Coronacuts

Well, well, well … here it is two days later, not two weeks.  I wonder if my fingers will re-emerge longterm or just sporadically.

***

Delight seems to be in short supply recently, but I experienced some on the CBC News Network telecast yesterday morning.  The topic among the three hosts was hair.  It seems to be growing longer, and beauty salons are out of bounds.

We saw photos of Canadians taking matters into their own hands.  There were poised scissors, bowls atop heads, smiles and a few grimaces.  Heather Hiscox, the anchor, was joined by John Northcott, a commentator, and by Chris Somebody, the weather guy.  John happens to be bald.

Heather: Don’t we all want to be John Northcott right now?  John, share some expert tips with us.

John smiled big time and showed us an old photo from the 80’s of him with a full shock of blond hair.

Chris:  You look better now!

John was looking pretty nostalgic.  In the moment, he was a beaming older fellow nattily dressed in a suit and bow tie.

John:  Certainly an appreciation for those who have cut our hair for all these years.  Sitting in the chair and letting someone do what they know how to do is going to be a welcome return at some point.

Heather:  Chris is lamenting the ski jump on his head.  [He shows us a profile and sweeps his hand through the hairy mass.]  Maybe you want to go and do the Northcott, Chris.

John:  It’s a slippery slope, Chris.  Next it’ll be bow ties.

Huge smiles, giggles and guffaws.  We the audience laughed along with the folks on our screens.  It was therapeutic.  It was what human beings are meant to do.

Chilling

At the back of the school there’s a bench. It’s a perfect spot to place an adult bum. This morning before the bell rang, the kids were told “tarmac only” since the grassed part of the yard was oozing with mud from the recent rain. So the asphalt was crammed with kids.

I took off my mitt, wiped off a layer of water, and sat down. Some kids seemed revolted by this act, as it would surely result in wet rear end syndrome. Inside this particular adult, I chuckled about how so many athletic kids flinched at the thought of water invasion. Three children did join me on the bench, no doubt safe in the knowledge that what becomes wet will later become dry.

For five minutes, we seated folks and a few standing ones talked about I don’t remember what. All I know is that it was silly.

A Grade 1 girl came up to me. “Please sing the song.” It took me a few seconds but I finally figured out what she wanted … for me to recite Twas The Night Before Christmas, just as I had done for the classes in December.

I looked her in the eyes and solemnly shared “Oh, I forget how to do that. Every year I have to study the song before saying it to you.”

(A very turned down mouth from the little one)

I leaned towards her … and started blasting out the fast version of Twas. Her eyes went wide and the other kids held on for the ride. I do believe a fine time was had by all. I was a mite rusty but that didn’t matter. It actually made my reciting more fun.

A few minutes later I engaged in a staring contest with the same young lady and two of her friends. I lost every time. I guess old folks blink a lot.

Then the bell. From Grade 1 to Grade 6, the kids tootled off to one of three entrances. I lingered a bit on the smooth wood and thanked my lucky stars for the privilege of hanging around open eyes, easy laughs, and emerging hearts.

Day Twelve: Les Jeux

Ahh … the games people play, in Toubacouta and around the world.

In the evening, after the heat of the day has floated away, the folks come out of their homes to be with their friends. In Canada we have the sport of curling, where large round stones slide down a sheet of ice towards a bullseye. In Senegal players loft heavy metal balls into the air, with backspin, trying to get close to a target rock. The atmosphere is intense. No smiles, but plenty of furrowed brows. As the game wound down, the young man in the picture made a brilliant shot, knocking his opponent’s ball away from the rock. There was no cheering … except for me. The grim intensity wore on.

Farther down the street, I came upon a game of checkers, or was it chess? Actually it felt like something different. Silence from the players and spectators hung in the air. All were focused on the wisdom of the next move. Strategies swirled in the space. I leaned closer, and at one point, reached toward a piece on the board. Truly a dumb move, designed solely to bring attention to myself. The gentleman on the right in the photo shot me a withering glance, and I slunk off to the edge of the gathering. The game continued amid a flurry of brain activity, with nary a muscle moving.

