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Birthday No. 50: To Be Continued

She’s blowing me. With a fan.

Shortly before … I’m walking through Lime Ridge Mall here in Hamilton past this skin-care kiosk (I guess that’s a thing) when a young, bespectacled woman with long, straight black hair shoves an upside down sample cup at me with a white concoction on it.

“What’s this?”

“It’s hand moisturizer,” she says in a thick accent I can’t place.

“Oh, thanks,” I say and begin rubbing it over my cold, dead hands.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asks that question.

“Sure.”

“What are you doing for your eyes?”

She means the bags under my eyes. Obviously, I say nothing (the actual word, not the lack of action). Next thing I know I’m sitting in her office, as she calls it, in the middle of the mall and she’s rubbing this brown substance under my right eye. Now she’s done and she’s pointing a small fan at my eye and blowing air on it to speed up the drying process.

While this is going on, she asks me a lot of questions.

“Are you from Hamilton?” (Nova Scotia)

“What brought you to Hamilton?” (work)

“Are you married or happy?” (nice one)

“Do you mind if I ask you how old you are?”

“I turn 50 in a couple of weeks.”

“Ooh!” she looks surprised. “You don’t look 50.”

Pause.

“You look good.”

I love how she sets the two statements off like they’re opposite. 50 equals … Not good.

Just to conclude the story, she’s happy (not married) and Russian. I thank her for the kind words, but I never even get a price on the eyebag treatment. She offers to treat the other eye, no thanks, and I leave the mall with one eye that looks 45 another that looks 55 so let’s cross eyes and call it 50.

50.

Holy smokes. Look at that:

50. 50! That’s a mean lookin’ crooked number at the start.

I can’t believe I’m this old. On my 50th birthday, that’s what I feel mostly – I can’t believe I’m this old.

I don’t feel old, but I know I am. I’m 50.

I don’t feel old mentally. But now that I think of it, physically … yeah. I’m 50.

I’m not as strong as I used to be, my workouts are a shadow of what I did years ago, I have to constantly guard against beer gut (wish me luck), and I’m sore. I’m sore. My favourite cologne is Rub-A535.

My feet hurt all the time – and I already have orthotics. Getting out of bed to start the day and at work when I’ve been sitting for a while and get out of my chair, those first few steps are tortuous. I look like I’m walking on hot coals.

A few times my supervisor, who sits behind me in the open-concept office, has seen me hobblewalk and looked at me puzzled.

“I’m 49 years old,” I’d say.

Can’t say that anymore. I’m 50. I’ve already received the seniors discount, for fuck’s sake.

And my neck is always stiff. I can’t turn around properly. I have to kind of half waddleturn my whole body to look at something behind me or on the periphery of my sightline.

Periphery. A young man wouldn’t use that word.

But mentally … I’m so young! The theme of this blog is to celebrate the small stuff, and I do it every day. I try to be optimistic. Like I said in my 49th birthday post, I love nothing more than getting a laugh from people, especially those in the service industry or retail who I know get their share of humourless cranks.

I recently went to buy a new duvet and duvet cover. Considering it’s most likely the last duvet set I’m ever going to buy … this is an adventure!

I go across the street to Linen Trends in Jackson Square in full goof mode (don’t leave home without it). I’m joking around with the Arabic owner and his wife, and they’re giving it right back to me.

The guy knocks 20 bucks off the duvet cover and another 20 off the duvet. And they give me a free hand towel! Is it because I’m friendly and having fun with them? Yeah, I think it is.

Here’s the best part – when I ask for a bag for the duvet cover, the owner’s wife who rings me up at the cash deadpans:

“It’s 10 bucks for the bag.”

I crack up, shake the owner’s hand, and she gives me a fist bump.

I never get tired of stuff like that. But I do get tired of other stuff. Like, doing stuff.

A friend of mine climbed Mount Kilimanjaro when he turned 50. Me? I’m going up the street to my favourite bar, The Ship.

