The Devil’s Death Grip…by Chuck Duboff

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© Chuck Duboff

The devil arrives, deep sallow eyes, a chilling smirk announces: “I am here and it is you I shall take control of you.”
Uninvited, arriving on its own timetable, I shake.  My soul recognizes the episode which is about to occur, as the devil’s grip tightens.
The thoughts become unruly, irrational, confused; yet it’s the devil standing there, sneering and bellowing with a haunting voice: “Hope you have none…for as long as I shall decide to play with your mind.”
With all my will I dig deep and fight the irrational thoughts; drink lots of water, green tea, get in exercise, talk with others…you know this is your best medicine to fight off the strangulating grip.
So many will be let down, I think to myself.  This is the rationale mindset, yet the Devil sneers, smirks and emits: “you know this will last as long as I want to play with your mind. Your so called medicine, water, green tea, exercise, friends…I Laugh at your pitiful attempt to defeat me.  I will just tighten the grip and your irrational mind will go to a darker place and you will be mine!!”
d62 years and 364 days later…I have come to believe this…all my strength, courage, internal will, do not stand a chance in the face of the devil; you are right, the light gets dark, the music haunting, the thoughts knowingly irrational; the walls arise, the energy dissipates, the self loathing ensues…
And I…a mere pawn in the palm of the Prince of Darkness.
As my muse Hamlet uttered: “Oh that the everlasting had not set his cannon against self-slaughter.”

Our cultural icons get older, we get older…it is social media which makes their deaths seem so shocking; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

2016

2016…a reminder of how precious and very fragile life is.

Sports royalty who passed away in 2016:

Muhammed Ali               Arnold Palmer              Gordie Howe
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Music Icons who left us in 2016:

David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole,

David Bowie

From the world of movies, books and entertainment, the following passed away in 2016:

Harper Lee, W.P. Kinsella, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Robert Vaughn, Garry Marshall, Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Zsa Zsa Gabor

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Fidel Castro and John Glenn also passed on in 2016…and these are just some of the many who left us this past year.

We are shocked by the sudden leaving of those who were icons in our lives and it seems as if 2016 was an aberration, however, in reality, this would be considered rather normal.

What is different, yet again, is social media.  When notables like Sinatra and Crosby and Hemingway passed away, there wasn’t a sudden bombardment of the news of their deaths on Facebook and Twitter.  There would be an article in the paper for a day or two, Walter Cronkite would do the obligatory two minute story and within days it would be forgotten.

The world has changed, dramatically, I might add.  However, what hasn’t changed is that we will all die one day.  Though it seems like those people who were significant in our lives are dying at a faster rate….the fact is, they get old, we get old…and time marches on.

Rather than being shocked about all these deaths, embrace life and “suck the marrow out of it.”

RIP Leonard Cohen; “So Long Marianne”…Leonard’s letter to his muse, his love, Marianne…in which he acknowledges the end is near for both.

© Chuck Duboff:    Just months before passing, Leonard’s life long muse and love, Marianne, was on her deathbed.  He wrote a letter to her in which he expressed his timeless love for her and that he would soon be joining her on the next journey.

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Leonard and Marianne in the 1960’s

Leonard’s Letter to Marianne:

‘Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

“And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.

“Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”‘

So Long Marianne
Come over to the window, my little darling,
I’d like to try to read your palm.
I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
before I let you take me home.
Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.
Well you know that I love to live with you,
but you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
and then the angels forget to pray for us.
Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …
We met when we were almost young
deep in the green lilac park.
You held on to me like I was a crucifix,
as we went kneeling through the dark.
Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …
Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now.
Then why do I feel alone?
I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
is fastening my ankle to a stone.
Now so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …
For now I need your hidden love.
I’m cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.
Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …
Oh, you are really such a pretty one.
I see you’ve gone and changed your name again.
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,
to wash my eyelids in the rain!
Oh so long, Marianne, it’s time that we began …

RIP Leonard Cohen: “Closing Time” came far too soon.

“Closing Time”

Ah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
and the band is really happening
and the Johnny Walker wisdom running high
And my very sweet companion
she’s the Angel of Compassion
she’s rubbing half the world against her thigh
And every drinker every dancer
lifts a happy face to thank her
the fiddler fiddles something so sublime
all the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it’s CLOSING TIME
Yeah the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it’s CLOSING TIMEAh we’re lonely, we’re romantic
and the cider’s laced with acid
and the Holy Spirit’s crying, “Where’s the beef?”
And the moon is swimming naked
and the summer night is fragrant
with a mighty expectation of relief
So we struggle and we stagger
down the snakes and up the ladder
to the tower where the blessed hours chime
and I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
the Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
but CLOSING TIME

