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The pitch was bright, all hard sun baking wilting astro-turn, the mid crowded with bodies of the enemy. I punted a cautious pass towards my downstream team-mate, calling out his name as the ball left the toe of my shoe and floated over the defenders' heads. He turned, but mis-calculated and the ball bounced, then dribbled toward the enemy.

I pinched, fast and hard, reaching the ball only milliseconds before my opponent. Kicked out, hard and ...

... and hurled myself right off my bed and into the wall, down which I slid to the floor.

From above, I heard Raven cry out, "Honey, what happened? Are you all right?" She burst into laughter when I explained what had happened, and I did too, as I got to my knees, checked for damages (slight scrape on the inside of one thigh), and clambered back onto the bed.

Soccer dreams are all well and good, but somebody's gonna get hurt if this keeps up. A rude awakening indeed.

Betrayal

Jul. 13th, 2016 12:01 pm
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I know, I could have it worse (and no doubt, someday I will), but fuck my arthritis.

That is all.

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When I was a kid, a teenager (and beyond, in fact), I played the guitar and I hitch-hiked quite a lot. As a grubby-looking, long-haired guy, that latter activity meant I spent a lot of time standing by the side of the road, day-dreaming. And a recurring day-dream was that I would master the guitar to the point where I might find myself someday sharing a stage with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, noodling away like a 'head from the Haight.

Obviously, it never happened. I didn't have the drive to become a good guitarist nor, I suspect, did (or do) I have the innate talent. Sometimes biology is destiny.

But last night, I happened on a video of a very recent concert by Dead & Company, a band made up of former members of the Grateful Dead and others, younger players.

I don't expect many (or even, probably, any) of you to watch the video — it's more than 3 hours long, but who knows? Maybe someone's trippin' ...

Anyway, listening to it and (sometimes) watching it and it hit me: John Mayer, the lead guitarist (whose name but not work rings a bell with me), though 12 years my junior, is doing something I fantasized I might do on those long, dusty days with my thumb out waiting for a ride.

No wonder he bounces. No wonder he looks so happy. He's jamming with the Dead, man!

Dead & Company is a nostalgia act, sure, but there's still some creative life in the old bones, if only through the input of young(ish) blood. The Rolling Stones could take a lesson.

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Many years ago (I was a teenager, so we're talking circa 35 years godhelpme), I was hanging at a house-party, drinkin', probably tokin', and wandering about talking to this, that, and the other person.

At some point I opened a closed door, poked my head into a room lit only with a single candle. I'd heard music and been curious.

Inside, cross-legged on my friend Adam's futon, was Matt. Matt was a musician, a guitarist. In fact, he was the guitarist at my very small high school. In a way. He could play anything and sound like anyone.

You wanted Jimmy Hendrix? Matt could do Jimmy, note for fucking note. Or Jerry Garcia. Or Jimmy Page.

You get the idea.

I didn't really much like Matt. I didn't dislike him, but he always struck me as a poseur, as someone who was forever showing off his skills, instead of inhabiting them.

But that night (or morning), I opened that door and caught him unawares. And he stayed unawares. He didn't hear the door open, didn't know I was listening.

He was playing only for himself.

And he was fantastic. Just a young man really getting into his acoustic guitar and grooving. I don't know how long I listened, but it was long enough for a couple of my friends to notice me, half in and half out of the hallway and they too stopped when they heard the magic. The joy.

And yeah, I know these guys (presumably) knew there was a camera on them, but that's the feeling I get from this lovely piece of music.

Enjoy.

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My mother came down from Sudbury

"No spring chicken" teaches lessons in accessibility

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother

My mother is a cripple (her word, not mine). She's 83 years old, has two bionic knees and one of those is ... loose. Falling apart, she says, and the surgeons in Sudbury (all of whom work out of the same practice, so no shopping around for a second opinion unless you're willing to shop for one in Toronto or Ottawa) say she's too old for a replacement.

Despite that mechanical failure and a spine giving way to osteoporosis, and despite some problems with short-term memory (not, so far as I can tell, early-stage Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia; but disconcerting nevertheless), her doctor tells her she's mostly in very good health and has every chance of seeing her 95th birthday.

