Sunday, September 25, 2022

100 Words for Stephen

Yesterday we said goodbye to another wonderful human. I listened to the eulogy, engaged in trying to subtle-cry, my tears indulgent and my sorrow insignificant and showy compared to that of his young family. But here’s a short list of who he was; a marvellous combination that made up this precious man: 
Husband
Father 
Friend
Neighbour
Artist
Wit 
Musician 
Animal guy
Raconteur 
Reader
Designer of dog rescue logos and banners 
Painter
Stick-thrower
Child-schlepper 
My kid’s employer 
Energy-giver
Confidence booster
Volunteer
Scooter wrangler 
Porch sitter
Naturalist
Pundit 
Best “my boy as one of the lost capybaras” Hallowe’en costume-maker
Humble 
Important
Missed


Inspired by Traumatic Times. Image: Unfinished sketch of Nim and Holly (Stephen Dutcheshen)

Friday, September 16, 2022

Traumatic Times

I will remember the Queen as gracious and dutiful, a reassuring symbol of honour and stability. She was a link with the past, but wisely adaptable too.
     Now, her subjects mourn. As global media speculate about her funeral and the royal succession, thousands gather to pay their respects.
Meanwhile, one-third of Pakistan lies under water. Thirty-three million people are affected, 1.7 million homes are damaged, and hundreds of thousands squat in improvised refugee camps while their crops rot.
     The rumble of a caisson is drowning out their cries.
All countries need their touchstones. Today, though, Pakistan needs a life-raft more.
Inspired by the week’s headlines. Images by Loïc Venance and Fayaz Aziz. Both the Red Cross and Global Medic are collecting for relief efforts in Pakistan.

Monday, September 12, 2022

You may not remember me…

I finally got to talking with one of the other fathers waiting in the schoolyard, and it turned out we’d both attended the same school. We talked about the things we remembered, the teachers we’d shared, and figured that we couldn’t have been more than one year apart.
     “I really should remember you,” I said. “But I don’t.”
     “Don’t be sorry,” he said. “I tried to be as invisible as possible. I’d be more upset if you had remembered.”
     Today, he was sitting away from the other parents, reading and wearing his don’t-talk-to-me headphones—and I walked right past him.
Inspired by Silver Ghost. Image by craiyon.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Silver Ghost

At first it was a slight reduction in brilliance as she walked down a busy street. Shortly afterwards there was a palpable dimming caused perhaps by bad lighting at the back of the restaurant. Then it became necessary to speak a little louder and develop a sort of shimmering patience when she stood her ground in line. Over the years changes to her teeth, hair, limbs and guts became too faint, too spectral, to catch the attention of professionals. Finally, all that was left was a lengthening shadow cast over an empty hospital bed and an indeterminate whiff of pee.
Image by Laurie Leclair. Inspired by Progress #3.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Inspired by Hare Brained Ideas

It’s good to have the CNE back. It’s also good to have reminders of being “Canadian,” like the Ex itself. It was also good to see the Canadian Armed Forces recruitment exhibit. There is nothing wrong with reminding young people of opportunities to serve their countries. Part of it made me wonder “how young?” There were opportunities to chat with members of the armed forces, pick up display material, and climb into a vehicle. There was a mock shooting area, with people of all ages lined up. It was chilling to see soldiers instructing pre-school children how to kill people.

Inspired Hare Remover. Image by aleks223 on iStock.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Rodent Land

You’d think the squirrels would get the message. The minefield of barriers, the chicken wire around the tulips. All ineffective. They are very well fed. They adore bulbs, but just nip and leave flowers, a show of their disdain.
     Raccoons maraud freely, chittering loudly, leaving their berry-spangled poop. I fill rat burrows as soon as I find them; new ones appear immediately. The other day, I glanced up to find a skunk foraging in the flowerbed next to me. I carefully cleared my throat. He casually raised his tail. Check mate.
     These animals haven’t invaded my garden. I’ve invaded theirs.

Inspired by Hare Remover.  Image from Science with Ms. Seitz.  