I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
the Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
CLOSING TIME

I loved you for your beauty
but that doesn’t make a fool of me:
you were in it for your beauty too
and I loved you for your body
there’s a voice that sounds like God to me
declaring, declaring, declaring that your body’s really you
And I loved you when our love was blessed
and I love you now there’s nothing left
but sorrow and a sense of overtime
and I missed you since the place got wrecked
And I just don’t care what happens next
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
it’s CLOSING TIME

Yeah I missed you since the place got wrecked
By the winds of change and the weeds of sex
looks like freedom but it feels like death
it’s something in between, I guess
it’s CLOSING TIME

Yeah we’re drinking and we’re dancing
but there’s nothing really happening
and the place is dead as Heaven on a Saturday night
And my very close companion
gets me fumbling gets me laughing
she’s a hundred but she’s wearing
something tight
and I lift my glass to the Awful Truth
which you can’t reveal to the Ears of Youth
except to say it isn’t worth a dime
And the whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it’s once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights
we’re busted in the blinding lights,
busted in the blinding lights
of CLOSING TIME

The whole damn place goes crazy twice
and it’s once for the devil and once for Christ
but the Boss don’t like these dizzy heights
we’re busted in the blinding lights,
busted in the blinding lights
of CLOSING TIME

Oh the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
It’s CLOSING TIME
And it’s partner found, it’s partner lost
and it’s hell to pay when the fiddler stops
It’s CLOSING TIME
I swear it happened just like this:
a sigh, a cry, a hungry kiss
It’s CLOSING TIME
The Gates of Love they budged an inch
I can’t say much has happened since
But CLOSING TIME
I loved you when our love was blessed
I love you now there’s nothing left
But CLOSING TIME
I miss you since the place got wrecked
By the winds of change and the weeds of sex.

…and that is why we love baseball!! by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

“Man, I’m an emotional wreck.”  That was Chicago Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo talking to David Ross in the 4th inning of Game 7 of the World Series.  “It’s only gonna get worse. Just continue to breathe.”

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It’s baseball folks.  These are just grown up little boys living out their dreams of one day playing in Game 7 of the World Series.  Any body who grew up loving baseball must have dreamed at some point of being on the biggest baseball stage there is.  For a few fleeting moments it looked like it was going to be Rajai Davis as the hero living out his dreams.

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It’s the bottom of the 8th inning; your team is down with just one inning left.  It’s the World Series…BOOM, Rajai Davis crushes one to deep left field and suddenly the game is tied, the game is tied…every kid who has ever played baseball has dreamed of hitting that home run!!!  Rajai Davis did that…and while Davis was celebrating his massive HR, Aroldis Chapman was in the Cubs dugout…crying.  A boys game and he was crying.  He let his team down!!  Cost all those fans of Chicago a chance at the World Series.  Never mind that the Cubs had leaned on him for days and days, pitching him a huge number of innings, when in fact he is normally a one inning closer.  He was crying, he let his team down.

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Baseball fans everywhere were thinking: “I’ve never seen a game like this!!  This is the World Series, it doesn’t get any better!!”  “Maybe they can play 17849872 innings of baseball…I’m sure Aroldis Chapman has more innings in his arm.

In the stands of Progressive Field, on the couches of fans watching at home, in all the bars filled with baseball fans…everyone was watching baseball at its absolute best!!  You didn’t want one team to lose…they both deserved to win the World Series.  Stories of fans waiting a lifetime to see the Cubs or Indians win a World Series.  It was almost too painful to watch.

kids-ball

History will record that Ben Zobrist was the hero in the 10th inning with a big double.  It almost seems secondary to all the emotion which was spilled out last night.  It was the emotion of the final out and the players celebrating on the field; it was Bill Murray crying after finally seeing his beloved Cubbies win a World Series, it was 39 year old David Ross playing his final game and going out a Champion.

More than any other sport, baseball has a romantic, a spiritual, a mystic quality about it.  At its best, baseball is magical and allows the little kid in us to dream; to one day be Corey Cluber on the mound giving the Cleveland Indians everything he had…another day we’re Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo crushing the ball…or we are simply fans at a game enjoying the sweet beauty and majesty of that game they call baseball.

dad-and-baseball-player

Coach reassuring young baseball player

To all the dads who coach their sons and daughters, to the moms who drive the kids to the games, to the groundskeepers who keep the fields beautiful, to the workers who make the balls and bats…

It’s Game 7 of the World Series and the Chicago Cubs are now the World Champions!!

A Saskatchewan Farm Boy: the City Years; by Al Bryski

© Al Bryski
The Long Walk and the Salisbury House Reward!

