Day 4/100 Happy Days – Ibuprofen and Hot Tubs

Day 4-100 Happy Days

Day 4/100 Happy Days

As many of you know, I have been ridden hard and put away wet oh so many times. Lengthy athletic & military careers and officers’ messes have taken their Knievelesque toll on my frame.  Multiple knee surgeries, bilateral tibia-fibula fractures, repeated broken noses and fingers, dislocated shoulders, cellulitis, and finally, a triple bypass, have resulted in many doses of Cepacol (inside army joke – sorry) and more than a few ice baths.

Many a specialist has told time and time again that maybe it was time to pack it in. But I couldn’t; I did not know how. Ever since high school I have lived by the credo that there are only have two speeds, “all out, or broken”.

Funnily enough, as I watched my son play rugby, I have realized that those words are the repeated mantra of youth and invincibility. I can remember when a whisper of tough skin spray and another layer of athletic tape could get all my teammates, and me, through the last few rugby games of the season, skating another shift on the ice, or setting up a few spikes with swollen. misshapen and sprained fingers.

Moe than one medic told 20-something Pal that perhaps it would be better to sit out the rest of the season – otherwise I would regret it when I was 45.  “Forty-five?  Who gives a sh*t about 45? Hell, that is over 20 years away, I might not even make it!  Tape me up doc there are still games left in this season!”

Foolhardy? Sure – when looking back at it as a 51 year-old. But would I take those moments back? Maybe…maybe not.

Many of those moments defined me… scoring the only three points in a lopsided rugby loss to West Point (though we hurt Navy a few months later), playing goal in several CF Regional Soccer Tournaments, numerous Army League hockey and broom-ball seasons with the soldiers of the Regiment, several half marathons and a full marathon where I was my only competition..

And maybe I should have taken it easy, because I tell you, I do hurt sometimes. But seriously, would that have been me?

Doubtful. I love sports too much!

I will continue to live vicariously watching amateur and professional athlete.  And as I seriously consider giving up hockey and rugby and soccer – save one last Ex-Cadet Rugby Game in 2017 to celebrate my 30th year since graduation , I will likely move to others that will provide the same thrill, but take less of a toll on me…whenever I figure out what those are!

Until then, I will continue to carry on in the tradition that many of us know well- the satisfaction and moral high ground of a solid cardio and strength workout, followed by a round of ibuprofen, and a comforting hot tub – like today! Despite the aches and pains, that keeps me happy…



Day 3/100 Happy Days – Music and Guitars



Day 3/100 Happy Days – Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!

Each generation grows up with a fondness for a certain type of music.  I  would describe myself as a small “h” head banger, big “c” Classic Rock freak (and by classic rock, I mean pre-1990s, though I do like the Seattle Grunge of Pearl Jam and SoundGarden).

Ever since the early days of listening to 1050 CHUM in Toronto and of using my cassette deck to capture the annual “best 1000 songs of all time” from the radio, to the hours spent listening to my brother’s extensive vinyl collection, music has been important to me. The Who, AC-DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush and countless others that will take too long to name, appealed to my thoughts of rebellion and “coolness”.  Their memorable riffs, shocking lyrics (well for that time anyway, as they really have nothing on today’s “pop” music lyrics) were a great counter-weight to the expectations and pressures of maintaining the requisite Honour Roll Status.  While my parents dreamed of my futre including medicine, or law, or finance, I always dreamed of getting on the stage and cutting a mean axe solo à la Peter Frampton!

But it never happened. My only school age foray into music was the double bass – a lot cooler now than it was back then – and that was simply to play school-sanctioned classical selections with the other violinists.  It was not very Bon Scott.

Instead my outlet was the myriad of concerts that came through Toronto and catching a lot of the bands I loved, live at Maple Leaf Gardens, Ontario Place, or Exhibition Place.   It was not a bad outlet at all.

I remember my ex-wife giving me my first acoustic guitar on our fifth anniversary. I used the traditional “Learn How to Play Guitar in 10 days” manuals, but soon got tired of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and other lame offerings. So it went away.

It wasn’t until six years later that I took a serious swipe at figuring out the six string. And I have never looked back. Now while I am no expert guitarist, I do like banging away on my guitars and learning new things – classic rock and the blues are very forgiving! To my ear, it is just right – can’t speak for the others in the house.

Over time, I have expanded my musical taste – pretty much everything but acid country and hard core rap are on my playlists. Music and playing the guitar are my meditation, my diversion, and one of my passions. Both take an ordinary day and make it special. Music transports me to happy places; playing songs that I like in the way I want to hear them creates a different kind of contentment – one that you cannot get from a video game, a TV show, or a movie.  I am addicted.

I could not imagine a day without music, and I cannot go a long time without playing my guitar. And while it may not make those around me “happy|, it definitely makes me happy! Now all I have to do is find a gang to jam with…and figure out the keyboards!

Day 2/100 Happy Days – Parents!

2015-12-25 08.41.30Day 2/100 Happy Days.  Yesterday, I wrote of the special bond between parents and children – from the point of view of a soppy, middle-aged man bravely waving goodbye to his son at the airport, stifling a few tears in the process.  Today, I will turn the tables and write about things from the other side of the fence.

