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I'm sick. 2nd degree hacking cough and a head full of mucus.

The cold came on fast Friday afternoon and evening, during what turned out to be an 11 hour shift. Nevertheless, I hoped on my bicycle for home come about 02:15 Saturday morning, then got back on it at about 11:15 for a return trip and another 11 hour shift on Saturday. I returned home a little after midnight, having cycled about 35 kilometres since the onset of symptoms.

I say all this not to brag (or not to brag much), but to note:

Less than 10 years ago, when I caught a cold it was my practice to take to my bed, to suck down Neocitrin, and basically spend the next four to seven days in bed.

Since then, though, I stopped smoking, cut my drinking by more than half and started biking a lot more and playing soccer. And — fancy that! — now when I catch a cold, I function. I doubt I get over it any faster, but I don't take to my bed like some upper-class Victorian lady with The Vapours, I just carry on. (And, probably, spread my illness around to my passengers, but what the hell; I'm pretty sure one of them gave it to me in the first place.)

And speaking of that cycling, I've long maintained that my bicycle is my primary mode of transportation; now I have proof.

After I bought a new machine some time back in August, I decided to splurge on an odometer. Which turned out to be an unreliable piece of junk, which I was fortunately able to return. At which point I took Raven's advice and tried out a GPS-based cellphone app called Strava — which works like a charm (so long as I remember to enable my location services). I started recording my rides on August 23rd. I've missed a few and will manually enter the information later, so the image below does not include all the miles (kilometres) I've cycled since then, but it's not too far off.

1,290 km in less that three months, damn it! And you know what? I'm proud!

1200 km cycled in less than 3 months!

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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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Funny thing about my state of mind following my my recent sports injury: I wasn't unhappy or upset about it. Quite the opposite. Sunday afternoon and evening found my smiling and laughing, despite the fact I could barely hobble up or down the stairs and that settling onto the toilet was a task that took me about 75 seconds to perform.

Despite it all, I realized I was happy. I felt as if I'd won a lottery, not like I was in a significant amount of pain.

And looking back at my recent self, I realized that I've been really quite happy a lot more than I used to be. Credit for some of it goes to the presence of Raven in my life, no doubt, but I don't think that's all of it. It seems almost as if I've entered into another, less angsty phase of life; though I risk jinxing myself, it feels like a new normal. Is this really what fifty feels like?

 

Meanwhile, due to the overwhelming deluge* of concern and curiosity about my recent sports injury, I am also happy to report that things seem to be healing apace.

By happy, I mean really happy. Never mind soccer, on Sunday I was worried I might miss one or more days of work — always problematic when you're on-call and don't have any paid sick-leave. But before yesterday was done, I was able to make my way downstairs in normal fashion, one leg after the other. Going up was harder, but I was able to do it, though I winced a lot when I put weight on my right foot and started to lift (in fact, sometimes I just limped up).

This morning, I find myself able to veritably bounce down the stairs and going up hurts considerably less than it did. And I'll be going into the office in a couple of hours and have virtually no concerns about spending four or five hours behind the wheel of a van. Bending down to pick something off of the floor still requires some acrobatics with my right leg, but I don't think I'll have any trouble lifting luggage into the back of the vehicle.

I think I will miss this Sunday's game, but more because Raven — who has had a brutal month-and-a-half at her office — is in serious need of a road-trip, and I've agreed to doing a weekend in Montreal with her.

All of which is to say, It could have been a hell of a lot worse.

*Overwhelming deluge being here defined as a number > or < than 1.

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I feel weird, almost bourgeois — or maybe, "like a grown-up" says it better.

I type this entry from my office on the second (third: I'll explain) floor of our townhouse (apartment? I'll explain my confusion, never fear).

Image: Photo of morning light shining through Young Geoffrey and Raven's new kitchen window, April 4, 2015
Morning light shines bright in our o! so sunny kitchen!

A week ago, Raven and I were still living in our, mouse-ridden, slum-lord owned (Hi Chi! hovel with poor lighting and whose every amenity had been slapped to gather at the absolute minimum standard. A place who landlord I had two or three times called the city about in order to have Giant Piles of Garbage removed from below our fire escape, and who had once sent me an "eviction letter" by email. (We just ignored it, of course. The back-dated rental increase I went to the office to argue about and laugh at.)

Today, for $100.00 more per month, we find ourselves ensconces in a two-bedroom unit with twice the square footage on the top two floors of a town-house owned by a non-profit housing corporation whose goal is not to gouge tenants for everything we've got but rather, to works towards ensuring that Ottawa has a growing supply of affordable housing. (They're also prepared to supply us with plants for our balcony and/or the community gardening plots on the roof of the parking garage that sits on one side of the courtyard upon which our bedroom looks.

Rather than a four-lane, one-way arterial artery (Kent Street, for the locals), our new abode sits on a tree-lined residential street home to kids and dog-walkers. And Girl Guides, who managed to sell me a box of cookies about 10 minutes after I'd first used our new keys to get inside. But I digress. We're a half-kilometre or so closer to the airport, and a few blocks closer to Chinatown, which makes us happy. Not so much for the restaurants as for the convenience of picking up fresh vegetables more often.

The place isn't perfect — in fact, we already have a fairly long list of things that need fixing. But the CCOC also provides several convenient ways to contact the Maintenance Department; I'm optimistic that repairs will be made sooner that later — but so far, so most good. The furnace is brand new and our hot water is a modern, utterly sensible "on demand" system, which means no wasting energy keeping a giant tank of water hot 24 hours a day when it is only going to be needed for one hour.

Aesthetically, it's going to take me a while to get used to having carpeting everywhere but the kitchen, bathroom and vestibule by the front door, but I suppose I'll manage.

Speaking of aesthetics, while the Christian world is celebrating the Resurrection, I'll be emptying boxes and trying to make our internet wiring discrete, if not quite pretty.

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I'm writing this entry (or at least, will have started it) at YOW, the Ottawa International Airport. I am not here to work but rather, to await the return of my sweetie, home soon after almost three weeks over-seas.

Three weeks: not an insignificant amount of time. Close enough to 6% of a year, if you want to put it in perspective.

And temporal perspective is something that's been hitting me a lot lately. More or less since I turned 50, come to think of it.

Unlike any previous milestone, this one gives me pause. I suspect the physical deteriorations of my parents, and a favourite aunt's early-stage dementia has something to do with it, but so to does the sheer extent of my own existence.

