Tuesday, November 22, 2022

This is where I came in

NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY IMBECILIC: I never doubted the existence of 
The Shelter 

When I was a kid, if I or one of my nine brothers and sisters was being particularly troublesome, my mother Huena threatened to call "The Shelter."

Without having details explained to us explicitly, we all knew it worked like thisFed-up moms called The Shelter, somebody came and took the misbehaving kids away. Simple, huh?

What's really funny is that until a few minutes ago, I have: A) Never given The Shelter a moment's reconsideration and B) Never once thought it was conceivable that The Shelter might not exist. And yup, I'm a working journalist.

Huena's shelter sounds like a Children's Aid Society in Bizarro World. 

BURT OFFERINGS: Where I learned everything I know
about banking.
There's a reason I'm telling you this. I just finished reading John Cleese's autobiography So Anyway, and one of my favourite parts is when Cleese discusses his parents' movie-going habits. Mr. and Mrs. Cleese didn't care what time they got to the cinema. If they arrived midway through a movie, they simply stayed in their seats until the next screening and watched up to the part where they came in. 

I thought, "that sounds weird." Then I thought, "we did the exact same thing, a lot."

Growing up in my hometown of Sudbury, Ont., we regularly showed up 15 or 35 minutes into a movie then stayed for the first part of the next screening. This meant waiting in the dark theatre for however long was between shows, watching the coming attractions and with luck a cartoon or two, but then settling in for the part of the movie we missed. Sometimes, we stayed to the end but mostly we walked out over and in front of the other patrons before the show was done. That doesn't happen much these days.

I just googled my brain to see if I could remember specific titles where I did this but no luck. Though two very important early cinema experiences did show up. 

The first? Mary Poppins. It's the only movie my dad ever took me to. And he did so only because my mom was hosting (hostessing?) a bridal shower for my cousin Anne at our house and all the menfolk had to skedaddle. 

BARROWS OF FUN: A feast for a nine-year-old's eyes
I'd seen the wonderful movie before; I believe with my older sister Charlene or Norma. And that was a good thing because I knew to wake my dad (who had nodded off) so he wouldn't miss the scary part. (Something just occurred to me. I bet that's why, years later, when I proudly informed him that I had not one but two real bought-and-paid-for Carleton University credits in something called Film Studies, he was a tad skeptical.)

The other early
cinematic memory? Bonnie and Clyde featuring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, as what would later be described as one of the sexiest couples in cinematic history. 

Bonnie and Clyde! The sensationally sexy couple who died in a visual orgy of blood and machine-gun fire. I was nine. 

I'm pretty sure I remember the older person who brought me but I'm not 100 per cent certain so I won't name names.

But to this day, I am in total debt to whoever it was signed off on that baby-sitting assignment. 

Not quite sure why it made me think of the Children's Aid thing though.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Welcome to the All-Saints Motel

AT DUFFY LAKE:  I can't see this picture without thinking of
 my late mother-in-law Ria's eponymous dog or my pal Duff McCutcheon.

This story begins with me screaming. 

Calling out to my daughter Ewa to save my life. 

And it's true. 

And it's got a moral. Or two.

Late August of 2019 found Ewa and me motorcycling around British Columbia; her on her marvelous single-cylinder BMW f650 and me on a borrowed 600 cc Honda Shadow. We'd left Vancouver at about 8 a.m. and spent the next eight hours riding through some of the most scenic country on the planet.

First up the Sea-to-Sky Highway past Whistler then along Highway 99 to Pemberton. We're talking a twisty hilly road that sometimes had a mountain on one side and a cliff on the other, frequently with no guardrail. We stopped at a place called Duffy Lake and then rode near Lillooet, one of the towns worst hit by forest fires that year. About suppertime, we landed at Cache Creek.  

I was tired, hungry, thirsty and very pleased with myself.

The day before, in Vancouver, I used some computer program to help reserve a motel room in Cache Creek. Because of the fires that year, I thought most space would be rented out to firefighters and others and I was right. Vacancies were scarce, but I did manage to locate one roadside place in Cache Creek. I filled in all the little boxes and my credit card number and the three-digit number on the back that I have to check no matter how many times I use it. 

EWA: Burning up the scenery

The motel was right on the main highway and when we pulled in, the only other vehicle in the lot was a white pick-up. Everybody else, I figured, was out firefighting. 

