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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.

Grocery Day

This is literally – literally – what the inside of my fridge looks like right now.

I just got paid yesterday. And I’m off today.

And it’s grocery day.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but … well … I just wouldn’t want to be a beer or a chicken right now.

Fruits and vegetables … you’re good.

Although I do need bananas. The first thing I eat every day is a banana.

If only they ripened one at a time.

This Is Dedicated To The One I Love

I lack dedication. I know that now.

I would describe myself as diligent – no I wouldn’t. A former boss of mine at The Canadian Press said never use the word diligent. He had big hair, wore mom jeans and worked 24 hours a day.

So scratch that.

I would describe myself as hard-working, thorough and generally a good person – or at least I try to be. I’ve made mistakes just like everyone, but I sure don’t want to hurt no one.

But I lack dedication. The dedication to, like, get a partner’s name tattooed on my person. The dedication to skip the prenup (We want prenup!). The dedication to donate a lung or whatever.

Or a licence plate.

Look – I love food. We all love food. And sometimes when I’m on a long walk instead of going to the gym during this pandemic, I think about the bagels on my counter and the organic creamy peanut butter in my fridge and my mouth waters and I hurry to get home.

To be honest, I basically skedaddle.

But I’m not dedicated to peanut butter and bagels. I would never spend money (other than buying them) to sing their praises.

I’ve never felt that strongly about any food – or anything.

Like I said, I lack dedication. I know that now.

When you pop down James Street to see your buddy Mark at Dr. Disc and ask him to set aside the latest Springsteen CD when the next ones arrive, and upon leaving and heading back home for a toasted plain bagel smothered in organic peanut butter, you glance to the parking lot at your left and you see this.

That’s when you know you lack dedication.

Robert Fagles Was My Man Crush

I’m at least three types of nerd: music, baseball, and Trojan War.

I’ve written plenty about music and baseball. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to talk about the Trojan War.

If you won’t indulge me … well … I’ve come this far, so I may was well keep going.

Who was Robert Fagles?

Robert Fagles was a translator, and he translated the only works I know of Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey. Wow. Talk about going 2-for-2!

I’m writing this now because I just had Virgil’s The Aeneid delivered. It’s translated by … damn straight! My man crush, Robert Fagles!

The Iliad and The Odyssey were written in the eighth century BC. Our boy V wrote The Aeneid in 19 BC.

OK. That’s enough of a history lesson. I can’t google anything else and I have beer to drink and a cat to pet.

It’s just a heads up that if you’re remotely interested in the Trojan War, I can’t recommend Fagles’ translations strongly enough. The language sings, the story moves quickly, and you really feel it.

Apollo, the distant deadly archer.

I’ve said previously: I love that phrase. I love the pacing, I love the simplicity, I love the terror and implications behind it.

“Oh, you think you’re all that? Guess you didn’t see this coming.”

Apollo, the distant deadly archer.

Homer wrote it, Fagles translated it.

The best known Trojan war story, about the horse, is covered in The Aeneid. I don’t believe it’s mentioned in The Iliad (which covers a few days in Year 9 of a 10-year war), and it’s mentioned briefly in The Odyssey. (Odysseus thought of the horse. He’s crafty.)

I love these stories so much because they’re packed with human drama. I could go on, but just to share a favourite part of the story:

In The Odyssey, as Odysseus tries to make his way back home, he visits Menelaus and Helen – Helen being the cause of the war when Trojan prince Paris “stole” her after a diplomatic visit.

Well, after Paris was killed, Helen got with another Trojan prince. And in the war’s final act, when the Trojans brought the horse into the city (ill advised), Helen walked around the horse and imitated the voices of the wives of the soldiers she thought would be in the horse. The plan being, they will reveal themselves and that would be the end of the horse plot.

One of the soldiers in the horse actually started to speak up – but Odysseus clasped his mouth. That guy was on top of everything.

Anyway, this is recounted years later, when Helen and Menelaus have been “happily” reunited.

You read it and it’s like … man, get me out of here! Marital tension of epic proportions. I don’t blame Odysseus for cutting out.

Homer and Virgil are the sources, but Robert Fagles made it possible for the modern world to appreciate these stories – not only appreciate, but relate.

