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Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Love A Parade!

It's been a few years since I was in a parade for one reason or another, but last night I volunteered to give out candy canes along side the CHEK Television float and car in the Santa's Light Parade in downtown Victoria with my good friend Elaine.

I borrowed my daughter's big coat and dressed myself as warmly as possible.  The forecast called for a 60% chance of rain and it was going to be about 3 degrees, so I wanted to be good and ready.  Elaine picked me up in her car and we headed downtown, only to get caught up in a bottleneck of other cars about halfway there.  Of course, EVERYONE ELSE was also headed downtown.  Why hadn't we thought of that??  We finally found a way out and took a different route downtown, skirting past most of the traffic.

Then it was out of the car and a speedy walk past the huge crowds that were already gathered, down to the BC Museum where the parade began.  I was already in a sweat!  We wondered if we were going to make it on time, and just as we ran up to the float, which was basically a huge inflated camera perched on a semi truck, it began to roll.  We grabbed bags of candy, and started running again, stopping every now and then to hand out candy to the eager hands that were stretched out towards us. 

I'd look up and the truck was already half way down the block, so I'd run to catch up...then I'd throw my hand in the bag and grab a  handful of candy and stop to hand it out to more hands.  "Thank you!" I'd hear.  "Merry Christmas!"  A lot of the parents were telling their kids "Are you remembering to say thank you?"  Some kids were clever and held out their hats, where I could see that they'd already gotten a good supply of candy from the floats that were ahead of us.  "I got a blue one this time!"  I heard somebody excitedly say. 

Sometimes the candy would fall out of my hands into the street and kids would scramble to grab it.  One young guy said as I handed him a candy cane "Could I have one for my brother?"  I looked at him and realized he was just scamming me, but I started to hand him another one, and then a third one fell on the street.  He scrambled to grab it too.  "Is that for your other brother?"  I smiled at him.  He knew that I knew there were no brothers.

I would look for the kids that were shy and sitting back, and make sure to give them something.  Several times I ran into families where a parent would say "No candy, thank you."  One mother actually took the candy out of the kids' hand just after I put it there.  She handed it back to me.  I wondered about that.  Is a candy cane such a terrible thing?  How did that child feel about every other child around them getting candy and then being told to give it back?  It was an odd experience in what was otherwise a lot of fun.  I didn't have much time to ponder it, because the truck was far ahead again!

Big "kids" held out their hands too and I didn't refuse them either.  There were a couple of groups of Japanese students who didn't speak English but knew how to hold out their mittened hands, and I filled them up and ran on.  Sometimes the kids were 4 or 5 rows deep, so I took a handful of candy and yelled "Here it comes!", throwing it into the crowd.  Then I was off running again, throwing more candy, and more.  Every now and then I'd see Elaine, running behind me or ahead of me.  Once I yelled to her "Are we there yet?" and we laughed.  But not for long.

There were hundreds of more kids to toss candy to.  We darted and stopped and darted again as we continued to try and keep up with the CHEK float.  I had to grab another bag out of the back of the CHEK car when I ran out, and then I was back into the crowds again.  Candy canes, outstretched hands, "Thank you!", and off running again.

And then, suddenly and as quickly as it started, we were at the end of the parade route.  The line of crowds ended and I saw regular traffic at the intersection ahead.  The truck took off into the night and I turned to find Elaine.  We put the bags back in the car and said goodbye to everyone else who was handing out candy, and it was over.  I realized that I was soaking with sweat, my legs were like rubber from all of the running, and I was huffing and puffing and laughing all at once.  We began the walk back, in behind the crowds this time, and were able to just barely see some of the other floats in the part of the parade that was behind us.  At last there was a huge float with Santa on board, signaling the end of the parade and the beginning of the Christmas season, and the huge crowds began to disperse.

What a wild ride!  I love a parade :-).

IJ
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Listen!

Remember my earlier blog post about listening?  Well this TED video takes it to an even deeper and more scientific level.  If you have time, watch (and listen!):



Did he say musicians have bigger brains?? :-)
I knew that!

IJ

Snow Idiots

I am a snow idiot.  First of all, I love it, which amazes those I know who grew up with the stuff and can't stand it.  Second of all, I can't drive in it.  Third, I love to watch every other Victorian who loves it but who can't drive in it when it actually snows here.  Which isn't often.

