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Showing posts from 2015

Shirley, You Jest - A Happy New Year Tale

Shirley sipped her drink and peered over her glass's rim across the room from her vantage point in the corner. The party to usher in the new year was much like those dances one attended in their youth. You know the ones in the school gym where the cliques all gathered in their separate zones. The cheerleaders, the jocks, the band members, the smart kids and then you and your friends.

Slowly Shirley started to circulate. She knew pretty much everyone here but didn't actually belong to any one group. As an insurance salesman in a small town Shirley knew everyone but really didn't have the same interests as anyone.

She nodded and said a quiet hello to those who caught her eye. Well she had to. She couldn't ignore them. All, save several, were her customers. Bob was worth $500 thousand, Dick a cool million and Betty $2 million. That's how Shirley thought of people...in terms of the value of their life insurance...or of the value of their house, their cars and in some …

A Christmas Wish

Mary tossed and turned in her bed. She tried to sleep but her mind raced with thoughts of Christmas tomorrow. She was unable to shop for her little son Brian. Her cancer prevented her from getting out of the house, let alone out of bed.

Nine year old Brian had been a big help to her as her disease worsened. He cooked her soup and fetched her water and juices when she was thirsty. He was such a comfort. His efforts seemed to indicate he was much older than nine.

It had been just the two of them for the past year. Mary's husband Paul had left when Mary's cancer took a turn for the worse. Good riddance thought Mary. He wasn't of any help. Not like Brian. Poor Brian. He wouldn't be celebrating much of a Christmas this year.

But Brian was an optimist. Aren't most children? All he wanted for Christmas was for his Dad to come back. He didn't care about puzzles or toys or the latest electronic gadgets. He just wanted a family again.

This one thought filled his mind as…

Happiness

"Like that's really gonna happen" said Jane dismissively.

Why do you have to be so mordant" moaned Bill, immediately regretting his comment.

"Oh, my, such a big word" said Jane. "Been reading the Thesaurus in our spare time have we?"

Why did it always degenerate to this he wondered. She was always so sarcastic and it was driving him nuts. She picked at every little thing he said. Like today they were discussing children, having children. Although it wasn't really a discussion because she had shut it down immediately with her comment.

But Bill wasn't so sure. He wanted children. Several maybe, if Jane was agreeable.

Several months later Bill and Jane were walking in the park. It was a sunny, spring day and they walked shoulder-to-shoulder, heads bent, along the path. Skaters, bicyclists and pedestrians were all out vying for space. Flowers were in bloom and birds were chirping. Bill was thinking just how idyllic the scene was, apart from …

The Family Secret

She stood by the graveside holding her mother's hand determined not to cry. Her mother might cry but not her.Her mother may have loved him but not her. If anyone had have asked her how close they were she would vehemently reply that they weren't.

Appearances can be deceiving. People thought they were the perfect family but she knew the truth. And so did he.

She would remember for a long, long time what he made her do. And sadly her mother seemed   oblivious to what was going on.

It started out infrequently but then grew until it would occur daily. And she hated it. It was the worst kind of thing that could happen between a father and a daughter.

When her mother turned to her and asked how she would remember her father she was quick to answer.

"I hate him. He always made me eat my vegetables."

The clue from the folks at Studio30+ this week was vehement/aggressive and believe me I vehemently hate vegetables too.


Imitation - The Highest Form of Flattery

The highest form of flattery.

That's what they say, thought Brad. So I guess I shouldn't be too upset. But still, he wondered, why were there so many copycats out there.

When he created his masterpiece he thought it was one of a kind. Something to be admired for its shape and form; its smooth lines and vibrant colours in its scarf and hat.

But no, there were many imitations and as he passed each (see what I did there?) he became more and more dejected. The more copies the more his creation was devalued.

There was only one thing to do. He'd have to create something new, something different. He looked around at the imitations. They really presented a palpable pastiche across the landscape.

