Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Friday, July 15, 2016


Many years ago my Dad made a miniature Kenworth truck & flat-bed trailer. Like literally cut and welded it all together. Although it’s a toy, it’s heavy and it’s permanent. And in fact, it’s amazing. It will surely survive the zombie apocalypse.

He gave me this toy when I was a young adult. Sadly, I didn’t really understand the gesture then so I wonder now if I thanked him properly. My Dad absolutely loved cars and trucks and vehicles but we didn’t share this enthusiasm much so when he gave me this gift I was confused. It wasn’t my birthday or Christmas and he didn’t explain why. But I get it now Dad. I do.

Not long before my Dad died, I re-gifted his toy to my son when he was still a boy, and I know that’s exactly what my Dad wanted. My son played with it many times. But then it was tucked on a shelf in a room for years and so I hadn’t thought about it much but recently, I was able to re-examine it from all angles, and it’s like I’m seeing it again for the first time. The details are impressive. Washers for headlights, tiny mirrors painted silver. Some sort of safety lights on the top of the cab. Cylindrical silver fuel tanks. Steel wheels. A smoke stack. (Why not two stacks, Dad?) Some of the detailing is scratched now but it still lumbers along quite well, yet I wouldn’t want to drop it on my foot.

What I especially notice about this toy this time are all my Dad’s mistakes. I can see his cuts weren’t perfect. The paint doesn’t hide all the welds and some are raised and uneven. His hammer marks are visible. Now, this is the best part. His mistakes tell his story because they illuminate his process, his time, his energy, his focus, his art, his work. My Dad didn’t much care how things looked; he preferred how they functioned. Because I too have aged, I feel like I can guess his thoughts: perfection is fiction.

The act of creating and making and giving and receiving is messy but it’s honestly the only stab we all have at immortality. In this sense, I guess my Dad was making a sort-of time machine. For me. (And for himself too.) He knew I would return to this toy throughout my life. It’s a message from the past about the investment required to be a father. It’s a tangible piece of his respect and appreciation and love. And like him, (and like me) it’s not perfect but it’s solid which, I believe, is his way of saying to me that’s what’s truly important. Thanks Dad. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Um, ? I discovered this in the basement bathroom of the Rutherford Library at the University of Alberta. And I don't like it. At all. What's it for? Other than perhaps the perfect setting for a Stephen King story, like Sneakers?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Things one should never outgrow:

I need one of these rollers to crush things and then examine them afterward. I also need a wood chipper. Which begs the question: where are the reality shows about these types of machines?

Anyway, this is less about psychology (anger issues or abandonment or entitlement and the like) and more about curiosity. Big machinery is cool; okay, perhaps there is a power dynamic at play: I might want to crush Donald Trump's ego.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Really? No women? Not even one?

"Feminism isn't about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength." G.D. Anderson

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Along for the Ride

My education transformed and transported me. It's a common story. It's an important story too. As MLK said, "nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Recently, both my children graduated: one from college and one from university. This was my #1 bucket list item. I've been working on this dream for 20 years. Determined, my wife and I made this happen. My children are starting their adult lives debt free. I'm grateful. I'm happy. And I'm looking forward to where it takes them next. Because I am finally going along for the ride.

Friday, June 3, 2016

108% Sure

We’ve all had our wars with insects. Whether spiders, mosquitoes, flying ants, and especially spruce beetles, the struggle is real. But honey bees? No problem. Sure they sting. Not pleasant. But more typically, they are busy saving the world, literally. Essential to human survival, not only do our precious bees make honey for our glazed doughnuts, they also make protective wax for those round little cheeses we all like. Oh and they pollinate crops and flowers and trees which is basically everything we rely on for nourishment. Yes, the little bee, like a tiny hairy farmer in black and yellow overalls, is essential to our food production and our food economy. Food’s pretty cool to have, isn’t it? So yup, bees = good.

But what about those other bees? Yes, I’m referring to the bee’s aggressive relative, the ones I’m 108% sure are never invited over to any bee family reunion: wasps and hornets. AKA flying arses. 

Sure, they resemble some sort of super-cool prototype for futuristic flying machines but they have one mode: hair trigger. And one emotional response to everything: WHAT? OH REALLY? MAKE ME! WANNA GO? WANNA GO? We all know at least one wasp or hornet who’s bragged on social media about
  • ruining a BBQ.
  • ruining some kid’s birthday party.
  • ruining an outdoor wedding.
  • ruining the outdoors.
  • flying around the bar set up on the deck trying to steal drinks like, well, bar-flies (on steroids).
  • constructing the only deceptively delicate paper mache art-pieces that (when suddenly encountered) induce terror.
  • snorting bear-spray.
  • killing a lady-bug.
  • kidnapping caterpillars and feeding them to their young, live! (Not even kidding.)
  • generally stealing happiness by causing everything in their path to wither.
But you know what else wasps and hornets do? They make a really sweet sound when you hit them with a badminton racket. There: now you have something I don’t recommend you try at least once this weekend. Wink. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

If only.

I don’t dream enough. Yet, when I do, in my dreams, I’m often on a journey and most times I have a task to do along the way, or an obstacle to overcome. (Thinking about it now, that’s not so different than life when awake, is it?) And the people who populate my dreams are often strangers; I see glimpses of them along the way, somewhat like the people you see and then don’t see on the subway. In my dreams, movement is the norm.

But then, unexpectedly, one of those strangers is suddenly familiar. I’m always caught by surprise and I feel foolish because I should have known all along because that’s when I realize or perhaps recognize the stranger is not a stranger after all: it’s a loved one who’s gone, someone who’s died, someone I’m missing.

Do you have these dreams too? Imagine if we could control our dreams, conjure at will those we long for. If only.

Once I dreamed I was looking out the passenger window of a truck, the window open, the sun shining, green waves of wheat stretching across a field and then I turned to look at the driver. It was my Dad. I hadn’t seen his eyes for years. Once, I stood up from the patio table at a restaurant and saw, at another table, my brother. He nodded and moved his chin in the direction he wanted me to look. Once, I was with someone in an unfamiliar kitchen searching for ice-cream in the freezer. When I found it and closed the door, sitting at the table was my Mom. We smiled at each other. Once, I was nervously walking on a dimly lit sidewalk in the fog when suddenly from across the street stood a friend from long ago. She waved. I waved back. Once, I walked down a gravel road next to a garden with rows of potatoes and gladiolas and then running to meet me was my grandparent’s old dog, Tub.

These sorts of dreams feel heavy and stir emotions but they don’t make me sad because they are gifts. We have very little control in our lives about who comes and who goes and when and why. It’s the same thing with our dreams. We must enjoy who we can when we can in whatever way we can before we can’t. 
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