Wednesday, February 24, 2021

An update on Iris’ vital signs.

UP TO SCRATCH: Ready, Iris, ready.

As regular readers (ha-ha) of Petes Blog&Grille know, for the past three years, Professor Iris Cat (“Iris”) has been sitting behind a message board in the front window of her house in the southwest corner of Toronto.

You read right. Three years. We know this because the signs started about the same time as Iris’ sign guy started his new job at  The Lawyers Daily and this week  marks the completion of his third year there. 

Regular readers might have also noticed that Iris’ messages don’t change as fast as they used to. In fact, as we write this, Iris has not been to the window in over two weeks. At least she wasn’t in the window when her official photographer was around to grab a picture. So a sign sits in the window, waiting for her to give it her royal assent, as it were. (This, boys and girls, this is called foreshadowing.)

To find out what’s up with Iris, Pete’s B’sB&G caught up with her and conducted this impossibly ridiculously childish time-wasting pretend interview..

P’sB&GIris Cat Iris Cat where have you been?” (Ibid. foreshadowing)

IrisJust slowing down is all. Who isn’t? Thinking about making a change or two.”

P’sB&G: How’s the health?”

P’sB&G: Purrfect.

P’sB&GSo what’s up?”

Iris: Good question. You see, I was thinking I’d maybe step down from the chair, maybe get in some volunteer service cat hours; I was looking at a place in Elliot Lake, maybe take a course in yeowling, but then this huge opportunity sort of reared its head.” 

P’sB&G: Opportunity?”

IrisYou might have heard Justin Trudeau’s looking for a new Governor General.” (Note to our beloved American readers. A governor general is the queen's representative in Canada.A very important but non-elected job. Sort of like being Oprah.)  

P’sB&G: You’re kitten!”

Iris: Not bad. But I'm as serious about this as I’ve ever been about anything.”

DRESSED FOR DOODY: Litter
Carrier number one, on left, during an 
earlier visit to Government House.  

P
sB&G: The G-G's job?”

Iris: Pourquois paw? I think I'm more than qualified. I'm very good looking. Did you ever notice I have two different coloured eyes?”

PB&GBeing the G-G’s about more than appearances.”

Iris: If you say so. But I have very loyal and diligent staff that can tend to the day-to-day stuff. You would not believe the things I can get my people to do. They’ve been known to get into their car on a snowy day and drive across town to Costco to buy kitty litter. For me! If that's not loyalty I don't know what is. And the guy who writes these signs? He's been to Government House already and knows where the bathrooms are. I think we are good to go.”

PB&GMight you be doing this just so you can make a purroguing Parliament joke?”

Iris: I'm feline very good about this.”



Monday, February 15, 2021

Why am I so bad at arithmetic? Do the math

A ED FOR NUMBERS:  How can
you show your work when
it's in your head?

Until about 15 minutes ago, I blamed my big brother Ed for my lousy relationship with math. It's a sort of weird grudge that I never told him about, so he'll only learn if he reads this, but I'm here to report that my dismal arithmetic and math skills might not be Ed’s fault, after all. 

Before I explain, I should tell you about Eddie the math wiz. 

 Ed is 29 months older than me. (I’m actually proud of myself for doing that bit of arithmetic just now). 

He was two grades ahead of me and always made arithmetic look easy. Ever since I can remember, Ed could wow us all by rhyming off his times tables and doing complicated math equations in his head. 

The only reason you've not heard of Ed going on to win a Nobel Prize for math was his misfortune years later of winding up in the class of one very determined Sudbury High School grade 10 teacher who insisted “showing your work” was just as important as getting the right answer. 

Teachers liked "showing your work." I seem to remember Eddie and that particular teacher arguing the matter to the point where Ed wasn't welcome in class any more. I forget. I'll ask Ed later.

