Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Tale of the Dragon

Mary Leona Carter is the sister I never met because she died when she was a baby, years before I was
born. She remains very much a part of our family--anybody who has lost a child knows this--but as you might expect I've spent countless hours wondering what Mary Leona would have gotten up to had she lived longer. I can ascribe with certainty only five traits I can be sure a grown-up M.L. would have. My big sister would:

* Read lots (all  Carter women do);
* Have the party gene (See above re: Carters);
TENNESSEE FOR MILES AND MILES:  Or it could be North Carolina.
But it sure reminded me of "Cold Mountain"
* Believe herself to be the wittiest person in whatever room she's in;
* Compete to be the most loved aunt and drive hundreds of kilometres from Sudbury to Toronto and back the same day to watch her youngest and handsomest nephew Michel compete in pre-teen gymnastics competition;
* Spoil  me, her baby brother, something perfect. Exhibit A: When I was 17, my sister Bertholde let me and my buddy Mike Blondin take her brand new white Buick Century on a three day joyride to Thunder Bay, a 12-hour drive  from our home in Sudbury. I'm not sure if I've told her, but that trip was the first time I ever hit black ice. Nothing bad happened but Bertholde almost lost her Buick, not to mention a sibling, and the black-ice incident got relegated to that endless series of close calls that have marked my years on this planet.

though my bike was built last century, like me, it still
runs okay.
Which brings me back to Mary Leona.

Just yesterday, it occured to me. The black ice didn't take me, Mike and the Buick out of circulation, because--and you're reading it here for the first time ever--I have one bad-ass guardian angel and her name is Mary Leona Carter.

Stay with me here.

I, Peter Carter, am the luckiest person I've ever met. I've long wondered why. Now I know.

I'm also lazy. So instead of going into a long-winded essay about Mary Leona (which most people wouldn't read anyway) I've summed it up into five discrete points. And they are the following:

5) Earlier this month, my daughter Ev and I took our two aging motorcycles to a 16-km stretch of North Carolina highway called "The Tail of The Dragon." Wikipedia describes it as "one of the world's foremost motorcycling and sports car touring roads." Another writer put it this way: "it is not a road for the squeamish but if you're looking for excitement, don't miss this one." There's a sign near the beginning of the road that says "High Motorcycle Crash Area ahead." So the fact that I'm here, writing this, means somebody is watching over me. Truth be told, if I were simply making a case for being the most fortunate man on earth, all I'd have to do is remind you that I just got back from a week-long father-daughter bike trip with my 28-year-old kid. It gets no better'n that, period. But I digress.

SON OF A DITCH: That was close.
4) After Ev and I had been riding The Tail for about 10 minutes, I made a tiny steering miscalculation that meant my front wheel went a direction I hadn't planned on and wheee! down into the ditch I motorcycled. Cue Mary Leona: For most of the Tail of the Dragon, there is no ditch; there's just cliff. Mary Leona ensured that when her baby brother made a doofus move, he did it at the sole point where the only thing that got dented was his ego.

3) What's more, go enumerate the things that can go wrong on a trip like that. We ride old bikes. I drive a 1993 Harley and Ev's got an '04 BMW. We did almost 3,000 klicks on unfamiliar highways and backroads; we got hit by rain (a bit) and then there's this: I remember at one point heading down a northbound onramp and taking mental stock of all the things I was doing, at about 90 km/h: Looking ahead at the road while glancing in my left rear-view mirror and twisting the right handgrip to accelerate, pulling the left lever because that's the clutch, shifting into a higher gear with my left foot, hitting the signal light switch with my left thumb, trying to avoid the cracks on the road and
PETE'S U-TURN GONE SOUR: We'll add that to
near the top left
wondering if that itching I could feel under my helmet was an insect or, well, you know just  an itch. Motorbike riders are often very very busy people. The potential for mistakes is boundless. Add that to everything else that could go wrong on any trip, anywhere, motorbikes notwithstanding. Ev's and my adventure unfolded seamlessly. Credit: Mary L.