She is, further, having the time of her life as a born-again celebrity of sorts (if only in Northern Ontario) and has made of her late uncle Jules' saying, "life is good", her own touchstone.

Image: Banner from CBC Sudbury's feature page for Benita Hart and 'Growing Old Ungracefully'.

Last week, a friend was driving down to Ottawa and wondered if she would care to accompany him. Travelling isn't as easy for her as it used to be, but she said yes, and so arrived in Ottawa last Thursday. And I saw her on Sunday.

* * *

A lot of people find my relationship with my mother a little strange. We actually like each quite a lot, as people as well as as mother and son, yet we probably don't see each other as often as once a year, we seldom email and, unless she's having computer issues (I have her running Linux Mint, so I'm her go-to guy for support when something's not working), we probably only talk on the phone every three or four months.

But those conversations usually last between two and four hours, and include healthy exchanges of politics and philosophy along with a a lot of laughter (and a little gossip), so I'm not bothered. And neither is she. After all, we both have lives.

Anyway.

She had asked about staying with me and Raven, but I had to remind her that inhabit the top two floors of a three-story town house. Though she's taken up distance walking through the good offices of a physiotherapist and a walker, her knees aren't up to a flight of stairs every time she wants to use the bathroom.

So, as I said, she stayed with a friend. And meanwhile, I had a friend of mine come into town on Thursday, whom I hadn't seen in 22 years. Since Sonia was only passing through town, I invited her to dinner and she stayed the night on our couch after we caught up and reminisced as old friends long out of touch will do. (It wasn't only the passing of time that was shocking about our reunion; it was also how many memories we did not share in common. Or, as Sonia put it, how lousy my memory was. Somehow, over the years, I had come to think of her as some sort of weird, near-celibate girl who was forever single; she had to reminded me that I'd met at least two of her boy-friends. But onwards. This entry is about Mom, and the lesson she taught me about accessibility issues.

You weren't expect a lesson, were you Gentle Reader?

I had work on Friday and Saturday, so it was only on Sunday afternoon, after my soccer game, that I actually saw me old mum in the flesh.

Image: Photo of Geoffrey Dow with Benita Hart, his mother, and her walker.

Cognizant of how difficult it can be for cripples the handicapped to get in and out of small cars, I'd foregone my usual compact in favour of renting a minivan, and it was in that vehicle that my mum, Raven and I set out for dinner, on the way detouring past our home, the inside of which my mother will never set foot.

We wanted to go to Saffron, a Persian eatery which — to our surprise if not quite shock — seems to no longer exist. We ended up at the Golden India restaurant, a Bangladeshi-style Indian restaurant on McArthur. Raven and I have been a couple of times before and found it far and away the best Indian food we've had in Ottawa. The dishes are subtly flavourful, even when "extremely" hot. (I ordered the brilliant Bangalore Pal and didn't regret a drop of the sweat I lost over it.)

But the good food and conversation were marred by a post-prandial occurrence.

Though the bathrooms were on the main floor, it turned out they were not, quite, accessible. The toilet, my mum said, was extremely low. There were no grab-bars. She very nearly had to call for help, just to get up off the shitter.

The things the able-bodied don't think about! (And despite my problems with arthritis, able-bodied is still how I think of myself!)

The restaurant's hostess apologized when my mother complained, but it was pretty pro forma. "No one else has ever complained," she said.

"Most people probably just don't come back," was my mother's response. And no doubt, she's right. Unlike my mother, most people don't want to make a fuss. Hell, my mother doesn't "want" to make a fuss either, but she (quite rightly) thinks that fusses sometimes need to be made.

Anyway, the incident left me contemplating the place we'd tried to take her the last time she was in town, the sometimes sublime Chahaya Malaysia. A low-key, mom-and-pop style restaurant serving brilliant food, it is a also one of those places whose bathrooms are in the basement. Tough shit for the handicapped. And a good thing it was closed the time we tried to introduce my mum to its brilliant food.

But the moral of the story is, even when we think we're aware of issues having to do with social justice, it's really damned easy to miss the things that don't affect us personally in some way. If you've ever wondered why the toilets in old folks' homes are so high, or the seats have risers, now you know: when the knees are going, standing up is no easy thing.

