Saturday, December 26, 2009

Speak Well Of, Etymologically Speaking

I have decided to write my own eulogy. I don't want to leave something so important to somebody else; it's a sort of "if you want something done right" sort of thing. Some people might say that you can't write write your own eulogy but that of course is nonsense. Everybody does it. In fact, that's what people spend their whole lives doing. Granted, someone else is usually responsible for a succinct idealized summary, but the raw material is autobiographical.

I should clarify though. When I said that I was going to write my own eulogy, I meant the succinct, idealized summary. This isn't some sort of preparation for death, but rather for living. The problem with life is that there's no dress rehearsal. So far I've been ad-libbing my lines which works to a point, but if I want to look back upon my life with few regrets I'm going to need a script. Of course life throws too many curve balls to script exactly so my eulogy is going to be a script of values.

For example, when I'm dead I want people to look back on my life and say, "I really admire how Ed always gave his best effort, no matter what the task." Of course if I died today nobody who knew me would say that. That's why I want to write this eulogy. I'll be able to see my values written out so I can live them.

Here's another example. "Man Ed was a great uncle!"

I gotta go. My nephew is calling me! (I'll write the eulogy later.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Incomplete List of Things That I Love:

In no particular order:

Crisp, fall apples
Turkey dinners
Toast with Marmite
Christmas morning coffee
Ice Cream
J.S. Bach's Ciaconna in D minor
Afternoon Naps
Wool Socks
A hug from a friend
Moist chocolate chip cookies followed by a glass of milk
The night sky lit up by countless stars
Good books
Kind words from a friend
Reading anything that my sister wrote
Smells that take me back to childhood, say Vicks Vapor Rub
Beating the opponent to the ball
Biking to the top of a hill in a hurry
Holding babies
Diving into cool, clear, freshwater
The Four Seasons
And of course,
Family and friends
The faith to believe that these blessings are gifts, not accidents

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Boasting in First Person is so Vulgar.

I was thinking about cycling today and I was reminded of an email written several weeks ago. The recipient of the email suggested that I post it as a blog. So, here it is.

Picture this.
Last Friday afternoon, a bearded man takes off from the university on a customized red bicycle. It's single speed and has sawed off drop bars turned upside down so that they look like bull horns. While waiting at the intersection of 29th St and 16th Ave NW another cyclist comes up behind the bearded one.
"What gear ration are you using?" he asks.
"To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure. My roommate made this bike. When riding this bike I'm a bit of a fraud because it makes me look like a bike nut but I did not customize it nor do I know much about bikes."

The light turns green and the bearded man sets off, quickly to demonstrate that he may not be an expert in the mechanics of bicycles, but he does know how to make one go.

He races down the hill by Foothills Hospital, remembering another trip down that hill that ended in a unfortunate collision that ended the life of his road bike's back wheel. He turns through the neighbourhood while the other cyclist continues on to the intersection at Memorial Drive.

The bearded man crosses Memorial further east at a cross walk. Eastbound on the pathway he notices the inquisitive cyclist not too far behind him. Bearded Man crosses on the Crowchild Bridge and heads west to where the pathway heads up a steep gradient, a favourite hill of his that he used to do daily on his work commute. Normally he pushes himself up this hill, but on rare occasions he is a bit lazier upon his ascent. Not today though, he powers up as fast as possible, knowing that the cyclist following behind is aware that he only has one speed to work with. He makes it to the top of the hill still ahead of the other cyclist, a bike commute regular. The other cyclist comments, "You're strong!" Bearded Man's attempts to casually shrug off the compliment are perhaps successful, though a keen observer of human emotion would note the pride written across his bristly countenance.

The two cyclist ride together talking "bikes" until their paths diverge and the bearded one goes to the market and the other to whither the road leads.