It never occurred to me in 50 years to try to do something like climb a mountain for my 50th. I felt guilty for a while, like I should try to accomplish something, till my wise sister Clare weighed in:

“You’re wired how you’re wired.”

Here’s how it ends. It doesn’t end.

This post was originally titled Birthday No. 50: It’s A -30- because -30- is the old school way journalists would indicate they were finished filing a story. This was going to be my goodbye Reynoworld post.

But now that I write this one and realize how lucky I am to be 50 and be in good health (I do binge drink but what am I supposed to do, climb a mountain?) and how much I appreciate the support, I may as well still post the occasional post.

And I realize mine is an important voice that needs to be heard. Probably the most important voice in the history of the world. The small, ridiculous things in life must be documented. Celebrated, even.

Imagine how empty your life would be if you didn’t know this post was dedicated to Dave Poole. I met him once, a few weeks ago while I was standing in front of Aout ’N About on Augusta, waiting to be picked up. He was sitting on the front deck, a heavyset, bearded white guy about my age. He was the only person out there.

We chatted for a bit, then out of the blue he brought me a shot.

I think it was a B-52. Thanks, Dave.

 

For my 50th, I thought I'd grow a second head.
For my 50th, I thought I’d grow a second head.

A Delicious, Reasonably Healthy Parfait Jumble

He’s right. Obviously, there’s some exaggeration. But bottom line, I think he’s right.

“Basically, if it tastes good – you shouldn’t eat it.”

I was in a gym years ago speaking with an award-winning, all-natural bodybuilder about coupling nutrition with a workout regimen. He came from the land of steamed vegetables and chicken, oatmeal, bison beef and what not.

And his point was a good one: If you want to eat truly healthy, stay away from all that stuff that makes food appealing. Don’t drown your salad in dressing. Don’t deep-fry that chicken. Don’t load up your coffee with cream and sugar.

Oh it’s the holidays and you’re just going to partake of the office chocolates? Don’t. Another litre of wine with dessert? Don’t.

Retreat, tastebuds! Retreat!

“Basically, the highlight of your meal should be the toothpaste.”

That’s another thing he said to me.

Do I live like that? Of course not! I’m 205 pounds of beer and chicken skin.

For those who don’t know, my favourite food is fried chicken. And yesterday, I hit an all-time low/high.

For breakfast, I had leftover Popeye’s fried chicken. When I got to work at 4 p.m., my thoughtful co-workers saved me some KFC from the office Christmas Day potluck the night before. So that was supper.

Now that I think of it, I should have had Mary Brown’s for lunch to complete the hat trick.

Regardless, that’s a whole lot of heart-stoppery in one day. When I turned 50 and had blood work done, the doctor said my cholesterol was a bit high.

No shit, Sherlock. I go for follow-up blood work in February, so that gives me a few weeks to get my heart beating again.

I actually eat reasonably healthy throughout the week, it’s those damn weekends that do me in. Here’s one thing I eat at least four days a week at work that is reasonably healthy and reasonably tasty (with apologies to my bodybuilder friend of years ago).

This is my recipe for A Delicious, Reasonably Healthy Parfait Jumble:

  1. You’ll need plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt. A quick check at the grocery store tells me that Greek yogurt costs $2.99 for 500 grams, with 19 g of protein and 6 g of sugar
    jumble
    Proven to unclog arteries. Not really.

    per 175 g. Icelandic is $4.99 per 500 g, with 19 g of protein and 5 g sugar/175 g. Personally, I find the Icelandic yogurt a bit thicker and tastier, but not enough to warrant paying the extra couple of bucks.

  2. Berries! My top pick is blueberries, but will occasionally get blackberries when they’re on sale. If you’re a strawberry or raspberry person, I wish you fresh berries and continued success.
  3. A gooey Clif Bar that can be easily broken into small pieces. I’m a chocolate guy, so I highly recommend Chocolate Almond Fudge! I buy those bars by the box.

Now, preparation. Pay close attention because … ah, I can’t even make a joke about that; this is really easy and only takes, like, four minutes if that.

