A Ghost Story

I love having breakfast at the Belmont Diner.  I sit at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter and invariably there’s another human being across the way to talk to.  A couple of weeks ago, it was Eric.  He’s a farmer near Belmont and there’s a picture of his homestead on a wall in the Diner.  Green farm buildings and a tall red-brick home.

“Eric, how old is your house?”

“123 years.”

“Wow!  Do you have any ghosts?”  [I love the idea of ghosts.  I hope to meet one someday.]

“No, but my neighbour Larry does.”

“You’re kidding.  Do you think he’d be okay if I knocked on his door to talk about them?”

“He’d love it.”

And so ended breakie, me flushed with anticipation.  I’ll find Larry’s house and try for a chat.

A few days later, I drove by Eric’s home, thinking that it also had to have a ghost or two.  And I found Larry’s house.  It was a newer building, with cream-coloured siding.  Sure didn’t look like a spot for floating spirits.  No matter.  I’ll knock.  But not today.  I had to get to South Dorchester School for my volunteering.

Day after day, I was a mite too busy for ghost hunting.  And then I went back to the Diner for another breakfast.  There sat Eric and my friend Barry, who’s often referred to as “The Mayor of Belmont”.  (My village doesn’t have an official one.)

“I haven’t got inside Larry’s home yet, Eric.  Sure hope I see some ghosts when I do.”

“They’re not in his house.  They’re in the barn.”

“Oh.”  I thought middle-class ghosts would seek out more luxurious accommodations.

“Bruce …”  I looked around to see Barry sizing me up.  “Eric isn’t talking about ghosts.  His neighbour has goats.”

And so ensued a stunned silence, followed by three locals laughing their guts out.

Oh dearest supernatural beings, I’m still on the lookout for a sighting.  Someone please send me your ghosts and goblins.  I’m no good at milking.

Urinal

I left home for my Toronto trip minus one essential accessory.  Since I usually have to pee twice during the night, a urinal sits beside my bed.  Not this time.

No problem.  After all, this is the metropolis of Toronto and Shoppers Drug Mart is an easy walk from the B&B.  Let’s see … “incontinence” and “constipation” – sounds like the perfect aisle.  Nope, and actually no aisle did the job.  “I suggest you drive to Shoppers Home Health Care on Lawrence Avenue near Bathurst.”  Thank you, sir.  I know those stores have lots of medical equipment – wheelchairs, walkers, urinals.

So off I went in dear Scarlet, 4:30 on a Friday.  Rush hour can’t be that bad.  Wrong.  I stopped and started and stopped all the way along Lawrence.  Strangely, I was pretty loosy goosy about it all.  Gave me a chance to drink in a 200-metre-long mural under an overpass, full of vibrant faces and the wonders of the natural world.  Some of my friends in adjoining cars were quite antsy, however, zipping in and out of lanes, only to end up one or two car lengths ahead.

Finally a left turn into Lawrence Plaza and I was there.  I strode confidently into the store and was greeted by a woman wearing a huge smile.  “Oh, sir, those have been backordered for two weeks.”  (Sigh)  All this way for no peeing vessel.  What I did find on the shelf was a yellow plastic peanut-shaped thing, about two inches high and eight inches long.  I calculated how much pee it would hold and whether that would fulfill my nightly needs.  “Oh, just buy it, Bruce.”  $1.12.

Homeward bound to the B&B.  Altogether the round trip was one hour and twenty minutes but at least I wouldn’t be stumbling to the hallway bathroom at 3:00 am.

3:00 am

I sat on the edge of the bed and did my thing in the soft glow of the table lamp.  I watched expectantly as the urine climbed the walls of the peanut.  The flow stopped about 3/8 of an inch from the lip.

9:00 am

Open my bedroom door.  Open the bathroom door.  Put up the toilet seat.  Return to the bedroom.  Grasp the peanut at each end.  Walk oh so slowly out of my room, down the hall and into the bathroom, negotiating a variety of changes in flooring.  Think “What if someone comes by right now?”  Worry.  No one.  Tip the contents into the toilet.  Rinse the vessel.  Slink back to my room.

