Sunday, November 30, 2008

Let them eat change

A little girl on the corner of Robson and Howe reaches for her pocket.

Mommy, I want to give.

It was my little girl. He was a youngish fella in a wheelchair, cap in hand friendly on a soggy Vancouver Sunday. Even friendlier when she dropped in the change. A whole dollar was what she chose, though I suggested a jingle-jangle quarter; she really doesn't know the difference.

Warm smiles among us all. A lovely end to a spend-free trip downtown thinking about what, if any, shopping we might do this Christmas. A happy day only a bit consciously carefree.

First thing we'd packed our glorious van with cast-offs from the kids closets -- to give. Both of us forcedly explaining how we must share what we no longer need with those who can use it; strangers. Our tongues tripping on "what is poor?" We headed for the poorest neighbourhood in Canada, the downtown eastside.

Ah my dear conscience and child conspire. They prick the awkwardness of the morning magnanimity showing it too easy. And, as always for us much too much is too easy. I know the downtown eastside, do NOT bring your pity. They are fierce, smashed to smitherines, yes, but not to be pitied. How dare I? There are the poor I locate in a wave of a hand for my kids. Over there at this drop-in give them three bags of hand-me-downs. Downs.

I was never a bright child about the pains of class. I am a true Canadian in that regard, hiding behind the myth of our classlessness. I don't know that my ignorance was only bad, though. Thankful am I for that full array of friends I had at my mixed-up small public school. They stay with me, the ease I have citywide for one. The fact that, like my girl today, I don't fear the poor or reel from those who might stand for 'other.' In my father's house given a choice between a filthy beggar and a pompous ass we would always choose the former. I know I am just a grandpa away myself.

In my life the regret for oversimplifying it all did come. When I had to pay my own way I started to really get it. It would echo to me. Friends without, the women at risk. The horror in my mother's voice when my playmate's poorer mother came down with Multiple Sclerosis. The agonies she must have truly had, especially as she was the breadwinner to a nearly dead-beat dad. I am ashamed of the obliviousness. But I will not wallow in it. I cringe at the nobility made of savages no matter how articulate the class commentary.

People. Not class. People being valued not weighed. So hard to lay plain.

The poor they might be on my street. Our neighbours hold secrets I cannot explain away with the convenience of heroin and alcohol, the things I called 'poisons' for the comprehension of my four-year old. Our trip downtown this morning was an intersection with the 'easy poor'. The ones we cannot legislate away or be more taxed to catch in a safety net. What about the other ones, the downtrodden, might be strived for? What will I do for them? Something trickier than unloading my old baby blankets? Any real change?

I don't often give to panhandlers and somehow I will find a way to explain that to the girl but today it sat well. All the better for the attention it put on how complicated all we come to know must be. All the better for the pressure it placed on us not just to know but to share... and to give. Seriously.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rock Star

I have of late observed that the girl-child and her micro-pre-teenery is serving up a healthy interest in rock and roll. The Hannah Montana thing has come up and since we don't really know who Hannah Montana is her Dad and I are at a loss. Picture two blind-folded and aging beat-dorks flailing at a pinata formed as a Britney Spears effigy.

Right now if she says rock star... I say you don't even know what that means! Then I show her a real rock star.

But then it dawns, I'm just an aimless public radio geek and my stock of the posh Bowie and the Proclaimers isn't helping me. They got sick of all the Ch-ch-changin' rap I used to do over the Pampers. Never mind what I tell myself about the XTC.

I've tried with mixed success:

Though I love this it mostly stuns the under fives.

I am more than overdue with thanks to the Chicky family for pointing us towards this perennial favorite group.

We sit around the Plan toy drumkit and shake our pathetic asses to some Comfort Eagle only half to keep the teen beat at bay and the rest of the while to cobble together any semblance of self-esteem down the road for our chil'uns.

Hey, what can you tell us that will help teach 'rock star'?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Draft Email

Dear Friend

We hope that we can find the time to do something special together this holiday. We will have an open house on nth day, please come.

I'll add here that in keeping with our household fascination with retail decline in the new economy we hope you will consider forgoing any gift purchases for us this Christmas. The kids will likely craft some construction paper masterpiece or maybe a cookie or two to exchange with you as gifts this year but we will not be doing a lot of Christmas shopping. Please don't buy us stuff or worry about presents for us. Thanks so very much for all you give us everyday just by being our friends.

Happy Holidays!
mo-wo, p-man, miss fancy and baby-guy

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eat the rich

I was in the Starbucks line and just suddenly felt all slimey and sickly sweet. My head was full of wondering about the onslaught of Hannah Montana lyrics my daughter had harvested this week from childcare. I really must take some time off!!

I was zoning out on the cranberry bliss bars. All the goodies nestled neatly into the case as we morphed this week to the Christmas. Bliss bars, Mint Chocolate Decadence, Eggnog Orgasms everywhere!!! Hannah in my head and Cinderella peeking around the corner a lilting Snow White giggle lingers in the air nearby.

The rich. The rich! The silky, sweet, sparkly, cookie-doughlike richness of this life.

I peered to Granville street where that homeless guy with the thoroughly insane hair drank another half a house blend with hot water. He buys them with the money he begs for on the street before he picks the butts in the back alley ashtrays. I could make him out and in a moment my eyes drained the relax into my brain through each pupil. Like that moment you look into the distance after too long on the computer.

Eat the rich. I am so sick of it all. Wish me luck off the caffine grid tomorrow, I give it three days.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

All Souls

Last week Mad wrote about relative death, dying. Checkin' out, kickin' the bucket, the big casino in the sky. Expiration. The end. I left mostly the following in the comments on that post.

