instead of the rifle. The first time I went deer hunting, by myself, and returned with a deer on the car, my brother laughed and nicknamed the deer 'Bambi'. To this day I still feel sick that I shot a deer, and I can still see my smirking brother standing there shaking his head.

I'll never be as big as my big brothers, but fortunately I'm more intelligent than they are, so I can get my revenge through other channels. My little big brother, he of 255 pounds, as opposed to the one who tips the scales in the threes, is now an avid reader of my blog. I can think of no better payback than to waste ten minutes of his day. Even better, he's now offering me feedback on the blog. The blog has truly become a family affair.

I received an e-mail from him this morning. It was in reference to my 'Ah, Look At All The Lonely People' blog. Here's what he wrote:

"I asked Dad at supper if he worried that your isolation would make you go crazy. Your blog answered the question. For the record, Dad thought you would remain sane indefinitely."

My father is the voice of reason in our family. He's a true Englishman. I think the Viking blood came from my mother's side. As a Scottish woman, there can be no doubt that the Viking longboats entered the harbour of her ancestors, so to speak.

The Vikings have given society many things; Ikea, Volvo, Saab and Abba. You can see the appeal? Well, three out of four ain't bad. I'm not so sure that the Vikings were musical. To prove my point, I'll share a song that my brother has rewritten for me. I think that he's looking for another scintillating youtube performance. I may or may not record it, though the somewhat familiar lyrics are appealing. Here's what he wrote, to be sung to the tune of Mad World by Tears For Fears:

All around me un-familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
And their beers are filling up their glasses
No recession, no recession
Ride my Burton till I drown my sorrow
Snow tomorrow! Snow tomorrow!

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm boarding
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people ski in circles
It's a very, very Sad World

I'm just waiting for the place I feel good
Poley Mountain, Poley Mountain
Makes me feel the way that every dude would
Cold and cranky, cold and cranky
Went to Sussex and was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello ski-school tell me what's my lesson
Goofy footing, goofy footing

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm boarding
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
'Cos I find it hard to take
When people ski in circles
It's a very, very Sad World.




Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People



Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been. Lives in a dream.

I'm pretty sure that I know how Eleanor feels, except that it's unlikely you'd find me in a church. It's even more unlikely that you'd find me picking up rice in a church where a wedding has been. There have been times when I've gone to church and felt my time would have been better spent picking rice up off the floor, or shoveling the parking lot outside. At least it would have been more productive than listening to another painful and poorly constructed sermon.

I used to go to church in Toronto. Not because I liked it, but because it was part of my wife's life. I went to be social, though I utterly detested the hour long service. I did enjoy the coffee hour afterwards, particularly because there was someone in the congregation with whom I could relate. He combined business and fun in a rather healthy fashion. Sadly he died in a private plane crash while flying to the southern U.S. with some golfing buddies.

Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there. What does he care?

I can relate to Father McKenzie as much as I relate to Eleanor.

Ian Varty, writing the words of a blog that no one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, strumming his guitar in the night when there's nobody there. What does he care?

Indeed, what does he care? Sometimes I wonder.

Yesterday I did something that I never do...I went snowboarding at Poley Mountain on the weekend. The weekend was created for everyone on this planet who works M-F, 9-5. It is the two days a week when they get to act like retirees or leisurologists. I decided to go to Poley because I felt like being social. What the hell, it was worth a try. I decided that I would suffer through the long line-ups for the opportunity of hanging out with friends who I don't normally see.

The capacious upper parking lot at Poley had cars sardined neatly to the point of overflowing. Minivans lined the muddy and rutted road that led up from the main road. It made getting up the hill difficult, while cars trying to leave barely squeaked past. The lower parking lot below the main road, one that I normally never give a second thought, was also jam packed. This was a dream day for the owners of the ski hill. For me? Well, we'd see.

Poley Mountain is an unimpressive hill that has been made impressive by whoever owns and manages the place. Surrounded by the rollings hills of Sussex and countless dairy farms, they've managed to milk a mountain out of a mole hill. The hill was predominantly populated by families and teens, and one leisurologist. I was told that there were fifteen hundred people there on Saturday, most of whom seemed to be standing in the chairlift line in front of me.

