Thursday, May 6, 2021

DEAR PAT AND STEVE

 "Good morning, Bear.  How's it going?" asked Bum.

"I wish you wouldn't use that 'How's it going?' comment from Andy Sipowicz of that old NYPD TV show.  It's so cliche."

"I like cliches, so there," said Bum.

"I'm just saying." said Bear.  "That's a line from another old TV show, the name which I cannot remember."

"That's enough of that TV speak.  Let's get back to my Dear Pat and Steve story." said Bum.

"Patsy's dead, right?"

"Yes," said Bum.

"Steve isn't, obviously," said Bear 

"What can I say, Bear, when your time is up, you go."

"No, Bum. when your time is up, I go." 

"I'll say it again, what can I say, Bear?  We are one, and don't ask me again how I'm feeling."

"My master's wife mentioned today that Prince Philip had died.  That's sad, eh?"

"Yes, but he was 99.  The Queen will miss him.  He was her friend, her lover, her confidant, and so much fun."

"Fun is hard to come by these days," said Bear.  "Best to get on with your Dear Pat and Steve post."

"OK, Bear.  I started to write to Steve after Patsy died.  In one of my letters to him I mentioned that it was too bad I didn't have copies of the letters I sent to them.  Soon after, Steve sent me the one thing he had left of Patsy's stuff, a note from me dated August 31, 2007, which started Dear Pat and Steve, and here follows the words I wrote way back then.  Enjoy... I hope."

Dear Pat and Steve,

A whole month has gone by since I retired from ICBC.  I thought I'd share the experience with you in case you want to try it Patsy.

The first couple of weeks, I did nothing, like I do when I'm on vacation.  Then, creativity struck and I made a big Thank You card to send to my friends at ICBC.  That took a couple of hours & then a couple of weeks to find the words to thank them for their good wishes and gifts.  All done now.

Next, I followed Susan's example and started Power Walks in the morning.  I'm up to 4 walks per week.  I love it.  30 minute Power Walks I can handle.  Not much power yet and sometimes the 30 minutes is a stretch.  I've tried walking 2 different directions and they are both uphill because we are at the foot of Seymour Mountain.  I've pretty much settled this past week on the walk to the left up to Dollarton highway which leads to the Cove Village if you turn right on Dollarton.  I walk as far as the blue church, a small Anglican church painted blue.  Outside near the front door sits a small iron table and 2 chairs.  Sometimes I sit at the table for 2 and write a few lines like these.  It adds to my 30 minute walk and makes me think I'm improving.  I may attend the church someday to see its inside. 

I've made painting the front and back stairs a project.  I've almost finished the back stairs and it was hell.  Cleaning, sweeping, cleaning with TSP, cleaning with clean water, more sweeping, sanding, more sweeping and then finally the painting.  They look great.  The front is bigger and I'm halfway through the sanding.  I'll hold off on the painting until Chella and her new boyfriend come for dinner.  They've been threatening to come for a couple of weeks but this Wednesday has been confirmed.  He cooks so that adds to the stress.  I'll do my lasagna which is pretty safe and Frances will do her Caesar Salad which is excellent and hardly ever done.  I have an old blueberry cake someone made for me at work so that should be it for the dessert.  The cake's old now, a retirement gift, but I froze it so it should be fine.  Not my fault, if it's no good.  If they like it, I'll take the credit. 

A friend from work invited me for lunch the end of August  It was one of the retirement lunches I managed to avoid while still working.  My choice of restaurant she said so I chose the expensive Gusto near ICBC.  It was great.  Good food and a lot of good talk.  She invited a mutual friend and it was great fun.  Someone else from work owes me a lunch so perhaps I can Gusto again next month.

Frances and I have been bereft during the PNE because we don't go to the races during that 3 week period.  It's over now and we'll be back at the Track on September 8th.  Yahoo!!

My friends at ICBC gave me $100.00 to bet at the Track.  They know what I like for a goodbye gift.  I was down to about $5.00 when I won almost $300.00.  Too bad the PNE started when my luck had changed.  Anyway, we can't wait to get back to the races.

After the stairs are finished, my next project is the old furniture in the garage.  There are 2 beds, a dresser, a vanity and a stool.  They need to be refinished.  I think we're talking the end of 2007 for those babies.

Or, I could get my collapsible bike pumped up and ready to ride.  I need a helmet because it's the law.  I was walking uphill from Lower Lonsdale near by favourite bakery one day.  I'd parked the car a few blocks up like I did when I was working because it's free.  To rest my weary legs, I turned into a Sports Shop to check out bike helmets.  There was an old guy slumped over the cash register.  No customers in sight.  "I'm looking for a bike helmet" I said in my usual voice which I've been told borders on loud.  "What?" he yelled.  "A bike helmet" I said again, increasing the volume a bit.  "I need a large one because I have a big head" I said.  "What?" he said.  "I have a big head" I repeated in a louder voice.  "For you?" he said.  "Yes" I said.  "I have one" he said, "but it's a medium".  "May I try it on?" I asked.  He crippled to his feet and staggered down an aisle with me behind him.  I tried it on and it perched on my head in a ridiculous fashion.  "Will you be getting more helmets?" I asked.  "No, I don't sell bicycle helmets" he said, "but this one is only $20.00."  I said "No" and left the shop.  I may break the law and ride without a helmet after that fiasco.  I was past his shop the other day and again he was slumped over the cash register.  He was either asleep or dead but I walked on.  

