Archive for July 2009

Music That Gives Me Goosebumps of Pleasure

July 30, 2009

“Born to Run” (Bruce Springstein)
There’s something about The Boss’s lyrics and the driving guitar rhythm that makes me want to SCREAM.  I have visions of driving my Suicide Machine into a last-chance power drive, with some hot babe’s  hands strapped across my engines.

I challenge anyone to play this tune on the car stereo, and still drive the speed limit.

Nope.   Physically impossible.

Sonata No. 8 in C Minor (Beethoven)

Some of you will recognize this as Billy Joel’s hit song “This Night“.  Billy Joel wrote the lyrics but he borrowed the melody from Ludwig.

Regarding the pop song…meh.   I can take it or leave it.

Just give me the original piano version.  There’s something about the way the slowly-paced notes fit together in a perfect pattern that resonates with my neural system.

I hear one note…and I anticipate what’s coming next.   As soon as the next note arrives, my brain goes “Ahhh….Yes!!!  That’s EXACTLY what I wanted to hear next!”, and I get a shiver.    The whole song is like this for me.

“Won’t get Fooled Again” (The Who)

Just like “Born to Run”, this song is so full of energy, it makes me want to get up and fight them in the streets.

Watching vintage concert footage of The Who makes me love it even more…I want to get up there on stage next to Pete Townsend and wind-mill the power chords.  And smash the guitars once the song is one.

The best part of the song is towards the end (the sound bite they use on CSI).   The music dies down…just when you think it should be the end of the song, that’s when Roger Daltry comes back screaming “YEAHHHHHH!!”.

Heh, heh.   I’ve blown speakers over that one…

The Beatles
Too numerous to mention.   Some shiver-inducers include the obvious ones:   Let it Be and Hey Jude.  But also  If I Fell and I’ve Just Seen a Face.

Or that guitar riff during the bridge of “I feel fine“.    It’s only a few seconds long, but the music is fresh and cheeky,  just like the Beatles were at the time, when they were peaking.  Before they got too world-weary and burned out with drugs and Yoko and whatnot.


The elegant mathematical precision of his music just messes with my brain, but in a good way.   I think head trauma patients should listen to  Mozart.  It will help re-connect their neurons.

Like the Beatles, so much of Mozart’s music gives me goosebumps, I cant’ remember it all.

Symphony in Symphony in G Minor is a good example.  Or the Theme from Elvira Madigan.  (Try to listen to that and NOT get mellowed out.)

Or listen to his interpretation of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.    It starts off as rinky-dinky tune that a child can play.   But the theme is repeated, over and over, each version more complicated than the last.   By the end, it’s so complex and convoluted, you barely recognize it but it’s AWESOME.

“Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd)

When I listen to this, I have visions of flying like superman,  zooming above pink clouds in bright sunshine, at the edge of the stratosphere.   It’s a perfect de-stresser at any time of day.

And yes, I realize the song is all about a drug addict getting high.   But I still like it.

Nutcracker Suite, Waltz of the Flowers  (Tchaikovsky)

The first time the clarinet kicks in, I get shivers.  Don’t ask me why, I just do.   Ever since I was a kid.

And I don’t even like Tchaikovsky.

Tambourine Man
(Bob Dylan)
To dance beneath beneath the diamond sky…silhouetted by the sea..with circus sands, memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,  and the smoke rings of my mind…

The visual imagery and brilliant poetry just blow me away.   Not to mention it’s one the few songs where Bob Dylan actually SINGS well.

Who doesn’t want to forget about today until tomorrow?

“Roll me Away” (Bob Seger)

Bob sings about being disillusioned with life, and getting on his bike, and driving across the country.    You can just sense his exuberance as he describes being able to just take off, do what you want, and go wherever you decide.

It brings back good memories for me, because for a short time, I got to live that song.

I don’t have a bike.   But 9  years ago, after getting laid off, I too, felt lost and double-crossed, and felt like searching for what’s wrong and what’s wright.

I had a healthy severance package.  So I got into my Honda Civic and spent three glorious months driving 32,000 km all over the continent.   It was one of the happiest times of my life.

Can’t wait to do it again, either…


Now, what kind of music works for you…?

The Blue Crayon

July 29, 2009

The blue crayon.

That dreaded blue crayon.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Never in the history of mankind, has a drawing implement generated such angst. 

It all started at a dinner/BBQ I was at.   After the meal, we were chatting and having coffee, doing our typical boring adult stuff.

 The two young boys (who shall remain nameless) were relegated into the kitchen, each with big pieces of cardboard and a box of crayons to draw with.

Suddenly, there was a sound.   An awful, horrible  sound.   Not dissimilar to that of a baby chimp being thrown feet-first into a wood-chipper.



We rushed to the kitchen.