2) Here's where it gets weird. Just before our trip, I coincidentally devoured a novel called Cold Mountain, which takes place in post-Civil War Tennessee; which was the very part of the world we were about to visit. Once there, every few stops, I'd see something and tell Ev "it's just like outta Cold Mountain!" and though she never let on, it probably got a bit irritating. And then, and then..The day after the Tail of The Dragon, we found ourselves in Nashville; and I saw that Tim O'Brien was playing a bar called The Station Inn. "Tim O'Brien," I told Ev, "produced the soundtrack to the Cold Mountain movie." You'll see in the last point, why big sister Mary Leona made this happen, too.
O'BRIEN& CARTER: Spoiled brothers in arms. 

1) We went to the Station Inn. First thing I noticed about O'Brien? He sorta looked like we could be related. Then he started talking about life as the youngest of five kids. He, like me, was spoiled, and his parents--like mine--didn't force a career choice on him. "I told my mom when I grow up I wanna be a musician  and she said 'Sorry Tim, you'll have to choose.'" (I thought it was funny.) Then he told a story about a song he wrote after finding an old photo of his sister who died at six, and--guess what--O'Brien was too young to remember her but she was very much a part of his family and by the time O'Brien was halfway through the beautiful composition, I and lots of other people in the room were looking at the stage through tears. The song is about how all through his life, O'Brien considered his older sister who died in as a child his guardian angel. If that's not schmaltzy enough for you, here it is in song. "Guardian Angel" by Tim O'Brien.

Oh. One more thing thing I could be certain of with Mary Leona?

She would read to the end of this blog then call or email or text to tell me what a wonderful writer I am. All my sisters do that.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Singalong With Tom

Check out this black-and-white treasure that I found online about three hours ago.

It’s from the May, 1966 issue of The Inco Triangle, the monthly staff publication, published by the biggest mining company in my hometown of Sudbury.  

Second from the left is my older brother Tom. All cleaned up in jacket and tie, "Tall Tom" as the writer called him was a member of a hastily assembled choir that gathered around the piano. “Until the wee hours of the morning,” the story tells us.

Pretty wild party, huh?

Sometimes I think I grew up on Walton Mountain.

According to the article, the songfest took place at the Annual Copper Refinery Athletic Association Dance. The copper refinery was one of the big mineral processing plants in town, and Tom worked there awhile.

I don’t know what he did at the refinery but I do recall him having a metal lunch pail (or bucket, as they were called) and every day, when he came home, he handed me--his baby brother--the lunch bucket and there was always some money in it that he let me keep. (Remind me to NOT ask him where that money came from.)

He also brought home a dog once, too, that I think he won in a poker game. Somebody in the family named the dog The Grump; and we had an old doghouse in the backyard that I tried to renovate so The Grump would have a sun porch up top to lie on but he never went up there.
I drew this myself. With my rendering and Tom's songwriting; small wonder
we ended up with the jobs we did.

I also think The Grump was the dog that disappeared one day and after we all searched the west end of Sudbury somebody called the Humane Society and found that he had been scooped up so my mom gave us $10 or so to bail out the dog and later we found out that she had secretly called the SPCA and paid to have him picked up in the first place.

But I digress.

What I wanted to write about was Tom’s musical talents, celebrated in this photo. He not only sings. 

He writes songs.

One of my favourites is a piece he calls, I believe, “The Fishing Song.”

The melody’s quite simple and goes pretty much any way you want it to go, but the lyrics are very specific and they tell a lovely story. 

They read as follows: 

“Fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing
Fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing, fishing,
By the light of the silvery moon.”

He also wrote “The Hunting Song.” Same tune as “The Fishing Song” but the words tell a completely different story. 

“The Hunting Song:”

“Hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting,
Hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting, hunting,
By the light of the silvery moon.”

I know. Pretty inventive.

"Peter,", you ask, "what do people make of the songs Tom composes?" Adjectives fail me.