Ed went on to earn a philosophy degree and I believe he would still argue that having the right answer is way more important than showing your work. Besides, how can you show your work when it’s all done in your head the way he did it? (Teachers were also big fans of “buckling down,” another life lesson my mom and dad forgot to teach us.) 

I’m pretty sure it was that math teacher who squelched Ed’s love of math. 

But back to me. 

It's discouraging having a math wiz older brother like Eddie.

Plus I was the youngest of 10 and very spoiled. From the time I was born, older brothers or sisters looked out for me and if I ran into a problem, they did their best to help me fix it.  They still do.

So, to this day, faced with a difficult task that I don't have to have to do, I simply won’t. 

And I did okay in grades one and two arithmetic. In grade one, our teacher was the very little and very kind Mrs. Beckett.  The grade two teacher at St. Albert’s was a tall slender woman who went to our church and always sat up on the right hand side near the exit, Miss Winnie Trainor. 

We’ve all had aunts like Miss Trainor and she knew our mom and dad and I think Eddie might have been one of her favourite kids.

Come grade three. 
ED BADGE OF COURAGE: The stories he told...


When I was five or six years old in grade one, eight-year-old Ed returned home at lunch times and after school like the wounded soldier with the blood-soaked bandage wrapped around his head in Red Badge of Courage. Ed terrified me with tales of what unfolded in school that day. 

The stories went on all year.

The grade three teacher’s name was Miss Girolametto (we always knew whether our teachers were married or not). Miss Girolametto (pronounced Jerl-a-metto) was cut from different material than Mrs. Beckett or Trainor. Eddie said that she was so drill-seargenty that he suspected Miss Girolametto was in fact Mister Lametto. 

Failing grade two on purpose seemed like a reasonable plan. 

Time passed. Eddie moved on up through Mrs. Donovan’s class on to Mrs. Jordan. 

 I got to grade three. 

And it was there — in Miss Girolametto’s class — where any remaining enthusiasm I had for math fizzled out. 

Except. It wasn’t because of the tough teacher. 

It seems to me that, that year, a horrible concept was inserted into the school curriculum: The math problem. 
ONE SOLUTION TO THE ST.ALBERT PROBLEMS:
(Photo by Chuck Swinden stolen from Sudbury.Com)

Math problems. 

Completely made-up dilemmas, created for the sole purpose of giving young boys and girls something hard to do. 

Mrs. Beckett and Miss Trainor, they were all about solution. 

But problems? How mean can you get?  Take entire groups of happy little kids who just want to play and give them problems to solve?  

 “Johnny has six apples and he has to give his sister Polly two so how many does he have after that?”

My parents didn’t raise us to invent problems. It wasn’t Miss Girolametto who was cruel, it was the world. 

Creating problems for the sole purpose of solving them seemed just evil.

I don’t get it. I better ask my big brother Ed. I know can count on him.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Where we will teach you how to rock

STREET VIEW: Pre-Google
I know it sounds a bit nutty but every morning before work, I sit in a wooden rocking chair in our living room for about half an hour. 

And just rock. 

Monday to Friday. After breakfast. 

After I do the cat litter and/or take out the recycles. 

After I’ve read all the parts of the Toronto Star that I’m going to read. 

Sometimes I’ll have music playing softy while I rock, and some mornings, I’ll sip tea or coffee. 

But I don’t read or touch my phone or laptop. I simply rock and look out at the street. 

I’ve been doing it almost every weekday for the past three months. 

Not only is it relaxing, rocking's educational, too. I'll explain in a bit, but first you have to know that, yes, Iris the cat gets a piece of the (in)action.

Iris, in the early days of my rocking adventure, realized she can take advantage. 
MEMO TO SELF: Can Iris's sign guy not come
up with a Cat Ballou pun?

If you could see into our living room at, say, 7:10 a.m., while I'm still in the kitchen downing a peanut-butter-and-banana-on-toast sandwich, you’d see Iris waiting, leaning against the left leg of the rocking chair, the same way the drunk gunslinger Kid’s Shaleen’s horse leaned against the saloon in Cat Ballou.

