Sunday 22 March 2020

Write if you get work; hang by your thumbs.

As a very young child, I became obsessed with the radio.  In those days, we had never heard of FM and while we had heard of TV we were never exposed to it.  No, this was plain old a.m. radio.

Back then, radio played a much bigger role in everybody's life, perhaps similar to what TV eventually did.  As I say, I was obsessed with it.  When I was six years old, I dreamed of being a radio announcer.  I don't think I could've imagined anything in life that would've been more important.

During the daytime, radio was dominated by what we called "soap operas".  They were fifteen minute programs, five days a week, with heartwarming but cliff hanging stories that begged loyalty.  Almost invariably they were sponsored by soap companies.  We had "Oxadol's Own Ma Perkins, Pepper Young's Family, the program that is brought to you by Camay the Soap of Beautiful Women, and Lucy Linton's Stories from Life, brought to you by extra soapy Sunlight.  Even the ever popular Happy Gang urged us to "keep happy in the Happy Gang way, keep healthy with Palmolive each day."

Eventually, I became a preteen and entered my early teenage years.  Of course, I became cynical.  I discovered a hilarious comedy duo by the name of Bob and Ray.  Apparently, they started as a morning combination on a Boston radio station, but I was able to catch up to them along with the rest of North America on WSYR Syracuse (I grew up in Kingston).

Bob and Ray pretended that they were serious radio announcers, often doing newscasts and other important things on their radio station.  Ray, the anchor, would send Bob out as Wally Ballou to cover such things as traffic accidents.  They had an ongoing soap opera called The Lives and Loves of Linda Lovely.  The announcer that for that program, with a great baritone voice, identified himself as O leo Lahey.  From time to time, they would interview the National Director of the American Say a Song Society who would, with a soprano fake English accent, announce that we should say songs such as "You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog"rather than sing them.  You get the point.

Bob and Ray would solemnly sign off every program with the following words "this is Bob Elliott reminding you to write if you get work" "and this is Ray Goulding reminding you to hang by your thumbs."  There was never an explanation as to why they said it, but as a true disciple I have always said goodbye to as many people as I could with one or other of those phrases.

As a young lawyer I got to know Margaret Day, a grandmother who told me, amongst other things, that the phrase "right if you get work" was said as a goodbye in the depression of the 1930s to people getting on boxcars to go out west looking for a job.  Maybe.  I don't know.  She remembered those days; I didn't.

After a while, I added the phrase "see you next Sunday'.  These words were always uttered by Andy from Amos and Andy on the radio to remind people to tune in again the following week.  This was a little more commercial and I can't tell you why I added it to the other two phrases.

The same above-mentioned Margaret Day, ran an organization called Young People in Legal Difficulties.  I had recently bought a cottage and was feeling guilty that most city folk never see such things.  Margaret Day convinced me to take some of her charges up to the lake.  One of them was a redheaded kid.  All I remember about him was that he had a few mental health issues.  If he was impressed with something he would say "far out, heavy duty, wired for sound, artificial hippie".  I am sure a psychologist would be happy to analyse why he said that.  I won't get into it here but that is why those phrases were added to my mantra.

My nephew, Malcolm: McCulloch, may not have heard what I was saying very well.  He started to say Owen Sound instead of wired for sound, so I added that to my mantra.

When my two grandnephews, at about the age of seven, tried to play monopoly before they grasped the rules, Callum was really out of it while his twin brother, Quinn, seemed to grasp the purpose of the game.  Quinn said, in explanation,, "it's all about the money".  He said it in such a funny way that I added that to my mantra.  My wife, Myrta, added "button up your overcoat" so why not throw that in permanently , as well.

So there you have it.  The reasoning behind why I say such silly things when I am saying goodbye to people.  My niece, Elspeth, says she intends to repeat some of this at my funeral.  She won't have a chance.  I intended to out live her.

Saturday 14 March 2020

A whole bunch of stuff I want to tell you

Let us settle something first before we get into other parts of the diatribe.  My ego is such that I hope that you are all wondering how I am doing in this coronavirus season.  There are a whole bunch of rules were set down by the Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA).  We have them all in effect as well as a few directives is coming right from the Ministry of Health.  We received an email from the ministry overnight indicating that, unless a resident is very very ill, only healthcare workers, including PSW's, can enter our building at all.  We can have no outside entertainment of any sort; our newly hatched chickens have been whisked away. For now, at least, there is not even an exercise program in the mornings.

Personally, however, I am doing very well.  I have a very large room; I have a lot to read; I have my computer.  I have the luxury of knowing that my urinary tract infection which started last November is now completely cleared up.  I am a healthy man and I can only say to COVID19, I may be part of your target demographic, but you won't get me.