Oh my god…what happened?   Did someone fall down and split their skull open?    Is someone disemboweled, and their life-blood is draining onto the linoleum floor? 


No.    The older brother was having a conniption-fit.      The Mother of All Conniption Fits.   You gotta admit, it was actually pretty impressive.

But we couldn’t really tell what the tantrum was about.   The lad was incoherent.   All we could get, from the occasional intelligible word, was that it had something to do with a blue crayon.

And you KNOW the younger brother had something to do with this.

Because during all the stamping of feet, thrashing and screaming, the two-year-old was quietly drawing on his own piece of cardboard.   With a blue crayon.   Smiling innocently to himself.  

….A little TOO innocently, actually.

The little shit.  You KNEW he had done something to push his older brother’s buttons.   He probably took the crayon away from him.    Or something along those lines.   

But we couldn’t prove anything.     And he knew it.

Well, whatever he did, it had the desired effect.  He was now being entertained a 10-Megaton Thermonuclear Shit Fit.   

 Although the rest of us didnt’ think it was so much fun.    The tantrum went on, and on…the older kid would not be stoppd.  The whole house stopped what they were doing, to come watch the firworks. 

(It would have been tempting to  say “Ooooh ahhhh” at that point…but I think that would have only put fuel on the fire). 

But finally, after a good 15-20 minutes, the tears subsided, and the boy calmed down, to a quasi-excited submissive state.

Then the  Grandma, playing King Solomon, made what seemed to be a wise decision.   She broke the crayon in half, and said:  “There…now you each have a piece of the blue go draw”.

 But like I said, the boy was in a quasi-excited submissive state.    You knew he was at that crucial balance point.     You know that point…when it could go either way.   The kid would either comletely calm down, or he’d lose it again, and go even MORE ballistic.

Both boys started drawing again.    All was well again…for about 10 seconds.

Then the older one started to draw with a bit more vigour than was required. 

Then he started to breathe hard….clenching his teeth, blinking  back the still fresh tears from his face.   He was forcing the crayon on the carboard

 (Uh-oh…Houston, we have a problem…)

And then the crayon broke.

You can guess what happened next.



Holy shit!    It’s now DEF-CON Five.     We’ve now gone ballistic.   Multiple warheads inbound.   Draw your blinds, seek shelter, and pray to your God!



At this point,  the Dad had had enough.   He retreated into the bathroom, locked the door, and stayed there, leaving the Mom to deal with her screaming son.

And scream, he did.   Quite enthuasisticallly.

And of course, once Junior noticed that Daddy was gone, this made his tantrum (I didnt’ think was possible at this point)…even WORSE. 

At that point, I decided to make a hasty exit.  

Thanks for dinner.    Nice to see you again.  But I have to leave.

As I exited, I had one last image of the Mom carrying her kid outside to try to quieten him down, while trying avoid his thrashing arms. 

 Huh.   All that, because of ONE BLUE CRAYON.


(And to think…..people ask me why I’m single and haven’t settled down and had kids).


July 27, 2009

I have a confession to make:

I’m a screw-up.

A big, fat, screw up.

That is, if you listen to all my critics, I am.

I don’t eat properly.  I’m too fat.   I need to exercise more and watch what I eat.

My voice is too loud.  I talk too much.  I repeat my jokes.

I have a temper, and I swear.

I’m too opinionated.  I’m too “redneck”.   I’m messy and don’t put things away.

Oh, and I complain too much.

I’m too negative, which apparently makes it hard to be around me sometimes.

So, naturally, there are times that I feel I might have outstayed my welcome.

That’s when I’ll decide to tone things down a bit, and keep to myself for a while.

But then it’s:  “How come you’re so quiet, Friar?  Is anything wrong?  How come we never hear from you?”

But those are just my personal faults.   Let’s not forget work.

I chat too much.   I distract people.

I don’t manage my time properly.

How come this memo’s taking you so long?

If I do “A”, I’m told to do “B”.

So next time, I do “B”, they tell me I should have done “A” instead.

I’ve been told that maybe I’m in the wrong line of work, maybe I shouldn’t be in my present position.

After which they’ll complain that I don’t seem to be enthusiastic about the project.

But I’ll  get a positive performance review, and a promotion.

Then shortly after, I’m scolded again.

Like if I don’t’ take my work seriously, maybe I should look somewhere else.

But I don’t dare complain about work.

Because people don’t’ want to hear about it.  I’ll be accused of being negative again.

And if I happen to feel stressed out about all this,  that’s apparently because I choose to let it.    (So I’ve been told).

I guess feeling bad is my fault TOO.

So, based on the popular the Critic opinion, I’m apparently a big screw-up and can’t do anything right..


But the other day, I was at a party, and I met a woman.