Iris knows that when I rock, my left hand dangles down beside the chair so she can indulge herself by skulking back and forth under my outstretched fingers, effectively getting free skritches. 

But beyond that? The only muscle I need to rock is in the calf of the leg the other leg is crossed over.

The chair almost rocks itself. 

I like it best when the rocker happens to be astride a slightly squeaky floorboard, so my rock sounds like a slow metronome. 
LADY IN WAITING: Iris
has me chair trained.

As inevitable as Iris is that every morning now, I think a lot about my grandmother Carter, who I lived with during my first year of university. She rocked. 

Mary Bridget (Mayme) Carter, who died at 99, also had a ticking chiming clock on the mantle, which rang out the same Westminster chime that the clock we have in our front hall sings, every 15 minutes. (That’s how I know when my rock is done and I have to get to work.) 

When she was a young woman in the Ottawa Valley, where she grew up, she was a dance teacher. She married a man named Pat who was 18 years older than her and they lived on a farm in a tiny crossroads called Huntley, Ontario. She gave birth to seven kids; lived through two world wars, and the Great Depression.Mayme witnessed the arrival of air travel, electric stoves (which she distrusted at first) and microwave ovens. I also have a feeling that sometimes she cheated when we played euchre, but not much.

She was in her early 90s when I lived with her and she never let me leave the house without money in my pocket—she’d ask “do you have any spondooniks” which is such an arcane reference to money that it stumps Google. (Google did remind me, though, that the name Peter means rock.) 

One thing about Grandma Carter is that right up to the end, her mind stayed in very good shape. That keeps me hopeful about my own. I also wonder if the rocking chair contributed to her acuity.
CHAIR OF THE UNBORED:
There's nothing tedious about thinking.

Another thing? Before I started rocking, I wondered, a bit sadly, how bored she must have been, sitting rocking all those hours. 

Now that I’ve discovered the joy that can be had simply rocking, I don’t feel bad for Grandma Carter any more.

Especially when she had all those memories to enjoy.

Finally, I believe my daily rock has, without my planning it, replaced my morning commute, which I miss a lot. 

Going to and from my office was recess from life. No reading, no scrolling, just sitting in a very comfortable chair in an air conditioned car. For sometimes up to an hour. Sometimes listening to music. Thinking. 

Sounds luxurious right? Grandma Carter knew a thing or two.

Just sitting, thinking. It just might keep me on my rocker.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

How my mom taught us to pray (The Extended Pray version)


Many evenings after supper when I was growing up in Sudbury, if you visited our three-bedroom house where my parents raised 10 kids, there's a good chance you would have found all the occupants of the house on their knees, in the living room, saying the rosary.

Sounds sort of solemn, ritualistic and, well, kinda culty, doesn't it?

RAD DECOR: All living room structures could
serve as prayer propper-uppers

That's because it was. 

And the more I think about it, the more I understand the life lessons those evening prayers taught me. (Not the least of which is, if you're having trouble getting your grown kids to move out, you might wanna think about including rosary recitation in your daily routines. Just sayin'.)

But really, before telling you how "the Beads," as we called it, affected us, a few explanations are in order.

First. When I say the whole family, fact is, I can't really remember a time when everybody lived at home. 

My oldest brother Pat moved out shortly after I was born, two of my older sisters Mary and Bertholde went away to school early and by the time I was old enough to know anything, my second oldest brother Tom was in the working world. I'm also certain that other evenings, if, say, my older sisters Charlene or Norma or brothers Alex and Ed knew the rosary was a-comin', they'd find something else to do.

But never mind that. Mom's rosaries didn't need a quorum. Whoever was in the house was enough.

And neither was the rosary a nightly occurrence. It just seemed that way.

Some evenings, I imagine my mom (her name was Huena) employed the rosary as a way to quieten down the house.

