Looking for Coins

Trips to the bank have been few and far between this summer as the Main Street construction continues

Actual currency is its own commodity

Do you have any money?” he called out from the kitchen

Sure, help yourself. Take a twenty from my purse

I could hear the zipper of my wallet opening and the unmistakable sound of coin tumbling loose.

Fast forward two days and I am standing in front of the No-Frills shopping carts corral just gob smacked.   In my hand is a very light and very empty wallet. No coin. No shopping cart. My car is right across the parking lot. Should I go somewhere else with free shopping carts or make do here?

With a NO-Frill plastic basket tucked into the crock of my arm, elbows high – I push on.

Only the essentials” I say to myself as I start to sort and prioritize my grocery list based on weight and bulk. Two- days’ worth of meat, no apples, no to that jar of pesto sauce. I can make something else.”

Around aisle four, just after I added the box of raison brad cereal, the trembling in my forceps gets really serious.  I switch my grip for the umpteenth time. Swinging the now full basket in my fist works for half an aisle. I rest a bit in aisle six.

Oh its hot in here.” I’m just about done. Pass on the eggs. Leave the margarine for another day. I just need a bag of milk. Way the heck across the back I stagger. The end is in sight. It’s possible if I carry the milk clutched in my free hand and cradle the heavy basket against my chest in a football hold.   No time for pleasant smiles with my neighbours. Both arms are shaking and there will be a permanent deep red indentation in my wrist from the handle.


“Damn the construction. Damn Warren and our lack of change”

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Bertie McLam Cole

Bertie McLam Cole (my grandmother) was a preemie baby. She was born during a particularly cold February night in 1893. For the first tentative weeks of Bertie’s life she lay swaddled up and toasty, sleeping on the open oven door. She was a survivor and carried this determination all throughout her long life.

Bertie came from solid stock. Her father, my great grandfather Noble McLam was born in Norwood. His wife (Roxy Swackhammer) was born in Acton but a descendant of Pennsylvanian Dutch immigrants who came to Canada from the USA at the time of the American revolution. Noble was the local blacksmith of Acton. He and his family were active members of the United Church and Noble was a past Master of the Masonic Order. Bertie lived on the family farm until she married.

John Cole (my grandfather) was thirty-four years of age and already grey headed when he married Bertie. He grew up on the outskirts of Acton, coming from equally long pre Confederation roots. (his grandparents immigrated from Wales in 1831) Apparently, John had a lifelong tendency to move and he changed jobs frequently. Once married, they lived briefly in Detroit and Chatham Ontario where he worked in as an accountant in the young automobile industry. They were a family of six when John and Bertie purchased their first home on Erindale Avenue in Toronto.   Bertie always believed John, an avid baseball fan, wanted this house because it was so close to the Viaduct Park. Baseball games in this particular Toronto park drew large crowds in the mid 1920s.

In 1928, just on the cusp of the great Depression life suddenly turned upside. John Cole died.   Bertie was left on her own with four young children under the age of 10. My Dad and his younger brother Jack were sent off to live with Noble and Roxy until they reached school age.   The Erindale house was reconfigured; kids sleeping together, Bertie on the daybed in the dining room and all of the other spaces including the back stoop were reserved for boarders. For the next forty years, in this house or in Bingham Avenue, even in her Main Street apartment she rarely had a place all to her own.  There was always the sound of strange footsteps coming from the upstairs hallway. The tenant, or a son come home to live.

I think Gramma Cole would have liked to have been defined by her full-time job. Early in the 1930s she began working at the prestigious Women’s Canadian Club of Toronto. She was their loyal employee for some thirty-nine years. This job largely consisted of serving tables at the ladies’ luncheons but in later years she was promoted to the role of Hostess. The Club was located on Bloor Street east and Gramma Cole enjoyed window shopping while she rode the Queen street car to and from work every day.

She was proud of this club and her association with it. She often spoke of what the Toronto society ladies were wearing and who was lunching with whom. I never understand how she managed given that she was quite hard of hearing in her later years.  I recall how angry she was when at the age of 81 the Toronto Women’s club forced her into retirement. That Club had been everything to her.