How about a shark face to lighten the proceedings? I had told the kids in Belmont, Canada that last December I’d played soccer with some children, using an empty peanut butter jar. Sophie, an 11-year-old student, suggested I buy some beach balls at the Dollar Store, and inflate them in Africa. Great idea! So I did.

As I lifted this ball to Nima, her face shone. She held it to her chest with such love. It was hers. Nima experimented with throwing it way high and especially liked tossing it backwards. It didn’t matter that her skills were marginal … the smile said all. I loved seeing her chase down the ball when it bounced away.

Now it was time for the Nima and Bruce show. High throws, bounces, wild kicks, rebounds off foreheads … we did it all. Just a simple beach ball was spreading the joy. Really playing the game was just a convenient excuse for laughing together. Nima and I were really good at that.

O Senegal … thanks for allowing me to be with you.

Switch

I was driving through Belmont today on the way home from school.  The bus ahead had just spat out a gaggle of kids.  Five of them jumped onto a white lawn and started throwing snowballs at each other.  I laughed.  It’s just what kids are meant to do, even though it’s not allowed at school.

And then I flashed back.  To about 1960.

An 11-year-old kid had just been released from school.  The wet white stuff was falling.  He walked along Bedford Park Avenue in Toronto with two words on his mind: “good packing”.  For those of you in southern climes, that means the snow sticks together well.  The boy started winging snowballs at his friends and other kids.  He was splatted a few times in return.  “By accident”, one of the missiles happened to hit a car crawling by.  Unfortunately that car was driven by a teacher at Bedford Park Public School, and he recognized … me.

The next morning I was in the principal’s office, quivering about what I knew would be next.  Ah yes, corporal punishment.  The strap.  A long piece of leather with the power to decimate an open palm.  And it did.

Today, in my rental car Bullet, I reflected on how I’d changed from little to big, from young to old.  Now I was the one with power and status.  I have the responsibility to maintain my home and pay my taxes.  I don’t play “guns” in the back alley anymore.

Am I still that young fellow on Bedford Park Avenue?  Do I still feel the thrills of being alive?  Yes, I do.  They’re different thrills, for sure, but I still glow hot and jump up and down.  May we all continue to throw ourselves into life.  May we continue to have fun.

I Just Wanna Have Fun

“Animation” is one of my two favourite words.  I’m not talking about cartoons here.  I’m thinking about the Latin word animus, which means “to breathe life into”.  So … take an ordinary moment in your day.  How can you bring it alive?  It’s become my hobby, and it comes to me easily now – no effort, no planning, just fun.

I was walking into GoodLife Fitness this morning at 11:50.  A session with my trainer Tony was scheduled for 12:00.  I’d have to boogie through the clothes changing to make it on time.

On the way to the locker room sat five men in a row.  Some had white goo on their faces.  Off to the side was a table hosted by a smiling woman.  It was laden with paper plates.  Pressurized cans of whipped cream waited for their time to shine.  The hostess told me that GoodLife staff were raising money to help kids with autism or intellectual disabilities get fit.  For $5.00, I could whip a plate full of cream into the visage of one of these captive employees.

First

“Do it, Bruce!”  What does five minutes of lateness mean in the span of your life?

Second

I whipped out my wallet and plunked it into the tub of five dollar bills.  Then I just stood there.  Gentlemen gaped.

Third

As the hostess was explaining things, I stared at the young man on the left end of the line. I tried to look fierce.  As I picked up the overflowing plate, I continued my gaze.

Fourth

Still fixed on Lefty’s eyes, I walked forward ever so slowly, a delicious circle in my right hand.  Closer, and then right up to him, I raised my arm … and splatted the wet goodness into the face of the fellow beside him.  Squeals of delight (both male and female) then ensued.

Fifth

I picked up my gym bag and strode heroically towards the locker room, accompanied by a chorus of “Your wallet!”  I didn’t look back.

Sixth

I took the scenic route through the locker room, creating the pregnancy of time, and returned to the lobby via a back entrance.  Perhaps a minute had gone by.  Up to the table, a crisp bill removed from the rescued wallet, a smiling glance at the assembled ones, and I was off once more.  I believe there was a gentle murmur behind me.