  1. Dump two heaping spoonfuls of yogurt into a bowl-like plastic container (remember I take this to work) or a bowl at home. Make sure you give the spoon a good flick so you get the “THWAK!” when the yogurt hits the container. It sounds cool.
  2. Grab a small handful of berries and add them to the yogurt.
  3. Take the Clif bar and break it into small pieces, adding each piece to the yogurt/berry mix.
  4. Remember the spoon from step 1? I hope you didn’t clean it and put it away because you’re going to need it to stir all the ingredients to create the parfait jumble effect.
  5. Dig in!

The Night Neil Young Rocked London

Still prepping resume stuff, found this review, thought I may as well post it. I’d say keep on rockin’ in the free world, but you already know that.

Neil Young cranks it out at Budweiser Gardens in London

By Jim Reyno

Metro London

It’s the scowl. And the howl. Distorted, loud, cranked out from a guitar getting a workout from a man who will be 67 years old Nov. 12, who looks like he’s not having fun at all, but is clearly having the time of his life.

Neil Young, lurking over his black Les Paul, a little bob and a little weave, filling a packed Budweiser Gardens with le noise backed by his band Crazy Horse, back on tour for the first time since 2004.

No sort of about it – this tour is a homecoming for Young. The show starts with Young, band, and fans singing O Canada with a huge Canadian flag behind the stage.

“I was born in Ontario!” Young later sings, and the multi-generational crowd happily provides background vocals.

Not that Young needs any help at the mike — his voice is sharp and his lyrics easily discernible. That lends to the intimacy of the performance, despite the size of the venue. We’re not at a stadium concert, we’re at a garage-band jam.

And there is plenty of jamming. Young and guitarist Poncho Sampredo grow more animated as the show progresses, going face-to-face several times to trade licks. Sampredo even playfully gives the bandleader a couple of boots to the behind.

They both have axes to grind, at one point filling several minutes with distorted guitar, while drummer Ralph Molina drops intermittent bass-drum bombs and bassist Billy Talbot flails away.

In a stunning musical juxtaposition, the chaos comes to a close with rainstorm effects, and lightning flashing on the large TV screen high at stage left. On the other side of the storm: Young, his acoustic guitar, and the opening chords of The Needle and the Damage Done.

Despite that obvious fan favourite, many Young classics are not on this night’s set list. There is no Rockin’ in the Free World, there is no Heart of Gold, there is certainly is no Old Man.

But there is a Cinnamon Girl, and thousands of bobbing heads at Bud Gardens are happy she’s back. She’s still a dreamer of pictures, still as catchy as ever — and the guys on the stage know her better than anyone. Molina and Talbot were with Young in the studio when he recorded it in 1969.

Published online Oct. 7, 2012

Hey! I Judged Ribs Once

I recently found out I’m out of a job by Jan. 14 (more on that later), and was going through my files and found this masterpiece. Rest in peace, Metro.

A great day for meat: At the judges table for London’s Ribfest

By Jim Reyno

Metro London

They are words of wisdom, shared by those who have been here before, and they are well heeded by the rookie.

“Don’t eat the whole rib,” more that one judge cautions before you take a seat at the Ribfest judging table for the first time. “There’s 10 ribs – you’ve got to pace yourself.”

Not only that, there’s breadsticks at the start to dip into the 10 sauces prepared by the 10 nationally recognized ribbers competing for top honours. You quickly learn to reduce your breadstick to a stubby, and load up on the sauce.

Then, the ribs. Immediately, it’s obvious this is a special day.

Contestant No. 1’s rib is probably the best rib ever. You’re asked to rate the ribs on the 3 T’s — taste, texture, and tenderness. The rib is cooked perfectly and the meat falls apart easily, a succulent surrender right before your very eyes.

“Heaven on a bone,” the rookie says, and writes a top score of 10 in all three categories. As it turns out, Rib 1 was from Boss Hog’s, voted best by the judges.

A mouthful of Mill Street Organic, and you’re ready for more.