Ewa and I entered the lobby; the man behind the counter asked what we wanted; we told him we'd made reservations. He looked at his computer and shook his head. He couldn't find our names in the system. And he added that he was full up. 

Some people, in a situation like this, demand explanations. I go the other way and it usually works. I do not show how frustrated I am. No matter how steamed I might feel, I try to never react angrily. 

My M.O: Smile, like I did, and say a quick prayer to St. Gabriel the Archangel, the patron saint of diplomacy. (Look it up! He's the guy whose job was to tell Mary she was a few months gone even though she had never, well, you know.)

You'd be amazed at what you can accomplish with a bit of well-delivered malarky.

I once arrived at the United Airlines check-in gate at Pearson International Airport on my way to Houston, Texas, for work, and realized I'd forgotten all my documentation at home. No passport, no ticket; just a driver's licence. In less than a nanosecond, I channeled Gabe and miraculously came up with a busload of blarney that included the fact that if I didn't make the flight I'd get fired from my new job and even worse I'd be looking at 15 to life in the doghouse. Whatever I said worked. I made the flight. 

I knew it might in British Columbia, too.

After Mr. Clerk said he didn't have our names, I still did not challenge him. But asked if he could find some place please, for me and my daughter, to spend the night. (I know. You're thinking St. Joseph, right? I bet there's a saint out there for every desperate human condition.)

Whatever spiel I gave him worked and eventually, he found us a room and handed over a key. We parked the bikes and walked across the road and found one of the finest pizzas either of us have ever eaten at Manie's Grill and Pizza. While we waited at Manie's, I started telling Ewa about how every small-town mom and pop motel owner must hate the Hitchcock movie Psycho, because they all get compared, at one point or another to the Bates Motel.

THAT'S IT! Maybe all the other guests were 
Especially when guests are told there's no vacancies when it sure looks like there's vacancies. 

We returned to the motel, and I sat out front of the room with a beer, looking across the empty parking lot at the mountains, when around the corner comes Mr. Clerk, carrying a stack of towels to, he told me, the washing machines. He asked where we'd ridden from and told me how hard it is to get good trustworthy help. So he's doing everything around the place and his wife was at home and he actually gestured toward a house high up on hill across the road.

I could tell you lots more about the chap. He was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about world affairs and the United Nations but after 20 minutes or so it became clear that towel cleaning was not a priority. The man wanted to talk and even though we were having one of the most interesting conversations I had all week, it --and this is almost unheard of-- was me that ended the conversation. While we were conversing, I counted vehicles as they arrived at the motel and the total came to zero. 

I went in; Ewa and I laughed about the fact that I really believed there's a scene in Psycho involving Norma Bates delivering sheets but I might be remembering wrongly. But the Bates/ Cache Creek jokes ran longer than they should have, I guess.

One slender consonant away from Normal
Because at about 2:30 a.m., I woke up screaming. 

Calling Ewa's name. Mr. Nice Clerk had busted into our room and was coming at me with an axe. Typed on this computer screen, in little letters, the incident doesn't look nearly so horrible as it was. 

I was afraid down to my bones. Sweating maybe. Ewa was, on the other hand, being polite by not laughing too loudly.

Here's the thing: I believe that one's behaviour in dreams reflects how one would act in real life so now I know that if an axe murderer ever does come after me, I'm going to turn into the world-class fraidy cat that I am and might even call to one of my kids for help. Manly, I know.

Ewa is in fact very helpful; I had forgotten about that dream until Ewa laughingly reminded me of it last week. Another lesson here is, you never know what people especially your kids are going to remember and remind you of, sometimes years after the fact. So be careful. 

But finally, all that stuff about wanting all your dreams to come true? Buncha malarky.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A peek at pre-recorded history

GIVE PETE A CHANCE: Embedded journalist.

How old are you by the time you start remembering stuff? Five? Four? 

One of my earliest memories actually has me in my parents' bed, lying between my mom and dad, so I must have been awfully young. 

Then again we're talking about a youngster who -- if you're like, "Hey Siri who was the most spoiled child in all history?" Siri would respond, "Peter."  I likely slept between my parents until an unhealthily advanced age. 

Not every night. Just when I had a scary dream or there was thunder or something. 

And this just occured to me: Is there a link between my trips to Tom and Huena's bed and the fact that I was the last baby they had?

But that's not what we're here to talk about. The night I'm recalling, when I was still awake between my folks, somebody else came into the bedroom. A grown up. 

