31 December, 2009

P.S.

Damnitall, I'm wrong. This proves it.

Happy new decade, everyone. And thanks for setting me straight, Catelli...

Wrapping it Up, Part II

Personally, this has been a crappy year. Oh, I'm fine, and nothing particularly horrid has happened to me, but practically everybody around me has suffered pain or misfortune of one sort or another. This is, I'm told, what happens as one grows older. Well, growing older is for the turtles, is what I say.

I must admit to a bit of unease as I regard the flip of the calendar. 2010...every time I think of the new year, I remember a poster on the wall of the Armoury where I used to go for Navy League Cadets. It showed the current year in big print--would have been 1983, I think--at the bottom of the picture, then all the years ahead in smaller and smaller print on the way up the poster, like a pathway. I seem to recall that 2010 was the last one you could make out, just a speck. It's funny--I looked at that poster every Friday night and it never failed to give me a shot of excitement at a future yet undreamed. Now that the future's the past, the thought of that poster is actually a little frightening....1983 is the speck now, in my rearview mirror, and Time rolls implacably on. I feel as if I've lived four or five lifetimes as I've crawled up that poster, and what's next?

Out of the blue and into the black.

I hate to be conventional in any way, and I just finished explaining why, contrary to extremely popular opinion, 2010 does not mark the start of a new decade...but I can't deny that the years that end in 9 have always, for whatever reason, had special significance in my life and the "0" years have, without fail, signaled massive upheaval for good or ill. Somehow I expect 2009 will conform to the pattern. I'm just not sure how.

My store, which was supposed to have been renovated this past year, is now scheduled to start renovations in July. I'll believe it when I see it. Renew, reset, renovate...2010 will be the year of "re", for me.

And for Eva. She has felt stuck in a rut over the past couple of years, and her body turned traitor on her in 2009. She's getting used to her uteruslessness (a word I, for some reason, can't stop saying aloud), and is champing at the bit to go back to work, which she does, January 4th.

I wish every one of my readers a happy and prosperous 2010. I have to say it's nice to have the 'noughts' behind us.

Happy New Year, everyone,

27 December, 2009

Wrapping It Up, Part I

The Sunday between Christmas and New Years' is one of my favourite days in the calendar year. It's a day of utter relaxation, heavily seasoned with great meaty chunks of newsprint. The papers stop reporting the news and start analyzing it--which is, even if they don't yet realize it, the only thing that will keep them afloat in a world where news is tailored to each online "customer" and delivered, gratis, instantly.
The analysis is even more prevalent this year, given that by popular demand, it's "the end of the decade". (Just as January 1, 2000 wasn't the beginning of the decade, December 31, 2009 won't mark its ending. Unless, of course, you start counting things at zero. Go ahead, count your fingers...one, two, three, four, five. See?)

Never mind. As usual, my brain is wired differently from just about everyone else's. I'll go along with everybody's (wrong) assertion that 2010 marks the beginning of a new decade. So let's look back, shall we?

In 2000, 9-11 was an emergency service and a Porsche and nothing else. Just two days ago, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallah attempted to explode an airplane over rural Southwestern Ontario. That he failed, that the vast majority of attempted terrorist attacks have failed since September 11, 2001, does not in any way mitigate the threat that the perpetrators of that atrocity pose to Western nations. Our enemies are--so far--pretty stupid. But they have three traits that more than offset their stupidity: they are cunning, they are endlessly patient, and they do not care about whom they kill or what collateral damage they cause.

All that said, our collective response to 9/11 and subsequent attacks--not just the biggest but nearly the only geopolitical story of the 2000s--has been gross overkill in some respects and woefully inadequate in others. The world was sold a bill of goods on the second Iraq war, the cost of which (three quarters of a trillion dollars, by the end of this year) would have been much better put to use shielding the American economy from the meltdown that had been predicted as early as 2003 and scoffed at until it happened. Meanwhile, we've beefed up security by making sure you can't take toothpaste on a plane; we've re-targeted Afghanistan, the original shelter for the 9/11 masterminds, but as of this writing still refuse to use anywhere near the level of force necessary to prevail, nor expand the battlefield in any meaningful way.