I stamp the snow off my boots as I enter the CNR yard office in Transcona. I have just come back from about a two mile walk checking three tracks in the main yard for my chief clerk. I know he didn’t really need them checked but he hated to see me sitting in the yard office just because I had efficiently and quickly completed my checking assignments for the whole shift. He had sent me out into the snowy night because he could. I suspected that he didn’t like me but I couldn’t figure out why. All the other chief clerks thought I was a great worker and often specifically asked for me.

For those of you who don’t know, checking means walking beside a railway track from one end of the yard where there is a switch to the opposite end of the yard where there is another switch. It is these switches which the switchmen (unique choice of name) throw open when they are “breaking”up a newly arrived train by shunting cars into assigned tracks. It is a car checker’s job – that would be me on this night – to then at different times throughout the day record the cars on a specific track. In this way the chief yard agent will know where any particular car is at any particular time.

al

With a board clutched in my left arm and a checking sheet  – basically a long manila tag sheet with ruled lines on it with dimensions of 30 cm by 10 cm – bound to the board with elastic bands, and a switchman’s lamp clamped tightly under my left armpit, I walk between the adjoining tracks and check the cars on my left side. I record the car’s origin e.g CNR, CPR, B&O, ATSF, etc. and its identifying number. By looking at the first three numbers, one can identify whether a car is a box car, an automobile carrier, a gondola car, a flat car, a cattle stock car, a horse stock car, a hopper car, a tank car, a caboose, or a work train car. I also record whether it has any Bad Order tags on it – these are B/O tags signifying that there is a problem with the car and that it should be taken to the car repair shop in the yard. I also register whether it is loaded. Boxcars have special metal seals on the doors if they are loaded. Other cars you simply bang on the side or check the car to see if it is loaded with any material with any raw materials or any load on a flat car. Sometimes I will check two tracks at a time making sure I enter the car numbers on the right corresponding sheet.

I had done this all evening and now I was looking anxiously at the clock. I had asked my chief clerk if he could let me go fifteen minutes early so I could catch the last black and white bus back to Winnipeg. It left at midnight and from where I was in the yard office, it was at least a ten minute walk to the small shack where the bus sat idling.

My boss was being a complete “dick-head” because he said if he let me go early, he would have to let everyone go early. I had told him everyone else here lived in Transcona. I was the only one who needed to catch that bus. He smiled without humor and told me, “Tough!”

Asa I sat there fuming, he noticed that other staff members were giving him the evil eye. Finally with a great show of largess  at eight minutes to twelve midnight, he said that I could go.

I ran out of the building and with my parka flapping, my switchman’s lamp bouncing on my arm, and my boots slipping and sliding on the packed snow, I ran for the bus. As I neared the bus shack I could see that the bus had already left. Great! I was stranded. I could walk back to the yard office and spend the night sleeping on a chair in the brightly lit office or I could “suck-it-up” and walk the thirteen plus kilometres back to Maryland Street in Winnipeg.

Afraid I might do something rash if I went back to the yard office and the chief clerk was still there, I chose to walk home. I followed Pandora Street to Plessis Road and then followed Plessis south to Dugald Road. The cold started to set in but the snow had stopped falling. I followed Dugald Road until it merged into Marion Street.  All the walking kept me warm inside my WWII army surplus parka. It was heavy but not very warm. It was the exertion of the fast walking that was keeping me warm.

There was little or no traffic. Because most of the area was industrial there no city buses running at this hour. Marion Street got me through St. Boniface and across the Red River on Main Street to Broadway. I followed Broadway Avenue up to Langside Street. I was now only a handful of blocks from home.

But I was starving from all the exertions of the day plus the long hike from Transcona. I must have walked thirty miles that day and my “supper” had been skimpy and hastily thrown together. I had almost enough money for a Salisbury House Big breakfast. I knew the three employees who worked the midnight shift and I knew that they would give me credit until I could pay them back.

sals

I walked in and made for a space at the counter.The three employees I knew were working. I called them Larry, Curly, and Moe because they were a lot of fun and always pulling pranks on each other or on steady customers they knew. The place was almost full. There were people who had stopped in for coffee or a late or early breakfast or for simply a Mr. Big Salisbury nip; policemen – no policewomen on the street back then – some cab drivers, the usual number of late party-goers who were “putting a lid” on their night of drinking, plus a few “street people”. Street people back then were the social outcasts of the time Some were gay, some were transvestites, some obviously had some mental incapacity. But at the Sal’s House after midnight all were welcome and all were accepted for what they were and no judgements were made or questions asked.

Occasionally some forgot the unwritten rules for behavior and were reminded. If they didn’t want to mind the unwritten rule, they were asked to leave. Refusal meant that the police would be called or often the police were right there and the problem was quickly solved and everyone could enjoy the warmth and the good food of the House.