Our house is on a hill.  You can't tell by the picture above, but it is a fairly steep hill.  And when we have a significant snow fall, it's inevitable that a number of snow idiots will come bombing along in their cars over the crest of the hill on the street in front of our house, only to realize that IT'S A HILL.  Then, stupidly, they hit their brakes.

I love it.  One after another, they go fishtailing down the hill.  I guess it isn't so funny for the people parked on the street when they get sideswiped for the umpteenth time by a snow idiot.  On the other hand, if they've lived on this street long enough, they should know better than to park their cars on it during a snow storm!

Today we're having our first snowfall in probably a couple of years.  My daughter and I have already been out on a walk in it.  But before we could leave the house, it took us forever to find the right clothes and boots.  We just don't NEED them very often so they get lost somewhere during the months and years of non-use.  This means we need at least an hour to get ready.  People on the prairies must laugh their heads off at us.  They wouldn't even bother going out unless absolutely necessary, whereas we can't wait to.

Oh yes, and then there are those westcoasters who use their umbrellas when it snows.  I'm sure this only a coastal phenomenon because, you see, we HAVE umbrellas.  And there's something falling from the sky, so why not use them?  I'm sure that makes for a few more laughs from those prairie types. 

When my daughter and I were finally scarved, gloved and toqued (that's a Canadian hat) so only our faces were exposed, we sauntered out and looked at everybody else who was out walking along, and we all smiled and laughed with each other.  I suggested to one elderly couple as we passed them that they should be wearing hats.  That's right, they were walking their dog in a snow storm with no hats on.  That's Victoria.  On some of the side streets we could see the tire tracks of the cars that had obviously skidded and hit the sidewalk...there were several of these along our route.  "Isn't this fun?" smiled another lady waiting at the bus stop.  We nodded and grinned.  As the bus came driving up, the driver didn't look like he was having much fun, though.

My daughter almost slipped twice.  I guess this is why people who are used to snow don't walk in it unless they absolutely have to.  You could kill yourself.   I laughed as I saw a fellow out shoveling the snow already.  It was only about a centimeter or two deep at that point, so why would he already be shoveling?  And what did I do when I got home?  Well, I shoveled the sidewalks of course.  Might as well get ahead of the game.

When I got inside, there was a phone message from a student.  She's originally from the prairies, so I would have thought that she could handle driving in this stuff.  "No," she said.  "It's all of those other people who DON'T know how to drive in this stuff who scare me."

Ah, the snow idiots, I thought to myself.  I'm guessing that most of my students will probably cancel today, so I'm planning on parking myself on the couch by the living room window to see if I can catch a few fishtails.

IJ

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Inevitable Fall

Dried and colored leaves on Ringstra├če in Vien...Image via WikipediaI've been aware of it for a couple of weeks now, but I avoid dealing with it like the plague.  And every day it gets worse, of course, because the winds whip up and more and more of those darn leaves come sauntering down, down, down.

So when I saw that it was a relatively wind-free and sunny day today, I finally put on the gardening clothes and the work boots, grabbed the rake and the smelly old tarp and proceeded to rake the back yard.

Is there supposed to be an art to it?  A technique?  I think I'm really smart at first and rake from the outside in to the centre of the yard, but it's never quite as neat and organized as I'd like it to be.  I huff and puff and a blister forms on my thumb where it meets the rake handle.  I switch hands, but I'm not really good at it left-handed, so I switch back again.  I stop and look back over what I've done.  Did that bunch of leaves just fall there like that, or did I just miss them?  Crap.  Back I go to re-rake that part of the lawn.  I re-rake a lot.

I used to laugh at guys who used leaf blowers.  Wimps, I thought.  Why do guys always have to use big, loud machines to do everything for them?  Lazy wimps.  So I scoffed at my husband when he brought one home one year.  It took two or three years before I finally broke down and tried it.  I had to doff the ear muffs and secure the strap over my shoulder and hold it just right before I was prepared to turn it on.  Wow!  If it's dry enough, a leaf blower works like a hot damn.  And I finally got it, why men like big, loud machines.

