Sunday, May 26, 2024

Coffee Story for a Sunday Morning

A few years ago I read Norman Lear's autobiography Even This I Get to Experience. The late great film and television producer produced an easy and informative read. The book is full of memorable stories, with the following being one of my favourites:

Lear had a conflicted and complicated relationship with his father, Hyman ("Herman"), but he had some fond memories of his upbringing. One such memory is how his father would get up in the morning and savour his cup of coffee. (Herman loved life and lived it to the fullest ― including a few years in the slammer when Norman was a child.)

Many people are forever looking for the secret to a happier life. Maybe part of the answer is on the table in front of them.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Bottled Inspiration? I Asked

Does alcohol help the creative juices flow? I asked this very question six years ago, and I will ask it again, even if I'm more aware of the only answer possible. Like many people who write I probably work better with caffeine. I have no memory of writing while consuming alcohol. Oh... I do. Over pints of beer I did a major rewrite of a troublesome script of mine: no more than a couple frosties per pub-based writing session. To be perfectly honest, the rewrite produced a much better script. Inspiration, not inebriation.

When Charles Bukowski was around he probably could answer that question faster than he could put back a full bottle of wine at one of his poetry readings. (Very fast.) He never stopped at one full bottle. The guy must have been prickled!

Some regular readers here might say to my claim that I don't write over beer or wine: "Coulda fooled me." Quantity, not quality.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Picturing: Planters Welcome at a Walmer Road Church

This morning, while walking up Walmer Road here in Toronto's beautiful "Annex" neighbourhood after getting a Tim Hortons coffee, something caught my peripheral vision: milk crate planters... lots of them... rows of them. Seedlings are beginning to sprout at the east end of Walmer Road Baptist Church. It's a beautiful day here in the city: warm in the sun; cool in the shade; with much greenery.

Those crates will soon harbour a sea of green.

Victoria Day: HMS Victoria

As it's Victoria Day here in Canada, and another lovely day here in the great city of Toronto, I thought it might make some sense for me to post something with the name "Victoria" on this beautiful day. A few years ago I read a fine book titled Castles of Steel - Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert K. Massie, the amount of detail brought to life by a wonderful sense of story-telling is most impressive.

John Rushworth Jellicoe (1859 – 1935) was Admiral of the Fleet in Britain's Royal Navy during "The Great War" (better known today as World War I); Massie spends some time giving background to "Jack": Guys like Jellicoe did, and still do, their time on a series of warships before reaching the top office. One vessel on which he served in the late 1800s was HMS Victoria; and he almost drowned after the ship was accidentally punctured by another. When the 'bang' happened Jellicoe was in bed with a dysentery-induced 103 degree (Fahrenheit) fever. He ran up to the deck to see what had happened. Not long after he began to help fellow sailors abandon the sinking Victoria, the once-mighty battleship started to capsize. In the name of "every man for himself" the executive officer fell off the side and into the sea. As Jellicoe noted in a letter he wrote to his mother after the close-call: "The curious thing is that my temperature today is normal, so the ducking did me good."

This hull-head was not familiar enough with that Royal Navy vessel, so, naturally, I consulted Wikipedia: 

On it I saw a photograph that I had initially believed to be a contemporary painting. The image has a painterly quality, making my error understandable. It is a lovely, multi-textured photograph ― taken in 1888....

Friday, May 10, 2024

Quote: Author Tom Holden on the Creative Type

“For some reason in our modern, sterile and sometimes harsh world, creativity is something that is frowned upon. Never be ashamed of this talent ― it marks you out as different from huge swatches of the population.”


Monday, May 6, 2024

Notes from a Brat: RCAF Hercules ― Trips of Notes

A "flip" on a Canadian Armed Forces CC-130 Hercules built some of my fondest memories. As a military "dependent", or "brat", one gets occasional lifts on transport aircraft. In my case, a trip to England from West Germany, and back again, involved hopping onto a Herc.

Kids, brat kids, don't care about the luxury of a commercial airliner as much as the raw and open power of four Allison turboprops propelling noisily a military transport aircraft. During takeoff, especially, the racket is invigorating. But, my mother hated it. I can still picture her sitting opposite me. She slumped in her seat, obviously hoping the flight would be brief.

I remember a flight back to West Germany out of Gatwick Airport. The aircraft was packed: service people and their families, and individuals, occupying all available seating ― there is no designated seating on a Herc, by the way; no seat 12A. As a matter of fact, the seats would be better described as "webbing". As I sat against the forward starboard bulkhead, the flight suddenly, and without any warning, became a joy ride. We shot straight up from our seats and seconds later we were dropped with great force back down. Mere inches from my right foot a blur and a great sound: "Clack-cla-ClackClack!" The tethered cargo retaining shackles that were normally affixed to the bulkhead immediately beside me had also risen during the aircraft drop, but instead of falling back into position, they fell to the floor, missing me... barely. I asked my dad years later about that incident. He remembered it, too:

"If those hadda hit you there would've been hell to pay."

"What happened?"

"The loadmaster wasn't doing his job."

My sister served in our Forces for a few years in the 1980's. She was stationed for some time at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. "Maple Flag", a training exercise, is hosted at the base every summer. A participant in these games is the Hercules. One day a compatriot asked Karen if she wanted to jump on board. She said yes.