The ribs come quickly, but not too quickly. There’s lots of time to savour what the ribbers have meticulously prepared. When you eat the ribs in short succession, you see (taste) that there’s quite a contrast to all of them. The good news is, they’re all various degrees of delicious. You can’t go wrong with a rack of any of them.

You want to devour each rib completely, but you remember what the veterans told you. Pace yourself.

Still, 10 ribs are 10 ribs. Sticky fingers, but you’ve got to stick with it.

And you have to fight through the elements. At Rib 8, the wind blows your scoresheet on top of the plate, giving the score tabulators their very own sample of rib sauce.

By Rib 9, you’re looking for a pillow and a place to stretch out.

By Rib 10, you’re done. The last two ribs are like the wall people hit when they run a marathon. I guess. And despite the plentiful supply of paper towels and moist towelettes, your pen is greasy to the touch.

You leave the table, and the heaviness hits. But it’s a good heaviness, physical proof of a wonderful Sunday afternoon, and you’ve never been more proud of being a meat-eater. Simply put, a lot of fun.

“Excuse me,” someone asks afterward. “How do you get to be a judge?”

Published online Aug. 6, in print Aug. 7, 2012

Brick And Mortar Music Stores Still Rule

I didn’t even know this existed, but I found it in the used CD jazz section at Cheapies here in Hamilton for 7 bucks.

It was recorded in February 1959 with Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb and Wynton Kelly (plus Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, obviously) – Miles Davis’s band that just a few months later would record Kind of Blue on Miles’ date, the album many feel is the most essential jazz record.

I’m no musician but to me it sounds like they’re having a great time without moody Miles hanging around, like the tension released in a classroom when the teacher steps out for a moment.

Guest Post: Another 50

“Good lord, I can’t post that,” I said to myself years ago, as I reread what I’d written on this very laptop.

“I’ll either be locked up or put down.”

I had started a post about some of the memorable times when I’ve cried. But this story was just too embarrassing.

But I just turned 50, and I finally realized that everything and everyone is embarrassing. So here it is.

I had a great time in university. Four years at King’s College in Halifax, graduating with a journalism degree in 1992. I never did anything outrageous, just had fun drinking cheap beer with my friends. Like most people.

After graduation, a bunch of us went out one night, and I couldn’t help but think about how it was never going to be the same. Our lives were going in different directions, and we would never be together again. This truly was the final episode.

Add liquor to my state of mind, and turn on the waterworks.

“Waaaaah! Waaaaaah! Waaaah!”

I don’t mean I teared up a bit. I mean blubbering, uncontrollable sobbing. There’s nothing embarrassing about being emotional, of course. The embarrassing thing was … I was the only one upset! Everyone else was partying as usual.

And every time I pulled myself together during the night, Scott MacMillan would put his arm around me and say:

“Jim, I’m really going to miss you.”

“Waaaaah! Waaaaaah! Waaaah!”

Scott MacMillan! The reason I had such a great time in university was Scott MacMillan. He was our ringleader, organizer, our spiritual tequila shot.

We haven’t seen each other in, what, almost 30 years? But we’re Facebook friends, and he just turned 50 himself and posted about it.

I asked him if I could share it on Reynoworld, and his response was: “sure. only if you add the word fresca to it”

Here is his post, not one edit. Cheers, Scott. Cheers everyone, to the different paths in life.

Someone asked me to “write something” about myself to commemorate my 50th Birthday. Here it is:

Half my life has past, and I think I have come to truly know myself. I don’t own a house, a car, a pet or a plant. My bad decisions don’t affect other people unless they are along for the ride. I eat Mac and Cheese three nights a week and hate all fruits and vegetables. My savings account hovers in the overdraft 10 months of the year. Nevertheless, I have truly experienced life.

I take risks.

I ran with the bulls in Pamplona. I participated in the largest tomato fight in the world in Spain. I represented Canada in the longest beer float in the world in Finland. I maneuvered Machu Picchu in Peru in a tuxedo shirt and a bow tie. I touched the Berlin Wall and played cards (and won) on the Chinese one. I roamed with giraffes, zebras, and rhinos, and had a lion’s tail hit my jeep headlight on safari in the Masi Mara in Tanzania. I explored the Egyptian desert by camel with an infant on my back.