Yep. His snowman might have been the first but it certainly wasn't the last. He set to work to create a snow woman. Of course, he knew, it would only be a matter of time before someone else came along and passed on the highest form of flattery.

The Studio30+ writing prompt this week is…

Biblofile - October/November

Illness prevented me from reporting on my reads from October so I'll use November's update to report on both.

I read four books in October. The Vinyl Dialogues by Mike Morsch is a collection of stories about some memorable albums - and some not so memorable - by the artists who made them. Interesting for music lovers such as myself. We Are As The Times Are was written by a friend of mine, Ken Rockburn, about Ottawa's well-known and highly regarded - and long-gone - coffee house Le Hibou where many Canadian and American folk acts hit the stage. An enjoyable read. Kenneth Anger wrote Hollywood Babylon a collection of salacious tales about the dark side of Hollywood. Fascinating reading. And I rounded out October with If He Hollars Let Him Go written by Chester Himes in 1945 which looks at racism in the United States. Sadly not a lot has changed in 2015.

I started November out with Further Adventures of a Grumpy Rock Star by Rick Wakeman, former keyboardist for Yes, Strawbs …

Man's Best Friend, Woman's Mortal Enemy

She read the note again. A tear dripped down her cheek. He was leaving; in fact, had left. She was alone now. Completely alone.

She cast her mind back to what had been. It was a joyful time full of love and laughter. And for that she was thankful. It was so satiated in happiness she believed it would last forever. But the note before her said otherwise. It had all come to an abrupt end. Perhaps that was best - as opposed to dragging it out. And for that she thought she should be thankful.

If she had one regret it was the dog. His dog. He loved that dog. But the dog didn't like her. It was like a scene from Cujo. That dog just wouldn't co-operate with all her attempts at friendship. And her possessions were a mess because "Cujo" scratched or chewed on everything.

Her eyes lowered to the post-script of her former lover's note.

"By the way I've taken the dog."

She was thankful.



Well the folks at Studio30+ posted the prompt thankful/beholden this week. …

An Out Of This World Halloween - Part Two

Grok and Klingor were in a bit of a dilemma. They knew they couldn't go around trick or treating only to suck people into Klingor's sink. Besides it was a bit of a drain on Klingor's alien abilities. Then Grok, who had transformed himself into a bathtub piped up "Hey, I think we need to rethink our approach here."

Truth be known if they had really rethought their approach they would have known just their real appearance - aliens from Gemini 7 - was scary enough.

Nevertheless, Grok proposed they run downtown to the costume shop before it closed up for the night. So off they went, passing by little trick or treaters thinking to themselves "Hey, we'd better hurry before these little runts get all the chocolate and candies. If they do we'll have come all the way from Gemini 7 for nothing."

Grog pulled out his Smart Phone and using his Google app found the address of the costume shop. Then using his Maps app he found the directions for it. They arri…

An Out Of This World Halloween

Grok and Klingor were excited as they entered earth's atmosphere. It was just a matter of days before they would celebrate their annual Halloween pilgrimage. Nothing quite like it existed on Gemini 7 and they'd discovered it's existence some years ago quite by accident.

Carved pumpkins, black cats, ghouls, witches and other decorations had caught their eye and as they sat back to take it all in giggled at the little shapes and forms of ghosts, Star Wars characters, Mini-Me's and other characters flitting from door to door in search of treats.

Neither Grok nor Klingor could figure out why they demanded "trick or treat" when no one ever asked them to perform a trick. But, hey, it seemed an easy way to load up on candies and chocolate. Thus began a 15-year annual trek to earth for Halloween.