I spent three hours snowboarding at Poley and, amazingly, I didn't know a single person there. Not one. What irony that I should go to Poley to be social on the busiest day of the year, and not recognize anyone. There wasn't even anyone from my village of six hundred and forty people. What the ____ do people in Cambridge-Narrows do? Oh wait, I know. They drink beer, drive their four wheelers, hunt, and watch hockey. Strike one, two, three, four....I'm out. What the hell am I doing here?

No man is an island.

I felt like an island. I often feel like an island. This is not to say that I'm unhappy, but I often amble along my shores without companionship. Fortunately I've been blessed with an infinite ability to amuse myself. Sometimes I think that I do better alone, but it really isn't the case.

Had I met up with friends at Poley I would have bombed the hill in some sort weenie waggling show of testosterone. Instead I often took the beginner hills and practiced riding switch (wrong foot forward). I loved it and I made a lot of progress. That wouldn't have happened had I been social.

So what would a perfect life look like? I suppose I would have gone to Poley, met up with some friends who would say 'hey Ian, let's practice riding switch'. I would have died and gone to heaven. Then I would have left them, gone to the church and swept up rice. This is my life.

Something unbelievably ironic happened during the writing of this morning's blog. At the midpoint of my writing, the phone rang. It was one of my best friends in the world. This friend had called last night but was unable to reach me as I was at the ski hill with all my other friends. When I picked up the phone the first thing I heard, even before a hello, was 'You must have quite a social life'. I laughed out loud, chatted for a while, hung up and continued darning my socks.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Surfing And The Bottomless Walker



Typically I like to use the weekend blog to write about Cambridge-Narrows folks who do inane things, not unlike the Darwin Awards except nobody dies. Getting a picture to go along with the story is not always possible, so I decided to post a delicious image of Lawrencetown Beach in Nova Scotia.

So...what's been happening in Cambridge-Narrows of note? A new modular home was erected on the other side of the lake. This new house reminds me of my snowboarding tricks. I'm currently working on doing 180s with my snowboard, spinning the board half way around in the air. When this house was put on the foundation, the contractor decided that the porch should face the back field and the road.

Apparently, that wasn't the way the owner saw things. They kind of liked the idea of the porch overlooking the water, since this house was situated on a pricey piece of waterfront property. Stop the presses! Bring back the crane!! The house components had to be removed and turned 180 degrees. I doubt that was in the budget.

In other breaking news, a local man was getting himself prepared for a cold winter's day walk. His toque, jacket and mitts were all in place. He announced to his wife that he was going out for a walk. She was quite pleased that he was getting some exercise, though she wondered if he was going to put pants on before he stepped outside. Oopsie.

I plan to live in Cambridge-Narrows for a long time, but if the locals start parading down the road without their pants on, then I may have to consider changing my postal code, instead of writing about their dress code.

This is by no means a busy week for Cambridge-Narrows in terms of questionable behaviour; in fact it's quite slow here. Neither of the village idiots did anything of note. I did manage to bruise my nose while playing the guitar, but that was done out of province so it doesn't count, at least not to enhance my village idiot status.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Arty? Yes! Vain? Hmmm.



An associate of mine, who happens to be a linguistic scholar, recently pointed out a fun web site where you can input your name, or any words for that matter, and it will generate anagrams. I type in 'Ian Varty' and it throws back 'Arty Vain'.

The web site where all of this becomes possible is called Anagram Genius (www.anagramgenius.com). It's quite fun. I typed in one friend's name and it rearranged the letters into 'a resonant hen'. I don't think Renate Hanson will like this, but it should make her laugh. Jean Gaudet, who was once a guest blogger for theleisurologist.blogspot becomes 'a neat judge'. He reads my blog regularly and comments often, making him truly a neat judge.

Robert Milton, my arch nemesis who ruined Air Canada, becomes 'brittle moron'. You can see why I like this web site! I have a friend called Sonia Carpenter. She's the winemaker at Motts Landing Vineyard. Her name becomes 'praise on nectar'. Appropriate for a talented winemaker!

Some names don't deliver much in anagrammatical terms, but others are astounding; take the following examples which I lifted from anagramgenius.com's web site:

"George Bush" gives "He bugs Gore", "Madonna Louise Ciccone" gives "Occasional nude income" and "William Shakespeare", "I am a weakish speller"??!