During Maple Flag, Hercs will execute a series of evasive maneuvers. This process involves the pilot (a "Herc Driver") putting his or her machine into various attitudes: skids; power back; power full; turns; and so on. The idea is you are being attacked and such changes in the aircraft's flight attitude increases your chances of survival. During the twists and turns, flares are dropped in order to help 'confuse' any intercepting missiles.

It was hot. The Herc flew its special maneuvers over prairie fields. Karen started to feel unwell. It was too much for her system; too much to take. It was bound to happen.

As she held the special receiving bag in front of her mouth, she unloaded. A steady stream of stomach contents. A crewmember rubbed her back.

The aircraft landed back at the base. Karen: "The most humiliating part was I had to carry my bag of vomit off the plane."

I asked her recently who the crewmember was. "It might have been the flight engineer." I doubt it. He would have been in the cockpit, with the pilots. It was probably the loadmaster.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Leafs Fans Fail Leafs History

"Go ahead, sir. I'm in no rush."

My offer went appreciated but ultimately rejected.

The bloke explained his position: "I'm in no rush, either. There's no Leafs game to watch tonight."

I told him that I'm old enough to have remembered the last Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup victory had I seen it, but I was living overseas in 1967. My memory was in full swing by that point.

As I explained to the gent, "I could tell people that I saw the Leafs win the Stanley Cup". (What a claim that would be. With beer and pretzels.)

Then depression set in. That was a long time ago!

Sorry, Leafs fans. Fallen to the cracks of history.

Leafs Fan Perspectives

Some readers could be forgiven for getting the unmistakable impression that I don't like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, that 'storied' NHL club was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins ― stopped from participating in the race for professional team sports' most beautiful championship trophy, the Stanley Cup. Yet again. When I got an alert indicating the game's final score, I celebrated immediately: I had a cigarette.


As I'm prone to say at times: "Perspective!"

A story about this hockey fan in 1971....

In April of that year, deep in the National Hockey League playoffs, I, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason, was hopeful for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team in eternal question was playing against the New York Rangers, a good, solid club, and one coached by the great Emile Francis.

The date was April 15th, it was game 6 of the quarter final round between these two members of the "original six". The Rangers led the best-of-seven series by three games to two.

Overtime: This match, tied at 1-1, was resolved with venomous brutality when a Rangers player (Jean Ratelle? Walt Tkaczuk?) scooted down the ice over the Leafs blue-line, through a hapless Leafs defenceman (Jim McKenny?), and snapped off a quick shot. Goaltender Jacques Plante shot out his right leg, he stretched out his toes, but failed to stop or deflect the smoking disc-shaped piece of vulcanized rubber from fulfilling its Nomad-like programming. The next event was more acoustic in nature; the sound of what happens after a speeding 6-ounce hockey puck motions past a Leafs goalie at such a critical time in the NHL season. "Clank!!!"

(Forever Futility.)

I did my job quite well: I was a pro. I (got a wee bit upset).

My dad laughed, no doubt amused by a hockey-loving kid who had yet to snap out of a silly phase. I can still picture him, to my right, getting a kick out of my "upset". Translation: "Kid, it's just a bleedin' game. It means absolutely nothing in and among the grand schemes of life." (My dad was right, of course; except when his beloved Habs lost.)

For decades I've asked myself the question: "Why?" Not the question of why a Leafs goalie would fail to stop or deflect an ice hockey puck, which even an answer of "42" could not explain away, but why I would waste allegiances on a total, complete, absolute, non-achiever. This memorable match had played out mere weeks after my 10th birthday, and after the Leafs team began to brush up on all the interesting local golf courses and beer halls, I would, in guided prescience and with great leaps of maturation, shoot my affections to the Montreal Canadiens. This would pay off ― sorry for the spoiler, young ones ― and my reaction this time around would be one of: Joy.

Toronto-based sports journalist Peter Gross reported on the wireless this morning that the Toronto Maple Leafs are just one loss away from being "mathematically eliminated" from making the playoffs this year.

This cynic must admit: That loosey-goosey sports organization has been improving since 1971. By way of avoiding playoff games on a regular yearly basis they spare many a 10-year-old from having certain hopes and, more importantly, breakdowns. And from having anything of relevant interest to write about 53 years later.

(Replay: "Claaaaank"!)

Flash Poem: Whither Leafs? (Fields of Evergreen)

Whither Leafs?
To where does a withered Leaf fall?

To the manicured green grasses below
of course....


Simon St. Laurent

A Toronto Maple Leafs Yearly Celebration

Last night the Boston Bruins eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL playoffs. This is a tradition... a "Boston Tea Leaf Party".

"Into the harbour!"

Post-season analysis, a tradition with pundits and Leafs-fans alike:

"The Leafs have some issues to address before they can promote themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders"... "It was a fine regular season run but it goes to show you the playoffs are a much tougher league"... "All those young Leafs players have to be convinced it's important to carry their play from the regular season into the playoffs"... "It's been said the playoffs separate the men from the boys; an aphorism which required but a few games to entomb a certain club in ice"... "The facts are incontrovertible: the Toronto Maple Leafs' icebound scramblings were not good enough."

Friday, May 3, 2024

Quote: Cats on Countertops

"Yeah, they sure are convenient, aren't they?"