Midlife Crisis

4 01 2015

 

MidLifeCrisisDarkened

Midlife Crisis

 

Life is a stale bag of dry, slightly burnt, popcorn

Nothing much is enticing nor brings escape

From feelings of remoteness and isolation

Regrets that time has deliberately oozed away

 

Being is a repetitive routine of similar scenarios

An aging laboratory rodent scrabbling in another maze

Jaundiced and jaded outlooks for the new subjects

Knowing idealism will fade as the wrinkles sprout

 

He’s paid his dues and we’ll throw a standard party

Worn-out jokes, inflated speeches and cheap cake

When he’s soon gone I’ll be the elder statesman

Surviving and balding, staring in the cruel mirror

 

This mundane road turns on my way home

I’ve stopped here over 2,000 monotonous times

I hardly notice it as it is as familiar as breathing

A dirty winding slab of cracking heaving asphalt

 

On arthritic knees I take the familiar pathway

To escape the views of walls and ceilings

The grass is lifeless and the skies dismal

Trudging along and lost in a flow of anguish

 

Sober passion has become a dim memory

Money does not purchase blithe blissfulness

Time means nothing; it’s all a prescription blur

Spine alert creeping from moderate to severe

 

Life becomes a constant yearning to transcend

The everyday petty power plays of small minds

Daydreams of living in a world of simple choices

Instead of being a commodity with an expiry date





The Long and Winding Road

15 07 2014

 

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On Saturday night, under a fabulous full moon, Paul McCartney played at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota, making my dream come true. The Beatles have always been my favorite band and being able to see one of the Fab Four was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I have nearly every Beatle album ever pressed and also have some of Paul’s other albums, from his Wings era. The Beatles were the Shakespeares of the 1960s music renaissance, the leaders of the pack, and McCartney is still in full form. When he came onto the stage, following a super scrolling video focusing upon his childhood to modern day, I was absolutely enthralled. Wow, what an honour to actually see one of the Fab Four live! He kicked off the concert with Eight Days a Week and then moved on for an enriching two-and-a-half hours of non-stop music. Seeing and hearing Paul and his band play songs that have been so much a part of my life really took me through time. Every song has a specific memory attached. When he sang oldies like All My Loving, And I Love Her and Eleanor Rigby they all took me back to the ‘60s, watching the Beatles cartoons on an Admiral 23-inch black and white television, and listening to the band’s records on 45s and 33.3 LPs in our little rented house at 302 6th Avenue NE. I had very blonde hair back then and we lived near Rotary Park, to the west of Little Italy in Calgary. Whenever I go back to the park, Rubber Soul songs play in my mind non-stop. Before he enthusiastically cranked out Paperback Writer Paul pointed out that the guitar he was using was the original one for the song, from the 1960s. His repertoire for the evening spanned his whole career, with him showing his talents on bass, lead and on the piano for heart-stopping renditions of Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road. In the second encore, Paul chose to play Yesterday and when he launched into the song he wrote 50 years ago the audience went “Oooohhhhhh. . . .” Paul also played his tribute song to John Lennon, Here Today, telling the audience that the song was about how we don’t often get to tell people how much we love and care about them. He played Maybe I’m Amazed for his deceased wife, Linda. To pay his respects to George, Paul came up with a ukulele and noted how George was an enthusiast for the instrument. He told us about how, after George had written Something, he went to visit Harrison and played the tune on a ukulele for him. Paul started the song on the little instrument, and then the band launched into the rest of the tune. I had to wipe away a few tears at that point.

Paul has had hard tragedies in his life, but he has not allowed them to put him down. He just turned 72 last month and he is full of health and vigour. Being able to play music and sing non-stop for over two-and-a-half hours is a firm indication of his physical fitness and overall health. I was inspired by him, and admired how he has dealt with the loss of loved ones – Linda, John and George being just three of them. He really shows himself to be a real, caring human being. Paul even paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix, by playing a snippet of Foxy Lady and going for the feedback from the amps. He did so in recognition of Hendrix opening with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at a concert, with the Beatles in the audience, just days after the iconic album’s release. Paul’s charisma has not faded and I am eternally grateful that I got to see him. It was a long and winding trip – Calgary to Denver, over three-hour layover, then to Fargo and racing to get to the venue on time along with waiting over six hours for my flights back — but definitely worth it. I have heard many people say that we should follow our dreams in life and I have enjoyed some of the fantastic actualities of this approach. We only go around once, it is best to make it meaningful. God bless you, and thank you, Sir Paul McCartney.