And it unfolded thusly: Mom would lasso whoever was present with something along the lines of "it's time to say The Beads." So everybody--including visitors never mind if they weren't Catholic--gathered in the living room and knelt down in front of some furniture. 

It was pretty random. 

I'M PRAYING the company that posted this great image on
the web wouldn't object to my using it. But just to cover my
bases, here's their sitehttps://www.rcrosaries.com/about.html.

Two of us might kneel at the either end of the couch, somebody else'd get down beside a footstool or maybe against the back of a straight-backed chair. 

The lights got dimmed. And there we'd stay for the next 15-to-20 minutes, praying.

I'm sure that over the years, more than one unscheduled early evening visitor was taken by surprise by this scene, which I think looks like what they found under the ashes at Pompeii. I remember one night the cops showed up for some reason. That did not deter Huena.

Once we were all on our knees, my mom or dad subtly cued us to make the sign of the cross, or, as we called it, bless ourselves. (It's what the Dominican baseball players do as they step up to the plate.)

After we blessed ourselves, the "Beads" included the following opening prayers, always in the same order: The Creed, which we called "The I Believe in God," the Lord's Prayer, (we never called it that. It was always "The Our Father"), three Hail Marys (for the non-Catholics out there, this is where the popular phrase "throwing a Hail Mary" comes from. You're welcome.) and those three Hail Mary's would be followed by the "Glory Be!" 

SHIITE CATHOLIC: That's how comic Jim Gaffigan describes 
his wife Jeannie. Me and my dad (above) approve.
I should explain that this was a group effort. One person in the room would be chosen to lead the prayers, which mean he or she would say the first half of all the above prayers and then the others would recite the second parts.

After those five prayers were said came the main part of The Beads.

First, the leader would say the Our Father and everybody else in the room would recite the second half. 

(This is way more complicated than I thought it would be.)

Then, the leader said the first half of the Hail Mary and the group would answer with the second half and then that would happen--I hope you're sitting down--10 whole times. In a row.

Finally, after all those Hail Marys, the leader recited the first half of the Glory Be, as in, and I quote: "Glory Be to that Father, Son and Holy Ghost" and the crowd responded: "As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end amen." 

Do you realize how long it's been since I recited that? 

And there it was, up in my frontal brain lobe, right beside the first verse of  "Gilligan's Island!" 

I should also add that I, personally, didn't mean a word of it. I had no idea what the vast majority of the words we were saying meant. But that's neither here nor there. At that point, the leader--a role that was sometimes passed around in mid-rosary--repeated that series of 12-prayers five times.

Are you counting? We're up to more than 60 prayers. Said out loud. On a regular basis, in our living room. After all that praying, I'm pretty sure we could be as bad as we want and still get to heaven.  But I digress.

Those five verses of prayers were called the "decades" of the Beads, and I just remembered that sometimes, mom or dad would remind us that they each corresponded to something call the "Mysteries" of our faith: The Five Glorious mysteries; the five Sorrowful mysteries, The Five Joyous mysteries, and two more that I forget, the same as I forget the second verse of Gilligan's Island.

And after the five decades? 

Even more prayers but these involved nowhere as much audience participation. In fact, that part of the rosary, I was pretty much on cruise control for. That last part involved long complicated prayers that only the adults knew.

Here's a coincidence you'll greet happily. Not only did those big prayers bring the rosary to a close, they also finally brought us to the reason I'm telling you all this.

This Christmas, my lovely and thoughtful cousin Nancy Fulsom, whose mom was my dad's sister, sent us a Christmas card and printed on the front was one of those long complicated adult prayers that punctuated the rosary. 

It won Christmas.

HAIL NANCY: The card that won Christmas

The moment I saw the words, I was filled with a flood of wonderful memories. Here's a word: Verklempt. I think it means all colours of emotions.

The card was such a heartfelt gift, we're keeping it on display in our living room. 

