The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

April 27, 2009

Synchronicity of Stupidity

SUBTITLED: The Ongoing Sibling Rivalry of the Dim-witted Digital Camera Doofuses

OK, I know I've written about him before.

But with our most recent family birthday bash on the weekend, I need to revisit and to put into context my relationship with my brother, Gerry, and how we fit into the complex, multi-faceted environment within our nuclear family.


For those novices to this blog, and I know there are millions that tune in each day, I'm the oldest in a family of six, my brother Gerry is the youngest.

Despite our age difference, which is about nine years, we are very similar. That is to say, we're both complete dolts.

We probably look more alike than the one other brother and three sisters between us, although he's about 3-4 inches taller than me, a fact I've complained to my mom about for years, to no avail.

I think I've posted before about how Gerry used to come out and play street hockey with us and how we used to play hockey in our basement, how he loved coming out with me on my insect-collecting expeditions.

Well, wouldn't you know it, here we are both old farts, and we're a lot alike.

We both like to tease our sisters and our mom incessantly, we like to kibitz with all the nephews and nieces during these family gatherings...basically, we both seem to need to try to get a rise out of them.

And as fate would have it, it's mostly Gerry and I who bring our digital cameras to all these events and take billions and billions of pictures.

So we're often both doing the same thing at the same time: teasing people and then taking their pictures, but also getting on each other's cases at the same time as we realize the absolute absurdity of it all.

So what follows is a pictorial collage of some of the pix we've taken of each other over the past few years in our little game of photographic one-upmanship that one of my sisters on Sunday called a Photo-Off.

Appropriate little photo cutlines are offered by me as appropriate.

Here, I cut off the part where his brain would be...if he had one.

OK, here my Sony malfunctioned and I accidentally took a nice pic of him.

This is him after he did some goofy thing to his ankle while trying to pretend he was 22 again and show off to the young nephews. More on this later.

Here's one of my famous female bum shots of one of the aunts. I won't say which one, but she's married to Gerry and her name is Kim. She basically provided almost all the food on Saturday and it was delectable.

This is one of Gerry's pix of my balding head. He seems to enjoy taking these kinds of pix, as you will see later.

This is one of Gerry's best shots of me.

Another super shot by Gerry.

OK, in the one above I really AM trying to look totally stupid. It worked. Oh, I guess the one below too.

Below, I'm telling Gerry how much I value him as a brother. That's my mom to my right. She's responsible for all this.

And she has previously given me permission to post her pix on my blog, although none of my sisters have.

The real Gerry is below.

More balding Chris pictures.

One really goofy thing that Gerry and I always do -- seeing as we're buffoons and no one else seems to take pix except us for family posterity -- is we take pix of each other taking pix. That's me below a few years ago.

Doh! Dropped my camera on the floor! But Gerry's there to capture the moment!

A deeper insight into Gerry's beautiful mind...

Gerry telling me how much he admires me as his role model...

More photographer silliness...

And here he is, after that devastating ankle injury...

Here's my feeble attempt to get my own shot of his male pattern baldness...

And --notice I cut off the area where his brain might be -- this shot says it all.

Here's another gratitous female family member bum shot.

I took one of my mom on Sunday, but she promised to sue me if I posted it. Instead, I'll just post more stupid pix of me as taken by Gerry.

Well, of me AND Gerry.


April 24, 2009

Being Embalmed and Stuff


Actually, while at times in the recent past I have felt as though I've been embalmed or should be, I am very much alive. I'm just living in a more or less quiet mode at the moment.

Item No. 1: A beautiful, sensual, female who dances to life like no other and who is chalk-full of incredible depth and sensuality and things like that there, kinda sorta.

Item No. 2: My son Evan, who wowed the crowd as Charlie Brown, got the part of Willard in Footloose for next year's high school production, the part he wanted.

The kid's creative, he's intuitive, he's loving, he's maturing.

He blows me away, even if he IS a doofus punk who won't clean up after himself. He amazes me every time I see him and witness his growing maturity into a man.

Item No. 3: My daughter Monica, a nursing student, is about to turn 21. This dumbfounds my tiny male father provider/protector brain, puts me in a pinball-game state of tilt.

But she is so independent and driven.

There are plenty of words to talk about our lives, but sometimes nothing we say can describe them adequately.

Thisis one of those times.

April 18, 2009




Today, that is Saturday, April 18, my buddy Jaring will almost certainly break some world records in masters swimming.

He wanted me to be there, but I can't, I have to drive my kids here and there (well, not THERE) and everywhere.

Jaring is the most gentle of souls. I can't recall just how I initially found out about him, but I think he was 96 or 97 at the time. I called him up, we met, had some photos taken for the story I was doing.

He appeared on the front page of our newspaper that next day.

Because who doesn't love longevity combined with commitment and excelling at something people half his age couldn't or wouldn't even consider trying?

I wrote about him again in today's paper, and that link above takes you to that story on our website.

He joked with me the other day that I have singlehandedly made him famous.

I've written about him now three or four times. He's just an amazing man that people love to read about, young or old.

I've been to his apartment, seen all of his medals, sat down beside him and listened to his tales.

He is very physically affectionate, he wants to touch you innocently if you're patient enough to listen to him talking slowly. He is gentle, deliberate and so honest and gracious.

I've met his wife Gladys, who I was saddened to hear had suffered a stroke since the last time I saw him and is basically out of it, withering away in a downtown hospital. I think she's about 93.

Before that happened, Jaring called me this winter looking for help in contacting the organizers of the 2009 Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in the Toronto area.

I found their website, contacted them, told them about Jaring wanting to enter and that he would be 100, and they were thrilled.

They contacted him and helped him fill in all the entry forms.

