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The shortest month of the calendar year happens to be identified with the least enduring of sentiments, love. Oh, I should be fair and clarify that statement. Not mere love, but romantic, passionate love. The only love that as time passes, matters less and less. If love dies a sudden death, the victim is lucky. If not, a protracted end ensues. The victim is drained slowly like a grape destined for ice wine. He is desiccated by time and cold until only a fraction of his essence remains. Long before harvest, thieves rob the vine to add insult to injury.
The drumming on the table precedes the act, with accompanying smirks. A small red apple is carefully prepared for its launch into the history books. Where this act of rebellion originates is unknown to me. All that matters is that important people attend. I follow in confused anticipation. The north hallway of Northern Secondary is quiet at lunch. The central stairwell is a prime location. Its walls and the emergency light, bare witness to the popularity of this rite. I see the wind-up, hear the impact and see the explosive result! Soon another sacrifice lies upon the Alter of Adolescence.
“How’s the water, piss-warm!?” The bellicose question is asked by an anxious
as he enters the changing room. My class is dressing while his begins to strip. The air is humid and heavy with the clean smell of chlorine and the stinky smell of boys. It’s swim day in gym class. Igor can’t, so takes his class with the beginners. It bruises his ‘Level Six’ ego to paddle like a child in the shallow end. I envy him. I can swim – just barely, so once-a-week I stand with dread, beside a large mosaic sign that wobbles reading: “Deep End.”
Gym brings back special memories to me when I think of my years at Northern. Memories, alive with a special mix of fear, frustration and despair; created during those forty minute classes, once a day, for every day of grades nine and 10. A quarter century cannot dull their recollection. Regardless of the sport, my instructor found within my complete lack of technique, a useful lesson to others; a cautionary tale too good to pass. Once, he was kind enough to apologize, saying “sorry to have to do this to you…” As if an apology ever softened a public trial!
I miss the beat quite often and use a clumsy wit within myself to cover the rising wave of despair in which I drown. Cut free of power long ago, now I see those who around me rise to the surface of the pond and drink the air while I remain in the mud and heaviness below, where weaker things hide their shame from the sun that shows their lacking. An American psychologist once said that everyone ultimately achieves his destiny, however circuitous the journey. What does this say of me and mine?
Under the Volcano
, comes again to mind.
Listen to the music, see the music play! Listen to the music closely and listen to it play. Listen and understand the message it conveys. Listen to the music of others. Listen to the friend you call the best. Listen to your peers and listen again to those who are not your peers. Listen to the small voice inside yourself. Listen again to the small voice. Hear how it screams and screams! The more it screams, louder than yesterday, the more you ignore the ringing in your ears, and the faster you run away from the little voice inside yourself.
They called them, zots! Spit-balls with flair! I can’t remember where the silver paper came from that fashioned this dart-like projectile, because I don’t think any of us smoked back then, but the silver paper from a pack of Player’s Plain was crucial to the enterprise. So was the wad of spit-soaked backing paper. Hurled with sufficient force, the little silver slight would stick fast to the targeted ceiling. Over the weeks and months, when in their numbers, they would prove something to someone, even just us. But what exactly the point was in all this, I’ve forgotten completely.
Physicists predict that objects traveling through space undergo time dilation as they near the speed of light. Time from the traveler’s point of view remains constant, while outside his spacecraft, it hurls past at break-neck speed. Since nobody’s traveled fast enough, nobody really knows if this really happens. I say it does. Ask anyone who’s middle-aged. It hit me today as I rushed through the congested PATH system at the height of the morning crush – watching a 40 minute window shrink in a blink, that the universe
indeed relativistic, moving steadily faster while I appear to be slowing down.
I’m learning Dreamweaver 8.0 and its leaving me with a curious sense of have come full circle. Yet, I remain very much a stranger in a strange land. The mysteries of the Worldwide Web are largely intact within me despite nearly ten years spent in a lazy search for meaning behind it. I’m still baffled as the alchemy of Cold fusion and HTML conjure up the virtual world. Once upon a time I published dull little tomes using the latest desktop publishing software. Today stand at the threshold of a murky realm of obscure commands held in oddly reversed parentheses.