That same evening the Bearded Man makes his way home. He powers up a steep pathway that leads into Crescent Heights. Later he pulls up to an intersection. There are two lanes, the right lane, the one he occupies, is used for vehicles going straight or turning right. A car pulls up behind the bearded man, indicating right. Bearded Man, being a considerate sort of cyclist, moves tight to the car in the left lane, a car also going straight. This car is piloted by a young mother who has three young boys with her, two who are on the passenger side, one front and one in the rear seat. There attention is caught by the cyclist riding his bike on the road like a car. They call out "Hi" through the open window. Bearded Cyclist returns their salutations but then the light turns green and he is off like a bullet, easily beating the car off the line. He maintains his lead for at least half a block. The car catches up and the boys look in wonder at the man who can bike so fast. They probably didn't realize that he was riding an old, single speed mountain bike and that he could be considerably faster on a road bike.

Bearded Cyclist arrives to his house in Cambrian Heights. The ride from the market to home, including a quick stop to check the mail at his previous Chateau took less than 45 minutes. He proudly strides into the house. Lance Armstrong would be hard pressed to beat him, and would certainly fail in any type of facial hair-growing competition.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


A blog post inspired by Calvin French's response to Debbi's facebook post. I hope that those who are unfamiliar with the background information will still manage to find some appreciation for the story.

After the ceremony concluded, the Queen of Cats summoned her personal advisor, Mittens, asking, "The Heroes who were honoured today, why were their names familiar?"

The advisor was unable to meet her eye. He looked away in obvious discomfort, knowing the answer would bring displeasure. The Queen fixed her most regal, demanding stare upon the taciturn advisor. The only movement was the involuntary flick of the tail. Finally summoning all his courage, Mittens replied, "They were among those..." Mittens only continued after the Queen let out a soft yet threatening meow.
"Among those involved in... the Incident."

The Queen leapt to her feet in anger. Without a word she left the room, courtiers looked about nervously while Mittens quickly followed behind advocating that she take heed.

They sped to the North Tower of the Palace. The guard at the door started protesting her presence but was quickly silenced by an icy, feline glare. The Queen ascended the stairs and didn't stop until she reached the top. She proceeded to the end of a dark corridor and looked in through the close bars to see the darkened form of a reclining cat, sleeping softly.

The Queen let out a quiet hiss and the reclining cat awoke instantly and with mien of a titled lord, greeted the Queen.

"You!" the queen angrily hissed. "Are you ready to recant your fiendish doctrine and order your followers to cease your hopeless rebellion?"

The incarcerated feline laughed softly.

"I will cease to breath before I cease the rebellion. However, you understand that I only rebel against one minor aspect of your reign, your misguided trust and fondness of humans."

"You've already given me your tired arguments about the failings of humans! Today we honoured two humans who, for no reason beyond compassion, rescued four kittens, orphaned and fated to die, took them in and cared for them. And these humans, so common they even keep a dog!"

"Four kittens saved? It's likely that humans orphaned the kittens. Humans have always held kittens in high regard, but since leaving the banks of the Nile 3000 years ago humans only see cats as a sign of bad luck. In a short while these "heroes" will have four cats, will they be so willing to share their house then? Sure there are humans who "love" cats. They take them in as kittens and are bewitched by the slightest purr or meow. But then they enslave the minds of these kittens with soft beds and delicate food and then "fix" them to keep them kittens. CATS AREN'T BROKEN!"

The prisoner leapt up suddenly and padded by the door in a practiced motion, the light and shadow casting tiger stripes across his body. He fixed a disdainful glance at Mittens who, upon his sudden movement, had involuntarily arched his back and fluffed his fur despite the protective barrier that confined the traitor.

"Humans are a curse! They have oppressed and subjugated cats for millennia, the fact that some cats willingly subject themselves does not make it right! If you wish to honour these humans for their mercy, fine. Perhaps these kittens feel gratitude. It's misplaced. Their salvation comes at the cost of a life of servitude. It would have been better if they died! I for one will never recant, and should I ever escape these confines I will continue my battle against you and against humans. I will use all my feline powers to enact revenge upon humanity for the unspeakable horrors historically and presently enacted against our kind!"