Contractors’ Blues

30 04 2014

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images2TT0YUICIf you are a home owner, it is quite probable you have encountered a rotten building contractor or two. My wife and I have run into three notably dirty-rotten-cheating-LYING-crooked ones in the past seven or eight years. In fact, I was not at all surprised to learn that someone actually created a book of excuses for contractors and that some would actually use the book DAILY! I have joked about this sort of book idea for years. Here are a few of the idiocies we have encountered:

THE WINDOW INSTALLER

  1. My son had to have an emergency tonsillectomy.
  2. Someone broke into my truck.
  3. Someone stole my cellphone.
  4. I couldn’t get it done because the ‘other guy’ (a concrete cutter) didn’t show up.
  5. I don’t do the drywall stuff around the window in the interior. I just put in the windows. I never said I’d do that. That wasn’t in my quote.
  6. I don’t remove the dirt that I dug up to put in the window wells. I never said I’d do that. That wasn’t in my quote.
  7. I didn’t know I was supposed to use treated lumber around the frames. I’ve never done that. Just paint it, or whatever.
  8. You never told me when you wanted it finished (after we had agreed on two weeks in our first meeting).

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THE RETAINING WALL TWIT

  1. First, he hired a fellow with a large backhoe to dig out our retaining wall and left the dirt so that there was a narrow single lane left in the alley. When we insisted they push the dirt into a more realistic setting, piled up beside the hole, he barked, “I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” The local ‘sheriffs’, busybodies, bored old men with Bylaw on speed dial, lost no time in calling in the authorities. So, we were handed a stop-work order from the City of Calgary and had to go through all sorts of stupidities – a land survey, engineered drawings, a bitter spinster dragon woman in the planning department (I’m sure she has a beehive and cat’s-eye glasses) – to get the wall completed. To get revenge upon the old geezers who repeatedly called bylaw to complain about the project, I ended up prolonging it and not cleaning anything up until bylaw called me. I made friends with the bylaw officer, and she was sympathetic because she has to deal with all sorts of pathetic grievances from people who live to complain. She appreciated my friendliness and my quip, “Oh! I was wondering when you’d call! What would you like us to do?” Anyway, the contractor who was in charge of getting the wall done had a plethora of lame excuses for never getting to work. The wall was very well built, after it was finally done, but the anguish of nearly six months to get to simple project completed destroyed the appreciation. The fool led to a simple project needing a chain link fence, tarpaulins, reflectors, signage and a host of other needless measures that are ubiquitous in our modern world of liability paranoia. We found out that he is no longer in the business, thank goodness.

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THE RENO REDNECK

This was our most recent deadbeat of a contractor. We hired him to redo much of the interior of a half-duplex we are putting onto the market. Basically, he buggered up so badly we let him go, paid him for what he did and then had to redo many things he monkeyed up beyond belief. The worst flub was when he left a water line leaking and it destroyed most of the new flooring in the kitchen! Bugs Bunny would snarl, “What a maroon!” The fellow is a menace, and we cannot see how he actually makes any money at all. The dolt showed up about every third day for a couple of hours, and then disappeared. He would not answer his phone, nor reply to texts, unless we threatened to do things like hurl his tools into the backyard. Here are some of his lines:

  1. I was rushing to get here and got rear-ended. Then, I had to go to the hospital. (There was no evidence of any collision on the back of his truck and he was functioning normally)
  2. Someone stole my truck!
  3. I was at the police station because someone stole my truck (we wondered how he got to the police station, and he then slipped up and said he drove his truck there).
  4. My cellphone ran out of battery power, so I could not get your calls or texts.
  5. My cellphone is broken, so I could not get your calls or texts.
  6. I lost my wallet. Can you give me cash to go buy materials? I’m flat broke.
  7. I could not buy gas for my truck because my bank is in Okotoks, I lost my bank card and I have to go to Okotoks to get money. So, I couldn’t make it over to work. (In modern times, this is not realistic. The guy could have gone to any branch of his bank to arrange SOMETHING). We still wonder how he got money to buy gas, to get to Okotoks.
  8. After despairing of hearing from the fellow, we went over to the duplex to find a childishly written sign sitting in the unfinished kitchen. “Debbie. Leave $200 so I can go buy a replacement door. I am going out and will be back later.” What door? And, the fellow never returned anyway. He DID have his cellphone this time but neglected to take it out to call us. He did not lock the door when he left.
  9. “I’ll be right over!” We went to the place, and started to clean up around the outside, clip hedges, etc., knowing he would be late. Over three hours later, after multiple communications, he texted: “I’m loading tile at my warehouse. I did not mean for you to go there and wait for me. YOU should have waited until I got there and let you know I’d arrived.”

Thank the Lord not all contractors are like these buffoons. We have had some good experiences with contractors, and mixed ones too. We have taken to getting references before hiring anybody now, and are prepared to pay more for sane service. One cannot put a price on avoiding the angst attached to people like the above-mentioned morons! Really, these fellows should get out of construction and make a fortune writing blues songs. By the way, the author of ‘The Contractor’s Book of Excuses’ is Karyn Zweifel and you can buy her book online, should you be a deadbeat contractor with less imagination for making lame excuses.

