ed_rex: Soccer (Soccer)

Back when I was a still a smoker, my father would regularly regale me with a litany of death in hopes of convincing me to give up the filthy weed. He was a journalist in the bad old days, starting in the 1950s, when booze and cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes were almost as mandatory as was the wearing of a fedora hat in the brim of which a card labelled PRESS was inserted.

And so it was that, around the time he turned 50, he started paying attention to the obituary columns. Former colleagues started dropping like flies, and almost always from heart attack or cancer.

And now it's started happening to me. Or rather, I'm observing the same phenomenon.

Not that most of the people I used to hang with are or were journalists, but the vast majority of the were smokers(and too many still are). In the past year or two I've learned of the following deaths: a cousin a couple of years my junior; Nik Beat, a long-time denizen of the indie writers' scene in Toronto; and Lura (no, not Laura!), a one-time friend and briefly a girl-friend. All within five years of my age, all dead of heart attacks.

I'll tell ya, nothin' says mortality like death, even at a distance.

And yet, life goes on. And so does coincidence.

Another death happened last week. Maureen Cassidy, whom I had known as a teenager better than most teenagers get to know the mothers of their friends (she and her husband Mike took me and another friend to see Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger once upon a time, not to mention giving me shelter for several weeks, among many other kindnesses), was preparing to head out to help out at Paul Dewar's campaign head-quarters the night of the election when she collapsed. It was a stroke and she died on Wednesday.

I learned of it via Facebook and another friend, who had similar memories of Maureen, will be coming up to Ottawa tomorrow for the visitation. I also reconnected with one of her sons on Facebook (we've been "friends" there for some years, but haven't really communicated much; you know how that goes).

But that's not the coincidence.

See, we've been having some maintenance issues at our apartment. In particular, and now a priority, with winter breathing down our necks, is our front door. It's warped and doesn't keep a lot of the cold air out; our vestibule is not at all far off the temperature on the far side of the door.

Anyway, CCOC's Maintenance Department has its issues and this morning I stopped into the office to make further inquiries as to the State of Repair. I was told that my last email had been forwarded up the line for a decision, but that That Guy was sick and maybe I'd hear something tomorrow. I made some frustrated but not-yelly noises and departed. I have the CEOs name and number in reserve and decided I would use it by Friday if Action Did Not Occur by then.

Image: Cover of The Dance of Lifey Death by Eddie Campbell. Click to buy at Amazon.ca
The Dance of Lifey Death, by Eddie Campbell. Click here to buy and support Young Geoffrey at the same time.

I guess my frustration got noticed. Because a half hour or so later, just as I got home, I got an email from the woman I'd been dealing with telling me she'd issued a work order and that a contractor should be calling me "soon".

I was in the middle of sending Raven a text reporting on that apparent success when my phone rang and the contractor himself asked for me.

"Speaking," I said, and he started to laugh, very unprofessionally. "You have a faulty door?" he asked, still laughing, and I said yes. "Geoff," he said, "I knew it was you! It's Ben, Ben Cassidy! I'm you're contractor!"

I was nonplussed to say the least. But pretty soon was offering condolences and then he asked if I would be around later on in the afternoon. I had the day off work and so, of course, I said yet. He came over later and we spent a couple of hours catching up on the last 15 or 20 years, sharing news of parents and siblings and kids and exes and ... well, you know. He even remembered, when he left (with his mother's ashes in his car; he's had one fuck of a roller-coaster of a week), to measure our door-frame so as to order a replacement for our damaged beyond repair number.

And of course I'll see him at the visitation tomorrow (if I can get off work) or at the celebration of life on Sunday (if I can't). And I rather suspect we'll get together in fact, not just in intention for a beer or six, sometimes soonish after that.

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It was a small flight crew, all male: two pilots and a single flight attendant.

The Captain was a tall man, and beefy, the First Officer maybe a decade younger, not so tall and quite thin. The Flight Attendant was bald-headed and a blocky face, a bit like a super-hero. He too was at least 10 years younger than the big Captain.

Now, one thing that surprised me a bit about flight crews is that they don't work anything like, say, the crew of the starship Enterprise; they don't work together for extended periods of time. In fact, this crew of three gave me two separate pick-up times for tomorrow. One day together as a team, then Crew Sched. shuffled them around like so many cards in a deck.

So quite often, if a crew got along during the day and they aren't too tired, I will be privy to the people either getting re-acquainted after a long absence or getting to know each other for the first time.

Today, it was clearly the latter.

The first man to break the ice was the First Officer, who spoke with an accent I couldn't place. One second I thought he might be from somewhere in the Indian sub-continent, the next I wondered if he was originally from Australia. No matter. "You know I just read about an interesting study," he began. And continued, after getting some encouraging sounds from his colleagues, "It seems they've discovered a food that makes 99 percent of women completely lose interest in sex."

"What is it?"

"Wedding cake," he said, to appreciate chuckles and a brief spate of pretty standard "observations" on the differences between men and women. Eg, "Men want the woman they marry to never change, and are always disappointed; women want to change the men they marry — and are always disappointed!"

