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Kevin Somers

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Tonga on my mind

Since sailing there, on a homemade, cement boat, 30 years ago, I’ve been in love with The Kingdom of Tonga.  

I was living in Sydney, Australia, in 1989, working for a company that built sets and exhibitions, for Home Shows, Air Shows, etc..  One of my co-workers, a sparky Tasmanian, named Mick Purcell, had built his own sailboat, and was planning on taking it to New Zealand, with his wife and young daughter.  It sounded great, so I invited myself along.

At the time, I shared a small apartment (flat), with other travellers.  Mick’s boat was moored near our place.  I had an old, crappy car, and was happy to drive him to and from work.  He was a character, like no one I’d met.  

Mick had grown up in a Hobart orphanage and the priests had taught him to sail and weld; useful skills.  When he was old enough, to leave the orphanage, Mick took a job as a welder, bought a house, and spent 12 years making a sailboat, in his Hobart backyard.  Mick welded the frame and made the shell out of ferrocement.  

After a dozen years of work, his boat was ready, for water.  While showing me the newspaper clippings, Mick explained how the city of Hobart lent him a crane and, with great fanfare, lifted the craft from his backyard and dropped it into the bay.  

It didn’t sink.  

“Everybody stopped laughing,” he said.

Mick named his sailboat The Illusion.  Standing on the deck of his improbable, homemade, cement boat, he said, “It’s just an illusion, mate.”

For two more years, Mick was only able to motor around Tasmania, because he couldn’t, yet, afford masts and sails.  Eventually, The Illusion was fully outfitted and ready for the ocean.  Mick, his wife, Teresa, and daughter, Nakita, sailed north from Hobart to Sydney through “the roaring forties.”

Mick docked The Illusion in Sydney and got a job, at the company, where I was working.  He was saving money and preparing for a trip to New Zealand.  While we carpooled, Mick told me his of plan to sail across the Bering Strait, with his family.  My Australian visa was expiring, and I was flying to New Zealand, anyway, so I inquired about sailing, instead.  

The Illusion was a primitive craft, without satellite navigation or autopilot, and it required someone at the helm, at all times.  Mick was happy to have help.  I told my flatmates of my impending seaventure. Some were interested and asked if they could join.

When we set off for New Zealand, there were nine aboard, from six different countries.  

Preparing to leave Sydney

We cleared customs in Sydney, with the agents coming on board to stamp passports, etc.  As The Illusion sailed under the bridge, past the opera house, out of Sydney, and into the open ocean, I tingled.  

It took us 13 days to hit New Zealand.  En route we saw birds, fish, whales, dolphins, a shark, and fishing boats.  We dove in, a few times.  

John from Ireland, Mick and Murph from New Zealand
A flying fish wanted to join the fun, but we tossed it back.

Mick was teaching himself how to navigate, on the passage.  For much of the trip, we were “dead reckoning,” our location.  To our great relief and excitement, we hit the north west coast of NZ, exactly, where Mick had predicted.  

We sailed around the northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island and into The Bay of Islands, where we cleared customs.

New Zealand sent its finest dolphins to welcome us

Travellers, generally, like to read and drink.  For good reasons, Mick had forbidden us from bringing alcohol, on his boat, so, after a stretch of sobriety, it was nice to hit the local, and celebrate.  We had sea legs on our way to the pub and lubricated sea legs on the way back.  

Woah.  

The Illusion in New Zealand

Originally, the plan was to split up, in New Zealand, with Mick and his family sailing back to Australia.  I was going to tour NZ, before flying to Hawaii.  However, Mick’s navigation was spot on, and the trip was so great, Mick, his family, and me decided to keep going.  

We looked at a map and saw The Kingdom of Tonga, a tiny collection of islands, in the south pacific ocean, was about 1000 miles north of New Zealand; roughly the same distance we’d travelled across the Bering Strait.  

Eureka.

In an instant, it was settled, we were going to Tonga.  I’d never heard of The Kingdom of Tonga, before, but I was in love.  

From The Bay of Islands, we sailed south to Auckland; New Zealand’s biggest city, where Mick moored The Illusion.  We split up for 3 months.  He went looking for work and I went looking for shenanigans, kiwi style.

I hitchhiked around NZ and stayed, on a sheep farm, before returning to Auckland, and moving back onto The Illusion.  We put notices up at a hostel, indicating we were looking for adventurous travellers to join us, on a trip to Tonga.  