A deep sea-change has occurred in Canadian politics. The Conservative Party, which in 2000 was still fractured and fractious, has risen from near-rump status to power. Minority power, granted, but Stephen Harper may as well have a majority, given the way he's governing and the weak-kneed opposition to same. Nobody, not even Stephen Harper, could have imagined this ten years ago.
A few conservative values have returned from the exile of the Chretien/Martin years: pride, especially military pride, in Canada; a repudiation of unfettered multiculturalism; a closer and more trusting political relationship with the United States.
But the National Post surely overstates things when it says "We Got Our Country Back". (Let's not forget that the National Post itself nearly disappeared this past year). After all, the gays are carrying out their radical agenda by marrying each other the way straights have for centuries. Canadians, according to a recent poll, are overwhelmingly satisfied with their commie-socialist health care system. And Canada's attitude vis-a-vis the U.S. has only thawed insofar as Barack Obama is not George W. Bush. It occurs to me that both the United States and Canada are in the process of re-centering themselves over the past few years. The 'natural governing parties' of both countries are on hiatus as we close out the 2000s and it's as if we're picking and choosing values and positions from 'the other side' that we can accept and live with. In the United States, this is accomplished slowly and with great psychodrama: the promised health care bill that was supposed to bring America on par with the rest of the developed world is deeply, almost fatally, flawed thanks to great stirring protests from the Right. In Canada, as is typical, things have been much more quiet. We haven't exactly warmed to Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, but at least we're not afraid of him any more.

Technology has moved faster in this past decade than at any time in human history. Consider computers: despite massive increases in memory, they still looked much the same, and were used for much the same things and in much the same ways, in 2000 as in 1990. iPods, but a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye in 2000, have revolutionized the music industry to the point where many bands don't even bother releasing CDs any more. Television has been much slower in migrating online, but it's beginning to catch up, just as the concept of 'online' is beginning to migrate off your desk or laptop and into your pocket or on to your wrist. It's a pitifully safe prediction that in ten years, most of us will spend every waking moment within reach of cyberspace.
We're still trying to figure out what to do with our new toys. In 2008, the #1 application for the iPhone was the ridiculously useful iFart, which turns your phone into a $300 Whoopee cushion. In 2009, the most popular activity on Facebook--a site beyond imagination ten years ago--is planting virtual crops and watching them grow. And on Twitter, you can keep up with the fascinating minutiae of your friends' increasingly transparent lives.

Perhaps the biggest cultural change wrought in the past ten years: the world of free stuff. In 2000, Robert Heinlein's TANSTAAFL--"There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" still largely held sway. Now, you may still have to buy your lunch, but you can download movies free of charge even before people are allowed to pay to watch them in the multiplex; every album ever released is available online at zero cost; and anyone who feels morally compelled to pay for these things anyway is dismissed as a fool.

Depending on your age, you either find all this unremarkable or deeply frightening. Teenagers today think nothing of posting lascivious pictures of themselves online for the world to see and detailing their entire lives to their social networks. "Privacy" is a parental word, a chafing restriction, something to be ridiculed even, in a world where one's self-image is inextricably bound to one's popularity. I know people who have over a thousand Facebook 'friends'...I often wonder exactly how many are friends and how many are actually status symbols. In my more angst-ridden moments, I wonder if there's a difference anymore.

There is a generational chasm widening before our eyes as the closely-held values of our parents are being overturned. This occurs every generation, of course: it's entirely natural and to be expected. But only now are we hyperconnected and much more able to observe it happening, which drives up the stress level considerably.

I'd like to tell the older generation, of which I am now--in 2009--officially considered a part, that all is not lost and in fact much is being gained. Kids today are much more politically aware than we give them credit for; the sense I get is that they're just waiting for the rest of us to die so they can take control and drag the world, kicking and screaming if necessary, into a more enlightened era. The environment is an important issue to the younger set...when I was born, it was an afterthought when it was thought of at all. Much has been made of the narcissism of the culture of self-esteem; virtually ignored is the increase of empathy as a result of social networking. Give the yowwens control of the world economy and (I hope, at least) they won't spend their time deriving endless derivatives to make themselves rich and the rest of us poor.

As ever, we remain obsessed with celebrity scandal. I'm beginning to reluctantly accept that this is a constant in human society and not something we can ever outgrow. (Check out the graffiti on the walls of Pompeii: it looks just like TMZ.com.) And that's all I'm going to say about that.

To Be Continued...

24 December, 2009

Holiday Abecedarius

A is for Anticipation. Cf. Catelli: I share his sentiments.

B is for Boris Karloff, still and for all time the only Grinch I recognize.

C is for Christ. This is the one time of year I hearken back to the religious parts of my upbringing (I veered all over the place from harshly atheistic to reasonably devout, hitting every point in between more than once. I both respect and enjoy the traditions of the Christmas story, even if I don't currently believe in a Saviour as such. If the choice is between piety and crass commercialism, give me piety, forever and ever, amen.

D is for Deck the Halls--a carol I positively *hate*. The lyricist within wishes the 'fa la la la la, la la la la' was just about ANYTHING else. Wikipedia notes that carols were originally dances and not songs. This one should have stayed a dance.