However I’m sure if you go visit Tom in his home in Elliot Lake, Ontario--where he worked in the uranium mine for many years--he’d be glad to sing one of his ditties for you. He’s a man of many talents.  

His wife’s name is Judy. She is very patient.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Fishing with Tom II: Miracle of the loafers and fishes

The cops waved us over to the side of the road, walked to the back of our station wagon, opened the tailgate, loaded in I believe two cases of beer, and sent us on our way.

You read that correctly.

The policemen gave us back beer that they had confiscated less than an hour earlier and let us go.

Amazing but true.

I was 16. I remember because just a few months earlier, I went from being a skinny kid with no life to being useful! I had a driver’s licence. Once I could drive, I could be — although they hadn’t invented the term yet — the 
Me, Ed, Pat, Tom Sr., Tom Jr. or Alex going fishin' 
designated driver for my older brother Tom and his buddies.

I’ve always really looked up to Tom, who's about 11 years older than me, and I wanted to hang out with him and his pals Moe, Joe, Brian, Don, Tom, Gerard and the others. They owned cars and played guitars.  

They travelled and went hunting and had girlfriends. And they always seemed to be laughing. And singing.

They also fished.

So — and remember this was a long time ago —  with me behind the wheel of whatever car they were using, Tom and his gang could sit in the back and dri… I mean, prepare to fish.

 I got to go on all sorts of adventures I wouldn’t have otherwise been part of.

Trips that were fun and educational, too.

There was, for instance, one late May fishing trip to a fishing camp near a little crossroads called Gogama, about 100 clicks north of our hometown of Sudbury.

That trip, I learned how to tie a boat to a car roof rack in such a way that when you cornered just so, the boat would gently slide off the racks and down over the passenger side doors but not so far as to hit the ground.  

I also learned that sometimes in Gogama, in late May, it snows, and by the time you get to the fishing spot, it’s too cold to do anything but turn around and go home again.  

But that wasn’t the night the cops gave us our beer back.

The beer-back night, we were in my father’s 1972 Ford station wagon and headed to the Whitefish River about 50 miles west of Sudbury to do some smelt “fishing.”  

The reason for the quotes marks is twofold: First, going after tiny river-swimming creatures called smelt shouldn’t count as fishing because all you do is stand on the shore and dip a long-handled net into the water and pull it out again, full of little fishies. The only skill a person fishing for smelt needs is the ability to not fall into the water.  

The other reason for the quote marks?

When we Carters went fishing, it didn’t suck to be a fish.

In other words, somewhere, at this very moment, in a Northern Ontario lake, a couple of 45-year-old pikes are reminiscing about how frightened they and their pike buddies didn’t get when they heard through the fish grapevine that a Carter was going fishing.

But smelts? They had reason to fret.

Smelt fishing in those days, should have been called standing on the shore drinking.  The fun was in hanging around a fire and, as my brother Pat used to say, "trading lies." Dipping the net in the river once in a while was a distraction. Smelt was the only kind of fishing I (or any other Carter) was any good at.  And that’s what we were headed to the Whitefish River to do.

There I was in the driver’s seat while Tom and his pals were aft, drink…I mean warming up.

Just before we got to the river, a cop flags me down. I pull over, roll down my window and he asks where we’re going. I tell him, “smelt fishing.”

“Do you have any beer in the car?” He didn’t have to ask.

We opened the tail gate, the policeman removed two two-fours and told us to have a good time.

We drove five more minutes to the river.  I don’t recall whether anybody took time out from their busy evening to dip a net into the water; we pretty much got to the river and turned around to go home.

I think it was the first time in history that anybody ever got skunked smelt fishing.

A few miles later, the police — God bless them — flagged us down all over again and, believe it or not, gave the boys back their beer.

The fact that nothing bad happened verged on the miraculous.

Fishing with Tom is always one surprise after another. Unless you’re a fish.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Fishing With Tom

My brother Eddie glanced over from the passenger seat.

"You think I'm going to buy a stinking licence so I can fish for, what? 15 minutes once a year? Hah."