Friday, August 26, 2022

Hare Remover

“So, in this one Elmer Fudd’s a Mountie, and he sees Bugs on a wanted poster, and they end up doing a bunch of chase gags through the snow.”
     “Sounds great. We’ll call it Fresh Hare . . . What else you got?”
     “Okay, an old lady lets Bugs in from the cold, but there’s a dog, see? And they keep tricking each other into running outside, until they finally just throw the lady out.”
     “We’ll call it Hare Force!”
     “But Mr. Schlesigner . . .”
     “Listen, Fritz, you just keep moving your little paper dollies around for the camera, and leave the rest to me.”

Inspired by Carnaubic Jars. Image by Warner Brothers.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Carnaubic Jars

“It’s a thing?” I asked the person preparing to wax my schnozzle.
     “Oh yeah, you’ll love it. I do mine all the time.” She pressed tiny Tiki Torches of molten goo to the sides of each nostril.
      Seconds later, the feeling like someone was pulling my brain out through my nose, resulting in two fuzz-free passageways into my inner thoughts and dreams.
      She was right, my snout was perfectly nubile! Breezy. But now every time I do something like put the milk into the cupboard or forget a word, Rich says, “You know, ancient Egyptians did that with crochet hooks . . .”

Inspired by Progress. Image by Craiyon.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Thank You, My Friend

Tiny baby, eyes closed, snuggling against Mummy,

Little puppy, wide eyed, rolls for rubs on tummy, 

Bouncy puppy, running at rabbits, peeing on carpets,
chewing the shoes,

Happy dog, finding the leash, and carrying it to me,

Cautious friend, warning intruders to stay away,

Loving dog, at my feet while I read or watch TV, 

Playful dog, approaching children with wagging tail,

Aging dog, mature and quiet, easy on the leash, 

Old dog, quiet friend, beside me in the garden, 

Aged dog, climbing stairs so slowly,

Sick dog, no longer enjoying life,

A sad goodbye to my beloved friend.


Photo by Olga Bilevich. Inspired by Baa-Maa-Pii, and dedicated to all the dogs we have loved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Progress #4

Loudly lamenting the plight of the bees
We ban single-use plastic and plant a few trees
Recycle our bottles, compost our corn husks
Then demand cheaper gas for our 4-by-4 trucks 

We avoid throwing out by donating old things
(Which we duly replace with new Amazon bling)
Declaring our virtue, we promise to change
(Though a patch on our jeans seems decidedly strange) 

The fires, the floods, yes we’ve got to take action
But we aren’t going to follow some radical faction
So sure, let’s commit: let's do more with less—
Ride our e-bikes to Costco and call that progress 

Inspired by Progress #3. Photo by John Henderson on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Baa-Maa-Pii

Siko’s death was peaceful but profoundly sad. As we do for everyone close to us who passes, we lit a candle and kept it burning. Afterwards I dreamt about lightening frizzling in the night sky. One bolt entered my body through my left eye. It was such a vivid and strangely painful dream that I asked my friend, an Oshkaabewis, for his interpretation. He thought about it for a few days, then told me he believed that my constant companion was still constant, but he had found his way home. I checked on the candle and it had stopped burning.
Photo by L. Leclair. Portrait of Siko by Yvonne Boothroyd. Inspired by Flying Home.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Progress #3

Night shirt plastered to clammy skin, thinning hair askew, she places her shaky hands in mine. I pull her up from her bed. Past midnight, the room is in shadows. With heavy breath, she shuffles one gnarled foot forward. Then another. Like teaching a toddler to walk, I hold her upright, keep her balanced. Her grip tightens. One more step. Then another. “Making progress,” I whisper. One more step. Then another. Avoiding her eyes, I look down, ensuring the path is clear to the toilet. “Hold on,” I say. One more step. Then another. I can see our destination ahead.
Inspired by Progress and Progress. Photo by Dmytro Varavin.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Progress

Here’s how it works . . .
     The first blade pulls the whisker away from your skin, allowing the second blade to cut it even closer, before it snaps back.
The third blade scrapes away the years that have passed since you could still sport a few days’ growth and not be mistaken for someone who lives on the street and shaves when he can.
     And the fourth blade is for everyone who needs to shave four times faster than their grandfather did, one-third closer than those poor three-blade schmucks, and anyone who upgraded to the five-blade system the moment Gillette released it.