To put it another way: If three weeks is not an insignificant length of time, than 50 years is a fuck-load of it.

It's not just a lot of time in terms of a human life. Think about it. The first half of the 20th centure — 50 years — saw not one but two World Wars and a Great Depression, not to mention the widespread adoption of technologies like the automobile, the airplane and the televison, but also the invention of entirely new art forms: film, comics, jazz, rock-and-roll.

My own half-century is even more spectacular. Space-flight. Computers. The internet. Fifty years ago, homosexual acts were criminal acts, and a husband could not, in law, rape his wife.

All of which is to say: though I don't feel old (or even, much older), I've rather suddenly become all to aware of the passage of my time. Of goals and dreams unacomplished, of mistakes made. Of the sudden tangible reality of my own mortality.

I have become aware of death in a way I never was before. Or rather, of my death.

It's not that I am afraid of dying. I'm an atheist. Death holds no terrors for me. Rather, it's that I feel ... disturbed at the prospect of just how little time I have left. Let's face it: the odds that I have another 50 years ahead of me — never mind 50 good years — are not in my favour.

I dunno, really. There really isn't much point to all these words, other than a sudden desire to articulate what has been inchoate sensation, this realization that time is running short, if not quite (yet) running out.

I hope it proves to be a spur of some sort, something to goad me into making better use of my time than I have in the past. I do still feel as if I have the talent and brains to make something at least somewhat memorable of my life.

But by god, I guess I'd better get cracking!

Right. Speaking of time, Raven's plane will be landing in about five minutes. Time to wrap this up; time to pack away my miraculous portable computer, time to stagger downstairs and wait to hold her in my arms once again.

Life may be short but, as my mother has taken to saying, lately it has also been good.

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Down three goals at the end of the first half, playing short-handed the entire game and forced to accept a sub from the opposing team when their captain — and only girl playing — went down with a knee injury, the @UOttawa-A's of the Ottawa Footy Sevens Recreational Soccer League faced inevitable defeat with heroic defiance.

Early in the second half, they found the back of the Zinedine Shenanigans' net, then found it again. The Shenanigans struck back to re-gain a two-goal lead, but by the time the clock showed less than five minutes to go, Young Geoffrey answered the call for a sub at forward, despite spending most of his career on the back end of the pitch.

Young Geoffrey, the oldest player on the pitch, saw the ball land four metres in front of the opposition net and drove towards the orb. Eye on the net, he pivoted on his left leg and left fly with his right. The ball curved towards the far corner, even as a team-mate's foot lashed out and caught his ankle with a might blow. Young Geoffrey went down like some ancient oak crashing through the underbrush, yet he kept his eye on the ball and gloried in the sight of the netting billowing outwards.

GOALLL!

His team-mate went down as if in sympathy. "Jesus!" said Greg, "I'm sorry! Are you okay?

Young Geoffrey was already getting to his feet, even as the referee and players from both teams began to gather round like hyenas sensing blood concerned recreational players.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," said Young Geoffrey as he rotated his ankle to verify his words. "We scored, you know."

"You scored," said Greg, "that was yours!

The final four minutes saw the Shenanigans push for the trying goal with all their might, but despite their extra player, the uOttawa - A's held on for a victory well-earned.

* * *

I get mocked for my braggadocio, by colleagues at work and even by ostensible Best Friends, but fuck it. I was a fat(ish) kid as a youth and, though I loved to play pick-up hockey at the local (outdoor) rink, and soccer at recess in grade school, I was never under any delusion I was an athlete. I only once played an organized sport — soccer, the summer after grade five or six.

My sainted mother remembers me as a plucky little boy who "trundled bravely down the field". Thanks, mom; you make me sound like a dancing dog, as if it were a miracle I could play at all.

Anyway ...

Anyway, outdoor shinny gave way, in my teens, to indoor drinking and smoking and I kept up those virtues until well into my 40s.

So you know what? That at the age of 50 I find myself playing with and against "kids" who are mostly in their 20s and 30s is at least partly due to having had the wisdom to choose a robust set of ancestors, the truth is, I am proud of myself, as well as grateful.

It is fun to find myself getting better a fucking sport in my Late Youth, and watching that ball go into the net was an absolute joy, somehow made even sweeter by the fact of the kick that took me down almost in the same instant.

* * *

My god! Has it really been more than five years since I gave up that noxious master, tobacco? (It has.) A whole tenth of my life, now that I've passed the fifty year mark! The rate at which the passage of time continues to accelerate is as astonishing to me as it is appalling.

Which also means that another 5th anniversary is almost upon me: About a week from now will mark exactly five years since I reached over and draped my arm over Raven's shoulder. And, shortly thereafter, kissed her. (She made me sleep on the couch that night. But deigned to share it with me.)

We moved into our own apartment some three years ago or so, and are now about to move again. This time into a god damned town-house! Two floors. Carpets. Landlord a non-profit housing organizing, instead of rapacious slumlords (rent miraculously only $100.00 more than we're currently paying for the shoddy, mouse-infested hovel we'll call home for another two and a half weeks or so).

50 years old and a townhouse! Can it be that Young Geoffrey is not quite so young as he once was?

Hell, I dunno. All I'm sure of is, these entries would come a lot easier and more organically, if I wrote more of them.

I'll try ...

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Miracle by the Bay

(In which Young Geoffrey walks all over paradise and finds it Good)

Image: El Capitan Hotel, Mission District, San Francisco. Barred front door.
Portal to paradise? Not quite, the Mission District is not nearly as scary as it looks.

San Francisco is a magnificent folly of a city, a surrealist's vision or child's dream, but always humane and always on a human scale.

Fresh from a stay in LA, where it can seem as if you need to hop in your car just to brush your teeth, in San Francisco, we walked, Raven and I. We walked and we walked and we walked. From the barred gates of our hotel, exiting upon the dirty but not-quite slum-like Mission District, down to the old port and the glittering, tourist-infested Fisherman's Wharf. Up hills and down, through Chinatown and along Columbus. And always, I found myself gaping in delighted surprise, laughing and shouting for joy, boring poor Raven with variations on the phrases, I love this city! and This is so beautiful.

My pleasure was as a child's at Christmas, as a teenager's when the object of their desire says yes.