It was either my big brother Tom or his friend (a guy who worked for my dad) Charlie MacMillan. Both they and my parents are gone now so I can't phone and ask if the memory's accurate. Besides, the tiny details don't matter.  

The important thing is, the visitor had with him a briefcase-sized thing with lots of switches, some lights and two big reels of what looked like film on the side. 

Turns out it was the first tape recorder I'd ever seen. 

To demonstrate the magic Tom (or Charlie) held a microphone up to my little face and I recited this following: 

"Do you want to hear a story about Johnny McGorry? Shall I begin it, that's all there's in it." 

Then Tom (or Charlie)  made the wheels whirr in reverse,  he hit a switch, and out from the speaker came my mousey little voice, reminding the world once again that I couldn't say my r's very well and to this day I believed I have too many r's in my name. I wonder if that's why I ended up marrying a speech and language pathologist. 

 JOHN AND YOKO'S COVER VERSION of Tom and Huena in bed.

I forget the point I started out to make here but the fact that my mom and dad talked to visitors in their bedroom on a regular basis makes them sound like John and Yoko, who hosted bed-ins in the Amsterdam Hilton in Holland in Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel in an effort to bring about world peace. 

Having groups assemble in Tom and Huena's room at any time of day or night wasn't at all unusual. I remember on more than one occasion so many sisters, brothers and maybe cousins or the odd employee like Charlie MacMillan sat on and around the bed the frame actually broke and mom's mattress hit the floor.

The more I think about it, the more I know my parents had in common with John and Yoko.  

My parents were pacifists, they made babies and never fought and my dad and John Lennon were both born on Oct. 9. Also, somebody brought a tape recorder into the Yoko-Lennon bedroom too.

A couple of differences? My parents' pacificism predated Lennon's. And my mom sang beautifully.


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Rodney Frost's Scenic Route

RODNEY IN ORILLIA TODAY: That's the name of the newspaper site I borrowed this photo from.

Today is my good friend Rodney Frost's birthday. He's 85 or 86. (That detail doesn't matter between friends.)

What's important is all the stuff I want to tell you about him, and I don't want to wait until after he's dead. Because who knows? Post bucket-kick, he might not have access to my blog.

Come to think of it, this whole obituary thing is, as my late mom Huena would put it, bass ackward. We live our whole lives with a person yet only after they die do we spend money on a newspaper notice telling the world how special that person was. Why don't we do it when people are still around so they can read the nice stories? I am on to a million-dollar idea here. Pre-death obits. E-mail me at editorpeter30@gmail.com. 

Back to  Rodney: Artist slash toy builder slash garment creator slash writer slash impresario slash freelance mood enhancer  slash dad slash grandpa and loyal friend. A renaissance man who actually knows whence the phrase  renaissance man comes. (I just ran that fancy English up the flagpole to see if it works. It did not.) So many many things Rodney is, you can't really put him in a box. Until, well, you know. Like I said, that's why I'm writing about him now.

built this mechanical William Shakespeare
composing an invoice.

I met Rodney on Manitoulin Island in 1981. I was editor of the finest community newpaper I know of, the Mantoulin Expositor, and Rodney was a buggy maker and sign  painter in a village called Mindemoya and he also wrote a two-inch-long column that appeared on the back page of the paper. The column was called "Stock's Hill Scenic Route" and was some weeks the most entertaining item in the whole Expositor. I saw Rodney most recently exactly 26 hours ago (Yup! Yesterday, via zoom) when he entertained the participants in a weekly writing workshop that I've been part of for the past four-and-a-half years. 

Rodney is an idea machine.

Exhibit A: I wouldn't have thought about the pre-death-obituary thing unless I'd started this birthday blog.

Exhibit B: A long time ago, I worked at Chatelaine magazine my job included writing a one-page column every month. Six hundred and sixty six words 12 times a year. Sounds easy right?  

Believe you me, there were days when I looked at my screen and thought "okay brain, do your stuff," and my brain lay there with the blankets pulled up over its head like my brother Ed when mom tried getting him up for grade nine. And 10.

I'd stare at the blank screen and think, "Jig's up.The people who pay me are going to finally figure out I have no idea what I'm doing." 

And then, just to waste time, I'd call Rodney. Fifteen minutes later, Rodney and I would be laughing so hard we'd have to hang up and 99 per cent of the time I'd have a column idea, I'd start typing and I'd get my day's work done in the next half hour.