Fortunately, we got great, young people from England, USA, and Sweden to come aboard. Eager, anxious, and excited, with a crew of eight, we set sail for The Kingdom of Tonga, on Mick’s homemade, cement boat.    

The Kermadec Islands, tiny dots, in The Pacific ocean, are halfway to Tonga.  The largest, Raoul, is the only inhabited island of the Kermadecs.  Decades ago, the New Zealand government established a weather center and research facility on Raoul, and a small number of Kiwis (New Zealanders) spend a year there, working; rotating in and out, annually.

The workers are dropped off, on Raoul, with everything needed, for a year.  The only time they are visited is for emergencies, or when boats stop by, which we did.  

The year we visited, there were 8 New Zealanders, living on Raoul.  We were their first guests.  The Kiwis made beer, on the island, and they were happy to have several young travellers stop, visit, and sample their wares.  Our night on Raoul Island was great fun.

Hosts and guests on Raoul Island

The next morning, we set sail, for Tonga.  About week later, we arrived in the kingdom.  Tonga consists of 169 islands; 37 of which are inhabited.  We sailed to the largest, most populated island, Tongatapu, and cleared customs and immigration, in Nuku’alofa, the Tongan capital.

Tonga was just how I’d imagimed; beautiful, simple, and fascinating.  I tried to learn a few words, everywhere I went.  “Hello” in Tongan is “Malo e lelei” (ma-low le lay).  I thought it was long, so abbreviated it to “malo,” which, I discovered, means “thank you.”  

A foolish tourist, indeed, I spent my first hours in Tonga, (a.k.a.“The Friendly Islands,”) saying, “Thank you, thank you,” to locals saying hi.

When we were there, the population was about 90 000 people, with about 60 000 on Tongatapu.  The country is a supreme monarch and the King owns everything.  Royal Beer was a favourite regal enterprise.

There were many, other, great things about Tonga.  Pigs, chickens, and other animals roamed freely.  Criminals were put on islands of isolation.  The cars in Tonga kept the license plates of their previous home.  There were vehicles from Australia, New Zealand, and America, with left and right hand drives, zooming all over.  

An unexpected hazard was falling coconuts.  I was told by a local, getting hit by the dropping fruit was the number one reason for hospital visits, in Tonga.  

Watching a Tongan scale a coconut tree, machete in mouth, was a spectacle to behold.  Using hands and barefeet, Tongans run up trees, with ease, and hack down food.  

My man, Abraham, getting snacks

Every place I’ve visited has an inebriant.  In Tonga, they enjoyed kava.  The root of the kava plant is dried and crushed into a powder, mixed with water, and drank.  

We were invited to a kava party.  We sat in a circle and a cloth sack was filled with powdered kava.  The sack was immersed in water, in an inverted tortoise shell, and squeezed.  A kava drink has sedative and euphoric properties.  

The master of ceremonies filled two coconut shells, with the kava drink, and they were passed, from person to person, using two hands, around the circle to the furthest two people.  They drank the kava and the cups were passed back to the MC.  Again, everyone handled the drinking vessels. The MC refilled the coconut cups and they were passed along, to the next furthest people.  This process continued until everybody had had a coconut cup of kava.

A Kava party

The ritual was repeated for the entire, great evening.  

The Illusion was anchored near an American couple, who had also sailed to the Kingdom.  He was a doctor, and, while in Tonga, served the king.  One day, sitting on his boat, he pointed to an airplane circling overhead.  The doctor explained the king was trying to lose weight and was riding his bike on the country’s only runway, while bodyguards ran beside him.

The king’s weight loss is legendary.  

Tongans are big, strong, and tough.  The rough and tumble way Tongan children played was shocking, at first, but affirming, soon, thereafter.  I loved it.  “That’s how kids should play,” I thought.

(I’ve often wondered, if bubble wrapped children and helicopter parents have inflicted on the kingdom.)  

God, I hope not.

Like all Polynesian cultures, Tongans love rugby.  We went to a game.  Rugby has 30 players, on the pitch; 15 per side.  In Tonga, I estimated, 10 players had cleats, 10 wore running shoes, and 10 played in bare feet.  The ferocity of the match was remarkable.  

Tongans hit hard, bro.

We left Tongatapu and were sailing through uninhabited islands.  As night fell, we saw a few lights, on a small island.  We decided to drop anchor and check it out, the next day.