We only talked on the phone this time around, and he expressed disappointment I couldn't be there to see him break these records today.

But beyond that, he sounded different, like some of his zest, his excitement for life, had been taken from him.

He told me more than what I put in the story about it, but he said Gladys's head was drooping and she was unresponsive.

And as the story says, he finds it lonely in his apartment without her in a senior citizen's highrise in the west part of town.

It was Christmas when I was last there, she was all excited about the season and the levy that was going on during my visit on the main floor of their complex.

The organizer of the masters meet told me it's common for people to die while they're swimming at some of these events.

And I think that's what Jaring was saying when he told me he wouldn't stop swimming, that he'd do it until he dies.

I hope that isn't soon. But he's lived for 100 years. He's a beautiful man.

April 11, 2009

Let me tell you 'bout the Birds and the Be's



Yes, that's a real picture above, taken in the last day or two in Selkirk, just north of Winterpeg, by a reader of our newspaper.

It's a pic of the ice jams that are forcing yet another flood of our Red River which flows through this city of about three-quarters of a million people who, for whatever reason, live on its banks.

And whose ancestors have forever had to live with nature's reality that ice and snow melt and a river engorged must overflow.

It happens every few years, with 1897, 1950, 1996 and 1997 being among the worst as far as I know.

This year, a long, cold winter that persisted well beyond its normal lifespan kept the ice from melting when it usually does.

Giant blocks of ice and snow have backed up the river all along its length, south beyond North Dakota and I believe as far as Missouri.

The water has nowhere to go. A flood results. People lose their homes as the water, over the years, has reached to rooftops and beyond. Gigantic volunteer sandbagging efforts are mounted.

I tried to volunteer on Saturday, but because our floodway gates were opened and we're breaking up the ice with equipment and the weather has been favourable, the water is moving.

The immediate threat has diminished.

For now, they don't need people to help with sandbags.

They need the ice to move and the water to flow north with it. They need nature, with a little help from us (the pic below shows the machines hacking up river ice), to do what it's always done.

I know I've lamented here previously about the brutal winter and the absence of spring. But finally, on the Easter long weekend, I can feel and sense and hear and smell the hopefulness of spring in the air.

The snow, finally, is melting. The Canada geese are returning in ever larger numbers, although those early arrivals from a few weeks ago might have flown back down south, who knows.

When I had my own house several years ago, even though I lived in suburbia, I could get out into my yard and rake leaves, tend to a garden, do some landscaping and planting, sit under a huge tree with a beer.

I could feel and sense nature and animals, including our ten-inch mosquitoes, and live in solitude with them, almost take their bothersome buzzing and biting as a rite of summer and the sweat I was emitting which they love.

I could hear the birds chirping and the squirrels squawking. I could hear a woodpecker pecking.

I could watch the robin prance around and miraculously find a worm it could hear underground. I could watch the ants do their remarkable tasks, lift a rock and find a centipede and know how its bite could hurt.

As an apartment dweller for the past five years or so, I've lost that connection except on a superficial level.

I've lost my chance to be one-on-one with the natural world, the way I was when I spent hours alone collecting insects as a kid. Because of that, I've lost a lot of the "kid" in me.

I plan to get that feeling back through camping and travelling and hiking, which I plan to do this summer. Less computer, more living and loving.

Anyway, the weather finally HAS warmed up, a bit.

And the forecast is for it to get considerably warmer this coming week, with highs of around 17C, which for you Far Out Fahrenheiters is somewhere around the mid-60s, I think.

But the point of this is that in the last day or two, I noticed there were a bunch of little twigs and some straw material accumulating under the mailbox at my front door and even inside it.

Just like in the old Canadian kids' show The Friendly Giant, I looked up -- waaaaaay up -- to the light above. And I could see what was happening.

It's the height of survivability stupidity, perhaps, but a mating pair of sparrows, spurred on uncontrollably by the warming weather and the undeniable need to reproduce, are building a nest up there.

They are doing so a mere two or three feet from my door.

The door is opened and closed regularly. If not by me, then by my son. The mailman, the paper delivery guy, any number of bothersome humans approach that area on a daily basis.

But the sparrows -- the male with a bright red chest, the female with beautiful brown splotches on her breast -- won't stop. They won't and maybe by now can't. They've picked their spot, and that's their spot.

When I had this closer look, they were both perched in the elm (I think it's an elm) right outside my front door, making all kinds of noise and obviously alarmed.

I had discovered their nest.

If I had wanted to, I could destroy it. Mating birds can be a pain in the butt in some ways, over a fairly lengthy period of time.

Their beautiful instinct to protect the nest and the eggs and then the chicks within it is a remarkable, evolutionary thing. But is this really what they want?

Did they anticipate the pain-in-the-ass human element when they chose to nest where they did?

I contemplated this thought as I considered what to do next.

Would it be better if I destroyed the nest and forced them to find another spot that wouldn't interfere with my life and where I wouldn't interfere with theirs?

I decided that if that's the course that nature paved for them -- whatever the consequences to them or to their chicks -- that I shouldn't interfere with them any more than I would purposely step on an ant or spider.

So it seems these sparrows and I might be knocking heads together over the next few weeks.

That's their choice, and I'll try to respect their space, but I'm not going to become a bird-brain trying to accommodate them, either.

This is my space and theirs.

And my feeling is if they're willing to live with the angst of a potential predator walking just below their offspring at least twice a day, then that's the choice they made.

And to answer the question of why I continue to live here? First, it's just part of who and what I am.

And second, there's something incredible about existing in a place like this and still being filled with the natural abundance that shows itself every spring and summer.

It's the variety of life. And it's the timing of it all and the change and metamorphosis, I figure.
It's the shedding of skin, rather than the static of sameness. It's that simple.