The jokes more or less came to a conclusion when the Captain allowed as how he has now been married for 23 years. "I missed my chance to murder her," he observed sardonically.

But that remark somehow led the conversation to go from hackneyed jokes to talk about marriage and relationships in general. It turned out that all three men were married and that all of them had kids. And the jokes gave way to talk about how hard it can be to maintain a relationship, that it takes work not to drift apart from the person you married.

The Captain said that he and his wife, acting on the example of a pair of her relatives, have made a point of making the time to spend an hour a day with each other, sole purpose: to talk. ("We'll usually have a drink — once in a while two — but the point is to pay attention to each other.") He went on observe that touch is important as well and said that they went out of their way to be tacticle with each other, to make a point of brushing their hands together patting one another on the back in passing, even if they are otherwise occupied in their own activities. This, from the guy who'd started by making jokes about murder.

The others agreed and offered their own strategies and examples. And from there, the talk turned to kids and grand-kids and before I knew, the cell-phones were out and pictures and videos of roundheads were being passed around for mutual admiration.

All this in a drive lasting barely more than 15 minutes. It was one of the cutest 15 minutes I've ever experienced as a driver. And from such an unlikely beginning!

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As the Canucks among you will know, Canada is in the midst of a federal election, one in which the ruling Facists Conservatives have taken off the gloves and are using blatant lies (did you know that marijuana is "infinitely worse" than tobacco? Well, now you do! If a Prime Minister asserts it, it must be true, right?) and out-right racism (anti-Muslim xenophobia dressed up in women's rights lipstick) to divide and conquer. With two weeks to go until election day, the fear-mongering and hate-stirring seems to have moved the necessary 10% or so of voters so that Harper's thugs can taste victory. In a first-past-the-post system, 35% of the vote might be enough to secure a majority in Parliament.

  Image: Photo of my right thigh, rear, about one week after tearing my hamstring.

All of which is to say, rage and despair are the primary emotions I'm feeling when I look at the world around me; and that's just in Canada.

Worse (or better?), I still haven't managed to finish that fucking long-promised review of last year's be-damned Doctor Who Christmas Special. That despite having watched the stupid thing at least four times by this point, maybe more. And it's already three episodes into the new series and I have yet to watch a single one of them. And I realized the other day that I'm not missing the show at all.

Sigh ...

On the up-side, I have fully-recovered from the torn hamstring I suffered last spring (that's the ugly pic above and to the right) and in fact finished my latest "season" with the bloody well-organized Ottawa Footy-Sevens yesterday, with a double-header. I'll guestimate that I spend close to an hour-and-a-half of the tours hours on the field — which, I hasten to add, isn't why we lost both games.

But fun was had, and (as I've said before) the fact that I even can more or less hold my own with people who probably average 20 or 25 years younger than I am still thrills me all to all.

That said, soccer does not come without its costs. And in my case, the hamstring aside, the primary payees have been my feet. Specifically, my big toes. In the past few years I've lost four or five tonails, and two more will soon follow.

For reasons I don't fully understand, I feel compelled to show them to you.

But for reasons I do understand (the pictures are gross!; and so are my feet, as I discovered yesterday when I looked at the photos Raven took before I set out for my games), I'm placing them behind a cut so that you will see them only if you actually want to.

Click here, if you dare! )

You're welcome!

And now I must be off to the day-job. exeunt

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Those of you who also know me on Facebook might remember me posting some while ago that I was facing about a month's wages worth of dental work. Said sad news came as a shock to me, since I have always been able to make the honest claim that "I've never had a cavity."

No longer true, but in fact, the bulk of the work (and the uninsured costs) came from "pocketing" in the gums around my upper rear molars, especially. The gums were getting so loose that my bloody teeth not only hurt, they were starting to get a little loose. (Some of you may also remember that loose teeth are among the horrors of my subconscious life.)

So. A two cleaning sessions and two laser sessions to get at pretty extensive calculus "growing" beneath my gums, my new dentist is optimistic that she's fixed the problem. And so am I.

And so it was that, this morning, I prepared myself to head once again to her office, this time for my very first filling. le sigh ...

* * *

If you live in East-Central North America, you'll know it's been god-awful and eerily hot so far this September. July-hot, and never-mind the autumnal shadows of the lowering sun. Sweat-like-a-pig weather, especially if — like me — you have a 12+ kilometre cycle to work, and you play soccer under the blazing sun on Sundays.

But the weather-casters have been promising an end to the torrid temperatures and this morning start nice and cloudy, presaging a beginning of the end. Or so I thought until I opened our front door and stepped ... into a blast of blinding sunshine that contained the promise of yet another sweltering day.

I didn't quite shake my fist at the sky, but I did look up and curse. "Fuck off, Mr. Sun!" said I, adding, "Nobody likes you!" I then turned, locked our front door, hefted my twin back-packs, loaded with laptop and lunch, a change of clothes, some reading matter and my notebook computer (among other things; no, I don't commute light) and made my way to our garage, whence I'd left my wheels in the "bike cage."

