Friday, 24 April 2015

A Gay Black Man Comes Into My Bakery

There's a corner store nearby my place I don't frequent. There is another corner store about a block further which I do frequent. The first store has a continuous change of personnel, are rushed, surly and distant and have charged different prices on the same item several times (up and down like a Yo-yo-ma). The second store has pleasant staff who engage their customers with a smile.
I make the effort to go to the second store because I like them.
There seem to be a lot of people up in arms about a few States having recently passed laws which allow business owners to pick and choose whom they serve. They call them Freedom of Religion Acts – or some reasonable facsimile thereof - which seem to extend far beyond any religious ideal I've been taught or shown. These are laws which appear to segregate visible minorities when we have spent years trying to shake that particular bug-a-boo from our cultural image. It's taking away their freedom to go where they choose, no?
Let's take the case of a bakery which was in the news for refusing to serve a gay person. If a bakery in Indiana (an example in a State which has passed such a law) refuses to serve me because I'm Black or Muslim or appear Gay, I don't care. I'll go to another bakery. I'll also make certain all of my Gay/Black/Muslim/Native/White/Asian/Straight friends know I had difficulty getting a loaf of bread or a cheese roll from said baker.
I wouldn't even bother arguing with the person behind the counter. It's their financial funeral, ya know?
It's not that difficult to fight back. In actuality, it's not much of a fight at all. If Joe Baker wants to commit economic suicide by refusing to serve a very large portion of the population, I don't care. That's his prerogative and problem. I'm going to go where people are treated properly. And, I'm going to go where my friends and family are treated properly.
Are you getting the picture?
If I were a baker in Indiana having the values which I have – using the same example – I would have a sign in my window in heartbeat: We serve everyone! It's not that difficult, really.
This world is fascinating to live in because of our cultural differences. It's an interesting place because we all do different things in different ways wearing different clothes. How boring would it be if we all looked and acted alike. If that were the case, I would personally being searching high and low for a new planet to inhabit.
I don't have to agree with your politics or beliefs to sell you loaf of bread. I just have to sell you a loaf of bread. Ya know?
Having friends who are visible minorities, it's not a large stretch to get to the understanding that I am going to go where they are accepted. I'm going to frequent establishments where we are all accepted and feel comfortable. Those other establishments are going to get their just desserts. And the people who run them can lead their uninteresting lives by themselves while the rest of us enjoy our world and the myriad intricacies which go with it.
Further, it's not a large stretch to envision folks starting their own businesses and refusing to serve white people. You see, there's an interesting attribute to swords... they cut both ways.
So... this Gay Black man comes into my bakery... and gets served with a smile and a couple of my silly jokes...

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Battle Scars and Tarnished Armour

Every morning,
In the steamy bathroom,
You wipe the fog from the mirror,
There you are,

I see you put the masks on,
The strong one,
The happy one,
The together one,
... The fearless one,
The lotions and potions in invincible layers

I hear the gentle sighs,
Almost hear your thoughts,

If only I could be real,
Show the battle scars,
Then who would love me?
Who would understand?

I hear your whispered screams,
And see the cross you bear,

It's me,
You know?

Every morning,
In the steamy bathroom,
I wipe the fog from the mirror,
There I am,

I start to put the masks on,
The strong one,
The happy one,
The together one,
... The fearless one,
Invincible layers and tarnished armour,

I breathe a gentle sigh,
Mumble my thoughts,

If only I could be real,
Show who I really am,
Then who would love me?
Who would understand?

Do you hear my whispered screams?
Do you see the cross I bear?

It's me,
You know?

I would understand.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Training Day – The Kids Are Alright

