Friday, 28 September 2007

voodoo to you too

Got a new F12. I was thinking about zombies ... For the next few weeks that's what I'll be doing. It'll be my default template. The new book is at the contemplate stage -- stare at the wall, jot down an idea, stare some more. And it's all zombies. Until further notice, when the kids ask what I did all day, I'll reply, Thought about zombies. I picture Sam shaking his head at the irony of it all. Years he spent thinking about zombies, and I kept telling him to do his homework instead.
So, F12 when it occurred to me, I should ask him about zombies. I mean, he knows about them.
Which brings me to the subject of kids and parents. They talk about PKs -- preachers' kids, and how pious -- and/or screwed up -- they can be. An extreme reaction to an extreme upbringing. I have come across the TK phenomenon as well -- teachers' kids, and how academically driven -- or how slack -- they can be. I wonder what my casual bookish goofy parenting style has done to my kids? Is there a writers' kids phenomenon? On the one hand you have Martin Amis. On the other, you have my son Sam, who took one (1) book with him when he left home to go to school this year. Was that book The Bible? No. Catcher In The Rye? To Kill A Mockingbird? The Bluest Eye? Bleak House? No. That book was The Zombie Survival Guide.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

all you need is need

Due to a faulty link-up somewhere, I have been unable to log into the blogger site for the last few days. You, my faithful, my casual, my passing through and happened to notice -- all of you have been temporarily Scrimgerless. Sorry. But I'm back now.
I'd blame sympatico, but it wouldn't do any good. Also, it would turn me into the guy who says, It wasn't my fault. God, I hate that guy. I used to work at a restaurant where the maitre d' was that guy -- actually, that girl. The first words out of her mouth when you reported a problem were always about how it was really your fault or the kitchen's fault or the owner's fault or due to the traffic or the weather ... and all you wanted was to make sure someone knew about the problem so it could be fixed. I have a real soft spot for anyone who can volunteer to take responsibility for error. A simple, Oops, my bad. Or, Yeah, that was me. Works wonders for interpersonal relations, and saves all that time in finding ways to cover your ass and allot blame.
So, sorry. There. Moving on to new business. Actually, old business. I left you all hanging on the relationship between love and need. It's not an original question, but I've given it some thought and have to say ... I dunno. Can you lead a normal life without need? Cigarettes are expensive, time consuming, and a source of pleasure and pain. They keep you up late, get you up early, and when you are without them you worry about them. But all these things could be said of children. You'd be better off without cigarettes. But you wouldn't be better off without children. So?... (I'm making that gesture here with both hands out, like, Go on....) Is there something in us that craves need? Maybe love is just the meeting of two needs. Isn't that romantic -- need makes the world go round. Need is blind. Need means never having to say you're sorry.
If you think of a life without need -- lots of money and time, no one depending on you, sunshine and a good digestion, acquaintances to laugh with but not care about -- it sounds ideal. Or does it? (Actually, it does.) But it doesn't sound interesting. At least not to me. It sounds like a diet of pudding, or the Garden of Eden. I mean, what kind of story is it where nothing goes wrong? Thank God for the Serpent, I say.