Money was always tight in this household. All four kids, from a very young age, held down multiple jobs: up before dawn to deliver newspapers, again after school, bagging groceries, delivering for the pharmacy. They all were expected to contributed to the house hold expenses. With rent from the tenants, making do, passing down, this family of five got by.

During World War II all three boys saw action overseas. As a mother, I can’t imagine how Bertie coped during these horrific years. The worst possible news arrived by telegraph just three weeks before the end of the war. Curtis Cole, her eldest son was shot down in France. The family was now down to four.

Life has never been easy for Gramma Cole. She always worked hard, saved for her nice things and always held up her end. A pleasing apartment was one of her few indulgences. She would fuss over the right upholstery fabric to recover a couch or bring home several difference carpets just to try out. If she had any hobbies or interests I don’t recall other than her love of interior decorating.

In my memory, Gramma Cole never changed her appearance. In every one of our family photos her hair is neat and white. She was always pictured sitting inside, wearing a dark simple dress and very sensible black shoes. She is never smiling in any of those photos. Did she ever garden, shovel snow, bake? Did her hair ever blow in the breeze?   I have no reciliation of her having a real life.

I never referred to this woman as Nanny or Gramma. I think that says a lot about our relationship. She was always addressed as” Gramma Cole”. There were no hugs or snuggles. No sleep overs. Maybe she didn’t like kids. She lived in an adult world and we expected to behaved.

She kept a clean orderly home but I don’t ever recall eating a meal there. No running in the halls less we disturb her tenant.  Perhaps her loss of hearing in those later years are partially to blame for our lack of connection.

I think my grandmother can best be described as a reliable employee, discreet at work, sensible, serious and hardworking.

In her mid 80s, Gramma Cole suffered a stroke. Her residence and personality took a change at this point.  She gave up her apartment and moved into a nursing home in our neighborhood. For the rest of her time this independent and proud woman was weepy and fearful. She died less than one year later and was buried in the family plot in Acton Ontario.

I’m the last one who should be writing about Bertie Cole. I didn’t much like her let alone love her as a child normally loves their gramma. I guess that is the point. I am the last one. Everyone else who might have known that young bride, that busy mother, that dedicated employee is now gone. No one else can bear witness.

I believe this stoic proud woman deserves at least one page, typed, spell checked and saved on a laptop file.  At this point, my kids show no interest in their great grandmother, but she once lived and sacrificed and through her came my wonderful father, then me, then them. Such is history. Fading in the dispersing fog of time.

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Another Word for Art


 Art has always been a part of my life. Both my maternal grandparents and my parents collected beautiful paintings.     My father coveted his Asian art but also took an interest in Toronto’s new modern art movement. I was encouraged.  When I was six my parents enrolled me in a Saturday morning community centre program – my first art class. To follow have been countless lessons, clubs, workshops and retreats.  Through the study of colour theory and painterly techniques I have developed a great appreciation for the value of art – achieved through the artist’s skill, talent and dedication.

The Art Galley of Ontario (AGO) feels like an old family member to me.  The first two floors of this art gallery contain my closest and dearest. We usually meet up several times a year. Each painting tells a story.   I breathe it all in. The gold leaf frames, the medieval Christian scenes. How many times have I stood in front of the jewel toned Dutch masters and marvel at those huge old panels? They are a feast for the senses. The fur on the hanging rabbit pelts glistens and the stiff lace collars and velvet folds beg to be touched. So much dewy pink flesh. This art has given me a visual understanding of time and place – history became alive

If you follow the halls of AGO along to the east wing, you will come to the Impressionist.   Such technique. These artists are magical alchemist. Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Renoir all knew how to transform colour into light. So beautiful. So clever. Tiny dabs of pigment sharing the same values, sparkling and radiant. It defines romance.  I never tire of these old friends.

A visit to the Canadian twentieth century expressionist is always my last and favourite stop: the famous Group of Seven, and David Milne. I particularly love the snowy landscapes.  My heart swells with patriotism.