I am a Godfather.

I don’t believe in saving things for special occasions; living is a special occasion so I break out the good china whenever I can. Things don’t matter to me; people do. Travel matters – everything I have learned I learned on the road. When sights, smells or sounds remind me of someone I let them know. Every time. I cry a lot, and that’s OK too because I laugh every single day without exception; often at myself. I have learned that being alone is a viable option for me; but so is love. I am not afraid of love anymore.

I have been a good son.

I work hard and I play hard. I always give up my seat for the elderly, which I am looking forward to receiving now. I hold doors for women even though women in general drive me crazy. I make friends easily, which sometimes baffles me because I am not always nice to everyone. I have been a good friend to many. A great friend, to some. I have lost some friends along the way and I have learned that is OK.

I am loyal to a fault. I think it is a Scorpio thing, which means I am also jealous and vindictive, but those go hand in hand with being loyal. I am either your best friend or your worst enemy. I don’t like gray areas or middle ground.

So here is my Credo for the second part of my life:

  • What’s mine is yours. Help yourself.
  • Believe in karma; trust me.
  • Being tidy is more important than being clean.
  • If you have to steal, Robin Hood it.
  • Apologies are tough, but effective.
  • Soak up as much sun as possible.
  • Heal

He’s Sweatin’, But I Don’t Hear Any Oldies

“I love it!”

That’s what I told them, I don’t even know who or where, but that was how passionately I felt about high temperatures and high humidity when the topic of weather came up. Growing up in a village with that cool Atlantic Ocean breeze in Nova Scotia, extreme warm weather was always a grass-being-greener, or I guess sun-being-hotter, scenario.

“I love it!”

I’ve been known to repeat myself.

“I love it when the temperature is high and so is the humidity. When just existing makes you sweat. It’s the great equalizer: No matter how rich you are or how poor, we’re all in the same boat – sitting here sweating.”

Would that I could go back in time and talk some sense into that pompous windbag. I’ve done a 180 on that one.

Now, approaching 50 years old (still younger than George Clooney!), I hate hot weather.

I think I began to change my opinion when I had to start wearing adult clothes consistently. Proper shoes, slacks and a button-up blouse don’t lend themselves to hot weather. Neither does my condo in downtown Hamilton.

My little 812-square-foot place gets lots of sunlight and really heats up. Like, 35 C sometimes. I’ll use the air-conditioning when I absolutely have to, but not regularly. It’s expensive and I don’t want to get hooked on it, like liquor.

Here’s another thing: I sweat a lot. You know that song by Billy Idol, Dancing With Myself, when he goes “Sweat! Sweat! Sweat! SWEAT!!”? Like that.

And when it’s hot in my condo and I’m trying to put on my adult clothes and get ready for work, it’s literally a sweatshop. No sooner am I out of the shower and brossing mes dents as the French would say, and I’m sweating. To the point where I have to wipe my brow and my back.

I know! It’s gross! How do you think I feel?

The worst was one day last summer, a sunny, hot hot hot day. I have about three nice shirts, Egyptian cotton, that I try to take care of, drycleaning and all that. I put on the robin-egg blue one, coupled with some light khaki pants and some sort of “dress shoe,” and I go to work. Sweating away.

I get to work, walk across the parking lot beneath the blazing hot sun and enter the office. I see a woman from payroll approaching in the hallway. She takes a look at me.

“Oh!” She exclaims. “Is it raining?!”

Um … Nope. I’m just really, really sweaty.

Some notes to finish:

  1. The title of this post is a reference to Richard Simmons, the fitness/weight-loss guy. Many years ago he had an exercise video called Sweatin’ To The Oldies. One time, David Letterman did a top 10 list: Top 10 Signs That Richard Simmons Is Crazy. And one of them was, “He’s sweatin’, but I don’t hear any oldies!”
  1. When I am stuck in hot weather with visible humidity, my go-to albums are Miles Davis Bitches Brew (I think you can hear the musicians sweat on Spanish Key) and There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly And The Family Stone. Deep, muddy funk. Oh and the new Santana, Africa Speaks. Really cooks!
  2. I started this post the other night and showed Monty. This is what she thought of it.