***

Worth its weight in gold, those five minutes
Mouths were opened and smiles engaged
Life was made good

The Quarter Auction Revisited

I wrote about this marvelous event about six months ago.  I can’t remember what I said then.  Maybe tonight it’ll be the exact same stuff.  And who cares if that’s so?

Take two hundred women and three men.  Arm them with numbered paddles and globs of quarters for participating in the draws.  Surround them with vendors offering products for the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Mix in an MC with a barrel of numbered balls.  The recipe yields two hours of fun, with endless servings.

It’s cool being in such a minority.  Some women smiled, some laughed and a few just stared at me.  That’s fine.  I simply wanted to contribute to folks having a good time.

The three of us got to have a bathroom all to ourselves.  There could have been lineups at the women’s for all I know.  Ahh … the perks of specialness.

As I rambled around the room for the first few minutes, up came a woman to complete a transaction.  I had ordered and paid for a book at the last auction but she’d lost my contact info.  So she fretted for six months, praying that I would show up for the next one.  And I did.  The relief was everywhere on her face and empathy on mine.  Actually I had forgotten all about the purchase.

Once more I sat with Linda and her daughters.  The funnest part of these auctions for me has been to drop quarters in their change purses when they’re looking the other way.  In the past, many people couldn’t understand such behaviour when they found out.  It seemed so irrational.  But it’s not.  A few quarters given propels deep happiness into my heart.

Ten minutes after I sat down tonight, four of the five women near me got up to inspect the treasures that were on offer.  I sat alone with Linda’s daughter Emma and with my five rolls of quarters.  I didn’t think, I just unwrapped, and plunked the contents of one roll into each of the four unguarded purses.  Emma stared and smiled.  And I was ecstatic!  Maybe giving freely is what this life is truly about.  And the sweet receiving is just a peripheral perk.

My number was 78.  Partway through the proceedings, The MC said “And the winning number is 78.”  I leapt up with a “Yes!” and romped over to the table holding decorative plates and tumblers.  People saw my joy and chimed in with chuckles and murmurs.

For the very next draw, the winning number was … 78!  Again I climbed high and skipped over to my prize.  I was examining my spoils at the table when I heard “78” ring out once more.  This time it was some gel that’s meant to produce faster orgasms, something that didn’t seem all that beneficial to me, but I jumped up once more.  My goodness … what are the chances?

That was it for the winnings.  I gave all the things away.  That made me very happy.  The evening flowed on – a series of paddles standing tall, winners’ squeals, and vendors sharing the joy of giving.  Ohh, and there were a few more opportunities to have coins fall into purses when heads were turned the other way.

I do believe a fine time was had by all.

 

 

Basketball

So we’re in Toronto … Olivia, Baziel and me. Eight hours after lifting off from Brussels, we nestled into the joys of Terminal One in Toronto. Adventure was in our six eyes.

We had to wait a fair long time for our shuttle bus to Scarlet’s temporary abode. Pas de problème. We all knew that we were about to be on a mission: to buy a basketball. You see, these kids are fanatics. They play on teams in Belgium. They dream of the future.

After we corralled Scarlet at Skyway Park, it was off on the 401 freeway to Yorkdale Mall, the home of SportChek, and hopefully many basketballs.

The ceilings were high, the glitter of wealth surrounded us and the people of Toronto flowed past in all their glory of multiculturalism. The store was full of athetic achievement, many sports represented in their clothing and equipment. Downstairs was the home of NBA devotees.

Ahh … the b-balls. Baziel settled on a Wilson Crossover model, and all was right with the world.

We wandered the mall in search of NBA jerseys but few were to be found. We had our treasure. It was time to play.

First to Anne and Ihor’s bed and breakfast. Anne glowed as she welcomed us in the door. The teens got it. They were glimpsing a new home.