I swear to god, I was under roof no more than 120 second, but when I wheeled my bicycle out to the street, Mr. Sun was nowhere to be seen. From the grey skies fell not light, but rain. So if any of you Ottawa folks got caught by it at around 10:15 Wednesday morning, it was my fault.

All of which is preamble to the weirdness that "began" my rather long day.

Despite the rain, which was continuous but light, I arrived at my dentist's (near Billings Bridge, maybe a three or four km ride) just a little damp, not dripping as would have been the case on Tuesday, when it was dry but o! so fucking hot. And I soon found myself on my back, looking up at a ceiling whose dials were painted to look like clouds scudding fast against a blue sky, while my dentist and her hygienist applied gauze and a topical anaesthetic in preparation for the scrapping to come.

Now it so happens that people notice that I ride a bicycle, what with the helmet and casual clothing. And they tend to be impressed when I tell them that I work at the airport. To the uninitiated, it seems a long way. It also happens that there is a labour dispute at the airport. The airport taxi drivers have been locked-out for more than a month now, with no end in sight. And, as I was about to learn from my hygienist, there was some kind of violence on Tuesday. (I'd been working, but the excitement happened sometime while I was on the road between Ottawa and Dorval.)

And somehow, as I lay there, half my mouth nearly immobile, we got into it. The hygienist (let's call her Maggie, just for fun) let me know that the drivers' position was hopeless and so they should give in. And also that she didn't get a raise every year, so why should the taxi drivers? (No, that didn't make any sense. The taxi drivers were refusing to pass on a 400% increase in "dispatch fees" to their customers, arguing that it was both a greedy cash-grab on the part of their employer and the airport, and a self-destructive move on the part of their employer when Uber is making all kinds of inroads on the business But I digress.)

I tried to argue the drivers' case, but she was having none of it and, in any case, we were straying more and more into (what I see as) a modern defeatist tendency to just shrug and say, "that's the way things are now" and recommend capitulation. Which drives me a little crazy.

In any case, we were both getting increasing heated when I suddenly had had enough. "Look," I said, "I really don't want to talk about this now. I haven't had my coffee, or breakfast, and I can't feel the right side of my face. You think I'm wrong, I think you're wrong and I'm not in the mood to keep arguing about it."

But she wasn't about to concede the point. "I'm not arguing," she said. "Everybody has a right to their opinion."

"Of course you're arguing," I countered. "You're telling me the cabbies should give up their struggle, that's your position!"

And with that, or maybe after another back-and-forth or two, she insisted she'd taken no position and how dare I tell her what she thought, then tore off her right glove and hurled it to the floor before storming out of the room.

I stared, agog and bemused (and also, I admit, angry), at the door through which she'd stormed.

Moments later, oblivious, my dentist returned and asked how my mouth was feeling.

"I guess okay," I said (mumbled; remember, I could really only feel half of my face) and added, "but I'm afraid your hygienist and I kind of had a fight."

"What? A fight?"

"Er, yes. About politics." I laughed a little. "I'm afraid she's really angry at me."

"How did this happen? I was only gone for two minutes!"

How indeed? I haven't often been involved with something that escalated that quickly.

I very nearly cancelled the appointment. "She's really angry with me," I said again, "I'm not sure I want her poking things in my mouth." But after a little one-on-one, I was convinced that she was (a) a professional and (b) only going to be doing suction and (c) my mouth was already frozen. "All right," I said, "we might as well get on with it."

The procedure itself was painless, and quick. I didn't enjoy hearing the drill as she cleaned out the decay, but it didn't hurt and didn't take long. Fifteen minutes later I was on my bike and heading south. Indeed, the only physical problem I had was when I tried to eat some breakfast (a sandwhich from Tim Horton's god help me) but had to stop when I realized I was, quite possibly, starting to eat part of my lip along with the sandwich.

But I'm afraid no real apologies were exchanged before I left the clinic, no hands shaken or smiles traded. I've got a cleaning schedule three months down the line, but I'm not going to go unless I've been assured that someone else will be prodding my gums and scrapping my teeth.

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Originally posted on in response to a Livejournal's Writer's Block Question #4400

Serpents and snakes, loose teeth and fungus! O my!

I've had a few recurring dreams over the years — at least, variotions on the same dreams, more like different stagings of the same play than television re-runs. Dreams of being Batman (yes, really; stop laughing at me!) in particular, yes to be re-hashed almost on a regular basis.

The one that's freshest (because most terrifying) in my mind, though, is happily one my subconscious has not bothered to revive for more than half a decade.

That dreamw would usually emerge, unexpected, from something much more mundane. I would be going about my dream business only to realize that some of my teeth were starting to get a little loose in my gums. Soon after, that patches of some kind of fuzz started growing on parts of my body. And spreading.

And then I would wander into a house infest with serpents. Not snakes, serpents. In dream-logic, snakes were gross animals, but still animals. Serpents were evil. Not just gross, but they would be locked in place on the floor, undulating like young trees in a strong wind, and emiting waves of wrongness like invisible but cancerous pollen.