IMG_0107

The Enemy Of The People

I work in media.

I’ve been an editorial assistant, sports writer, copy editor, news reporter, page editor, entertainment reporter, entertainment editor and managing editor in Halifax, Toronto, London, Ont., and Hamilton. Not all at once!

I certainly haven’t seen everything in my career – not even close. But I’ve seen a lot.

Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff, too, as Bob Dylan says.

“You work in media?” a big burly guy said to me last year, sitting to the left of me at the bar at West Town in Hamilton.

“Fake news!” he laughed.

“What?”

“I’m just joking.”

About what?

He soon enough told me he was a conservative. Oh good.

Just kidding, he actually wasn’t a bad guy.

Please indulge me – I want to digress. Isn’t the whole conservative/liberal split on every issue absurd? I know I’m left on some things, right-ish on others, in the middle on most. And I’m willing to bet you’re like that, too.

Where does the polarization come from? It’s not a game of Othello.

I guess the media does it.

“The media is a mirror on society,” my former boss at The Canadian Press in Halifax said. This was way back in the editorial assistant days.

“It reflects what’s going on in the world.”

In the past few days, I’ve had someone tell me he gets his news from Russia (no joke), and had a (since unfriended) Facebook friend share a meme about how the media focuses on kids temporarily separated from their parents at the border, while military parents are separated from their children, as are parents who are imprisoned.

It’s called apples and oranges, folks. So should kids go to war or jail with their parents?

Look, I’m not naïve. (As an aside, I’m so glad the Word doc automatically put those two dots above the i – I couldn’t do that in a million years.)

I know there are bad apples in journalism and people with agendas. Same as your career, I’m sure.

But for the most part, journalists are people trying to do right by our families, trying to do a good job. Just like a teacher, bus driver, electrician, dog groomer, farmer … Or a butcher, baker, candlestick maker.

We’re all trying to get to the truth. Unfortunately, sometimes the truth hurts.

Please don’t shoot the messenger.

Or anyone else.

The Hard Sell Fails On The Music Nerd

Hey!

It’s been a while.

I haven’t posted in Reynoworld since my #BellLetsTalk post on Jan. 30. Ever since then, my life has been a whirlwind! I haven’t had time to post! What with all the media requests because of that post, autograph signings, public speaking engagements, Raptors parade (did you see the guy in shades smoking a cigar?) – how could anyone stay on top of it all?

I don’t know. None of that applies to me.

I’ve just been lazy, and not much has happened that I felt like writing about. I started a sequel to this play, but I’m just not feeling it right now. And there was a car incident where me and this other guy rear-ended each other in the Beer Store parking lot. But if I got bored writing it, where does that leave you, cherished reader?

I mean that: cherished reader. Thanks for coming back.

This is a little something (very little – celebrate the small stuff!) that happened today. It started as a Facebook post, but I remembered Facebook is passé. All the kids today are writing blogs and reading newspapers.

Who knew? I knew, because I stumbled upon it.

Music stores are disappearing, pulled headlong into oblivion by compact discs. I don’t care: I’ve got about 1,400 CDs. It’s too late to switch to vinyl, and I’m not going to stream. I like to sit down in my chair, play my CDs, and read liner notes.

I know many of you are with me. I’m not unique in that I have a lot of CDs and a CD player. And most major releases still come out on CD, especially boxsets of jazz and classical.

Just a heads up – I’m a jazz guy.

I’ve ordered lots of music – ridiculously cheaply – on Amazon. Obviously, I’d like to support local when I can (Real talk: If I see a CD that’s 20 bucks locally but 10 bucks online, I’m buying online. Just being honest.)