Monday, 24 September 2007

quit any time, I tell you

There's a relief that is a kind of satisfaction. A need has been met, and will continue to be met for the immediate future. I'm not talking about finally finding your glasses/hearing aid/ prosthesis/oxygen tube after fumbling all over the bedroom. That's relief at reaching normalcy -- without this mechanical help you'd be blind/deaf/lame/dead. Nor am I talking about reaching a bathroom after miles or hours of increasing discomfort. That is relief pure and simple. You do not (well, maybe you do, but I do not) wash my hands, try to dry my hands, fail to dry my hands, and and stride away from the Men's room shaking my hands, and thinking, That should do me for the next three hours. I'm not, if you understand me, thinking of my next pee. I'm completely occupied with the relief of this one (and of course trying to get the water off my hands). Compare this feeling of relief with the feeling you get as you leave the house, and check your purse or jacket pocket and find a full packet of smokes. Right. You give a little internal nod of the head, and you step out feeling good and confident and happy and relieved and satisfied and in tune with the world. All at once. Your need is met for today -- or for most of today.
Sounds positive, doesn't it? Sounds like a worthwhile feeling to have. But it's based on insecurity. If you didn't need the cigarettes to feel good, you wouldn't feel so good about having them (as opposed to the oxygen, which you need to survive). The good feeling is thing-dependent. That's my phrase, not the psychology textbook's. (There probably is a cool technical phrase here. I can't imagine Dr Freud lighting his cigar and talking about thing-dependancy. Hmm. It's not co-dependancy because the cigarette doesn't need you. And it's not fixation because that's something else. And it's not an Oedipus complex. And that may be it for me and psychobabble). The amount to which you feel positive about life with a full tank of gas is the extent to which you are petro-dependent.
Where am I going with this? I don't smoke. (Yes, I do drink a lot of coffee, but I can quit any time. Any time, I tell you. ) After a busy weekend travelling hither and thither and yon, emptying and filling the gas tank on my way to one fall fair after another, I now have a fridge full of apple cider. Life is good, I tell you.
But that brings me to a bigger question. You feel good with a cigarette because you need them. If you remove the need, you also remove the good feeling. Maybe that's fine because freedom (and good health) are good things too. So my question is ... where does love fit in? No time now -- I have a physical need. I'll feel better after I meet it -- and since I'm at home, I'll have dry hands too. But that love as need thing is interesting. More later.

Friday, 21 September 2007

sick and dirty, more dead than alive

I have never tried heroin. No, this is not in response to a deluge of questions on the subject. No one has ever come up to me and asked, Richard, have you ever tried heroin? -- all I'm saying is that if they did ask the question, the answer would be no.
Come to think of it, no one has ever come up to me and asked a question about any kind of drug use whatsoever. Not even my kids. Parenting mags offer all sorts of advice on how to answer those awkward teen questions that begin, Dad when you were my age did you ever ... But my kids don't want to know about my reckless youth. Maybe they know it was was pretty darn reckful. Maybe they don't care.
Anyway, my point today is that I have had the scary addictive-drug-type experience. I have, that is, found myself "hooked" very quickly (indeed, after one shot) on a cheap product.
No, not rice cakes -- I can give them up any time. No, not coffee -- it's not cheap.
I'm talking about apple cider -- the kind you buy at a county fair in a big plastic jug. Last weekend we were at such a fair, and there was a booth selling cider (actually there were only a few booths not selling cider, and they were all selling barbecue sauce. There may have been a bylaw where everyone had to sell some kind of rust-coloured liquid). When Ed said he wanted to try cider I said, unthinkingly, Sure. Ed tends to be a gustatory conservative, and I was pleased to see him reaching for a new flavour.
When we got home we cracked the jug, and, well, that was it. I was gone. Hey this is great, I said. Isn't this great, Ed. What do you think, Imo? Great eh? Have a glass. Drink up. Don't like it? That's okay, I'll finish yours. Twenty minutes later, I was still at the table, and the level in the jug was sinking fast. Another glass. And then another. The kids left but I stayed up all night. I couldn't get enough. The jug is gone now, and I'm a wreck, counting the hours to the weekend. I've tried to come down with apple juice, but it's not the same (I guess it's like methadone for us cider junkies).
Tomorrow is Saturday. I'll be heading back out into the country. I feel like Lou Reed (now there's a line I've never used before) waiting for my man, twenty-six dollars in my hand. Lou's man is all dressed in black and mine wears a red checked lumberjacket, but they both wear a straw hat. And they both give that sweet taste. Ahhh!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