My parents have just spent the last two weeks with us over Christmas.  I do not think we could have spent time with anybody easier-going; all we needed to do was provide time and space for the twice-daily walks, and all the cereals know to humankind, and the never-ending cups of tea!

They are wonderful people  and they have accomplished wonderful things.

From humble agrarian roots in India, to hardworking merchant class in England, to demanding white collar jobs in Canada – their story is the classic tale of people seeking a better life, a 20th century version of the pioneer spirit that made this country what it is.

Frugal, hardworking, tough yet affectionate in their own way, they shared their morals, their values, their ethics, and formed the foundations for me and my siblings to  become who we are.

Now, as they and I have entered that last stage of the parent-child relationship – that of friends – I find that our discussions, our chats, our walks, our games, our times together are all special and cherished. I have had the privilege of reconnecting with my parents two years ago as they nursed me back to health after the heart bypass; and though I would never recommend a serious illness to anyone, the whole episode was an opportunity to renew our relationship as adults – to learn about each other and to appreciate what we all offered from a totally different perspective than that of child to adult and adult to child.

And as I have learned from the relationship with my children, a weekly phone call to just say, “All is good here,” is always welcome and rewarding

Time marches on; hair grays, hearing fades,eyes become cloudy, energy saps, but they are always the same, sharing the same old chestnuts of family jokes and stories and laughing those infectious laughs that seem to make everyone’s day.

I love my parents and I am also in the enviable position of liking them as well!. They are a pleasure to be with and they are one of the main reasons I am as happy a man as I am.

Love you, Mom and Dad.

Day 1/100 Happy Days – “Nothing new, Dad…”

A couple of years ago, I embarked on a little bit of narcissistic “performance art” that required a bit of introspection, a bit of creativity, and a bit of discipline, The project, 100HappyDays, was at times a chore, but I found overall it created a positive outlook as I searched each day for something that made me happy. As a result, I looked at things more positively – as opposed to negatively, avoiding focusing on things that made me unhappy. I truly did find it uplifting and judging by some of the feedback from friends, it struck a chord with them too. So starting 2 January 2016, I begin 100Days Part Deux. Indulge me! (for more info see )


Day 1/100

Just before New Year’s Eve, I hugged my daughter and watched her drive off with her lovely boyfriend to go live her life in Northern Alberta. Today, I dropped my son at the airport, knowing I will go many months without feeling a hug from that goofy Marmaduke-puppy of a man-boy. Saying goodbye to your kids is heart wrenching. It is a confusing maelstrom of emotions: on one hand, melancholy, self-pity, loneliness, trepidation, and worry as you see your “babies” challenge life head on without you. On the other, it raises a smidgen of envy, of much pride, of a sprinkle of excitement as you see them march off on their own, knowing that you have done well raising two tiny beings into confident, hard-working young adults.

Being a parent is a significant challenge. From the moment you accept the familial contract of pregnancy and child-rearing, with its evolution of roles – care-giver, teacher, coach, mentor, banker, counselor, confidant, friend – you pour your heart and soul to them and you love them more than life itself.

You feed them, you clothe them, you support them, you nurture them, you scold them, you guide them, you hold them when things go wrong, you smile the smile of a 1000 suns when things go right. You love them unconditionally with a love that is deeper than all of the earth’s crevices, and larger than all of the earth’s mountains.

I relish their every phone call, their every email, their every Skype chat, their every visit…even if the only things they yield are the contented silence of togetherness, punctuated by a brief “Nothing’s new, Dad, things are good here,” or a few lazy couch potato giggles. Just being able to talk to them, or even better, to hug them, is something you never quite get until you are a parent of older children – and something you wish you realized when you were a younger adult.

And if all goes well, the parent’s return on investment is huge – their smiles, their success, their happiness are all rewards of a job well done. As my Dad said to me when I was just starting on my adventure into adulthood, “Do whatever you want in life…just make sure you add to society and do not only take from it.” Sage words.

That is the grail, and proudly, that is just what I am watching my kids achieve.

Being a parent equals happiness; thanks Alex and Duncan!

The Anatomy of an Accident

My Little Blue VW has seen its end...

My Little Blue VW has seen its end…

I lost my car today.  At this moment that is all that makes me sad. The rest of me is happy. Seems ridiculous, that l would feel that way – most people wouldn’t if they had just lost their car!

And at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I have to say, it makes sense when the other possible outcomes are losing more than your car.  I could have been damaged permanently, or even dead. But again, something was on my side. I am alive – bruised, banged up, sore, stiff – but mobile and functioning. Not a bad result, really, but my supply of cat lives is dwindling.

The chain of events that led to the accident are strange…a series of decisions and actions that could have altered the outcome in many ways. And when you throw in the other person’s decisions too, so many ways this could have been so different

Concept image of a signpost with Decision Right or Wrong against a blue cloudy sky

Choose Wisely, I say….

.Last night was a topsy-turvy night…and when the alarm went off at 5am, there was decision point. We all have it. Stay cozy, toasty, and warm in bed, stealing another 60 minutes of sleepy-time, or get up and get to the gym to exorcise the demons of happy living. I chose the latter, and up I rose, still grumbling as sleep slowly ebbed from my body. By the time I was out the door, there were no more misgivings – the morning started with the promise of moral superiority over my slothliness – a well-paced morning workout with all my early morning friends of Sherwood Park.