Right around the point when I would be compelled to pass through this room I would realize that I was dying. The teeth falling out of my head were a symptom, and the moss spreading over my body both sign and cause of whatever monstrous illness was doing me in.

Shaving the moss back could slow the progress of the disease, but not by much. I was dying and knew it and the serpents were everywhere ...

Need I say that when I woke up, I would be drenched with sweat? I didn't think so. Those were fucking awful ...

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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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So that's what it feels like to pull one's hamstring. (Hint: Not Good.)

After a week off since my old team won our consolation game (against a team that had previously beaten us 6-1), today was a beautiful day to switch from the fetid air of a dome to a field under the big sky — at Carleton University, as it happens.

Warm, sunny and with just enough wind to make things interesting, I met my new team of more-or-less randomly-assigned individuals. Five girls and six (or was it seven?) guys — a pretty big squad and I think more women on it than I've previously experienced.

On the whole, this team is not going to be a world-beater. There's not a ringer in the bunch and I definitely consider myself among the top half in terms of skillz and energy. Which means that, if winning was the primary objective, this would look like being a really long season.

But rec soccer is, thank god, primarily meant to be recreational, and everyone on the field seemed to be more worried about having fun than in whether or not we were going to win. In fact, the half-time pep-talk consisted mostly of a general agreement that we should try to keep the ball away from the other team as much as possible.

And we did considerably better in the second half. I believe the final score was 5-2 against, which is better than the Montreal Canadiens did against the fucking Lightning later on this evening.

But that hamstring. That fucking hamstring. Came with only a minute or two left in the game, and I was playing centre D. I'd pinched a little and suddenly found myself running like hell — sprinting, in truth, and not for the first time that game (so happy I can do that!) — to catch the opposing forward. I managed it, too, but as we jostled one of my cleats caught something in the turf and I felt a sudden, searing pain shoot up the inside of my right thigh.

I went down like I'd been shot, and I stayed down. Wasn't quiet about it, either. Jesus god, but that hurt!

Still, after probably two minutes, I was (with two people supporting me) I able to get to my feet and off the field. And a little while later, managed to hobble to my venerable bicycle and clamber aboard the saddle, to gingerly and slowly pedal my way back to Centretown and home.

Will I be able to play next week? Dunno. In fact, I don't even know if I'll be able to drive a van at work on Tuesday, though I'm hopeful on both counts. I'll have a better sense of things tomorrow, no doubt.

I'm not complaining. It's been a at least a good three years or more since I've managed to hurt myself on the pitch, and a pulled muscle is a hell of a lot less serious than a stretched tendon or (got help me) a blown-out knee.

So, cheers! Raven and I are going to catch up on an episode or two of Scott and Bailey and then I'll see how and whether I'll be able to sleep.

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"You are so strong!"

I came down with a cold last weekend, a nasty throat infection that left me sore and raspy and without much energy. Too weak to enjoy the increasingly clement whether that's been creeping up on Ottawa this week — until today.

Throat still a little sore today, I nevertheless felt well enough this afternoon to head for the airport by bicycle instead of bus — nevermind the rain clouds that chased me the whole 12 kilometre ride. (The sky began to weep about 10 minutes after I locked up my machine.)

Despite the layoff, I pretty quickly fell into a good groove. Maybe a little too good because, a couple of kilometres shy of the Ottawa International Airport, my front tire bit gravel and I had to work to keep my balance on the rough.

Disconcerting, but I kept control and soon glanced back behind me for the merge back onto the pavement.

There were no cars in sight, but there was another cyclist, coming up fast. But not so fast as to keep me from signalling my intent to get back onto the pavement. Once on blacktop, I pushed hard to regain speed in hopes of not my pursuer too much before they had a chance to pass.

We were closing upon the off-ramp to Uplands Drive. I toed the line of the main road and so did my trailer. When we reached the point where the ramp fully split, I pulled right and and waved the other bicyclist — a woman, I saw now — passed me in full training regalia: tight bike shorts and top, arms and (especially) legs bulging with an athlete's muscles.

She returned my wave with a smile and startled me mightily, saying, "You are so strong!"

"What do you mean?" I shouted as she nosed ahead, "You're passing me!"

"Sure," she said, looking back at me, "but your bike isn't stripped-down!"

And as she settled in before me, I realized it was true.

Her bike consisted of a frame, wheels and a plastic water-bottle strapped its main pillar. Mine? Well first, I was wearing work-boots and long pants, along with not-at-all aerodynamic safety-vest. My bike is saddled with fenders and a 70-kilogram capacity carrier, to which are attached two metal paniers. Those, in turn, were laden with a bags containing a couple of magazines, my (very small) laptop computer, a notebook, two litres of water (in stainless steel bottles), a change of clothes and a few other random odds and ends. Not to mention, that the bike is more than fifty years old and made of steel, not some lightweight modern alloy.

And I wondered: was she in training? Was it a real athlete who had admired my strength? Without really intending to, I found myself pushing harder; she had been pulling away, but I kept pace, maybe five metres behind, the same competitive instinct taking hold that saw me, a couple of winters ago, straining to keep up with some guy who'd passed me on a bike hauling a child-carrier trailer (sans child), even though I was only going to work.