E is for Eggnog. Eva can't stand the stuff. I'm neutral on it--but I make a point of buying one liter a year, and enjoying it the way I enjoy coffee: only partly for the taste...mostly for the medicinal effects. (In case you're wondering, eggnog has been scientifically proven to heighten holiday cheer. That's right, I'm a holiday scientist.) Ken the dairy manager intrudes: can we all please decide how much eggnog we're going to consume in a given year, and stick to it? The first year, I had none for all of Christmas Eve. The second, I was hung with an ocean of the stuff. Every year since,. I've dreaded forecasting and ordering eggnog. Each year we sell a little less, but how much less is anyone's guess. This year, my supplier ran out of eggnog three days ago, only to find a bunch yesterday, somewhere, and ship it my way. I might be okay this time. For once in my life.

F is for Family and Friends. The vital ingredients in any Christmas celebration. Please take some time out of your busy holiday schedule and spare a thought for those in old folks' homes and hospitals who maybe don't get the Christmas visits they should. One of our rituals is to drop off a bunch of presents, anonymously, at a local nursing home. The staff invariably thinks we're somebody's family members and we do nothing to disabuse them of the notion.

G is for Gingerbread. Like eggnog, it only seems to exist at this time of year. And like eggnog, I can never get the quantities right. I have to book the Christmas shipment of Pillsbury product every April or May, and I've learned that anything left come December 26th won't sell even if you reduce it by 90%. So I order light...and invariably I'm out of stock come the second week of December.

H is for Hanks, Tom, in The Polar Express...one of only two relatively recent additions to the Christmas pantheon of television classics here in the Breadbin. (The other is Shrek the Halls, which is hysterical.)

I is for icicles. In my childhood, we never just stopped at a tree and lights when it came to decorating the house. The job was never done until the front window had been creatively frosted with fake snow in a can. I vividly recall crafting snowballs and icicles on the window with this stuff. Haven't noticed it for sale in a great many years. I wonder if it was carcinogenic or something....

J is for Jean Shepard, the man we have to thank for A Christmas Story...for my money, the funniest Christmas-themed movie of all time. I somehow made it all the way to married without seeing this, even though it debuted when I was eleven years old. Now it's a must-watch.

K is for Kids--whose sheer enjoyment of the season is worth the amount of stress the adults go through putting it together.

L is for Love

M is for Movies, specifically those you rent. I worked at a variety store/video rental place over Christmas once and was utterly flabbergasted at the demand. Pretty much every title we had was out on loan, from the pornography right on down. Apparently nothing says Christmas like Alien vs. Predator.

N is for Not Until 8:00...as in, when Christmas Day was allowed to start up north at my dad's place. This would have been, I think, 1984 or so. I went in to wake him at the customary (for me) 5:30 and was told off, in no uncertain terms. So I went out to the living room and flipped on the television, tuning it to that channel that spilled out the news ticker-tape fashion, and commenced to clock-watch with a will. Somewhere there's a photograph of me, passed out on the living room rug, with that screen reading 8:47.

O is for Outhouses. One year, there was a single, solitary gift for my mother under the tree. I can't help but think she must have been a little miffed as she watched us fill the living room with wrapping paper before she finally had something to open herself. That one thing was undoubtedly the most creative present I've ever seen given. Her only present that year was a calendar...a standard wall calendar, with an "outhouse" theme. Each month had pictures of privies. Each month also had a ticket to something designed to get her "out of the house". Blue Jays tickets one month. Tickets to some musical another month. Tickets to a hot air balloon ride. And so on and so forth, every month of the year. Every year I award my stepdad mad points as I scramble to find something, anything, that Eva will love getting.

P is for Peach, one of the best Christmas presents we've ever got, home on Christmas Day 2006. Georgia-Peach has wormed her way into every heart she's encountered and she's got a firm hold on ours.

Q is for Quiet--the part of the holiday I appreciate the most.

R is for Rain, Dear. Picture this: one very wet and mild Christmas in the seventies, when I still believed in Santa and the whole shebang. I was maybe five or six, and my mom, in desperation, had hauled out the old chestnut about Santa only coming to houses where kids were ASLEEP. Like I could sleep with CHRISTMAS DAY an eyeblink away. I was just about there despite myself when I heard him. I heard Santa! I could hear the pitter-patter of Rudolph and company's feet on the roof. I flew out of bed and called out to Mommy that Santa was here, Santa was here! And she replied, without thinking, "Go back to sleep, it's just rain, dear."