I fed 'leisurologist' into the anagram generator and it made me into 'religious lots'. Like I said, it doesn't always reflect reality, right Renate?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Going Ape Shit For Surfing





You've heard the expression 'I don't know what I'm doing half of the time'? Well, that's how I feel, except twice as often. I don't feel that way about my life, but I do about my new camera's HD video function. I'm pretty sure that the techies at Nikon didn't understand it either because they really glossed over it in the owner's manual.

Lack of knowledge has never stopped me from trying anything. I've proven that 294 days in a row, thanks to this blessed blog. Last Monday I was at the Lawrencetown point filming the waves and the surfers. I could watch the ocean forever...there's just something primal about waves. It makes me think that maybe my ancestors dragged themselves out of the primordial soup and onto the beach, but when you look at the length of my arms, you know there was a monkey hanging from my family tree.

Ian, was your great great grandmother called Lucy by any chance?

Yes, as a matter of fact, and she lived in Africa. She was only three feet, eight inches tall. I got my height from my great great grandfather's side of the family.

Was your grandfather called Charlton? As in Heston.

Well, it's true that Charlton Heston lived during a time of the great simian uprisings. He starred in the original Planet Of The Apes movie. If you want to see the final three minutes of that movie, then click here. There are two things worth noting in this clip:

1) Charlton and the chimps were hanging around what looked like a decent surf break, thus strengthening my argument that surfing has been with us for a long been.

2) Charlton (the now deceased former champion of the NRA) didn't have a gun with him at the time, but the chimps did. It could be argued that guns are safe with monkeys, but not humans.

Jeez, Ian, I thought you were going to show me a surfing video? Now I half expect you to squat down and groom me for ticks!

Sorry. My mind tends to wander barefoot along the beach way too often. Here's a twenty-two second clip from Lawrencetown (N.S.) taken on Monday morning. It's not what you'd called epic cinematography, but I'm still learning to make the video function of my camera work properly. Sometimes I'm delighted with the results, but most of the time my lack of technical knowledge drives me bananas. If nothing else, my short film will leave the salty taste of winter surfing in your mouth, and make you ponder evolution.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Fairness of Vanity


Recently I had the opportunity to flip through a copy of a magazine called 'Vanity Fair' (an anagram of 'If Ian Varty'...for those special few into anagrams). It was the November 2009 issue. I know, I know...old news. The magazine added enormously to my limited knowledge regarding the life and times of glamorous and amorous celebrities. This morning's kiss and tell was all about Penelope Cruz.

Honestly, I couldn't give a Spanish rat's keister about Penelope Cruz, but as someone who appreciates good writing and photography, I plowed through the article (her brother and father are both called Eduardo, in case that ever comes up on Jeopardy!). The writing was very fine, really. The photography was superb, though Pennie's make-up was over the top. Ms.Cruz is a pretty girl, if you're into porcelain skinned Spanish gals with black licorice locks puffed poodliciously. Penelope, beautiful as she is, looked like something that one would pull out of granny's china cabinet...she looked unbelievably fragile and glossy, like she would break if taking a snowball to the face.

I read the article from start to finish. Why? I don't know. It is the mysterious way of the leisurologist and can't be explained in intelligible terms, other than to say that, if I ever meet Ms.Cruz, I can ask of the Eduardos.

There were other articles about celebrities in the thick and generous magazine, but I didn't give them much consideration. I saw an ad for Louis Vuitton which featured Sean Connery as the pitchman. This was a bit disturbing. One minute handsome Sean, as James B., is snuggling with Pussy Galore, the next he's trying to sell me over-priced baggage. Oh well, we are supposedly in a recession, and Sean hasn't been on the A-list since the Red October was scuttled.

The Red October wasn't scuttled, Ian. It was sold to the Canadian Navy by the British Navy, and shipped/dragged off to Halifax. Surely you remember the brouhaha when the Red October accidentally torpedoed Theodore Tugboat just off McNab's Island? Do your homework, man.

I did find something in Vanity Fair that really appealed to me. Caricatures! The caricatures were of actors, actresses and famous people in general. I recognized about half of them. I didn't feel badly that the caricature of author Joan Didion wasn't immediately recognizable. I wouldn't have known Maeve Binchy either, had she been caricatured. So many authors are faceless.