My father shared my love of art. It was our “thing”. I fondly recall in the 1970s we would take trips together downtown to view the galleries. Perhaps my love of art is connected in some way with a daddy complex. I remember him explaining the significance of Mary Pratt’s painting. It was in a gallery on King Street and Toronto was all a flutter over this new feminism movement. The nerve to present pictures of domestic everyday life as worthy art. Mary Pratt’s luminous fish and tin foil were puzzling.

Dad and I struggled to understand the changes creeping into the art world. We both loved Albert Franck. He was one of the first to paint ugly downtown Toronto in the winter. His backyard scenes are quite recognizable, always containing snow, red brick homes and wooden lean-twos in back alleys.   Harold Town’s quirky expressionist style was another favourite. In 1969, Dad and I attended the opening of the Toronto Dominion bank towers designed by the world-famous architect Mies van der Rohe.     International attention was starting to shine on sleepy old Toronto.

The 1960 and 70s were all about Modern Art, throwing out the traditions of the past in the spirit of experimentation. It was the time of pop art classics such as Marilyn Monroe and Campbell Soup Cans. The AGO installed Claes Oldenburger’s giant hamburger installation.   Art was fun.      “Be there or be square”.

In the 70s, 80s, I became aware that art was all around me, influencing what I wore, where I chose to eat and the car I coveted to drive.   Art was in design. Art was in advertising. The outdated AGO went through a massive Frank Gehry renovation expanding to make room for more conceptual artist.   The works of Charles Pachter and Michael Snow were some which I could appreciate.

The contemporary art movement is defined as any art created in our life time.   In the 1980 I worked for a corporation which owned an enormous collection of Canadian art. I my office was a Jack Bush painting.   For ten years I stared at two vertical lime green swatches intersected by an orange stroke. Technically a giant H on a white background. This was my first encounter with the new colour field movement. Ridiculous. Such a rip-off but as the years slipped away I grew to love this piece very much. The purity of these intense colours.   I regretted not stealing it when everyone but me was laid off and the office closed.

These days I rarely venture above the second floor at the AGO and generally do not have the patience for most contemporary art. My focus is still back on the execution of the installation not on the artist’s concept.   Much “Postmodern” art often relies on videos and multimedia. We become a part of the experience and the reaction is the message.   Post-Humanism art or cyborg art interprets the increased presence of technology in our daily lives.   Meta-Modern art is self-reflecting and is often a protest.  I “get” some of it but the message is often ugly. For example –an installation showing a real urinal atop of a marble pedestal. Is the statement that the urinal is art or is it saying art is a urinal?

I want to dismiss metamodern and post-humanism art the way I once ruled out the colour field movement of the 60s. I believe the art world wants to be seen as complicated and intellectual when in fact I see it as hollow and dried up. It all feels like the “Emperor and His New Clothes”. To speak up and say that this is not “real” art would expose you as dull and out of touch. To me, Metamodern art is much like a millennial obsessed with taking selfies in front of a mirror. The focus is on the self-looking out on the self. Totally self-absorbed in the act of self-absorbing.   It feels so narcissistic and ultimately meaningless.

Has contemporary art evolved into a new medium?   Do we need a new word to encapsulate this form of self-expression?   Is it still art?

Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin & Hobbes, has a fitting artist statement that applies to much of art today. He writes:

“my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”.

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I am an RVer


Ah… the call of the open road. Adventure awaits. I love starting each morning with anticipation; discovering North America like I’m a female John Cabot or Henry Hudson. I am an RVer.

We bought our first motor home five years ago. We were freshly minted retirees and restless to travel: anywhere – just to get out of Dodge. At that time, we owed a 170-pound Wolfhound and, an off-the-charts-crazy five-month-old puppy. No hotel or B&B would welcome us and breaking up “The Family” was just not an option.   I needed to think of alternatives that would allow all of us to safety travel all together.   It was with this mindset that we decided to purchase our first RV. It was an old, rattlely 32 foot motor home, apply named “The Hurricane”.

Traveling in the motor home was giddy fun. As co-pilot I’d spread all my stuff: coffee mug, maps, sun glasses all out on top of the humungous dashboard. Riding high above the road you could look out those massive front windows and see for miles.

