Category Archives: THE PAST

Soft Shark Swimming

There’s chatter going around right now about the Greenland shark – specifically, that these sharks are believed to live up to and possibly over 400 years. Maybe even over 500. Maybe even over more.

So many years. So much time.

What to do with all that time, I wonder?

But then, the answer seems obvious and clear:

1) Mind your business; &
2) Keep swimming.

Stay soft. Be good.

500+ years, of course, is the highest possible estimate. So far.

But then, that’s in human years. And what are those, after all, to the Greenland shark?

Laughable, possibly; precious almost certainly.

But never mind that.

Just keep swimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Nature, Philosophy, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time

That Ends With “Y”

By order of appearance.

 

Tuesday – a.k.a “Chewsday.”

Wednesday – Sneaks up on you because it almost always never comes. Hard to remember, easy to forget. Happy Humpday.

Thursday – Pre-Friday, Post-Tuesday. A place holder day if there ever was one.

Friday – Never too soon, or soon enough. Sometimes too soon and too much. Right?

Saturday – [redacted]. You know.

Sunday – Promises, promises. Nothing guaranteed. Sorry (not sorry).

Monday – Sunday’s regrets. Dregs, trepidations realized and reset. Something for everyone on this day. Please, help yourself.

 

 

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Filed under Routines, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Time

Elementary Logic

One of the first people to influence my love of books was my elementary school librarian, Mrs. Oliver.

(I’m not sure if that’s her real name, it was certainly something that sounded like “Oliver.”)

Tall, straw-haired, soft-spoken Mrs. Oliver. Quick to help you find the books you’re looking for and to suggest other books you might enjoy, sometimes very much and often for different reasons. Knowledgable and stalwart, friendly yet adamant, Mrs. Oliver.

She was very good at her job. She was, in every way that counted, perfection.

Our library was small but serviceable, the books arranged according to grade level as well as alphabetically. Lower grades (kindergarten to grade 3) on the lower shelves. Higher grades (4 to 6) on the higher shelves. Easy peasy. A very workable, easy-to-understand system.

I read widely and largely ignored this system. The “fact books” (i.e. “Facts on Dogs,” “Facts on Trucks,” “Facts on Trees,” “Facts on The Breeze”… your basic all-purpose non-fiction for beginners) located on the fourth shelf from the bottom – the shelf meant for the older students and not second-graders like me – were a particular favourite. I read them often, even checked a few out using our self-check-out system (back then, a sign-out sheet with matching card placed in an envelope glued to the inside jacket of the books).

I did this for weeks. I did it for months and months.

***

This is a true story:

One day, as I reached for the fourth level self, Mrs. Oliver appeared and, gently but firmly, stopped me.

“You can’t take those books out, I’m afraid. They’re for the older students only.” She pulled the book from my hands and put it back in its place on its shelf. From then on, she watched me whenever I was in the library, making sure I would not access books above my grade. Making sure the system, the whole system, in its entirely, worked, and was therefore perfect.

She was always still and in every other respect, the one and only Mrs. Oliver.

By the time I reached the fifth grade, and was therefore able to take out almost any book I wished, Mrs. Oliver was gone, replaced by someone whose name and face I definitely do not remember.

But I do remember thinking, the day she took the book away from my small hands: “Oh, Mrs. Oliver. You just did it, didn’t you?

You made an enemy for life.”

Let me repeat.

For life, Mrs. Oliver.

 

 

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Education, People, School, THE PAST, Words

Much Alike

My sister and I look very much alike. Her friends and mine confused us for each other all the time. Still do.

My parents always wanted me to be more like my cousin – poised, prim and perfect – but I look nothing like her.

My relatives say that I look like my mom. But she’s had some nips and tucks and doesn’t quite look like herself anymore (which, of course, is the point).

I must look what she used to look like, even though she never looked like my sister and bares no resemblance to my cousin.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask my sister’s friends. They’ll tell you. After all, they’re right about half the time, if not even more than that.

Looks can be deceiving, but not all the time and certainly not for everyone.

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Friends, Relationships, THE PAST

Bad Eggs

My grandma died, and then my mom got rid of all the eggs in our house. For years, no eggs. Not for breakfast, not even for cooking.

No eggs. Not one egg among us. None.

Ours was not a household in which questions from the children were encouraged or treated seriously.

Grandma died, and then no more eggs. 

Grandma died, so no more eggs.

No more eggs because grandma died.

No sense asking why.

It was a mystery among mysteries (another reason we as children did not question it – it was merely one among so many exhausting many).

Later – much, much later – I learned that my grandma died of a heart attack (my mom initially told me she died because she had “a hole in her heart,” once again allowing her penchant for tasteless euphemisms to cloud event and circumstance and circumvent understanding). The belief was that high cholesterol was the cause of the heart attack (caused her heart attack). And because my family believed that eggs caused high cholesterol they, all of them, each and every last egg, had to go.

