Having just concluded a disappointing and most unprofitable discussion with a junior front-line employee (having a grand though utterly meaningless title of “Early Resolution Officer”) of the Ombudsman of Ontario, I am sadly though not at all unexpectedly reminded that the basics still apply. The basics I am equally distressed to observe are not in the least complimentary. To give them their most favourable sheen, the basics like those of the animal kingdom whence we “intellectual” humans derive are simply visceral. This endorsement is particularly unfortunate at this time of year when magnanimity (or at least the appearance of it) is most prolific. The Ombudsman’s clerk (who upon abrupt reconsideration and with discernible gusto accelerated our initial conference from next week to today) could not have been more eager to dispose of my “complaint” which by rote she skilfully directed to but a number of other bureaucracies cradled in the womb of deceit and deception called “government”. Meanwhile the transport of logic and palpability was conveniently for the Ombudsman sidelined and pushed over its edge onto the plate of yet another, a repeating occurrence throughout the past five months which paradoxically (and dare I say, circuitously or worse, circularly) began last July in the same office of the Ombudsman of Ontario. This then is the circle of life!
It is late afternoon on a snowy day in early December. I’m listening to Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Op. 71 London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Charles Mackerras (Complete Ballet Score) and gazing idly upon the positively picturesque mirrored river and adjacent snow covered fields.
Already evidence of the mounting Christmas spirit insinuates the parking lot beside the grocery store. The overnight snowfall has perfected the noticeable transition from provisional necessity to moderate urgency. There pervades an unspoken sense of mystery and qualified apprehension; an anxious mood of preparation for holiday and turkey dinners and Christmas trees with gifts for the children. There is a pervasive air of momentousness. It is an indisputable change from the erstwhile head-down private narrow pursuits which are now directed instead to citizenry and abundant cheerfulness.
Beyond the apartment front door along the short passageway at the end of which stands the grandfather clock I heard voices in the hallway, conversation by the lift, gleeful enigmatic exchanges peculiar to an insular snowy December day mixed with freezing rain and Christmastime. I have nestled in the den today, gathering sleep and calm. And my own happy conclusions.
Twice today I reflected upon the stimulating effect of youth. The second time – the one which will come as no alarm especially at Christmastime – had to do with the irrepressible magic of grandchildren. As I drove home this afternoon from my usual outing along the Appleton Side Road et al., I recollected how my beloved parents thrilled to preocccupy themselves not only at this high-spirited time of year but throughout the year with their grandchildren. The sous entendu is of course that I am not a “family man” (as was so often the object of initial and vaguely unsettling enquiry upon meeting a client). I insulated myself from complete fragmentation arising from this interrogative by recalling that most of my friends are sans child. Clearly there exists a forum set apart for those of us who haven’t entitlement to admission to that particular sect; that is, those devoted to or enchained with children by what I can only assume is for me at least an unidentified sinew of Nature.
We got an email this morning from the chap in the townhouse next door to where we stayed on Key Largo last winter. He advised the new owner of the townhouse we occupied is gutting the place and that the tricycle I left behind was set outside. I bought the tricyle within hours of our arrival on Key Largo last year. It cost about US$800. I felt I would be safer on a tricycle than a bicycle because I had fallen off my bicycle earlier in the summer while stopped at a pedestrian walk. I just lost my balance. As a result I was feeling generally precarious. When we returned home in May I bought another tricycle here; and I’ve been using it almost every day since. Nevertheless when we go to Hiton Head Island this winter I plan to rent a bicycle instead. Everyone who cycles on Hilton Head Island knows that, if you intend (as I do) to cycle on the beach, the sand will ruin the gears eventually. So I rent. And I’m not so worried about my balance on the beach because I haven’t the need to watch where I’m going or worry about stopping at traffic lights and things like that. At Coligny Park, getting from the beach to the Park is accomplished best by walking the bike to avoid intersecting the crowds. Otherwise the bike paths are flat and broad so again there are few if any obstructions.
I remember the first time I saw a James Bond movie. Or was it the Pink Panther? Something absurd anyway. It was years ago. In a theatre in a mall somewhere. When I was about 15 or maybe 16 years old. I was visiting in Toronto with my roommate from boarding school. Keith Forsyth. He was on the First Hockey team in spite of being much younger than the others who were in Upper Sixth Form. We were only in Fourth Form. I never saw much of Keith after that. At least not until four years later when I went to Glendon Hall for undergraduate studies. Somehow, I don’t have the foggiest, he and I reconnected. That was long before email and cell phones. Keith had left the school after his parents divorced when we were both still in Fourth Form, when his mother drove her Cadillac Eldorado to the car wash with me. They cleaned the car inside and out. Keith never liked fancy cars. I did. Keith became a “citizen”, a word he used. Not certain what he meant by it. He had a motor cycle. And smoked cigarettes. He collected me on the Wood Estate then took me for a ride on Park Lane Circle behind the college. Nobody wore helmets in those days. He stopped on Bayview Avenue next to a black Cadillac de Ville, driven by a woman with a beehive hairdo and heavy make-up. He stopped at the light immediately next to the Cadillac and stared at her behind the window. Then when the light changed he sped off. I clung to him for my life. I don’t think things went well for Keith. The last time I spoke with him was one evening on the telephone at college when I was drunk. It was the usual serenade wrought by that superfluous condition. We never spoke again.
It is with no immoderate smugness that I report having done little of consequence today. Indeed so persuaded am I by my ardor and proportional indolence that I have every hope of prolonging the happy fortuity. As a told my erstwhile physician only yesterday upon his return from Antiqua (several weeks after his sojourn in Sarastoa and three weeks prior to his scheduled departure to Buenos Aires en route subsequently to the South Pacific) I derive unlimited delight in having yesterday concluded the last of my outstanding agenda (coincidentally a rally with a locum filling in for my current physician who was by further chance visiting his family on Longboat Key). I mention these itinerant details because they contrast so remarkably with our own diminutive plans for the immediate future. Nor am I in the least remorseful to say so. Age is catching up with me; and, I feel that I am unwittingly though skilfully learning how to deal with the apodictic decomposition and transition.
The cold and miserable winter sky is muted in dreary shades of grey, a pastel backdrop to the barren tree branches along the river and the arrowed flights of Canada geese leading the way across the withered corn fields. Only the faintest trail of honking lingers in their pathway. Yet what would seem to be a joyless landscape is nonetheless promising, occasion for favourable contemplation.
There are doubtless many parents who exhaust their creativity at this time of year deciding what they’ll get their children for Christmas presents. Not being an authority on children I haven’t any recommendations though I know enough not to suggest dollar bills in an envelope. The eagerness of seeing a gift under the tree and unwrapping it on Christmas morning is integral to the escapade.