Actually, I don’t feel guilty about that. I work in the newspaper business, ffs. When I lived in Timberlea, N.S., I loved my neighbours, but they all subscribed to the paper I didn’t work for. Then my paper died. And now I live in Ontario and drive a Japanese car. So it goes.

Anyway, I’ve discovered a great place to buy local nerd music at a reasonable price in Hamilton: Sunrise Records in Lime Ridge Mall!

In the jazz world, ECM is one of the top labels. I subscribe to the jazz magazine Downbeat, and they often review/recommend artists on the ECM label. The amazing thing is a lot of the ECM stuff I read about is at Sunrise – recordings that aren’t of general interest.

I’ll give you a specific example. Drummer Andrew Cyrille did a record with guitarist Bill Frisell (I interviewed him a lifetime ago) and immaculate trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, called LeBroba. I think Downbeat gave it 4.5 stars out of five. I couldn’t believe when I saw it at Sunrise ‑ bought it, of course. But here’s the thing: the next week when I dropped by Sunrise, LeBroba had been replaced on the rack!

I can tell you’re as excited about this as me.

“Hello!” the Sunrise manager says to me earlier today as I’m standing by the new (pop/rock) releases at the front of the store. She’s white with long brown hair (bangs in front), wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. I’d say she’s about 53 years old.

For the record, I’m whiter, with a bluish button-up T-shirt with a collar, white T-shirt underneath (who wants pit stains?), glasses in the V (they’re for distance), brownish shorts. No one knows I’m 49 years old.

“What are you here for today?” she asks, standing to my right.

“Oh, you know, just doin’ a little browsin’.”

I drop the G on doing and browsing because I’m conversational like that.

“OK. Well, all the new releases are here,” she says as she extends her right arm to the display in front of me, like a Price Is Right model.

“There’s the new Ed Sheeran that everyone is talking about.”

I’ve spoken to this woman at least three times in the store. She’s always doing the hard sell – that’s not a criticism, just an observation. The last time I saw her, I was getting busy in the classical section at Sunrise when I unexpectedly heard behind me:

“CAN I HELP YOU?”

Jesus. I actually jumped and felt guilty. And I never even did nothing! She apologized and walked away … slowly.

Today, I’m ready for her.

After she mentions the Sheeran album that has the world abuzz, I say:

“Yeah, I’m just gonna take a stroll over to my favourite section in a sec.”

“What’s that?”

“The classical/jazz section.”

“Oh.”

IMG_0104 copy

She walks away. Not defeated, just resigned. That pop/rock/rap shit ain’t gonna work on this crowd!

Yeahhh, buuooy!

Although a few weeks ago, I bought a remastered News of the World CD by Queen. I’m getting back into them again. I used to love Queen, but you already know that story.

Today at the cash, I get Terence Blanchard (interviewed him!) Featuring The E Collective: Live; Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow: Andando el Tiempo; Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell: El Corazon.

“You can get any of the CDs in front for seven ninety-nine,” she tells me with a wave of her right hand. Less majestic than before.

We both know she’s just doing her job, going through the motions.

“I think I’m good.”

Cashed out.

“Thanks a lot!” I say with a smile, and I mean it.

“See you next time!”

#BellLetsTalk: My Story

I debated whether to write this post, as I usually keep things light. After all, the theme of Reynoworld is to celebrate the small stuff. But as it’s #BellLetsTalk day to raise awareness about mental illness and depression – and several of my friends have inspired me by sharing their stories over the years – I thought I’d share mine.

I’m not frantic, but I’m close.

I’ve looked all over our bungalow in Herring Cove, N.S.: from the living room, to my parents’ bedroom, to the bedroom for the three girls, to the bedroom for the three boys (including me), to the bathroom. Just the kitchen left.

It’s not in the kitchen. I’ve looked all over this tiny house and I can’t – I can’t! I can’t! – find the button-up top to my brown pajamas. I’m just wearing my pajama bottoms and I’m in tears, alone in the kitchen.

Maybe I am frantic.