Everything is handy; just a few feet away. Chilly? No problem. Walk back and grab a sweater out of the closet. No suitcases required. Why not refill your cup of coffee? There’s a bathroom handy whenever you need it. While traveling on the road there was no need to live off fast food. The Hurricane came with a full kitchen and I had packed all of my favorite pots and frying pans. We slept under our own comfort blankets with no fear of bedbugs. With the dogs curled around us we sat every night in front of our indoor fireplace watching Netflix on the big screen.  It was our home away from home.

The first year we owned the Hurricane we rattled our way south: down to the windy beaches of Hatteras Outer Banks; sampled the infamous multi-layered coconut cake in Charleston, South Carolina, ate BBQ like a native and explored the charms of Savanna Georgia. Ultimately, we reached Florida. Our first RV experience worked perfectly.

Traveling was infectious. We were now pumped to plan a longer adventure. That following summer we hired a property manager, rented out our home and journeyed up the Alaska highway to the Yukon, Whitehorse, Skagway Alaska and the remote islands of Haida Gwaii. The wonderous experiences encountered on this holiday were life changing. I now have precious memories of the midnight sun and fishing for salmon in the Pacific Ocean.  We shook and clattered our way past grizzly bears and grazing moose. The best experiences were when we boon doggled (camped without hookups) alone on remote shores of emerald water surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Returning home from that epic vacation we upscaled. Goodbye Hurricane. Our new RV was a stretch 5th wheel. 52 feet counting Warren’s truck. We were massive but extremely comfortable. Luxury on wheels for us.  Off we rolled to Nashville, New Orleans, the Rio Grande and the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.   Have you ever wondered about life in outer space? Just ask me. We did an extensive UFO tour while in Roswell, New Mexico. Traveling is educational. It is eye opening. It can be wonderous.

The summer of 2016 couldn’t keep us at home. Off we went – east this time. The lunar tides of Fundy Bay blew my mind. In Newfoundland we timidly stood on the edge of a Gros Morne rock cliff and imaged the dawn of time – such epic visas. I saw my first iceberg on that trip.

Some might argue that RV camp grounds look like giant parking lots. Everyone is packed in, side by side; no trees, removed from nature completely. I agree, but so is a hotel hall way. This lifestyle is not about lovely campground. I see them for what they are; a safe harbor, providing electricity and water for the night. RV ing has brought us the freedom to travel as a family. All of us happily under one Fiberglass roof.

Not every moment of everyday on the road is perfect. Not every town is pretty and we have met some crazy scary people on our travels. There have been mechanical breakdowns, and flat tires. We encountered snow at the Grand Canyon and a hurricane warning in Galveston.   Life is like that. But bad things can happen anywhere.

This fall we put the 5th wheel up for sale. We now want something smaller, lighter and nimble. My atlas is again spread out on the dining room table as we plan our next trip.  I’ve never been to Little Rock Arkansas or Oklahoma. So much still to see.  Now is the time. Our family, dog and all will hit the road once again.

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In an eternal tug of war

The sea

The shore

Both relentless

Their invisible arms rock the bounty,

smoothing, tumbling,

claiming for their own

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Late Summer Garden

I’m like a cricket among  brittle grass

pushing aside seed heads and husk

Cicadas  hum or is it hydro lines?

Startled grasshoppers spring  and

purple asters watch butterflies

dance overhead

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Spreading the Magic

In the world of rug hooking, Deanne Fitzpatrick is a rock star. She is the Jamie Oliver of cooking shows; the Sarah Richardson of home decor. Deanne Fitzpatrick is renowned worldwide for her stunning hooked rugs and patterns. Her work is in permanent display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Like other media super stars, she is frequently on the radio and television.   Working out of a small studio in Amherst. Nova Scotia her influence spreads far.   Unfortunately, her loyal following largely consists of women over the age of 65, who live in rural communities – like ours.   The art and skill of rug hooking that Deanne Fitzpatrick is famous for is largely considered out of date. Her appreciative audience is small.

Deanne Fitzpatrick is an established writer. She has five beautifully written books to her credit.  I own two of her books and regularly revisit them. What a storyteller. Her voice comes through the pages with a relaxed down east twang and gift of the gab. It’s like sharing a cup of tea and oatmeal biscuits with your friendly next-door neighbor. She is wise beyond her years, kind and comforting.