I'm off to the chiropractor and will include my Power Walk walking to and from the office.  I finally remembered to buy stamps so I'll finish this and get it posted today.

Our weather is nice this week at low 20's but a bit cool in the morning which is good for my walks.  

I hope you both are well and kicking back and enjoying yourselves.  Take care and write Frances and I a letter.  It's the highlight of the day when we get mail.  A friend of mine is going to Australia for 6 months soon to help relatives with their bad children.   Perhaps I can talk her into writing to me.  She's a saint, offering to help her sister-in-law with 3 young children.  The one boy has some behavioral problems and that's why they need help  I couldn't do it.  The most stressful thing I ever want to do now is paint some stairs or make a miniature doll, or bear proof the garbage.

Anyway, be happy you guys and see you when we see you.

Love  Jackie

"That's a lot of information in that wee letter, Bum." said Bear.  "I particularly like the old geezer at the Sports Shop who spends his working days slumped over his cash register."

"You could say he's an unforgettable character," agreed Bum.

"Unforgettable characters are needed in any good book," said Bear.

"You are correct as usual my dear Bear.  I met a character today but I don't want that young man in my book or indeed in any book.  He is best forgotten and I hope he gets some help."

"What did he do or say, Bum?" asked Bear, looking puzzled.

"I was on my way to the dentist for my 11:30 appointment in that big pink building downtown on Dunsmuir Street.  Coming towards me, in an erratic manner, was the young man I mentioned.  He stopped suddenly, yelled Shit Fuck into my face, and then staggered on, again moving erratically."

"Were you frightened Bum?" asked Bear.

"No, for some reason I was not.  Ill people don't frighten me, I guess."

"You know, Bum, this is not a very good ending for this post about Pat and Steve.  The old guy slumped over his cash register must be dead by now, and that young erratic fellow cursing into your face, is very disturbing."

"I did get some good news yesterday, Bear.  Paul emailed me and said that he's been kind of on vacation for sometime now but is ready to get back to our book.  Good news, eh?  I'll let you have the last word."

"Finally" said Bear.


  

  








 












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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

HELLO DOLLY

 "Let's walk and talk today, Bum.  I've missed that."

"Me too, Bear.  I don't walk much anymore, just around the car in the carport a number of times in the morning when I take out the garbage," admitted Bum.

"That sounds pretty dull Bum.  What's the problem?  Is it your back?" asked Bear.

"Indirectly," said Bum.

"What does that mean?  Is it your back or not?"  Bear sounded exasperated.

"You know I have that sciatic nerve problem in my back?"

"Yes," said Bear.

"Well, it affected my legs."

"In what way did it affect your legs?" asked Bear.

"As Mom said about her own lack of walking, her legs just didn't work.  Mine are the same."

"Did you see your doctor?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"Walk more."

"Let's go then.  We can walk down to Gordon's, just like we did so many times when he was your boyfriend."

"Gordon's gone and so is his garden, Bear.  His daughter tore the little gray flat-roofed house down, changed his garden to a pristine and boring lawn, and pretty well destroyed Gordon's legacy.  The only thing left standing is his beautiful willow tree near the street.  I tied the biggest red Christmas bow on one of its branches just before Christmas, in his memory."

"It's a good thing no one can tear down our memories, isn't it Bum?"

"Indeed." 

Bear and Bum walked slowly up the driveway to the road where they stopped to watch for traffic coming up the blind hill to the left.

Bear spoke first.

"What happened to that red bicycle you bought at the Church Thrift for 5 bucks?  I thought you were going to take up cycling because of your difficulty walking."

"What can I say?  It didn't work out so I got rid of it," said Bum and paused before saying, "I parked it up here near the street with a big FREE sign on it.  It was gone within a day."

"What was the problem, Bum?  Don't you know how to ride a bike?"

"Oh, I know how to ride a bike, Bear.  It was getting off the bike that brought me down, and I mean that literally."

"Do you mean you couldn't dismount?" said Bear in a disbelieving tone.

"Correct.  I could not swing my leg over that rod thing which goes from the back of the bike up to beneath the handlebars."

"Do you mean the frame?"

"Yes, and I could not swing my leg over it so my only option was to head to that tree outside and lean into it.  Of course, I and the bike fell over in a heap.  That's when I decided that cycling was not for me."

"Good grief, Bum.  You could've hurt yourself.  Did you?"

"No."

"That's too bad, Bum, that your foray into biking didn't work out.  It looked like a very nice bike."

"It was nice looking alright and I checked it out online to see what was said about it.  There was a bike that looked very much like it and the same make and they wanted $1,000 for it."

"Why didn't you try to sell it, Bum.  That would've been a nice return on your five bucks."

"I couldn't be bothered, Bear.  I would've had to go out, crouch down and try to find the serial number.  As I said, I couldn't be bothered.  I hope it is that good bike and that the person who picked it up Free will have some good rides on it."

"You're a good person, Bum; a bit wacky but good.  Now, how about your Big doll?  You titled this blog Hello Dolly so I kind of reckoned it would be about that."

"I think I already told you that the Big doll is almost finished, except for the head which is bit of a problem."

"Why's that?" asked Bear.