How could I not call out that I was in love with with this extraordinary assembly of construct and landscape?

Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Image: Map of San Francisco via SFGate.com
A map of San Francisco, screenshot from SFGate.com. The horizontal line near the bottom of the square white box gives the scale: 1 mile/1.61 km.

If you've never been, there are two key features of geography that define — that bind and constrain, and so, liberate — San Francisco.

First, it is a small peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. Like the Montreal, or any island city, there are practical limits to its physical size. Although the city proper only boasts a population of around 800,000 people, it is the second densest city in the United States; further significant growth would require paving over its parks or building a lot more high-rise condos than it has now.

Second, that small geographical area is extremely three-dimensional. More than fifty sudden and steep hills dot the peninsula, like a perverse god's challenge to human ingenuity. Look on my landscapes, ye builders, and despair!

Seriously, the city's geography is crazed, a madwoman's sketch of a potential city-scape or a stoned teenager's impossible dungeon, designed to test his buddies to destruction. No rational planner would look at that landscape and muse that — why yes! — here is an ideal place to build a city! Never, no matter how fabulous a natural harbour lay upon its shore.

And yet, there the city is, in all its audacious and rugged glory ...

Geography rules . . .

When I say we walked, I mean we hiked. No few of those streets have grades of more than 25 percent! Some are well over 30. If you haven't walked such roads, that means steep! Driving, you can't see beyond your car's hood when you crest a hill, or start to nose down one.

And then there's fucking Lombard Street.

If you didn't really look at the photo above, stop reading and look again. Really look at it. Those are cars making their way down among the bushes and flowers (except for the grey Volvo, midway down on the left. That's just parked. Presumably in front of its owner's house). And it's every bit as steep as it looks. So take a minute to have another look.

Done? Okay, onwards ...

When I first saw that stretch of so-called road above, I scoffed. Truth is, when Raven insisted we walk it, I did so reluctantly, complaining that we were just walking into the ultimate tourist trap, like every other gawking yokel in that never-ending crowd around us.

And maybe we were.

Image: The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.
The author trudges up a stretch of Lombard Street.

But if this stretch, which a convenient historical plaque says is "known as the 'Crookedest Street' in the world" (strangely, hedging its bet), is a tourist trap, then at least it is a tourist trap in which people live (and park!).

And, as Raven managed finally to show me, despite my loutish refusals to see the beauty right before me, lest some local take me for a rube (and kudos to her for putting down my snobbish pre-conceptions), if it is a tourist trap, so what?

It is still gorgeous, it is still real, the view is awesome and it takes a lot of work to walk to the top of it.

With all with its deliberate switchbacks and its ostentatious flower-beds, Lombard Street might be extreme, it might even be the joke I first thought it was but, if so, it is a humane joke, because it only demonstrates by exaggeration the extreme landscape on which this city was built.

. . . If we're willing

Despite the roller-coaster terrain, San Francisco is laid out on a pretty standard urban grid. (More precisely, it is built upon several discrete grid systems, cut through with a few, seemingly random, diagonal roads to make things even more confusing.) Cross-streets are everywhere, even on the steepest hills.

Lombard Street notwithstanding, most of those streets — whether North/South or East West — mostly ignore the hills and just carry on. When you're driving and you can't see what's beyond the hood of your car, you go slow, that's all.

Image: View from a car: A street in San Francisco
View from a car: A street in San Francisco.

A planned city — a rational city — would have shaved the hilltops flat and filled the valleys with the rubble.

But San Francisco's houses and apartments, its shops and restaurants, they all rise and fall like the jagged risers of an escalator, up and down, up and down. (As Raven pointed out, this is a hard city for the disabled or the elderly.)

Or, a rational city would have reserved the hilltops for the rich, and maybe a park or two; for being admired, instead of to be lived upon and with. San Francisco chose instead to (not so) simply, build its streets and buildings up (and down) those steep slopes.

And in that acceptance of place lies the foundation of San Francisco's beauty, an seemingly Zen-like willingness to take the world as it is, to work within its limits, rather than the hubris that insists on altering the bones of the earth to suit our own short-term interests.

San Francisco is bat-shit crazy, but that is what makes it such a jewel, such a human environment, no matter that it is built of concrete and stone, of brick and of steel. After all, we are a building animal.

What a joy to witness — and to encounter, for whoever short a time — such a living example of the power of the human imagination when its focus is on living, not domination.

When I wasn't laughing during all that walking, I was sometimes fighting back tears. Love has a way of doing that to a man, too. And I fell hard for the city by the bay.

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LA-LA-LA, LA-LA, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

(In which Young Geoffrey looks down upon his betters and wonders just how many insensitive terms he can squeeze into his opening paragraph)

Dateline: Citadell Outlet Mall, somewhere in the Greater Los Angeles area, August 1, 2014 — Never let it be said that (however wonderful she is) Raven is perfect. Within that beautiful oriental figure lurks the heart of a savage hunter-gatherer, an attavistic appetite she must feed every few months. It took me a while to realize that it is the process, the hunt if you will, that fulfills her. As often as not she comes home from an afternoon at the mall empty-handed yet fully-sated.

As for me, well, though once upon a time I loved to haunt book and comic stores — as much for the process as the purchaces — that time is long gone. Shopping leaves me emotionally empty and malls make me a little crazy.

But here I am, as how could I not be? Raven wants to visit an outlet mall before we head back to a real city and so I sit at a shaded table, an out-sized (60 ounce!) lemonade from ("100% Employee Owned"?1?) Hot Dog on a Stick at my side, and a few minutes to ponder Los Angeles.

In some ways, there's not much to ponder and nothing to say that hasn't been said, for decades, by many others.

The "city" is an ecological obscenity and a cultural wasteland, its arterail roadways seemingly more important than the city they ostensibly serve. As I mentioned in my previous entry I have for years thought it was "only" a hypertrophied version of Sudbury, Ontario — an ugy, sprawl with no literal or metaphorical heart — and I was absolutely right. The analogy is spot-on. Or would be but for the vast difference in scale. Sudbury is a "city" of about 160,000 people, LA a "city" of 20 or so million.

But still ... in both places you will most likely need a car to buy a litre (or pint) of milk from whatever your starting-point; in neither place is a genuine city-like neighbourhood obvious. And in oth places, one's energy-footprint must, of necessity be huge.