A kilometre or so on, she took the right ramp to the airport's departure level, while I went left. Arrivals, where my office lurks at the far end of the terminal. We waved to each other and went our separate ways.

The funny thing is (and I really hope all this doesn't sound like bragging, because that's not my intent; I save that for Facebook) I really don't feel "strong", let alone "so strong."

What I feel is a middle-aged, is ex-smoker, is (yes) too fat. Sure, I play soccer with kids 20 and 30 years my junior, and maybe — objectively — I'm not doing too bad at resisting the hideous depredations of Father Time, but I am (or think I am) usually one of the worst players when I take to the pitch, belly jiggling more than I'd like it to when I "bounce across the field".

Reason tells me I'm doing pretty well, I guess, in comparison to most other 50 year-old men, but in my mind's eye I ought to be Batman. Or at least, Guy Lafleur in his prime.

No, not Guy Lafleur in his prime; rather, I am comparing myself to Batman or Lafleur. And so, always come up on the losing side of the equation.

So thank you, unknown cyclist. You looked like you were in serious training, and your words made me feel pretty good, even if also a little confused. And they helped to remind me that I really am grateful (as I think I've said here before — I've definitely said it elsewhere) that I'm doing as well as I am. As an ex-smoker and long-time heavy drinker, I marvel with more than a little humility to be able to do the things — cycling, soccer, even — recently — jogging for a block or two or three just for the hell of it (or to catch a bus) — but I still can't shake that picture of myself as the second-cousin to the class Fat Kid, as the nerdy (and chubby) teenager too shy to tell a girl he liked her.

And how stupid is that? Truth is, in the five or six(ish) years since I met Raven, quit smoking and (not at all coincidentally) cut way down on my drinking, I've gotten into the best shape of my adult life, whether or not my belly still jiggles a bit when I hound an opposing player the length of the pitch. Why is it so hard to shake the pictures of ourselves that develop in our youth?

Well, maybe for the same reason that the first reaction of nearly every old person who spies a long-lost acquaintance is to wonder why that old person looks so damned familiar.

I dunno. What do you see when you look in the mirror? Yourself as you are, as you once were, or some gross distortion of one or the other (or both)?

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From SilverFlight8, who saddled me with the letter R! And because this takes me back to my blogger's youth, when words came so much easier than they seem to today.

Something I hate: Political repression. Living in a country whose government is looking more and more like that of a third-world dictatorship, and allied with a super-power that seems to do nothing other than wage pointless wars, I'm finding myself both frightened and enraged at a world run by pathological "leaders" whose answer to every problem seems to be give the rich more money and beat the hell out of the poor.

Something I love:Well, that's easy: Raven. Of course, that's not her real name, so maybe I need to look elsewhere for an answer.

Well, last night while waiting in my van for a crew at the airport I spotted a bunny hopping across the roadway, and so I am now reminded of a recent culinary discovery: Rabbit! As cute as they are, our long-eared friends are also delicious, like chicken except with flavour. And I have taken to making a Chinese-style (lots of star anise and garlic and ginger and chili peppers, with lotus root and dried mushrooms for good measure) that is, frankly, out of this world.

Somewhere I've been: Jesus, that nearly stumped me. It took me a good five minutes to remember Rome.

No, not that Rome, but Rome, New York. Not far from Ithica (to which I've never been) and Syracuse (which I have. More than once, and maybe I'll tell you about the first time someday, when I was 17 and hitch-hiking to see the Grateful Dead with a girl I was madly in love with but whom I hadn't the courage to tell, and how I bought a hit of Jerry Garcia acid that turned out to be only paper and how we wandered the frigid April streets after the show (which was awesome, thank you, and despite the rip-off) and tried sleeping in a park before we snuck into a hotel and caught some rest in a stair-well, before hitching home the next morning. Come to think of it, I guess I just did tell the story), which leads me to believe the early invaders there had a real hard-on for the Classics. About Rome itself, though, I have little to say. I came, I picked up a couple of pilots from the local air-base, I left.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Reykjavik, of course. Like all of the far north, Iceland has fascinated me ever since I learned it was the most literate country in the world. And even more so since they jailed some bankers and told the IMF to go hell after the international bankers' robbery from which the world has still not recovered.

Someone I know: Well, Raven! This week marked the fifth anniversary of the night I shyly draped my arm over her shoulder and, then, when she didn't slap it away, kissed her. Best pass I ever made. And next month, we're moving into a much nicer place than the slummy hovel in which we're currently ensconsed.

A film I like: Wes Anderson's delightful and very clever Rushmore, a coming-of-age story that broke all kinds of cliches.

A book I like: That's easy: Red Mars, the best overtly political science fiction novel I've ever read. Except, maybe, for its sequels.

If you'd like to do the meme, comment and I'll give you a letter!

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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.


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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"I'm really a very lucky person." — Benita Hart

My sainted mother says she's a very lucky person
My sainted mother, Benita Hart, is growing old ungracefully.