"I haven't figured out how to keep the head upright.  It wants to fall to the side.  I tried stuffing it more loosely but that didn't work.  It needs something stiff for its neck, I guess, but so far I cannot come up with anything that works."

"That's a problem OK Bum.  Perhaps one of those medical collars people use when they hurt their neck and need support would do the trick.  What do you say to that?"

"I say I don't want my Big doll to look like it has a sore neck because I don't have one." said Bum.  "It's a replica for God's sake."

"What about your bad back.  Is that going to be part of your Big doll?"

"The doll won't be standing, Bear, so who will know?"

"True," said Bear.  "Your disability is hidden, not like a crippled person with a replica doll, or a fat person."

"Get real, Bear.  A crippled person or a fat person will not want a replica doll."

"You don't know that. Bum.  You are neither crippled, or not much, nor fat.  Remember the ugly cabbage patch dolls?  No one guessed how popular they would be."

"I guess you're right, you usually are, as you always tell me," muttered Bum.

Bear ignored that slightly snappish reply and said "It must look funny in your room with your desk sporting the doll's head you're working on, as well as the two ears, a nose, and the ruby red lips."

"No," said Bum.

"What do you mean, No?" asked Bear.

"My BIG doll's head is not on my desk.  It is attached to the doll."

"How can that be, Bum?  You said you were having trouble attaching the head to the doll because it would not stand upright."

"To understand the head problem, you need to know how the doll was constructed, Bear."

"Let's have it then, Bum.  I already know you're using a big jumbo pillow from Superstore for the body."

"I only wear socks now," said Bum, for no apparent reason.

"What's that got to do with anything, Bum?" asked Bear. 

"Before socks, I wore those thick black tights under pants and skirts.  I found a bag of them in my room when I was into my downsizing mode.  Good for the Thrift, I thought, but then inspiration hit.  I used those tights for the legs and arms for my Big doll.  I stuffed them and attached them top and bottom to the big pillow." 

"That was actually pretty clever, Bum, but..."

"There's no but about it, Bear."

"As we both know, your arms are on the short side and would exceed the length of those black tights."

"I hate to say you're wrong, Bear, but you are."

"Like your mother, I am never wrong, or at least don't admit it," muttered Bear.

"Never mind all that.  I acknowledge my arms are on the short side, and I prefer it not be mentioned all the time, but they do hang down as far as my crotch."

"I don't like that word crotch, Bum.  It seems very low-class in my opinion."

"Would you prefer private parts?"

"No."

"I suppose I could just give you the length of my arms in inches but that negates what I am trying to say about using those dark tights for my arms.  I know," said Bum, after a slight pause, "I'll say my arms reach the top of my legs, i.e. just before my crotch, or groin, if you prefer."

"Groin is not much better than crotch, in my humble opinion, Bum."

"OK then, Bear.  Let's go with the more delicate statement that my arms reach the top of my legs.  I stuffed one leg of the black tights into the other leg, stuffed it with a number of scarves I purchased at the Thrift, and then attached the leg, which was all that was left, to the top of the pillow at shoulder level.  Voila, a pretty good looking arm.  I did the same with another pair of tights for the second arm.  I was armed and ready for the legs."

"It's pretty obvious how you do the legs, Bum," said Bear.

"That is true, my friend Bear, but it is the idea that was not so obvious," retorted Bum.

"Ideas are never obvious, Bum.  That's what makes them so special.  So presumably you stuffed those black tights to make them into legs.  What did you use?" asked Bear.

"I used a number of balls of wool I got at the Thrift for the feet.  That worked quite well.  Then, I used a lot of scarves, again which I got from the Thrift, and they filled up the legs nicely."

"The Thrift must wonder why you need so many scarves, Bum.  Did they ask?" asked Bear.

"No," said Bum.  "The Thrift asks no questions.  For instance, they didn't question a man's purchase of a giant banana-shaped thing, but I did, at least in my thoughts."

"You, dear Bum, always look for the bad in people, no doubt you're thinking this is a sexual thing.  There could be a pretty mundane reason why that man purchased a large banana-shaped item."  

"And what would that be?" asked Bum.

"There could be a number of uses," said Bear, prevaricating if I know him.

"Name one," said Bum, wanting to put him on the spot for a change.

Bear paused in reflection and then said "backscratcher".

"I bow to your quick and inventive thinking, Bear," said Bum with a grin.

"Noted," said Bear with a bit of a smirk.  "Let's get back to your Big doll.  You said you were having trouble with the head."

"To understand the head problem, Bear, you need to know how I used a skin-colored hoody pulled over the top half of the pillow, pulled the arms out, and there you go, the hood was going to be my head."

"Is the hood as big as your head, Bum?"

"Yes, I tried it on in the store and the hood almost enclosed my head."

"Is almost enough, Bum?"

"It'll do, Bear.  I have two curly brown wigs and that will make up the difference."

"That's a lot of hair, Bum, even for you." said Bear.

"A funny thing happened to me about the wigs, Bear.  I tried one on for my morning walk and when I passed another walker she said 'I wish I could get my hair to curl like that'.  Me too, I thought."

"Very amusing, Bum.  Please continue with the head problem."

"OK, I've got the hoody on the doll and then I twist the head around and around with the intention of securing it with some of the material I cut off the hoody's arms, so it will look sort of like a flesh colored neck.  But, when I stuffed the hood it wouldn't stay upright.  Therein is my problem."

"So what now, Bum?" asked Bear.