"With my children I have, sort of, stopped living. With them I became eternal and yet I have lost all ground to a temporal value to my own life -- in my reference to them. I pray to me they will live forever and from there I have accepted death -- all deaths -- before -- and around -- them. For me it is a liberation.

My great-grandfather died in 1943 in one of those wretched Saskatchewan deaths -- "mangled in a threshing machine". Horrific enough? No. My father was 5 years old at the time and his poppa's namesake. My dad has oft told me it's a bit of a thing to stand in front of a gravestone with your name on it at the age of 5.

My daughter is four. She does not seem to have any profound fears of death (her fears generally few, infact). She is a curious one. In this passed spring she realized everything had died last winter -- and she hadn't noticed. That really annoyed her, I think. Both she and her neighbour-friend (a youngin' of similar vintage) spent a lot of the spring questioning their respective moms about death. What if baby brother fell into the water? What if the squirrel went into the wood chipper with the pruning? etcetera etcetera.

My daughter has been to two funerals in her four years, she has stomped bugs and she weathered the loss of her grandparent's beloved kitty pretty all quite circumspect. She wonders about it all and that is comfort for me. I, on the other hand, tremble and melt. I remember being lifted over my poppa's casket at the age of five to kiss goodbye. I was quite nonplussed at that time. But soon it sets in and by the time I lost grandma at the age of 16 I had been perfected of the unraveling.

I don't think I'm wrong. I can't think either are wrong. The circumspect and distance or the meltaway unraveling. Still, I envy those with the composure and the faith. I imagine that way might be there for my children, to indemnify them. Can't we all see the spin that is just entirely selfish of me in that?

Tonight across the room I spy the terrarium with 4 'saved' ladybugs. We feed them raisins and mist the bowl daily. We have brought them in offering protection from the reality of winter. The silencing of bees, the dropping of the leaves the extinction of blooms cast off for this group. We do for them something while knowing thousands, million are outside possibility of care. It seems a worthwhile conversation in this interregnum of sense and curiosity. This spring will hold little surprise.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A minute

We are most fortunate to have a truly wonderful neighbourhood cenotaph. I have always observed on Remembrance Day and am glad to have the open and proud community event a few blocks from home for my kids. As I child my parents would talk of rights and sacrifice. We speak there about ideas bravery, selflessness and change. And, that my children stand firmly in the 'up with bagpipes!' crowd.

There has been of late much talk about global citizenship. Watch this movie, look to the mother in the blue beret and then tell me if it is so entirely new.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Icebreaker, or, A Brief Series of Brief Lists

The other week I went for an ultrasound of my balls and was relieved to discover a: I have balls, and b: the ultrasound jelly was warmed to slightly above body temperature. They are keeping things loose at Mt. St. Joseph's, people, keeping things loose. Good times.

I am having trouble getting through to my 2 year old. Sample a: "It is breakfast time, name, go sit at the table." "I'm not Name, I'm Little Bear." "Whoever you are, it is breakfast time, Ms. Fancy is there already." ""She's not Ms. Fancy, she's Emily. You're Duck." Sample b: "Name, it's time for bed." Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" "Name, it remains time for bed." "I'm not name, I'm Plablo." "Pablo, er, Plablo, it is time for a secret mission. To bed." "I'm little Bear." "...(weeping)..."

I know the world is supposed to be really happy that Barack Obama is the president of the Consolidated Debts of America* but you can mark my words: the fawning millions who love him today will despise him in one year. This is because a: they will discover he is a Vulcan and there is no way America is ready for a Vulcan president, b: the US will still be in Iraq with no withdrawal in sight, c: the economy will still be sucking fumes, and d: still no Chinese democracy. That's the democracy we await.

Another thing: I the depth to my political insight is, hmm, epidermal, so I note this with some caution and the awareness that somebody else will have thought this. The mantra for the victorious campaign was "Yes We Can!" which has a nice positive ring to it. I think Bob the Builder had it first, though. I'm sure I am not the first to observe that candidates will often, um, say things they don't mean in an effort to induce us to vote for them.** But that can change.



* And I am, a little. The odds of the rapture happening at his behest are slightly less than under his opponent.
** I'm sure this time it will be different. Yep.


Saturday, November 08, 2008


Maybe this economic crisis isn't all bad. I really enjoyed telling my 4-year-old we will "NOT BE ABLE TO BUY THINGS ANYMORE."And, we won't.

I mean I am slightly sad about people not having work to manufacture crap but it's crap! And that I won't miss.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Our American Friends

When I was a kid America was great. My family was mostly made up of Anglophiles but still as I kid I knew America was GREAT. The land of spray cheese and the Electric Company and all manner of technology. The inventor of watermelon flavoured bubble gum and Lollipop bars I could walk 'across the line' to buy in Point Roberts.

When I was an adult in 2001 I did my Masters degree practicum in the UK. I was relieved. Ahhhh, this is more like it. Europe. North America suddenly seemed to be the New Old world. Canada fine. US not so great.

Today. Well, I might have things to covet across the line more often and again.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

That was the Halloween that was...

11th hour batman costume. As he freaked out at the results of the prior request for Robot. Not that I would in fact want to walk around on a rainy Vancouver night in a cardboard box either. (I too missed the photo op)

Gotta light up the pumpkins. Filip one, and Hoo-hoo, and Cyclops and Happy one.

Off to the witch's house. With friends. Perfection.

The object. You have never seen such little legs climb so many wet stairs in the span of 90 minutes on one dark night. He didn't seem to mind the lack of awesomeness in his homemade -- that is still such an excellent post.

Do you think she had a good time? TGIwF!!!

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