The caricatures were, in my opinion, expertly done. You can judge for yourself by clicking here.

I was left feeling inspired to try my own caricatures, ala Risko, Vanity Fair's caricaturist. I haven't got time to do one tonight, but you can expect to see one in the coming days. I may do myself, or perhaps attempt a celebrity. Or maybe one of the Eduardos.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Heady Thoughts On Toilet Etiquette



The transport truck, or at least seventeen of its eighteen wheels lashed my windshield with what could only be described as a gigantic brown slushy. I cursed the fat-arsed driver, and then pawed the controls which would make my wipers beat more frantically. Driving to Halifax in a snowstorm is one of the many winter pleasures I endure as a Canadian. The very thought of sliding under the wheels of a Tim Horton's transport truck and dying on the highway leaves me feeling surprisingly empty. If this is my fate, as a Canadian who drives in the winter, I, at least, hope it's not a Tim's truck. How ironic would that be?

You might think that driving on the highway is my greatest fear while winter traveling, but it's only in second place. My first fear is public toilets, particularly at gas stations where truckers stop. When you see a big, burly man go into a washroom ahead of you, lock the door, and then not come out for five minutes, then you know you're in deep doo-doo (sometimes literally). This happened to me back in October.

Trucker Ted unlocked the washroom door and exited. His face was red and mottled. His hands were not wet, indicating a disregard for his own hygiene and, more importantly, mine. He fumbled with his inordinately enormous Freightliner belt buckle, which supported his inordinately large gut and lengthy, hot hamburger intestines. At this point I was desperate to use the facilities, so I took a deep breath and went in, but only after generously allowing my wife and son to go before me. Even when I went in, there was something lingering in the stale air.

Gawd I hate public washrooms.

On my most recent trip, to Halifax, I needed a bathroom break and a few groceries, so I decided to stop at the Superstore on the outskirts of town. Superstore bathrooms, as a rule, don't set the bar very high for cleanliness, but at least they're not frequented by truckers. The door was open so in I went. I looked down at the toilet, then went back outside the door to scan the parking lot for Peterbilts. No eighteen wheelers...that came as a surprise. I went back in and looked at the toilet again, in disbelief. What I saw was not the work of a suburban grocery shopping soccer mom. It was definitely the work of a man. Likely a burly man with a meaty beltbuckle.

I know a lot about a lot of things, but gastroenterology is not one of them, yet I was pretty sure that I knew what the culprit looked like. I don't want to go into details about what I saw, but let's just say the the visitor before me didn't agree with his last meal. It looked as though he had a grudge against the toilet, as though it had done something to him and it was time for payback. The toilet looked like it had been Ziebarted by a disgruntled Hershey's addict. It was the Halifax explosion all over again. Fortunately the damage was contained to the walls of the inner bowl. I went about my business, though clearly feeling quite nauseated. I really had to go, otherwise I would have motored off to the nearest truck stop and taken my chances.

Now, this is where the real dilemma kicked in. What if someone was waiting for the bathroom when I departed? The toilet was still plastered from the guy before me, even after I flushed, but when the next person enters they're going to think that I'm the dirty pig who made the mess. I didn't want to be anyone's scapegoat, or stool pigeon. It then struck me that this was the perfect opportunity to use 'the male defense'. Sorry ladies, this one is just for the guys.

When I was done I lifted the toilet seat to the up position, as if to indicate that I had just gone in for an innocent pee. I washed my hands, then used the paper towel to twist the bathroom door handle open. I tossed the paper into the garbage, smirked at the person waiting to get in, and then walked away with diplomatic impunity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Surfing In January...In Nova Scotia



A lot of people are into UFC (ultimate fighting). None of these so called 'tough guys' were surfing today at Lawrencetown. Two girls and four guys braved two degree air temperatures, a four degree ocean, and ten mph winds, to go surfing.

I wasn't one of the six surfing (do you think I'm crazy?). I photographed them and admired their commitment to the sport. I also shivered and lost feeling in my hands (I just want you to know how I suffer for my art, too).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I've Conquered Rock...Now What?



If you saw my blog yesterday, you'll know that my rock n' roll 'career' is well underway, but why stop there? Pavarotti sang a few pop ditties, so why the hell shouldn't I tackle opera?