"I tried stuffing the neck and that helped a bit.  My next plan is to use a rather expensive black turtle neck sweater I purchased at a real store.  The neck was so tight I could hardly get it over my head.  Rather than go to the inconvenience of returning it to The Bay, I decided to let my Big doll wear it."

"Presumably you did not try it on in the store, Bum.  Why did you buy such a small size?"

"It was extra large, if you must know, Bear," said Bum.

"Extra large what?" asked Bear in that disparaging tone he uses too often.

"I'm just saying, Bear.  I will try to find something suitable to place around the neck, something soft would be good, and then I'll add the tight necked black turtle shirt and hope for the best."

"If that doesn't work, what will you do, Bum?" asked Bear.

"I suppose some kind of stick or pole from the body up to the head is a possibility, although I am trying to avoid that if I can," said Bum.

"Where do you keep your Big doll while you're working on it, Bum?  It must be pretty unwieldy in your small room."

"It lies at the bottom of my bed, Bear, with the head hanging towards me where I sit at my desk."

"There's a name for a person who sleeps with a big life-size doll like yours, Bum."

"Dollmaker?" asked Bum.







 








 




  












 




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Thursday, January 28, 2021

FINAL THOUGHTS

 "Good morning, Bum.  I don't like the title.  It sounds like we are croaking--- and soon."

"No one knows how long they have on this earthly plane.  Your last minute could be today, or tomorrow, or next week, or years in the future.  The only thing I know for sure is that when I go, you go, amigo."

"Enough with the rhyming, Bum.  I suppose I will be subjected to that stuff, page by page of that book you're reading because Paul has a book for everything."

"Paul reminds me of  that old TV show back in the day where the character, a detective as I recall,  always said book 'em Dano."

"How much of that book have you read Bum?"

"About two pages so far Bear."

"That's not enough to bore me with, and that's a good thing."

"It may bore you, dear Bear, but after I read a bit on page 2 of that book about letting your thoughts run free, I drafted another poem, one for Paul because it's his birthday."

"That's great, Bum.  My apologies for knocking the book.  If it can inspire you, it can't be all bad.  Will you read Paul's poem to me?" 

"Sure, here it is."



Here's to you Paul

You seem to have it all.

You were lucky to win

A wife called Kim.

She's the cutest little trick

And you were smart to pick

Her for your wife.

You have a good life.


Writing is something that makes you happy

Your essays, your stories, your books are not yappy

They're clear and concise

And never never say things twice.


So here's to you Paul

You have it all.



"I like it Bum.  He's a lucky guy.  What did he think of it?"

"I haven't heard from Paul about either my birthday wishes or my poem."

"As we know, he's slow," said Bear, and then added, "Now I'm starting to rhyme."

"We'd best get on with Paul's Final Thoughts in his analysis of our story.   I'll be glad when that's over so I can file it in my complete file."

"What's your complete file, Bum?"

"I have a red binder to store my completed chapters, i.e. the ones that have been edited.  So, I thought I'd file Paul's Analysis Report in that binder when it's complete."

"Sounds sensible," said Bear.  "What were his Final Thoughts?"

"He said, and I quote....

You talk about your sadness at losing contact with your characters Bear and Gordon, but you know, I don't think you necessarily have to lose contact with them.  This is not an idea that necessarily has to come to an end.

One thought is that you could continue on with the Janey--Bear relationship in, say, a weekly blog.  That's the kind of thing that could attract a following.

Another thought is that the story could continue on in further books.  You would need to find new things for the stories to be about, but if you could do that, then you would be able to go on.  One idea might be to have Bear introduce a puppy, and then, if Bear kicks the bucket, you could continue on with the new puppy character.

You may not want to do any of these things, but they are possibilities if you did want to carry on with these characters."

"We've got our blog, Bum, so that part's OK.  I enjoy it very much. as you do.  However, all that crap about a puppy and yours truly kicking the bucket, I do not like."

"I knew you wouldn't.  I was almost afraid to read it to you."

"I'm glad we've finished analyzing Paul's Analysis and we can move on to more interesting subjects, Bum."

"I'm glad too, Bear, and it has been fun.  Before we leave it, I would like to tell you that you will always be with me in my heart and in my spirit.  You are my very best friend."

"Thank you Bum.  Ditto."

"The next time we meet Bear, I will tell you all about my BIG doll.  So far, I have finished two hands, not attached yet, that are lying at the end of my bed.  On my desk, I have the fixings for a couple of ears, ruby red lips, and a nose.  I told my sister the other day that anyone looking at this stuff in my room might think I'm a bit of a flake."

"What did she say to that, Bum?"

" She said, what do you mean a bit?"

 

 



 

  










  











 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

2021 HERE I COME

"I am going to make it through this year if it kills me," started Bum.

 "That's a pretty depressing start to the new year Bum," said Bear and included a frown to show his displeasure.  "Where do you come up with this stuff?"

"It's a song I heard on the radio about a week ago.  I liked it."

"Why?" asked Bear. 

"It appealed to me after that fucking 2020 and the fucking pandemic."

"You know I don't like cursing, so I won't say it again.  So, did the song have any redeeming qualities?"

"Not really," said Bum.  "One line was, I played video games in a drunken haze, and some other bits about drinking scotch with my girlfriend Cathy."

"How about the tune, was that any better?" asked Bear. 