Thanks, mum. I hope you had a good drive back on Monday. Presumably, if something went wrong, one of my brothers would have called by now to let me know.

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Not that anyone cares (nor should they) but I for some reason feel compelled to announce publicly that I have grown so disenchanted with Game of Thrones I can't even be bothered to read episode synopses, let alone actually watch it any more.

Pity. It was fun for a a while.

But on the other hand, last week's Orphan Black made me squee like the greenest fanboy. If you're not watching it, why in the hell aren't you?

Happy (Orthodox) Easter, everybody.

Image: Mock poster showing Marx, Engels(?), Lenin and Christ with hammer and sicle.

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I wasn't pleased at first with the flash-back to Beth's past, but by the end, all was forgiven. In one episode Orphan Black has given the sort of backstory that Better Call Saul has been milking for nearly two full seasons now.

As a standalone show, I'll give it a B-, but if subsequent episodes build on it as I rather think they will, the grade will rise.

How long 'till next Thursday ...?

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silverflight8 gave me the letter M.

Something I hate: Mortality. See "Someone I know", below.

Something I love: That's easier. Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, a series of novels that puts the E back int eh word epic. And more, a story that is forever noting a reader's expectations, then giving them something very different. Robinson kills three of his most charismatic players in the first volume and has the heir apparent simply ignore his "destiny" in the subsequent two. And what's not to like about a series that features middle-aged (and then old women among its prime movers, as well as not one, but two, constitutional conventions as part of its action?

Somewhere I've been: Montebello. A very small town on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River/Rivière des Outaouais, about halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. It features a hotel that is (I think) the world's largest log cabin, and is a 10 or 15 minute drive from Parc Omega, a drive-through animal "safari" in which moose demand carrots at your window, wolves loll about only metres away and wild boar engage in public sex acts without so much as a by-your-leave. Great snow-showing, too.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Manzanillo, Cuba. Why? Because it starts with the letter M and 9 days was not nearly long enough a visit to that country.

Someone I know: Maria. Well, I don't know her well, but we went out once for a pint, to talk books and publishing two or three years ago. She's a Serious Christian and it turned out we didn't share much in common philosophically or aesthetically, but what made it memorable for me was that (a) she was an attractive woman who was (b) roughly my age and (c) a fucking grandmother. See "Something I Hate", above.

A film I like: My Own Private Idaho, which is in part a really ideosyncratic modern-dress re-telling of Shakespeare's Henry IV diptych, with Prince Hal as a narcoleptic rent-boy. I showed it to an ex-girlfriend whose response — "That's the dumbest movie I ever saw!" — probably set the stage for that relationship's demise.

A book I like: The Motion of Light In Water, Samuel R. Delany's 1980s memoir of "sex and science fiction writing in the East Village, 1957-1965." Part literary memoir, part social history, part personal recollections of a sexual life that, by now (according to the author himself) includes sexual encounters with something on the order of 50,000 (yes, 50K) different (almost all) men. Fascinating on all kinds of levels and, of course, brilliantly-written.

A (actress in a) television show I like: Tatiana Maslany. Because she plays something like 8 different characters on Orphan Black, and Orphan Black's 4th series starts tomorrow night, and she's brilliant and I am hoping against hope that the writers know where they're going with what is so far a brilliant show. Another Battlestar Galactica will break my heart.

Comment if you want to get a letter too! (You can cheat too, if you want to.)

ETA: I am shocked, appalled, and kind of disgusted that, given the letter M, I was unable to remember just how much (a lot) I love the work of Hayao Miyazaki. *Young Geoffrey hangs his head in shame*

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Ten Books or, Where are the ladies at?

"In your status line list 10 books that have stayed with you. Don't take more than a few minutes. Don't think too hard. They don't have to be great works or even your favorites. Just the ones that have touched you."

These sort of lists are always nervous-making, but they're kind of fun — and maybe even a little interesting, too. Meme yoinked from Samuel R. Delany's facebook page. To which he seems pretty liberal about responding to friend requests.

Note that I arbitrarily limited myself to fiction. Non-fiction might make for another meme, another day.