S is for Shaving Cream. Another Christmas memory, this time from my teens. The deal in our house was my stocking would be deposited in my room overnight while I, ahem, slept, and I'd bring it out for discovery (cough-cough) in the morning. Of course, it never worked out quite that way...I would feign sleep until they were safely out of sight and earshot and then dump the contents of the sock out on to my bed, uncovering the mutant gigantor nuclear oranges and apples that you only ever find in stockings along with other, more desirable, items.
One year, for reasons unknown, I deviated from my usual dumping strategy. I instead thrust my arm into the waist high sock, which had been filled to the brim with cardboard and bits of rock to simulate the usual stocking stuffers--and the rest of the sock was full of sh...aving cream. Yecccch. Cue the door opening and the flash of the camera...

T is for Turkey. We were always pretty conservative on the question of turkey at Christmas, until one year my dad and stepmom fed us prime rib. Let's put it this way--the only reason we're having turkey today is because Eva's family is still pretty conservative on the question of turkey at Christmas.

U is for Understanding, a trait my wife has in spades. Very useful when I can't find the perfect gift on a limited budget, which happens, oh, about every year. Our first year together I bought her a Chinese dog-clock, which was supposed to symbolize love and luck and damnit, I wish I could go back in time to the exact instant I was pulling out my wallet and slap myself full of sense.

V is for Vinyl Cafe, yet another Christmas tradition here. If you haven't heard about Dave's rather...unorthodox...method of cooking a turkey...or about the time he attended a Christmas party and spiked the kids' punchbowl by mistake...or about the other Christmas party where he set the host on fire...or any of the other Christmas tales Stuart McLean whips out each year, please, go and listen.

W is for World Juniors. Some of the best hockey each year is played in the period from Boxing Day to January 5th or so, and often by our assembled team. We're gunning for a record sixth straight gold medal this year, and for once a Maple Leaf prospect is one of the centerpieces of the team. Go Kadri and Go Canada.

X is for Xmas--which is not, as many have asserted, an attempt to 'cross out' Christ. Indeed, 'Christ' was commonly written 'XP' or 'Xt" as long as a thousand years ago, X in this case being the Greek letter chi. Although this spelling is widely shunned now, there is nothing wrong with it.

Y is for Yule Log. Also Yummy.

Z is for Zzzzzz...a long winter's nap. Good night, all, and Merry Christmas.


23 December, 2009

So This Is Christmas....

Did you hear about the dyslexic devil worshiper? He sold his soul to Santa.

The holiday season proceeds apace. It sure doesn't feel like Christmas around this here Breadbin. That's probably because we've had two Christmases already.
Eva was just cleared to drive this past week, and only for short trips. We had to make the trek to my dad and stepmom's place away back in November, and we met with my mom and stepdad shortly after. Her folks are coming this year for Christmas Day--not just a first, but something I never thought would happen, ever, ever, ever. Eva's parents are at least as housebound as we are ourselves, and tradition has always been that Eva spend Christmas day with them. I haven't been able to go with her for some time, because of the Tux and the Peach...This will be the first Christmas we haven't been separated in at least four years.

I have four whole days off work, although I'm going in tomorrow for a couple of hours to write some orders--I don't feel comfortable leaving my department alone that long. That's not all, though...I love this time of year. I'm off Thursday through Sunday, work Monday and Tuesday, am off Wednesday, work Thursday, am off Friday, work Saturday, and am off Sunday.

Here's a holiday puzzler:

Why is The Sound of Music considered a Christmas movie? It doesn't take place at Christmastime, it has nothing whatever to do with Christmas, and yet every year like clockwork, it's on in December.

If I don't get to this blog before the big day, Merry Christmas to all.


20 December, 2009

Immortal

Back in 1990, I fell in love with a piece for solo cornet and band entitled Jubilance. It had everything I like in such a work: driving energy, technical virtuosity, and beautiful lyricism in its interludes. For nearly twenty years, I would find myself tonguing the main theme under my breath whenever I was nervous or excited. (If you want to hear it, perform a YouTube search on 'Phillip Cobb Jubilance'...I'd embed it, but in all honesty the sound quality is somewhat tinny).
Jubilance was just beyond my ability to play on my euphonium, when I was at the peak of my abilities. Which is to say, as solos go, it was mildly to moderately difficult.
My friend Craig, who is a professional trumpeter and phenomenal musician, sent me link on Facebook a month or so ago, to a piece by the Black Dyke Band called Immortal. I've ripped this to my iPod, searched (so far in vain) for a way to buy it, and played it incessantly, and now I'd like to share it with you.