There's no getting around it: my mother is dying. Not of any specific disease, but of that monstrous universal, life.

As she puts it, "my spine is crumbling" and her new(er) artificial knee rattles around, causing her intense pain on very little activity. She isn't quite housebound yet, but it's a near thing. She's basically given up on cooking because standing at the stove and bending or reaching for things in the cupboards hurts.

I rather suspect that, on some level, pretty much everything hurts her, at least a little.

And yet, "I'll consider myself lucky," she said to me the other day when I was up to Sudbury for a visit, "if I have another five good — productive — years left. Really lucky if I get ten."

And yet, even if she doesn't get those five years beyond her current 81 — if she died tomorrow — I think it would be safe to say that she died happy.

My first full day in Sudbury, Tuesday, I took her out to run some errands. Well, two. A stop at a medical supply store to return one assistive device and to purchase another — some sort of portable chair-seat tilter to help the infirm stand up and a long bench to assist in getting in and out of the bath-tub, respectively. Then off to the grocery store, which (for her) meant getting out of the car right at the entrance, hobbling inside and taking a seat on a motorized shopping cart I was pleasantly surprised to see are provided for the handicapped customers.

And then to home, that was it. But the next day, she was forced to spend almost entirely in bed. She'd woken with her knee seized up and needing powerful pain-killers for the rest of the day. (On the plus side, I was gratified that she marathoned the excellent Sally Wainright mini-series, Happy Valley, despite that programs bleak and sometimes brutal content.)

Every time I see her, she's smaller and more fragile and this trip made that which I've understood intellectually for a long time viscerally clear: this visit could easily turn out to be my last visit with her; the next email or phone call could be it.

And yet, this terminal stage of her life, with its pain, loss of energy and focus, sees my mother happier than I think I have ever known her to be.

Although many (perhaps most) of her old friends left Sudbury over a relatively short time, she has managed to cultivate a new (and mostly younger) group of friends, including a special friendship with a much younger man (well, he's in his early 60s, I think) that isn't quite romantic but shares a lot of characteristics of a romance. He is also the man who drove her to Ottawa to visit Raven and I last year). And a renewed sense of professional purpose through her weekly gig on CBC Radio, which brings in welcome money and certain amount of local celebrity, which she is enjoying every bit as much as she ought to.

She isn't in denial about death's proximity, nor is the old atheist scared of it (No heroic measures! she says, and she means it), but she plans to keep on living just as long as there is joy to found in it. When the pain or the disability comes to outweigh the joy, then, she says, she will be happy to let go.

At the risk of sounding sappy, me old mum's attitude towards life (and death) is frankly inspiring. (And the fact that 81 is only 31 years away from where I am now is frankly sobering. It's been nearly a month since I turned 50 and those 24 days went awfully god damned fast. That's sobering, too.)

Speaking of my birthday, I'll leave you with a brief video Raven took after we returned from birthday weekend of skating and snow-shoeing in Montebello, Quebec, at left.

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Actually, the exclamation point in the subject-line looks kind of celebratory, doesn't it?

Not my intention.

In truth, I've buggered up my wrist (tendonitis, repetitive strain injury) and am in search of a WSIB-approved physiotherapist. Anyone in Ottawa have a recommendation? Feel free to forward or repost if you think you know someone who might have an answer. Thanks in advance.

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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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Woe is knee!


I blog the body (semi) athletic!

Young Geoffrey fails in daring prison escape seeks an opening during a soccer match at Carleton U's Raven's Field, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer

How easily we forget physical pain; and a damned good thing, else our childhood's would be remembered as a litany burning fevers, snapped bones and flesh stripped away, like a carrot on a grater.

Ladies and gentlemen, last Sunday I skinned my knee — and I'm damned if it doesn't still hurt!

Actually, I didn't just skin my knee, I also got kicked in the hand during the same incident. Happily, the application of some ice took care of the latter assault in mere minutes.

Yes now, very nearly a full week later, the knee — alas! — still causes pain.

Photo hidden so as to assuage the delicate sensibilities of the squeamish. Or in other words, Not Safe for Dinner! )

No, I didn't get into another fight, but just had a collision during a match playing the Beautiful Game. As some of you may remember, Young Geoffrey has taken up soccer (football) in his Late Youth and last Sunday saw me driving for the opposing team's goal, only to be tripped up at the last moment — and booted in the head for good measure.

The blow to the head left me not-quite wobbly, but definitely with the desire to leave the field for a time. The blood dripping from my knee (which wasn't top of my mind at the moment) made it mandatory in any case.

Fortunately (as it were) one of my team-mates had been dropped by an errant ball kicked from close range into her neck, so there was an ice-pack handy. I cradled myself thusly as I limped around the field to get get some rubbing alcohol and a bandage from one of the organizers (Ottawa Footy Sevens, an organization I am happy to link to).

On my way back to the field, someone warming up pointed to the pack and asked what had happened. "I think it was a knee!" I said and he laughed, "All right!"