Well the anticipated first thunder storm was a bust. Too bad. I like thunderstorms.
I was training a new recruit yesterday. I actually started with him on Friday and as I was pretty much ignoring the world this weekend, I chose to not have the opportunity to write before now. The tulips and the new tomato plants are doing just fine by the way, thank you for asking.
The new guy is in his twenties and one of the things I noticed was how he didn't pay attention long, had answers before I finished speaking and bounced around like a rabbit hopped up on industrial strength amphetamines. At first I put it down to video games and texting and chat rooms and one hundred-forty character sound bites. I mean, what is the youth of this world coming to? Can they not focus for more than ten seconds before everything has to be repeated?
Seriously! Who the hell is responsible for creating this nonsensical behaviour in youth?
As I was floating through time and space this weekend, I thought about it a bit. Some serious hiking in the bush working up a decent sweat with a couple of cameras will do that for me. It gets me thinking with a little more clarity and less of the white noise of living. The cameras help me focus, as it were. The wind whistling a happy tune blowing in one ear and out the other helps too.
I wasn't so different in my twenties.
I can still remember when I was a kid hearing my parents and other adults complaining how “these kids today just don't get it”. And we didn't. Our paradigm was different than our parents... and their parents before them. The massive changes occurring over the past two hundred years have increased the gap between generations. It's difficult to bridge the gap between people who lived through the Great Depression and those who grew up in the rebellious fifties and those who numbed their minds in the seventies and eighties and those who see life-like images created from pixels on a screen.
The only way to bridge the gap is to determine what kind of character a person develops.
I recall being overwhelmed by new life experiences in my twenties; marriage, jobs, university, girls becoming women, boys becoming bigger boys, cars, kids, finances, friends drifting, new friends, new relationships with parents, siblings and somehow trying to duct tape all that shit together into a cohesive ball that made sense to us. We were, each and every one of us, confused little balls of energy with very few of us having a clear direction.
And – for the first time in our recent history – we're about to hand off a world which may not be better off than the one we started with. Is it any wonder they're a bit muddled?
To the more advanced folks like myself, I think we're in good hands. We just have to trust.
I know a few twenty somethings. One is about to become a twenty-something. Fine young adults all. So, K, J, A, the new trainee kid and the other confused twenty-somethings out there wondering “what the... what?” ... you're going to be okay. Keep doing what you're doing and being who you are. This old fart thinks you're doing just fine.
And for the record you little twenty something tweezers, MY generation (the back end of the Baby Boom) are the real Gen Xers. Go get your own frigging letter.
Too bad I missed a good thunderstorm.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Direct Contact

This has been bugging me all frigging day.
Somewhere around four years ago, I met a woman and we dated for a bit. Nice lady... so I thought. Her idea to break the news to me that she wished to move on was to send me a text message. In the end she was a chicken-shit!
That's probably as low as I've ever felt as a human being.
So... My landlordess shows up this evening just as I'm going out shopping.
That's me in the middle with the jeans.
“Happy Spring!” She says. She's a bubbly sort. “I brought you and Rick tulips!” Rick is my upstairs neighbour.
Now, the last time a girl sent me flowers was... well... a long time ago. (I still have the photos to prove it.) I don't do the he-man bullshit when it comes to getting gifts and I happen to like getting flowers. Especially when they are potted (as the tulips are) and I can plant them in the garden later in the spring. That she would even think of such a thing makes me feel special. You're damned right she got a hug for it!
I'm not much for texting.
My boss and his boss seem to like texting a lot more than I. There are those out there who proclaim it to be more efficient. After all, you can type a quick message, put the phone down and get busy doing laundry or feeding the kids or typing that all important email while waiting for a reply. What could be more efficient than that?
How about a fucking phone call!?
I tend to piss my bosses off by calling because, in two minutes, I can get my answer and be on my way without having to wait an extended amount of time. That's efficiency. I have my answer and the issue is over. The last time I checked, a smart phone was still a frigging phone. Trying the dialing thingy. It's the best app on the damned thing.
Twice this past week, I saw FaceBook messages that told me friends were in trouble. In instances like those when people are reaching out, I think texting or FaceBook comments are a cop out. It's the quick, dirty and now you're done with it and can move on with your day having done something sincere. That's a load of crap. It's like throwing a buck in a homeless person's hat and claiming you've done your bit to solve world hunger.
Of course I picked up the phone! A friend was in trouble, for fuck sake.
Wake up!
Another friend was trying to start an organization in her town in the U.S. I didn't do an awful lot and yet I managed to get part of it off the ground for her from here. It wasn't that difficult and she seemed to appreciate the effort. Isn't that what it's all about?
Why would I do such a thing as make a phone call or show up to help when technology can handle it for me? There is nothing like human contact to slow things down and share the load. A voice is far, far better than a text message. Hearing someone's voice and being able to vocalize your issue is far better for the psyche than black and white words on a digital screen. I can't speak for them and I know personally I will take a phone call over a text message any day when I have a day when I'm feeling lost.
Any day, any time, any where... period.
It's far too easy and cheap to fire a comment and move on to the next photo of who had what for dinner. It's far too easy to seem connected when we're not. The person on the other end reaching out? They probably don't feel the same connection with a text message as you do at a time of crisis.
Our capacity for communication has increased with technology. Unfortunately, I believe our capacity for humanity is decreasing for the same reason. There is nothing like personal contact to help ease the angst of life, even if you're breaking up with someone.
At the very least, a phone call would have made me feel like a human being. And maybe I would still have respect for her.
In the end though, by making a phone call or showing up, it's my own self respect I'm taking care of as much as I'm taking care of a friendship.