But I felt guilty using electricity to blow leaves, for pete's sake.  So I went back to doing it the hard way. In our city, the city workers come around once a year with one of those big trucks and suck up the leaves along the boulevards.  They encourage home owners to rake the leaves from their yards out to the boulevard so they can be included in the great suck.  That means finding a way to get the leaves from the back yard into the front.  We use the tarp method...pile the leaves up onto a big tarp and drag it from the front yard to the back.

I didn't have any help from my husband this time (something's wrong with my laptop, dear, I have to take it in and get it fixed...ha!), so it was up to me to do the job.  I huffed and I puffed and re-raked and scraped until I got half the pile onto the tarp.  I folded the sides of the tarp up over the pile so the leaves wouldn't escape and proceeded to haul it from the yard, around the van in the driveway, along the side of the house, all uphill, until I collapsed, out of breath on the boulevard.  Why is it that streams of cars drive by and people are always walking up the sidewalk when I'm at my dirtiest, sweat-soaked, wheezing self in the front yard?  It never fails.

One pile dumped, one more to go.  So I brought the tarp to the backyard again and scraped and huffed and re-raked some more and finally got the last little bunch of wet leaves onto the tarp.  I folding the sides of the tarp up, grabbed one end and stepped backwards, hauling it through the yard.  That's when I saw one leaf fall down from the maple tree on to the lawn that I had finished raking.  It landed upright with its stock in the grass...it had two holes that looked like eyes and one hole that looked like a mouth.

And it was laughing at me.

IJ
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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Middle Way

Stuck in the Middle with YouImage by furiousgeorge81 via FlickrThe term "middle way" often comes up in Buddhist teachings, reflecting a middle point between addiction to pleasure and addiction to pain. To take the middle way means finding the place between these two extremes, and it is not an easy discipline. An addiction to some kind of pleasure makes obvious sense...isn't that something we often find ourselves battling with? But addiction to pain, that isn't as obvious, but yes, probably even you have experienced feeling sorry for yourself, as I have.  That's an example of addiction to pain.

But the 'middle way' I want to talk about this time is not the Buddhist teaching, but something that has come up for me again and again over the last few years, and what was the theme of the recent Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC. If you haven't heard about it (you haven't?), comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the National Mall on October 30th, which drew by some estimates, more than 200,000 people. The rally was a half-serious response to other more recent rallies held by Glen Beck, a right-winger, and Al Sharpton, a left-winger, each who were trying to draw attention to their polarized political views.  Stewart and Colbert's rally was to draw attention to the fact that the squeaky wheels from both the political left and right are getting all of the media soundbites and that MOST of the population in the US are somewhere in the political middle with no one to speak for them.

I don't expect the political wing nuts on either side are going to shut up any time soon, but the rally restored some of my faith in the American public, at least.  Of course we have similar left/right arguments and loudmouths up here in Canada too, but we hear more of that from our southern neighbours and it seems to me (I could be wrong) that the extremes are so much more 'extremer' down there. Okay, I probably am wrong.  That happens a lot.

At any rate, I have my leanings too, but even I find that there are some embarrassingly squeaky wheels on what is supposedly my side of the political spectrum.  There's a point when I want to tell them "okay that's enough of that" simply because they're making fools of themselves and not furthering "our" cause.  What is terribly sad is that many things don't get accomplished or dealt with because the arguments on either side have become so polarized to the point of being paralyzed.  Important issues become branded as "right wing" or "left wing" and nothing gets accomplished.  I'm getting really sick of all of these arguments and in-your-face insults, all of the outrageous ranting and extremism, aren't you? Omigod have you seen some of the political advertising ahead of the U.S. primaries??  Unbelievable!

So just stop it!

There, I feel better.
And to sign off (a little pun there), I'm going to leave you a list of some of the signs that were at the rally.  They were perfect!

"If you keep shouting like that, you'll get big muscles all over your face."
"More beer, less (paranoid) nuts."
"Fear Fear Itself"
"Moderately Fired Up, Relatively Ready To Go"
"Frustrated
 Arizonans
Rejecting
 Tea"
"If your beliefs fit on a sign, think harder."
"Is this the line for Justin Bieber tickets?"
"Lion, tigers and Muslims, oh my!"
“I might disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure neither of us is going to hell.”
"Ruly mob."
"Civil is Sexy"
"Hitler is a Nazi"
"I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and all I got was this lousy sense of respect for other people's opinions." 

There you go.  Can't we just get along, people??
IJ


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