I don’t remember exactly when eggs were reintroduced into our home. But come back they did.

One mystery solved, only to be replaced by another.

At least no one had to die to cement this one, to hold it in place for us all.

At least, I don’t think so.

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Death, Family, Food, THE PAST

B-A-N-A-N-A-S

They are best, in my humble opinion, when slightly spotted. But only slightly so – that, after all, is what gives them the perfect touch of sweetness to go with their inherent starchiness.

But anything more than that is too much. Too sweet, not enough starch and a rather unpleasant softness that sets in and only intensifies after that.

Buy them by the bunch, eat them too slowly (or not fast enough) and watch them all go bad at once.

My solution? Make banana bread!

(Or at least I would, if I knew how.)

My alternate solution? Store the soft, effectively useless bananas in the freezer until the day I learn how and decide to make banana bread!

Now, I admit it took a while. Realization was slow in coming, but as all things, it eventually hit. The frozen brown and black bananas (previously soft and still effectively useless) I’ve found in the freezers of a few of the places I’ve moved into over the years…they are the same bananas. They are different, but exactly the same as the ones I’m even now storing in my freezer.

They will never be bread. They were always not going to be eaten, never going to be bread.

That’s just nuts.

Just plain nuts, you hear?

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Food, THE FUTURE, THE PAST, Thrift, Time

Lay of the Land

Some people are landscapes, and I catch myself staring at them so that I can take them in; their vistas, outlines and curves and bends. Each and every one of their distinguishing (and distinguished, depending, frankly, on the face) features.

It’s something I’ve done since as long as I can remember.

(And I remember getting into more than one schoolyard fight for “staring hard” at other kids and, once, as a first grader, getting into it deep a sixth grader whose prominent brow, delicate nose and permanently puckered mouth was like staring into the very depths of a suddenly de-randomized, nearly cogent universe…I feel like I was very close to something then, even if that something ended up chasing me back to the little kids’ side of the schoolyard, fists like cinder blocks raised in semi-righteous anger, puckered mouth ruining itself like a torn suture as they raged on at me).

It’s true, though: sometimes they catch me, the people do, staring at them. Taking them in. My options then are very limited. 1) Ignore and break away, or 2) Keep right on staring. Very little needs to be said in the moment.

Look. It’s not personal. You just have an interesting smile, a striking pose, an odd jawline, great limbs, a kind expression (or a monstrous one).

These are not compliments or criticisms or facts.

Just me, taking in the lay of the land and then moving on so we can both get on with the rest of our lives.

Now doesn’t that sound nice – isn’t that OK – if not totally one hundred percent reasonable?

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Hobbies, Mind and Body, People, School, THE PAST

100% of the Ones You Don’t Take

The professor’s face was set amongst pleasantly rounded features – stub nose, soft cheeks spread across the gentle slope of his jawline, topped off by a pat of fine ginger hair and a pair of affable eyes that rested lazily under slightly-smudged and overlarge glasses.

We had been discussing my future as a graduate student. I mumbled something along the lines of “kind of” to one of his inquiries about my academic intents and ambitions.

“‘Kind of?’” he responded, laughter pulling those features into sharp, fine lines. “You’re either pregnant or you’re not.”

That sentence haunted me for a really long time. Months, weeks and so on. Even today, I think about it still.

That, and my response, which was simply a listless and non-committal, “Yeah.”

God. Damn. It.

So many other things that could have been said in that seconds after “you’re not.” So many things that should have been. Among these:

  • “Only if I don’t know who the father is.”
  • “Schrödinger’s pregnancy!”
  • “Sir, I am pregnant until I’m not. And I’m not until I am.”

Glorious, no?

***

I think I have finally realized what happened, way back then. I missed it.

I had missed my shot.

Other people had said similar things to me since.

But it’s not the same.

Besides, the universe is not to be trusted when it comes to do-overs.

So many regrets in this life. In the end, what’s one more?

One more yeah.

 

 

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Filed under Education, People, Relationships, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

The Day The Sun Exploded, Astounding Helmet To An Incredible Degree (All Things Considered)

I don’t even know if his name was really “Helmet” but I remember that’s what people called him because of the way he cut his hair (or maybe it was just the way his hair was cut. He may not have had all that much to do with it. I remember my own parents subjecting me to Very Bad Haircuts from the ages of 2 to 13).

Eighth grade English class. Middle school reading, writing and that catch-all “comprehension” (whatever that means, and however so measured).