Deanne Fitzpatrick is also a gifted presenter/teacher with over fifty videos on-line. She is an ordinary looking woman but her pretty brown eyes shine from behind her lenses and her smile brightens the screen. She is photogenic.   Her videos usually take place in the backroom of her rug hooking studio with colorful yarns piled all around her. There the camera will capture Deanne sitting in a big upholstered arm chair with her wooden Cheticamp hooking frame in front of her.  There is nothing phony about this woman; nothing big business or branded about her message.   You just want to spread her sweetness on buttered toast and settle in.

Deanne promotes living a simple life. She walks five miles every day, out across the fields, finding pleasure in the solitude. This is an important step in her creative process.   She breathes in the landscape, notes the subtleties of hues in the wild shrub brush and tall blowing grasses. She registers the shape of clouds and the call of sea birds. Nature’s color and texture is her inspiration.   She carries those feelings and thoughts back to her studio and reinterprets them into her delicately complex art.

Deanne Fitzpatrick’s books and beautiful rugs tell intimate stories of growing up, the youngest of 7 kids in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. She generously shares private moments like the day her mother died. She ponders and shares her dreams.   Above all else, this passionate woman inspires.

When reading through Deanne Fitzpatrick’s 2010 book “Inspired Rug Hooking”, I found myself excited and challenged. She teaches how to add more meaning and personal message into what you create.  She captured my imagination and gave me the tools needed inject more substance and heart into my work. She writes a lot about magic and what it means to her. Magic is the label she gives to the unexplained mysteries of life.

To capture magic and insert deeper substance within her art, Deanne has a few tricks. Some you may find corny or overly romantic but they speak to my heart and artist goals. For instances, she will secretly arrange the wool to form a word. It may be buried into the landscape or water of her rugs and not obvious, but it is there. Sometimes she writes a thought or an idea onto the canvas and hooks right over it. It can never be seen, but it’s there. She calls this putting spirit into your art. She believes that as you work on a craft you can’t help but reflect upon how you feel about that person. You are, after all, making the rug with love; why not tuck in a little secret: A dash of playfulness. Sometimes when she makes a special rug for someone she loves she tucks in a special fabric, one that has meaning to herself or the person who will receive it and that adds a little bit of magic. She calls it flavoring a rug with love. I think this might strike a chord with any quilters.

I learned a lot from Deanne Fitzpatrick on how to tell stories; how to turn art into a narrative that can influence.  The first step of storytelling is reflection and self-understanding. It is letting your memories come to the surface. She suggests avoiding the traditional rituals like graduations, marriages and births and think more about smaller things. Take note of how handling a particular dish, or smelling lilac can trigger a story. You do not need to engage in a search for an idea, rather just be open to the ideas that emerge naturally.

She also writes about enriching your work by adding personal symbols. For example, including in a reference to someone’s favorite flower or as I will explain later – a bird. Think back into your past and include the intimate details.

Naming your piece is another important topic. Deanne Fitzpatrick feels it should be nothing obvious. Let the viewer draw their own conclusions. Par it down to the essence of an idea, a notion. What do you want the piece to convey? Remember it is not what you want others to see that matters. What they see will be enhanced or restricted by their own minds. What matters is what you want to tell.

Deanne Fitzpatrick believes art is nothing without creativity and spirit. It is these things that bring art to life. To be creative, you need to let your spirit speak and you need to let go of yourself. You need to loosen your mind, your conscious and critical thought. Get lost in the work. Find that place where the hand and the mind are working together, through you, rather than through your labour. She calls it “a place of prayer”. “Inspiration turns our conscious thought into little more than the rhythm of what we are doing. It is the words spilling forward when you have no idea where they come from. Inspiration is a kind of blessing and a kind of meditation. The art comes out through the spirit.”

Her message has influenced my own art work. It has caused me to reflect; to think back over what is precious to me and how I wish to interrupt that memory.   I hooked a little mat last year. It shows a small blue bird sitting around the trees. Above it I included a line from a Mary Oliver poem. It was just a short phrase that reminded me of my own mother’s love of nature. Mom was always wanting my sister and I to get up and go outside to enjoy the beautiful day. So, I stitched: “Open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song may already be drifting away”. I love this little mat I hooked. It proudly now sits in the centre of our coffee table and hold the TV remotes.   It kind of feels like mom is in the room with us every night.