She was there with her family, and we started chatting.

For whatever reason, she started to tell me about her 20-year old son that she had lost just a few years ago.   It was a tragic car crash a few miles from home.

She told me how difficult it had been to deal with, and all the emotional hurdles she had to overcome.    Yet overcome them she did.

She wasn’t feeling sorry for herself.   She wasn’t asking for pity.

I could see she just wanted to talk to someone.

So I listened.

I didn’t solve her grief, or bring her son back.

But I listened.

Because she needed it.

And in some small, tiny way, I think my being there helped her.  Even if just for few minutes.


So, despite what everyone says, I know that at least I did that one thing right.

And it was that one thing right that mattered the most

And you know what?   It felt good.

Maybe I’m not such a screw-up, after all.

Zen Habits for Non-Zen Activities

July 24, 2009

Zen Habits of Monster Trucks
– Don’t try to drive the truck.  BE the truck.
– Keep it simple and avoid multitasking.   Either capsize, or smash into your opponent.  Don’t try to do both.
– Remember to breathe deeply.  This will empower you when yelling “YEEE-HAW!”
– Respect the cars you destroy.  Only run over the ones you absolutely have to.

Zen Habits of Football
– Astroturf isn’t necessarily any softer or harder than natural grass.  It just IS.
– Why tackle your opponent?  Instead, offer to sit down and discuss your differences together, over a cup of mango-blackberry herbal tea.
– Take time to be mindful.   Feel the leathery surface of the ball.   Touch the rough edges of the laces.
– Become aware of the sharp pain you feel as the Line-Backers cream you, while you were too busy navel-gazing.

Zen Habits of Bingo
– Don’t regret the numbers you’re missing.  Be thankful for the ones you have.
– Don’t stress out trying to play too many cards at once.   Enjoy the game, by just playing one.
– Be comfortable with who you are, and don’t be concerned about your physical appearance.  Nobody else is either.
– Breathe deeply.   This will empower you when you need to yell “BINGO!”
– Better yet, if you win, just get up and leave.   Knowing that you’ve won is reward enough.

Zen Habits of Throwing a Tantrum (for a child)
– Remember, the intensity of your conniption-fit is not so important, as the duration.  Keep the end-goal in sight.
– Proper diet is important to fuel your burst of energy.   Have a healthy bowl of sugar-cereal beforehand.
– Don’t forget to breathe deeply.   This will oxygenate your muscles for the thrashing and kicking, and will help you scream louder.
– Persevere.   After all is said and done, you may still not get your way.  After all, tomorrow is always another tantrum.

Zen Habits of Scrubbing the Toilet
– Accept the fact that in life, shit happens.
– Be grateful for what you have.   The fact that the toilet needs cleaning means you’re lucky to have enough to eat.
– This is one case where you don’t want to breathe too deeply.
– Think of the toilet as your life, and this is a metaphor for eliminating the layers of evil and foulness you have accumulated.
– Embrace the whiteness of the porcelain as it’s wiped clean. It represents purity and rebirth.

One More Swim

July 22, 2009

Sec Lake

As the sad man donned his mask and snorkel and waded into the water, he thought:

I’m lucky to be here.

How many places are there, he wondered, where you can drive 2 minutes from your house and find such a sandy freshwater beach to swim in?    Those poor bastards in Toronto drive hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to experience this.   And here he was, doing it on a weekday, after work.

Because this was the type of special place where you could do that kind of thing.

Where you could catch your fish for supper any time you felt like it.

Where there was an infinite network of back-roads leading to hidden lakes just waiting for your canoe.

Where you could pick wild berries and eat them until you got the shits.

Where the housing was cheap, where there were no traffic jams, where you didn’t have to lock any doors.

Where bears would poop in your back yard.

These were all things the man dearly loved.

It had taken him years to find this place.

But he was here, and he was grateful.

Yet he was still sad.

Because living here came with a huge price.

It meant working for The Factory.

That god-damned dysfunctional Factory.

Because that was the type of toxic place where grown men were treated like children by resentful bean-counters.

Where office Christmas parties required you to take personal time off to attend.

Where countless of millions were wasted on boondoggles, yet you could get disciplined because your timesheet was a day late.

Where you could be reprimanded, criticized and bullied for months on end, until you almost started to doubt your own worth as a human being.

And then they’d congratulate you with a successful annual performance review and a promotion.

And a few weeks later, the head games would start again, and you’d be harassed again and almost threatened with dismissal.

That was the type of place that would force you awake at night with a queasy stomach, and make you wonder how much longer you could take it.

This is why the man was sad.

Because he realized:  It’s not worth it.

His lakes.   His fishing.   His canoe.   His trees.

His bears that pooped in his back yard.

It’s not worth it.