Inspired by another story entitled Progress. Image from this Trac II commercial from the early 1970s.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

“I have to post this.” (1517)

“Martin, you're just sitting there, thumbing through their horrible comments. Go outside and get some air.”
     “I will, Kath, in a while . . . almost done . . . I have to post something. These ‘influencers’ drive me crazy. They take people’s money and don’t care what hell they unleash. They try to monetize absolutely everything. It burns me so—”
     “Martin. Calm down.”
     “No! I won’t tolerate their indulgences a second longer. I’m going to post my reply, today, consequence be damned . . . Have you seen my hammer?”
     Thus Martin Luther set out to nail his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.
Inspired by Progress. Image from Luther und dessen Reformation by Baron von Löwenstern, 1830.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Progress

Written storage of knowledge began on clay tablets, which can still be read. Ancient Egyptians used papyrus scrolls, which can still be read. Ancient Romans used scrolls of parchment, which can still be read. Ancient China used bamboo, which can still be read. Rome left the codex, parchment sheets between pieces of wood, which can still be read. Gutenberg’s books can still be read. Old paperbacks can still be read. Then the Internet was developed, making collective knowledge available to everyone. Then it failed, leaving no communication of the knowledge. That was because of maintenance. How far we have come!

Inspired by History Class. Image from the Penn Museum.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Dancer

Delia will tell you she doesn’t dance anymore—her body broken by wear and tear. Yet her every move is liquid grace. Her ugly feet are grounded on the earth, but the rest of her glides through the world, never too fast or slow, never jerky, but also never staying in one place for too long. The most still part of her anatomy is her shielded face—not a trace of what she’s thinking or feeling—merely a slight lift of her chin, as she surveys, like a Queen, the scene around her with benign disdain, or is it fear?

Inspired by The Quarters All Dancing. Photo by sankla on FreeImages.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Quarters All Dancing

Perhaps the last story my father ever told me was of the poker he’d played on a deep-sea fishing trip off the Jersey Shore, pushing through the waves to where the fish were, with the quarters all bouncing around on the table.
He’d come to Toronto for his first visit in years, and though I was still too young to share a beer with him, I must’ve told him of the penny-ante games I’d play with my friends.
     I’d like to think now I could drink him under the table.
     I’d like to think now I could whip his ass.

Inspired by History Class. Image by the craiyon AI.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

History Class

Tell me the stories, the stories of old,
Of arrows in eyes, and conquerors bold,
Of far away lands, with spices and gold.
Tell me the stories of Ethiopia's Queen,
Who visited Solomon, tribute to bring.
Tell me the stories of ships on the sea,
And beacons on hills, and wind blowing hard.
Tell me the stories of mountains to climb,
And challenges met, and challenges failed.
Tell me the stories of places yet to explore.
Tell me the stories, the stories of today,
Tell me of tragedy, tell me of joy,
Tell me the stories of all that has been.
Inspired by Brentrance. Image from the Bayeaux Museum.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Casey and Finnegan and Davey and Goliath

Casey was happy in the early years of their residence at the Home for Retired Child Puppet and Claymation Performers. At first they and Finnegan made fast friends with Davey and Goliath, but tensions soon arose between the two children. Davey objected to the veggie treats Casey fed Goliath; indeed, to vegetarianism in general. And he never took to Finnegan, who was a silent farter. Eventually, Casey and Davey quarrelled over everything—identity issues, gender rights, Roe v. Wade, and Davey’s stubborn denial of who he was. Casey moved back to the city. They had to be true to themself.

Inspired by Mr. Wind-down. Images: CBC for Mister Dressup’s Casey and Finnegan, IMDB for Davey and Goliath.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Mr. Wind-down

No matter how long I stayed on the night shift, I’d always have trouble getting to sleep the next day. Beer helped a little, even if it did catch me drinking at 9:00 in the morning, in front of the very same television I’d grown up on: the Friendly Giant and his bigger chair for two more to curl up in, or Mr. Dressup gently guiding Casey and Finnegan through the same fears I’d had as a six-year-old . . . a lifetime of make-believe away from that cold neon room full of terminals and tape-drives and the same dreary job every night.
Inspired by Eye eye, Captain Gerry. The 1965 photo of Rod Coneybeare just doing his job is buried somewhere in the CBC Still Photos Collection, but I could not find the link.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Eye eye, Captain Gerry.