Currently I’m working on a large painting. In it I show three women in a kitchen. Two are holding dish towels, one is at the sink with suds to her elbows. I want to call it “Pitching in”. It represents the chatter among women when they work together and lessen the load.

My way of approaching my art has changed since I read this book. I’m exciting to produce work now with feeling. To turn memories into something tangible. It has given my art a purpose. I’m capturing moments of love.

I think Deanne Fitzpatrick’s message applies not only to creating art but how we choose to approach life.  I am trying to add more spirit to my writing; to consciously take pleasure when cooking dinner or meeting up with a friend for coffee. I’m trying to be open and relaxed. I’m grateful for those who love me and want to acknowledge all of these moments. Don’t rush me. Life is happened now.

I will end with a Deanne Fitzpatrick quote. She says: “Make room for joy. Make room for playfulness. Make room for thankfulness. Make a little room between you and your creativity for something larger than yourself…. Make room for your spirit.”

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Boogie Nights with Frank

We cruised west for some time, Frank behind the wheel, Kiki Dee chirping on the radio. I was relaxed, looking out into the dark. The cast glow of overhead street lights and store fronts flickered past, marking passage like a metronome. We were somewhere out St. Clair West. I didn’t try to figure it out. This was not my part of the city. Streets running perpendicular to the familiar grid. Streets like Scarlett and Rogers Road always confused me. I assumed Frank was driving us over to his place.

Frank. My Italian Stallion. I had met him a few weeks earlier. My two roommates (old school chums) and I were at an upscale dance club called Heaven, in the Hudson Bay Centre boogieing under the glitter ball.   Frank and his two friends Elio and Enzo started buying us drinks. These boys had all the moves and in no time we were paired off: Frank and me, Sue and Elio, Nancy and Enzo. It worked out perfectly. Each of us had our own personal Rocky Balboa.

This was the summer of 1997. Sylvester Stallone was number one at the box office, the Bee Gees ruled the air waves and I was crushing a Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut. Since graduating from university one year previously we had all gotten great jobs, moved downtown and with our combined wages, we easily carried the rent on a three-bedroom walkup in the Annex. We shared our closets, food and wasted our money on Barbara Streisand and Haygood Hardy records, shoes and makeup.

Dancing, Dancing, Dance the night away

I loved the dance club scene. Spinning, twirling on my platform shoes under the flashing disco lights. Energized and in the moment. Music pounding, driving.  Later, much later, we girls would pile into a taxi and head home. I was living a Mary Tyler Moore life.

Frank was like no one I had ever personally known. He was from a different world.   He was very Italian. He was Catholic. He was from the west end. I grew up in south east Scarborough.   I recall his appearance though. Frank was quite tall 6’2 with a line backers body; board muscular shoulders, strong forearms and narrow hips. He had a roman nose and I swear, a cleft in his chin.   Around his neck he wore a gold horn of plenty charm on a chain. I remember this because the top buttons of his shirt were usually undone.   Frank was the first man I had ever lusted after.

That night, as we left the downtown core there were fewer and fewer cars. It was well after midnight and the streets were empty in this strange neighborhood. After several minutes of driving, Frank slowed the car down. We pulled down a darkened road. Bump, bump over street car or rail way tracks.   It was dark all around us now. I guessed we must be in a park.   The headlights picked up on two darkened buildings. Frank pulled the car into an alley. Perhaps it was a deserted industrial area. Total darkness surrounded us. It never occurred to me to be nervous. I was with Frank. I was an independent educated woman.

Frank turned the engine off and leaned over towards me. He glided his big mitt of a hand around my neck and pulled my head closer. The whiskers on his chiseled jaw felt rough. Another new experience. I had never dated anyone who really needed to shave before. He nuzzled my hair with his lips. I recall drawing in his musty scent of Brut cologne and something kind of barnyard. I excused his manly odor I think he worked in construction, and I accepted his kiss.   At the same moment, I was kind of wondering what the game plan was? Where were we and how long were we staying here. This wasn’t high school. I didn’t make out in cars.