COLUMN AS I SEE'EM: Another collection of 666 words courtesy
of Rodney's considerable imagination, a place where everything 

I never phoned Rodney thinking, "I'm going to get a story idea;" it just happened, magically. 

One time he started telling my about a conversation he had a with a guy named Tom Hopkins and how, if you think about it for a moment, people have their exact right names. "Have you ever met a Tom," he asked, "who didn't drink?"  (That turned into a column, too.)

Something more important happened in that call, besides. Rodney clued me in--and we'd known each other for more than 20 years -- that he has always preferred to be called Rodney. Which sort of sums him up perfectly. 

I called him Rod for decades yet he never took time out from his busy schedule to tell me I was doing something he didn't like. Instead, he just put up with it. Cue Larry the Cable Guy: "That's kindness, right there!"

Rodney is intimidatingly literate. He can recite from memory poetry he learned in grade school in England. He's curious, patient and even invited me to play my accordion in two performances in Orillia. Read that again. Rodney encouraged  me to perform, in public, twice! 

Had it not been for Rodney, me being asked to play the accordion in front of an audience would have been left to wither as another item on the increasingly lengthy list of things Peter gets invited to do, once.

Rodney has two sons, Teilhard (pronounced Tay-Ard) and Andrew. Kind men both; Teilhard builds the instruments he plays. A few years ago, I was reading a book called Cold Mountain about a couple of ex-civil war soldiers trying to survive in the Smoky Mountains during a Carolina wnter and at one point, the main character tries to fashion a simple stringed instrument out of some stretched animal hide and deer sinew and I remember thinking, "he should just call Teilhard, he'd show him."

A few weeks ago,  Andrew,  a jazz (and any other genre that needs him) guitarist who actually composes music for his students to practise dropped into our house when I was away and had a splendid impromptu afternoon visit with Helena. When she recounted the story afterwards, she said, "He's so smart and charming but have you ever noticed how drop dead handsome he is??" (That is NOT something that had to be pointed out, again, Helena.)  

If my kids are ambassadors to my future like Rodney's are to his, I'll die a happy man.

I could write all day about how much Rodney has meant to my life. But A: I want to stop typing and get outside. It's a beautiful October morning.

B: I finally got the point of the story which is, I've been trying all week to come up with a blog idea.  Fifteen  minutes ago, I remembered it was his birthday, so in fact, again, I mentally summoned Rodney and voila! Inspiration! 

Then there's this. I want to tell Rodney I love him and didn't wanna wait til he's dead to do so.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Reading the signals

OLD CARTER JOKE: "Is my left signal light working?" "Yes. 
No. Yes. No," (Clever photo mashup by the author)
This might sound weird, but one of my favourite sounds in the whole world — I find it soothing and peaceful — is when I’m in a car, and the only thing I hear is the clicking of the turn signal. 

That gentle slow rhythmic ticking is like a contentment tonic. 

Warned you it was weird.

Maybe there’s something in your life like that — the smell of lavender? A  melody?  I’d love to know.

Ever  time  I hear the tick tick tick tick of the signal light, I am filled with the  sense that life cannot get any better. Complete peace. Sort  of zen-like, whatever that means.

I just figured out why.

It starts with this: In addition to my four brothers and five sisters, I have a giant extended family. For instance, my mom’s brothers were named Angus, Alex, Hugh and Stellie; her sisters were Kaye, Bertholde, Peggy and Lillian. They all had kids. Kaye had Anne, Sandy, Greg and Joe. 

Angus had a son named Angus (Little Angy, we called him) and daughters Pat, Bernie and Mary. Mom’s brother Alex had a daughter, Glenda. and sons Andrew, Sandy, Jim and Don. Mom’s brother Hugh had Sharon, Deb, Cathy, Don, Hugh and Rod. One of my aunt Lil’s daughters — Bernie, Frances, Mary, Pauline, Janet, Joan and Rose — and I’m not saying which, got me into a pub for my first under-age beer. Bless her heart.

All those cousins and I’m nowhere near halfway done. I’m sure I missed some. You'll also be happy to learn  I'm almost at the signal light part.

CARTER FAMILY VALUES: Get together as often as possible.

Stellie and his wife Kaye had Hillary, Anne, Frances,  Merle, Stellie Jr., and Gerard. (Don’t worry. There’s no quiz at the end.) Peggy had Angus, Bert and Ulva and Ulva had a Peggy, a Beth, a Jimmy, a Tim, a Ruth, and a Carl.

