Oops … I Forgot (Or Never Figured Out in the First Place)

This is old news but it’s a good story … and I like good stories.

Sunday, September 12, 9:00 pm or so.  I’m sitting at the bar in PJ Horgan’s, my neighbourhood pub in Queens, New York City.  I had just finished my immersion in the US Open tennis tournament.  The men’s finals match between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev was replaying on the big TV before me.  I had settled into my nachos and IPA beer.  All was right with the world.  I was so pleased with myself that I’d fulfilled a dream, jumped through the Covid and vaccination hoops in Canada to get to New York, and spent two weeks watching the best tennis players in the world.

And then the word came to my cheesy lips: COVID.  My eyes opened wide and so did my mouth.  “Tell me true.  I don’t need to get another Covid test to get back into Canada … do I?”  My head started nodding with no accompanying thought.  (Sigh)

Quick like a bunny, I found the Government of Canada app on my phone.  “Although vaccinated Canadian travellers are now exempt from quarantine, they’re still required to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test before returning to Canada [within 72 hours before the flight leaves].”  There I sat, mid-nacho, watching my beloved tennis on TV, wondering where I would get a Covid test at the last minute.  And it had to be the fancy test – PCR.  Plus I had to get the results back fast if I was to make my 12:20 pm flight.

I sat there and smiled.  I mean … What was that about?  I had apparently turned off the Covid-related part of my brain, had made a huge mistake, and here I was having happy compassion for myself.  I’ll take it.

I found the Clear 19 Covid Testing Center online.  They did PCR tests with results guaranteed within two hours.  And I could have an 8:15 am appointment in midtown Manhattan.  All for a deliciously large sum of money.  I had a Zoom meeting, which I needed to attend, scheduled for 8:00 pm.  Plus the possibility of staying one extra night at my Airbnb was cloudy since my hosts had gone to Toronto (!) to visit friends.

I paid the big bucks and girded my loins about how I was going to pull this together.

Nachos and beer rapidly consumed, I walked the fifty yards to my Airbnb and got on the phone with Air Canada.  Actually I was on the phone in seconds.  They took forty-five minutes to join me.  The Air Canada rep was very kind.  She somehow resisted the temptation to blurt out “You idiot!”  Thank you, dear rep.  She told me that in order to make my 12:20 pm flight to Toronto, they’d have to receive my luggage by 11:00.  And I’d have to show a negative Covid test result for that to happen.  So … 8:15 > 10:15.  Looked like I had forty-five minutes to play with.  “You can do this, Bruce!”  I was still smiling.

Miss Air Canada said that if I missed the 12:20 flight, I could catch a later one that went to Montreal first before gracing the suburbs of Toronto.  That would be toast for my evening meeting, plus it would cost me $150 more.  (Sigh again)

It was now 11:00 pm or so.  I packed everything that wasn’t needed in the morning.  I went to the NYC Subway app to find out how to get to Clear 19.  This would be easy peasy.  Up at 6:00, quick shower, pack the toiletries, ten-minute walk to the subway, emerge from the underground at 50 Street, find a place to eat something and walk the three blocks to my Covid saviour.

Up the steps at 50th and the first thing I saw was the Golden Arches.  That’ll do nicely.  Although the sign outside said “Dine In”, the woman at the counter said otherwise.  No sweat.  I sat on a ledge in front of an office building and munched my Egg McMuffin and hash browns to the accompaniment of hurrying pedestrians, a flurry of yellow cabs, honking here and there and, to the south, the towering neon of Broadway north of Times Square.  I was so happy!  The universe had conspired to feed me and give me copious amounts of caffeine.

8:05.  I was early at Clear 19.  8:15.  A swab was entering my nostrils (happily not all the way back).  8:20.  I was on my way, considerably lighter in the wallet and continually light in the spirit.  Life works.

Back on the subway, back to my luggage in the Airbnb, and now a twenty-minute walk to the bus that would take me to Laguardia Airport.  As I left the apartment, I made an executive decision.  I would stop at the Aubergine Café, my breakfast home for the last fortnight, and say goodbye to Mary, Jimmy and Lisette.  They had been so kind to me.  I had no room for my usual bacon, cheese, tomato and avocado bagel (Yum!) but how about if I linger over a mixed berry smoothie?