heroes and hipsters

My apologies to the faithful out there. And the unfaithful -- heavens, I don't expect monogamy with regard to my blog. That'd be weird. I assume you are all promiscuous backsliding blog-readers and if you are not you should be. OR Melling has a quirky and informative page; Susan Juby's is funny; Art Slade's is charming; and these are just Canuck kids writers I know, a very small subset of the vast universe of blogging. Sorry, that got us off topic fast. I must find my thru line here.
So if any of you out there have been asking where I've been the past few days, I 've been in mild hibernation getting the rewrite done. Hibernation in that I have withdrawn, sunk beneath the surface of society in a fog of mumbled apologies and coffee stains. Now it's time to remove the plug (all right that'll be my last hibernation reference) and clean up my desk.
Back to heroes for a bit. The old picture on the last blog is of a real hero -- a WW1 officer from Canada who won the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery under enemy fire. He happens to have the same last name as I do, and I was trying to figure out how I felt about that, and why (and if you think this is bizarre behaviour -- trying to sort out your feelings on a random piece of news -- then you are not a writer). See, I feel pleased and proud of Francis Scrimger's VC -- much prouder than I am of Major David Vivian Curry's VC , say (I looked it up, and Major Curry certainly seems to have earned his medal). The last name makes the difference. It's not that I identify with Francis or military heroes in general (Major Curry oversaw the slaughter, wounding or capture of 3000 people -- I'm impressed, but I find it hard to say, Way to go.) I don't fantasize about myself in any military situation (except maybe being approached by Mata Hari and immediately giving up all my secrets). And I don't care about geneology. I don't attend clan gatherings. I didn't even get to my second cousin once or twice removed's 90th birthday (sorry, Stan). Hey, I figure if you go back far enough we're all coming from the same crowd of clever primates. In short it makes no sense that I feel this mild uprush of pride for the achievements of old Frank (family nickname).
I figure it's like the way fans identify with certain bands. There's a pretense of interaction. My daughter Thea is on her way to being a hipster -- caring about bands that she has discovered, and discarding them once they are popular. The attraction is the personal connection. When she discovers a band it is almost like they are family. Once everyone likes the band, then they are too far away from personal contact. Old Frank Scrimger doesn't care about me, and the Hidden Cameras don't care about Thea (a very cool group -- that's them in the picture. Though they are in danger of becoming successful and popular). But we can pretend.
I seem to have blathered on a bit today. Next time, something crisp and focussed and sharp about apple cider.

it's not an adventure

Dinner with the two little kids yesterday, and the talk took a detour to knee-jerk jingoism. (I was stunned that they'd remembered my casual comment from the previous weekend when we'd been driving down the Highway of Heroes.) Turns out that they didn't care at all about the way a nation can get hyped up about dead soldiers, but the words sounded funny put together like that. Anyway, we began the discussion with jingoism, and ended it when the derivation of knee-jerk led to a demonstration which resulted in spilled apple juice. Conversation returned to family foibles, the Simpsons, and y=mx+b ---- well-trodden pathways all.
Before I get a raft of hate email, let me quickly say that I am not a knee-jerk pacifist. I have no problem with Canada taking a role in world policing. The price of liberty is ceaseless vigilance may be bombastic (may even be misquoted) but there's truth there. Violence is a dumb way to solve things, but people are dumb, and if your army is bigger than the other guy's at least you get to be the bully instead of the victim.
But Highway of Heroes? I don't know. Among other objections, it makes me sound silly. (I should be home in a few minutes, honey -- I'm on the Highway of Heroes now. I'll return the video, pick up the dry cleaning, then jump back on the Highway of Heroes and be back by 6:00 -- unless they've closed a lane again. You know what the Highway of Heroes is like.) And I don't like the idea of glorifying professions. Individuals can be -- often are -- heroic. But I'm not comfy with that kind of blanket benediction. It's like saying artists are geniuses. Some are, but most of us are simply doing what we can. And I believe the army -- the peace-time army anyway -- is the same. It's not an adventure. It's a job.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

penny foolish

Seriously F12 today, so I'm only going to spend coffee drip time on the blog. As soon as the pot is ready, I'm gone. I feel that I have a responsibility to you out there surfing for entertainment and interested in my random musings on life, but you guys are not paying me any advance money.
Was struck by the amount of time we spend (at least, I spend, and I figure you do too) on ridiculous savings. Took me a full minute this morning to pry two coffee filters apart. At what point do you say, Screw it, I'll put them both in the basket. I'm taking a minute to save a fraction of a cent. A little over a penny an hour is what I am saving myself. For someone who prides himself on his sense of persepctive, that is pretty damn silly. I won't drive all over town to save a buck at the gas pump, but I will spend thirty seconds in a busy drive-thru line fishing through my pockets and that coin place in the car (not the one behind the seat cushions, I mean the official one on the dash) to find twelve cents so that I can hand over 5.12 and get an exact dollar back. Oy.
I read somewhere that it is not worth Bill Gates' time to pick a 1000.00 bill up off the sidewalk, because the action of stopping and bending would take about five seconds and his time is worth more than 200.00 / second. I understand the principle here. On the same principle I will pay someone 30.00 to change my oil rather than do it myself for a fraction the capital cost, because my time is worth more than 30.00 a week - which is how long it would take me to change the oil, even assuming I got the job done right and did not by mistake pour the stuff into the radiator or glove compartment. (Must say, though, if I could charge 200.00/second I would not be spending much time staring down at the sidewalk, or walking for that matter. I'd hire people to carry my couch and TV around.)
Shoot, that's my time. Coffee's done and I'm F12. Looks like it might be a two-pot day today. Fortunately I have a single filter ready to go for the next one.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

