NOO SHOOS/AULD FEATS

Shoe shopping is probably my least favorite activity. I’m a casual sneaker-type guy and in the old days my only decision was black or white. Now they have shoes for walking, running, climbing, gardening, cooking chili, washing dogs…but I have already digressed. That’s the problem with not writing a blog for months. I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical although I’m not really sure why. Life is good, cluttered and confusing but good. Maybe I just needed to step back and appreciate the clutter and confusion. That’s as good an excuse as any I suppose. Yup…I’ll go with that.

Back to my shoes. When I needed to replace my usually beaten-to-a-pulp footwear I’d go and stand in front of the racks hoping that a pair would jump out at me (yes they have jumping shoes too). The type of shoe that has never jumped out at me is the kind I bought a few weeks ago. Whenever I saw this style I used to think ‘oh, old guy shoes’ and passed them over but this time I thought ‘gee, they’re neat’ and bought them. The fact that I thought they were ‘neat’ kind of spells out where I’m going with this.

I bought ‘old guy’ shoes because I’m ringing the doorbell on 70 Sunset Lane. I’m an old guy.

I still don’t put a lot of stock in age although lately it’s been on my mind a little more. The underlying theme of ‘White Wolf Moon’ was a man trying to rekindle his youth on the premise that within his sixty-plus body lived every age from birth until now. I still believe that’s true although some of my teen years have thankfully found a good hiding spot (down by my spleen I think…but I shan’t go looking). It’s all about attitude. ‘You’re as young as you feel’ comes to mind but it’s more than that.

Physically there’s no going back. Too much water under the bridge or, in my case, beer under the belt. Lines of life, scars of experience, and pounds of Papa burgers gift wrap the essence of my being.

Mentally, however, one can take a break and look at life the way one looked at life ‘back then’. It’s not all that difficult but it’s also a bit of an education. Remembering times before computers and zillion channel television packages can be both funny and frightening but with the right outlook you can put things into perspective. Looking at today through the same eyes I had as a twenty-year-old I realize I haven’t really changed but everything around me has. Technology is a long, straight endless highway but life is a traffic circle.

The most damning evidence of my circle? Yup…the shoes.

At twenty I wore moccasins a lot. Leather moccasins laced together with a bow on top.

What goes around….

Mike Grant has two published books: White Wolf Moon and Barking at Yesterday’s Moon. Both available on Amazon.

 

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‘Z’ BEFORE ‘E’ ‘CEPT AFTER….

This wasn’t the post I originally had set out for today. That one involves character development, change of plot lines and other assorted writing thoughts but I have been lead astray by one of those little ‘slices of life’ that occasionally crosses my path. Following is an unfinished blog post I wrote in early September:

“While picking up my grandson from school today (a semi-regular occurrence) I was treated to an interesting display of tax dollars at work. I was leaning on the fence around the playground when a large white cube van pulled into the field behind the slides and climbers. Three men in hi-vis vests tumbled out of the truck and walked over to one of the ramps leading up to the castle-like structure. One fellow knelt down and spun one of the letters the kids hold onto whilst navigating their way to the top. It was the letter ‘e’. He spun it a few times then walked back to the van and retrieved a wrench. The other two workers stood on either side of the structure and waited while the first fellow came back from the truck (about a forty-foot hike), tightened the ‘e’, and tested it again. Then they all marched proudly back to their vehicle and left the scene. Why it took a large van and three burly workers to tighten one letter I don’t know.”

That was as far as I got as I couldn’t see the post going anywhere after that.  I didn’t want to get into the politics of civil servants or unions or whatever the reason behind what I considered to be a waste of man hours/money so I elected to let it go. However…

