Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Early Bird Feels Like A Heel

I've written and studied poetry. Some more vaguely than others, I remember names like Blake, Wordsworth and Pope. Some of the required readings were easier than others. Some of it I understood and some of it, I never did.

I do appreciate poetry, although I confess I'm more likely to opt for Robert Frost, or even the nonsense of Edward Lear over Bronte, Whitman or Purdy.

I had never head of Al Purdy before Monday. The winner of two Governor General's Awards and the author of over thirty books, many consider him Canada's greatest poet! The only Canadian poet I studied in school was Irving Layton.

All the poems Purdy considered his best have been put into a 1996 book called "Rooms for Rent in the Outer Planets".

Tristan needed it for school.

Susan began a rather thorough hunt, checking bookstores far and wide; from Montreal, to cities wherein relatives inhabit, including Toronto and Calgary!

After searching the outer planets, she found the one and only copy here, in a store downtown and thus, the unenviable and surely nerve-wracking task of acquiring the lone, designated publication fell unto me.

Late yesterday afternoon, I went to the downtown bookstore and asked whether they had Purdy's book. They told me the last copy was being held for a customer. Then, the clerk told me to wait where I was. Obediently and unmoving, I stood.

She returned a few minutes later to inform me the book was on a three-day hold and yesterday was the third day. She explained "Rooms for Rent in Outer Planets" would likely be returned to store shelves Tuesday morning.

I ventured to ask whether, if I returned just before closing last night, they might sell it to me. She pondered the possibility and then suggested it would depend on the cashier. Some of the more starch-stuffed, she stated, although she didn't use the phrase starch-stuffed, might insist the book be returned to shelves Tuesday morning; others would not be quite so fussy.

Hence, at five minutes before closing last night, I found myself slumped sincerely over the bookstore counter explaining the situation to the cashier, who promptly pulled out the reserve copy to confirm the third day was, indeed, about to expire.

Being blissfully fuss-free, he agreed to sell it to me.

I sort of feel bad for the person who had set it aside, but the delinquent person did have three days to buy the thing! Now I wonder, is the early bird supposed to feel like a heel when it gets the worm?

Nah, I don't think so.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I Can Do Stuff

After walking the dogs this afternoon, we were sitting in front of the television when a commercial came on, announcing auditions for handymen. Susan pointed to the screen, mischievously smiled and ever so matter-of-factly teased, "You wouldn't be able to do that."

"Gee, thanks," I thought to myself.

I get no credit. Zero. A mere iota of credit is too much to hope for.

Does it matter that in spite of my own reluctance, hesitation and apprehension, I've installed light fixtures, bathroom ceiling fans and oven hoods? I've built two barbecues, a basketball net and a slew of friggin' Ikea furniture, including desks, chairs, tables, dressers and shelves. I can hook-up audio and video components and I've installed a wood floor, with some help. True, the groundwork for our backyard shed wasn't quite as level as it needed to be, but the installers made the necessary adjustment. I recently put together a ping pong table and a weight bench. Oh yeah, I can do stuff.

I grumble all the way through it and when I'm done, I mostly expect the stuff I've installed or assembled to blow up!

I'm not even mentioning the really impressive stuff I've done.

Is it the successes my loved ones remember? Not a chance. There's no fun in successes.

They prefer to dwell on the slip-ups and face plants. Worse, when they recall those less glorious moments, my wife and son merrily join in a chorus of, "Handy Man". They're not singing the song of the same title by James Taylor. Instead, they sing the words "handy man" to the tune of the Sammy Davis classic, "Candy Man". It's, oh, so tough to take.

In all honesty, I admit my successes astound even myself!

I've been striving to up my game as a handyman, to minimal avail.

Last week, we had a new dishwasher installed. I dared not do the installation myself, even though all the guys I know insisted dishwasher installation is a piece of cake! Ask them about any bit of handiwork and they, inevitably and unfailingly, drone on about it being a piece of cake! Easy as pie. Frankly, it's nauseating. They love it! They live for it, while I'm the little speck on the horizon, running the other way! It seems every other man I know struts through their household in tights and a cape, with a big "H" emblazoned on their chest!

Phooey! All frauds, I say, with considerably more tolerant family members!

A few days after the dishwasher was installed, the kitchen sink seemed to be draining more slowly than usual. This "handy man" swung into action, unravelling a wire hanger. My son asked what I was doing and I explained with great confidence, competence and proficiency, that I was going to use the end of the hanger to poke at whatever clog might have been lurking in the drain pipe. He may even have been impressed at my completely un-original ingenuity! I turned on the tap and, as the sink began to fill, I began probing with the end of the hanger. I pushed and pulled, twisted and rammed.

Lo and behold, the water began flowing freely.

I turned to my son and proudly urged, "Sing it with me". Ever so graciously, he joined me in a chorus of their mocking song, "Handy Man". Just as he was finishing the chorus, he stopped, looked down and exclaimed, "My feet are getting soaked!"

Apparently and as impossible as it still sounds to me, I had jammed the hanger tip into the curve of the pipe with such force, I dislodged the entire drain pipe from the sink. The running water was flowing straight from the tap into the cupboard underneath and out onto the kitchen floor. What had I done and how on earth had I done it?

Oh, in the end, I blamed the dishwasher installer.

I got everything hooked up again, on my own; although I'm certain Susan and Tristan are keeping their fingers crossed.

Am I keeping my fingers crossed? You know it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Does Not Compute

I used to play the “Rock Band” video games with my son and nephews and nieces! They appear to have grown out of it, although I miss it. It was great fun and kind of awesome because as I learned rock songs by newer bands, they were learning to appreciate mandatory classics like Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”!