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March 25 – Fifth Day of Spring

26 03 2014

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Bleak

Gunboat Grey

A steady ooze of east ice air

Hope torn from Pandora’s Box

A forbidding sarcastic jest

That greedily lingers

With gloomy dry death crows

Croaking on whistling wings

As the punitive snowflakes

Relentlessly float miserably

Arctic fingers reach

With frigid steel claws

Invading at each opportunity

Crushing souls face flat down

A dirge dragging everyone

Into a slammed-shut oubliette





Existential Shadow

22 01 2014

 

ExistentialShadow

Existential Shadow

Witnessing the chromatic ambivalence

The transient image briefly mused

Is the snow so unsullied white

As it creates all harmonious colours

Alone but not at all lost

An unnoticed passing opaque echo

Of a being wandering serenely

In a landscape in no need of label





The Beauty of Impermanent Sand Castles

27 12 2013

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Sand Castles, metaphors for how life is so changeable and transient. It is not so important how nice the sand castles look, nor whose is better than whose, nor if they get completely tweaked before the next rogue wave engulfs them. Instead, the beauty is in the act of creating the castles and frantically putting protective moats to surround them in the hopes that they will make it through the next surging oceanic onslaught. Also, if someone accidently crushes a  proud turret — decorated with smooth stones and bits of sea shells — while stomping by that is an opportunity to rebuild. Reforming, shifting locations, joking about the last castle that is now a ruin, chattering at the naughty ocean for reclaiming her sand, simply enjoying the moments, no comparisons, not conscious of time, feeling the sands’ grittiness, the smells of salt and sunburn, hearing the eternal ocean, perceiving ponderous pelicans . . . . A way of being, rather than striving to become the king of impermanence.

 





Remembrance Day: Peter Burn 1898-1918

4 11 2013

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What does Remembrance Day mean? For me, it is a time to reflect on how war can take so much away from us. In the summer, my son, James, and I visited my great uncle Peter Burn’s grave in Bouzincourt, France. Bouzincourt is a village 30 kilometres northeast of Amiens, France, and is six kilometres north of the small city of Albert. The area was hotly contested, both during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and during the German Spring Offensive in 1918. My uncle was a private in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and died in action on April 22, 1918, near Bouzincourt. He was killed along with two cousins and an uncle, by a German artillery shell. Another uncle survived the shellfire, but was physically and mentally scarred for life.DSCF0423

Bouzincourt is an isolated community, where few visitors pass through. We rented a car in Arras, a city to the north of the village, as there are no public transportation services for the place. I managed to find the village, where my son and I went to a very quiet little cafe. A kind, older lady made me a coffee and gave James a biscuit to eat with his hot chocolate. Next, we found the community cemetery. I told James the row and number for Peter Burn’s grave, and he ran to find it within a minute. “Dad! I found it!” he informed me, and I made my way over. I could not have prepared myself for the moment when I saw the headstone. I covered my mouth with my hand and quietly intoned, “Oh, my God. . . !” We put flowers, which I had bought in Arras, onto the grave, and I spoke some words, saying who we were and why we had visited. I told Peter that he had not been forgotten. We stayed around the cemetery for over an hour, and I repeatedly returned to Peter Burn’s headstone. I found it hard to leave the lonely site. I looked around, and thought about the 95 years that had passed since he was killed. So many changes of seasons, so many events passed. I realized that my son and I were the only family members who had ever visited him. My gramp, William Burn, had tried to reach Bouzincourt but never made it (due to its isolated location). Here Peter had lain, in this remote place, with no visitors, for so long. I was grateful that I had made the effort to get to his graveside. I was so saddened to think that he was just 19 when he perished. Peter had finished school, turned 18, and then went to war. A short life; a tragically short story. Did he ever get to experience the love of a girlfriend? What were his dreams that never came true? What had he wanted to do with his life? Why did he have to die, in a war that took so many young lives like his? In a letter he wrote home, two days before he died, Peter noted he knew his father was worried about him. He reported he had heard that the French and Americans were pushing back in the face of the German offensive and he hoped that there would be a breakthrough, to bring the war to an end. He mentioned he had seen 20 tanks the day before, and lamented that food packages from home had had to be stopped due to the dangers of getting them to the front lines. It was the last letter his parents got from him, and the second last communication. The last was a card noting he was doing alright, on the day before his death. On this coming Remembrance Day, I will certainly be thinking of Peter Burn during the moment of silence. I will also be recalling my grandfather, William Burn, a member of the Gordon Highlanders, who was lucky to survive the slaughter of the Great War.

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