"I can't remember the tune," said Bum.

 "Sheesh," said Bear, "who wrote that crap?"

"I don't know who wrote it Bear.  It was sung by an American group called The Mountain Goats."

"Let's move on Bum.  We must have more interesting things to talk about.  What have you been doing with yourself these days?"

"First tell me what you've been doing Bear.  It may inspire me."

"My master is stuck in the States and his wife is pretty grim because she's in lockdown in the house, alone, and no one to talk to but me.  She's not a dog person so you know how that's going.  When she opens the door to let me out, because she has to, she says get lost so you get the picture."

"Where are the children?  They always liked you."

"They grew up, moved out, and now live elsewhere.  It annoys her that they cannot visit because of the pandemic and it annoys her even more that I've all she's got.  The children think she's lucky to have my company but, although she doesn't tell them that, she doesn't feel lucky at all."

"That sounds pretty grim, Bear.  I'm glad we can meet occasionally."

 "Yes, that saves me, Bum, from utter despair.  Dogs get lonely too, you know."

"I know, Bear.  All living creatures can get lonely.  People sometimes forget that."

"Back to you Bum.  What have you been doing?"

"I started making a doll, almost a year ago." said Bum.

"What's taking so long?  Those miniature caricature dolls you make should be a breeze for you.  You made enough of them for people, five of them from my recollection."  Bear looked puzzled.

"I'm making a big doll this time and that's why it's taking longer."

"How big?" asked Bear.

"So big it will be able to wear my clothes." said Bum with a smirk.

"That's big, Bum." said Bear.  "You are such an extremist, aren't you?"

"I prefer to think of myself as a fun person."

"I bet you do," said Bear in that disapproving tone he uses too often.

"Never mind that Bear.  The big doll is coming along nicely.  It's pretty much done except for the head." 

"Why's that?  I would think getting the big body, arms and legs, would be the hardest parts.  Presumably, you needed a lot of stuffing for that big doll, particularly the body.  You have a somewhat long body as you and I well know."

"I got all the stuffing I needed from the Church Thrift, and cheap."

"That's a lot of stuffing, Bum.  What did you stuff for the body, a coat?"

"Very funny Bear. If you must know, and I know you do, I used a jumbo pillow which I purchased from Superstore for five bucks.   I had noticed one night when I was getting into bed that my pillow was the same size as my body.  Voila, an idea was formed."

"Very clever, Bum.   If I know you, and I do, I bet that five bucks was the biggest price you paid for all the doll parts."

"So true, Bear, so true," admitted Bum.

"What was the cheapest thing you found at the Thrift?"

"That would be 25 cents for a box of red Christmas bows.  They were edged with gold, with gold ties hanging down that could be squeezed around things like branches."

"That's pretty cheap alright, Bum.  Did you use them to decorate your Christmas tree?"

"We don't have a tree inside.  No one is coming so what would be the point.  Big F and I don't care."

"So why did you buy a box of red Christmas bows?"

"I planned to use one of the big bows for lips for my big doll.  I needed ruby red lips and thought the Christmas bow would do the trick, and it did."

"I guess you had to return the rest of the bows to the Church so someone else could use them for Christmas." said Bear.

"By now it was too close to Christmas so I was stuck with them."

"You can keep the box of bows for next Christmas, if you live that long."

"Always the optimist, Bear, always the optimist."

"I prefer to think of myself as practical Bum." 

"Practical is all very well.  I prefer to be creative so I decided to decorate the neighbourhood.  On my morning walks for the three days before Christmas, I attached those bows to bushes and trees nearby and they looked very nice and jaunty, if I do say so myself."

"I'm impressed Bum," said Bear.  "What a nice surprise for walkers at Christmas."

"I decided to try my hand at poetry, something I never was interested in, or good at I thought.  I mentioned it to Paul and of course he sent me a book called The Complete Rhyming Dictionary by Clement Wood.  It is the essential handbook for songwriters, poets, students, teachers, speechmakers, and members of the performing arts. "

"Don't you have enough to do, Bum, without adding poetry to the equation?  You've got that big doll you're working on, our book which is awaiting editing, and that second book you started which I believe you called Witless because that's what you are now."

"Never mind all that, Bear.  Do you want to hear my first poem or not?"

"Lay it on me."


MY CHRISTMAS POEM (that's what I called it)


A red Christmas bow on a bush is a beautiful sight

It smiles each morning but it's gone at night,

My Christmas is lonely

Just Fran and me only.

I wish I had a quiver to ride the arrow of change that's coming.


2021 is near, 

I think I'll have a beer.

Let's toast a new beginning,

The putrid pandemic cannot be winning.

I wish I had a quiver.



"OK, Bear, what do you think for my first effort?"

"It's pretty good, Bum, but I smell a touch of plagiarism here."

"Whatever do you mean, Bear?"

"You probably heard that famous song, I wish I was a river. on the radio.  I'm not saying you lifted it on purpose, but..."

"Who cares.  No one is going to read my poem.  They can't even find my blog."

"You don't know that.  What if your poem goes viral?"

"Fat chance."

"If it does, that I wish I was a river singer may disagree and come after you. "What do you say to that?"

"I say, sue me.  God knows, I have nothing else to do." 