When I look at it, I hear my dad's very unique manner of introducing the Hail Holy Queen, all those years ago..." 

"HAIL HOLY queen..." Tom intoned, like a Catholic Imam, alerting us all to the fact that we were now in for some long complicated and frankly, boring prayers that we'd never learn the words to.

And now, it's probably safe to tell you I very often mumbled during that part of the beads, pretending to know what I was praying about. 

I used to do the same thing when I was an altar boy at St. Clement's Church. We were supposed to know a bit of  Latin. I knew none.

But there were a few prayers the priest recited the first part of and we altar boys knelt angelically in front of him, our hands together and heads bowed, pretending to say something. 

All we knew was the right number of syllables and lines. It seemed to do the trick.

It's a skill that came in handy in life. 

I pretend to know stuff a lot.

 


Friday, January 1, 2021

A cold hard truth: Lots of us can't hold our licker


MA BIG SOEUR MARIE ET ME: She attended the French
side of St. Albert's school where the fence got licked in
both official tongues. 

I belong to a Facebook group called "I grew up in Sudbury." 

I don't often post to the group and neither do I know what possessed me to do so, but Wednesday, I asked the following: "Where was the frozen fence you licked and got your tongue stuck on? Mine was in front of St. Albert's school on Eyre Street." 

The first response arrived seconds after I hit enter. Andrea wrote: "Carl A. Nesbitt school." 

A few minutes later, came this, from Jennifer, another Nesbitt student: "Nesbitt. "Me too!" 

I'm writing this on Friday, Jan.1. (Happy New Year!) The fence posting (see what I did there?? Ha!) has been up for a little more than two days.

More than 450 lickers responded. 

The majority just reported in a location. 

Like Brenda, here: "At primary school. Notre Dame du Saint Rosaire in Blezard Valley."

And turns out a lot more than fences got stuck on. 

Cheyanne: "Bus stop (lamp post) on Leger Cres. School fence. Redwood Acres."

Or this one, from an overachiever named Peggy: "Barn door latch in Cape Breton. I even had to go on tip toes to reach it..lol" 

Or the athletic Rose-Anne: "We had metal snowshoes like gliders and I stuck my tongue on it. My mother came to the rescue with a glass of water." 

Carole: "I do remember doing this at Cabot street park on the play turn thingy ha. Think we would learn the first time. Ugh. Awful feeling. Lol. I can almost feel the sting." 

 Maurice: "Did the deed (only once) on the metal part of my sleigh." 

 Al: "Queens Athletic field. (A Sudbury outdoor sports facility.) Skating the oval. Stopped to sit in the stands and decided to stick my tongue on the railing. I’ll never forget this. I may have been 6-8 years old lol."  

Jenny: "Ski lift at Adanac" (Sudbury's local downhill skihill was called Canada spelled backwards.)

TABANUSH! Done incorrectly,
getting unstuck hurt like the devil.   

Riki: "Tetherball pole at old Levack Pubic School."

Suzanne: "At my memere's in Sturgeon Falls" 

Ray: "St. Louis de Gonzague on a black pole. I still remember seeing my tongue skin on the pole and bleeding like mad. I ran home crying. I was around 7 years old." 

Erin: "Mine was the metal zipper on my ‘Alaska’ snow suit from city surplus." 

Linda: "My parents fountain in back yard pool. Ripped my tongue off and left most of it there! Popsicles for a week" 

Grant: "The hockey rink they use to have at Immaculate Conception school on Lavoie St in 1968, I was 5! Licked the door hinge..stupid move! Mom had to poor tea on my tongue to get it off!"

Jon: "Central Public School, Kirkland Lake, Boys entrance. Ouch!" (Okay. Jon here is one of the few people I actually know who responded. Jon and I have worked and played together over the past 40 years and I'm just telling you that because he is one of the smartest people in my universe, he's in fact wise, he's a successful businessman, publisher, artist and all-around great citizen. What I'm saying here is, frozen-fence licking is not for dummies.)