I ordered my breakfast, wrote out my IOU, and fell to with a very ravenous appetite that only a teenager can conjure up. Eventually warmed up from the food and several cups of coffee and after being “picked on” several time by either Larry or Curly or Moe, I left the warmth and security of the Sal’s House and made my way home to my bed. it was 4:30 a.m. It had  been a full and interesting day.

Sunday Morning Random Thoughts: Bombers, Friendships, Trump, Goldeyes and more; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

  • Sometimes its best to move on from certain friends in your life.  Just time to say goodbye.
  • Another great game by the Bombers; I don’t think anybody saw this 7 game winning streak coming, but it sure is fun watching this team play inspired football.
  • There are some people you just feel safe letting your walls down for…they inspire trust and respect; very cathartic having people like that in your life.
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  • So glad I booked Puerto Vallarta again for this winter…if not for two very special angels in my life, Laine and Ben, I would be living down in Mexico, no discussion.
  • Having over 1200 followers of this blog inspires my writing every day.  I went on a little bit of a baseball run there for a few weeks, but that only brought out a new audience for me.  Over 61,000 views…humbling and exciting.
  • Looking forward to reading Bruce Springsteen’s new book, Born to Run.
  • I have never seen an election like what is going on in the States right now; having taken many American history courses, studied American politics and watched intently every election for decades…this election of 2016 is incomprehensible.  Ethical standards have gone by the wayside, political operatives are in disarray and everything that political insiders thought they knew about elections has blown up in their face.  I dare say this has brought out the ugly side of the United States and I fear for what will happen When Donald Trump loses the election…could be very scary folks.
  • Republican presidential candidate Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump…ask yourself, is this presidential?

     

  • Living on the 8th floor of my condo building, I look out over the downtown and the leaves are beginning to turn and the colours are bombarding the senses, just breathtaking.
  • Have met through Faceback,  a very inspiring lady with whom I want to bring to light many of the serious issues which face our Aboriginal population.  Look forward to it Leah.
  • So, John Tortarella benched Big Buff for the U.S game against Team Europe; how’d that work out John?  3-0 loss…with Buff not dressed.  You really are a genius, aren’t you…ya think Buff will be fired up this season when the Jets play Columbus?
  • Buff
  • Sometimes when you want something really badly, you try to force things…best to just let it take its own course and see where fate takes things.
  • You rock my world N!!!
  • W.P. Kinsella passed away this week; the author of Shoeless Joe…have read that so many times and in fact…taught it to a couple of my Grade 12 classes; for those who didn’t know, it was also the inspiration for the movie Field of Dreams.  RIP sir.
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  • Watching parents getting old is heartbreaking; as difficult as it was when Dad suddenly passed away in his sleep at 79, watching mom go downhill at a pretty rapid rate lately, at 91 years old…is even harder.
  • Sometimes you gotta “Netlix…and escape from reality” for awhile.
  • “Does she know?”…she knows now…clearly shared from my heart.
  • Big Ben turning 8 this week, wow!!!  What an amazing kid he is!! Love ya Ben.
  •  It’s hard to say good bye to friends who have been with you for years, but, by the same token, when it becomes more aggravation and headache than enjoyment…it’s just time to put it in the rear view mirror and move on.
  • I really thought after the Goldeyes went up 1-0 in the series, that they were set up perfectly with McGovern and O’Brien.  Both got hammered and now the Fish are down 2 – 1 in the best of five Championship Series.  You made the playoffs on the last day of the season, you came back from down 2-1 to St Paul…we know you’ve got it in you…Go Get ‘Em Boys!!
  • win

Calvin and Hobbes; thank you to Bill Watterson for this wonderful reminder about life.