The queen silently rose to her feet ignoring the crazed laughter emanating from the cell and echoing through the hall. She came to the saddened conclusion that the rebel would forever remain inexplicably embittered against humans. The queen quietly left the tower, leaving also the hope of repentance and reform from the rebel, and leaving forever high security prisoner 269384, aka Dexter, to serve his lifetime sentence, no chance of parole.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Acting Strangely

One thing I love is relating funny or outrageous events that have occurred to me. Another thing I enjoy, though on a far lesser scale, is making large sums of money. An awkward situation is quickly diffused by laughter, and I also love laughing.

My friend is a doctor. We were driving together once and talking about his experiences in med school. if one is interested in getting cheap haircuts it is possible to go to a hair dressing school and have students practice on you. however, it's not so easy for med students to practice their skills. For them, actors are required.

It's often the case that doctors, to do a proper examination, require the patient in various states of undress and to poke and prod various places that by nature, necessitates the wearing of gloves. So while it's possible that there are people would would be willing to voluntarily subject themselves to this ignominy, these volunteers would be few and with questionable motives.

Money can be persuasive though, and suitable amounts can persuade enough people to submit themselves to the prying hands of callow student physicians.

What all this taken together means, I've been entertaining the thought of becoming a med school actor. The reasons are simple:

1. It's a good way to make money.

2. It's a good way to make life interesting

3. It's a good way to meet female med students.

So far I've been all talk and bluster. I've made no steps towards applying for this job. Perhaps it's mostly fear, although a large amount of laziness as well. I don't want to expend a lot of energy only to be turned down for the position, or worse, accepted.

Rereading the reasons I've given for the job, I suppose that the first would be more accurate if rendered, "It's a way to make good money." And the the third would be more truthful as "it's a way to meet female med students." Really though, it's the second argument that I find the most compelling. I've had some bad jobs in the past, but I think I could do worse...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Gotta Start Somewhere

My current job is in some ways the best job that I ever had.  I work at an organic produce store, stocking produce in between time spent chatting with colleagues and sampling the food.   It's fairly different from my first job

My first real job, one that required a SIN number and paying taxes, was with a roofing company in Kelowna.  I was seventeen years old and it was the summer going into grade twelve.  The roofing company was a commercial roofing company specializing in tar and gravel roofing. Construction workers in general are known as being a little bit rough around the edges, this I knew.  However, what I didn't know is that in the hierarchy amongst construction workers, roofers, being the coarsest, form the bottom level.   All I knew is that the job paid $10 an hour which was at least two dollars an hour higher than any of the other jobs I saw available.  

Through persistence I managed to land the job and so I began work on a condo up on the ski hill.  The roof was getting replaced which meant there was a lot of work for a young grunt labourer.  Firstly, the old roof had to come off.  This meant removing the gravel from atop the roof.  We would shovel the gravel into a large wheelbarrow and once that was full it was wheeled up a ramp to clear the parapet and dumped over the edge of the roof.  

Before beginning this job I was a chubby teenager with silky smooth soft hands and virgin ears. Well, shoveling gravel is rather heavy work and it was well before coffee time that I was absolutely exhausted.  My shovel loads grew smaller and I dreaded having to push the wheelbarrow.  I didn't know that I could balance it properly let alone run it up the ramp and then dump it.  Somehow I made it through. 

Underneath the gravel was a layer of styrofoam insulation which was to be removed.  We, the bottom of the rung labourers, gathered pieces of insulation into a large tarp which we then bundled up like a hobo's pack, tied the four corners together and then hurled the package off the roof with the intention of landing it in the dump truck below.  

The dump truck waited below, eleven stories down, which meant there was a good amount of time to watch the bundle fly off target and hit the ground only to break open and send styrofoam everywhere.  Another guy was on the ground and his responsibility was dumping the insulation into the truck and then tying the empty tarps to a rope.  