Back to the stuck folk.

In some cases, authorities were summoned. Erin: "Alexander School kindergarten. Firetrucks were called. 1989."

Anna: "Mine was on the poles of the Brights Wine store beside Kresges downtown. Remember my Dad just pulled my head and you could see the little white marks left from my 👅. I was really young but I’m sure it hurt. Remember crying lots LOL."

Kelly: "St Michael’s school. My grade one teacher proceeded to scare us half to death with a story of a kid who ripped off his entire tongue and couldn’t ever tell his mom he loved her. I felt I needed to test that theory. She lied." 

David: "École St-Pierre schoolyard. But I hardly touched the metal fence post - just enough to feel about a millimetre stick and unstick. Lucky moment. But still memorable. Why did we do it?" 
SOLID ADVICE: Here is a link to a blog about how to get
unstuck. It's also where this great photo came from. 

Lisa: "My bratty classmates dared me, and I too got my tongue stuck on the same fence post on Eyre St as everybody else, LOL. We might need a support group now." 

Mike: "I remember Norman a.k.a. Bucky at école Sacrée Coeur in Val Caron. His whole tongue was stuck on the fence post because his sister dared him. Gross! I remember a lot of blood!"

Rita: "The playground slide."

Rita, in a follow-up post: "The big question is why??"

Solange: "I remember my first time was in the school bus."

Louise: "Well I was smarter than most...I licked the metal on our shovel."

Arynn: "I had a swing set in my yard with an attached slide. I licked the flat part of the slide. Didn't know what to do, pulled hard, tore a strip off. Never ever did that again.

Merle: "I remember in Grade 1 at St. Jean's school lol. After recess we all had to line up and for some reason the Grade 1s were all close to that long green steel railing and think there were about 6 of us and we all got our tongues stuck on the pipes. Remember Miss Gordon coming out with the warm water and getting all of us unstuck with poor old Mr. Chenier who was at the caretaker at the school. He was French and would mutter some 'tabernac' words when all the kids came in and a bunch of us all stuck to the pipes."

You should know that the elementary school I attended--St. Albert's, was actually two schools. The first floor was English; the French kids attended on the second storey and for some reason, we seldom interacted. It's the subject of another blog but this week, over frozen tongue stories, some of us, er, bonded.

To my original question, Vic answered: "Yup. Probably the same fence post. Eyre and Albert. Lol." 

To which I responded: "At least we first and second floor kids had that in common. The fence got licked in both official tongues."

Vic: "You got that right. Esti. You and I ever fight? LOL"

I could read these all day.

Eliza: "I didn't lick a fence. I put my mouth around a bar on a swing at my friend's house. Ripped the skin off both my lips. It hurts."

Debra: "Immaculate Conception school in Val Caron, Ont. (A few miles north of Sudbury) Put my tongue on the school fence while waiting for the school bus. Damn missed the bus, too. Had to walk home... Took about an hour and I peed in my snow suit. And I was about 7 years old."

Monica: "Sudbury Downs racetrack. Dad was parenting." (I remember taking my three young children Ewa, Ria and Michel to the track, too. It's very educational.)
 
I could tell you lots more, and perhaps might in another blog, but I think you get the picture. 

Plus I have to stop some place so might as well with my favourite. Read it. You'll understand.

Anita: "Once only. Was the entrance door for the grades 1-6. Friends dared me, right? Who can refuse a dare? Luckily, my dad owned his own bus route...so when he found out...he came running to help me...he put his warm hands around my mouth and blew hot air...it came loose..my dad was always my hero...and even now when something goes wrong I feel his presence."

Peter: "Me, too."




Saturday, December 26, 2020

A love story. In small pieces

Dear Anne Bentley:

ARTIST BENTLEY: You 
never know where the 
 important lessons are

Anne, I live in Toronto, Ontario, with my wife Helena and our 14-old-cat Iris. 