We didn’t know it, but we were on the shores Nomuka https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomuka

April 28, 1989, two hundred years, to the day, of the mutiny on The Bounty, the most famous mutiny, ever.  Unbeknownst to us, the historic event occurred, roughly, where we had dropped anchor.

Early morning, three of us got in the small skiff and were paddling to shore.  Suddenly, the beach filled with Tongans.  Only 600 people lived on Nomuka, and many of them were on the beach, staring and chattering, with a tangible excitement.  

“What is going on?” we wondered.

When we hit the shore, an American emerged, from the crowd, and introduced himself: Brian from The Peace Corps.  “Are you from The Bounty,” he asked.  

We had no idea what he was talking about.  Brian had been the only non-Tongan, on Nomuka, for several months.  He spoke the language and knew Tonga, well.  He explained the significance of the date and our location.  “The Bounty is supposed to come here, today,” he explained.

“The Bounty” he was talking about was a direct replica of the original vessel, which had been built for the movie, “The Mutiny on The Bounty,” with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins.  On cue, the magnificent ship came around the corner and into view.  

The Bounty stopped within 100 meters of The Illusion and dropped anchor.  

The Bounty in Nomuka

On board were descendents of Fletcher Christian, the head mutineer, and Captain Bligh.  We went aboard The Bounty and got a tour of the ship and a lesson in history.  Some of Fletcher Christian’s descendants, whom we met, lived on Norfolk Island.  

The stories of Bligh, Christian, The Bounty, the crew, and Tahitians, before, during, and since the mutiny, are, entirely, fascinating; well worth two centuries of retelling.

Before we knew it, our time in Tonga was up.  I went to Fuji, which I found busy, compared to Tonga.  Then, flew to Hawaii, which was a rat race.  

I thought that was the end of me and Tonga, but Tonga was wasn’t finished with me.  

After two years of travelling, I had long hair, tattered clothes, and a beat up backpack.  The American customs agent, in Honolulu, took an instant dislike to me.  He asked me where I had been and how I afforded to be gone from Canada for so long.  I told him, I had working holiday visas for England and Australia, to no avail.

“I think you want to work here,” he said, (accurately.)  I had long dreamed of visiting Hawaii and, indeed, planned to find work, so I could stay, a while.  The grumpy customs agent sent me to a special room, for the unsavory, where I waited and entertained worst case scenarios.

Eventually, a young Polynesian man came in.  “He’s Tongan,” I said to myself, excitedly, but kept quiet.  He was pleasant, but cool, as he rifled through my backpack.  He asked for my wallet and started going through it.  He pulled out a picture of my niece, Jessica, who was about three. “Who’s this,” he asked and I explained.

Then, divine Tongan intervention struck, again.  The agent pulled out a business card and studied it, intensely.  He held it to me, “Do you know this guy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I was just in Tonga and bought jewellery from him.”  The card belonged to Mickey Guttenbeil, who sold beautiful, handcrafted Tongan jewelry.  I had purchased several pieces and he had given me his card.

The immigration officer said, “Holy s#@, man, he’s my cousin.”

I’ve been carrying Mickey’s card, something of a St. Christopher medallion, for so long I had to laminate it.  The bottom said, (some numbers,) Nuku’alofa, Tonga Island, South Pacific.  Greatest address, ever?

Bang.  Everything changed.  “I thought you were Tongan,” I said, “but didn’t want to kiss your ass.”  It turns out, his family had emigrated to the US when he was 14 and he hadn’t been back to Tonga, since.  “You should go,” I said.  “It’s amazing. I loved it.”

Suddenly, we no longer a dodgy traveller and a scrutinising customs agent.  We were two people, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.  He repacked my backpack, apologized, stamped my passport, shook my hand, and said, “Welcome to America.”  The land of the free.

I said, “Malo.”

“’Oku talitali lelei koe,” he said.

I found work in Hawaii, on a small fishing boat, the owner of which was Alaskan.  After a month, he asked me and another traveller if we wanted to help him motor his craft to Alaska, and look for work cleaning up the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Sail a small boat, across miles of open ocean, to a mysterious destination, where untold adventures await?  

“I’d love to,” I said, with Tonga on my mind.

Ode to the shower

For blessings, large and small, I love Canada.  A favourite aspect of my life in the great white north is beginning each workday with a shower; an invigorating, experiential blend of solitude, hot water, and optimism.  I’m grateful every time I stand under the cascade of warm, restorative water, preparing for the day.