My family didn’t reproduce, we exponentialed.

Think about this: Every one of them counted. Each kid mattered as much as the others. 

Does your sister have a child you adore? Imagine that times, oh, I don’t know, 158.

My mom also had a ton of first and second cousins. It was hard to keep track of who was related and how. But it didn’t matter. They were all worth being related to.

This is beginning to sound like the part of the Bible with all the begats.

My dad’s one brother was Ed and his sisters were Mary, Monica, Magdalene, Leona, Bonnie and Inez. Ed was dad to Frances. Inez was mom to Nancy, Mayme, Margie, Pat, Mike and Joe. My aunt Mary’s kids were Pat, Tom, Mary and Anne. Although my aunt Monica only had one daughter, Leona, she herself went on to have Helen, Mary Frances, Laurie, Norah, Keith and Canice. Bonnie was mom to Ed and Patricia.  

Is the woman on the left (my mom's maternal grandmother)
my dad's Grandmother in law? 
My grandma  Carter had I think two brothers and a few sisters and they — as unfathomable as this might seem — appeared to love my father Tom— their nephew, as much as you love your nephews. 

One of my grandma’s brothers was Jim Vaughan. He lived in the farmhouse they grew up in, and he treated my dad like a prince which was the same way every single one of the people I mentioned earlier treated me; like a gift from God. 

My brother Tom used to spend summers on Jim Vaughan’s farm. They fussed over us. They spoiled us. They — pay attention  here — listened to us.

And you want to talk generous? My mom’s brother Hugh, also my Godfather, gave me a couple of  bucks every time I saw him. No reason.

That is how my life was. And is.

Much later when I attended Carleton University in Ottawa, my dad’s sister Mary, my Godmother,  doted on me as if I were her own. My aunt Leona not only lent me her car, she gave me gas and beer money.

But now we come to that part about the signal light.

When I was little,  my dad was self-employed and worked all the time, like a farmer. Other kids’ fathers got vacation time and went to DisneyLand or  cottages, but my dad, Tom, worked seven days a week and nights, too. 

extremely thankful my parents
begat as frequently as they did.

I am not complaining, just explaining. But here’s the thing.

All those people I listed above were not only very loving, they were extremely visitable.

Most of my mom’s family were in Nova Scotia, Sudbury and Niagara Falls. Dad’s were primarily in Sudbury and around Ottawa.

Like I said, my father worked most of the time but when a family occasion called for it, we hit the road.

With my father behind the wheel.

The very first trip I remember to Ottawa involved a funeral for one of dad’s uncles and I recall vividly seeing that the guy in the coffin had a hearing aid. The funeral director —he deserves a Nobel Prize for funeral direction — was smart enough to leave the dead man’s hearing aid in as if he still needed it.

Mostly we went to weddings and funerals and a few anniversaries.

All the events involved eating and drinking.

Especially drinking.

The alcohol intake was so ubiquitous it wasn’t even a thing. The tinkling of ice in glasses and the bottomless supply of Canadian Club and beer never struck me as alarming or cause for concern.

I certainly don’t remember anybody getting out of control or stirring up trouble. For all the drinking, I do not recall one single conflict.

In movies and  TV shows, and especially on stand-up comic routines, loud family suppers were explosive events, best  avoided and characterized by arguments, nagging and tears even.

If they happened at our family gatherings, I was oblivious.

No fights. (I don’t recall my parents arguing ever, by the way).

From Niagara Falls and the nation’s capital to Halifax, all I recall is laughing, eating, drinking, making a fuss over the kids and more laughing.

Hang in there. We're almost at the end.

We almost always traveled by car. And the drive never took less than six hours one way.

During those drives, I am sure there was talking going on in our car but I don’t remember that. I do recall, though, that there wasn’t any of music. Radio between cities consisted of static, beeps and silence. Nobody had a tape deck.

During daylight, at least we could look out the window. Maybe even play a little game with the dirt on the windows, keeping a speck riding above the power lines along the side of the highway. Or if it was nice out, you could stick your arm out the window and let your open palm surf in the wind.

VROOM WITH NO VIEW: The endless highway
went on forever.
But after the sun set, the only thing we saw were the headlights of oncoming cars and trucks and there
were far fewer vehicles on the road than there are now, so frankly, after dark, the car was deathly boring.  