Dad had a false eye. It usually pained him. So after a long day at Chryslers, after he donned those beige Phentex slippers, while he cracked open that Molson Ex, and before the first cigar, he’d plop his eye out. And because as a family we were impervious to social niceties that dictated we be discrete with things like false teeth and glass eyes, Old Wally spent his evenings decanted in a shot glass and bobbling on the rim of the bathroom sink. One brown eye, staring up at unsuspecting visitors, daring them to scoff that bottle of Old Spice.
Inspired by Brentrance. Image of “Wally” generated by DALL·E mini.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Brentrance

In 1065, the European Union brought King Harold of Little England and William of Normandy to Brussels to discuss their dispute.
     “We won’t have your smelly garlic or your fizzy champagne,” Harold huffed. “Little Englanders are happy with turnips and beer.”
     “Suit yourself,” William said.
     “We don’t want your snivelly continental measurements. We will live and die with sturdy pounds and pints.”
     William shrugged.
     “Finally. We don’t want any of you people coming across. England is closed to foreigners.”
     Hmph, William thought. We’ll see about that. Mon Dieu, this guy really needs a poke in the eye with a stick.

Inspired by Propaganda. Image of King Harold, struck in the eye, from the Bayeux Tapestry.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Flying Home

Fly home now,
not with metal, and bolted bits,
but wings of wind and sunbeam.
Go home, in full flight,
like the birds you envied.
Another Tower has control,
and orders your direction.
Your instruments are set,
and you are going home.
You radioed to land,
not knowing that last landing
would end as it did.
It was the plane lost control,
and you were taken away,
following the orders of another Tower.
Did you look back?
Did you look down?
Don't look back, don't look down.
Fly on, toward the stars,
Toward the final freedom,
On your final flight.


Inspired by Eridanus. Photo by Simon Alvinge (Dreamland Media).

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Propaganda

Before we got to see the Bayeux Tapestry—all 244 feet of it—mounted under glass—we had to weave our way through a room full of informational panels (which were just as long) about the tapestry and its commemoration of the Battle of Hastings in which William of Normandy beat the horrible Anglo Saxon Harold Godwinson, depicting Harold’s death with an arrow through his eye, and how the cloth tries to stitch into history the righteousness of the Norman cause and why its invasion of England was justified. It seems propaganda in support of male ego is nothing new.
Inspired by That Single Drop.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

That Single Drop

William the Conqueror was the first Norman king of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087 . . . and, at least according to my family tree, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. 
     If you’re my age, you’re lucky to have even a photo or two of your own great-grandparents, but here I am with my greatest granddad only immortalized on the mother-loving Bayeux Tapestry!
Or, just maybe I‘ll reflect on the math that tells me that, twenty-nine generations on, I could very well have more than a billion such great-grandparents, and—really—how many drops of potentially royal blood can one body hold?

Inspired by Vive la Même Chose.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Vive la Même Chose

My DNA results were curious. Mostly Spanishy with a titillating 4% Turkish. This was 2016. Timely, as it saved me from Boydenesque embarrassment. Never again would I repeat (with caveats) our family’s «Grand-mère Zepherine était indignée» story. But then they sent an update. Ninety-four percent French Canadian. NINETY-FOUR PERCENT. Generations of snogging Habitants, lumberjacks, spade-welding Welland canalers, bootleggers and the women who made their bail. They all contributed to Barely Bilingual Me. No Basque whalers, Ottoman anarchists, nor clan mothers. A predictable tête de couchon of sameness. But just maybe, some Viking-Pirate made up that vestigial 1% Dane?
Image of Me from Ancestry.com. Inspired by One Copes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Inventors in Heaven

“What’s he even doing here?” 
     Tesla tsk-tsked. “They gave him credit for inventing vodka.” 
     “What rubbish,” Edison spat. “Smirnoff bought his way in. And even if vodka were legit—here of all places!—it’s no light bulb.” 
     Marconi tuned the old grumps out. Always bickering, yet completely united in their snobbery. They had too much time on their hands. Who knew heaven was dry?! 
     Marconi kept himself busy puttering with radio-telepathy and people-watching—the Inventor’s Wing was chock-full of characters. Recently he’d been observing Smirnoff himself, curious about what he was cooking up on the sly with that American, Zamboni. 