And covered in the satisfying dew of a middle-aged workout, I headed off home. The dog awaited her morning walk in the wetlands behind the house, an invigorating shower was in store, and there was kefir and cereal to be eaten, a lunch to be packed, and an action-packed day of business planning and strategic thinking to keep me engaged.

And as I drove home, I looked at other cars and their drivers, wondering why they were on the road at 6.30am – what awaited them today?

As I approached the fateful intersection, I saw the green light and continued on my merry way. A mere few blocks from my home, it was clear sailing. And then I saw the other vehicle; I observed, and noticed he was hoping to turn left across my lanes.  I do not know what he was thinking, I do not know what he saw; I only know what he decided and what he did.

A fine example of Newton's First Law...same feeling as a car accident in the end.

A fine example of Newton’s First Law…same feeling as a car accident in the end.

It was as if I was cloaked like a Romulan bird of prey. As I crossed into the intersection, expecting the customary yielding of right of way to oncoming traffic, our worlds converged and Newton’s First law kicked in:

Every VW Golf in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external “big-ass Alberta lump of steel on wheels” is applied to it.

Decisions and actions....Newton's First Law

Decisions and actions….Newton’s First Law

And for that instance, time slowed. I saw it but I could not do anything about it. I could not stomp on the brake hard enough, I could not will him out of the way, I could not engage the Delorean’s flux capacitor, and I could not hit rewind.

I know He could not hear me yelling, “What the f*ck?” or else why would He have crossed the imaginary yellow line. And funnily enough, I couldn’t hear myself either. I have no idea if I cursed out loud or blasphemed silently, or even if I only screamed obscenities in my mind.  I could not see him, he was too high and I was too low and too close. Like a frigate stuck under the deck of an aircraft carrier, I knew nothing could be done. I saw his headlights and his grill coming at me, assessed my speed and my lack of braking and I knew that it would hurt.

And it did.

I have felt that bone jarring thud before…about 25 years ago when I fell from a great distance and fractured my legs. This one was less painful, but still as jolting. I heard the plastic crushing, the steel bending, the glass breaking simultaneously in one sonic symphony of distress. It was so fast, but yet so slow. I don’t remember the airbags deploying, but I smelled them deploying…

And then it was over.

For a millisecond, there was incredulity. Then for another millisecond, there was anger. And for a final millisecond, there was a rationale thought… “Wow, this really going to screw up my day.”  And then for a short while rationale thought departed me.

My brain tried to deal with all its inputs.Comenius-Orbis

My eyes soaked in the micro details. Though I could barely see the other vehicle as my line of sight was obstructed by the airbags and the crumpled hood and pieces of engine sticking to and fro, I saw the cracked windshield, I saw pieces of the car’s interior strewn all over the cab, I saw the airbags floating like jelly fish or sad, old, neglected party balloons with their dimpled ends.  I saw smoke, or rather the haze of NaN3 and KNO3 filling my space, post explosion. I was barely aware of shadowy images approaching us, in urgent though hesitant strides as if uncomfortable with their new roles as good Samaritans.

My ears heard muted sounds. Overpowered by the thunderous collision, they heard sounds but did not register them. I remember that the serendipity of hearing Thunderstruck by ACDC playing on K-97, but all other sounds were strangely obscure, like Tom Hanks’s young Ranger captain experiencing deafness in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Someone was asking me some kind of Don Corleone version of “Are you ok?” I couldn’t decide.

And I smelled smells. Not the pleasant, exhilarating smell of detonated nitroglycerin from years of happy and rewarding explosives work, but a nauseating, buzzing, electric smell of sensor controlled rocket booster, nitrogen gas from the air bags. I could sense the odour of hot oil and transmission fluid.

And I felt pain. Every neuron in my body was transmitting a distress signal. Some had priority access, but all were screaming about something amiss. My head was telling me about some strange obstacle it had encountered inside the car – what, where, how I do not know; but there was a goose egg on the back of my head. My neck was screaming at me not to move it quickly. My chest and ribs were protesting against the nylon tether that had left them bruised and chafed – oblivious to the fact that it had prevented them from being crushed and broken against the steering wheel.  My knees were throbbing from the body check received from the console. And a myriad of other minor pain points were obviously transmitting – fingers, ankles, elbows – but were not heard until later when the major players were acknowledged and quelled.

But most disquieting was the disorientation and incapacity. I knew I had been in a collision. I knew I was banged up.  Years of training kicked in and I did a quick physical triage, but I could not remember or process the results. Was I seriously hurt or not? I couldn’t think. I sat in the smoke and smell and chaos, and tried to collect my thoughts. I tried to make sense of the nonsensical. I tried to call my wife and I knew how to do it, I just could not do it correctly. Nimble fingers had been turned into thumbs, and a mind programmed to multi-task and assess multiple threats was turned into a Nintendo 64, as I tried to process what I needed to do.

Slowly, I started emerging from the fog, the shock. In tiny incremental bits that gained speed as I gained control of myself. As I realized that I was going to walk away from this.

And seemingly out of nowhere, my wife appeared like an apparition. She was rudely awoken by my phone call and by my words, “major accident” as

The aftermath and clean up.