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©Bill Watterson

“Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?”
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, “Did… did you…. find him?”
“Yes dear,” Susie said smiling sadly, “He was in the attic.”
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
“I washed him for you,” Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
“Thank you, Susie.” Calvin said.
A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
“Dear,” Calvin said finally. “Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him.”
“All right,” Susie said. “I’ll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll be back soon.”
Susie kissed her huband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. “I love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” said Susie.
Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. “Hello Hobbes. It’s been a long time hasn’t it old pal?”
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. “It sure has, Calvin.” said Hobbes.
“You… haven’t changed a bit.” Calvin smiled.
“You’ve changed a lot.” Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, “Really? I haven’t noticed at all.”
There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
“So… you married Susie Derkins.” Hobbes said, finally smiling. “I knew you always like her.”
“Shut up!” Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
“Tell me everything I missed. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to!” Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grandkids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause.
“You know… I visited you in the attic a bunch of times.” Calvin said.
“I know.”
“But I couldn’t see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal.” Calvin voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
“You grew up old buddy.” said Hobbes.
Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend. “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn’t grow up and that we’d be together forever!!”
Hobbes stroke the Calvin’s hair, or what little was left of it. “But you didn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were always together… in our dreams.”
“We were?”
“We were.”
“Hobbes?”
“Yeah, old buddy?”
“I’m so glad I got to see you like this… one last time…”
“Me too, Calvin. Me too.”
“Sweetheart?” Susie voice came from outside the door.
“Yes dear?” Calvin replied.
“Can I come in?” Susie asked.
“Just a minute.”
Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time. “Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks… for everything…”
“No, thank you Calvin.” Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, “You can come in now.”
Susie came in and said, “Look who’s come to visit you.”
Calvin’s children and grandchildren followed Susie into Calvin’s room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. “Grandpa!!” screamed the child in delight.
“Francis!” cried Calvin’s daughter, “Be gentle with your grandfather.”
Calvin’s daughter turned to her dad. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories.”
Calvin laughed and said, “Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age.”
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, “Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up.”
Calvin’s beloved family said good bye and promised to visit tommorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, “Francis. Come here for a second.”
Francis came over to his grandfather’s side, “What is it Gramps?”
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago. “This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him.”
“He’s just a stuffed tiger.” Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, “Well, let me tell you a secret.”
Francis leaned closer to Clavin. Calvin whispered, “If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait he will turn into a real tiger.”
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, “Not only that he will be your best friend forever.”
“Wow! Thanks grandpa!” Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
“Francis! We need to go now!” Calvin’s daughter called.
“Okay!” Francis shouted back.
“Take good care of him.” Calvin said.
“I will.” Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. He eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. “I’ll take care of him, Calvin…”
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.

Conversations with Monuments in Victoria; a new book by Kathy Francis.

© Chuck Duboff

Kath Monuments

My very good friend, Kathy Francis, recently released a new book, Conversations with Monuments in Victoria .  Following on the success of her last book, Grace Notes, (https://chuckduboff.com/2015/01/09/grace-notes-a-new-book-by-my-friend-kathy-francis/) Kathy once again brings her wonderful writing style to life

Kath on horse

The author, Kathy Francis, with her ever present smile.

Enjoy this excerpt from the book…and see ordering information at the bottom of this page:

They’re occupying valuable real estate! They’re taking up space!

Land is limited and thus valuable, especially in cities. So, there must be a good reason for the statues I see springing up in my city.

The placement of a monument usually signifies that something substantial has either been deposited or violated. It speaks of what we value. It speaks of what we want the world filled with and what we don’t. I believe these public art forms can contribute to the formation of our society as we pause to reflect upon them… which I do. I engage with the statues I pass by to consider what they have to say. Stories of the past become woven into inspiration for the future.

Statues are not the only things taking up valuable space. So do you. So do I. We too deposit things, both good and bad, in the world. We influence the values our community holds, the actions it takes. Are you making good use of your real estate? What deposit are you leaving? What do you want the world filled with?

Kathleen has just completed her fourth book in her Conversations With Monuments series – Victoria. Other cities include: Winnipeg, Halifax and Ottawa.

Here is an excerpt from the Victoria book:

THE HOMECOMING

A veteran sailor, John Mason, sits on a bench overlooking Victoria harbor. His chest is decorated with medals, heavy with memories. Weariness fills his eyes.

I sit beside him and glance at the newspaper in his hand. It is a VE Day Extra, dated May 8, 1945. “Peace in Europe: Germany Surrenders” is the headline, followed by: “Famous Figures Released”, “Figure of Hope”. This is good news – hard fought for good news.

I’m sure this man carried his share of brothers off the battlefield. Maybe he is reliving those scenes now. Even a battle ending in victory takes its toll.

The sailor looks up and a smile comes to his face. I follow his gaze. In front of us, a young soldier, down on one knee opens his arms wide as his little daughter races to embrace him, almost knocking him over with her enthusiasm. “Daddy, oh daddy, you’re home,” she squeals in delight. What better welcome, what better reward could a person want!

The man beside me had a role in making this father daughter reunion, this homecoming happen. His medals are proof. I count them. Eight. Eight is the number of new beginnings. The world gets messed up. Sometimes we have to put a stop to something and begin again. Building the kind of world we want takes intentional work and sacrifice.

“You see that?” says the veteran beside me, nodding towards the father and daughter. “That’s why. That’s the reason we did this.” He slaps the newspaper against his knee. “And it was worth it. That was me. I was his age when I returned from WWII. I could have taken another job after that, but I no longer seemed to fit in civilian life. I decided to remain with the navy. I stayed until I retired as a Captain in 1978. I come to sit here often, whenever my memories begin to weigh heavy.” I notice he is now sitting up straight. Years come off his life as he watches his dream come true. He contended for freedom and safety. Those things followed him home.