Suddenly an unmistakable sound broke the moment. Quite loud, quite clear, and very close. I jerked my head back. That was the sound of a cow.   Mooing. Suddenly more bovines joined in. We were surrounded by bellowing cows in the dark. I screamed. Frank chuckled. He explained that we were parked at the Toronto stockyards. All around us were caged cattle awaiting slaughter in the morning.

To be fair, Frank was a gentleman and promptly drove me home when I asked to leave immediately.  It was over. Our magic dissolved. Sue and Elio continued for the rest of the summer but it seemed that Frank and I didn’t have much in common. We had misread who each other really was.

That experience still stands on record as my worst date ever. In retrospect, I was lucky. I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t violated. It didn’t change my love of discos and the music of the 70’s.

I went back to dancing, dancing, dancing the night away …..   but with other partners.



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Memories of Cannabis

Most Saturday nights you could find us congregated around a coffee table in someone’s rec room or campus dorm. Tethered to our rum and cokes or vodka and orange and always within reach of the ash tray; we would just hang out, talk, play cards and listen to albums. To us music was a necessary; a basic level in Maslow’s life needs: food, shelter, sleep and music. We all smoked in those days, cigarettes and occasionally pot – choosing to ignore the Surgeon General’s reports.

Without a lot of fanfare someone would pull out their bag of weed and pass a burning joint around the circle. If I had the opportunity, I’d often volunteered to roll it. It was my thing: always perfecting my craft – slim and tight with no flying seeds to pop and burn.

The room would fill up with a smoky haze.

I recall one particular evening when a frozen Oreo dairy queen pie made an appearance. It was set down in the center of the coffee table and each of us was handed our own spoon.    We morphed into a pack of wild dogs; shoulders pushing against shoulders, fighting our way into the circle to shovel up our share.   A monstrous scoop of Oreo ice cream was packed into my salivating mouth. I could barely close my lips around it. Instinctively my tongue started to work rolling and sucking the frosty goodness.   Then, for a shadow of a nano-second I time traveled to a heavenly world of sweet and coldness. It is almost orgasmic.   I am blissfully content. Uh… my brains to registers a new incoming signal.  The contents of my mouth have liquefied and slipped away. The afterglow dissolves. Must have more.   I dive in for second and third, and fourth spoonful.   In under two minutes the entitle frozen pie is gone. Nothing as ever tasted that good before or since.

Time for another joint.

Our smiles stretch out and push up into our cheeks; actually, reducing our vision.

“Look at how squinty your eyes are!”

On the table among the glasses, packs of smokes and wet condensation rings sits the sad remains of our frozen pie – scrapped clean of its icy contents. Someone stabs at the packaging with the end of their spoon.

“Hey, this has a secret bottom. Its chocolate graham cracker. Oh My God. I thought that part was cardboard.”

What? We lean in to investigate. It’s like multiple fireworks erupting in our brains at once – revelation!   We had somehow forgotten to eat the sugary chocolate biscuit bottom. It’s crazy. Once again, we scramble to find our spoons. Like human trash compacters we destroy the tasty shell in seconds.

How could we have missed the bottom? Really? We find it hilarious. For the next ten minutes we squeal and roll with gulping out of control laughter. We can’t stop. Its exhausting. Just when we think we are settling down, someone snorts and sets us off into another bout of spontaneous, sidesplitting euphoria.

That’s what weed does to you.

Good times – long ago





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I Want to Write Something So Simply


Mary Oliver is my favorite poet.  Her words always speak to me, simple and clear but like a rich lotion they sooth my heart.  Sadly, she died this week.   I don’t have permission to post any of her poems but I will run the risk.  I want everyone to know the beauty of her works.

I Want to Write Something So Simply

I want to write something

so simply

about love

or about pain

that even

as you read

you keep feeling it

and though it be my story

it will be common,

though it be singular

it will be known to you

so that by the end

you will think –

no, you will realize –

that it was all the while

yourself arranging the words,

that it was all the time

words that you yourself,

out of your own heart

had been saying

                                                                                                        by ………………..    Mary Oliver



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