The aftermath and clean up.

she awoke from her fog of sleep. Given that men are prone to understatement, those words probably awoke that primordial beast of fear that lives deep in all our bellies, as she frantically hopped into action hoping that I was not badly hurt. She arrived, teary-eyed, full of relief to see me walking around the site, trying to crack very bad jokes with the fire crew. But she knows that is how I handle stress; bad jokes and puns let her know that the real me was still functioning and struggling to break free of the Wonderland that I was trapped in.  There is no overstating the comfort of her caring, friendly voice and reassuring touch. It is something I will remember when I am called on to be a Good Samaritan. I may not know the person, or be someone they know, but I am confident that anybody’s gentle, caring words, or steady, firm hand will have an incredibly calming effect on the shaking and distressed and let them know that help is coming.  My wife was my calming balm.

And then the clean-up – amidst the anxious, frenetic jumble of suburbanites who only saw us an impediment to their day, a flash announcement on their morning radio show, an accident to avoid on the daily commute. We were an opportunity to gawk and reflect, an incident to talk about around the cooler, and a misfortune to share in the coffee room to prove just how fortunate they were on this day.

The insurance people give you a checklist. The checklist is handy when you have a fender bender and angry grimaces turn to polite smiles as you exchange information and then drive off assessing the nuisance and nauz that is involved in repairing your cracked fender or quarter panel or rear lights. But when your car is beyond all economical repair, when you can’t really remember what day it is or what just happened, the checklist is hard to sort out.

That is where you are at the mercy of the emergency responders. And they did not fail me. The fire crew who arrived quickly (their firehouse was only 500m away), and the constabulary – local and federal – collected the necessary information and took charge, as they should and as I hope I could, if I wasn’t involved.  Under their control, like Formula 1 race marshals, they arranged for the clearance of the carnage, collected information allowing me the freedom to be comforted, and reassured by my wife.

The rest is mere drudgery – another episode of shaved chest hairs and ECGs, of CT scans and IVs – all precautionary given my history and all needed to ensure that my body was still in one piece, with no internal leaks, after being hit by a truck. And as I sit here, battered but thankful, I appreciate their thoroughness. It means that all the people I love can sleep soundly knowing that I am ok. Tomorrow is a new day, full of many potential decisions and actions.

I hope I choose wisely.60117047



Closing Down Now. Out.


I am hanging up my combat boots this week. Incredible that this day has finally come, that I am no longer a “Lifer”. I will instead become a Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired)…a Retired Sapper, a former Cold Warrior, a UN veteran, an Old Soldier.

I can’t begin to explain what being a member of the Canadian Armed Forces has meant to me, what it has done for me, and how much it will still be a part of me – regardless of where I go or what I do. I do not think anyone can unlearn 33 years of habit, of conduct, of thought – neither do I think anyone needs to.

To many the military is a mystery. Even to this day, I have been unable to adequately explain to family or friends what it is I have done or what it is that I am doing. I know that I have their respect, and that in a sanitised, media-driven way they understand the risks of serving; but I know that deep down, they do not really get what it means to be a member of the Armed Forces – how your failure can affect the lives of others, how others look to you for decisions and commands that could very well lead to an unhappy ending.

1 CER  Leadership 2004They don’t really understand the hardships, the discomforts, the aches, the pains, the toil, and the exertion that is the daily bread and butter of soldiering – that we train hard to fight easy. They know that I have Army friends, but they do not understand just how much we have relied and leaned upon each other; how much we have comforted, supported, and helped each other; how we have ribbed and teased, and lovingly insulted each other – in seemingly cruel ways that would lead to lawsuits, or lost friendships or fist-fights in the outside world, but are simply our way of showing how much we mean tor each other.  Or how we love each other in ways that few professions can match – how we would do anything for each other if asked, asking no questions in return because our trust in each other is implicit and unwavering.  Or how some of my best friends in the world are the ten or so people who I met over 32 years ago, or 22 years ago, or 12 years ago…all of us driven toward a common purpose.

But they will know that even if I leave the Army, the Army will never leave me. The attention to detail, the punctuality, the decisiveness will always be there. The need to make a plan and to do a time appreciation – working backward from the appointed time to decide exactly to the minute when we must start getting ready – or must depart – to arrive 5 minutes early for a movie, or dinner, or party, will continue to exist. And so will the constant “mental war-gaming” to identify the worst-case scenarios – be it a car breakdown, an accident, someone injured or ill, or any type of chaos or confusion that needs someone to establish order; to exercise the creative thinking that is necessary to make sure that we are mentally prepared and quick to act if any of it ever comes to happen. And how we will never lose that willingness to help if help is ever needed – what my brother calls the “Joe Saver” complex. Little does he know that there are almost 100,000 Joe Savers out there wearing the Maple Leaf today, innumerable other Joes who sport the title “Retired”, and billions of Josephs, Youssefs, Iosifs, Jozefs, Yosyps, and Giuseppes etcetera, who serve or have served their respective nations and who are all standing by as well.

I leave the Army at the end of this week…to take up new challenges with new horizons. I am excited, but my departure is bitter-sweet.  Part of me does not want to leave the only home I have ever known since I was 17.  But the other part of me, the same spirit that led me to join the army, tells me that I am ready to go and that I can safely leave the business of protecting our nation and its interests to the next generation. I hope their service shapes them as positively as mine has formed me.