Black Dyke, formerly the Black Dyke Mills Band, is the preeminent brass band in the world. Over their 154 year history, they've won countless awards. This piece, by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, taxes even them...you can see some thinly veiled looks of relief as some particularly impossible passages are surmounted and I swear I hear at least two flubbed notes (though in a piece like this I can't be 100% certain).

At 4:50, the principal cornet, Richard Marshall, embarks on a truly magnificient solo of such unmatched lyricism it nearly brings a tear to my eye (and how he just sings out those high Ds without the slightest strain!)

This is just a stunning work from beginning to end. Even if you've never played a brass instrument, you owe it to yourself to hear this. It is, truly, immortal.

Stranger In A Strange Land

I often find myself feeling contempt for things and situations I don't understand. And being as I am the youngest 37-year-old on the planet, there remain plenty of those.
I am, you know. The youngest 37-year-old on the planet, I mean. I know this because I extend an enormous effort to maintaining a facade that broadcasts precisely the opposite: here is an old soul who's seen it all and now exists largely on some plane well above it all.
Yes, that sounds snotty, and it is...when my facade maintenance isn't up to snuff, you can occasionally get a glimpse of the snottiness. Moreover, anyone with a shred of perception undoubtedly can see right through the thin patina of world-weariness to the fear lurking underneath.
I maintain that patina anyway. Or I try to, not yet having learned to feel comfortable in my discomfort. At 37 years of age, I still have so much to learn.

I had a learning experience last night.

Last night, I attended--for the first time in seven years--the annual Price Chopper Christmas party. Eva and I went the first year, and had...an okay time. We were a little miffed that we had to pay twenty bucks' admission, after Eva had made over a hundred dollars' worth of chocolates for a door prize. And despite knowing exactly what awaited us, we were a little put off by the atmosphere. As is the way at all such parties, particularly those attended largely by the not-quite-legal, the air eventually became suitable only for alcohol-breathing lifeforms.
In subsequent years, Eva's employer's Christmas party always seemed to coincide with the Price Chopper affair. Hers gets every bit as drunk out in its later stages, but it at least has the benefit of a moderately upscale dinner and some serious door prizes. We would go, have dinner (always a raucous affair: some of her colleagues and their spouses are veritable founts of humour) and then make our excuses not long after the dancing got underway.
Party poopers, the both of us, I guess you'd say. I wouldn't agree...I've been called the life of several parties myself and Eva could tell you stories about her younger years that would either turn you white with fear or green with envy. Really, it's that we exist in a different dimension of time, apart from the rest of the world. For instance, I slept in until 7:30 this morning, and felt mildly guilty for having done so: that's over two hours of life I missed. The fact I lived them last night, when I was up until the ungodly hour of 12:30, takes some time to occur to me and I immediately dismiss it as irrelevant when it finally does. Last night was life out of my comfort zone, after all.

But I was determined to go this year. While I've gotten along with just about every one of my colleagues over the past near-decade, it's only relatively recently that I've started to feel as if people get along with me okay, too.
It started, I was told, at 8:00. Now, I knew better than to believe that. Parties are the only occasions I've yet to run across in which punctuality, a virtue I was raised to respect, is treated as some kind of venial sin. But I'm still nowhere near fluent enough in Partese to translate "8:00" into the correct local equivalent...in this case a shade before ten. I arrived at 8:30 and was, I think, the fourth party at the party. Why can't they just say 10:00 if that's what they mean, I found myself thinking for the umpteenth time in my life. Immediately on that thought's heels came because if they said that, nobody would show up until midnight. Hey, it's not as if these people have to get up in the morning, or anything.
And why, my mind went on, does everyone wait so long before coming to these shindigs, anyway? What's the deal with that? Is that that they want to have fun, sure, but only three hours' worth? Is that it? I don't get it.
That people show up to these things already drunk was a little mystery (only in my mind, perhaps) only partially solved last night.
"Hey, Craig, drunk already?" I asked one friend and colleague...a man who, I'd just discovered, is well and truly a member of that tribe called the Sloppy Lovey-Dovey Drunks.
"Of coursh, Ken", he yelled back. "Why would I drink beer for four bucksha bottle when I can drink it for two?"
Fair enough, I thought and had sense enough not to say aloud, but why do you need to drink it at all? Don't you find it tastes like moosh pish?

I quashed that thought before it could really take root and suck the fun right out of the room for me. My attitudes on alcohol are distinctly Puritan. They've been that way since before I was legal myself and in almost twenty years they've only hardened. I wouldn't make alcohol illegal if I could: that doesn't even come close to expressing my hatred for the stuff. If I could, I'd eradicate it from the face of the earth. Work enough night shifts in a 7-Eleven surrounded by bars and see if you don't feel the same way. I dare you.