The first moments of my shower are spent getting wet, spinning, warming up, and soaking in the sensation of hot water on cold flesh.  Humans groom and the shower is a prime place for preening, primping, and preparing.  Soap and shampoo are obvious accessories, but, to justify extra shower-time, there’s more, which can be done, under the blissful cascade.  

After swishing mouthwash over teeth and gums, I treat myself to flossing, brushing, and a final rinse.  My mouth feels clean, fresh, and ready for close encounters, of any kind.  (I don’t like being afraid of my breath.)  

A shower is made for shaving.  Warm water and steam soften whiskers, so slicing them off is easier, while showering.  A touch up, in the mirror is, usually, required, but, sometimes, the task has been accomplished, perfectly.  I shave my entire face, including nose and forehead, for the same reasons I exfoliate.

Exfoliating is good for your skin.  Exfoliating is good for your soul.  With age, the process of cell regeneration slows down, and dead skin cells can clog pores, cause spots, and leave your epidermis showing dry and rough.  Manually scrubbing away old and dead cells can help you look and feel fresher.

Along with exfoliating, cascading water increases blood-flow to the skin’s surface, so circulation, which is critical to good health, is improved, by a shower.  As well, if you’re congested, phlegm can accumulate in the lungs, overnight.  Hot water and steam work, more, magic.  Phlegm is loosened, coughed up, spat out, and washed down the drain with dead skin cells.  Sayonara.

The mental component of a shower should not be overlooked.  Being alone and unplugged does wonders for well being.  My stream of consciousness flows, like the warm water, so ideas come, plans are made, problems solved, forgiveness given, and delightful reminiscences surface, in the shower.  

Showers have been part of human existence, since cavepeople stood under waterfalls for a rinse and rejuvenation.  There is evidence of showering facilities in early Egyptian and Mesopotamian households, wherein servants would pour water over upper class citizens.   

Many people are mindful of waste and indulgence, but the average shower, of 8 – 9 minutes, uses less water than a bath, and is faster.  Good hygiene is critical to good health, so a shower is a necessary luxury.  As well, if you want to get into Heaven, you have to shower.  In 1778, English cleric, John Wesley aptly recorded, “Cleanliness is, indeed, next to Godliness.” 

More critically, if you want to get a second date, before the first one, shower, for God’s sake.  

All things, good or bad, must come to an end.  A thorough rinse, thoughts of thanks, and my shower is over.  I grab a rough towel and go to it.  Spirited towel drying, from head to toes, is exfoliating and exercise, at once.  Drying thoroughly is critical; moisture leads to aggravating conditions, like athlete’s foot and crotch rot.  

It is difficult to work, play, parent, study, relate… if I am out of sorts.  Looking after myself allows me to be a better person.  Sequestered in a shower stall; cleaning, improving, conversing with thoughts, feeling comfortable and safe, is an ideal way to begin my day.  When I consider the simplicity, facility, rapidity, luxury, and benefits, nothing compares to my morning shower. 

Wash up.

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Pay it forward

Pay It Forward, originally published in 1999, is a terrific book.  In 2000, it was made into a feature film.  A young adult version of Pay It Forward was released in 2014, and became a bestseller.  Despite all the commercial and popular success, the greatest feat of Pay It Forward has been encouraging people, all over the world, to be kind.

The concept of the book is simple; rather than payback acts of benevolence, pay it forward; do something good for another.  Ideally, the recipients of your kindness pay it forward, as well, and goodwill spreads, indefinitely, like ripples in a pond.    

Kindness, and all it encompasses, is a critical human quality, integral to well being.  Kindness, fortunately, is everywhere.  Without the kindness of strangers, I’d be dead.

On a cold, cold night, in rural France, 30 years ago, a young mother, with her two children, in the car, picked me up, hitch hiking.  I spent the night at their house and, the next day, her, equally, kind husband took me to a train station.  

I don’t see many hitchhikers, anymore.  When I do, I pick them up, sketchy or otherwise.

On another occasion, a fellow gave me a fistfull of Francs and told me to have a good time, in Paris.  I was getting out of the his car, thanking him for the ride, at the time.  He knew we’d never meet, again, but he gave me money and drove off.  