And it was, though when I later told Raven about it, she didn't laugh, but only shook her headed worriedly. Sports, to those who don't play, must seem a form of utter lunacy. But I digress; it's my knee that's on my mind.

Or more to the point, what must be the evolutionarily advantageous fact that memories of physical pain are among the most disposable, least permanent, memories that we have.

Young Geoffrey huffs and puffs at Carleton U's Raven's Field, summer 2013. (Not Jade Inferno, but the team I played with during the summer.) Photo by the Phantom Photographer.

This skinned knee is not a serious injury, and it's one I'll wager most of us have experienced many times when we were kids. But it means that I'm re-growing a couple of layers of skin over a not-insubstantial area of my body and I'm damned if it doesn't hurt. New flesh doesn't much like to stretch or bend. And my wound has even gone so far as get a little infected, which adds to the discomfort — especially with the repeated doses of rubbing alcohol to which I'm subjecting it.

If you're like me, you're reading this and immediately thinking of someone who's suffered serious burns and what that must be like. And if you are really like me, you surely can't imagine that.

Physical pain slips as surely from our imagination as it does from our memory.

And thank god for that; otherwise, we'd be crippled by fear of pain before we reached the age of 10.

Since I'm not (too) worried about getting hurt on the pitch, despite currently still suffering some significant discomfort, I have every intention of heading out to to do battle again this afternoon, even if I have to limp on to the field to do it. (Once the adrenaline starts to flow, the pain will be forgotten for the duration, the plaints of my regenerating dermis drowned out by the thrill of the game.

Post-script, completely self-serving

Young Geoffrey, super-star (of sorts)

And speaking of the Beautiful Game itself, last fall saw me experience a joy I never had before: being part of a winning team. I had meant to post about it at the time, but waited for a team picture to arrive in my email — which it never did. Apparently no one ever got it, which I think a damned shame.

Over the course of a brief, 11-game schedule, Jade Inferno FC, which started as a group of randomly-assigned players (most — ahem — in their 20s and early 30s; yes, I'm proud. Actually, I am fucking thrilled that I am able to more or less keep up) slowly became a team.

By season's end we ranked in the middle of the pack but smoked our opponents in the first round of the playoffs. And suddenly we found ourselves playing a semi-final match, against a team that had beaten us twice during the season.

That game started poorly; our opponents scored 2 points before I even had a chance to take the field. But by the end of the first half, we were tied; and, after falling behind again in the second half, we tied the game again and took the lead for good with but a couple of minutes to go.

We fell upon each othe like mad people, giddy with the surprising pleasure of having ... well, not yet won but of way over-achieving.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was an awesome feeling.

And one not much deminished by the fact that we were smoked in the championship game, which ended with a score of something like 6-1 little more than an hour later. Silver really did feel like a victory.

My current team is not made of the same stuff. We're now 0-7, I think, with only 3 goals to our name. But that's okay. Winning is more fun, but simply playing is fun enough.

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Every once in a while (in a while, damn it! Not and a while, what's wrong with you people? Also: It's "try to ..." not "try and ..." Okay? Pretty please?) — I digress. Jesus god and it's only paragraph number one.

(Second try.) Every once in a while, as some of you might have noticed, I interrupt my steady stream of tweets and occasional links to Doctor Who reviews with threats to return to blogging, to keeping an online journal of sorts.

Well here it is, very nearly my 49th birthday, and I'm at it again. This time with (yes) a meme, in hopes that it will re-ignite my powers of more-or-less extemporaneous writing. So to start, a tip o' the hat to Livejournal's brilliant Sabotabby, who cursed me with gave me U.

* * *

Something I hate: Unsafe drivers. As a professional driver (not to mention regular cyclist and even pedestrian), I have come to a powerful dislike for the careless, the inattentive and the thuggish types who get behind the wheel and seem to have no conception of just how much power it is they don't bother to be careful with. I don't like conducting myself in a state of constant paranoia, presuming that every other vehicle on the road is out to kill me, but it seems the safest way to play it.

More personally, hate is an emotion that comes hard to me now. I don't know if it's a sign of maturity or of defeat, but for individuals I am more likely to feel pity than even rage, let alone hatred.

For abstractions, on the other hand, or for those who represent them (Steven Harper, anyone?), it's not so hard to say "I hate".

Something I love: "Raven", who of course is a person, not a thing. And I can't explain why she qualifies under the letter U, but she does. You'll have to trust me on that.

Somewhere I have been: Seriously, Sabs? You give me the letter U and expect me to answer this one! Jesus god ...

Oh. Wait. United States. (Thanks Google Maps!)

Somewhere I would like to go: Umingmaktok, Nunavut. Well, maybe somewhere a little more urban. But a long-time fantasy of mine is to make a trip to the far north, preferably in winter. I want to experience permanent night and to see the Northern Lights in full glory.

And it might happen sooner than later. One of my regular passengers, a flight attendant, has offered me a pair of his "buddy passes", which would drop the cost of a ticket from a couple of grand apiece to a few hundred dollars.

Someone I know: Urbanites and upstarts, mostly.