Still, just because everybody else was imbibing to excess didn't mean I had to. There was a shot-for-shot competition going on that I thought about wagering on, especially since one contestant (she said) had had thirteen so far and seemed only a trifle more...expressive...that usual. Mostly I just sat and watched the crowd, getting up to dance just often enough so that I only got dragged to the dance floor the once. I indulged my inner lecher as I regarded the ladies, all of whom were several orders of magnitude prettier out of uniform (and some of them make the uniform look pretty good, if you catch my driftwood).
I did keep well away from the one woman I would have ate a shot glass to dance with. (Just after I introduced Eva to her some months ago, my darling wife observed of course you like her. She's me with blonde hair.) Better a little crush from a distance, is my philosophy. Little good can come of flirting too heavily. Would that I had learned that little lesson two relationships ago, but at least it's learned now, when it really counts.

Back to the crowd. Everyone who wasn't dancing seemed to be in very animated conversation with people around them. Animated it had to be, because it wasn't as if you could hear anything below a scream over the Black Eyed Peas and Britney and the majestic strains of Stroke It. Again I felt like a fish out of water. Do these people not resent, on some level, having to shriek to the person next to them, just to be heard? I know it's a dance, but does the music have to be quite this loud? Then I wondered if that thought made me painfully naive or old before my time. I'd enjoyed the dinner my boss treated us to a couple of weeks ago a great deal, in no small part because I could follow the ebb and flow of conversation around the table. This...at times this was almost painful.

I bolted just before midnight, feeling a weird mix of relief and exhilaration. I don't think I made too much of a tool out of myself on the dance floor, a place where--once--I would have done everything short of a striptease to garner some attention. I just tried to fit in, and while these creaky 37-year-old bones wouldn't allow me the grace and style of my fellows, at least nobody was staring at me.
I could have stayed longer, but having awakened at 4:00 yesterday morning, the adrenaline could only do so much. Still, despite occasional misgivings, I had a better time than I thought I would. And I'll be back next year.


18 December, 2009

Irregularity

I seem to be suffering from a mild case of writer's block.

It's not so much that I am bereft of ideas. There are lots of things happening on which I could deposit a cent or two: the Afghan detainee scandal, Copenhagen, and Stephen Harper riding high in the polls despite both. I tarted up a column saying goodbye to my favourite baseball player--Roy "Doc" Halliday--then decided not to bother publishing it.

I seem to be suffering from an acute case of thinker's block.

I just don't feel like writing, or thinking, or doing much of anything, this month. A full blog entry seems like so much work, and a blog entry on anything requiring--gasp!--research makes me throw up in my mouth just a little.

Part of this is free-floating annoyance, something I'm subject to every now and again. There's no reason for it...it just happens...but it's all-encompassing, and it causes me to think things I wouldn't normally. Afghan detainees tortured? That's what war is about, right? Copenhagen...big whoop. Nothing we can do is going to be enough to reverse what we've already done, and it's just so...damned...tiring watching the world's leaders fiddling away while home burns. And Harper...as the kids say today, meh.
Then I get annoyed with myself for having these rogue thoughts, and the two species of annoyance take up arms in my cerebrum, and before too long I'm just withdrawing. Let the world go by, I don't care.

This too shall pass, I'm sure. But I owe my readers some sort of explanation for the paucity of posts...and that's it.

Sorry, folks.

13 December, 2009

Update: The wife, the self, and the work

Eva: she hates being on the shelf. I knew this before, but the sheer depth of her hatred has made itself abundantly clear in the past month or so. She's not supposed to be doing much even now. She needs to be reminded of this on a daily, indeed an hourly, basis. It's a difficult balancing act, because all sit and no work makes my wife go nuts.

To illustrate: Two days...TWO! DAYS!...after she came home from the hospital, Eva announced that she was going to walk up to the corner and get herself a pizza. I told her she most certainly was not, how could she even think of doing such a thing, you sit right there in that couch, woman, and I will fetch hither yon pizza. In response, she assumed a posture I almost never see from her, one that says I'm hearing you but I'm not listening. The more I pleaded and cajoled, the firmer she set her shoulders. I was on my way out with friends to see a hockey game, already not feeling that great about leaving her alone. Pride, exasperation and concern mixed uneasily as I realized as soon as I was out of the driveway, she was going to walk about a quarter of a mile, against every order every doctor in the world would give her, and there wasn't a damned thing I could do to stop it short of hog-tying her to the couch. And so I summoned my foot-down voice and told her she was to turn around the instant she felt any pain.
Needless to say, she made it there and back again with her pizza. She texted me to tell me she was home safe and sound and "feeling it"...of that I had no doubt. She won't tell anyone how much effort that walk took, or how much pain she actually suffered over its course. In her family, it was never enough to succeed against the odds, you had to do it effortlessly.