The abbreviation, WWW had just begun to appear as I left for school. I took no notice. Our school had only two PCs, and they were obsolete even then. We even lacked cable! So as I studied gardening and dreamed of better days, the outside world quietly changed without my knowing. I emerged from a three-year long glitch in time to discover DOS was dead and Windows ruled the day. Just how obsolete my computer knowledge and skills were I didn’t yet know. The internet had arrived and I was under whelmed (but admittedly, the porn was a little distracting.)
closings and the customers, and I’m back in front of the computer pushing words together
in a quiet, comfortable routine that comes close to being normal. Gone are the late
into pearls of horticultural wisdom. Our customers want pretty things that bloom from
like pearls before swine.
small dog. I pour all I know across sterile sheets of paper to lay before them in the spring,
spring until the snow flies that thrive on negative attention and never grow larger than a
The winter passed a little slower last year or maybe not. Not that it matters. I find myself
The winter months have a weight about them that settles around my belly and butt. I shouldn’t complain because all I have to do is eat less and exercise more, so the little voice inside my head tells me. This needling voice and I fight constantly. It says I should drink less, and should probably give up the cable at the same time, because I lose too much to the booze and its fattening, and $60 a month is too much to pay for programming that stinks. This last point is something that the voice and I can agree upon.
Fighting my way through traffic I told myself I was only going to look and not buy. I already attend a gym, which has seen better days I thought as I looked at the shiny brochure sitting next to me. The new place is a flashy, up-market affair that ironically occupies the same movie hall on the Danforth where I watched M*A*S*H* (somehow) in its original run. Perhaps this piece of nostalgia helped fuel a curious enthusiasm that overwhelmed me as the quick talking rep walked me round the place, and unfortunately into a one-year contract. So much for resolve.
Valentine’s Day arrives and we are braced for a storm of customers. Instead nature dumps a tonne of snow upon the world. My hour long commute doubles as it to ram the reality home. The flower shop is busy but the walk-ins aren’t materializing. Later, the weather clears for us and the sun breaks through. The phone is steady and the orders slowly hit the road though the roads remain a mess. Yet the walk-ins don’t materialize for us.The roses were ready, the chocolates were, too. But, the weather proved to be a hurdle over which we helpless tumble.
I’m writing again which feels good and bad at the same time. I like writing about plants but there is always too much to say for the page. I know where I want to go as I start to write but immediately the words hit the page I bog down to the “axils.” So I struggle to pare things down, cut all the unneeded words and the piece reveals itself like a piece of sculpture. At the back of my mind a voice asks, “What does it matter? Who will read this anyway?” I recall a story about another sculptor.
Who knows where the story originates or how I came to know it, but I do. An old sculptor worked away on a minor statue for a cathedral under construction. He took great pride in his work despite it being off in a lonely corner of the sanctuary and so unlikely to be seen by worshipers. One of the younger artists had watched him work on the statue for days. Finally he approached the old man and said, “Why do you toil over something nobody will see?” Without hesitation the old man replied, “Because I know that God sees it.”
I was curious to know if the small bit of graffiti remained. Both the old school and the new school buildings bore the subtle and not so subtle marks of a dozen generations of little boys making their first attempt at immortality by gouging their name into a brick. Igor, Dave and Frank carved theirs into the gymnasium wall sometime back in 1974. The damage stood as an unspoken testament to their presence, noticed in the end by only me I think. Today, I cut through the school yard and passing the wall, tried to find their names but couldn’t.
Not so long ago, schools were surrounded by high fences and gates that slammed shut at 9 a.m. Any student caught outside the gate was branded a petty criminal and hunted by the local truant officer. Yesterday I found out that a gate now restricts access to big part of the Winchester school yard, that 30 years ago lay wide open. Much of the asphalt was removed years ago and replaced by grass and trees, so change is nothing new here. Yet, locking the yard down leaves a part of me very sad as I doubled-back toward the liquor store.