Which is a rather long way of saying we've spent one fuck of a lot of time stuck in traffic.

I'm glad I've experiened LA, if only for the experience, but I have zero desire to come back (Wendy, if we are to see one another again, it will almost certainly have to be north of the border, not south of it). At the risk of sounding like the small-town bumpkin I suddenly feel like I am, the air stinks, the drivers are crazy and the food isn't even very good — though, as as been reported, the portions do tend towards enormous.

As has been noted by many others, it is a shocking series of contrasts between rich and poor, all set on a temporary desert soundstage, almost certain to create 20 million refugees when the last of the accessible fresh water has been flushed into the Pacific Ocean.

And yet, I have enjoyed myself. Partly just because of the strangenss of the place, and partly for things like yesterday's trip to the beach north of the City in Malibu, where I had the pleasure of learning something of the ocean's power first-hand.

Yes, I swam in and againt the pounding surf, got tossed around and had salt water flood my nose. It was the first time I've really enjoyed the process of swimming, of playing in the water, since I was a teenager at least.

We got there via a scenic route and so had a taste of the local mountains and desert via [Routh 10?], before the sprinklers at the local private university, Peperdine, blandly ignoring the signs warning of major drought reminded us that, in California as perhaps nowhere else in North America, money speaks louder than any thing or any one else. (It was fun to drive around the very vertical campus, although it put a strain on our little Chevy Trio.)

Anyway, it seems fitting that my last taste of LA should be in an equally unsustainable private outlet mall, which doesn't really seem all that different from, say, the Eaton Centre but for the fact that it is all on one level and they haven't bothered to put a roof over the whole thing. You're still at late-capitalism's Church of the Almighty Brand, with nary a bookstore or one-of-a kind retailer in sight.

Glad I came, but even happier that I'm leaving. Goodbye Los Angeles.

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(Young Geoffrey attended an orchestral concert;

Image: Philharmonim Mundi, May 18, 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer

(And you won't believe what he did there!)

So, I went Montreal the weekend before last. Yes, I drove, but for a change it wasn't work-related. Raven was my passenger, my sweety, instead of yet another flight crew.

We had gone to see a concert, the Philmarmonium Mundi de Montréal's spring production, held at the Salle de concert Oscar Peterson at Concordia University on the West Island of Montreal. The show featured work by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius, as well as a short, original composition by a local, Quebecois, composer.

I'm no connoisseur of classical music and I don't think I've been to a classical concert since my mother took my brother and I to see the Soviet Red Army Orchestra at the Sudbury Arena back when I was still in grade school. Yes, when I was in my teens and early 20s, I made some effort to enlighten myself. Beethoven's 9th Symphony was probably the gateway drug — what teenager could hear that fourth movement and not be transported by the sheer passion in the old maestro's notes? A little Ravel, some Tchaikovsky, and for a while I tried to convince myself that I heard something special in Glen Gould.

But the truth is, most of it went over my head or, at least, didn't much move me. And so I'm not going to start reviewing a classical concert now. I'll just say that, to my under-educated ear, Philharmonium Mundi sounded fine (and the young piano soloist, Jean-Michel Dubé, was a delight, clearly taking great joy in his craft).

But why, you might ask, did Raven and I journey to Montreal to take in a concert in the first place? And why a high-end amateur orchestra's concert?

Image: Marcel Chojnacki plays with Philharmonium Mundi, May 18, 2014. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.  
Marcel Chojnacki  

Plainly-put: family. My favourite uncle, one Marcel Chojnacki, has been a First Violinist with the orchestra for a couple or more years now and I've wanted to see him play for a while. This year, we had enough warning, time and cash on hand, so I booked a car and off we went.

Uncle Marcel is a remarkable man, frankly an inspiring figure, as well as someone I, as an adult, especially, have come to like an awful lot. A Holocaust survivor (see link above) who came to Canada in his mid-teens after the War, he danced with the National Ballet, was a high-school teacher and, now, still teaches ballet, practices Flamenco with a troupe and, yes, plays violin (an instrument he started playing in his 60s) with an orchestra. He is a husband and father and also paints, makes wine, bakes bread and is a consummate and generous host.

I could go on, and on, but this isn't supposed to be about Marcel, it's supposed to be about me, and how I embarrassed Raven at the concert itself.

The show started with Rimsky-Korsakov's Overture de la Grande Pâque Russe, continued with Tchaikovsky's Concerto pour piano No. 1 en si bémol mineu (yes, folks, everything was in French), the aforementioned piano solo by Dubé, and then Sibelius' Symphonie No. 1 en mi mineur.

 
 
Nothing to do with Tchaikovsky, but don't tell me Chuck Jones didn't know funny!
 

As I've said, everything seemed well-played to me, but the Rimsky-Korsakov and the Sibelius left me pretty un-moved; a fort-night after the fact, I can't say much at all about either. As I said, I'm no connoisseur. But the Tchaikovsky ...?

I dunno, maybe I'm a rube, or maybe I've just been ruined by Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies, the piano concerto delighted me! I didn't cry, but I surely did laugh (much to Raven's consternation). I tried to my chuckles quiet (and, I think, mostly succeeded), but chuckle I did.

That is a pretty damned playful piece of music, with arch piano runs chasing each other one way and then the other. No wonder they used them for cartoons! And I feel certain that Tchaikovsky himself meant them to share joy, to amuse. And maybe, to make people laugh.

I know it made me laugh, no at the music but (I think; I hope!) with it.

I dunno. What do you think? Am I a musical peasant, laughing at what I don't understand, or did I actually get the joke? Any aficionados (or otherwise) want to chime in and either correct me or join in with my boorish appreciation?

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By my own, idiosyncratic, calendar . . .

(Happy New Year, again)

January 18, 2013, OTTAWA — What a year it's been. Okay, 17 days, but it's almost *felt* like a year since, and more, since I last rode my bicycle, leaving it at the airport on the Friday before Christmas. The snow started coming down, joined by freezing rain, just as I started to head for home, so I circled back, parked the beast and took a bus.

* * *

The morning of December 22, 2012, was an old fashioned Canadian winter's day, snowing hard and blowing. And, old-fashioned Canadian at the wheel, new-comer riding shotgun, we were off (yes, through that first snowstorm of the year) to Quebec City and then Laval, for what turned out to be a wonderful (if too brief) holiday.