Inspired by Inspiration and the heaven I imagined in J-Section. Image: Historical Artwork Of The Mechanics Of The Heavens, by Science Photo Library, based on a medieval artwork.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Mariupol

Circles of steel, circling trucks,
Circles of steel, circling tanks,
Circles of steel, circling guns,
Circles circling circles,
Trucks and tanks and guns,
Circles of steel, circling the city,
Circles of steel, tightening circles,
Circles of steel, circles of boots,
Circles of boots, marching,
Marching past new graves,
Circles above, steel in the air,
Circles within circles within circles,
Circles of fear within circles of hatred,
Hatred encircling, hatred reflected,
Circles of fear, coming with steel,
Circles of youth, turned to old age,
Circles of steel, encircling steel,
Pain within steel, tears within steel,
No sunlight penetrates the hard steel.
Sadly, the war in Ukraine continues to inspire. The image of a hospital window cracked from shelling in Mariupol was shot by Evgeniy Maloletka of the Associated Press.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Margibutt

Independently of the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” folks, my father-in-law, post-heart attack, came up with “Margibutt”– his own margarine/butter combo. The dinner table erupted with laughter and ever since then any get-rich-quick scheme talked up in the family is labelled a “margibutt.” My hubby’s got a whole file folder of them on his laptop. We used the term so often over the years that when my adult son called a work colleague’s idea a “margibutt” and got a blank look, he was amazed to find out that it was not in fact in any dictionary.
Inspired by Inspiration. Image from icantbelieveitsnotbutter.com.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Inspiration

The Think Tank was a plastic sphere containing 13,000 words printed on thin plastic strips. It had a window through which you could see the words and a knob on each side to stir them up. The idea was to watch as they churned past and wait for your lateral-thinking circuits to kick in.
I remember using one once in Mrs. Applebaum’s class; but its inventor, Savo Bojicic, had to live with them every day. Those words were all cut by hand, and they followed him everywhere. Said Savo: “I couldn’t reach into my pocket without pulling out a few.”
Inspired by my wish for a long-forgotten gizmo designed to inspire me. Photos from Shirley on Kijiji, who is looking to complete her Think Tank collection; and Welmas on eBay, who is looking to sell one.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The COVIDteen (Easter) Rabbit

It was bound to happen. By day, Dan works with electrical contractors and plays in a band at night. Rich teaches tiny little Petrie Dishes karate. I’m not out much but I’m kissy-huggy. So, Rich on Ash Wednesday, me and Dan on Good Friday. Anticipating my own fall, I did all my Easter shopping on Thursday, including spending a small fortune on chocolate. COVID time is different, it’s slower and the illness has its own feeling-shitty-feeling-good-feeling shitty again cadence. It’s perpetually 2:00 P.M. and I’m in this guilt free cycle of Read-Knit-Snooze-Pee. But I won’t die. Because science. Because vaccines.

Inspired by We’ll always have Downsview. Image “Easter Surprize” by L. Leclair.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The All-In Simulation

We used to live in the Base Case. Our birthright was peace, prosperity, and sanity in governance and public discourse. Now I wonder if someone’s running what-if scenarios. “Let’s see how they react to a cascade of catastrophic ‘natural’ events.” “Let’s make a sociopathic narcissist their most powerful leader.” “Let’s see how they deal with a pandemic.” “Let’s have a nuclear-armed megalomaniac go batshit rogue and launch a war.” 
     “Now let’s combine them all.” 
     Maybe we’re characters in a simulated reality, where real people run worse case scenarios on us virtuals. Hopefully they’ll get things right by watching us fail.

Inspired by 2022. Image from a poster for 20th Century Studios’s 2021 film Free Guy.

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