This year, Grok and Klingor went to great lengths with their costumes. Grok decided to dress as a bath tub. It was really quite easy. All he had to do was think about it an…

Golden Days

As the sun set in the western sky He was reminded of years gone by When love filled his lonely heart And nothing could tear them apart.
Long walks along the quay Holding hands along the way A kiss a hug as the sun went down A trace of the face with a doubting frown.
She told him then that things looked bad The test results that the doctor had Discussed with her but he didn't accept What she told him - he wept.
And as the days passed into weeks He wondered if he could seek A cure of sorts, a way out But the cancer's growth left no doubt.
She told him their life together had been the best But now it was time for her to rest. She said their past was a bit of a haze But he should always remember their golden days.
And now as he strolled the beach Alone with just his thoughts within reach He recalled those golden days gone by And, unsuccessfully, told himself he wouldn't cry
The theme at Studio30+ this week is golden/halcyon. Sorry for the downer.

We Are As The Times Are - A Review

I just finished reading a book by a friend and former colleague Ken Rockburn called We Are As The Times Are. The book's a delightful, entertaining and bang-on researched history of the Ottawa coffee house Le Hibou through it's various incarnations first as a walk-up on Rideau Street, followed by another walk-up on Bank Street and finally a walk-in, if you will, on Susses Drive. That's the same street the Prime Minister lives on but that's where the comparisons stop.

Ken takes us through the various owners of Le Hibou and many of the artists that passed through its doors both as performers and paying patrons. The place started out as a showcase for local talent, largely of the folkie variety as well as poetry readings by among others Irving Layton.  It soon morphed into a blues haven showcasing such acts as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters, you name it. It's other mainstay was folk-rock and rock acts. Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Tom Rush and Van Morri…

A Blend of Bedtime Stories

John loved having his grandkids stay over for the night. He'd developed a ritual whereby they enjoyed an apple juice and a chocolate chip cookie before brushing their teeth and climbing into bed. Once they'd climbed into bed and been tucked neatly under the covers John told them a story. A blend of stories from his own childhood.

For example, he told them about the time when his babysitter, Mrs. Painter gave hime a quarter to take to the corner store and buy hamburger buns. On the way he had dropped the quarter down a pipe because he'd want to see if it would fit. After several quarters more he'd realized those quarters were all the same size. His grandkids had laughed at that one.

He told therm about the time he'd gone to see the Toronto Maple Leafs play baseball. That's right, there was a time, a long time ago, when Toronto had a baseball team named the Maple Leafs. He was so inspired he tried out for the local baseball team as a pitcher. Unfortunately, John…

Bibliography - September

I read one book in September. Scratch that I read half a book. Wait, wait, wait. Before you think I took things easy let me tell you about the book. It'a called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It's purported to be a modern-day classic. There was quite the buzz recently about Wallace as a movie about him was released, focusing on his life and suicide. It looked interesting. So I bought his Infinite Jest. It was promoted as possibly the last post-modern novel whatever that is...but it sounded good. As I waded my way through it I often time felt the jest was perhaps on me. A very difficult read. I'd put in about 2 hours a day and then put it down because I was so bloody confused by the narrative. The book weights in at over 1000 pages and while reading I Googled the title and learned hardly anybody finishes this damn book. I made it to about 52% through on my Kindle before throwing in the towel, or iPad if you will. And I did';t even look at the close to 400 endno…

It's All About the Pants

***first para to be read in a deep voice, with a hand to one ear like the guy doing v/o for a movie trailer***

In a world where global warming screws with our temperature-focused brains I stand tall - well, at least 5'10' - among my neighbours and friends and wear shorts at the crack of spring. No, that's not a euphemism for having forgotten my belt. It's an expression of optimism. You might say that in my house April showers lose long May trousers. (Yeah, I thought of that myself.)

Cargo shorts, golf shorts, cut-offs - you name it, I can't wait to expose my scrawny little legs to all and sundry not to mention all the sunshine. It's as if someone brainwashed me, like in that movie Manchurian Candidate - the one with Frank Sinatra, not Denzil Washington - into wearing shorts from May to October. Thankfully I do not cluck like a chicken.