Think about this for a second; my wife has been giving operatic voice lessons to many of Canada's up and coming young operatic professionals. Many of those lessons have been given in our sunroom, where Wendy teaches. Don't think for one minute that I've been in the back part of the house (the east wing) vacuuming and cleaning the toilet. No, I've been listening in on the lessons. Eavesdropping. I've been absorbing every note, every line, every aria. It's been like opmosis.

I've been laying dormant for seventeen years, waiting for this moment. My moment. My Susan Boyle moment in the sun.

Umm, Ian, I think you mean in the fog. And you might also mention that Susan Boyle can actually sing. Other than that, I can see the resemblance, particularly the physical similarities. I think it's the eyebrows, but it could be the midriff too.

My world debut as an opera singer has been recorded and uploaded to youtube. Am I a baritone? Or a tenor? Or a soprano? Or worse....a counter tenor? You decide. Click here to watch my debut.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

That's (not) Entertainment!




I've enlisted my son to help me make the worst rock video ever. I think we've succeeded admirably.

There can be no doubt. No...wait a minute! William Hung's was worse.

A little background; Julian and I are progressing on the guitar quite nicely. Well, Julian is. I've decided to be the band's singer until I can get my guitar playing up to speed.

Can you sing, Ian?

No, but that's not going to stop me. Julian and I are both fans of an English band called The Jam. They've got a great song called That's Entertainment. It's doable for the two of us, because Julian can play the guitar part, and my dad's British, so that qualifies us to perform the song.

Perhaps you should watch The Jam's version of That's Entertainment before you watch our version, which we've entitled That's Not Entertainment!.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Only Leisurologist In The Village



I ended 2009 with some bad visual puns, and I apologize for trying to be funny. Let's start 2010 on the right foot, getting back to a more meaningful writer/reader relationship.

A lot of people make New Year's resolutions, and I'm certainly one of them. It's an optimistic thing to do which fills my life full of hope and false promise. So here goes...

Hear ye! Hear ye! My New Year's resolution is to not make New Year's resolutions.

It's 9:07 a.m. on January 1, and already I've failed in my resolution. You'd think this would make me pessimistic but nothing could be farther from the truth (not even the hint of Mulroney innocence). It's good to get stupid resolutions out of the way...now I can concentrate on having fun, which is the very reason for the leisurologist's existence.

Let's start the New Year by retelling a joke from last year. It's one of my favourites and it's absolutely appropriate to tell it on a day when some of you are contemplating making resolutions. Here goes...

The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities - one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist - their parents took them to a psychiatrist (we'll call him Dr.Varty). It was a very windy summer's day outside, and the parents were glad to be inside Dr.Varty's office, away from the howling gale. First Dr.Varty treated the pessimist.

Trying to brighten his outlook, Dr.Varty took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. 'What's the matter?' Dr.Varty asked, baffled. 'Don't you want to play with any of the toys?' 'Yes,' the little boy bawled, 'but if I did I'd only break them.

Next Dr.Varty treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, Dr.Varty took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight Dr.Varty had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. 'What do you think you're doing?' Dr.Varty asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. 'With all this manure,' the little boy replied, beaming, 'there must be a pony in here somewhere!'


This story/joke involves optimists and pessimists. I consider myself to be neither...I'm a realist. As a realist, I've got to tell you that this story could never happen, for a number of reasons assuming that I, the leisurologist, am the psychiatrist:

1) being a psychiatrist implies a lengthy commitment to study, which is beyond my attention span these days (as a self proclaimed amateur psychiatrist I've diagnosed myself with AAADD...advanced adult attention deficit disorder).

Hey, I just saw a bird fly past my window. I'm going to put my boots on and go see what it was.

Ian, you've got to finish the blog first. Stay focused.

Sorry.

2) having a job would negate my status as the only leisurologist in the village of Cambridge-Narrows (like Daffyd Thomas except without the gayness or the smashing outfits).

3) do you really think I'd be in the office if it was windy outside??!!??!!

4) I would never have a pony in my office...I don't like horses, even when they're marinated properly.

There goes another bird past my window. Yippee! I think it's an eagle!!

I think we've lost him. See you tomorrow.