He looked at the shimmering sunlight dancing off the pristine water.   He looked at the rolling hills of unspoiled wilderness.  And it was a bittersweet moment.

Because he knew he had to leave.

For the sake of his sanity, for his well-being, for his soul….he knew he had to leave.

And already, he was starting to grieve.

How many more times will I actually visit this beach? he wondered.

Who knows?  Nothing in life is a given, as his Mom often said.

He put on his mask, took a deep breath, and plunged into the cool dark forgiving water.

At least for one more swim…

What summer means to me.

July 21, 2009

Summer here in Ontario means raspberries from my garden…


Catching big fish and letting them go…


Picking wild blueberries in the bush…

Wild Blueberries

And deerflies.

Don’t forget the deerflies….


My All-Time Favorite Comments About My Weight Problem.

July 19, 2009

1.   I’m watching two perfectly fit women lift their T-shirts to pinch the 1/4  inch of skin around their bellies.    They oooh and ahhh about how “fat” they are.

Really sensitive.   Because it’s pretty damned obvious I’d be able to grab fistfuls on my own flab.  

Hel-Looo!.   I’m standing right next to you!


2. My birthday party.    The family is there  including my girlfriend at the time.   Mom made my special Duncan Hines chocolate cake that I get once a year. 

After I blow out the candles, someone announces:  “Hey, maybe you can lose some weight, and not eat the cake!”.   

(Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I was planning on doing.  Thank you for pointing that out. )


3.  I have some torn cartilage in my knee.  I’m in a lot of pain.  I phone someone to ask for the name of a doctor they know.   

I get the doctor’s name, but not after I’m lectured that maybe if I lost some weight, I wouldn’t have so many knee problems.

(Thanks immensely for your advice!    But this helps my immediate situation…HOW?)  


4.  I’m visiting my folks for a weekend.   I bump into a old neighbor I havent’ seen in over a year.  He’s recently had bypass surgery.    

In front of everyone, first thing he does is laugh, and point at me:    “Holy shit…! What happened to YOU?”

Hey, good to see you, Mr. N.


5.  Another neighbor, on another visit to my folks.    

The old f*** rolled down the window as he drove by, and told me I needed to lose some weight.

Nice to see you too,  Mr. D.


6.  A Polish Christmas tradition is to exchange bits of bread, and wish people good things for the year.    Usually it’s things like “I hope you have  good health”, or “I hope you get that dream job you’re looking for”,  etc.   

On this year, someone tells me “I hope you lose weight”.    

I’m somewhat hurt by this comment.  (C’mon..NOT on Christmas!)

When I later mention this to other family members, I get further lectured.    At least one person is angry with me. 

(‘Tis’ the Season…)


7.  Thanksgiving family dinner.  I happen to be talking about Hewitts’ Dairy in Hagersville, Ontario.  They make 4% Homogenized chocolate milk in glass bottles.  Best damned milk I ever tasted, I say.  

 Out of the blue, a relative sitting next to me reaches over, and sarcastically pats my belly.

(Notice, it’s always the SKINNY people who do that? )


8.  I’m in a medical center.  I’m reading a diabetes poster on the wall, while waiting for another person to finish talking .     

At which they point out:  “Friar, you’re a candidate for diabetes yourself!”   

Right in front of a pretty nurse.   

As if this isn’t enough, the nurse chimes in:   “At your age, you need to start taking care of yourself”. 

(Umm…do I KNOW you?)


9.  It’s a beautiful sunny winter day in British Columbia.  I’m having a great ski day, going up the chairlift with a few people. 

 I happily announce that this is exactly what I’d like to do when I retire.   

 The old fart sitting next to me announces to everyone:   “With your weight problem, you won’t live to see your pension!”

(Yeah…but I’ll still be here 20 years from’ll be DEAD….that’s what I shoulda told him!)


10.   A few days later, the same old fart insists on having coffee with me at the ski lodge.  I can’t get rid of him.

 He spends the whole time telling me I should be cycling more, and not fishing, to lose more weight.  

He wouldn’t let the weight thing go.    When I confront him about it…he points out that my Mom had cancer, but her heart is fine, she’s okay.  

 But that I’m more like my Dad…who died suddenly.  It was his heart.  That’s going to happen to me.     

Thank you, Mr. Fart.

Best.  Coffee break.   Ever.


11   I’m having a discussion with someone, pointing out that my Dad died instantly at age 70.  And his father died instantly, at age 72. 

 Gee, I hope I don’t have any ticking time-bomb like that when I turn 70. I say.

This is what I’m told:   

 “Welll…maybe it’s time to re-think your lifestyle and eating habits.”.

By the way, all this happened during my Dad’s funeral reception

While he was in an open coffin, 20 feet away.

(No comment…you just can’t make this stuff up, folks.)