Since, I haven’t been able to walk past a homeless person, without trying to help.  Years ago, we were running to a church, late for our daughter’s baptism, when I yelled, “Stop.”  I handed off the child, turned around, went back, and gave money to the fellow, sitting on the sidewalk, cap in hand.

My wife said, “I knew you’d do that.”

I said, “Good.”  We walked into the ostentatious, palatial house of God and I forgave them.

The author of Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde, explains the genesis for her book.  In the early 1970s, she was a young woman living in LA, with little money and an old car.  One evening, stopped at red light, in a bad part of town, her engine caught fire.  A bad situation, no doubt, Ryan Hyde’s fortunes quickly turned when two strangers, came running to her aid and put the fire out with blankets and bare hands.  

The fire department and police showed up, naturally.  Ryan Hyde spoke to them, and in the confusion and drama, the men, who had put the fire out, left, without a word.  She never saw them, again.  didn’t learned their names, or anything about them. As she explains, had she been able to say, “Thank you,” that would have been the end of  a nice story, not the start of global movement.

However, by fleeing the scene, the two men left Ryan Hyde unable to express her gratitude or pay them back.  With a determination to make things right and return the kindness, Ryan Hyde went about looking for people in need.  She returned their kindness by paying it forward.  Ryan Hyde was startled strangers could be so selflessly kind.

I know where she is coming from.  It was a different time and a generation, but I was told to be leery of strangers; lock your doors, disparage hitchhikers; hoard your money…

When I was young and dumb and hitchhiking, I couldn’t believe how nice people were.  

At first, I experienced an extreme sense of incredulity, when strangers were nice, “You did that for me?  I don’t know you.  I don’t owe you.” It was love at first experience and I’ve been trying to pay it forward, since.  

The book, Pay It Forward, is the story of Trevor McKinney, a twelve year old boy, from a small town in California, who comes from a broken, dysfunctional home.  At school, Trevor’s Social Studies teacher gives the class an assignment: think of something which will change the world.  

Accepting the challenge, Trevor decides to do a good deed for three people.  Rather than  have the recipients return the kindness to him, Trevor asks them to pay it forward to three others.  He hopes kindness will spread.  There are ups and downs, challenges, and frustrations, naturally, but Trevor perseveres and, unbeknownst to himself, makes the world better.  

Like the men, who put out the car fire, Trevor isn’t aware of the butterfly effect his kindness has had, but he carries on, regardless.  An expectation of payback or compensation cheapens a gesture.  Kindness provides its own rewards.

Science and research, often, affirm what is, intrinsically, known: an act of kindness benefits both parties.  The recipient of goodwill, obviously, is better off, after a nice gesture.  However, the doer of a good deed feels better, too.  

Kindness causes the body to release positive chemicals, such as serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, which benefit mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Similar to petting a dog, acts of goodwill make you feel better.  People who volunteer, for example, are inevitably happier than those who don’t. Kind, thoughtful people have happier marriages and better relationships.  

In an effort to make narcissists more palatable and compatible, they are coached to be kind.  This does nothing for the reptilian heart of an egomaniac.  However, teaching a narcissist that kindness will increase their status and popularity motivates them to behave nicely and nice people finish first, (ideally).

Kindness takes courage.  Like all interpersonal skills, I get better with practise.  Kindness, as with charity, begins at home.  More than anyone, I try to be generous, respectful, forgiving, and kind to my girls.

I ask them to pay it forward and the world is better off.

Here’s a fifty-word poem about kindness, called Kindness.  

Kindness




Being kind is easy 

Being kind is free 

Kindly is how we are meant to be




Kindness makes you happy

Kindness makes you smile

Kindness is hip

Kindness has style




Kindness brings joy

Kindness is bliss

Life is a plot

Here is the twist

Kindness is the reason we exist

 

Last Year, This Year, Next Year

We have a calendar, in our kitchen, tacked to the cork-board.  It records special dates, travel schedules, reminders, etc.  A new year, of course, demands a new calendar and the timing is perfect.  The old year, and its calendar, are scrawled upon, dirty, and falling apart; good riddance, to both.

 

The new year, like the new calendar, is a fresh-off-the-press blank slate; glistening with optimism and opportunity.  With a sense of rebirth, the unblemished, pristine calendar gets pinned to the cork-board.  There is no past, so the old calendar goes in the blue bin and last year, if it happened, is dismissed as practise.

 

This year will be better.  Next year, I’ll be perfect.