  1. Dhalgren (by Delany himself);

  2. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien;

  3. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carrol;

  4. The Kraken Wakes, by John Wyndham;

  5. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller;

  6. Something Happened, by Joseph Heller;

  7. The World According to Garp, by John Irving;

  8. The Mars Trilogy (Red, Green, Blue), by Kim Stanley Robinson;

  9. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy; and

  10. Barney's Version, by Mordechai Richler

I said "kind of fun" above, but the results of my not taking "more than a few minutes" to come up with a list of books "that have touched" me is more than a little disconcerting. For a number of reasons.

First, I confess to being a little embarassed by how genre the damned thing is? Where's Goethe's Faust? Where's The Magic Mountain or Julius Caesar? What happened to The Waves or The Edible Woman?

In short, nevermind genre, where are all the women at?

While I was (briefly) thinking about it, names like Le Guin and Russ quickly came to mind, but I rejected the former because I've been more moved by her non-fiction than her fiction, and for the latter, although The Female Man impressed hell out of me as a youth, I can scarecely remember it now — and I've re-read it more than once in the intervening years.

Virginia Woolf always left me cold. In truth, if I were to wipe the slate clean, I might replace the Tolstoy or Irving with Pride and Prejudice, but when you get right down it, I don't think I've read all that many women writers. Certainly as a percentage, it's much lower than chance — even in a genre like SF (and F) — would allow. (And, y'know, much as I loved it back in the day, The Mists of Avalon hasn't aged well at all.)

Be that as it may. The books that are on that somewhat arbitrary exercise in memory and prejudice share another commonality: I read most of them quite a long time ago, at least for the first time. The Lord of the Rings and Dhalgren are pools into which I've dipped again and again (and again), and with the exception of War and Peace, I've revisited the others all more than once. As for Tolstoy, I doubt I'll go there again; it's on the list more for how much his lunatic's 100 page diatribe on the inevitability of history and the impotence of the individual to effect change is what I remember more than anything else from the book.

Still, it's a somewhat instructive exercise. What are your top 10 most memorable books?

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The Pedestrians' diaries, parts 10 and 11

Days 9 and 10: Sugar beaches and the General's gun

Image: Photo of cars parked outside a hamburger stand in Varadero.

Excuses: the day job, other writing, selecting photos, an internet outage, real life ...

All true, all inadequate. But here we are at last, come to the end of our Cuban adventures.

Click here for Day 9: Varadero Sands, our last full day in Cuba.

And here for Day 10: Adios to Cuba, in which I encounter a General and his gun.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 9

Day 8: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of the liquor shelf at the 'grocery store' across from our casa particular in Varadero.

Our last morning in Havana was our first evening in Varadero.

We learned that Cuba pumps oil on the sea shore, that good food isn't restricted to Santa Clara and Havana, and that we both looked forward to, and dreaded, the impending end of our journey.

Click here for Day 8: A hovel in the lap of luxury.

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 8

Day 7: Last night in Havana

Image: Photo of Young Geoffrey with painting of Fidel Castro in Old Havana.

Our third full day in Havana was also our last; in the morning, we ship out to the beaches of Varadero.

But today? Today we returned to Habana vieja, riding instead of walking, visiting old forts, old streets and old cars.

Click here for Day 7: Cocotaxi, Habana Vieja & a '56 Ford Fairlane, and don't forget to play the video!

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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 7

Day 6: Havana by day, Havana by night

Image: Photo of yellow car, stripped or under repair near Calle Neptuno, Havana.

My Cuban diary continues, with our second full day in Havana.

As with the first, we walked, and we walked and we walked. No soldiers this time, but a shuttered Capitolio, the Old City, really scary street-food and Chinatown (yes, Chinatown!).

Click here for Day 6: Stormy weather on the Malecón.

Cuba: Day 5

Jan. 7th, 2016 07:04 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 6

Day 5: Soldiers on duty!

Image: Photo of El monumento Jose Miguel Gomez from the south, in Havana, Cuba.

My Cuban diary continues, with a report from our first full day in Havana.

Walking, walking, walking, we encountered smog and soldiers and monuments galore. And also, found ourselves back that the Viazul station, almost by accident.

Click here for Day 5: Schlepping in Havana (less politics, more pictures!).