Two smells have always been associated with my memory of Winchester: the medicinal, yet comforting smell of fresh oil paint and the moist, sweet smell of the old building’s insulated steam pipes. The Toronto Board had the money then to repaint its schools every summer so each September the fume of fresh paint greeted our unwilling nostrils. I can’t think what parents today would say to their offspring's exposure to this annual off gassing. And, what of the painted asbestos blankets that thickly jacketed the steam pipes? Perhaps the sweet smell had something to do with the lead in the paint?
The $89 dollars I spent on this month’s gym membership is certainly benefiting someone, but not the one it should have benefited. Every day this month I’ve asked myself the same question: What’s with all the f—king traffic? Last year I cruised into the gym just after six o’clock, but this year, thanks to a billion condos downtown, I can’t get near the treadmill before 6:45 or seven. I miss the days when I could walk to work and take perhaps no more than an hour to do so. Not surprisingly, I didn’t need the gym back then, either.
The voice was drunk on the other end of the telephone as it thickly stumbled over a half-hearted admonishment for not calling. Drunk again, I thought. No surprise, really. Much less of a surprise than it was to do the math and realize he had not called me now in more than a year. Surfacing, I thought. Surfacing from the pit of a basement he lives in, I thought as I erased the message without taking any note. I was usually the one to be waiting for a call. Waiting for the drunken hello that would take weeks to arrive.
What a cheek, I thought, to call and give me shit for not staying in touch; to ask if I was dead because I had not been in touch. Wasn't he with some woman that worked in a bank and came pounding on his door to party after the bars closed? Blowing off steam, he had called it. Blowing something, I thought. How dare he give me grief for not calling when all he has to do is pick up his shitty little silver cell phone and push a single fucking button! I would have erased that message, too.
I was never really annoyed at him. Not after the call the other night, nor after our last conversation over a year ago. Any anger I felt was directed at me. It continues to annoy me to think of the height of the esteem in which I held him for so many years. “Twenty-five to life” I used to think, proud of my fidelity. When the scales fell from my eyes on that midwinter day last year, I saw a stranger staring back at me from the other side of the room.
I had to ask, fidelity to what?
It was love that held me, I was sure of that, at ‘first sight’, too. I remember the rainy November night outside the ROM when we were introduced for the first time by a mutual friend. The greasy, dark grey light of that cool and blustery night was burned into my memory by the sight of him. He might have been just another teenage high school crush had it not been love, true love at first sight.
Or, that is how I used to remember our first meeting. I did not realize then, that he is a natural, unconscious flirt.
Lydie-Anne tells the crazy Countess de Tilly that “Love is the worst lie one can tell oneself.” They talk during a party thrown to celebrate Lydie-Anne’s engagement to the beautiful Simon. The engaged couple leaves in the morning for a new life far away from the tiny town of Robertvale, but on the eve of their departure, she is confronted with the unavoidable reality that it is the Countess’ son, Vallier, Simon loves. In her pain she lashes out at the Countess, telling her of meeting her missing husband, in Paris when she dined with him and his new family.
The crazy Countess seems less crazy in the wake of the tragedies in this movie. But then this is a film about love denied, about love that endures despite decades of hardship and intolerance.
is a story I think of often. I cannot watch this heartrending tale without tears. Love can be a lie you tell yourself and if it is we do so because we have to. Love’s joys exceed its any pain. Scruffy laughs as we drink beer and I recall my story to him. He laughs saying “love is a poor substitute for respect!”
The assignment was simple enough: write 10 short articles on a set of keyword terms. Success would bring me $50. The catch was I’d have only a couple of nights in which to pull this minor miracle off. I took the challenge on to see if I could do it and now, more than an hour into overtime, my confidence has turned to the dreadful reality that I cannot write under these conditions. I sit in a cold sweat as the screen before me swim with words that won’t connect. All for fifty bucks; what was I try to prove?
With half of all marriages in ending in divorce, and countless others less than happy, pre-marriage counseling has never made greater sense or been of greater value as an investment in the future. Today’s stressful lifestyle puts tremendous pressure on newlyweds who often struggle alone as they try to balance hectic careers, financial burdens and the raising of children. Relationship counseling, offered through trained, skill-based marriage counselors, provides couples with the coping skills they need to keep the “happily ever after”, truly happy. It also makes an excellent supplement to faith-based premarital classes which are often required by some faiths.
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