Thursday, 28 April 2011

day before moving

Tomorrow is moving day. I have put off packing long enough. It is time to begin. I could have started yesterday or the day before. I could have started last week. But the way I see it, the earlier you start packing, the longer your place is in an uproar. You don't pack better if you pack earlier. You just spend more time wondering where the cheque book is, or the corkscrew or the TV remote.

Am I looking forward to moving? I am not. But there are a couple of positive factors. One, Ed is excited. He saw the new house for the first time this morning, and ran around saying, Yup and, Bing and other youthly enthusiasms. I stood there and smiled. Two ... hmm. Now that I think about it, I can't quite come up with a second positive. All I see ahead of me is work. Specifically, packing, carrying, and unpacking boxes of reading material. Subdue your thirst for books that you may die not babbling but at peace, says Marcus Aurelius. (That's him there. Check the eyes!) Too late. Book boxes stack higher and weigh more than everything else I own put together, and that includes some pretty hefty debt.

The good news is that I've done this before, so I know what I am in for. Or is that the bad news? Anyway, I have no time to spare for chit-chat like this. Nice as it is to talk to you guys, I have back muscles to strain. Next room: kitchen.

Thursday, 21 April 2011


The courtroom was low ceilinged, carpeted, with bright lights and a lot of wood accents. Kind of like a basement in a nice suburban house. I was dressed in clean clothes that matched pretty well. I was shaved, gargled and combed. I was ready for my battle with the law.

We rose. We sat. The clerk read the charge. On or about the 16th of March the defendant -- me -- was found to not be wearing a seatbelt in contravention of Section something or other of Statute this and that.

The prosecutor shook his head sadly. (Seatbelt crime is tough. You hear some pretty grim stories.) The judge asked if I had anything to say. Did I? You bet I did. I stood up, shot my sleeves (no cuffs on my sweatshirt) and addressed the Bench.

My original thought had been to go with the stout denial defence, to maintain that I had been wearing a seatbelt all the time, that I always wore one, never took it off, not even to get gas, was in fact wearing one now ... but the case on the docket before me had attempted such a defence (I don't even own a cell phone!) and the judge had shut him down pretty hard. So I went with plan B.

I held out my hands, palm up. I raised my left eyebrow and cleared my throat. I was attempting the "C'mon, really?" defence. The idea is to make the crown feel bad for prosecuting such a silly crime when there are rapists and murderers and drug kingpins out there who are much better targets for legal stricture.

Yes, Mr Scrimger? said the judge. I maintained my pose. No words are uttered in the "C'mon, really" defence. It's all in the attitude. The prosecutor asked a couple of questions. The judge too. After a few painful minutes I was led off over to the window to pay my fine.

What were you thinking? the prosecutor asked me as I passed his table.
You mean about how stupid the charge was? I said.
No, I mean what were you doing, not wearing a seatbelt? This isn't BC, you know. There's rule of law here. This province prides itself on being tough on seatbelt crime.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

don to dusk

Some pleasures are for rich folks only. It's like the sign at the amusement park: YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO GO ON THIS RIDE. Poor folks don't fly first class. Nor do we drive Lambos, sit courtside, wear cashmere, eat truffles, or own anything haut.

But there are just dozens of genuine pleasures that rich and poor can share. And I don't mean the big obvious ones -- love and kids and ice cream, sleeping in late, and the smell of rain on hot pavement. I am talking socks. Is there -- I put this to you in all seriousness -- is there a better below-the-ankle feeling than putting on a new pair of socks?

Quick side-bar here. I wrote putting on just now because that's what I do to socks. I put them on. Most people do -- until they get inside a book. Bruce Jay Friedman, the American humorist, enforces what he calls the "2 dons" rule of literature. And it has nothing to do with the Mafia. When I come across a scene where someone dons a coat, says Mr Friedman, I sigh and keep going. But if it happens again, I close the book. 2 dons and you're out.

Back now. Really, what is not to like about new socks? Apart from the crisp, clean, freshness and overall good vibe, there is no pressure with socks. If you spend a lot of money on new shoes, you feel compelled to like them (unless of course you are rich; which is the point here). If the shoes start to pinch, or if on second thought they don't look as cute at home as they did in the store, you're stuck. You have to wear them or feel guilty. But if you change your mind about your socks, so what? For 8.00 you can get another dozen pairs.

The reason why new socks are on my mind is that they are also on my feet. I am wearing a pair of virgin grays right now, ankle length, cotton poly lycra blend (I am totally making this up) a gift from Imogen. Happy Birthday, Daddy, she said, holding out a plastic bag and smiling shyly. I got you some socks.

I thanked her and donned a pair immediately.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

there was this dyslexic Nazi ...