And then, shortly after our return to our Nation's Capital, Raven came down with a cold. She was out for (get this!) 12 whole hours before returning to the pink of health. I, on the other hand, took sick and am only now (finally!) coming back to life. (12 hours vs nearly *20 days*. It's a wonder I still love her!)

All of which is to say, I've been remiss.

I haven't mentioned that I reviewed Christopher Hitchens' last book, and that said review was published in the winter issue of Humanist Perspectives. They misspelled my name, but at least they got my website's address right. I'll be posting it their sooner than later.

I haven't mentioned the surprise sale of a photograph to one of Canada's major museums — in large part because I have not yet seen the cheque. (Memo to self: follow-up on that invoice!)

Nor have I finished my reviews of Elisabeth Sladen's memoir, Neil Young's genuine stream-of-conscious volume, Waging Heavy Peace, nor, most importantly, have I done nearly as much as I had intended to on the biggest project I have on the go.

It's not one that I've mentioned here much, if at all. Partly because I'm lousy at self-promotion, partly because it's far from ready for prime time and partly because there's a second party involved. But said second party has given me the go-ahead to mention it, and so ...

I am co-writing the memoir of a remarkable woman, one who endured the twin traumas of the sort of personal disaster you would think could only happen in fiction (or maybe on one of those daytime television freak shows), as well as abuse from a not just one public institution that should have been protecting her, but at least *three* of them.

It's a powerful story of a woman's desperate battle to protect her family and to find at least a semblance of justice from a system that seemed bound and determined to give her anything else.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that I have had two good night's sleep in a row (the first such series of the year, or so it feels) and that, yesterday, my personal "January 1st", I added about 1,600 words to that book and am damned if I don't make a daily habit of similar numbers for the next few months.

More to come, sooner than later. I promise!

Reprinted, with modifications, from a bloody Facebook posting, of all things, and posted first at Edifice Rex Online.

 

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I really don't like playing at being a corporate shill, but sweet Jesus there's a lot to be said for good ergonomic design!

Raven and I are in Quebec City, having braved a winter storm to get here (a five hour drive became one that lasted easily 7 and a half). We're in a rental car, a Toyota Yaris. Subcompact, pretty basic econobox.

But. Lots of room (right after I picked up the car, I drove out to the airport, where I'd left my bike the night before, not wanting to brave freezing rain after my return from Montreal) — no serious problem sliding it in once I popped off the front wheel) and, even more important — good, supportive seats.

Most times we've rented a vehicle — Ford Focus, Mazda 3, and I forget what-else — I end up in agony. For some reason most car seats are brutal on my thighs. But on this 7-hour drive through horrid conditions (so, stressful to boot), I felt only the inevitable stiffness that comes with being in one postion for too long.

Anyway, Raven't about ready to head out, so I'll leave you with a photo from last night. No promises, but I'll see about some pic-spam of the city itself anon.

 

ed_rex: (The Droz Report)

The other day Raven and I set out to replenish our supply of printing paper, on account of we'd run out and I needed to print something toute-suite, as they say over in Hull.

Our mission was interrupted however as, barely out of the apartment, we missioned east towards Bank Street.

On a stretch of sidewalk ahead of us was a very old Oriental woman and a dark-skinned and much younger (not to mention taller) woman who might have been of east-Asian or Middle Eastern background. Or something else entirely. Onwards.

Raven and I slowed as there seemed to be something not right with the situation. But being and/or becoming Canadians, we were hesitant about just barging in.

But I clearly saw the younger woman glance at us, and then, take very definite note of Raven. She opened her mouth, closed it, then briefly spoke to the old woman. Then looked at Raven again and once more, almost spoke, but decided against it at the last moment.

This was a couple of weeks back, and I no longer remember if I stopped, if Raven did, or if the young brown woman decided to speak up first.

In any event, there was a slowing down and turning and we made it clear we were open to "getting involved".

"Do you ..." the young woman began, addressing Raven, "well, do you speak Chinese?" She stopped and looked down, as if she was worried she had committed some monstrous offense.

I presume I've mentioned at some point over the past couple of years that Raven hails from Macau? Her first language is Cantonese, Mandarin her second. (English and, lately, French, are coming up fast from behind.)

"Yes," said Raven, "I do? What's going on?"

"I think this lady is lost," said the young woman, but I can't really understand her. "Would you mind ..."

Raven had already started talking to the old woman. She briefly interrupted to let us know they were speaking Cantonese and that the old woman had got off the bus at the wrong stop. "I know where her building is," she said. "I'll take her home."

"Are you sure? If you tell me where it is, I don't mind taking her ..."

"No, it's fine," Raven said, and the woman seemed relieved and just a little surprised to boot.

Raven told me to get to the stationary store before it closed and said she would meet me there. I walked about with the good Samaritan. "I'm really glad you guys stopped," she said.

"I'm glad we could help," I replied for some reason donning the Royal We.

"I didn't want to assume anything," she said. "I mean, just because someone ... looks ..."

"Chinese?" She laughed, and nodded. I laughed too, mostly in an attempt to make her feel at ease. "You were in luck," I said. "Raven is Chinese. And I know she really was happy to help. It never hurts to ask.

"I guess," she agreed, but I don't think she really did. And who was I, the white guy, to argue? Maybe the visible minorities among you reading this can tell me how common it is — how frustrating or offensive it is — to be asked if you speak this or that language. Raven herself didn't mind, but she is an immigrant, so if someone presumes she speaks Chinese (or even asks) well, she does.

Maybe she'd feel different if she were born here.

Meanwhile, the young woman and I went our separate ways, and I never dared to ask where she was from. Her English was excellent, but with a hint of an accent. Just a hint, though, leaving me to forever wonder if she was from Vanier or Hull, or possibly from some place much further away.

For once I don't have any real thesis or rant to make. This was just an incident that has stayed with me, an uncomfortable encounter that I am not sure what to make of. (Besides being reminded that Canadians tend to be very considerate, perhaps to a fault.)

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"I understand my mother now," said my mother, "when she used to say, 'O! to be 75 again!"

And, sort of, I think I can understand it, too. My mother isn't that far past 80 — she'll be 79 in December — but she has visibly aged in the past couple of years. Her skin hangs loose where it used to be firm, her eyes seem to be permanently shrouded, almost bruised, by pouches of dark skin, lighter when she's rested, much darker when she's tired.