 

As the new calendar is put up, it’s traditional to make resolutions, which I do.  I don’t know why; I don’t stick to them.  By making resolutions, however, I acknowledge a need, which is a start, and that is good enough.  I should resolve to stop being so generous with myself, but that’s a tall order, so I, usually, resolve to stay the way God made me.

 

Last year, I started intermittent fasting and resolve to stick to it, this year.  It would be embarrassing to quit, because it’s all I talk about.  I hope I’m still at it, next year.

 

Having a garden, even a small one, is a joy.  Last year, we had a good crop of tomatoes and peppers.  The habeneroes were, insanely, hot.  I hope to expand our garden, this year.  I want to try growing corn.  There’s something majestic about tall, impossibly reedy, perfectly erect corn stalks.  Like everything, it is important for a garden to have an appeasing, soothing aesthetic quality.  Food tastes better, when the garden is pretty.

 

Beauty reigns, last year, this year, next year… forever.

 

Last year, rather than green bins and brown bags, at the curb, I turned all leaves into the garden soil, which will help, this year.

 

Last year, I turned 54.  For a long time, I was sold on the premise of “Freedom 55;” the age at which I could retire and enjoy financial security, until death.  Perhaps, I could start enjoying Freedom 55, this year, if I liquidated, disowned my children, and moved into a fridge box, under a bridge.

Sometimes, that sounds worse than working, so I resolve not to quit, this year.

Last year, in September, like every other year, I shaved my head on Terry Fox Day, to honour the great man.  I’m growing my hair and beard for a full year and will have a special friend shave it all off at the Terry Fox event, this year.  It’s months away, but I already look forward to being rid of the motley mess.  No beard, next year.

My favourite sporting event is The World Juniour Hockey Tournament.  It’s great because it runs annually, starting Boxing Day, and it spans from last year into this one.  Canada always has a great team, the players get better, and the competition steeper, every year.  It’s remarkable how skilled and athletic young people are.

Canada lost to an excellent Finnish team, in the quarter final, and were eliminated, early, this year.  The Canadians played hard and deserved a better fate.  Better luck, next year.

Unfortunately, the Canadian team and its captain, especially, were subjected to sickening abuse on anti-social media.  I’d wager this year’s wages and next’s, none of the tweeters would insult Max Comtois, who is 6’ 2”, 210, and has a black belt in Karate, to his face.

The coach of Switzerland, Christian Wohlwend, is the most delightful person in sports, by light years.  Last year, he was raving his club had no chance, against Canada.  This year, he told his team and the world, “When you give, give give love, you always get it back.  That’s a fact.”

Toward the end of last year, Sarah Thomson, the editor and publisher of The Women’s Post, asked me to write an article per week, which I have resolved to do.  It won’t be easy.  In a hockey vernacular, I’m a grinder.

Quality Writing

Think, write, edit, think, write, edit, write, think, edit…

Every word, mark, and symbol is vetted, sweated, and fretted

It is to hard work that a writer is indebted

Talent, I’d say, gets far too much credit

The only way to get better at anything is practise.   I’ve always had great respect for newspaper and magazine writers, who write, well, often; Rex Murphy, for example.  Thanks to the external pressure, I’ve resolved to write every day, this year.   This time, next year, I hope to have 52 articles and a children’s musical comedy under my belt, on the Internet, in the cloud, out in the world…

Our youngest wants to travel, get out in the world, this year.  Yikes.  There were sad stories of young women travelling, at the end of last year, but I try not to think about that.

I read, a lot, but it is mostly the Internet.  I resolve to read more books; real books, this year.  I resolve to consume less garbage, disguised and sold as food, fashion, entertainment, and news.

I Resolve

Another year has roared and died

And my soft spots are more amplified

2019 is, of course, right here

So, it’s time for Resolutions

And their promise of solutions

While bringing in the year

 

I resolve my resolutions won’t be, again, insincere

I resolve things will be different this year

 

I resolve to drop a pound or ten

I’ve resolved this before and will, likely, again

 

I resolve to eat better and exercise

I resolve to order salad instead of fries…

Wait

I take that back

I resolve to tell fewer outrageous lies

 

I resolve to cut back on drinking…

I take that back, too

What was I thinking?