 





 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

  

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 


Thursday, January 7, 2021

IN MEMORY OF BILL STOCKMANN, by Frances Vitols

On December 6, 2020 I lost a friend of forty plus years to a fatal heart attack after a serious urgent surgery for an aortic aneurysm.  He is gone from the earth plane but he will never be gone from my heart or my mind.

Bill would be the last person on earth to admit to or even acknowledge the fact that he was a completely unique and special person.  In a way, he was always a little under cover.  Few people really knew him well and I am privileged to feel that he allowed me to see those qualities that made him special.

He was brave and adventurous--travelled the world to far-flung places, often alone, and enjoyed the history, the people, the weather, all of it.  And he never flaunted these amazing experiences, just as he down-played his many talents.  When he walked out of a corporate job with security written all over it to attend art school in Alberta, he took a step that many in their lifetimes would fear to do.  While there, he lived in very simple, cheap accommodations, found jobs to support his basic needs while he laid the groundwork for a life-long dream, art in all its forms.

When you see the world through the eyes of an artist, the world takes on a very different form.  Whether he plied his trade with graphic art, large oil landscapes or through the lens of a camera, he captured his real love of the earth, nature, and all living creatures on land, in the air and beneath the sea.

No description of Bill would be complete without inserting something about his completely zany, off the wall actions.  On the days when Bill, my sister, Jackie, and I met in the Library Bar of the Hyatt Hotel, he announced on arrival one evening after work that he had been walking through Holt Renfrew  and saw the most magnificent outdoor jacket he had ever seen at a price that was almost too much to even mention.  The only flaw was that this jacket could not be washed or dry cleaned.  Did that deter Bill?  No, he got it. 

On another occasion when Bill and I were discussing the everyday tasks of life, the subject of laundry came up and in particular, fitted sheets.  I bemoaned the difficulty of folding them and Bill's response was, "too damn complicated--I just threw all of mine out."

One of a kind for sure, and I will miss him forever, more than words can say.

Needless to say, I miss him very much even though, for the past years, we have mostly been in touch by mail.  However, as a writer that is a medium I have taken great pleasure in and I have all his letters on e-mail and snail mail over many years.  You, Rita, were his favourite person in the world and I like to think his soul is nearby and comforted by the fact that the people closest to him will love and miss him forever.


  

 

 

 

 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

RECOMMENDATIONS

"Good morning, Bear .  How's it going?" asked Bum.

"It hasn't been going, Bum, as you well know," said Bear and he looked very annoyed.

"Whatever do you mean, Bear?"

"Where have you been?" asked Bear and he still looks annoyed.

"I am so sorry, Bear, to have left you by yourself for such a long time," said Bum.

"Sorry doesn't cut it Bum.  If you wanted to dump me, why didn't you just come out with it?"

"I don't dump my friends Bear.  I had my reasons for not being in touch."

"Let's hear them" said Bear.

"The last time we spoke was the end of June.  It was then I realized that the fucking pandemic was not gearing down but rather up."

"So?" questioned Bear.

"I contracted the fucking pandemic fatigue and depression.  At first, I didn't realize what my fucking problem was.  I was always fucking tired and only had the fucking strength to watch fucking TV, even during the fucking day."

 "Hold it right there Bum.  Do you realize that you have used that fucking word six times in that last rant?" said Bear in a very disapproving tone.

"I apologize Bear.  I know just how much you disapprove of needless cursing.  But, and I know you don't like sentences that start with but, I find myself cursing a lot since I got older and the fucking pandemic didn't help.  So there!"

 "That's not much of a fucking apology Bum, if you don't mind my saying so." 

"My apologies again, dear Bear.  Let's change the subject before we deteriorate any further."

"What do you mean, we?" muttered Bear.

"That's the Royal we Bear," said Bum.

 "We are not Royal, Bum  You are certainly not the Queen and I'm no bloody Prince Phillip." responded Bear.  

"It's only a common phrase, Bear.  It's nothing to get uptight about," said Bum, looking exasperated.

"Common is right, Bum, and not one I like.  Let's go over Recommendations from Paul's Analysis Report before we forget what we're meeting for."

"OK, Paul said taking the "middle path" would involve some effort to whip the story into shape, but the result will be a more complete and, hopefully, more salable book.  On the other hand, you may not want to put that much work into it.  You may be looking just to clean it up, put a cover on it, and send it out there.  If so, that's fair enough: you're the author and the publisher.  Only you know how much effort you're willing to put into it, and you should  be realistic about that."

"Wait just a minute, Bum.  We've already covered that "middle path" stuff.  Wasn't that explained earlier under the heading Possible Strategies?"

"Wow, Bear, your memory is better than mine.  I am impressed."  Bum clapped her admiration.  

"Never mind all that crap, Bum.  Did Paul have anything else to say?"

He said he can help with getting the book polished and formatted into e-book files.  He can also probably help with arranging the cover art (there are fairly low-cost online service providers for things like this), and also help with the actual publishing process, sending the book through Amazon and Smashwords.

Bear thought a moment, digesting this information I suppose, before saying, "I prefer a real book."

"Me too," said Bum. 

"Did you let Paul know that you did not want an e-book for our book?" asked Bear.

"No."

"Why not?" asked Bear, and he looked puzzled.

"I don't know."

 "Why not?"

"I don't want to hurt his feelings, if I can avoid that.  Paul has worked hard at organizing an e-book publication and all the bits and pieces needed to make it work." said Bum. 

"He'll get over it," said Bear.