This man, Ron, I will never forget for he might be the most disagreeable man that I've ever come across.  In hindsight I don't know if he fed me a lot of lies, but the stories he told were not pleasant stories.  They involved unwanted kittens and shotguns, or named bullets to be worn around the neck until the proper opportunity presented itself.  Whenever the tarp would miss the truck it meant more work cleaning up styrofoam so Ron would yell and curse at me.  He was intimidating because he was also the most muscular man that I've ever met.  

I wasn't strong, but I was getting there.  For Ron would tie the empty tarps to a rope that dangled from the top of the building and I would haul it up hand over hand.  An empty tarp doesn't weigh too much... at first.  Sometimes tools would be needed from the truck and then I would have to haul up a bucket of tools, hand over hand.  The roof was getting finished with torch on, a material that comes in three foot wide rolls that weighed about ninety pounds if I remember correctly.  These rolls had to be carried to where the journeymen roofers needed them and I was the ideal mule.  Sometimes they had to be carried up ladders, one hand holding the roll on my shoulder and the other gripping the ladder.  

Another joy was filling the tar kettle; basically a trailer which heated tar to several hundred degrees.  The tar came in 100lb blocks and I had to lift the block and slowly lower it into the hot, liquid tar.  I couldn't drop it because if the tar splashed and landed on me, it would burn (because it was hot) and stick (because it was sticky.)  If you touch hot tar the thing you have to do is wait until it's cool enough to remove.  The smell of the tar wasn't pleasant either.  

So while my friends were working at McDonald's or sitting on the beach I was spending time working harder than I ever had before, and working with guys who couldn't string together a sentence without the use of an expletive and who used the rest of their vocabulary discussing the primary subjects of beer, sex, and occasionally work.  Usually just a combination of the first two subjects though.  

The sweetest time of the day came as we packed up to go home.  The ski hill is about 45 minutes from Kelowna so I had a long drive to enjoy and usually sleep.  Three of the roofers would often split a six pack, I assumed that the driver was sufficiently accustomed to alcohol that he would be able to safely pilot us down the winding road.  The empty cans would be thrown out the window and would occasionally make contact with the targeted road signs.  And I would sit back in my seat and look forward to school starting again.  

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Price of Love

The last two visits I made to Kelowna were made because of my grandmother.  The first visit in November was because she was taken to the hospital and if I wanted to see her again, I knew that I should quickly make the trip.  I went again over Christmas holidays, this time to attend her memorial service.  Both times I saw love personified in the actions of my grandparents. From here on in I will refer to them by the Frisian terms for grandpa and grandma, Pake and Beppe, because that is how I've always known them.  

I remember on the first visit, dropping in at the hospital to find my grandparents holding hands while my Pake (grandpa) read a book to my Beppe.  You don't hear it much in weddings anymore, but the vows of "in sickness and in health" came to mind.  While my Beppe was in the hospital, my Pake would visit her several times a day and on occasion wake up and visit her during the night when she was scared or lonely.  

That's the thing about love, it's about giving.  Love isn't some feeling or emotion, or at least not true love.  Love is sacrifice.  I recently asked my Mom what family life was like growing up.  She told me that although everything said about Beppe being a wonderful, loving, and caring wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother was true, there were times when she was quite difficult to live with.  That of course is true of everybody.  What then, kept my grandparents together for nearly 58 years?  

If you are going to build a tower, don't you first estimate the cost to see if you have enough money?  Likewise, if you enter into a relationship you should estimate the cost; love isn't cheap. I don't think love is splitting everything fifty fifty.  Love is always a gamble.  Love is giving everything in the hope that you will win love in return.  Love means dying to yourself.  

My grandparents loved each other.  No doubt about it.  They gambled and won.  Nearly six decades they spent loving each other, even in times when it was hard.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death did them part.  Now perhaps, my Pake is paying the hardest price of all because love can't halt aging and death.  After a lifetime, he is now alone with thoughts and memories.  

If one were callous they might ask him whether it was all worth it.  A life spent giving and giving of himself only to lose in the end.  A life without a wife and subsequent children would probably have been far easier and definitely cheaper.  Instead, he choose the expensive cost of loving another with everything that he had.  The price of love is high, but love is what we were made to do.