FISHING WITH ED: Everything we learned about the
sport, we learned from Tom.
He and I were two hours south of the cabin where we were meeting our two older brothers, Alex and Tom, for the fourth--and as it turns out final--"Carter Brothers' Annual Fishing Getaway."*

It was a summer Friday afternoon. Almost 20 years ago. In the context of the time, Eddie's comment was neither controversial nor surprising. Fact one: It was a new thing. For most of our lives up to that point, Ontario residents didn't need fishing licences. It just seemed a weird thing to have to think about.

Fact two: Ed's a realist. He knew, from a lifetime of fishing with Tom, the likelihood of engaging in any activity resembling fishing (much less catching an actual fish) was less than zero.

Me, I had my licence, but it might have been expired. I was pretty certain Alex's was legal and up to date. Turns out he thought so too. (This is an important detail to remember for later in the story when John Law shows up.)

Tom was carrying a licence, but it belonged to his son Hugh. Tom was not trying to trick anyone. Hugh at the time lived in Toronto and had renewed his licence but it had been mailed to his parents' home back in Elliot Lake. Tom was going to give me the licence to deliver to Hugh. I'm thinking Tom didn't have a licence of his own because he knew he wouldn't be fishing.

Ed, Tom, Alex and I arrived at the cabin just past suppertime Friday. Too late to fish.

CRIME SCENE: An artist's rendering (I did the drawing.)
So we had a few beer around the campfire and bragged about our nephews and nieces.

Next morning, I was out in the canoe, sort of fishing.

I was most likely not wearing a life jacket. And assuming I wouldn't need it because never in my life had I been asked to produce a fishing licence, I had left mine in my jean jacket pocket, back at camp.

I saw a small motorboat headed my way and knew immediately: Conservation officers.

They greeted me politely and asked where I was from and if I had a fishing permit. I said I did but it was back at camp. They said we'd go have a look see.

"Meet you back at your dock" they said.

For some reason, they didn't head directly to our camp, but headed across the river. I paddled as fast as I could and saw Ed fishing off the dock.

I yelled something like "Ed please go get my jacket so I can show the conservation officers my FISHING LICENCE!"

From then on, my memory's a little foggy. (The following play-by-play is a close approximation of what happened.)

Ed went up to the cabin to fetch my licence and Alex.

I pulled up to the dock; the COs arrived moments later, Ed and Alex came to the dock.

Tom, the wisest of the Carter brothers, stayed put 20 yards away, up beside the campfire.

I handed the COs my expired permit hoping for lenience, and Ed, when asked, handed over a piece of official-looking paper.

Meantime, Alex was happy that he was legit and proud that he had a licence but then the COs took him by surprise and told him it was expired. They told me mine was too and then said, "Tom what's your year of birth?"

That's not a mistake.

The conservation officer said "Tom, what's your year of birth?"

I didn't know why he was asking but figured Tom hadn't heard so I helpfully yelled "Tom! What year were you born?"

If Tom answered, I forget what he said.

But then it occured to me.

My nephew Hugh's name is actually Thomas Christopher Hugh and the CO was directing the question at Ed, who had handed him a fishing licence that said he was born in 1978, the year of Hugh's birth.

We all, save Tom, got busted.

It could have been a lot worse.

If the CO's wanted to, they could have confiscated our canoe and cars, but instead they leniently they just took our rods and reels and issued us a bunch of tickets for various infractions.

Our fishing weekend over, we packed up to head home.

Last thing I rememember was one of my brothers saying "Pete if you sell a story about this, I'm coming to your house and taking the money."

Something just occurred to me. Over the past however many years I've been alive, I learned a lot of really important life lessons while on fishing trips with Tom. I think I'm going to blog about a few more of them, soon.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Send a man out fishing with Tom, and you just never know. Stay tuned.

* No fish were harmed in the production of any of these expeditions.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bike Club

You might have noticed that when motorcyclists pass each other going in opposite directions, the riders often wave. A tiny flick of the left wrist. 
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD NERDS: Cool-running Pete,
biking to accordion school

You've also probably asked yourself, "Why do they do that? What's it mean?"