"That's a very hurtful thing to say, Bear, and totally not like you."

"He'll get over it," repeated Bear. 

"Saying it twice doesn't make it more acceptable, Bear," admonished Bum.

"There are three of us involved here Bum.  There's you who would be hurt by an e-book, there's me who would be hurt too because you know I want a real book.  And then there's Paul who you think might be hurt.  Two out of three wins, I say.  What's he got to be hurt about?  It's not his book, he's only the editor."

"OK, Bear.  I'll tell him," said Bum, giving in without much of a fight. 

"Good," said Bear.  "Where were we with this Recommendations stuff that Paul wrote?"

"He said the cover art will cost money, but maybe not much, and that I might be able to get something decent for $100 or so, maybe less."

"We've got our pictures front and back that your niece Mara drew, and very nice they are too, although my picture could've been bigger."

"I told you in an earlier blog post Bear, that my picture has to be bigger.  How can you, a dog, be bigger than I, or should that be me?"

"Who cares?  I know it's you, and OK, I get it," said Bear.  "What else did Paul say under his Recommendations?  He tends to run on a bit doesn't he?"

"I don't call analyzing all aspects of publishing a book as running on a bit," said Bum disapprovingly. 

"I'm sorry, if you're reading this post Paul.  Now Bum, what else did he say about Recommendations?"

"He said that promoting the book will also involve expense and effort, but as for how much, that's up to me  It's considered normal and essential for an author to have a website, for instance.  That will take some effort by somebody.  He said he found an interesting website called itch.io that functions as a kind of online mall for creators, through which one can sell one's works.  We could maybe set up a simple storefront there, and the site enables you to sell digital copies of your work, using an online payment facility called Stripe.  He plans to set up a storefront there himself, so he might be able to pioneer the way and then, if it seems to work well, get one set up for me too.  You probably don't have to pay anything to set up there.  They probably take a percentage of any sales." 

"This is useless information, Bum, since we are not going digital with our book, wouldn't you agree?" said Bear.

"Yes," said Bum. 

"Is that it with Paul's recommendations?"

"No,"said Bum, "there's more.  He said there are things like review services, which cost money.  By paying a certain amount, you can get a certain number of reviews for your book posted to Goodreads or to Amazon."

"That's all very good, Bum, but, sitnce Paul continues to lag on the editing of our book, a review package is the last thing we need," muttered Bear. 

"Noted, oh grumpy one.  The last thing Paul said was that the most important promotional tool is the online mailing list.  This is a list that you build up and to whom you send occasional messages.  This is a long process, and does require a website--a place where people can sign up.  This list becomes your core audience.  With all his efforts and fame, his own list now has 67 people on it, but if you are looking to sell books, you want to have a list with thousands of people on it.  It's a real uphill climb."

"Hold it right there, Bum.  How long has Paul had his website?  Many years I'm thinking and he only has 67 people?  Give me a break."

"Paul did say that all these things are daunting.  But then, they're not actually obligatory:  you don't have to do any of them.  It all depends on how badly you want to sell books.  You can send them out there and just leave them.  But with a thousand books being published each day, and most of them being promoted somehow or other, how is yours going to be noticed?  Book sales in general are hard to come by."

"This is my last word on Paul's Recommendations.  They are moot unless our book is out there published."

"Moot? What does that mean?" asked Bum, looking puzzled.

"Look it up.  I won't always be around to decipher this stuff."

"I'm glad this year is almost over, Bear.  Nothing good happened in December except it's almost over.  To top it off, my old friend Bill died December 6th, and the month deteriorated after that."

"Bill Stockmann?" asked Bear.

"Yes," said Bum.  "His heart failed him."

"I am so very sorry Bum, for you and your sister.  I know you three were good buddies."

"Frances wrote a lovely piece about Bill.  I'll read it to you tomorrow."    

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

SO LONG STRUCTURE

"I thought we finished Structure, Bum, so what's with the title?" asked Bear the next day when we met.

"I made a mistake, Bear," admitted Bum sheepishly.. 

"You?" said Bear.  "That's not like you."

"Nice of you to say so, Bear, but alas it is true.  I got out Paul's 13 page Reader's Report to find our next topic of conversation.  It is called Recommendations and is rather short, which is a plus, wouldn't you say."

"Yes, I would say, and furthermore I now can understand the title of this post.  Structure was so long, it took 3 posts and we have the relief of a short one.  Right?"

"Pretty insightful, my dear Bear, but no.  I missed a whole page of Structure which we now have to finish and then we can say so long Structure, as in bye bye Structure."

"How could you miss a whole page?" asked Bear.

"It stuck to what I thought was the last page," said Bum.

"What is the missing page about?" asked Bear.

 "Ironically, Bear, it's about you, and how germane you are to our story," answered Bum.

"I don't like that word germane, Bum.  It sounds like a disease," said Bear.

"Germane is the perfect word, my dear Bear.  It means relevant or pertinent."

"So, my dear Bum, you are showing off again.  Most people would better understand words like relevant or pertinent, so why use a high fallutin' word like germane?"

"I give, as Mom would say.  The missing Structure stuff is about you and how relevant you are to our story."

"That's better," said Bear.  "What did Paul say about me?"