So, I leave fulfilled and grateful; I leave happy for the chance of a lifetime to experience more than I could ever have hoped

Combat Diver Graduation 2009

Combat Diver Graduation 2009

for if I had stayed in Toronto and not worn the uniform; for seeing people at their very best when the circumstances were at their very worst; for meeting so many fantastic role models and colleagues to show me how to be honourable and honest and forthright and trustworthy; for having seen things that make me grateful that we Canadians enjoy a fantastic quality of life, and that we are not consumed by ingrained, indiscriminate hate and hostility, like so many other places, that lead us to inflict indescribable injustices and cruelty on our neighbours; and for giving me so many opportunities to experience a joie de vivre and camaraderie and thrill that I do not think I will ever be able to find again.

In the 1980s, the adverts extolled how  “There’s No Life Like It” ; I agree, and I have never rued the day that I chose to live the Forces way (I know it is Navy, but it’s the only thing I could find on the ‘net)

I wish all of you, who continue to carry the torch, happy, fulfilling and rewarding careers. Remember that the bad times are necessary to help you appreciate the good times. Soldier well as you stand on guard for us.

Leaving Command 2009 - CFB Gagetown ALSC

Leaving Command June 2009

All stations, this is A Simple Fellow. Permission to close down. Closing down now. Out.



Not “Not-Christmas”… Humbug.


It is New Year’s Eve…the end of a chapter, and the opening of a sparkling new one full of promise.  It is funny, less than a week since Christmas Day, but still Christmas seems so long ago, and yet so far way…

I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to take forever to get here, but then it seems to be over in a flash.  As I am me, thankfully a flash is about allnow-is-the-time-to-panic-one-shopping-day-left-till-christmas-panic-ea6ed I take to prepare for Christmas.  Unlike my lovely bride – who thinks Christmas thoughts every day, seeing gifts and stocking stuffers in every store even in the middle of July – Christmas for me does not really kick into gear until the 19th or 20th of December.  I will admit, like most, that I have several pangs of “Gee, I guess I should start shopping soon…”, but as I have always said, there is no motivator like sheer panic to get you through the shops and malls.  Anyway,  I am fond of the panicked calls from the VISA people as I leave bits of molten plastic all over the stores getting a year’s worth of presents in one afternoon.

“Yes, I did visit Hipsters’R’Us and Generic Grandparents’ Gift Shop and Ridiculously Priced Jewellers and Stupid Calendar Kiosk and the Overpowering Smelly Soaps and Fragrances Store and Gangsta Ball Caps and Hockey Jerseys Store and finally the More Electronic Gadgets than You’ll ever need in your Life Boutique (with no payments until January 2016) in the last half hour.  Thanks for checking, though”.


Christmas Shopping is not complete without adding the degree of uncertainty, the thrill of waiting for the much hoped for “Transaction Approved” signal on the handheld remote pay-thingy at the cashier.   Christmas VISA Roulette.

The Wild Geese Half SheetThis year, the physical search and destroy of shopping started late…but it was executed with surgical precision as prior to launch I developed a plan with several options and branches and sequels. Courtesy of the interweb, gifts were researched and price compared and stock checked, locations identified, and the most expeditious route that eliminated back tracking and looping was mapped. It had all the precision of the Wild Geese.  It is funny what 33 years in the Army teaches you…I think I even gave myself orders and stood to attention when I received them.  And with this preparation, in one afternoon the shopping was 90% complete – less time than it would take to wrap all the presents that I was giving.

But there is a problem with being done early…because Christmas shopping never really stops. There is always that one person on your list that would love the gifts that appear everywhere you look.

“Oooh. Wouldn’t  insert name here love that…and this! …and those!”

Meanwhile, the “hard-to-shop-for-person” – the one who you are not quite sure about –  becomes more and more of a challenge, as the stakes are raised and equilibrium challenged with each gift that you pick up for that one relative or friend who is really just like you and would love “everything”.  And yet, the merchants have found a way to help us through that too; thank goodness for the gift card, and my perennial multi-purpose favourite – the universal gift certificate – that are adept at spackling the cracks of my retail confusion and perplexity.  Very few are unhappy with the sweet flexibility of the gift card, or better yet, good ol’ money!

I am not sure if I am alone, but Christmas seems to be a period of eager anticipation and equal amounts of pressure. Somewhere, somehow, I have developed a bit of angst over the quality of my gifts.  And by quality I do not mean the cost – there are some tremendously tacky yet expensive gifts out grinch03there for purchase.  What I really mean is the “meaningful gift”, the one that – as I wrote in a Facebook post – shows you get the other person: that you have paid attention to them, have listened to their aspirations, have observed their habits, or their hobbies, or their style, and have found the gift that respects or enhances that.  That is a tough call – especially if you are going to get the whole shooting match completed in one afternoon! But really, I think that is a self-inflicted Festivus wound, for as the Grinch said, “Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  He was, of course, referring to the gift receipt.

