April 8th

As much as I like a good yarn I am bound to declare there isn’t anything attaching to coincidence except perhaps what we make of it. Certainly there’s no metaphysical or abstruse significance. Nonetheless the unfathomable import attaching to commonality is neither irrelevant nor entirely negligible – no matter by what reasoning or spirituality it is arrived at. Take today for example, April 8th, it’s my sister’s 70th birthday (which I suppose is momentous enough on its own).  But neither can I escape the still lingering recollection of my father’s death on this day in 2014 as he approached his 96th birthday on August 17. Quite apart from anything else promoted by his memory, I shall forever be grateful that he had such a long and productive life. It was only in the very lateral stage of his life that he showed any sign of ruinous declension from aging. Indeed I was surprised to learn that he had died in his sleep – in what I shall presume conveniently or otherwise was a peaceful passing (if indeed Nature affords such poetic privilege). In any event I believe my niece Jennifer was with him the night he died; and that alone is an enormous blessing since he and she were close. So you can see this one day – with the benefit of coincidence and some necessary extrapolation – encompasses three uniquely important persons, my father, my sole sibling and my god-daughter.

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And we have lift-off!

As I have unfailingly remarked on numerous occasions leading up to this much-awaited episode, today is the end of our 14-day quarantine imposed by government order upon those of us returning to the homeland from abroad. It has, I can tell you, been a much greater imprisonment than I ever imagined.  And not one I hasten to repeat – in spite of Baker Bob’s enormously soothing Nanaimo bars!  The unaccustomed lethargy over the past two weeks has all but paralyzed me (or at the very least stiffened those once mobile limbs).  I never until now fully appreciated the text-book advantage of exercise. Stretch! Stretch!

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Who’s counting?

Tomorrow – Tuesday, April 7th – will mark a clean slate, a fresh start following precisely 14 days of quarantine. It is forecast to be sunny and warm. That’s nice! The last time I was out of the apartment was Monday, March 23rd when I mistakenly visited Lincoln Heights Ford to have the air pressure in my tyres increased (and subsequently the same day to have a replacement Sirius radio module ordered). The events continue to this day to be a moderate embarrassment, the punishment of which is relieved by my sincere misconstruction of the current social restrictions v-à-v those we had cultivated in the United States of America as recently as March 19th when we mournfully left Longboat Key to return home. I can’t recall ever having felt so robbed of a month of my lifetime, not even when lying in the hospital for about a month after my heart stopped while bicycling. That at least was an adventure of sorts! Shamefully I have yet to discover how to readapt the comparatively minor vacation interruption to the larger scope of just being alive. There lingers an imperturbable sense of violation and trespass – though without the benefit of having someone to blame. Blame I find is always so conveniently distracting.

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The next three weeks…

The Times recently posted an article by Lord Plush Bottom that in lieu of practicing self-isolation we should instead all man-up and get out there to spread the virus more quickly. The philosophy is strangely akin to that of the aristocrats sending the boys “over the top” in order to accelerate the defeat of the colonial enemy. The theory is that immunization is paradoxically achieved through pervasive exposure (“herd immunity“).  It is the same theme of conditioning which attends the vaccination process. Presumably most people (which pointedly in this instance includes the tea-sipping members of the upper crust) will have little if anything to endure from exposure. The avoidance is however notably indiscriminate. Certain of the herd will not be so successful. That too has become a tolerable statistic related to people over 60 years of age and especially those with so-called “pre-existing conditions” which is to say, currently contaminated with enfeebling drugs and as a result having an already weakened immune system. The unfortunate destiny may be dismissed as “their time had come” which I can tell you as one of the prospective applicants is not a purely intellectual reflection. I confess to having as yet certain unexpressed ambitions (though in fairness I hasten to add my unwavering conviction that life owes me nothing).

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How you doin’?

As the pandemic mounts its surge across North America – and people increasingly succumb to the government’s fiat for isolation – there is a rising needfulness to communicate with one another.  Staying indoors during springtime is itself a high order; then add to that the prescription to avoid contact with others. This isn’t an invitation to move the party into the garage out of the rain. It’s a cancellation of the get-together entirely. As a result we’ve had to learn new skills for meaningful and inspiring exchange. Suddenly those casual rendezvous at the coffee shop seem more impulsive than we may have once credited them to be. There is as well the awakening of erstwhile dormant connections, conveying their own implications and complications, urges and urgencies. Continue reading

Good times!