I am not allowed to tell you. The answer is a secret. 

However, just so you won't feel you've wasted your time reading this far*, I shall share the following bikers' wave lore...

When I was a younger man, I thought it was uncool to wave. If somebody went zooming past and raised his or her left hand, far be it from Joe Cool here to acknowledge it. 

I got older.

I realized how spiritually demoralizing it must be to wave and not get waved back at. It'd be like moving in for a high-five but the other person not reacting. So now I wave.

I also kinda feel really bad for all those riders over the years who gave me the wave but didn't get a response. I guess this is my public apology.  (I feel like a politician.) 

Another thing? 

We've been known to wave to other oncoming bikers even when there's eight lanes of traffic between us. Seriously. I found myself doing it on the Don Valley Parkway en route to work this week. I was in the shoulder lane heading north and I exchanged waves with a biker in the shoulder lane headed south.

VROOM WITH A VIEW: Friday 13th's Port Dover's lucky day. (I swiped this
London Free Press photo off Google.)
Which reminds me of my friend Malcolm Roberton. 

When Malcolm atttended our wedding 30-odd years ago, he had a new female acquaintance with him.I asked how they met. 

Days earlier, he said, he had been walking east past Toronto's Royal York Hotel when this woman exited Union Station across the street and their eyes met. 

For those who've never been to Toronto, Front Street separating Union Station from the Royal York is about as wide as the Champs Elysees. 

I said exactly that to Malcolm. He grinned and said, "I know, eh?"

Malcolm also once told me his favourite movies were the kind you'd enjoy even if you were blind or deaf. This blog would probably be more interesting if I wrote about Malcolm instead of adult strangers on toys waving at each other, but I digress. 

You have to know we don't wave or nod to any vehicles that aren't motorcycles. If you do drive a Vespa or an e-bike or a three-wheeled jobbie and if a motorcyclist waved at you, it was an honest mistake. The sun was probably in their eyes. Don't let it go to your head.  

STASH IN PLAIN SIGHT: What do they do?
Wiggle their curly do's at one another? 
I just thought of something else.

I could probably win a place in the Guiness Book of Records for most waves in a single day. 

Here's why. 

There's a town not far from Toronto called Port Dover and for some reason, every Friday 13th in riding season, thousands of  bikers roar into the town for a day of -- I'm not sure what because I've never been. 

Last July the cops estimated 140,000 bikes showed up in Dover! That's 280,000 separate wheels! I did the math!

A couple of years ago right around suppertime, I had reason to be riding south on highway six in the direction of  Port Dover. It was at the exact time the Dover visitors were starting to head home. 

It was like riding headfirst into a swarm of one-eyed firefly monsters with huge chrome handlebar moustaches.

They only had me to wave at.

Meantime my left hand was, like, "UP down. UP down. UP down...."  Probably a few hundred times.

My wrists must have thought I was riding a parade float. I know I felt like a dork.

Speaking of big chrome moustaches, when my daughter Ria and I were at Burning Man a few years back she asked a chap with a handlebar moustache if similarly whisker'd guys exchange some sort of secret acknowledgement when they pass on the sidwalk.

He said they do. Can you believe it? How silly.

(*Wasted valuable time reading Pete's Blog&Grille? Thats Unpossible! hahaahahahaaha)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

9 Master Chef Canada Secrets Revealed!!!

My cousin’s kid just won Master Chef Canada. Jennifer Crawford is Canada’s coolest and smartest
REFLECTING ON FAMILY: Jenn's so brilliant
you need shades.
cook. Here’s 9 things about this kitchen wizard you won’t find anywhere else.

1)      Jenn's mom is Joan. I know. Joan Crawford. As in Mommie Dearest. It’s a cliché everybody knows based on a book nobody’s read and when I Googled the book to ensure I got the title correct, I learned the writer, Christina Crawford, exaggerated a lot and Crawford the actor may have had issues but she was nowhere near the demon Christina made her out to be in fact her other kids had wonderful loving stories to tell about their mom. But that’s got precious little to do with the subject at hand, I just thought it was interesting.