And I, Young Geoffrey only by vain (in both senses of the word) self-designation, am old enough to join in that conversation of complaint, what with my arthritis, my psoriasis and (maybe) my sciatica. "Yeah," I said, laughing. "Whoever it was that said that aging is beautiful can go fuck themselves!"

My long weekend — Canada Dominion Day nearly forgotten — was a good one.

It began when I picked up the rental car on Friday morning and, I guess, ended when I dropped it off this morning.

We had the car only thanks to Raven's foresight and perspicacity. Three or four weeks before, she insisted that I book the car now and, when I did, all but two of the company's locations were already out of vehicles for the long weekend. Duh, Young Geoffrey! Duh!.

Anyway, it was a good trip, and one bolstered by a phone call coming just outside of Ottawa: barring some monstrous unforeseen glitch, our apartment-hunt is over!

I don't think i've said anything about this particular place due to my atavistic fear of jinxing things, but *crosses fingers* I think it's safe to speak up now. The place is right downtown, maybe six or seven blocks from Parliament Hill. It's a (very) small two-bedroom apartment on the top floor (of two) of an old, non-descript (very) low-rise building. What the real estate agents would probably describe as cozy.

But it seems to be well-maintained, the landlord is okay with us brining in a small washer (a must for Raven) and, well, location, location, location. Raven will have about a 200-pace commute to work and while I will have another four or so kilometres added on to my bike-ride, I don't mind at all.

We are supposed to sign the lease on Saturday and move in on the 4th. Don't congratulate me yet, but feel free to cross your fingers in solidarity with mine own digits.

But yes, that call started us off on our voyage in good spirits, which we mostly maintained for the duration fo the trip. About which, really, there's not a great deal to say. I spent some time installing a new operating system, Linux Mint 13 (Mate), since Ubuntu stopped working with their (and my) printer and later versions have "upgraded" the user-interface to emulate the hideous Mac interface.

So of necessity, we didn't get much beyond my mother's apartment (apologies once more Souguy — once again, we'll have to put things off 'till "next time") where, I believe, the proverbial good time was had by all.

Our return-trip was uneventful, but for an unexpectedly delicious stop for lunch in North Bay at Habaneros Southwest Grill whose Tex-Mex food was, frankly, awesome.

Once home, cooking was out of the question, so it was out for Chinese we went, justifying it with the argument that we were still, technically, on holiday.

Vhut result? Only the fortune cookie knows for sure! )

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The sublime, the glorious and the mundane:

Simple pleasure, complex joy (and chronic pain)

Complex joys

Batman and Raven visit Gatineau Park, September 2011. Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

It's difficult to believe, but it's been two years and close on two days since that fateful night early morning I mastered my fears, dropped my arm across the shoulders of Raven as we sat close watching a movie, then offered her a kiss when she turned to look at me.

Wonder of wonders, she did not refuse me and the rest, as they say, is ongoing history.

It's not that we haven't occasionally had our disagreements, our arguments, and even fights, because (of course) we have. And it's not that we are obviously "meant" for one another. In truth, I can't imagine that any computer dating algorithm would have even introduced us to one another.

Beyond the nearly 20 year age-gap, lie barriers of cultures, of interests and of tastes. Beyond our shared bonds of godlessness and loves for food, the differences are almost legion. Tastes in literature, degrees of interest in politics and musical preferences only start the list of differences between us.

And yet ... And yet ...

We make one another laugh and think; we share many (if not all) of the fundamental values that count; and we have spent very nearly every day of more than two years in one anothers' company. And I can state with confidence that I see no signs that I am growing bored or unhappy.

In truth, I love her more with each and every sunrise.

Happy anniversary, my darling; I only hope I have brought as much joy to your life as you have to mine.

Simple pleasures: Chahaya Malaysia

Chahaya Malaysia restaurant, image from restaurantthing.com.
Chahaya Malaysia restaurant, image from restaurantthing.com.

We celebrated our anniversary in typical Geoffrey/Raven style: with food.

And what food it was!

Near the western end of Montreal Road, east of Blair, in a desolate suburban area of high-rise apartments, parking lots and strip malls lies an oasis of magnificent cuisine. Or at least, of what is almost certainly the best food of which I have had the pleasure of partaking in Ottawa.

Hulking across a wall from a shuttered Chinese eatery, the Chahaya Malaysia looks like the sort of mom and pop ethnic restaurant that will either be quite good or very, very bad.

Inside, the decor is casual, brightly-lit and with an almost bohemian feel to it. There are cloth table-clothes beneath glass on the tables, and napkins folded elegantly, but I don't start wondering whether I should have been wearing a tie.

We were greeted by the husband-and-wife owners and learned that the restaurant had once graced the Glebe, before gentrifying rents had driven it to the outskirts of town. They had, she told me, taken the chance they had enough customer loyalty to become a Destination on the outskirts in 1995 and, since they are still around, it seems they guessed a-right.

We ordered four dishes, so I can by no means speak for the entire menu.

A vegetarian spring roll, an order of Laksa Penang (a hot and sour fish soup (two stars, out of three on the chili scale), Beef Rendang (Daging Lembu Rendang, three out of three), chili fish (Ikan Masak Berlada, also — we realized once it had arrived, a three out of three) and Nasi Puteh, a plate of flavoured basmati rice.

The spring roll was very nearly the Platonic ideal of its kind. Deep-fried, yes, but only briefly, its pastry wrapping its simple ingredients in delicate layers. The Laksa Penang came with a strong whiff of shrimp paste (unfortunately, one of too many no-go aromas in my life), but I forced myself to taste the broth and very nearly demanded a bowl for myself anyway.

Then came the main courses. The Daging Lembu Rendang was every bit as fiery as we had been warned it would be, but there was a hell of a lot more going on in that than just heat. Behind the fire was a complex symphony of spices, cooked right through each piece of meat and each one insisting on being tasted in its own right.

So good. So, so good.

And the chili fish, the Ikan Masak Berlada, might have been even better. All I said about the beef was true true of the fish (if in a different key), with an undercurrent of sweetness to a sauce lovingly enveloping lightly fried piscine flesh.

The meal was without a doubt among the five or ten most memorable I have had, ever. The only caveat is that their three-star meals are hot. The hostess suggested we should have ordered a vegetable dish to moderate things and the next time, I will take her advice (Raven says she might just order two bowls of the Laksa Penang and be done with it); the particular combination we had was a little rough on the insides.