And after the Christmas morning bacchanalia, amidst the  gifts, and the Turtles® and the Toblerones®, and Glad® bags full of empty wrapping and ribbons and bows and tinsel, amidst the intellectual challenge of trying to remember who gave you what, or indeed remembering what it is you did get, there is that feeling of utter resignation that you will have to rearrange your rec room or kitchen or house, or your closet, or your garage to fit all the new wonderful things you received. Ahhh, first world problems!

And then after the turkey is done, the belts unbuckled, the last nog consumed and the Cracker hats put away, when the afterglow of Christmas has faded like the Ghost of Christmas Present, that signals the arrival of one of the biggest dips in the Yuletide emotional roller coaster.

You know it.

2015_WJHC_logoYep, the period between Boxing Day and the New Year’s – not Christmas exactly but funnily enough not “not-Christmas” either. This is that awkward period when we start thinking of tackling all those jobs in the “Honey-Do Jar”,  of de-jollifying the house of all the festive tchotchkes and geegogs, of getting to the gym or hitting the asphalt; but instead it is simpler and more satisfying to be hypnotised and held hostage by the sweet siren song of turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie and turkey soup, counting down the remaining days of laziness watching TV marathons or sports or movies, or going out and hoisting a few wets with friends and loved ones. All that, and if you are Canadian, rooting during that post –Christmas tradition of watching the Annual IIHF Junior World Hockey Championships – GO CANADA!

It’s that interlude where the Holiday shine weakens and starts to wear off. The time when walking the dog at night and seeing the gaily decorated houses no longer elicits happy thoughts and kindles the warm glow of Rudolph, or Frosty or the Grinch, or wassailing or mulled wine. Instead it is the start of the post-Christmas pool to pick that one house that will leave the lights twinkling the longest – well into February, March… far too long to be logical, sensible, and practical, or may I say, warranted? I am winner this year – I waited too long to put up lights, so gladly when the sheen is gone, I have no lights to take down. WIN! [Note: I offer there is a degree of flex here; giving leeway to the Gregorian Calendar, I would say that beyond Orthodox Christmas may be long to keep up the Noel display especially if there are any multi-coloured bulbs; plain white bulbs could last a bit longer as their longevity might be explained as a trendy home decor statement, not a Christmas decoration – but that might be a Martha Stewart-inspired statement!]  

honest-new-years-eve-party-posterAnd then all of a sudden Christmas is gone, and it is New Year’s Eve . Younger me would say that New year’s Eve comes with implied tasks of mandatory frivolity and fun, that it is a contrived event that forces merriment on people – but one sad New Year’s Eve doing laundry and watching the interminable New Year Eve shows with drunken “youngsters” trying hard to get their faces on TV, inspired me to do something – anything –  to close out the year, and ring in the new one. But now on my 32nd New Year in which I can consume alcohol  – legally that is – I have come to the conclusion that I am not a purveyor of the fancy place or party that requires great effort and will end with the wholly foreseeable, totally preventable, and sadly interminable hours-long wait for the scarce taxi-cabs that are directed across the  city by smoky-throated and irate dispatchers like crazed Wham-O® Super Balls®.

I’d rather be with friends, laughing loudly, eating too much, and perhaps matching that with good drink. And that is just what I will do.

I will send out the old and bring in the new with some of the people who mean the most to me. We will reminisce on the year it has been, on the year that will come, and most of all we will enjoy being together, in what is the true spirit of the Christmas Holiday season.

And as for you, I hope that is how you will spend you New Year’s Eve – either over a casual glass of wine at home, or all dolled up in a fancy-schmancy place. I hope in 2015 that more of your days are spent with those that mean the most to you, than not.

I wish you all a safe, healthy and wonderful 2015 full of good times and good people. Enjoy.



…The Wall Collapsed

The Wall - Then and Then

…when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city…

Joshua 6-20

I had only lived half of my life when The Berlin Wall fell. I was a young engineer troop commander, living in the Federal Republic of Germany. I was fresh off my first major NATO exercise, and massive, expansive force on force exercise in the German countryside, practicing to defend against the Russian Bear if he ever decided to forage into Blue Territory.

It was the thawing for the Cold War. And because it was in the Time before the Internet, my understanding of what was happening, and what it meant to us and me, was strangely fragmented and unnerving. I saw the images on TV, but back then in the Crazy Olden

Days (of the late 1980s) of service in Europe, English video was on a 3 day tape delay flown over from Canada, and our Nachricht

1988...the Handover just before The Wall felll

1988…the Handover just before The Wall felll

was all delivered auf Deutsch. I understood snippets, but it was a distorted picture of what was happening – volunteer DJs on our local radio station tried to tell the story, but it wasn’t the same as the calm narratives of Knowlton Nash – or his young new successor, Peter Mansbridge.

It was quite the time to be in Germany; many before us had fought the Cold War, but if the news was right, it was actually our cohort that had won it! Not log after the throngs on partyers on the The Wall dissipated nursing their hangovers and pre-Unification angsts, the dominoes fell in short order relatively quickly – it was weird witnessing the Evil Empire collapse like a kid’s sandcastle at high tide. And through it all, while we still kept a wary eye on the Hammer and Sickle, there was slight swagger in our step – but we knew deep down in our hearts  that more than Berlin and Germany was changing. The World was changing.