Again, I'm not grousing. Just that the later the night went on, the longer the drive seemed. 

The ride there, as Hank Williams Jr. would put it, got ‘teejus.”

No sounds, not much light.

But then. At some point--the click click click of the signal light.

Dad was slowing down and we were pulling off the road. We’d arrived. (Funny how I always associate it with left turns. I think that’s because we made a left off the Trans Canada into Ottawa.) It might have been a motel in the nation’s capital or Niagara Falls.

The long drive was over and we arrived at a place where I was about to be showered in love.

My wish for everyone is that they have a signal light in their life.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

No place like Om

THE SANGHA SONG: Harpreet thinks I could teach a course
in funny.

Here's something I never thought I'd write: My meditation guru, Harpreet Sangha, asked me how I find humour everywhere. Harpreet says he thinks I have a talent for brightening up otherwise serious situations and that I might be able to actually teach other people how to do the same thing.  

I've since spent hours on the question, hours that could have been wasted on household chores, visiting the sick or exercising. And I found the answer.

At this point you're probably thinking, "'You just said 'my meditation guru?' Who are you and what have you done with Peter?"

But nope.

Harpreet Sangha. Doesn't have long grey stringy hair and or frizzy beard; in fact Harpreet's about half my age and possibly the most flexible person I've ever met or even seen. He can get his body pretzely or stand on his head and make it look effortless. He's all Adidas sweats and snazzy sneakers and he sports one souvenir tee I'm kinda jealous of; from Rishikesh India, which is like the Vatican for Catholics. Or The Brickyard for Indycar racing fans. 

Guruing is also Harpreet's moonlight gig. To feed his family Harpreet's a sales manager at the same company I work for. He writes a blog that you can read if you're on LinkedIn. 

But enough about the young successful, handsome agile, fit, very bright and good-hearted Harpreet

Back to me and my quest for the holy joke. 

Which started with Harpreet. In January of 2019, word went around our office that one of the sales guys was offering a once-a-week lunchtime yoga and meditation session. Everybody should try everything once (or as my late brother Ed said: "Once is research, twice is perversion.")  I signed up. 

The session met the only two criteria that dictate whether or not I continue with any activity: It was easy and fun.

 POSTER CHILDREN FOR MATURITY: My family at a memorial service for Ed

A month and change later, we were all sent to our room for two years. In my case I was sent to my son Michel's old bedroom, which became my office.

Harpreet took the lunchtime exercises on line, volunteering his time, so almost every Thursday around noon if you looked into Michel's bedroom window, you'd see me sitting with my eyes closed, sometimes even going "Ommmmm."  (I used to say that in Michel's room before meditation, too, but it was followed by "I God!" But that's fodder--see what I did there?--for another blog.) 

In August of this year, my deep-thinking friend and colleague, Jean Hammell asked a very silicon-valley question:  

"What would happen if a bunch of people at LexisNexis meditated 15 minutes a day, every morning for a month?" (P.S. Don't worry. I'm almost at the answer to the joke question.)

Our company, LexisNexis is a division of an outfit called Relx, which has--get this--about 33,000 employees around the globe. Harpreet, Jean, a lawyer and do-gooder named Jay Brecher and I spread the word about the 15-minute sessions and so, every workday since Sept., 1, thanks to miraculous  technology called Microsoft Teams, we can be found meditating online alongside colleagues in Manila, Dubai, South Africa, Colombia, England, the Netherlands, all over the U.S.A., and even downtown Carleton Place, Ont., which is where Jean lives. 

Most people, when I tell them about this experiment, say "wow!" or "amazing!" or "Is that really you Peter?"

But when I told my sister Norma, the very first thing she said was, "And I suppose everybody starts singing?" 

Norma was of course referring to that old '70s coke commercial "I'd like to teach the world to sing."

If she hadn't come up with a smartass response, I would have checked her I.D.  Because that's the way we Carters converse. 




It's also the answer to Harpreet's question about finding the funny everywhere. 

All you have to do is grow up in a family like mine.

When you're raised in a three-bedroom house with a dozen or so kin plus an assortment of  boarders, overnight visitors or itinerant relatives, you joke to survive. Evolution weeds out the soft spoken and/or the  polite. If you weren't funny you'd starve to death. Or worse, not get laughs. And you have to be prepared to talk over other people and get talked over. Interrupting is not impolite, it's mandatory

It's full-time, this talking, not listening and performing verbal ledger-du main which is a word I've never even tried to use before but it sure came in handy there. Generally speaking, if you catch one of us in a rare moment of  silence and not interrupting, it's only because we're waiting for you to finish talking.