That being said, I do miss the fact that every outside diversion has closed down.  I particularly miss going to McWheelers, the wheelchair gym at McMaster University which I attended two or three times a week.  I will also miss a choral concert and a philharmonic concert which I had hoped to attend this month.  But all of humanity must fight this thing together and there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

About ten days ago I saw a film.  I saw it in an old-fashioned movie theatre which has had a complete restoration to the way it was when it opened in 1935, the Westdale Theatre in the trendy Westdale section of Hamilton.  I am very impressed with this theatre.  It has pretty well all of the attributes of the old theatres that I used to go to as a child.  You enter from the street to an Art Deco lobby complete with a place to buy popcorn.  There are 350 seats in this theatre, so it is unlike those which happy cut up into two or more screens.  It was a lot of fun.  The movie I saw, Parasite, was okay.

Did you know that the movie chain, Cineplex, is being sold to foreign interests?  A number of films that are made with Canadian government support get that grant money on the basis of a guarantee from Cineplex that they will show the movie.  A lot of producers are worried.

I received a whole bunch of books for Christmas and I have started them all, but it takes me a long time to read a book and so I have not finished most of them, yet.  My friend Hal Mattson, doesn't actually give me books but reports to me that he has read a book that I just have to read because he keeps thinking of me all the time he's reading it.  I guess that is a complement.

One of the ones he recommended to me is "The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared" byJonas Jonasson.  It was written in Swedish but I read an English translation because my Swedish is not very good.  It is hilarious.  I laughed openly on a number of occasions. 

It is a story of a 100-year-old man who climbed out the window of his old age home in order to avoid his 100th birthday party.  He proceeds to meet a number of strange people and in the process of a few days manages to commit a couple of relatively violent homicides.  This story is interspersed with the story of his life, between the years 1905 and 2005.  It turns out that he, without any planning whatsoever, lived a Forest Gump -type life, travelling around the world east to west and then west to east.  Because of a drinking binge that he has with Harry Truman he gets to meet all the great leaders of the twentieth century in similar circumstances.  As I say, it is hilarious and, because it is a relatively old book, written in 2006 , practically everybody who I speak to about it has already read it and that is kind of neat.  We can reminisce about it together.

Well as I often say on occasions when it's time to say goodbye "write if you get work".

Monday 2 March 2020

A lost chance to have a philosopher king as leader of the western world

The Democratic Party in the United States seems to have closed the door on the possibility of giving the western world an exciting new leader.  I am referring to the withdrawal last night from the campaign for Presidential nomination of Pete Buttigieg (or Peter, as he was known before he got involved in politics)         .

I carved out a certain luxury during the course of my life by involving myself in a number of political campaigns where I got to know the candidate very well or, in some cases, I knew people who knew the candidate very well – people I trusted.  I like to think that I played at major role in convincing cerebral people, deep thinkers if you will, such as John English and John Milloy to enter the political arena.

I do not have that luxury when it comes to American politics so all I know is what I gather from the media.From the media I have learned that Peter Buttigieg is, indeed, a very cerebral person.  Might I suggest that until he got involved in politics he might have been known as a nerd.  His parents were both middle-class academics.  He got a chance to study history and literature at both Harvard and as a result of a Rhodes scholarship, Oxford.  He has taken a major interest in international affairs.  I cannot discern to what extent any of the other candidates have done that.  His advocacy has always been what I would call left of centre.  He chose to serve in Afghanistan, apparently to educate himself so as to better understand his own advocacy for world peace.

You may have watched some of the debates, as I have.  When it got down to the last six candidates it was very interesting.  The others seem to have been enjoying badmouthing each other.  While he did a little bit of that himself, it did not seem to come naturally.  In a very noisy atmosphere, he looked calm and, yes, cerebral.  I notice that at one point he said "I am the only one on the stage who is not a millionaire, I think".  Nobody challenged him on it.  Why should they?  Except for Michael Bloomberg, who is obviously a billionaire, the rest of them have spent their whole adult lives in Washington in elective office and, strangely, accumulating fortunes. (That does not happen in Canadian politics).  Clearly, Buttigieg would have been a breath of fresh air to American national politics.

Would it not have been delightful to have something of a philosopher king as the "leader of the free world", a man who relys on his religious convictions when talking about matters such as climate change

If I am not mistaken,Buttigieg would have been the youngest president in the history of United States, a record now held by John F. Kennedy.  By contrast, either Saunders or Biden will be the oldest, a record that, if he is reelected, could become held by Donald Trump.

So what is to become of this young fellow?  Saunders says that he will not choose "an old white guy" (those are his words) as his running mate, and it does not make sense politically for either he or Biden to choose Buttigieg for that role.  The timing of his withdrawal, perhaps based on finances as much is anything else, is clearly a boost for Biden and Biden owes him "big".

 I wonder if he would make a good Secretary of State.  Just a suggestion, Joe.