Best film: I can think of only two movies starting with this accursed letter. First is Up in the Air, a mostly forgetable vehicle for some handsome guy whose name escapes me and Up, a charming animated feature about an unlikely understanding that develops between a crotchety old man and a young boy. Also, flying, balloon-powered house!

I probably should have started with an easier meme, but at least this typing is done. Lemme know if you want a letter.

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Here in Ontario (as in much of North America) we have this thing called Daylight Savings Time. Judging by that name, it means that we arbitrarily set clocks forward by one hour in the spring, then roll them back again in the fall. The link I provided above probably includes an explanation as to why we do it, but I'm not even going to scan it, because I know I'll have forgotten the reasons come morning.

Even so, since the clocks rolled back very early (either 0201 or 0101, depending on your point of view) this past Sunday morning, I've had not one, but three near death experiences. And so, being of a fairly primitive — or should I say intuitive? — mathematical constitution, when I see three of anything in a short time, I see pattern. And I jump to hypotheses, if not to conclusions?

Could the fact of the "time change" have thrown people's good sense off?

  • Item: Coming back from Montreal on Monday morning, I was driving west on Davidson Road, approaching the intersection with Bank Street. For a wonder, the light was green and so I did not step on the brake, but instead carried on. Nevertheless, with mental caution. In the opposite lane, and turning left, was a dump truck. Through many thousands of kilometres, I believe I have developed some driver's intuition, some facility with reading the body language of motor vehicles, and even from a few hundred metres away, there was something not-quite-right about this truck (I've had a Bad Experience with a dump truck before, which might have something to do with it too). And so it was that, when that monster's driver decided to turn left as I was crossing the intersection at 80 kilometres per hour, I had checked my right side-mirror and new it was safe to swerve in order to avoid that metal saurian's nose crashing into my vehicle's left side.

    "JeZUZ kerIST!" quoth Young Geoffrey, as he watched the beast blithely make its turn in his rear-view mirror. When he apologized to his passengers, the senior flight attendant was not offended. "That's okay," she said, "that was a legitimate reason to swear."

  • Well, shit happens, eh? I shrugged it off.

    But today ...

  • Item: I'd dropped off my crew and was heading north on Uplands towards the gas station on Hunt Club. Ahead of me, a white sedan pulled into the left-turn lane, signal flashing. Clearly, going to the airport.

    Or not. Once again, there was something, some hesitation, not quite right with the vehicles body language. I checked my right-side mirror and raised my right foot, let it hover over my brake. And not shit, buddy decided he didn't want to turn after all. Without even shutting off his left-turn indicator, he swerved right, maybe five metres in front of me.

    If that dump-truck would have sent me and my flight attendants to the hospital at best, my van would have totalled buddy's passenger car.

    Fortunately, I was paying attention. I leaned hard on the horn and just as hard on the brake. He heard me and stopped his ill-advised merge, saving me from crumpling his right side like a proverbial accordion. I cursed, shook my fist in the idiot's direction, then carried on my way, figuring that was it.

  • But if bad luck comes in threes, so to does good. Or maybe, paying attention can help to render bad luck moot.
  • Item: So there I was. The van was full, the airport behind me, and I on my bicycle was making the transition from the Airport Parkway to Bronson Avenue, a relatively complex interchange that includes a few merges near which I see, not infrequent, the broken plastic and metal results of people not paying attention.

    Fortunately for me, I was.

    This time, the idiot was coming from the right. I watched as the vehicle paused (as it should have, yielding the right of way at a merge) to let an oncoming car ... come on. And I watched ... as the driver then proceeded to move, utterly oblivious to my flashing headlight or my brightly-coloured reflective safety vest.

    Had I not been paying attention, my speed and hers were such that she would have hit me with her passenger door, possibly sending my hurtling into oncoming traffic. The collision wouldn't have killed me but the after-effects might have.

    Fortunately (again!) I was paying attention.

    My bike is old. No bells that I've tried actually fit the handlebars. But bells are slow to use anyway. And in a crisis, I don't want my hands to leave my brake levers or handle-bars.

    "Ting TING FUCKING TING," I roared, as I squeezed my breaks and (having previously checked my left side) swerved a bit to my left. But the driver — a woman perhaps in late middle age — heard my makeshift klaxon and slammed on her own brakes, allowing me to release mine and carry on.

That that third close call, or near-miss, released a fucking flood of adrenaline, I'll tell you that much for the cost only of having read everything that came before. When I got home, I felt physically exhausted, and emotionally drained.

Stress, they name is Idiot Driver.

For fuck sakes, people, when you're moving at high speeds, pay attention.

And now, to bed ...

ed_rex: (Default)

It's been a long, and mostly productive, day. The ebook edition(s) of The Old Man's Last Sauna will be available at the same time as the print version, I swear it!

Meanwhile, my labours were well-rewarded, as Raven allowed my to bring a veritable sexy menagerie into our bed!

The Wages of Virtue Bear Furry Fruit!

Cut for bandwidth and to preserve the innocence of those among you who blush easily )

September 2017

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