Being confined to the apartment for the past ten days has revived the homespun diversions of my youth. Nothing like a global pandemic to call for unpretentious entertainment. I was never a fan of Mister Rogers. Perhaps the Presbyterian ministerial history worked against him. He wouldn’t be the first man of the cloth whom I encountered making a 90-degree shift to the profane – though certainly not smutty or disrespectful. I do however recollect with fondness Clarabelle the Clown (the mute partner of Howdy Doody), Mickey Mouse (and to a lesser extent Donald Duck), Dick Clark and American Bandstand, Annette Funicello, Father Knows BestLeave it to Beaver, Lassie and My Three Sons. Middle-class American boyhood set a high standard! As apparently did Maurice Chevalier for my parents. It was the fifties in Washington, DC. We lived a block from then Vice President Richard Nixon whose daughter Julie and I were in Mrs. McGee’s class together at Horace Mann Elementary School on Newark St NW.

His heavy French accent, melodic voice and Gallic charm made Maurice Chevalier the prototype of the gallant French monsieur in the American cinema of the 1930s. Before he went to Hollywood he worked as a farmer, circus acrobat, cabaret singer and, starting in 1908, a comical actor in French films, a few times even with the celebrated Max Linder. Chevalier fought as an infantryman in the French army during World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1914, spending two years in a POW camp. After the war he returned to the entertainment field, and eventually tried his luck in Hollywood. He made his first American movie in 1929, The Love Parade (1929). The film was a success, and Chevalier made more successful films with directors like Ernst Lubitsch (The Merry Widow(1934)). He retired from films in 1967, his last few roles being mainly friendly patriarchs.

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A different road

This morning we precipitously cancelled our reservation on Key Largo for next year’s season. Though at first we were hopeful all would aright itself within the next three months, the current talk on the popular news channels is overwhelmingly discouraging. In particular the United States of America (because of its president’s mendacious treatment of the virus) is reportedly about to see an explosion of contamination and deaths.  If nothing else the pandemic will discolour the general atmosphere and likely limit the availability of businesses big and small. It is not in any event predictably productive of a relieving holiday environment.  We have accordingly drawn in our horns and contented ourselves to contemplate instead what if anything we might do closer to home if and when we’re able to move more openly than at present. The prospect of travel anywhere abroad is now much diminished. Continue reading

Sectarian follies

While fully recognising the superior excellence of unselfish benevolence and love of justice, we did not expect the regeneration of mankind from any direct action on those sentiments, but from the effect of educated intellect, enlightening the selfish feelings.

Excerpt From
Autobiography
John Stuart Mill Continue reading

One down, one to go

In the news only days previously we had read the Canadian government’s advice to expatriates to return to Canada within ten days to avoid the risk of a border closing. We reasoned it would not in any event apply to Canadian citizens such as ourselves. The advice – which as I say we had initially esteemed permissive not mandatory – became incontrovertible upon receiving a subsequent notification from our vacation health care insurers that they intended to cancel coverage within the same timeline. Presumably the insurers relied upon a contractual exemption for pandemic infection since otherwise the unilateral termination would have been illegal. Our last health care bill in Florida in February 2017 had been in the vicinity of US$850,000 so it wasn’t a time for enquiry, debate or equivocation. Reluctantly – that is, with the instinct of escaping a collapsing roof – on Thursday, March 19th we ended our tenancy, closed our account with Florida Power & Light, packed up and precipitously left Longboat Key to commence our two-overnight and three-day motor vehicle trip northward to Canada. We arrived on Saturday, March 21st approximately one month earlier than planned. Within days we received an email from the Board of Directors of our Florida residence that the pool had been closed. Florida was shutting down as well. To have lingered would have proven anti-social quite apart from the pervasive isolation of humanity and services. Continue reading

For those seeking an exceptional life…

It irks me to read an advertisement for those seeking an exceptional life – especially in Country Life magazine! For one thing it is exceptionally bad poetry. What in the world does it mean anyway – an exceptional life! Exceptionally what? And to whom exactly are the retailers directing their product? Isn’t life exceptional enough already? If it isn’t, do they really think they have the elixir to make it so? How exactly do they intend to reach the apogee? I dread to speculate what they imagine those fleeting ingredients may be. I’m sorry, but if you haven’t figured it out yet, the buzz of Acts 1 – 6 in this drama we call life only gets better! And we’re not relying upon storehouse commodities. Continue reading