But o! so worth it.

'Behold! The ravages of age'

Bart and Lisa Simpson behold the ravages of age in 1998.

Among the stereotypes about senior citizens, the elderly, old people, call 'em what you will, is the one that sees a little old lady (or little old man, though there are fewer of 'em around) sorting through an enormous pile of pills as they, creaking, start their days.

Like more stereotypes than most of us what care to admit (but that is a post for another day), there is a fair bit of truth to this one. What's worse, it is one that is starting to apply to "young" Geoffrey.

I know, I like to boast of my youthful vigour and macho outdoor exploits, and by many measures I am in better shape than I have been in a decade or more.

My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are "excellent", my resting heart rate is around 50 beats a minute and my teeth are (still) to register a single cavity.

At the same time, my waist — never slender — responds not to kilometres I have cycled in recent months, neither does it shrink. Raven, thank God, thinks my modest belly is cute, but personally, I find it more than a little unfair that a significant increase in physical activity should leave my weight and girth more or less unchanged.

But that's largely aesthetics. Much worse is the state of (some of) my joints.

Some of you might remember that I have psoriasis, an auto-immune disease that until recently I thought was strictly a skin disease, causing scaly patches (sometimes to the point of bleeding) on the skin but, in my case, not too severe and localized enough that I could live with it fairly comfortably.

What no one told me until recently is that psoriasis can affect a lot more than just one's skin.

For the past year or so, I've been experiencing pain in my right thumb. Sometimes just annoying, but more often painful to the point of being frankly crippling. I gave up crosswords quite a while ago, in large part because cursive or even printing very often hurts.

Then I noticed that I was having similar problems with my right big toe and occasionally the right ankle — a tensor bandage helps the symptoms with the latter, nothing helps with the former (other than not walking on it).

And then, two or three (or four? Come to think of it, I noticed a problem last summer, while playing tennis and badminton) months ago, my right shoulder started giving me a hard time. Just moving it in the wrong way, or rolling over in the wrong way, can cause not just an annoyance but an really serious, yelp-inducing pain.

I've become one of those half-crippled old farts who grunts and groans while performing the most common-place activities, like rolling over in bed, or signing my name, or walking.

The prognosis is still unknown. I have been referred to a specialist and my name now resides in a pile of similar referrals being triaged. I've been told I will see him within "a year".

And meanwhile, I am taking an ibuprofen or two every day, along with 40 mg of ran-pantoprazole every morning. The latter is to deal with the recent appearance of chronic acid reflux (heartburn to you), which apparently is also associated with that fucking psoriasis.

So there we are. I haven't smoked for more than two years, I've cut way back on my alcohol intake, I'm eating very well and I'm getting more exercise than I have in years.

But I can't lose weight and the major joints on my right side are causing me pain, sometimes a lot of pain. There are people who have things a lot worse (including some of you folks, yes I'm paying attention), but I can't pretend that I'm happy to find myself joining those who lose in life includes pain as a quotidian part of existence.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of lighting a single candle against the darkness, I think it's time to sign up for another summer of soccer. With cleats, this time!

ed_rex: (1980)

Thanks to those of you who wished me a happy anniversary of birth — it was.

The whole week was a good one, the highlights including an outing in Gatineau Park on snowshoes (I am the bigfoot-like creature at left), finally getting out onto the canal and dining Sri Lankan style.

And also, a Mysterious Ottawa Valley Apparition, caught on camera by the one and only Phantom Photographer, who was able to attend this year's Winterlude opening ceremony, while I laboured on this week's edition of True North Perspective.

Cut to spare those uninterested in my personal blatherings. If you want them, or the striking photo of the Ottawa Valley's no-longer mythical Dance of the Winter Turkeys/Danse des dindes d'hiver come to spectral life, click here.

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Me and my riding machine (the hockey stick, yes, was an affectation) after a 14 k run from the Ottawa International Airport, January 15, 2012. Thanks to the Phantom Photographer for the image.

Well, that was a first for me: my bicycle chain froze.

Yes, Gentle Readers, Young Geoffrey has his bragging hat on again.

13 kilometres there, 13 back. And that last half was at a temperature of -18 C (that's about exactly zero Farenheit for you Yanks).

The frozen drive chain meant that I had to keep up a constant pressure on my pedals. Any time I eased up (let alone dared to try pedalling backwards!) the thing would escape the cogs and just slide forward when I tried to move forward again. Only thing that would fix it was to dismount and jiggle it back and forth with my glove a few times, then get back on ol' paint.

Truthfully, it's really not that hard to do; the worst part is that the roads are narrower because of the snowbanks (and yes, a little more treacherous due to patches of snow and ice improperly cleared. I ride faster in the summer).

Surprisingly (at least it was to me, when my parka gave up the ghost a few years back), the key to staying warm is what your mom probably told you: layers.

The proof is in the freezing

That's right: if a screen-cap is proof, then I've got proof!

I wear a headscarf (like an Arab or a slavic babushka) under my helmet; a pair of jogging pants over my pants; a t-shirt, button-shirt and sweater beneath a leather jacket. Add in a pair of glove inside a decently warm pair of mitts and — voilà! — I usually need to unzip and loosen the scarf before I reach my destination.

And that's about it, really. Just bragging.

I suppose I can add that I'm really glad that I braved the weather for more than bragging rights. As some of you might recall from Facebook, I managed to pick up a flu that knocked my onto my ass last week (despite having had the shot; Raven didn't get it and so far hasn't got the flu, either — go figure), so my body was craving some exercise.

Aw right, maybe I've lost the magic touch when it comes to these personal entries. Or maybe not. What do you think?

ed_rex: (1980)

 

Travels, autumnal

Hidden agenda

'Oh my God — it's full of stars!'

I had a hidden agenda.

Raven's was to see finally see the wonder of the autumnal display in all its Canadian glory, the nearly miraculous transition of greens into scarlets and golds. She wanted to see the Canadian fall colours up close.

Raven is a city-girl born and bred, raised in the very urban East, just of the coast of Southern China, where vast, Canadian-style wilderness is nearly impossible to imagine.

She wanted autumn leaves; I wanted something more.