It’s amazing how creative technology is allowing different generations to share music!

Earlier this month, I was rinsing grapes in the kitchen sink when I heard something odd coming from the living room. I turned off the tap to listen and sure enough, Tristan was singing the song, “Big Spender”.

Dazed and confused, I staggered to where he was sitting with his headphones on and demanded an explanation, “Why are you singing that song?”  What I meant to ask was how did he know that song, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I knew the Peggy Lee version, recorded in 1966.

He explained excerpts of “Big Spender” were used in the song he knew by Bramzwig.

I had a similar stunner moment earlier this summer.

At one point, driving back from our summer vacation in Florida last month, I realized that as I was singing along to “Hotel California” on the radio, Tristan was singing the words to the verse right along with me!

My mind, in bright red letters, repeatedly flashed the message, "Does not compute. Does not compute."

I stopped singing and as I stared straight ahead out the window, I tried to figure out what was wrong with the picture. It took me a few seconds to realize my brain was being jarred by the fact my 17 year old son was singing to a song from 1977!

Frazzled, I slowly turned and, eerily, looked at him. Hoping for a logical explanation, I asked, “How do you know that song?”

He told me “Hotel California” was sampled in a song by one of his favorite artists, Chris Webby.

“Cool”, I said and we kept singing; “So I called up the captain, please bring me my wine...”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

History in the Heat

It turns out we experienced history.

While we were in Florida last month, the lower forty-eight American states endured record-breaking heat! Scientists are now reporting July temperatures broke records set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.

Lucky us.

The sun rises on another Florida scorcher

The average temperature last month in the southern US was 77.6 degrees (25 Celsius), breaking the record set in July 1936 by two-tenths of a degree.

Each morning, as we lined-up with other hotel guests for the waffle grill at breakfast, we’d hear the meteorologist on the television screen say the high would be 97 degrees and feel like 105! They attribute the heat to a combination of weather and climate change. They say longer-term higher night temperatures were the result of global warming, while the short-term effects of localized heat and drought caused daytime temperatures to spike.

Lucky us.

Our favorite way to beat the record-breaking heat
The climate analysis chief for the National Centre for Atmospherice Research, Kevin Trenberth, is quoted as saying global warming from human activities is rearing its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future.

Unlucky us.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lesson Learned

Life is full of opportunities to learn, isn’t it?

On the first official day of our vacation, we very responsibly applied blobs of sunscreen and then floated and frolicked freely in the ocean for the next two and a half hours! Talk about bliss.

By the end of the day, we were completely fried. Toasted and roasted.

Burnt, but still determined to enjoy sun, sand and surf

Between wagging her finger and sternly tapping it on the sunscreen bottle, Susan had difficulty expressing sympathy as Tristan and I moaned about our sunburns.

The lesson we learned that first day proved very valuable for the rest of our vacation; forget about fun in the sun, spend all your time re-applying!

Just as you start having fun, re-apply!

Feeling comfortable out there? Re-apply!

Relaxing and enjoying your time off? Re-apply!

Walking to the grocery store? Re-apply!

Flinging a frisbee? Re-apply!

Finished re-applying? Re-apply!

Admittedly annoying and messy, we owe our comfort over the next few days to the constant and incessant re-application of sunscreen.

One day, post-burn, Susan kindly reserved her fried fools a couple of shaded lounge chairs by the pool. By the time we arrived to claim the chairs, birds perched in the tree overhead had decorated our towels! I cleaned off the bird poop and sat down on one of the chairs. Moments after making a comment to Tristan about the bird sitting directly over me in the tree, I felt warm liquid hit my arm in two places. I never felt the third splotch of slightly more solid material hit my knuckle, but, blurting guffaws, Tristan noticed it! After re-applying, we quickly chose to move to a spot out from under the tree and in the sun.

After that, I kept my eye on all the people who sat in the lounge chairs under the tree, expecting someone to be bombed by the birds. No one ever was!

No doubt there’s a lesson in there somewhere, I’m just not sure I'm interested in figuring it out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reality Thankfully Suspended

Blind and diabetic, Moose requires insulin shots, twice daily. We’d rather take her with us on vacation than leave her in one of the few places equipped to give the shots, like a vet’s sterile office. We enjoy having both our dogs with us and we know they’d much rather be with us, too.

The pet-friendly hotel where we stay has a designated dog-walking area. I would often take them to the spot so they could do their business. One particular afternoon last week, I took them to the dog zone and noticed a man and woman watching me from their second-floor hotel balcony.

Just as Moose started pooping, Spike pulled his leash to the opposite extreme and proceeded to poop. I was standing there with my arms stretched to the limit in opposite directions! The couple watched.

Moose finished and I managed to switch her leash over to the hand that was holding Spike’s leash.'

Where's the beach everyone's been talking about?

As soon as Spike had finished, I bent down in my white t-shirt to pick up his mess with a plastic bag. His post-poop skidding routine had completely slipped my mind. I was hunched over and diligently reaching for the pile as the pieces of dirt zinging off his paws began hitting me in the face, chest and leg! The couple watched.

With two leashes in one hand and a bag of poop in the other, I couldn’t wipe my face, shirt or legs. As I picked up Moose’s mess, the man calmly leaned over the balcony and asked in a southern twang, “What breed are them there animals?”

Feeling like the featured goat in a clown routine, I told him they were West Highland Terriers, at which point he began telling me how his friend uses Westies to chase moles off his property.

Perhaps they laughed after I left, but they spoke with me as though we’d bumped into each other on a sidewalk. At least for the duration of the conversation, I didn’t feel like a dirt-splattered fool catering to two oblivious poop-churners.

Somehow, the man and woman had, most graciously, managed to suspend my reality.