What kind of world do you want?

When I look into the eyes of a child, it becomes clear to me what I want the world to be like. I want the child to experience kindness, safety, freedom from fear and poverty, encouragement in pursuing their dreams.

How does the world become what we hope it will be? It happens through people, you and me, embodying those traits we want to see….

To order, visit: www.conversationswithmonuments.com , https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=conversations+with+monuments+in+victoria or email kathyfrncs@gmail.com

Her books can also be found in local bookstores in Victoria and Ottawa, and in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson, Chapters Polo Park, and The Forks.

My first Major League ballgame, through the eyes of a little boy; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

The ballplayers were all my heroes, like Supermen flying through the sky.  They played a game that I always dreamed about playing.  They were big and strong and could run, throw and hit the baseball like Giants.  They played their games in breath taking cathedrals and ran on fields that were a perfect ballpark green.

Met Stadium

I remember going to my first major league baseball game.  The anticipation built till game day.  I made sure to wear my tattered Yankees hat and bring my perfectly shaped glove.  Driving to the Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis, all I could think about was finally seeing real honest to goodness ballplayers.  Till now it had just been seeing the Game of the Week on Saturday afternoons, which always featured the Yankees.  But, finally I was going to see a real game, the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

First it was the giant light standards that were seen from miles away.  I couldn’t believe it, real Major League lights.  After we parked the car and gave the old man his $2 for parking in a gravel lot, we walked towards the ballpark.  It got bigger and bigger and as we entered it felt like I was dreaming.   There were people selling programs, peanuts, beer (Schlitz beer that is!!) and t-shirts and Twins hats for sale.  I felt like I was in heaven.

We found our way to our seats.  I was mesmerized trying to take it all in.  A real pitcher’s mound, the on-deck circle, the grass a perfect green, the outfield fences covered in advertising for beer, gasoline,  and cigarettes.  The scoreboard was like the Bible; all the scores, the batting order, the stats…it was almost overwhelming in its perfection.

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The dugouts, the home for each team for nine innings.  Watching the players warmup, playing catch, stretching, jogging to the outfield…all never seen before on the Game of the Week.  The silver haired umpires gathered around home plate with the curmudgeonly managers and went over the “secret rules”.

The game itself almost seemed secondary; I was taking in every little baseball moment.  Watching the hitters come out of the dugout, kneel down on one knee and swing three baseball bats over their shoulders was amazing.  I couldn’t stop watching.  One after another they came to the on deck circle, hopeful of getting a hit.  I wasn’t even keeping score on the 5 cent scorecard we had bought…the fans yelling at the umps and cheering on the home team’s hits; watching the pitcher throwing pitches I only dreamed of throwing.

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It seemed like the game was over in a matter of moments.  I had seen my first major league home run hit by Norm Cash of the Tigers.  I had seen Tony Oliva get a hit and Harmon Killebrew strike out. I had seen a major league game and it all seemed bigger than life itself.

I didn’t sleep that night, nor for many nights to come; I lay in bed looking at my baseball cards, memorizing the stats.  My Norm Cash card held a very special place in my collection.

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Every time I took the mound after that perfect day, I tried to emulate the pitchers I had seen.  I never quite reached their talent level, but, I had seen a major league game.  I smiled a lot and seemed to throw and hit and run and play the game just a little better.

Bakery Bliss…by Geoff Brookes

© Geoff Brookes

store

A pre-teen boy hops off his bike, and leans it casually against a fence post. The sun is already hot, blazing through the plentiful trees, early in the July morning. The birds are singing cheerfully, each with their own favourite tune.

He’s arrived in the clearing, where the general store and the bakery stand as twins in the clearing, as they have for decades. They miss their lost triplet, the train station, which departed almost 2 decades ago. Nevertheless the cars are not permitted here, except for the occasional taxis. The clearing is a crossroads in time.

He lopes quickly up the wooden steps of the bakery, on the very edge of the clearing. The screen door swings wide with his anticipation.

Even before he enters the bakery, the best part of his day arrives! The smell of the fresh baking fills his mind with exuberant joy. He has 2 things that he must buy with the money his Grandad has given him, but he has a little extra for himself. The cottage has many benefits!

The first object inside the store is his favourite – a massive coke cooler, filled with bottled pop drinks standing in perfectly cool water. He picks a drink randomly, as his his custom. Orange crush! He pops the cap off using the built-in opener, and takes a swig of the intense cold flavour.