Rust only to mark the lost power of the Hammer and Sickle

Rust only,  marking the lost power of the Hammer and Sickle

It was not long after that November 10th, that I made my first and only trip to Berlin. It was not a pretty city, industrial and business-like and boxy. While West Berlin was clean, and efficient, and colourful, our brief foray into East Berlin was surreal. It was as if we had become colour blind crossing the scarred landscape of no-man’s land; the landscape became monochromatic …

Easy to drive, easy to maintain, easy to junk! The Shabby Trabby!

Easy to drive, easy to maintain, easy to junk! The Shabby Trabby!

buildings grey and dull and unkempt. People seemed hesitant and cold, distrusting and apprehensive – unless they saw Deutschemarks or US dollars. Landmarks were odd and filled with unease – the Reichstag, the Stasi HQ, It looked like the land that time had forgot – as if the damage of the Second World War has been patched with spackle as opposed to erased and rebuilt. There was an air of despair as I looked at weeded asphalt and broken down Trabants…it hardly seemed that the German experiment of communism had been fruitful. And after a short visit to the East, we crossed back into relative familiarity through the magnificent but forlorn and shabby Brandenburg Gate to the West, where like all tourist we passed away time hearing the bartender’s stories quaffing beer at the ubiquitous Irish Bar…Murphy’s or Finnegan’s or something like that.  Because, as you all know, nothing says Berlin, or Amsterdam, or Bangkok, or Buenos Aires, like a Guinness with a shamrock in the foam.

It is funny how life changed after that. A mere three years later, in my first blue beret experience, we shared a camp with Russian Airborne soldiers. Yes they were tough, but other than the fact that they had 55,000 tanks, 24,000 infantry fighting vehicles and over 33,000 artillery pieces, we had them right where we wanted them! That tour in Croatia and Serbia was bizarrely dreamlike… we were sharing the same space, eating in the same mess and executing the same mission with soldiers who for over 45 years were the enemy, who had different ethos and procedures, and expectations. But we did play ball hockey better than them – the 1992 Canada v Russia Summit was epic!

Wall FallThe Wall is gone, save for little asbestos riddled chunks that live in people’s memory boxes, or on bookshelves or in several monolithic sections found in the same cities that house all those Irish Pubs; iconic, yet strangely misplaced and somehow trivialised – a footnote, a bauble; some huckster’s way to shill history for a few sheckles. And gone, save in some history textbook, library reference section, underappreciated fiction, or in the folklore of those of us who are growing older and older are historic places like Check Point Charlie, the open and dogmatic struggle between Democracy and Soviet Communism – our way of life versus their way of life – of Ludlum’s original Jason Bourne and Tinkers and Tailors, of a recognisable predictable. Unfortunately, with the fall of the wall also goes the significance of the courage, resourcefulness and desperation of over 136 Germans who died trying to cross no man’s land.



And filling the vacuum in the Bear’s place? The snake, the unpredictable, the non-comprehensible and unknown unknowns. Gone now is the other half of the bipolar relationship – the one that kept our enemies in check because they were his friends. And it all started with a wall…a wall that fell a quarter century ago – when I was 24. I remember that.

If I Had $10,000

A funny bit of banter between a scam e-mail group and my bro-in-law who is a comedy critic. Enjoy, it made me laugh!

And Then We Will Be Very Happy

A little while back, I received the “speaking request” below. It seemed so ridiculous to me that I posted it on Facebook for a laugh. A friend did some Googling and found out that, surprise, surprise, there is a scam behind this and that at least one person has fallen for it, agreeing to send something like $1000 USD to an individual to help secure a Visa for their speaking gig. Another friend, the talented and hilarious writer Guy MacPherson, suggested I respond to the “speaking request”, engaging the scammers for the purposes of entertainment. “Who has time for that kind of nonsense?” I asked. Well, apparently Guy does. With my permission, Guy posed as my manager and wrote to Pastor Jason Joe. Below is the original email followed by Guy’s correspondence with the scammers. Enjoy.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Dear Morgan,

Greetings in the…

View original post 3,141 more words

I don’t have a clue…any ideas? Fa la la la


It is Christmas minus 9!

Actually, as I have done nothing in terms of getting ready for Christmas today, I suppose by the time I get busy, there will only be 8 days before Christmas. Wait, ixnay on the  Christmas Day, and I uppose I should be sorted by  Christmas Eve making it out of bounds -o that leaves 6 days!

Six whole shopping days to buy gifts for one, two, three…seven…wait, eight…nope, NINE people!  That’s it, nine people.  Nine thoughtful gifts, a couple of secondary gifts, and then a few stocking stuffers.  All in six days.

Piece of Christmas Cake. As we engineers like to say, “Where there is no pressure, there is no flow!”

batman and robin

I have often marvelled at those all-ear round Christmas shoppers…the kind of people who see things at the Shopping Mall in June, and buy them, right then and there. I am not that organised…or that attentive…and definitely not financially inclined to adopt that as my modus operandi ( I prefer the pain of all gifts at once, vice spread sensibly over the year!).  Anyways, if I bought anything immediately upon seeing it, I am sure there would be some kind of present “graveyard” in the house – the amazingly cunning hiding place that will outfox everyone, even me. Actually, I think that there is one already – full of un-given Mothers’ Day gifts, birthday gifts, all my packs of new batteries. and likely an odd sock or two that have teleported from the dryer. I am sure that you all have a spot like that where the forgotten presents lie in wait,  like the poor souls on the Island of Misfit Toys, hoping that they will find someone to love them forever and forever.