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Earlier this week I was waiting for my grandson in the usual spot when a smaller white van pulled into the field behind the playground. This time two men in hi-vis vests crawled out and walked to the climbing incline. One of them spun a letter. Déjà vu…it was the ‘e’ again. I can understand that. The letter ‘e’ is the most used and often abused letter in the English language so I can see that he would go off his nut more so than his twenty five brothers and sisters. I watched as, once again, one fellow walked back to the van to get a wrench while the other stood guard. I wondered why there were only two guys this time. Maybe they knew it was that rascal ‘e’ again and knowing that ‘e’ is generally a soft letter they figured they wouldn’t need all the backup that they’d sent out the first time. Ah…that first time. Seems to me something like this should only require a first time so perhaps they should be rethinking the repair. My suggestion would be to replace it with a lesser-used letter…like ‘z’. Kids don’t use ‘z’ as much as they use ‘e’ so that should solve the problem. Maybe not…but a 5 cent locking washer might…or even a shot of Loc-Tite. I assume either solution would be cheaper than sending two or three guys out to tighten a nut. Even with the reduced manpower this time the ending was the same as the first. A quick twist of the wrench, a spin test, and then off to tackle the next catastrophe or get a coffee to celebrate a job well done. See ya next month boys!

Okay, silly rant over. I leave you with a link to Patrick Jones’s blog. Patrick is another that has always supported me even to the extent of promoting ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ before I had uploaded it. I invite you to check him out but pour a coffee before you do. He has so much entertaining and informative content on his site that it could take you a while. Thanks Patrick!!!

http://thelindenchronicles.com/

MORE FRAGMENTS OF A RECEDING MINDLINE…

Fragment One: Jeff Bridges. I’ve always liked Jeff Bridges and he is, without question, that one living famous person I’d love to have a beer with. As well as being a great actor, a pretty good songwriter/musician/singer, and devout family man he dedicates much of his life to giving back. His primary cause is No Kid Hungry! It’s a program designed to put food in front of the estimated 16,000,000 children who live in American households that are unable to provide the necessary food these kids need. That’s one in five kids. He has been the spokesman at charity events for this cause for some time but not only does he speak out he does something about it. ALL proceeds from his new cd “Sleeping Tapes” go toward No Kid Hungry! and in a few short weeks he has raised over a million meals.

Fragment Two: Matthew McConaughey and “Canned Hunting” debacle. For those who don’t know the story Mr. McConaughey has been linked (as an owner) to a ranch in Texas that offers hunters the opportunity to “harvest” deer that are fenced in on their property. I could write a wordy blog on how I feel about this practice but I’ll leave that for another time. Since this story broke the public outcry in the form of blogs and petitions has spread like the proverbial Texas wildfire. Now his photograph and all references to him have been removed from the ranch’s website and Matthew’s camp is in damage control mode, saying that he is not an owner and hasn’t been associated with the ranch since 2011. A quick search of his bios on line still reveals he owns a ranch in Texas although they don’t disclose the name of this ranch. I’m prepared to give anybody the benefit of the doubt so I’ll remain neutral on this but those that are inferring that, if true, this will destroy his career better think again. He’s a big player and the world loves big players. The list of actors, recording artists, and politicians that have had their indiscretions buried by money and influence is long and will only get longer.

Fragment Three: No Comment. I’ve had a few of my on-line wolf friends question my absence on those “anti-wolf” comment pages since last year. Other than a few of the media public comment sites I no longer get involved with the anti-wolf crowd. I set out some ground rules for myself when it came to responding to their idiocy. One…I would no longer deal with anyone who uses a fake name/facebook page. Two…I would not respond to anyone who hasn’t a basic grasp of spelling and grammar. Three…I wouldn’t respond to anyone who starts out a comment with name-calling or threats and four…I’d refrain from commenting on any post that didn’t contain proven facts with appropriate links. These self-imposed rules pretty much meant I could no longer comment period. It also makes it much easier to “leave the kiddies alone” when they won’t let me play by banning me from most, if not all, of their pages.