Bakery

He saunters over to the expansive countertops, and experiences the smells again, along with the enticing displays of the fresh baking. Cookies, buns and breads of all kinds, they are so fresh they almost cause him to faint with amazement.

After a lineup that seems incredibly long, moderating the delectable but intense heat with frequent gulps from his drink, he makes his requested order – 2 loaves of Irish bread and 12 cinnamon buns. “Oh, and the pop, yes sir. And sir, I want…. His gaze wanders …. Ahhh…. What are those ones again? Yes , an imperial cookie , yes just one. Please! And thanks!” He remembers his manners belatedly, but he does remember.

He pays with the money he’s been given, and pockets the change to bring to Grandad.

The baking is superb, and it’s enjoyed immensely by the entire extended family, but it won’t keep for more than a day, or maybe two. Occasionally the bakery will sell of a few remaining loaves at a discount, later in the day, but they generally sell out the breads and buns, and even the cookies. The bakery will sometimes close in the afternoons when the summer heat is greatest, and its customers are at the beach, or relaxing in their favourite shady spot. Some even indulge in their pastimes of choice, perhaps golf or tennis, even in the heat.

But mornings at the bakery are a unique experience – a slice of heavenly bliss, amongst the poison ivy details of life.

Part one of two!

A Short Conversation, yet so much shared…by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

Sk: I am so exhausted, so drained; there is so much to do and I feel like I am just holding on.

Ph: You can’t do it all yourself…you need to lean on those you trust, really trust. I’ve been there and my true friends always came through for me…the hangers on just disappeared.

SK; My son, my job, my house, my car, my ex, lawyers…it’s all so very much; my life feels like a whirlwind right now. I can’t go back to him, I can never go back to him and now he’s playing head games with my son. Exhausted, just exhausted. I’m so glad you are listening, that helps so much.

Ph: That is a lot…I’m so glad you have a brother who cares about you so much, a mother who is there to help; there were times when I kept it all in and wouldn’t reach out for help…and I learned that only made things worse. Once I learned to share, it made things so much easier.

Sk: I’ve got to go to my son’s school tonight, pick up some groceries, get lunches ready for tomorrow…and at times I feel like I don’t know how I’m going to do it all. I made so many mistakes, I just wish I could undo them. I know nobody is perfect, but I would do things so differently. You know, I think if my dad was still here, I know everything would be so different. I don’t know what I’m going to do…

Ph: You’re doing it, you’re talking, you’re getting the gunk out of your system. This is your journey now; will it be easy?…there are no guarantees in this thing we call life SK. You have to pause, think things through and trust your gut instinct. I have to tell you, some of the messes I got into, if I had listened to that little voice, I too know that things would have been so much different. But, I thought I knew better…and guess what, I didn’t and it led to a lot of sleepless nights like you’re going through now. Think about the mistakes you made and how you’d do them differently today.

SK: Thank you so much Ph, thank you so much. Your words, your encouragement , they’ve all been a blessing.

Ph: It’s called paying it forward; there have been so many people who have helped me through difficult times…how could I not do the same for you? Now something you have to start doing is giving yourself permission to start enjoying life again…it’ll be a nice, healthy change from all that stuff racing around in your head.

SK: Thank you so much Ph…thank you. Did you ever read the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom? What a book, so many life lessons, one of my favourite books.

Ph: I love that book; I’ve shared it with so many of my students and every single one of them has always thanked me for opening their eyes to life’s lesson. That’s your challenge SK, live in this moment, enjoy those around you and be grateful for all that life has given you. It’s all happened for a reason…just like that little recognition of your name on Facebook. It happened for a reason…

Morrie

Serendipity…the choices we make today and their future consequences…by Chuck Duboff

one small choice

© Chuck Duboff

We come into this world, alone; we leave this world, alone. All that transpires between these two benchmarks reflects on decisions we make throughout the journey.

A dear friend of mine recently shared the difficult times she has been facing. A husband beating her, a visit with the police, help from Osborne House, a troubled eight year old and trying to rebuild her life…all on her own. This is her journey, one which evolved based on decisions which she made. She lives with the consequences now, upset with herself for what has transpired. Is this her fate or can the next part of her journey unfold in a manner which would bring happiness to her life? This is her fork in the road…will she have learned from the errors of her ways or will she repeat the same mistakes and bear the same consequences? As she leaves this world in sixty or seventy years, will she look back and be proud of the new path she chose, or will she regret having repeated the same mistakes.