But alas, I’m not the year-round shopper. I am a “week-before-Christmas” kind of guy – perhaps like many of my campadres.

Many of the women in my life seem to have their Yuletide Mojo going all year round…they intuitively catch the giftHoliday-Organizer vibes the rest of us are sending and find a way to translate that energy into some very thoughtful gifts. Their lists – all kept secretly in Christmas books and papers – are full of fantastic ideas that are entered when something strikes their fancy.

I can’t compete…I don’t even keep a compiled list. I have tried, but I think my attempt has been misplaced it in the “gift graveyard”.  Anyway, I don’t have the talent to make a useful list that helps me shop – it is more a catalogue of what I have bought in order to avoid embarrassing repeats (that’s pretty good in itself isn’t it?)

I am the kind of guy who listens to – wait, strike that – I’m the kind of guy who hears those oblique hints bandied about all year.  They all seem to come at me at the most inopportune times, like when I am doing nothing and enjoying it; or when I am in front of the TV, without pen or paper. Or, most often when I am apparently without interest.

And the hints seem to be as easy to decipher as those annoying and incomprehensible and strange Cryptic Crossword clues you see in the weekend papers (who does those anyway?).

If you are a man, I am sure you have had a conversation that sort of goes like this:

Significant Other: “Wow, look honey, isn’t this a nice pantlefoofler?” (Before any of you go looking for the coveted pantlefoofler, in the misguided notion it may be a gift idea,  it is a fictional item – I have used it for illustrative purposes only…but if you look hard enough, I am sure there are many similar sort of things usually featured on TV, in a magazine, a glossy flyer, or on a women’s Facebook Page)

Simple Fellow: “Huh uh, dear. It’s nice; why don’t you buy one?”  (Delivered as a no-look, casual platitude, though with great sincerity.)

Significant Other: “Noooo…I don’t knooooowwww. I’m not sure… I really, really like it. But, I am not sure I need a pantlefoofler…thoughhhhhh, it might be nice to have one.” (This is in sporting circles is known as the serve and volley, placing the ball squarely back in the “man’s” court… or depending on the severity of the impending sadness, it can be likened to a bouncy onside-kick in the late stages of a dramatic football game)


Simple Fellow: “Okay.” (Continuing the sports analogy, the ball lands has landed squarely in court and goes out for 15-love –  or more likely, the football bounces bluntly off the linesman’s  chest as he gets blindsided by the 3 tons of defensive kick return team known as Christmas Disappointment.  In either case, the ball is uncontested and untouched by the Fellow in any constructive manner.)

Without benefit of instant replay, I am confident most men missed the sporting turning point that could make Christmas Shopping a breeze: The Fellow was provided with a veritable gold mine of information – although it was expressed in “Venusian-speak”.  In her dialect, Miz Significant Other made it painfully obvious what she wanted – in fact, I do not believe she has a more overt way to signal her desire and need for a pantlefoofler under the tree.

But for the guy, the facts and information are forgotten – relegated to the dusty drawers of the cerebral mausoleum alongside all those other wonderful gift ideas – and casual acquaintances’ first names.

And it will never see the light of day again.

Oh wait – it does.

It resurfaces on Christmas Day – usually in response to that brief look of  unhappy surprise as Significant Other unwraps the package that reveals anything but the desired pantlefoofler.  And for agirl-unhappy-with-present-de millisecond, a thought will flicker brilliantly across The Fellow’s neurons – that a pantlefoofler would have been a great Christmas gift and that somewhere, sometime, he might have known that.

Oh well, maybe next year.

I have tried to get better every year. I, like all of you, have relied on my perennial standbys…and I like to think that Mrs Fellow would be disappointed if one of those did not show up under the tree.  And I have learned the heard way about what does not make a good Christmas gifts – avoid anything from a Petrocan or Mac’s Milk or advertised with the words “minty fresh scent”.

But like all of you, I don’t want to just do well – I always hope to knock it out of the park!

And so armed with a few cryptic yellow post-it notes (C’mon, do you think that after about 40 Christmas Gift-Buying Campaigns that I haven’t at least learned how to try to defend against the “serve and volley”?), I will head off for two or three days of intense shopping – with a well laid out plan and efficient route. It has always stood me in good stead before

Shepherd Neame Christmas AleAnd if that fails, Christmas Shopping 2013 will be completed with a Boys’ shopping excursion on the High Street – interspersing pints of Christmas Cheer with each Christmas purchases.  A few well-timed Yuletide Ales always seem to provide all the inspiration – and financial abandon –  needed to cover Tannenbaum’s skirt with some holly, jolly gifts. It is the Hail Mary of shopping tactics, but has saved the day more than once!

That is all the advice I can give, save two last bits: save the gift receipts, and Shoppers Drug Mart is open until 1800 hrs on Christmas Eve! Oh yes, and don’t forget the gift bags – much easier than wrapping!

Good luck, mateys, and have a Happy Christmas.  Hope everyone around your tree shares your joy…Tree-Decorated-for-Christmas-with-Presents_wm