Fragment Four: Politically Correct. First, and this is something I never do, I wish to apologize to anyone who might be offended by what you’re about to read. Recently, in an off-hand conversation, I referred to our native people as “Indians” and I was told that it was wrong. They are “First Nations”. As most of you know I worked for At Second Glance Books here in Kamloops and while books about First Nations people were shelved under “Indigenous Peoples” some of the titles of those books contained the word “Indian” and a lot of these books were written by talented First Nation authors. I had many customers come in and ask me where the books on Indians were and many of them were First Nations people, one building a library of First Nations literature for a tourist center. They weren’t offended by a book on “The Western Plains Indians” and really, why should they be? One of my customers went by the name of “Ace” and he was one that asked where the Indian books were. I showed him a lot and sold him a few. We actually became casually close and tossed jibes back and forth on many occasions. One day he came into the store with a couple of friends, also First Nations, and leaned on the counter. He asked if I served Indians here. My glib response was “Sure…you want fries with that?” He and his friends broke into hysterics. After I had a chance to think about what I said I felt I should apologize. “Hell no man,” Ace said, “that was funny. You white people take everything far too seriously.” With that I bit the bullet and asked if he was offended by the term “Indian” and all three of them said no, that they were proud of their Indian heritage (yes, they used the word). I’m not sure if Ace and the boys are indicative of the general feelings amongst First Nations people and certainly I find myself using “First Nations” just in case, but I have to wonder how much of an issue it is. I also wonder who decided that it was politically incorrect to begin with. Really, it’s just a word. I would think the manner or the environment in which it’s used would have a bearing on how it’s taken but then it really isn’t the word that becomes offensive is it? It’s the person using it.

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OF WOLVES AND SUCH….

This blog is not really about wolves but it is a subject in which I consider myself to have above average (although by no means expert) knowledge so it’s easier to make my point. From witnessing my first wolf pack in the wild on our farm in Ontario in the 1950s to having a much more recent encounter with (fenced) wolves at a Christmas Light Celebration at the BC Wildlife Park outside Kamloops, wolves have always played some sort of minor role in my life.

When I was beginning work on the sequel to White Wolf Moon I decided to research this animal so I could present my canine character with more authenticity. It was then I discovered the ugly truth about the internet.

It seems anyone who can type has an opinion these days and that opinion doesn’t have to be based on anything concrete or valid. It’s just an opinion. Having an opinion is fine (everyone should have one or two) but for a reader to blindly accept these opinions without question simply confirms what I feel is one of those things wrong with the world today.

I’m not a follower, nor am I a leader. I feel that comments made by people on both sides of any issue should be checked out but it appears most people don’t want to hear the truth. They just want someone to confirm that what they already believe is the truth. Just tell them what they want to hear and the ‘likes’ will come. One of these anti-wolf pages is currently on the “historic” bandwagon posting unverified newspaper stories and illustrations from days gone by. They claim that these unsubstantiated hackneyed articles from the 1700s complete with woodcuts and etchings are the factual journalism of the times and they prove “that modern wolf science is pure fiction”. By the way through minimal research I discovered that one of their latest “fact” illustrations is from The Red Fairy Book (published1890). No need to tell you what fairy-tale we’re talking about.

We live in an age where credible information is out there but a lot of people have neither the comprehension nor the time or patience to learn what is real and what isn’t. It’s easier for them to take the lazy way out, much preferring to have some narrow-visioned snake-oil salesman with a pocket-full of agendas and videos to sell tell them what to think rather than form their own educated opinion.

A side note: I generally steer away from commenting on American politics because I really don’t understand the workings and, as a Canadian, it really isn’t my place but…

I watched the SOTU address (which reaffirmed why I like Obama) but I just couldn’t take my eyes off John Boehner. Am I the only one that thought he looked like the ‘before’ picture in a Preparation-H ad? With millions of people watching him this man didn’t possess the self-pride to at least appear interested in anything. It’s clear that he and Obama aren’t after-school buddies but there should be at least minimal respect for the office, if not the man. I’m not a fan of our Mr. Harper but I respect the position he holds.

Respect, or the lack of it, is one of the big issues in our world today. Respect for others and respect for oneself seems to have disappeared. We, as a people, show little respect for our environment. Politicians are trying to force through “safe” pipelines on fragile landscapes while, coincidently, the waterways in Yellowstone National Park have just been polluted with 50,000 gallons of crude from a leak. Our BC Government was (perhaps still is) considering opening up our Provincial Parks for oil and gas exploration. Oddly enough the fact that big business, politicians, and money mongers have no respect for anything doesn’t surprise me. It’s the little guy that types “sweet” on his social media page under the story of two RCMP officers being shot in Alberta. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Perhaps this lack of respect is a sign of the times. In the old days before the internet if you chose to call somebody down you’d best not walk past the schoolyard after dark but there’s safety in the anonymity of social media today. You can sound big and tough while living in your parent’s basement smokin’ dope and free from the fear of retribution. Perhaps the lack of respect has been here all along but I don’t think so. I also don’t think it’s as widespread as it appears, at least I hope it isn’t. It’s just that with today’s technology it’s easier for these people to be heard…but that doesn’t mean we have to listen.