Helmet wasn’t a nice guy, and he wasn’t a jerk. He was mostly background, a personality that would pop up now and then to make himself heard. He stood stooped and gangly, a redhead with freckles and shirts short at the hem and long in the sleeves, each partially chewed. Uneven eyes set above a restrained nose and a wide mouth with overlarge, slightly hanging teeth. Jeans, mostly. Brown shoes.

The reading was Lord of the Flies, and Helmet was dismissive.

“Who cares what’ll happen to those boys? Humans will go on forever.” Such was Helmet’s very precise, very exacting logic. What, in the grand scheme of things, was one island population – one that’s anyway not even all that populated and populated with an unruly group of miscellaneous British children besides?

“Until the sun explodes,” someone added. I want to say it was Jean, but it was probably Paul, whose one aim that semester was to seem wise beyond his years.

“What?” Helmet blinked, peeling himself away from his spot along the wall. “What?”

“Super nova,” I said. “It’ll go super nova.”

What?” The idea slowly embedded itself in the soft tissues of Helmet’s head, creating a neural pathway where there had not been one before. “The sun…is going to explode?” No one had ever told him.

“Red giant,” I said. “And then -”

“Everybody who’s not dead yet dies,” Paul, definitely Paul, added hastily, so eager to get ahead of the point he missed it entirely. “Everything dies.”

“No! Really?” Helmet gasped. “Really. For sure?”

“Helmet. The sun will explode one day. It’s going to go out and become a black hole and the heat and light of our universe will be gone,” said was our teacher, Mr. E, who was also mostly background, but who somehow found the energy to pipe up every now and then to move the class along. Such was his dedication, and the limits of his particular skill set as an educator.

Helmet gaped. “No…”

“It won’t happen, not for a long, long time,” said Mr. E.

“How long?” Helmet asked, time suddenly very much a factor now that forever was off the table.

“Billions of years. At least.”

Helmet didn’t answer at first. “Oh.”

“Why don’t you ask Mr. D,” suggested Mr. E. Mr. D was our science teacher.

But Helmet was beyond science at that point. Beyond the stars themselves, the universe – no, life itself now cold, pointless. A sow’s head on a pike, staring with dead eyes into the nothingness beyond.

Or maybe…perhaps not.

“Where’s your summary?” asked Mr. E, tired now, wanting only to collect everyone’s homework and declare the class over (and only five minutes early this time).

“Yeah…I didn’t read the book,” Helmet replied. He shook his head as if to clear it. Tugged at a sleeve, rubbed it thoughtfully against his chin.

Grinned.

 

 

 

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Filed under Books, Change, Education, People, School, Science, THE PAST

$50

I constantly ask myself: “Is this at least $10 worth of fun?”

That seems to be the limit. Any more than that and it just doesn’t seem quite worth it.

 

1. Let’s Go To The Motherfu*kin’ Movies

My best friend got $50 from her parents for her birthday, which was a lot of money, especially for a fifth grader. It was the most money I’d ever seen a kid our age have. It was more money than I’d ever had.

“Shouldn’t’ you save some?” I kept asking.

“Why? We’re already here,” she kept saying back. Here was a movie theatre attached to the mall where we’d already spent a good portion of that $50 on junk food and other things I can’t even remember what.

We saw an animated film that was a bit young for us, but which was the only thing playing at the time. It had odd musical numbers that ultimately proved memorable only because they were slightly less worse than the film itself.

Movie tickets back then were under $10.

The next week and we were broke again, and would remain that way for weeks to come. For weeks on end.

It was almost worth it.

Anyway, it was the best we could do. It was everything that we, between us, could have done.

 

2. Wholesale $50

My dad found $50 on the ground next to the wholesaler’s where we went to every two weeks to pick up vegetables for our small grocery.

“Don’t tell mom.” That was the first thing he said. “Let’s go for pho!” was the second.

We ordered pho dac biet, the special. It came with everything. Usually, we’d get fast food or something else, something cheaper, but a wholesale $50 is a wholesale $50.

“Here, you can have what’s left,” said my dad. He gave me the change from the bill. But the difference between what he gave me and the cost of the meal did not add up and I told him so, thinking perhaps we’d been shortchanged by the server.

“I took $5 for lottery tickets,” he said.

Was it a confession? To this day, I’m still not sure.

 

3. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Stephen and I once found a crisp $50 bill at the foot of a frozen waterfall during a hike in the snow. It shone red against the white of the forest floor; a beacon on a cold winter’s day. A sign, if there ever was one.

$50? Think of the possibilities. An easy $50, free and clear!

But. We were living a new life in a new city and were still in the process of settling in. Extra money therefore meant extra responsibility, or at least the sinking feeling that we should act extra responsibly with it.

We used the $50 to buy groceries. Also, toilet paper. The good kind.

No lie. It was everything.

Double ply, double happiness.

Fun notwithstanding.

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Food, People, THE PAST, Thrift