The ensuing three-weeks-and-change have not been any easier. Oh, she's recovering, slowly; she has a (thankfully relatively mild) infection in at least two incisions, for which she's taking antibiotics, but other than that she's physically hunky-dory. But the limitations the doctors have placed on her (no driving for at least a month, no lifting of anything heavier than ten pounds for six weeks, and so on) are chafing her to no end. Limits are for weaklings, is Eva's philosophy, and one should never dare to suggest that Eva herself is a weakling, invasive surgery be damned.

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I'd have made a shitty father.

I'd long suspected this, but the past month has proved it. How you people with children do it I have no freaking clue. Do you have day-stretchers, or something? I haven't had time to even think about blogging in the past week of get up, shovel driveway, go to work, come home, shovel driveway, have dinner, clean up dinner and go to bed. Here I am stealing some time and there's laundry to do, the floors in here are actually kind of scary, the bathroom needs cleaning and hey, Ken, have you looked in that hellhole you call a basement lately?
This bothers me on several levels. I've always known I have a lazy streak a mile wide in me, but having it driven home so forcefully kind of rankles. And let's face it, I don't have near the workload of your typical parent. Not even close. In fact, a week or two of parental burden and I'd probably be capable of murder. I'd call it self-defence, because a month or so of parental burden would kill me.

One cup of coffee instead of two in the morning and around noon I have a real scalp-splitter of a headache. If I lack half an hour or forty five minutes of time to wake up properly in the morning (because I have to, let's say, go out and shovel the driveway) and I'll be out of sorts all day. I'm obviously wedded at least as much to my routines as I am to Eva. I simply can't imagine the chaos of a house with kids, where routines exist only to be laughed at and "down time" is a fantasy more potent that hot sex. I used to snort incredulously whenever I'd read that longtime parents overwhelmingly preferred an hour's sleep to an hour's sex. With my increased workload--which is still an insubstantial fraction of the average parent's--I think I can begin to understand.

Every day this week, I've gotten to work when it was still full dark and it's been full dark when I've arrived home. This normally doesn't bother little old photosensitive me one bit, but lately I've found myself wishing there were a few more than 24 hours in a day.
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I've both loved and hated my job since my vacation ended. Loved it, because for the first time I actually missed not being there for two weeks. There are several people there that make my days away from home more than bearable. It's taken nearly nine years for me to believe, in fits and starts, that others might feel that way about me. My boss took his full-timers out for a holiday dinner the day after I got back: the first time I'd been invited, and I hope not the last. The parade of delicious food was nearly endless and the liquor flowed in buckets and I shudder to think what the bill might have been, but it was worth it.

I've hated my job because (are we sensing a theme, here?) there's more to do than can be done. I worked all day Wednesday, my usual day off, doing shelf relines and building displays, and that wasn't even the worst day of my week.
This ad we're running Ristorante and Casa di Mama Pizzas for $2.99. I both love and hate these pizzas. I love them because they're delicious, easily the best frozen pizza on the market. I hate them because the packaging on them blows hairy chunks. They're the only product in my department--probably in the whole store--that's wrapped and boxed. They're packed in fives or sevens (weird) and filling a bunker from empty takes about two hours if you hustle ass. Tedious. Really tedious.
Anyway, last time these were on, I sold more than anyone else in the banner, including all the Toronto stores. And so when I allocated stock for this sale, just before Eva's surgery, I went really heavy. I shouldn't have done that. For one thing, business has died off since then. For another, we have a new lockdown program and our McCain Rising Crust pizzas are on sale for $3.99 (from $7.27) at the same time. Although this lockdown had started when I booked the Ristorantes, I was not and am not used to thinking about sales as twelve week long events. And for a third, I didn't imagine there'd be eight skids of turkeys in my freezer when I booked the pizzas.
It took me hours of phone calls and emails just to get one of my pizza shipments cancelled.
Then, when filling the bunk on Tuesday, I noticed and reported that it was icing up badly and would have to be defrosted soon. Hopefully it'd last through Christmas.

It didn't.

On Wednesday night, the refrigeration alarm went off for that bunker. The computer showed a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius...interesting. The thermometer on the bunker reported -26, right where it should have been. The ice had cut a sensor wire. The bunker had to be emptied and defrosted so the sensor wire could be replaced. Like I had time for this. Like I had anywhere to even temporarily store the pizzas I'd so painstakingly placed in there two days previous.
On to U-boats and into my dairy cooler the pizzas went. I grabbed a large waste bucket, filled it with scalding water, and U-boated it out to my bunker, where I upended it. The water sluiced around, melting some ice, before cascading out all over the floor.