Monday, 6 April 2015

... And The Effing Tortoise Won

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can't and that is why
They know not if it's dark outside or light”
from Mona Lisa's and Mad Hatters
Elton John

Remember when we had all day to do nothing in particular?
I was driving to work this morning, Timmies in one hand and the steering thing-a-ma-hooey in the other. I was early so I pretty much kept to the speed limit making damned sure I wasn't in the way of any soccer Moms or already two minutes late Dads. Those people am crazy, Man!
Apparently I'm throwing grammar out the double-hung.
Any-hoo... I came to an all-way stop sign. I was second there and, as courtesy and the law proclaim, first come, first serve. So, I'm waiting and glance at the other driver. They seem to be frantically busy with something below the dashboard, which to me indicates they are either reading the Wall Street Journal, loosing their bladder or reading a text. I'll go for the latter if it's all the same to you all. And they wave me through.
I hesitate.
I start to move and suddenly their head is up, their foot is off the brake and they're speeding through the intersection – proclaiming their love of humanity with a single finger salute.
Now, I know I've been in a hurry at times. I've been PO'd at other drivers who seem to have intentionally made it their business to block my advance. Yet I know it is my own issue because I was the one who started late in the first place. It's not their fault I wasn't paying attention to the alarm or whatever else made me late. A flaming, fickle finger and heinous sideways glance isn't going to solve much, ya know?
I shrugged it off and took a sip of Timmies. Ahhh.... back to normal.
It seems the more I slow, the faster the world spins. Everyone is in a hurry. They're in a hurry to find the love of their life (Where the hell is he!). They're in a hurry to advance up the career ladder (For crying out loud! I've been here for SIX months!). They're in a hurry to get the things they think will make them happy (Yeah... just call. I'm sure they'll extend my credit.) We're pushed by bosses who consistently want more for less (Hi Hon. I won't be home tonight. Dude has me doing eleventy things at once. I'll see you Sunday.)
We're in a hurry for everything to show up yesterday and miss the opportunities right under our noses.
While I'm on the topic, it's not possible to do eleventy things at once. The brain is wired to do one thing at a time. Period. You might think you're doing more or you're different than every other human on the planet. You're not. There is a time lag switching from one task to another. The brain has to readjust and can take up to five seconds to catch up. Studies have also proven that the quality of the work being done while multi-tasking is far inferior to work being done one task at a time. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. There is only the perception of multi-tasking and the reality is, the brain only focuses on one thing at a time. If it makes you feel better to multi-task, more power to you. The reality is, you're only hurting yourself.
Which is why cell phones and radios and friends in the car are attention thieves. By the time your brain catches up to what's going on, it's too late.
We live in a world where faster is considered better. Unfortunately, as we whiz through life, we're only skimming the surface of all that surrounds us. I don't have anything against speed in moderation. Let's be honest – I have no inclination to give up high speed internet or a vehicle which propels me where I wish at 120 kilometres an hour. If I have a two week vacation, I would like to get to my destination and spend some time rather than have to turn around and come home immediately. (Although that may have it's positives as well.)
Our need to get more done in less time has become an addiction. We're on constant alert for better-faster-sooner.
-The average Canadian sleeps 90 minutes less than a century ago.
-The average Canadian spends an average of 72 minutes per day behind the wheel of a car.
-The average Canadian spends a half hour per week devoted to making love.
-The average Canadian spends less than six hours a week relating to their kids.
-The average executive loses 68 hours a year waiting on hold.
-15 percent of Canadians polled admitted to being on the brink of suicide due to job stress.
This has to end somewhere, right? (For the record, the making love thing really bothers me. At my age it takes a half hour just to figure out I should get started. Just sayin'.)
I work hard. I work long hours. And I have a goal. That goal is the diametric opposite to what and how I work now. Fortunately, I work at a job that pays well and there are few time constraints. If I'm late... pfft... I'm late. I simply make up the few minutes at the end of the day. Simple. It's much more gentle than when I was in corporate life being chased by paper hangers and bosses and, and, and... all with expectations and deadlines I struggled to meet. I kind of like playing the part of the tortoise surrounded by harried hares.
And I've never been happier. Period.
That's not the beginning of the end
That's the return to yourself
The return to innocence...”
You do remember who won the race, right?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Clearing Space