I feel so grown up. Here I am twitting away about food and traffic and noise outside my window, even deep stuff on music and feelings. And all in 140 characters, like I'm a poet or something. Who is this guy in the mirror? When did he put on his big boy pants?

And now I have an official announcement. Mostly I use this blog to chat casually. I amuse myself and a few others, I stay out of bars, and no one gets too worked up. But I have been asked by powers that be (her name is Joy) to act like a professional blogger for once. So I am going to talk about a cause. Not global warming. Not earthquake relief. Not poverty. I care about these things, but can not imagine what active good any words of mine are going to do, especially since I am talking to you guys. Hey, global warming is bad! I'd say, and you'd say, Yeah, so?

I am going to mention a reading camp for dyslexic kids (would you believe I typed kdis -- weird or what?) this August. It's my scale of good cause, because you might actually know a dyslexic kid who is interested in reading and writing and has a free day or two this summer. And if you mention the camp to the kid or the kid's parents, and the kid goes, the kid might have a good time. There's a link I am supposed to include ... hang on while I find it ... here we go ... ... Good folks are involved here (Joy, for instance). I'll be showing up at some point too. I'll try to watch my mouth. There's lots of dyslexic jokes.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

stout denial

Two topics today. First, to my sorrow, I am no longer brother to the lady at the laundromat. She has started calling me sir. What a come down! Yes, sir sounds more North-American "normal," more idiomatic, but brother was way more friendly, way cooler. I am saddened at her cultural assimilation.

I am also angry. Not about the brother thing. A week ago I was stopped for not wearing a seat belt. Waiting at a stop light a block from my place, and a cop motions me over and writes me a ticket. Come on, I said. He shook his head, said nothing. Really? I said. He handed me the yellow form, told me to have a nice day. And this was not just any ticket -- this one is for 240.00 and two points on my licence. I don't have that many points to spare. Two points to me is like ten pounds to a supermodel -- the licence is getting awfully tight around my hips.

I have decided to fight the ticket. It's such a big penalty for such a small infraction. I called the court house and arranged a date to talk things over with the prosecution. I wonder what my defence will be? I must think on it. PG Wodehouse, the British comic novelist, used to recommend stout denial as a defence. Maintain your innocence in the teeth of the evidence, he said. No proof, no punishment. I may try that.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

tweets and murmurs

I have been chatting on this blog for years, but I am not a real blogger. I am happy to share bits and pieces of my life with a charming and select community, but I am not part of the larger blogosphere. I don't use this forum to talk about my work or publicize my upcoming appearances. I only recently -- like, yesterday -- learned what a blog tour is.

I am not knocking those who use their blogs for publicity purposes. Far from it. These people are, without doubt, acting in a more savvy and professional manner than I am. I should be less diffident, more web-aware. I should say, I'll be on Letterman tomorrow, make sure to watch... Thank you, Amazon, for making my new book pick of the week ... The problem is that I am too shy. And, well, the statements aren't true. And saying that I'll be at such and such a library, or this and that elementary school, or that I'll be talking to teachers in Saskatoon or dyslexic kids in Vancouver -- while true -- would surely result in little more than a shrug or raised eyebrow among my blog readers. So, you would all think, what? And you would be right.

So why would I open a Twitter account? ( I know. I know. Close your mouths, okay? You are embarrassing me.) I can understand the popularity of Twitter as a way of connecting to strangers without having to follow them around. With a few clicks of the mouse you can find out what Charlie Sheen thinks about whatever it is he is thinking about. And he is a weird and funny phenomenon. I have to say, I find the whole thing kind of creepy -- like authorized (indeed encouraged) stalking. And when it's not creepy, it's dull. But that's our society. We invite the cameras into our homes. A few years ago I watched a scene -- there may well have been more than one -- of The Osbournes where Ozzy was sitting on the toilet, and I remember thinking: the only thing stranger than going to the bathroom in front of umpty million people is watching someone go to the bathroom. At least he's being paid. These days Charlie Sheen might (indeed he might) tweet about his bowel movement.

He would be at the top of the Twitter tree right now, I guess. With all the one-named stars nearby, and the B-listers and C-listers lower down, and the specialists -- well known in their field but not prime-time popular -- lower still. And at the very bottom of the tree, drooping into the humus of the forest floor, me.

I opened an account a few days ago and have posted some half dozen times. I have -- I confess it -- no idea what is going on. The caption in the picture up there sums it up. I feel like a teenaged driver taking the family car up and down the driveway. I'm having fun, but not going anywhere. 140 characters disappear in a flash. My tweets emerge sounding like haiku, or shopping lists. I should take lessons. And then, who knows -- I might even get around to using Twitter as a publicity tool. (Thanx Amazon!) My next book will go on a Twitter Tour.