I go to the drawer to the right of the stove and I get a large, sharp knife, big enough to gut a codfish with. I take the knife in my left hand and press it against my belly, still in tears. I feel the sharp blade, and ease up. Then I press it again.

I don’t remember if I actually cut myself, probably not. I also don’t remember if I ever found the pajama top. (Although I’m still here, so I guess I did. Must’ve been in the wash.)

So I was thinking about killing myself over a missing pajama top – and I couldn’t have been more than seven years old. That’s my earliest memory of suicidal thoughts.

I’m the product of this environment: The youngest of six in a staunch Irish Catholic household. I was a mistake (the next closest sibling is five years older). To me, it seemed like two families: the family with five kids, and me.

And as I’ve written about many times in Reynoworld, there are lots of great memories and we had lots of laughs. And if anyone has read Reynoworld and appreciated what I consider humour … Well, first of all, thank you! Secondly, I got my sense of humour from my parents, both deceased for many years now. So thanks, Pat and Garth.

But I’ve never talked about the dark stuff. I won’t bore you with the details ‑ there are thousands of books/blogs about families more dysfunctional and tragic than mine.

Still, a life is a life, and a story is a story. Apart from my sense of humour, I got two other things from my parents:

Negativity from Dad.

“Would you say the glass is half full or half empty?” That’s the standard optimist/pessimist question.

“What difference does it make? It’s not my glass.” That was Dad’s philosophy on life.

And I got Mom’s anxiety – some of it, anyway. Once in the kitchen with one of my nieces/nephews, I literally saw her cry over spilled milk. Now that I think of it, I realize she was crying over a lifetime of spilled milk.

Full stop. This is not an indictment of my parents. They did the best they could with the tools they had, and I love them and miss them. I’m just providing some background for my own story. And I only speak for me, not for the other Reynoworlds out there.

But the truth is, for a good part of my life I’ve considered suicide.

“It’s my ace-in-the-hole,” I remember using that phrase in my head many, many times. “No matter how sad I get, how isolated I feel, how misunderstood, how rejected, how much pain there is – I have an out.”

When I was living in London, Ont., about six years ago, I quit my job. I was unemployed, newly single, with no direction home or anywhere else. One night, I got about two paragraphs into my suicide note that I planned to post on Reynoworld. I thought I’d write my goodbye, then set it up to publish after I was gone. Alcohol was a factor when I wrote it, but I still kept the Word doc on my desktop for about a week till I eventually trashed it.

I finally got a job in Hamilton, and brought my cat Monty and my suicidal thoughts here five years ago last Oct. 31.

“Was there a turning point?” My friend asked me when I stopped having suicidal thoughts as I discussed this post with her.

Yeah. I think there was.

My first winter in Hamilton was very tough. I was lonely, broke and – as I said – it was winter. Not a good combo.

It’s Saturday and I’ve got nothing to do, no money to spend, no one to see. To get some air, I take a walk from my building at the corner of Main and James to Locke Street, heading up Main.

The sky is grey and that fluffy, big white snow is falling, the type that lands and accumulates slowly, quietly. There’s no wind.

I eventually take a left from Main onto Locke, where I see – truly bizarre on a strip of boutiques, hair salons and restaurants – a gun shop.

I feel something I haven’t felt before or since. A warm glow comes over me, like a narcotic running through my veins. I feel very much at peace.

“OK,” I tell myself. “If I need to, I can come here, get a gun, and that will be that.”

I’ve never set foot in the place.

I don’t think that was the last time I had suicidal thoughts, but it was the turning point.

Maybe something clicked in my brain like it did with caffeine or nicotine … but whatever. I’m not interested in delving into the psychology of it, to be honest.

This isn’t an emotional post for me, because I’m writing about a person I don’t know anymore. I’m detached. Like a perforated KFC coupon from the flyer you get in the mail.

And I’m happy to report that things have swung completely the other way for me. As I said in my 49th birthday post, now I never want to die. The older I get, the more I see just how much there is to live for.

And there’s always, always, always something to live for. Actually, there’s lots to live for, when you celebrate the small stuff.

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