Google Maps showed me a nearby school and we bounced our ball along the sidewalk. Around the back of the building were four hoops, all without nets, but that didn’t matter. Olivia and Baziel dribbled beautifully, laid up the ball gracefully, and nailed lots of long-distance shots. I … threw up the basketball in the general direction of the hoop. We had fun.

I was hungry, and convinced the kids to take a break for chicken. Yum.

Anne had mentioned that there was a basketball court near the local arena so we decided to explore in that direction. And lo and behold … there it was. Three young men crowded around one of the three hoops, testing each other. Baziel and Olivia did the same at another one.

Magically other teens and kids appeared. I just stared at all the athletes. One young boy in a red shirt was so skinny and so skilled. All those between-the-legs dribbles! At another basket, a supremely powerful young man was coaching a little boy who had gorgeous braided (?) hair and an everlasting smile.

A fellow came over to challenge Baziel to a one-on-one game. Olivia and I smiled as the contest unfolded. Then it was three-on-three. Baziel was beaming.

For the last hour it was a full game – five against five – as the sun declined. Belgium saying hi to Canada and Canada welcoming Belgium.

I loved it all.

Tyrrell

Lance, Jace, Jagger, Nona and Jaxon

An ancient fish – thirty feet long and weighing as much as three elephants

A 71-million-year-old dinosaur.  Check out the teeth.

Our tour guide, plus some folks on the left

I arrived in Longview, Alberta last night to see my brother-in-law Lance and his family.  This morning we were up bright and early for the three-hour drive to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.  We were immersed in the paleontology of long ago creatures, especially dinosaurs.  The above four photos all depict ancient ones.

I could give you the science of it all but that wouldn’t be as cool as goofing around.  It’s astounding how old these creatures are … so many millions of years.  What’s not astounding is how much I like having fun.  I revel in doing strange things just for the joy of it.  At one point, the family came upon a mummified dinosaur.  It was protected by a rectangular glass cage, and a yellow line on the floor eighteen inches from the structure asked us to stay back a bit.  I decided to put my toes on the line and see if anyone would walk between me and the glass.  Ahh … the study of human behaviour!

Two adults and nine kids made the journey between.  I was hoping the numbers would be zero.  Jace, Jagger and Jaxon saw me standing strangely and came over.  Once I revealed my strategy, their toes joined mine.  I guess our lineup was intimidating because no more “trespassing” ensued.  Yes, it was a goofy thing to do, and yes, it made me happy.

When I was in Alberta a few weeks ago for Jaxon’s high school graduation, I arrived as a stranger to the family’s little white dog Melody.  For four days she barked at this bad guy and nipped at my ankles.  Then she gave it a rest.  Yesterday, Melly yapped at me for half an hour before concluding that I was okay.  Good news for my skin and vital organs.  I told Jace that I’d “slipped her a ten” to get her to leave me alone.

This morning Jace asked me if I was going give a ten dollar bill to anyone else.  I laughed.  But as we strolled the Tyrrell, I decided to play.  I folded a ten spot in half and subtly slipped it into Jace’s hand.  A minute later, he returned the favour, with all the smooth grace of a drug dealer.  We were having fun.  Then I sat on a bench near a woman.  I think she was cluing into what we were doing.  So I reached over and put the ten dollar bill into her hand.  We smiled together.  “Give it to somebody else.  You can have the experience of receiving and then giving.  And so can the next person.”  She nodded.  She stood.  She walked over to a dad, standing close to his daughter.  She started talking.  I walked away.

That ten dollars hopefully travelled throughout the Tyrrell Museum.  Maybe its journey was brief, ending in an opened wallet or purse.  But perhaps it went on for hours.  I’ll never know.

I’m smiling now as I remember the giving.  Priceless.

Seeking Gifts

Just before I went to California in April, a boy in the Grade 6 class asked me if I’d bring him back a snow globe. I thought for a second and then said yes. In Monterey, I had so much fun tracking down just what he wanted – a version that featured a sea otter.