I see plenty of messy spaces when I'm out and about.
I am – apparently – getting back into a relationship with my apartment. I've ignored her for a bit too long. We took a break for a while as we weren't seeing eye to eye and now that there is a bit of a messy undercurrent going on. It's likely not a great thing that I have been coming home from work, crashing on the sofa and pretty much ignoring her. It's strange how that works, no?
Is it odd I'm talking about my apartment like I would a human to human relationship? Not really. Those things which represent us also represent how we see others, our relationships with them and how we view the world.
I know I have gone through several incarnations of myself over the years. In most cases, I can pinpoint where I've reached a fork in the road and took it. Sometimes it was a change in direction and scenery. At other times it was a similar path I had been on when I decided I didn't really want a change of scenery. I'm certainly not the same person i was when I was ten. Nor am I the same person I thought was broken and irreparable when I was thirty-four.
Those are all relationship fluctuations with myself.
Sometimes the change has been influenced from the outside. More often than not, though, it has been influenced by a slight change in perception. A small degree of change now makes a huge difference over time down the road.
The same ideals are present in relationships, whether friendships, familial or intimate. The same ideals apply to our relationships with our home, our car or the tree in our front yard. All relationships come to forks in the road. They all undergo organic change. They all have varying levels of intensity over time. How much we put into those relationships determines how much we get out of them.
How we do one thing is how we do everything and every thing.
Which brings me back to that relationship with my apartment. How can I expect to be clear of mind when I come home every day to clutter? How can I expect to go out in the world in the morning with a clear mind if I have to walk by clutter on the way out the door? How can I expect to be present for friends and acquaintances if my mind is on all the stuff cluttering up my head? It really does make a difference in my view of the world.
A small change in how I treat my physical space makes a huge difference in how I view all other relationships.
Before I can move on to bigger and better things, I have to make peace with where I am and I have to make sure I make space for new experiences to fit in. That includes the physical space I occupy and the people I relate with.
So, I'm clearing my physical space. That, in turn, will clear how I view all other relationships. Choosing a different fork in the road changes everything.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Making a Rite of Your Right to Write

I've been somewhat retrospective (introspective?) lately; wondering what happened to old friends, reviewing old writing, laughing at my experimental “artistic drawing” period, flipping through photos that don't tell the whole story yet remind me anyway, etc. It's usually a bad idea to flip through an old high school yearbook, by the way. Really, Dude! What were you thinking?
Maybe it has something to do with Spring, kayak season coming, two weddings to attend this year and and the throaty guitar of Led Zeppelin bouncing around my otherwise vacant cerebral mass.
Maybe it is simply a case of the “what ifs” - which in my experience seldom helps with anything current. It does help with creative fiction though.
I wrote a children's story whilst in my twenties. Sparky Squirrel and the Beaverton Gang. (I kid you not... pun intended.) How I managed to leverage a children's story out of my angry young self while at the same time writing a violent, post-apocalyptic saga about human stupidity (Oasis), I'll never know. Thankfully, my temperament has eased somewhat over the years.
Well... mostly.
I have a journal. More correctly, a series of journals with over fifteen hundred pages of blithering, blathering, whining, laughing, recording events and self examination. I learned early on in order to clear stuff out of my head, I required a venue. Somewhere along the line of teen angst and early adult semi-controlled idiocy, I stumbled upon a blank notebook and a pen. The rest, as they say, is hysterical.
Since that time, I've written many, many short stories, poems, one financial book, the previously mentioned children's book and four novels. The vast majority of those will not see the light of day again until my ashes blow to the wind and someone decides to rifle through my papers for a Last Will and Testament. (It's in one of the psychology books... I think.)
It turns out writing has great value - not just in spreading the word of Ed - but also in creating some pretty healthy side effects.
Aside from the obvious clearing of mind, writing in any form - regardless of quality - has significant physical effects (particularly writing about traumatic events). Writing has now been shown to lower blood pressure, relieve stress, increase the ability to handle stress, reduce anxiety and depression, reduce hospital visits and increase liver, heart and lung function. Sleep comes more easily and is deeper with people who write their issues out.
Writing can be the physical manifestation of offloading or venting.
Oddly enough, writing also helps a person heal more quickly. If you happen to be injured, the chemical cocktail coursing through your veins from stress and worry inhibit the healing process. Your body is working overtime to deal with stress when it wants to be focused on rehabilitation. Even immune functions increase... meaning you're less likely to suffer illness if you write it out.
Over time, I've noticed I tend to write more when I have something to get off my chest. Sometimes a thought just won't let me go, so I write it out. Clearing out the clutter by writing it out helps me cope with day to day functionality. It helps me be a better driver. It helps me pay attention to people. It helps me relate better both by listening and letting others know where I stand.
When I go long periods without writing, I become mentally cluttered, more confused, irritable and less able to relate or function. It affects my physical health as well. As I feel better about myself and relieve worries, I physically feel better and stronger. There is literally less weight to carry.
In the end, writing clears my head of the strains of ordinary life so I can remove the eclipse to see my heart.
Apparently sociologists and scientists agree.