JUST CUZ: Rose'n'me. Back when the world was in black&white
To whit (I'm killing me here): Suppose my sister Mary is talking about re-upholstering furniture (a skill she picked up recently, much to her credit). It might look like I'm, whatchamacallit, listening. But no. I'm mentally Googling upholstery-related words so no matter what Mary says, I will respond with, "I guess that about covers it." 

Exhibit B: My first cousin Roseanne Rice. I'm the youngest of 10;  Rose's the youngest of seven. She lives in Halifax and any conversation with Rose is a tip-toe through a funny story minefield.

Here's me and Rose on the phone last week. We were discussing how we youngests feel we alway have to do what our older siblings and cousins tell us.

Me: "We don't have to do what they say you know. We can sometimes... "

Rose cut me off..

And then said five words that have never before been uttered or even considered by any individual who shared so much as a scintilla of Rose's and my DNA, and I'm going way back to the highlands of Scotland and boglands of  Ireland or wherever we stem from.

 Roseanne said:

"Sorry. I spoke over you."

I was like, "What did you just say?"

Rose. "That's right. I apologized for speaking over you. I've been practising with my sister. Isn't that just the sweetest?"

She started explaining but I interrupted.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Where we learn to do wishing well

Insert your own "sharin'" pun here.. 

“Do you think,” I asked my wife Helena, “that wishing works?” 

 Helena: “Huh?” 

Me: “If you want something really really badly, do you think wishing -- with all your might -- helps?"

Her, with not even a nanosecond's hesitation: “No.” 

She then said she remembered wishing for lots of things when she was a little girl and most of them never happened. 

“So what?" I should have said at the time but didn't because I just thought of it now. "I’ve sure gone fishing a lot but way most times I didn't catch anything. Does that mean fishing doesn’t work? No, it does not." 

For the record, we were having this conversation just yesterday, in our black Volkswagen Beetle; a.k.a, the only car the very design of which makes people smile. We were stuck in heavy traffic on the expressway between our home in Toronto and my cousin Sharon Van Noort’s place in Niagara Falls. Sharon is one of my favourite people; she and her husband of 42 years, 11 months and a few days Rob run a flower business in a village called Virgil, Ontario, and I wish only good things for  them and their spectacular family for the rest of their lives. I'll tell you about the purpose of our visit in another blog but right now, that's beside the point.

I told Helena the wishing thing reminded me of a famous wishing experiment that she had probably never heard of before.

I filled her in.

of acid-heads trying to get some exorcise.
Back in the '60s,  a bunch of anti-war hippies thought that if they surrounded the Pentagon in Washington and concentrated hard enough, they could levitate the building 30 feet in the air and, as they put it, "exorcise" it. 

I am not making this up. A few hundred thousand well wishers (see what I did there?) attended.

As I understand it, the hippies hoped to ring the Pentagon but security officials didn't let them. Many believed the success of the levitation depended on the hippies forming a complete circle. That did not  happen. So, the levitation never occured.  As I said to Helena, "Who knows what might have happened? Right??"

Then she asked, why the heck would I know this? 

Easy answer. I had all sorts of older brothers and sisters and cousins who told me important stuff I needed to know. I knew about hippies before other kids my age did. And Woodstock and Lenny Bruce. I was (many might say am) the luckiest human who ever walked this planet. My family spoiled me something perfect. In fact, six days ago Helena and I were walking through the Courage My Love vintage store in Kensington Market and I spotted a little boy's cowboy shirt that resembled a get-up that belonged to five-year-old me. "When I was a kid," I commented, "if I wished for something I never had to ask twice!" 

She reminded me of that after I had finished tellling her of the failed levitation experiment.. 

Also, I should mention, by that time, traffic had cleared and we were back to highway speed, heading to Sharon's.

Me (I have to admit I was pretty happy about the traffic moving along and it showed with the way I was gesturing): "See Helena? See that? Back when I asked if you thought wishing worked, I was wishing hard for the traffic to clear up! 

And look!"

Her: "And I wish you'd drive with at least one hand on the wheel." I stopped gesturing. Resumed the 10-to-two position. 

Ha. About 12 minutes earlier, she'd said wishing didn't work.