WOOF

YOU EVER HAVE ONE OF THOSE LIVES?

FLAGApril, 1955. The deck beneath my feet shuddered and groaned as the RMS Ascania pulled away from Liverpool bound for Montreal. This was to be one of her last trans-Atlantic crossings as a year later she would be pulled from service and scrapped, leaving only her bell and a large model showing her interior on display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax. From her maiden voyage in 1925 to this one she’d had a storied career. During WW2 she was an Armed Merchant Cruiser then she became an integral part of the Halifax Escort Force serving with the North Atlantic Escort Force on convoy protection duty and deployed to New Zealand. In 1942 she was returned to the UK as a Troopship. The following year she was modified into a Landing Ship Infantry vessel and took part in the Invasion of Sicily and, in 1944, the Anzio Landings and landings in the south of France. After the war she was returned to her ocean liner routes, the fifth of Cunard’s six “A” class liners. Perhaps her reluctance to begin this journey simply meant that she was aware of the fate awaiting her in just a few short months but I surmise the lady was just tired…weary.

This is a roundabout and somewhat overly-dramatic way of explaining that I came to Canada in 1955 aboard that great old ship. I was eight years old at the time and Canada was somewhere beyond the pointy end of the boat and England was somewhere beyond the not-so-pointy end. I must confess I knew nothing of the history of the Ascania until I started researching her for this blog.mi0301ascania Now I look at the photograph of my sister and I against the railing “somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic” and it seems more real somehow.

This has been a difficult blog to put together, for a couple of reasons. I’m finding myself reminiscing about all the sights and sounds of a new country that was so alien to a wee Scottish lad and while I believe this could constitute an interesting series of blogs it isn’t what I set out to accomplish with this one.

I, like so many other landed immigrants from the 1940s and 1950s, assumed that Canadian Citizenship was automatic with permanent residence. Nae s’ fast wee Scottish lad…you’ve been assuming wrong. Apparently I’ve blissfully gone about the last sixty years just acting like a Canadian. Okay I don’t really know how I would have acted if I had known I wasn’t Canadian but obviously I pulled it off because nobody, including myself, saw through my deceitfully clever disguise. I have walked among Canadians unnoticed for six-decades, infiltrating their schools, radio stations, and media outlets. I have assimilated into their culture and generally been able to move undetected along any path I chose to explore.

All that ended today.citizen

As of three pm, Thursday, January 15, 2015…I am a Canadian Citizen.

Assimilation complete…I am finally one of us.natural-flag-of-canada

ANOTHER YEAR OVER….


This is another of my community newspaper writings from the seventies. Yes I admit it…taking something from thirty years ago and adding a couple of lines to update it is the lazy approach but hey, it’s the Holidays!

New Years. Everybody stops eating, drinking, smoking, running red lights, wearing unmatched socks, and arguing with the kids.

Why do people make promises they know they can’t keep? Getting elected comes to mind but other than that I think it’s because they honestly believe that this year is going to be their year and if they can just get it together everything will be so gosh-darned swell.

Every January First I get it together and spend the rest of the month trying to figure out where I put it but this year will be different. For starters I’ve decided to make my resolutions easier.