2)    Speaking of names, Jennifer calls me a “newfounduncle,” because even though Jenn's lived in Toronto 10 or so years, we connected only eight months ago. Jenn was raised in a teensie place called Kingston, Nova Scotia. I now know three people from Kingston. One is Master Chef Jennifer, who has at least two university degrees and can bench press more than my weight; then there’s Jenn's big brother Lucas, a full university professor, and finally, my musician friend Dr. Michael Thibodeau, who has a Ph freaking D in piano, from the University of Toronto. All that brainpower from one tiny outta-the-way place! "So," I asked Michael: “What’s in the water?” Michael’s response? “Keith’s.”

ONLY THE POM POMS ARE MISSING: Jenn's cheering squad
(photo by Brilynn Ferguson)
3)   He meant Keith’s the beer. And for some reason, I’m reminded of the only Karl Marx quote I know: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Here’s why: A few days before the Master Chef finale, which was last Monday, Jenn texted me from Nova Scotia. Jenn was coming back to T.O. for the showing of the final episode and the plan? Host a few dozen closest friends and family at a viewing party. Ingredient number-one: a Toronto bar that would turn its TV screens over to Master Chef. Problem number-one? The Raptors. All the places Jenn phoned said their screens would be all basketball, all evening.  Nobody’d seen that coming. “Who,” Jenn must have wondered, “would be the one person in Toronto most capable of finding me a bar when I need it?”

4)    Tu-duh! Newfounduncle Pete! Jenn knew if anybody was up to that job, it was me. So, in the company of Newfoundaunt Helena, I bravely ventured out that very evening, visiting bar after bar until eventually stumbling upon the congenial and welcoming Elvyra Beniusyte behind the bar at a place called Bar Lokys, just a few blocks from our house. Elvyra, who immigrated from Vilnius just three months(!) ago loved the idea and helped make the viewing party happen. (P.S. If I were looking to hire a multi-lingual university grad with extraordinary interpersonal communication skills and expertise in data analysis, I’d hire Elvyra in an instant. Just sayin’. Like I said, each according to his ability.)

5)     Jenn’s  cooking was what won the prize but I’m thinking the judges were clinched by that all-encompassing smile.
RAPTOR RIVAL  Master barkeep Elvyra, Master Chef Jenn, and
 Ed, on left (where you'll always find him.)

6)     That said, play poker with Canada’s newest Master Chef at your peril. Jenn Crawford might well have the most expressive face you’ve ever laid eyes on but get this: Filming ended a few months before the party at Bar Lokys. During that time, I’d been in touch with Jenn a lot. But ... crickets. Even in Bar Lokys, surrounded by fans, as the final moments neared and it was down to Jenn and one Andre Bahgwandat. Faces toward the TV, most of us were holding our breath as top chef Michael Bonacini said “Canada’s new master chef is…..” and the camera zoomed in to Jenn’s and Andres’s faces.  When Bonacini said “Jennifer” the champ Monday looked as surprised as the rest of us.  (If I tried to keep a secret like that the top of my head would blow off.)
(photo by Brilynn Ferguson)

7)     In addition to charm one of the appetizers that helped Jenn clinch it was a delicacy with the too-gross-by-half name “Ants On A Log.”  Ants. On. A. Log. Yummy! The main ingredient: Blue Cheese! Usually when I think of blue cheese, what comes to mind is when the hero in Woody Allen’s sci-fi spoof Sleeper used its pungency to subdue a bad guy. But after Master Chef? A spoonful of Ants on A Log seems like a great idea.

8)     Not that this should come as a surprise to anybody but after meeting my brother Ed the first time,  Jenn described him as “so charismatic.” You talk like that about Ed and you're my new best friend.