 

I would resolve to be a better husband, but I don’t think I can

She’s a lucky lady and, as Homer Simpson said, “I’m a wonderful man”

 

I had resolved to be a better dad, but now I needn’t bother

Rather, I bought the t-shirt: World’s Greatest Father

 

I resolve to spend more time of the couch, with flicker in my hand

Flicking through the channels

The world at my command

 

With God as my witness

I resolve to put The Trumps out of business

I resolve to make America great

I resolve to titillate




I resolve to slay the beast and bring peace to the middle east

 

I resolve I’ll lower gasoline prices

I resolve to fix the migrant crisis

I resolve I’ll slow Canada’s traffic:

Highways and death traps, where carnage is graphic

 

I resolve to win the lottery

Financial freedom sounds good to me

Especially, when it comes so easily

 

I resolve I will no longer dream

Instead, I resolve to plot, hatch, fantasize, and scheme

 

I resolve to be short and sweet

I resolve to be fast and neat

I resolve to be discrete

 

That is a long list of resolutions and I can’t disavow

There’s much, much more to resolve, somehow

Yet, I’ve resolved to write The End soon

It’s another problem I’ll solve

I resolve

The End. Happy 2019.

 

All I want for Christmas

Christmas is upon us, so I’m making a list of everything I want.  I want everything I want and I want it, now.  That’s what I want.

I want peace; at home and around the world.  Some people love acrimony.  I want to cure that.  Intermittent Fasting helps.  I want everyone to try it.

There’s nothing like exfoliating.  I want a new luffa brush.  Bill O’Reilly, who’s on a long list of Irish-American / Canadian uber-conservative idiots, told an associate-producer he wanted to watch her scrub herself with a “felafel thing.”

I want Bill’s hero, Donald Trump, arrested and sent to prison, in Mexico.  Trump makes George Bush look a stable genius.  I want to ask our good neighbours, “Why did you vote for that foul, awful thing?”

I want a cure for Histiocytosis, a horrible, rare disease, which has afflicted my niece, Julia.  I want to thank and praise the medical community, in Hamilton, for miracles.  Another beautiful, young girl I know is in a fight at McMaster Children’s Hospital, where Julia was.  I want all children to be healthy and happy.

I like to do home renovations, but am leery of electrical jobs.  I want to take a course.  I like my old house.  I want to die in it, then be buried in the garden.  I want to be compost.

I want my daughter to stop bringing home animals.  I love them, too, but I want a break.  Having said that, I want to walk Doug, our great dog.  I want Doug to be happy, all the time.

There’s window, where I sit to write.  Much of the time, however, I watch squirrels.  If there’s reincarnation, I want to join my rodents.

Action Entertainment

Across a thin wire

Then down a tree

One’s in pursuit

One tries to flee

 

They cut to the left

Then to the right

But the aggressor still follows

The one that’s in flight

 

Back up a tree

Across a long fence

This racing rivalry

Is really intense

 

It’s pure entertainment

A wonderful sight;

There’s nothing quite like

A good squirrel fight

 

I want my car to start.  I want my computer and furnace to work.  I want my heart to keep ticking, my legs to keep kicking, and my heels to keep clicking.  I want to watch TV, because I love channel flicking.  I want to rhyme, a lot of the time.

I want to curb some appetites.

Sometimes, I want to save the world.  Most of the time, I want to lie on the couch, in track pants, comfy clothes, leisure wear, or quitters and save myself.

I Want, I Want, I Want

I want to be famous

I want to be rich

I want to be idle

I want perfect pitch




I want a place in the countryside

I want beachfront 2 miles wide

I want to be handsome and hazel eyed

I want to be purified, glorified, and beatified

 

I want servants at beck and call

I want my very own shopping mall

I want to be thin and I want to be tall

I dare say I want it all




I want I want I want

Write this down in your biggest font

Like a spoiled debutante

I want I want I want      

 

I want the beach house and the shore

I want Candy and her store

I want everything, heretofore

I want it all and then some more




I want to be famous, celebrated, cheered

I want to be loved, admired; completely revered

I think I want to be internationally known

But really, I think I want to be left alone




I want I want I want

Write this down in the biggest font

Like a spoiled, rotten debutante

I want I want I want

 

I Want song lyrics:  I want to know what love is.  I want you to show me.  I want to feel what love is.  I want you to know, I want you to know, right now, you’ve been good to me, baby; better than I’ve been to myself.  The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees.  I want money.  That’s what I want.  I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.  Feliz Navidad. 

Feliz Navidad, indeed.