And once I don shorts there's no going back. Let the temperature take an unseasonable dip, I'm still wearing my shorts.…

Life Is Full of Little Lessons

He immediately felt remorse for his actions. Brian didn't know why he had been so cruel to his classmate. But it had come so easily. He'd just opened his mouth and the words came flowing out. And then his former friend had cried and now Brian sat in the Principal's office waiting for his mother who had been called at work about the incident.

She immediately felt remorse for her actions. She didn't know why she'd been so cruel to her son at the breakfast table. She'd just opened her mouth and the words came flowing out. Brian had been dawdling, eating a little slowly and she had yelled at him to hurry up. And now the school was calling her about some fracas between Brian and some other little boy. What was that all about?

The Principal immediately felt remorse for his actions. He didn't know why he'd been so cruel to Brian's mother. He'd just opened up his mouth and the words cam flowing out. He spoke without thinking, criticizing her for Brian&…

A Stumping Prompt

I had absolutely no idea on how to come up with a story utilizing this week's writing prompt. I decided to go for a walk and see if I could get those creative juices flowing. I headed downtown, parked the car and started walking.

On Bank Street I was immediately surprised by the number of buskers and street performers and, while entertaining, found them to be a distraction. I couldn't concentrate amidst the cacophony resulting from the overlapping outputs of these buskers and street performers.

I walked on. I rounded the corner from Bank to Sparks Street. Now Sparks Street used to be reserved for cars. Now, though, it was an outdoor pedestrian mall and was a natural home to many buskers and street performers.

As I marched on I left a few dollars in a few open guitar cases. Some of these buskers and street performers were quite good and I wondered just what life had in store for some of them. I felt they wouldn't be buskers and street performers for long because they were …

The Name Game

Bob and Barry didn't know much about the construction business. But having inherited a significant amount of money when their grand pappy died decided to invest it in a construction firm. The first thing they thought they ought to do was come up with a slogan. You know to catch folks' eye when they searched the internet for a construction firm.

So they started bouncing ideas off of each other:

"Let's Get Hammered"

"Awl Do a Great Job"

"You Saw Us First"

"Let Us Nail You"

"We'll Ply Our Wood for You"

"We're Just Plane Good"

But none of their ideas really seemed to work.

"I dunno" said Bob. "Maybe we need to be a little more personal. Let's see. How about..."

"Our Men are Built"

"Our Guys Don't Hoot at Women"

"Woah, woah" said Barry. "Those won't work. They're sillier than the other ones we came up with.

"Oh, I'm sure you can do…

Gunther, A Master Swedish Chef

Gunther was quite pleased with himself. He'd made it to the final five of the Swedish version of MasterChef. This was the serious version of the show. There was no hint of the Muppet's Swedish Chef anywhere.

Gunther knew if he wanted to make the final two, and after that win, he had to make a special repast that would impress the judges and, in future, result in his moving on.

But he had to come up with this himself. Matilda, Bjarne, Enok and Lukas - his competitors - would be planning their individual meals too. But he had to go them one better. He had no beef with the other chefs. But he knew he couldn't be chicken about his efforts.

He set to work. When the mystery ingredients were revealed he knew absolutely what to do in the hour allowed. He knew his Kroppkakor, Swedish Meatballs and Toast Skagen required a deft touch. But he knew he was up to the challenge.

As the allotted time wound down Gunther knew he had created something special. But he wasn't sure how it m…

Bibliofile - August 2015

This bibliophile added 6 books to his bibliofile in August and it was quite an eclectic collection beginning with an old favourite, Jack Reacher, in his tenth outing in The Hard Way. Jack's not a sleuth per se but a lonely, roving bit of a tragic figure who nevertheless involves himself in cases that need solving. I always enjoy these tales.

Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman was an interesting and enjoyable read. It's a sequel to Go Kill a Mockingbird, steeped, surprisingly perhaps in southern racial overtones. The media hype around this novel was substantial so I had to see if it lived up to it. I must say I enjoyed the book much more than the hype.