how Sweden touches us all

Well, I'm touched. Several of you have written in to express concern for my recent not-very-traumatic confrontation with a minivan. Thanks for the comments and emails. I was not bandage trailing there, hoping you would notice and sympathize, but the kind words are welcome.
Actually, I was interested in the way time plays tricks on our senses. Right now I'm behind (F12 function key here) so time is generally speeding along. It did slow down yesterday, when I was helping my daughter move into her university digs by assembling some IKEA furniture.
The name is enough, I think. You're probably nodding your head. IKEA is a branded joke, like Lindsay Lohan or K-Fed or Botox. The name alone tells you the punch line. But IKEA is also a democratising joke, an inclusive institution. We can't all (I hope!) relate to Paris Hilton or O.J. But we do have our personal IKEA moments, not just with the store per se but also with the some-assembly-required aspect in our lives. In a way IKEA resembles mothers-in-law or lawyers or income tax. A hundred years ago you could always make conversation by mentioning the drains. Everyone had something to contribute on this topic.
So assembling Thea's night table cost me two hours, a pint of sweat (the apartment is not air condiditoned) several bandaids, and, if there is a hell, enough bad language to add appreciably to my stay there. One of these days I will learn that you can't put a price on time, and 49.95 seems like a deal only until you figure your own labour costs. Two hours of my time as a builder may indeed be worth nothing. But two hours swearing is time I could have spent on my rewrite . Which is what I'll be getting back to in about a minute.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

speed and trauma

In moments of physical crisis time really does appear to slow down. The body goes into hyperawareness, brain-eye coordination is speeded up, and objects seem to move slowly. Objects like a minivan, say. A gray late-model minivan turning directly into your path because the driver has not seen you or your bicycle. Unfortunately, you can not take advantage of this slowing down of time, because it affects you too. You see that the minivan is going to hit you, but you can't move fast enough to get out of the way.
(If you are interested in finding out more about the scientific background to this condition -- the time slowing, hyperawareness, hand-eye thing -- I apologize. I can't direct you to any article or website. I based my analysis on my own experience -- that's what seemed to be happening to me. I guess you could say I made it up.)
I was hit by a gray late-model minivan last week. The lady in the van making her left turn did not see me in front of her. After she hit me she still couldn't see me because I was under her. She heard me, though. Bike wheels make quite a racket when they are crushed by a front fender. I saw the whole thing before it happened, and was powerless to stop it. My body was in slow motion. My brain, interestingly enough, went into sports commentator mode. Yes, fans, we are going to be hit. The bumper is too close to avoid. And ... there it is. Yes, the front bumper has hit the handlebars. They are turning, and the bike is falling, and the wheel is going, and here comes the pavement ... Ouch! That's going to be difficult to ride away from. One of the reasons it all seemed to happen so slowly is that it did happen slow. The van was travelling about 5 mph. I wasn't going much faster.
I'll speed up now. The driver was very upset. I was angry initially, but calmed down when I realized that I wasn't hurt badly. We put the bike in her van and she drove it to the repair shop. I went home to deal with my abrasions. And that was all. I did not get the shakes. I have not had nightmares. My bike is back from the shop now, and I am riding happily. The potentially dangerous moment passed like a traffic cop, headlights flashing menacingly in your rearview mirror, who pulls by you and hares down the road after someone else. You heave a sigh of relief, wait a heartbeat or two, and put your foot back on the accelerator.