On Tuesday, I was in class before my afternoon flight to Alberta. A boy had already asked me to find a wooden sculpture for him. I bet everyone knew that I’d said yes. As time wound down towards my departure, two girls came by separately and each shyly said how much they’d like to have a necklace from Alberta. I asked for details of what they’d prefer and they were happy to oblige. I overheard another young lady telling her friends that she’d love to have a souvenir from the west.

So, Mr. Kerr, do you give these kids what they’re asking for? Immediately the answer came back “Yes”. I choose to reward the kids who speak up, who are brave enough to ask.

On the plane to Calgary, I decided to give the last girl the gift she wanted – some depiction of a horse. It’s true that she didn’t ask me directly but at least she tossed her intention out there.

Today was my first full day with Nona, Lance, Jaxon, Jagger and Jace. Nona knew of a few gift shops in nearby Black Diamond and I promised to be no more than half an hour. I figured I had six more days to score any unfound treasures.

First the recommended drug store with its gift section. A small rearing horse caught my attention on the top shelf. Cool. But so did the $89.99 price tag. My eyes roamed and soon came to rest on a pile of small plates. The top one had a sublime painting of a mom horse and her foal. I stared. “Yes” rang through me. Just like that, one of the four was complete. I could see the future smile on the 11-year-old’s face.

The accompanying shelves weren’t yielding further secrets so I readied myself to leave. I asked the saleslady where in town I was likely to find necklaces. She smiled and gestured over to where I had been. Little boxes, each with a pendant, graced the glass. I hadn’t noticed their silver chains. Before me were jewelry designs in abalone shells – shimmering greens and blues.

The first one to my eyes showed the shining feathers of a dreamcatcher, and the face of one of the askers appeared. Less than a minute later, I saw a “Tree of Life” pendant, and the other young face was smiling at me. How can this be? Three out of four in ten minutes!

I meandered down the street, peeking into this shop and that. The warmth of one place beckoned me inward. My request for “a little wooden sculpture” drew a smile from a clerk and an offer to shift my attention to tiny stone animals. I looked at the small ones in their rectangular compartments and knew that the answer was no. But I was being nudged onward, past several displays of artistry. There, sitting on a vibrant scarf, were four small wooden boxes. One was rounded at the top and a tree stretched over. Mango wood from India. Four.

In ten days, my young friends, gifts will be given.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Actually, I was born on January 9 but why should facts get in the way of a little fun?

Today was a special day at school and there were fools all over the place.  Take me, for instance.  I told the kids first thing that I had just been listening to Doug Ford on the radio.  He’s the Premier of Ontario.  “He said that starting on May 1, he’s extending the school day.  Instead of students going home at 3:30, it’ll be 4:00.”  I said this with a very straight face.  No sooner were the last words out of my mouth than I was met with a chorus of “April Fool’s!”  Kids are just so smart these days.

Around 10:00 am, one of the Grade 6 kids left the room, supposedly on the way to the washroom.  A few minutes later, a shorter and younger version of her, dressed exactly the same, came into the class and confidently sat in her sister’s chair.  For some of us it took seconds, but others didn’t notice for a minute or so.  Well done, girls!

The announcements started just before morning recess.  A teacher came on the PA with this message: “It’s Mr. Kerr’s birthday today.  If you see him in the halls or on the yard, wish him well.”  I was working with two kids at that moment, and my face jerked.  Huh?  Oh yeah … April 1.

Now, what would be the most fun?  Well, play along with it, of course.  Thank everyone for their good wishes and revel in my birthday celebration.  So that’s what I did.

No sooner was I on the asphalt than a girl rushed up with a birthday card.  How did she pull that off in ten minutes?  I smiled and said thank you.  “How old are you?”  >  “70”  >  “Oh.”  (unspoken, I believe, was “That’s really old.”)  As I walked around, maybe twenty kids came up to say “Happy Birthday!”  One girl said she had a present for me and plunked a quarter in my hand.  Naturally, staff members or volunteers don’t accept money from kids, but I made an executive decision: I picked up the coin with a flourish, opened the change pocket of my wallet and dropped it in.  The young lady was so very happy.

Feel free to congratulate me as well.  I’ll gladly receive all the good vibes that come my way.  January … April … they’re both marvelous.