Cuba: Day 4

Jan. 6th, 2016 02:11 pm
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The Pedestrians' diaries, part 5

Day 4: Adios! Santa Clara (Havana ho!)

Image: Photo of rear of statue of Che Guevara atop his Mausoleum in Santa Clara, Cuba.

January 6, 2016, OTTAWA — Life and work have got in the way of things. But here at last is the fifth entry (for the fourth day) of my Cuba diary.

The travellers come to Havana at last (and buy a pair of shorts)!

Click here for Day 4: Shopping in Havana.

Cuba: Day 3

Jan. 1st, 2016 01:26 pm
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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 3: Che sera, sera

The Note that wasn't

Image: Photo of Parc Vidal in Santa Clara, Cuba

My diary for Day 3 is a bit of a cheat. I over-wrote the original and was forced to reconstruct it from memory and visual aids (ie, photos).

But I remember the day pretty well. We had our first introductions to the realities of Cuban bureaucracies and the limitations on freedom that Cubans have to deal with. We also spent time at the Che Guevara mausoleum and rode home in a horse-drawn taxi — no calèche, but a humble cart.

Click here for Day 3: Che sera, sera.

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 2: The chickens cats streets of Santa Clara

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — Our first full day in Santa Clara included a fuck-ton of walking, the worst spaghetti in the world, Che's cat, a yellow T-Rex, urban chickens and the most laid-back cops I've ever seen. Also horses and really dirty air.

And if all that isn't enough, I'll leave you with a gratuitous shot of Che's Cat, a mere sample of the pic-spam you'll also be missing if you don't click through!

The Streets of Santa Clara!

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

Day 1: A jet plane, a Lada and food! Glorious food!

p>December 15, SANTA CLARA, Cuba — The flight lasted only three and a half hours, delivering two Canadians from an un-naturally warm late autumn to sub-tropical heat. It seems also to have landed us in a world that Time has almost forgotten.

A blurry cellphone photo of the Aeropuerto Abel Santamaria, just after we de-planed.
The Aeropurto Abel Santamaria on the outskirts of Santa Clara, Cuba, taken just after we de-planed.

Our first day (or rather, evening) in Cuba began with lost luggage and a terrifying ride in a Lada (a Soviet-made knock-off of an Italian car) at least 40 years old. It ended with a lizard on the wall and fantastic meal in our bellies. The full report is here. Comment here or there, as you like (if you feel like commenting at all, that is).

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Cuba: Notes from behind the Coffee Curtain

A Canadian abroad: Memories of Cuba

December 27, OTTAWA — I imagine the word Cuba brings to mind all manner of things. To the historically-minded, it could be the Bay of Pigs, or the Cuban Missile Crisis. To the romantic, bearded Che and Fidel emerging from the jungles to over-throw the gangster dictator Batista. To automobile-aficionados, it is vast fleets of ancient Detroit steel and chrome still rolling. Even agronomists and ecologists have an interest, since Cuba is the first country to successfully transition from a "modern" industrial agricultural system to a more-or-less organic system.


A cop in Santa Clara talks with a woman. His relaxed body-language was pretty typical of those we saw in uniform during our visit.

Geopolitics was what first came to mind when I thought of that Caribbean island, but now that I have actually visited, the reality of people and places has pushed the abstract to the back of the bus. And what a reality!

Nine days don't make me an expert, but I think the experience was worth writing about — and worth reading.

A brief introduction to The Pedestrian's Diaries is here. If you hate introductions, the first full entry, Security theatre of the absurd is here.

Comments welcome here or there, as always.

Whoa!

Dec. 25th, 2015 02:38 am
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Was in Cuba for nigh on a fortnight, now back some 28 hours, including sleep and "Christmas" dinner at the pater's.

Much to say, but not now. So will leave you with a photo and promise of a travelogue to come. It'll be worth it.

Merry Christmas! (That's a statue of Che G on the pedestal below the rainbow, stage left; and that's a live Young G just right of centre near the bottom. No rainbow and don't take geography for politics.)

 

 

Young Geoffrey

P.S. I have no idea what I intended the now-deleted sentence above to mean. The rainbow was, in fact, very real and it hung around for quite a while, as if begging us to take multiple pictures of it blessing Che's statue. Which of course we did.

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