Okay, this doesn’t rank up there with an entrancing conversation or an inspiring concert but it still was a true life adventure.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Tanning

I’m going to Cuba in three weeks.  My skin is white.  Down in the Caribbean sun, I prefer that it be brown rather than red.  So off to Kokomo’s I went this morning.  I stood up for five minutes in the Monster bed.  I plan on doing the same every two or three days until I step on the plane.

I’m aware of the health issues but I also remember when Jody and I arrived in the Dominican Republic years ago.  Our first day, we walked a long ways on the beach, wearing shorts and T-shirts.  Jody had missed a spot near her bra strap with the sunscreen and she was in agony for the next few days.  I don’t want to go through that.

As a teenager, I didn’t like my body and certainly wouldn’t expose my virgin flesh on Toronto Island’s beach.  I was even afraid to lie out in the backyard with the neighbours’ windows looming.  So white I was, except for my forearms and lower legs.  But then there came an invitation to spend a long weekend at my friend’s cottage.

Rick had a older sister, age 17, who was gorgeous.  Oh my.  She was going to see my overall whiteness.  Something had to be done.  And the 1960s version of Instatan was my answer.  I snuck the tube home from the drugstore and gooped it on liberally in the privacy of my bedroom.  “Gosh, my feet are white.  Get those toes!”

How did I survive that weekend?  My body was orange and streaky.  Each toe had a little ridge of tan surrounded by a deep paleness.  For variety, my face was red, a condition that had nothing to do with the sun’s rays.  I can’t remember Rick’s sister ever making eye contact with me.

From the age of 20 till 27, I spent most of my summers in the Rockies.  By then the tanning lotion had worn off.  I adopted a new strategy to get the girls.  Hide your whiteness with turtleneck shirts.  It didn’t matter how hot it was.  I was up to my neck in fabric.  One time, a girl yanked down my collar to see what was underneath … the whitest of skin.  (Sigh)  I was a scared little adult who yearned for the brown beach muscles I saw in the ads.  But somehow I still had friends.

Two decades later, I was a member of the London Cycling Club.  And lo and behold, the culture there was deeply tanned faces, forearms and calves.  And I’ll leave the rest of the body to your imagination.  I was in the “in” group, finally.

Sadly (or happily) I now have returned to my roots – a longing for darkness.  And I’m going to honour that request.  Cuba will be graced with sleek brown muscles (courtesy of Kokomo’s and strength training), not to mention gaily coloured Speedos.  I tell you … I’m the whole package.  Nobody’s going to kick sand in my face!

And from Jody: “Bruce, you’re so strange.”

Size Matters … Or Does It?

My head is swimming within the illness of the day.  So perhaps you can forgive me for the comment I’m about to make.  Or not.

Part of my sexual apparatus is larger than just about every male on the planet.

If you’re a woman, how does that make you feel?  I imagine most of you would be thinking “What a loser.”  And that very few of you would be panting in anticipation.

At the risk of diving into the world of TMI, I can say that sometime on the weekend, as I got weaker, more disoriented at times, and was wracked by coughing spells, my testicles started swelling.  At this moment, they’re at least twice their normal size.  My very unerect penis is merely a bump amid this mass of flesh.

I went to see my doctor Julie today and received antibiotics for whatever virus I’m living with.  She looked at my testicles and declared “They’re much worse”, compared to her last examination in September.  “It’s not cancer, Bruce.”  (Whew)  She referred me to a urologist who may suggest surgery to remove the five centimetre cyst atop one testicle and a smaller one on the other.  “To deal with the discomfort.”

Sounds good to me.

So here I sit in my man chair, squirming a bit.  It is uncomfortable, especially when I turn over in bed.  More importantly, thoughts of diminished manhood fall over me.  Images of the V-shaped body, the Hollywood smile, the sweaty runner breaking the tape at the finish line, come calling.  None of those are me.  What’s true is that there’s no lessening of maleness, and certainly no sense of being deficient as a human being.  My body is a really cool vehicle that continues to serve me well.  It’s just that right now it’s sick, and bloated in one strategic spot.  Oh well.

Here’s a reminder of everpresent wholeness, whether experienced through a Christian context, or another:

Just as I am, tho’ tossed about,
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings within and fears without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!