He was born in Philly in 1933. He married Marilyn in 1959 and they had two children.

Fagles won multiple translation awards for individual works, as well as a lifetime achievement award for translation. He died in Princeton, N.J., in 2008. In 2011, a resource centre at Princeton High School was dedicated to him.

Robert Fagles! Because of your work, you are among the immortals.

My favourite is The Iliad. Ol’ Achilles had a temper!

I Wish I Said That

The fish and chips are spectacular at Pheasant Plucker, made that way by the batter on the fish. It’s fresh (like the haddock) and not too thick. Damn tasty, too.

It’s brought to me by Stephanie, who I’ve talked to a few times over the past few months.

I ask her what’s new in her world (I’m getting new orthotics, but enough about me), and she tells me she’s got another, new job. She’ll be working as a teller at a bank, hoping eventually to get into insurance.

We’re downtown in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. She tells me the bank is “on the mountain,” which, for those who don’t know, is south of downtown and a different part of the city.

It’s a very distinct split. I live downtown and when I hear something is “on the mountain,” I know I’ll have to drive. Not a long drive, but I won’t walk to it like I would to anything downtown.

“So do you live up there?” I ask Stephanie as she’s about to bring me another Steam Whistle. “Is the bank around where you live?”

“Yeah, it’s like one block from my place,” she tells me.

“Oh!” I say. I’m very happy for her – I’m all about the short commute.

“You’re laughing!”

“Laughing all the way to the bank.”

Socks Of Destiny

This is where God turned on me. Like many people, my whole life I lived cheque-to-cheque, usually getting the cheapest of everything. I lived on the financial edge until my previous job, which paid pretty well. But my spending habits didn’t change (still cheap), so eventually I wasn’t living cheque-to-cheque any more.
I say my spending habits didn’t change, until these socks. I bought them before Christmas and I spent $26 for them.
“Oh, like that?” God said. “Here’s how you do, decadent rich boy.”
A week later, it was announced at work that our whole department was laid off. I think it was God’s way of telling me to stay in my lane.
As for the socks, very comfortable.

COVID-19: No Respect At All

So today was my first day going for a walk wearing a medical mask.

Actually, I gave myself the Pandemic Deluxe Cadillac Treatment — I also wore gloves. My brother-in-law, who works for a dental-equipment company, was kind enough to send me a package with lots of both.

Here in downtown Hamilton, a lot of people aren’t crazy about social distancing. In the last few weeks walking around, it seems like about half the pedestrians I’ve encountered don’t know there’s a pandemic. I’ve seen two people walk up the middle of a sidewalk toward me openly cough without covering their mouths. It seemed like they were proudly not covering their mouths.

As Bob Dylan said, it’s cold out there. High water, everywhere.

Cover up, my friends. Walk real quick and dodge them coughs!

Anyway, back to today.

It’s ridiculous, but for some reason I was looking forward to my first walk in my new safety gear. That’s not even making lemonade. It’s like, eating lemon rinds.

I said half the people I’ve seen aren’t following the rules — but the other half are.

I want to be one of the cool kids! Who knows? Maybe there’s an unspoken bond, like what motorcycle and bus drivers have. You know, how they acknowledge each other whenever they pass. Maybe mask-wearers do the same thing. #Unitedas1

Well, that’s not what I found today. I tried to make eye contact with my fellow mask-wearers as we passed, but it didn’t happen because we were too busy scrambling to socially distance from each other and oh look there’s a car parked there.

Until I rounded the corner by Lake Ontario, coming back up James Street.

Here she comes. Probably about 70 years old, grey hair popping out from under her black toque. She’s wearing a medical mask like me, and stops to look at me. She doesn’t walk past.

I’m in the process of hopping on the street, which I usually do when I see someone coming my way on the sidewalk. But I catch her eye, and I see she’s standing there, looking at me very oddly.

thumbnailAwkward!

“Hey!” I say, approximately six feet away from her. “This is my first day with the mask!”

She looks at me and shakes her head.

“You should get one that covers your whole face.”

This fictionalized post is dedicated to all the front-line warriors. And Rodney Dangerfield. Stay safe.