I'm writing you this Boxing Day morning not only to wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and all the best for 2021 but also because on the coffee table in front of me sits a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle titled Love Lives Here that you designed the original art for. (I got your website info off the box.)

Anne, Helena and I are not jigsaw puzzle doers. 

Love Lives Here arrived as an out-of-the-blue gift from our good friend Bernadette Gillen a few weeks ago (no-occasion presents are the best) and when we initially unwrapped the parcel, my response--I think it's safe to report--was "Really? A jigsaw puzzle? I wonder who we know would like a jigsaw puzzle."

Except.

LIKE SNOWFLAKES: No two puzzle pieces are 
identical, but when they're piled high and deep...
Maybe the thing that's going around is getting to us or perhaps we're just ageing plus we really don't have much else to do, but we cleared all the other stuff off the living room coffee table and dumped out the contents of the box. (I, to Iris, and channeling the late American comic Mitch Hedberg: "There are one thousand items sitting on our coffee table. Literally. One thousand and one if you count the box they came in.")

To me, they all looked exactly alike. 

Well now.

Where to begin. 

Helena, who not coincidentally has a masters of science from the University of Toronto, suggested  starting with the edges. We separated every piece that had one straight side. (There's 126 of them! I counted after we were done.)

I'm not kidding when I tell you that when I first found two pieces that interlocked fluidly and perfectly, it felt destined by God. 

An adrenaline hit. (I know. I need a life.)   

HAVE BOX, FIND IRIS: The 
entire household was 
involved.
Seriously. Three years ago, a man named Tim who I shared office space with was marketing a nicotine inhaler. Shaped like an asthma puffer, Tim's dispensing device let you blast the unadulterated drug right into your lungs without that tar and smoke that cigarettes also deliver. 

He gave me a crack at it. 

Believe me, Anne, one hit on that puffer and you know why folks get hooked on butts. Total body relaxation. War could have broken out at that moment and I would have been completely calm. Even though I asked for another hit, Tim warned me off. It was the right call.

In a sort of baby-steps way, that's how it felt when two pieces of Love Lives Here came together. 

That's why, for 10 days, Love Lives Here took over our lives. 

Before work in the morning, at lunch, after quitting time....we used up entire weekday evenings. 

Any given morning, you could find me in my old blue housecoat with a cup of black coffee in my left hand and a completely beige angel-shaped puzzle piece in my right, poring over a pile of four or five almost identical completely beige angel-shaped puzzle pieces, but suddenly notice another, green and black puzzle piece over in another corner and reaching over to try it and I'd find it slips in seamlessly.  And then two of the beige jobbies would meld. 

I'd stare at the puzzle for 14 long minutes, thinking I'd never find another perfectly shaped piece with a tiny strip of black along the green poking out part and just before giving up--presto. So I'd start in again.

Better'n nicotine.

I wasted a considerable amount of my co-workers' time with Love Lives Here updates. 

"Sometimes," I told Yvette who I work with, "the pieces are so close I'm like, 'if I only had a small hammer..."

We ate supper around Love Lives Here, we laughed a lot around Love Lives Here, we told each other  little stories and we ignored small problems and avoided meaningless chores because of Love Lives Here. 

FEET UP, RELAXED: Love Lives Here, for now.

This might sound weird Anne, but that silly Love Lives Here puzzle helped bring pure joy and serenity into our home this Christmas season. 

In fact, when that last piece fell into place Christmas Eve (honest!), as pleased as I was to finish the thing, it felt like the end of a good friend's visit.

And speaking of...

Our plan now? 

Break Love Lives Here up into the original tiny little pieces and send them home in a box. 

To Bernadette. Now it's her turn.

Except, if you look really closely at the picture, you'll see that somewhere between us dumping the 1,000 pieces of Love Lives Here on our coffee table and Boxing Day, four pieces--one white, one green and pink, and two others that are blends of black, green and another shade of green--have gone missing.  