What more could I want?

What to make of us

Our oldest daughter is about to turn 22; the younger will be 20, soon.  Time flies, certainly, but the rapidity with which my babies became girls, then women, staggers me.

When I was young, I didn’t want children.  I assumed the relationship would be strained, so bringing antagonists into my life made no sense.  However, my older brother had two children and I saw, firsthand, the delight they brought him.

I asked him how he did it.  A man of few words, he said, “Be nice.”  Parenting made simple.

Indeed, life made simple.

Susan, my wife, is a calm, patient, kind person, who wanted children.  I knew she’d be a good mother.  We’re the same age, and got married, when we were 31.  We had Erin a year later, in March, 1997.  Bang.  We were parents.

Claire came along 23 months, later.  Bang.  We were a family.  Susan was a mother.  I was a father.  Bang, indeed.

Having children changed, everything.  For the first time, I felt love; deep, profound compassion, concern, and care for something.  I loved my family, my wife, pets, friends, hockey, travelling, Beer, writing…. but the feelings stirred by my girls were unlike anything.

My only priority was, and is, their well being.  To this day, if they are happy, I am.  However, if one is sad, I’m crushed and agonize how to fix it.  A friend, rightly, said, “You are only as happy as your saddest child.”

Susan and I took delight watching them grow up.  Toddler Claire, obsessively picking the fuzz from between her toes, during “gymnastics,” remains a highlight.  I dislike phones and think distracted parents are as negligent, self-indulgent, and irresponsible as absent ones.  “Look at me, Daddy,” has had to be amended to, “Put down that idiotic rectangle, Daddy, and look at me or I’ll grow up angry and resentful, due to a terrible role model.”   EriKa Christakis writes in The Atlantic “the engagement between parent and child is increasingly low-quality, even ersatz.”

My girls have given me purpose and inspiration.  Each got a Fifty; a poem of 50 words.  Knowing how cruel the world can be, they’re shaped to the tip of a mighty pen, or the mightier sword.

—-

Dear Erin

Be the best you can be

Smell the flowers; hug a tree

Look beyond what you can see

Gaze at the sky; splash in the sea

Remember, the truth will set you free

If necessary: go for an eye, nuts, or knee

I love the girl that you call me

Dear Claire

Be nice; sit-up straight

Go outside; play until late

Don’t be afraid of love or of hate

Turn off the lights; lockup the gate

Shoot real straight and pull your weight

Celebrate, create, date, debate, fascinate, skate…

You, my girl, are amazingly great

It doesn’t take psychologists, psychiatrists, researchers, scientists, experts, to know children develop into healthy, happy adults, when they are loved and nurtured, ideally, by both parents, and others.  Male role models, fathers, especially, are critical.

I taught my girlie girls to be rough and tumble, to throw and catch, to get up and hit back.  Where my wife would have indulged, I’d say, “Do it yourself.”   Then, watch, teach, help, and cheer.

I have never held back, or changed, around my girls.  I carry on, whether they are with me, or not.  Over the years, many have felt sufficiently entitled to admonish.  “You shouldn’t do that in front of your kids.”  “You shouldn’t say that in front of your kids.”  “You shouldn’t let your kids call you Kevin.”  (My kids call me Kevin.)

I have, and always have had, a great relationship with my girls.

You shouldn’t tell other people what to do.

Throughout evolution, it took a village to raise a child.  Villages, however, have disappeared.  The onus for raising children, then, falls, squarely, on Mom and Dad.  The number of parents, men, especially, who forsake and abdicate the opportunity and obligation to raise their children is as well documented as the tragic outcome.

Children face another, less discussed, obstacle. There are a growing number of parents, who regret having children. This is a quote from an article in Macleans, “The reality of motherhood is incontinence, boredom, weight gain, saggy breasts, depression, the end of romance, lack of sleep, dumbing down, career downturn, loss of sex drive, poverty, exhaustion and lack of fulfillment.”

My wife said, “She doesn’t speak for me.”  We agree, nothing could have been more rewarding, fascinating, satisfying, and life affirming, than our girls.

Take my “career,” my house, my money, my stuff… take it all and burn it to the ground.  I don’t care.  If Erin and Claire are fine, I’d still have everything I’ve ever loved.

The western world is richer than ever; abundance abounds.  I don’t know what to make of a privileged society, which neglects, regrets, and resents its own children.

I, really, don’t.