"Paul said the climactic issue of the story needs to be thought through clearly and presented clearly.  Indeed the nature of the answer may determine the nature of the specific plot type that the story is.  As an example, he said that Gordon and Janey may both feel that they have obligations that require them to choose as they do:  Gordon to his sister back east, and Janey to her own sister here---or, who knows, maybe even to Bear the dog.  This might be more of a sacrifice plot, like, say Casablanca.  A story is about why people do what they do, and we need to know why they're doing what they're doing."

"I don't like to see myself as a sacrifice," said Bear.

"Who does?" responded Bum with a bit of a shrug.

"What else did Paul say about me?" asked Bear.

"He said there's the issue of how Bear plugs in to the climactic problem.  He needs to be integral to that situation, or the story will lack unity---it will be  two stories, one about a dog, and one about a romance."

"Interesting, Bum, that Paul used the word integral and not that stupid word germane that you seemed to favour," said Bear.

"Perhaps his vocabulary is not as good as mine.  Have you ever thought of that?" asked Bum.

"No," said Bear, and said no more.

"Before we finish up Structure, Bear, have you heard the latest about President Trump?" asked Bum.

"How would I hear that Bum.  My master's wife is not interested in politics, or anything like that.  She doesn't even listen to the news on the radio."

"Oh, how dull for you Bear, living with a bore like that.  Anyway, President Trent has announced that he is taking something called hydroxychloroquine, which is used for malaria of all things.  People are outraged, but not so much as when he recommended injecting yourself with a disinfectant to protect yourself against the virus."

"Like many stupid people, he seems unable to stop proving it.  Regrettably, he is the President of the United States," said Bear.

"Everyone does stupid things on occasion," said Bum, "even I, or should that be, even me?"

"You are allowed to do a stupid thing, Bum, because you are not important," said Bum.

"Thanks...I think," said Bum.

"So what was the stupid thing you did, Bum?" 

"I brushed my teeth with that spray thing I use to clean my toilet, tub, and sink.  It's called Fantastik and I always use the one with bleach."

"That sounds nasty, Bum, and pretty stupid.  How did it happen?" asked Bear.

"I sprayed my sink with Fantastik and wiped it down.  It does a very nice job.  However, around the taps, it is hard to completely clean the bits stuck to and around the taps.  I pulled out an old toothbrush from under the sink to use.  I keep old toothbrushes for that purpose.  Anyway, later I was brushing my teeth after flossing and grabbed the wrong toothbrush."

"Dare I ask how that tasted?" asked Bear.

"Luckily, Bear, my taste buds aren't what they used to be.  By the time I realized what I'd done, my teeth were done."

"How'd they look?" asked Bear.

"Although I wouldn't recommend it to replace my usual Colgate, Bear, they looked fantastic."

"Hmph," said Bear.  "That really was stupid.  We'd better get on to the rest of Structure before it is time to part for the day."

 "OK, Bear, I'll read you the rest of Structure and then we can discuss it." said Bum.
 "Paul said...One idea would be to play on something that is a topic in the story: that Bear (like Janey) is getting older.  What if he's getting near the end of his life in dog years?  What if Janey is the only person he's every spoken to, because she's the only one he felt he could open up to?  In short, it's a real relationship, and Janey could feel that she would be abandoning her new but dear friend, who will likely die while she is away.  This is pretty good, because it ties together all the elements.

This would be all the better because Janey could not tell Gordon about the talking dog.  Now it might be that Gordon is turned to the idea of taking Janey with him back East, but Janey demurs because of Bear.  Gordon might not be able to understand  it, or might think it's because of the problem with his sister--but it's not.  The issue is around Bear, and that's as it should be.

That's what I would propose as a story solution, as a way of making the plot work."

"Who's he calling old?" said Bear in a very disapproving tone.

"We are old, Bear," responded Bum, and shrugged.

"We are old, Bum, because we are not dead.  That matters," said Bear, "which leads me to that Black Matters bullshit."

"Whatever do you mean, Bear?"  Bum looked puzzled.

"We are one," said Bear, "and people have forgotten that, or never knew it.   Black Matters is disrespectful to blacks.  It separates them once again and that is not right. Blacks are not the only group that have been discriminated against, and some Blacks discriminate against other races.  Today, people who are not racist but only stupid, are afraid to treat a Black person as an equal and argue or disagree with them, fearing they will be called a racist.  That stinks,  and that's all I have to say about it," said Bear.

"We'd best get back to Paul's analysis.  He feels, and I agree with him this time, that you Bear are my best friend and I chose to stay with you over Gordon," said Bum. 

"We really are one, Bum," murmured Bear and placed his head on her knee.

They sat in companionable silence for a bit before Bear spoke.  "I like that top you're wearing, Bum.  It's so different and so you with that razorback and those deep openings under your armpits."

Bum likes that about Bear.  He notices what you are wearing and doesn't mind commenting on it, unlike many people who say nothing even if you're sporting an outrageous gold lame dress with sequins.

"As you know, Bear, I have too many clothes and am trying to downsize.  So, I get two things out, usually tops, and decide which one I like the best.  The other one goes to the Thrift.  Today, I chose this one over the black Tshirt with white Chinese letting on the front."

"Good choice," said Bear approvingly.

"I told my sister about it and that I was worried the Chinese letters said Fuck You, and I don't know a Chinese person to ask.  She said it is more likely that awful sucky saying Have a Nice Day.  I told her I prefer Fuck You.  I knew you would, she said."

  




 














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