A book with the unlikely title Follow The Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop Culture fulfilled my monthly music hit. This was a fascinating account of how Jac Holzman started Elektra records as a folkie label which he then grew to be the label to go to for artists of the 60s and …

Seeing Things

At first he didn't notice her. She sat several rows back in his civics class. But she noticed him. And she knew his every move in advance.

She knew he was going to McDonald's after class for a coffee and an Egg McMuffin and she knew he would spill his coffee before he had a chance to add milk and sugar.

"I knew that would happen" she whispered from behind him. He turned to look at her and smiled sheepishly as he took some napkins to wipe up the coffee.

"You did, did you?" he replied. "Well, yes" she replied. "Of course."

He smiled again as they parted. "Hmmm, nice" he thought as he walked home.

A week later he bumped into her again on the way into his civics lesson. They sat together throughout the class.

"I knew I'd run into you again" she whispered. "Really?" he replied.

"Say, what are you doing this evening?" he asked. "Could I take you out to dinner?"

"I knew you were going …

Exercise? Abs-olutely

Brad started his week with a breakfast of two sausage and egg McMuffin sandwiches. Every Monday, without fail, Brad would zip through the McDonald's drive-thru and place his order. A medium coffee, double-double would complete his meal.

Throughout the week, Brad would make himself a couple of eggs and bacon for breakfast. But on Friday he'd hit up the nearby restaurant and have two eggs over easy with sausages, potatoes and toast.

And that's just breakfast. For lunch Brad would have a sub, a burger or a couple of hot dogs. Not the healthiest approach to eating, for sure.

Brad's wife, Paula, was becoming concerned with Brad's eating habits. He was seriously out of shape and she told him so. Brad would joke "Hey, round's a shape" as he went searching for a second helping of their dinner.

But Brad knew Paula was right. And he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went for walks, bicycle rides, did stretches, push-ups and sit-ups. He was determi…

Quibble and Bits

I wish Bob could understand me. Oh, sure, he knows when to take me for a walk. The signs are unmistakable. Be that as it may, I've been good. I haven't had an accident in the house in years. But I wish he could decipher my whines and growls. Sometimes I just want to be petted. You know - be shown a little doggie love.

Or when the water bowl is empty. Hey, Bob, more water please. I'm thirsty over here.

Bob wasn't always like this. He was far more affectionate and tuned into my needs before SHE came along. SHE made Bob pay me less attention because he paid way more attention to her.

And what's with the closed bedroom door. There was a time I had free passage into the bedroom and even slept up on the bed. I don't know what's going on in there but they can sure make a lot of noise. Meanwhile, I'm stuck in the kitchen with an empty water bowl.

I''m not alone. I've compared notes with my friends at the dog run and many have the same problem. You …

Keeping Score - A Studio30+ Writing Prompt

I've reached, and may have passed somewhat, mid-life. But where is the demarcation point? I'd like to know. 40? 50? 60? Well, I've passed them all, so I'm pretty sure I've hit mid-life somewhere along the space-time continuum. And I find I've slowed down. I no longer rush here and there cramming as much as possible into a day. I relax, take my time. If I don't get to it today, I'll get to it tomorrow. So my mid-life philosophy. might be in keeping with that great Eagles tune "Take It Easy".

And that includes golf. Golf? Before you think I've just run roughshod over a non-sequitur golf is one of my mid-life activities. I started playing about four or five years ago and have been an avid player since. Avid not accomplished. I'm pretty bad truth be told but at the end of the day I'm a 100-110 stroke 18 holer.

Now people tell me that's a damn fine score for a beginner. What can I say? I keep my own score. Yeah, and I cheat. Who ca…

Bibliophile - July

Well July was a holiday month for us with Maryse and I taking the roads less travelled through New Hampshire and Maine for a couple of weeks. Needless to say I didn't get much reading done. Only two books: SJ Watson's Second Life and Neil Stephenson's Seveneves.

They were both kinda meh. The first I picked up on the strength of Watson's first effort Before I Go To Sleep which I quite enjoyed. The follow-up not so much.