But as we drove the winding highway towards Ontario's massive Algonquin provincial park, my goal was one she had no reason to suspect, even as I had little cause for hope it would be fulfilled.

Far from a brilliant autumn weekend, the sky was heavy with clouds when we left Ottawa. It stayed that way for most of the drive. Only when we were within an hour or so of our destination did Old Sol make an appearance, tearing through the lowering clouds at last, baring hints of blue sky in the gaps.

Perhaps, I thought as I pulled off of Highway 60 and eased towards the check-in, perhaps Raven would get more than she had bargained for after all! Click here for the full story!

 

ed_rex: (1980)

I know, I know, I promised photos and regular reports, but they have not arrived.

In truth, my soccer/football season died a premature death and this afternoon's game was it's capstone — and one I missed. The fourth in a row, in fact.

My sixth match saw me play what I thought was my best. I was running fast and hard, blocking shots and stealing the ball more than once from players (somewhat) strong and (much) younger than I.

When I came home, I was sweaty and tired and very, very happy.

A couple of hours after that return, however, I was also very nearly crippled. I could barely bend my right knee, spent literally a couple of minutes just getting into bed. I limped badly for a couple of days, then the healing began, and has continued, but not fast enough.

I've missed four games, have had to stop the tennis and the badminton and even the jogging. Very frustrating, as my body had finally begun to respond, to grow noticeably stronger, in response to a regimen the likes of which I had not put it through in probably a quarter of a century (dear god! That's a long time!).

And so, no photos. There was always "next week" — until there wasn't.

I think I'm ready to try a run again, tomorrow or Tuesday, but only making the effort will actually tell.

But still, the same league has a fall season, and there's hockey to look forward to, if I can find a game to meet my (limited) skills.

And the cycling, of course — oh wait. After waiting out a downpour beneath the Bronson Street overpass by the canal this afternoon, Raven and I rounded Dow's Lake until I felt something ... no right with my 25 year-old machine.

I dismounted and realized my centre bar is no longer connected to the frame! Where it metal (should) meet metal, just over the crankshaft, is now a shifting gap, which is rather disconcerting (though also, I think, it's rather impressive the machine will still go at all).

I'll be taking it into a shop tomorrow to inquire whether some welding will be of any use, but I reather suspect it's time to strip the beast for parts, discard the noble frame and see about resureccting the nearly 50-year old beast I have in the basement.

Or maybe, I should take Raven's advice and look for some on Kijiji.

Despite the travails, I'm busy and pretty happy. How's your summer been?

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Sometimes (just sometimes), it seems as if there might be something to that whole karma idea. And today is one of those times.

I'm pretty terrible when it comes to gift-giving. Birthdays, Christmases, weddings ... I usually ignore the social obligations or do the stereotypical male thing of running around at the very last minute and finally coming up with a book or booze. But usually, I ignore and offer no physical present at all. (Strangely enough — or may not so strangely — I don't get many presents either; but I'm okay with that.) I tell myself that I express that which presents symbolize in other ways and I think the people in my life agree.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I get to feel the Joy of Giving and it can be a rather wonderful sensation indeed ...

Cut for boring personal stuff )

... and I now find myself the "owner" of the [community profile] canadianpolitics community. I've been more or less the only person posting there and the former owner decided to give it up. He/she said they were going to delete it if I didn't want it, so what could I say? We'll see if I can make something of it.

And by "I", of course, I mean "you". Consider this an invitation to join the community if you have any interest in Canadian politics! Or in the vagaries of karmic fate.

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I felt like I played my best game of the season on Sunday. I was running hard, I took a decent turn in goal, and was aggressive against the opposing teams best players.

I even managed to make it home without any blood flowing for a small wonder.

But maybe two hours after I'd showered, I realized that my right knee was starting to bother me — no, to hurt — quite a lot. Indeed, by the time I'd finished supper, maybe four hours after the game, I could barely bend my at all. Just sitting down in a chair required me to carefully position my left leg, sink to the seat, then manually swing /em> my right leg over and (more or less) into place. I could make it up stairs only with difficulty and down was painful indeed.

By the time I was ready for bed, I found it difficult to pull of my slippers and getting into bed required an elaborate maneouver that finally included Raven lifting and (slowly!) swinging the recalcitrant leg onto a cushion. She also, bless her, spent quite some time rubbing some kind of liniment into the joint and she barely complained when I swallowed a couple of ibuprofen.

Weird thing is, I couldn't tell you when the injury occurred. I didn't limp during the game, nor did I immediately afterward. Was it a twist? Did I get kicked? No idea, though a twist or sprain was my best guess, going on the assumption that I would have noticed a kick to the knee.

Regardless, though I didn't think it was a serious injury, I know that soft-tissue damage can take a very long time to heal. I was seriously concerned that I wouldn't be able to play this coming Sunday and the thought that I might miss the rest of the season worried at the back of my mind.

More depressing still was the thought that I was only just starting to get into some kind of decent shape and that this would be a huge set-back on that score.

All of which is to say that I am thrilled — thrilled! I tells ya — by the pace of the recovery.

Monday saw me still limping but in considerably less pain and, by days end, I was climbing the stairs almost normally and was able to get into bed knees first. Raven did the liniment rubbing again and this morning I awoke without a limp and barely even a twinge.

Suggesting a round of badminton tonight would probably be begging for trouble, but tomorrow ...? We'll see.

To say that I'm relieved is to put it very mildly indeed.

* * *

On the other hand, Livejournal has been down for at least 24 hours and I find myself jonesing quite badly for my reading list there. The Dreamwidth technology is just fine (more than fine in some ways), but the critical mass certainly is not.

I signed up here as a precautionary measure, a year or two back when LJ peremptorily canceled a number of accounts for what, on freedom-of-speech grounds, seemed worrisome reasons, so DW's explicitly pro-free-speech philosophy was extremely appealing, as was (and is) its non-profit, cooperative business model and its very sensible, slow-growth planning. But I nevertheless find myself missing LJ badly on a personal level and also on a political one, since I learned, during the last denial of service attack, that LJ is one of the major remaining popular arenas for free speech in Russia, a country in sore need of same.

In truth, at least in terms of my own "friends" list, few are posting any more and fewer still (I think) are reading my posts, but I miss it and I miss the various feeds and communities I read there as well.

So here's hoping that LJ's recovery from whatever it is that currently ails it be as speedy as was my knee's.

July 2017

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