Let's not tell Bernadette. It'll drive her nuts. 

Isn't that what good friends are for? 

Besides. She started it.

Merry Christmas.

P.C.

 


Friday, December 18, 2020

Stupid Pete tricks

BESPOKE BIKE ENGINE: Other drivers
thought we sounded like Harleys, of 
that I'm sure.
Who do you suppose first figured out that if you clothespin a playing card to the rear fork of your bicycle, your ride would sound vaguely motorized?  

Wonder if it was the same genius who--a few years older--determined that if you get the foil from the inside of a cigarette pack and very carefully separate the tinfoil part from the tissue that it was adjoined to, and then you form the foil part into a tiny chalice-shaped vehicle all the while chewing on the tissue part, in all its disgusting tobacco-tasting yuckiness until it's a saliva-soaked ball, you insert it into the top of the chalice thingie and with a quick wrist motion, flick it upwards so it sticks to the classroom ceiling.

Forgive me for assuming it was a guy, but on this topic, I'm like Jeff Foxworthy, who I heard observe,  "I bet there's not a man in this audience who at some point in his life has not taken the time out of his busy day to light a fart on fire." 

On the other hand, I'm betting it was a woman--a French woman of course--who invented the extremely sensual art of the French inhale, which is when a cigarette smoker lets smoke exit her mouth so gently that it magically and sensuously flows gently up and over her lip and,into her--sigh--nostrils. Pretty sexy, I know.
SMOKIN' HOT: The French they knew how to 
 kissing and inhale.

Speaking of really healthy activities that are lots of fun, who doesn't like watching your buddy hyperventilate for about 10 seconds and putting your arms around him so he falls to the ground unconscious, coming dangerously close to suffering permanent brain damage. 

That's what we called entertainment. 

And do you know that that if you take an empty Mr. Freeze bag and light it on fire, it drips blue yellow and green licks of fire to the ground?  At least it used to. 

First time I was ever in the back seat of a cop car was because a pal and I got caught burning Mr. Freeze wrappers. In case you don't know, a cruiser's back seats are hard and unwelcoming.

Paul (whose surname I won't mention because his mom's still alive and he might not have told her yet) and I were hanging out near the basketball courts outside King George school, which was two blocks directly east of our house in Sudbury. We somehow had a dozen or so Mr. Freeze wrappers and were lighting them one after another, trying to outflame each other, when  a pair of Sudbury Regionals drove their black-and-white right up on to the basketball court. 

The cops plunked us in the back seat almost literally scaring the crap out of me. Particularly frightening was when they told us there'd been some vandalism at another nearby school, Princess Anne, and they figured Paul and I were the perps.
 
I remember thinking  "I can almost see my house from here, but we're probably spending the night at Cecil Facer," which was Sudbury's juvie.  
So that's why they call them "MR. FREEZE!"   

They let us off with a warning. 

It was the summer between grade seven and eight.

One of the casualties of the Mr. Freeze affair was my favourite jacket, a bright yellow nylon zippered jobbie that I was so proud of because it had an embroidered Ontario Legislative Page patch on the right shoulder. I was the only kid in town to have been a page.

I had doffed the jacket to fart around with Paul (it was summer) and was so scared by the cops, the second they let us out of the cruiser I ran home. Next day, I went back to fetch the jacket but it was gone. Crime doesn't pay.

MEGA BITES of computer power were wasted 
to produce this graphic but 
the bite pun was worth it.
That said, not as much fun as burning Mr. Freezes but reasonably entertaining was folding an EAT MORE candy bar wrapper like a MAD magazine fold-in so it reads EAT ME.

Or better yet--and whoever figured this one out has Leonardo Da Vinci-esque vision--we could manipulate a $1 bill so the queen's neck and jaw aligned to form what we all agreed was an image of the queen's bum.  I'm sorry but looks like we don't have enough room for a picture of this one. You're welcome.