I don't know how I picked up Seveneves. It may have looked interesting but I tell you it was a tough slog to get through. The premise was interesting. The moon blows apart, destroys earth, but not before a community forms in space. But it was the detailing, the minutia that really got me bogged down. And the minutia, for me, came at the expense of the character development and detracted from the actual story. Stephenson is either a researcher extraordinaire or has a very vivid imagination - or both.

Nonetheless I did finish both books but I didn'…

If I Were A Carpenter...A Studio30+ Prompt

Once upon a time there lived a carpenter who grew up in the land of Woody Hollow. He owned a horse but that really has nothing to do with this story. His mother took one look at his face when he was born and without hesitation called him Awl. As Awl grew he developed many woodworking skills and when he reached his teenage years you might say Awl possessed all the carpentry attributes necessary to live a more or less profitable life practicing such a profession.

All the residents of Woody Hollow would come to Awl with all their woodworking needs. From sideboards to chairs, from tables to picture frames. Awl made them all. He was a wizard when it came to using a hammer and saw. And if you saw what he sawed you'd say the same.

One day the Mayor of Wood Hollow, Woody Oakley, came to Awl with a request. The community fair was coming soon and a trophy was needed to award the winner of the long distance marathon which was run each year. Oakley had a piece of wood - maple - from which he…

It Ain't Over Till The Deli Lady Puns - A Studio30+ Prompt

Hi. I'm Deli Bacon. I'm not shitting ya, that's my name. You can call me bac, though, all my friends do. Get it? Call me back, return my call, you know. Anyway I work at the Deli at the Big Publix in the centre of town. And that's why they call me Deli. Could be worse. People mighta caledl me Ham Hocks or Pig's Feet or Blood Pudding or... well, you get the idea. So I'm happy to go with Deli.

I'm gonna tell you a little story and you can save your comments 'till the end. Like that great orator Kanye would say "Imma let you finish but.."

The story is about opportunity lost and how one of two brothers dealt with it.

In Balognaville, Kentucky were born to Hammy and his wife Peppi Salami twin sons. Their birth brought considerable joy to their parents and as youngsters they were doted upon. As soon as they could walk Hammy had the boys, Kyle "Basa" Salami and Frank "Furter" Salami, out in the front yard throwing a ball. Not a p…

Bibliofile - June 2015

What was with the weather in June? I went fishing in the last week of the month and it must have been one of the coolest last weeks of that month on record. But the weather didn't deter me from reading 6 more books this year and now my total thus far is 40 books.

My pace may have slipped as I've been binge-watching a lot of series on "Crave TV" lately. Things like Carnivale, HAPPYish, The Smoke, and The Fear. All quite good. Where were these series the first time around? Recent movies include This Is Where I Leave You, Still Alice, What Maise Knew and The Good Lie.

DVDs I have in reserve are the Larry Sanders Show, the updated Prisoner series and Sherlock. So lots to get to, too.

Anyway, books...in June.

Did a little catching up with Jack Reacher (One Shot) and Dismas Hardy (The Fall). I like these  detective type novels. In fact a third book was also in this vein, an unlikely novel by Stephen King called Finders Keepers, which is a continuation of his recent Mr Mer…

Driving An Automatic

How he came to be here he wasn't quite sure. He hadn't set out to be here. He was out for a drive with Dad and before he knew it here he was.

It was like he had been on auto-pilot, something instinctive or automatic that had driven him here. He laughed at his own pun because actually it had been him that had been doing the driving. And it was an automatic.

But it had all been a blur. Which wasn't good if he'd been behind the wheel. Nevertheless all seemed to have gone well because here he was, all in one piece.

"Well done" said his passenger, a portly middle-aged fellow. He jumped. Just where had the passenger come from and where was his Dad?

"I think you've passed with flying colours" said the passenger. "It's not everyone that passes on the first try".

"Passes?" he echoed.

"Your driver's test son. Your driver's test"

"Oh my God" he blurted. "If I can drive like that without paying atten…