Human beings must make decisions every moment of every day. “Hmmm, coffee or green tea?” “Should I invest in that business or not?” “Should I cross the street now or wait for the green light?” Whether small or large decisions, they greatly impact the course our lives follow.

finding seren

Serendipity is a beautiful word, depicting the oh so powerful nature of every decision we make. The food we eat may cause us to be healthy or sick, the car we drive may be safe, but pollute the atmosphere, the job we choose may be a financial windfall, but lacking in substance…our decisions dictate the extent to which we travel a pleasant journey or experience many minefields.

My friend made choices many years ago which are impacting her life today. She chose a man who was physically beating her, verbally abusing her, terrifying her son…a man she chose ten years ago, believing it would lead to a good life. Sadly, she missed warning signs and this has lead her to this difficult point in life.

She has a choice now, just as we all do when faced with major decisions. She can learn from her mistakes, grow as a person and head down a new road of happiness.

We can all learn to pay more attention and choose a healthier way of living…so that when our time comes, we can be proud that we chose a better path and exited this world with a smile on our faces.

*** dedicated to a special friend; thank you for your inspiration. You are a courageous woman and I know you have learned from your mistakes. May sunshine always surround you.***

Will the scars ever heal?…Warning strong language & content… by Chuck Duboff

©Chuck Duboff

key_art_what_would_you_do

I lay in the sun drenched park, trees in full bloom and families having picnics. It was such an uplifting contrast to the dark, cold winter days we endure, seemingly for months on end.

I had decided not to listen to my music, but rather, just enjoy watching children playing, teens throwing their Frisbees and lovers walking hand in hand. I couldn’t have asked more for a peaceful afternoon in the park.

Two twenty something guys sat themselves down on the grass, just a few feet away from where I was. They had trouble written all over them; scruffy beards, torn jeans, skull and cross bone t-shirts and voices which sought attention. I could feel the tension in my body, bracing myself for whatever they had in mind.

The conversation which ensued made me sick to my stomach, yet I knew they were the kind of guys with whom rationale discussion did not exist.

“Those fuckin Indians…always complainin,always wanting more.”
“What the fuck are we gonna do with them; we kill their squaws and throw them in the rivers, so we don’t have more of those Indians.”
“They run to the fuckin government demanding more; this treaty, that treaty…that’s two hundred years ago…who gives a rat’s ass about that. Why the fuck should they get everything for free? I don’t work my ass off and pay taxes so that those fuckin Indians can sit at home, get cheques from the government, get drunk and get more of their women pregnant.”

They were loud, they were really loud and I could see families quickly leaving. My whole body was tense and I didn’t know what to do. I had always believed in the saying: Evil will triumph when goodness remains silent. I didn’t know what to do; I hadn’t made eye contact and was just trying to keep to myself.

“Those god damn tree huggers feel sorry for them, for sitting on their asses and doing nothing. Those residential schools, what a load of crap. Everybody has it tough at school, but they think theirs was worse than everyone elses. Now they want money, new deals with the government…what the Fuck man!!”
“I know some of the guys who have been taking care of those squaws…they give them a good fucking, kill them and then throw them in the rivers. That’s all they’re good for…”

I was shaking, truly afraid for my safety. Suddenly two RCMP officers appeared; they came towards those two enlightened racists. “We have received a lot of complaints and calls about the disturbance you are making here. This is a park for people to enjoy and have fun. You guys are scaring a lot of people.” “So, now we can’t talk in this country, the fuckin government listens to those half breeds and we try and just sit in the park and we got the RCMP all over us.” “Sir, could I ask you to stand up please…”

With that…they were taken away. But all that was taken away was their physical presence, however, their words lingered on in the minds of all that had heard them. They probably got off with a warning and will continue to live their lives, bringing shame to this great land of ours. The reality is that ugly racism towards Aboriginal people is rampant; sadly we see a government in Ottawa which lacks any willingness to work towards a better society, a more just land for all Canadians.

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Intense rain and hot sun.

This was one of my favourite pieces of writing…if you have a moment, take some time and read this…your thoughts would be appreciated.

Chuck's Eclectic Blog.

©Chuck Duboff

The sun shone brightly, rays bouncing off the blue water, beautiful heat filling the air.  The long walk, along the sparkling, sand filled beach, had filled the soul.  While the sound of Jimmy Buffet travelled through the white I-Pod buds, much contemplation under the hot summer sun, filled his mind.

Adorned in the expected Yankees hat, strategically placed backwards, board shorts and a cut off red shirt, he had started the walk hours ago.  There was so much that had occurred during the past few months, that the thought of a cathartic walk had a great deal of appeal.  The initial road was filled with sharp edged rocks, which nearly penetrated the black flip flops; meandering in and out of the overhanging, tall trees, navigating steep, moss filled hills, his heart pounded quickly.

What to make of the challenges life had recently presented; the abrupt ending to a…

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