That ain't right.

Somebody, at some point, had rammed that bunker but good with a shopping cart, shifting it and actually cracking the drain pipe. So: pour, mop, mop, mop, mop. Pour, mop, mop, mop, mop. And so on. Lovely day that was. It took about eight buckets to melt the ice sufficiently for our general handyman to even access that drainpipe.

This next week should be better. For one thing, I have no intention of going in Wednesday. I plan on cleaning my heart out here at home. If I get enough sleep Tuesday and Wednesday nights, no matter how much cleaning I do, it'll feel like a day off...

03 December, 2009

Tiger! Tiger!

bleeding bright
In the Escalade that night
What tumultuous downhill lie
Has forc'd thy infidelity?

(with apologies to Wm. Blake)

The jokes are out already. Some of them are pretty clever, actually.

What's the difference between a car and a golf ball? Tiger can drive a ball 400 yards.

What were Tiger Woods and his wife doing out at 2:30 in the morning? They went clubbing.

Tiger Woods crashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. He couldn’t decide between a wood and an iron.

I've posted on this before. Admittedly, the "celebrity" in that case, one Tahir "Tie" Domi, was considerably further down the fame ladder than is Tiger Woods. Still, everything I said there applies here, only more so.

Once again, we are confronted with a "devoted husband and father", a man who has assumed godlike status to his fan base, caught behaving in an ungodly way. Once again, he seems surprised he was found out and upset that the media are making life difficult for him. Hello, Tiger? You're obscenely rich and famous, you're pretty damned photogenic, and what the hell were you thinking leaving your paramour's name in your cell phone? How was that supposed to end, hmm?

And sorry, no matter how many times you plead for privacy, you don't deserve it and you're not going to get it. You didn't exactly keep your marriage private, there, did you? How did you find yourself playing the wrong hole, Tiger? Couldn't keep the club in the bag, could you?

Don't get me wrong. I actually have some sympathy for Mr. Woods. Man, you think pug-ugly Tie Domi had women throwing themselves at him? I'm sure Tiger has to beat them off with, well, clubs. Sooner or later, little Tiger was going to bust out.)

And Elin knew it. Of course she did. Why else the prenup? You don't craft those things without knowing, on some level, you're going to get divorced. (My wife disagrees with me here: she believes Elin was--wisely, as it turns out--covering her ass-ets. That's as may be, but I still think those things are better named post-nuptial agreements. It takes a cynical mindset to be divvying up property before you've even tied the knot, is my view).

So Tiger's in daily marriage counselling. Interesting. I wonder if that ever crossed his mind before he strayed. Somehow I doubt it, and yes, I'm speaking from experience. Often you don't realize what you've got until you throw it away. I'd be exceeding surprised if Tiger's marriage lasts another five years.

Ow.

Meant to post in the last couple days. Didn't. Threw my back out, instead.
It comes with the territory, when you're approaching 40...or so I'm told, anyway. I've had twinges in my back every now and again. This wasn't a twinge. This was a lock.
I was putting laundry in the dryer...something I've done, oh, about a thousand times. Only this time my back announced that I was not putting anything in the dryer any more, instead it was time to moan and wail piteously. Very low in my back, almost at my left hip, something wrenched and presto! Ken joined Eva on the shelf for a couple of days.

Oh, we made a pair on Monday and Tuesday, let me tell you. I couldn't do the square root of frig-all and Eva's not supposed to do much of anything, either. I'd try to help her, say, put her slippers on, and I'd wind up clenching my back and gasping like a beached fish; she'd help me get my socks on--I don't mind admitting that with my almost total lack of flexibility, this is a bit of a struggle even when I'm feeling 100%--and she'd be ready for a nap, afterwards.

Tried going to work this morning, fortified with muscle relaxers. If I had a desk job I probably could have got through the day. As it was, I tried to lift a slat of eggs and my back said oh, really? Is that how we're going to play this game? Not healed yet, apparently. So now I'm home and about to go to bed. We'll try this again tomorrow.

I don't want this to happen again, though I suspect it will, sometime. Eva is subject to back spasms worse than mine was...once or twice a year she's bedridden for a day or so, completely unable to walk. At my worst, I could walk (slowly), I could sit (painfully) and I could lay down (sort of)...but getting from any of those states to any other was...bad.

I sure didn't want to come back from holidays like this...