I’m going to stop arguing with anything bigger and hairier than me except for maybe the parking meter guy. It’s tough to quit cold turkey. I’m not going to go trail-riding. Horses and I just don’t get along and they’re also bigger and hairier than I am. So are cows but cows don’t run as fast. Neither does the parking meter guy. I’m also going to stop arguing with inanimate objects such as taps, toilets and bank machines. They always win anyway. I’m giving up skiing. It’s far too costly and dangerous. Besides I’ve only been skiing once in my life and one plummet down a mountainside is enough. I vaguely remember trying to scream but when I opened my mouth nothing came out. They heard me at the top of the hill so I was obviously traveling faster than the speed of sound. I’m not going to honk my horn at jaywalkers because they have a much shorter life expectancy than I do and I’d like their remaining days to be peaceful. I’m not going to try to figure out rap lyrics. It’s impossible to make sense of a thousand monosyllable string that doesn’t have to mean anything as long as it rhymes and follows the popular beat. I’m not going to try to figure out politicians for the same reason. I’m no longer going to visit those ‘anti-wolf’ pages until they can come up with more imaginative names to call me or until one single person on them makes sense. This goes back to the whole rap thing again.

I am definitely going to make this my year. I’m going to approach each day with a new improved and easy-to-use attitude. I’m going to be nice to rich people. I don’t know why it just seems like a plan. I’m going to save up all the free airmiles everybody throws at me and give them to the lady next door with the loud stereo. I’m going to stop and smell more roses, pat more puppies and skritch more cats… except for the miserable deaf one that lives next door.

And above all I’m not going to start anything that I can’t

Me2b

A Christmas past…

Whilst sorting through some old files I stumbled on a series of articles I had written for a community paper back in the eighties. I thought I’d like to share one of my Christmas contributions.

‘Twas the night before Christmas…and that’s about as far as the traditional poem goes around our house.

I’m philosophically looking up at a million stars and wondering how many other dads are sitting on the front steps trying to figure out why their kids don’t ‘nestle’ on Christmas Eve. ‘Hot Wired’ is a far more accurate description. And Mom? She’s in the kitchen trying to coax Tom Turkey into the refrigerator. He doesn’t want to go and I don’t blame him. He’ll be tucked in there beside pies, cranberry sauce, and a clear plastic dish of green jelly stuff full of red, orange and yellow floatie things. If Santa had only heard what Momma had called that bird….

Then there’s Harold.

Harold’s a snowman of few words. His nose is bark, his eyes are two chunks of broken cement and his shocking red brushcut is a shocking red snowbrush that has seen better days.

As a matter of fact, so has Harold. He’s survived kids with snowballs, above zero temperatures and dogs with no discretion whatsoever. Yes he’s seen better days but no better nights. The air seems to crackle. Mom’s run out of nice things to call the bird, the kids’ batteries have finally died and Harold and I are just enjoying the moment.

There’s a hint of wood smoke wafting through the neighborhood. The faint perfume mingles with the thoughts of the snowman and philosopher.

A zillion stars all over the world. In China, Bosnia, Somalia…everywhere. If everyone could just take five minutes, stop what they’re doing and look at those stars, all at the same time.

Oh, I know it’s noon somewhere and breakfast someplace else but hey, it’s just a thought.

Most everyone has a Christmas cease-fire. I wonder who decides when the allotted time for being kind to your fellow man is up? And why? I can’t imagine thousands of soldiers checking their watches so they can be the first to get back to work.

Maybe just a few moments earlier they were looking up at the stars and wondering…just like Harold and I.

It’s starting to snow a little. If it had done this yesterday I would have been able to suggest a few more expletives for the turkey. But tonight, snow’s OK. It always seems to snow on Christmas Eve. I think nature planned it that way so that people like me could appreciate the stuff.

It works.

And I can see my breath. Somehow though, it’s not cold. Maybe it’s the spirit of the season. You know…warming of the soul and all that. It’s like feeling all alone yet being surrounded by…something. It’s wanting to shout soppy and sentimental things to the world but not knowing what to say.

It’s like Harold.

Life goes on all around him while he just stares at the world through concrete eyes, hair always in place. My daughter and I made him what he is and he’s happy with that.

So’s my daughter, although I figure he should have been taller. He wishes no ill to anyone, even those who try to knock him down. Harold’s got it all together and I think I have too. Even if I’m sure I hear bells in the night sky.

I wrap my scarf around Harold’s thick neck, pat his brush, and wish him well before I head into the house. Then that old poem comes back…

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

ginn2