9)    Which reminds me. When Ed did his stand-up routine at 2nd City earlier this year, the host, Evan Carter, introduced him with “He’s the uncle all the nieces and nephews think is funniest.” Turns out my newfound niece Jenn is just as sweet and as astonishing as any of my oldfound nieces, and that, friends, is saying something.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Why having fun at the dentist is as easy as pulling teeth.

INSERT: Spittin'-image pun here
Had my teeth cleaned yesterday at my local, Pacific Dental.

I always look forward to those visits.

Everybody at Pacific Dental is talkative and interesting; they have very comfortable dental chairs and piped-in classical music.

The only downside is, at the dentist's -- for long moments at a time -- I have to do something I find quite difficult and that's not talk.

But otherwise? Those visits are little recesses from life.

I once asked Pacific's resident dentist, Doctor David Sacoransky -- when he thought a task was difficult -- if he described it as "like pulling teeth".

"No," he said. "I say something is like pulling teeth when it's easy."

Wouldn't you want a dentist who talks like that?

And yesterday ... yesterday ... fact is, I'd been looking forward to yesterday's visit since early March.

Because in early March, my wife Helena and I were lucky enough to tour -- I know  you're going to be jealous -- the Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland, and ever since, I'd been itching to tell everybody at Pacific Dental.

None of them had heard about the museum, so they were a great audience; I felt like one of those brave men or women long ago who'd travel to, say, Borneo, and then come home and wow the local Rotary Club with tales of their adventures.

One of the highlights of the dental museum -- but you already probably guessed this -- was the salon given over to saliva.

Did you know that every day, we each produce about six litres or maybe it's gallons of  the stuff?

At one point yesterday, the following exchange took place.

Me: "There's a part of one gallery in the museum devoted to George Washington's false teeth."

Dr. David: "They were wooden."

Me: "Nope! They were not! That was part of the mystique. Everybody thinks George Washington had wooden teeth but it's a myth."

Then I mentioned Doc Holliday, the famous deadly gunfighter who was supposedly in scores of gunfights in the old west, and who was also a dentist and whose picture hangs in Baltimore.

Dr. David was up on Holliday and had this to say:"Yeah he was also the sheriff and doctor I think. In Arizona in a town near Tuscon."

From the comfort of Dr. David's chair, I Googled Doc Holliday and learned that he never actually shot that many people; in fact maybe just two, tops.

Dr. David again: "So that's a myth, too?"

Pacific Dental: Educational and fun besides.

One time I was there talking with Paula the charming hygienist about how when we're kids we all practise saying our names backwards and we were laughing and in walks Dr. David. He asked what we were on about, I told him, and he was like, "You mean like yksnarocaS?"

Just like that as if he'd been rehearsing all afternoon, and names like his are no walk in the park frontwards or backwards.

They probably think I'm odd.

But yesterday, it occured to me why I enjoy the dentist so much.

INSERT: Me and my big mouth pun here.
Go back up to the first paragraph: Comfortable chair. Piped-in classical music. Cordial, fascinating staff.

Then there's this..

I was having my teeth cleaned. Not fixed; not removed or filled.

Cleaned. And polished. (Or, as I said to Paula, "paula-ished.")

Never, in any society in any period of time, anywhere on the planet, did regular schmoes like me actually have the time, resources or inclination to have their teeth cleaned.

Throughout all of history until, like, just recently, guys my age were lucky to have teeth. In fact, they were lucky if they got to be my age.

But me?

I was born in the most luxurious, convenient and healthy time EVER. As I said to my neighbour Bill who I ran into on my way home today, "If I wanted a kiwi fruit right now, I could get one."

Not sure why I wander around in this constant state of dumbass wide-eyed amazement but there you are.

Finally, speaking of saliva, sometimes, when I start listing all the reasons I'm lucky to be alive here and now, --"Crime rates are down! We can buy groceries in the middle of the night! None of  my generation got keelhauled off to war! World poverty is going down! (Look it up!!) We can Google historic data from the dentist chair!"--I get so irritating it's enough to make me gag.