“Linger!?  You, my dimwitted Canadian friend, have no time to linger.  Don’t you remember?  You have a plane to catch, luggage to drop off, Covid test result to receive on the phone, etc. etc.!”  (By the way, that was me talking to me.)

I lingered.  And changed my order to a strawberry banana smoothie.  So good!  Lisette and Jimmy asked me to come back next year, during the 2022 Open.  I will.  Sadly, Mary had a day off.  Jimmy said he would tell her goodbye from me.

Back to walking.  I saw a bus at the corner of Woodside and 61 Street, where I had exited fifteen days ago.  The driver said that yes, he was the Q70 to Laguardia, but that the pickup spot was “around the corner, in front of Dunkin’ Donuts”.  So around the corner I went – no donut sign in sight.  I tried not to look at my watch.  “Life works!”  Remember?

I saw a fellow in a uniform, sweeping up garbage on the sidewalk.  “Excuse me, I can’t find Dunkin’ Donuts.”  “Oh, you have to turn right again.  It’s down another block.  Here, I’ll show you.”  And he did.  I heard years ago that New Yorkers were unfriendly.  Not in my experience.

It took fifteen more minutes for the Q70 to arrive.  Meanwhile I chatted with a couple from Kansas who were also catching a flight.  I can’t remember why they’d come to New York but they too loved the place.

I was so glad that I had put “Terminal B” in my phone months ago because creeping traffic and visits to Terminals C and D slowed thing down.  Oh well.

10:10.  Arrival in the concourse.  Searching for Air Canada.  I debated whether to go to one of the freestanding terminals when I reached the airline, but a friendly employee told me not to.  “Line up right away.”  Thank you.

I checked my phone.  Yes!  An e-mail from Clear 19.  I was negative.  Such positive news.

I was about thirtieth in line.  The Air Canada woman the night before had told me that I needed to download the ArriveCan app and fill out the info before getting to the agent at the counter.  I hadn’t done that yet.  No sweat, I thought.  Well … considerable sweat.  There was all this information asked for.  Thankfully, I had it stored on my phone.  I finished it around 10:35.  I was third in line.

Finally a smiling human being awaited me at the counter.  Show my two vaccinations.  Show my negative Covid test.  Show my completed ArriveCan form.  Put my luggage on the scale.

10:45.  Fifteen minutes to spare.  Piece of cake.

Listening to the Breezes Beyond Time

I’ve done nothing.  I’ve simply written down what I heard from the Gods

Giacomo Puccini (classical music composer)

Sometimes I structure things, I lay out plans, I have a clear view of the road ahead.  That’s okay.  There’s a certain meek satisfaction there.  But it often feels dull.  Yes, I have to put the work in to accomplish things, and indeed they do get done, but there’s another realm … of juice.

Mr. Puccini wrote twelve operas.  He needed a broad musical knowledge to accomplish that, but there was a beyond.  He listened.  Unknown guides were whispering in his ear, and he allowed himself to fall forward into the mist, to trust that a vaster mind was placing gifts in his hands.  Please, let me be so orchestrated.

I’ve learned not to censor the words that tumble from my mouth.  Oh, I still hear the ancient tones of “Be Careful” but they don’t hold sway.  I respect such acquaintances but I don’t wrap my arms around them.  It’s more like nodding as I acknowledge their presence.

Today was a hug.  As I was doing the Mutual Awakening Practice with a partner, the world was flowing free.  I was being carried by a lilt in the voice, a spring in the step.  And then the revelation landed from the nether regions:

I have happy fingers!

Yes, it was true.  “They get to hang out together, and bobble and wobble together.  The fingies touch and then bounce away.  And you know what’s the best?  They’re all part of this … hand!  They’re part of a whole, one that can wave, and hold things, and rest on my lap.  My happy fingers never get lost out there in the sky.  They have a home – always connected, always a part of something big.”

Perhaps Giacomo Puccini is proud of me today.  I wasn’t measured or effective.  I was dancing to the whims and whispers from other lands.


I hadn’t heard from “Bob” for more than two years, and I was thrilled to get his e-mail a few days ago:

Bob Brown <……………….@………..com>
How are you doing ? I hope this Email finds you well?
I need a little favour from you.
My first thought?  Bob!  Of course I’ll help you.  I answered immediately.
Hi Bob,
I’m glad to hear from you. It’s been so long.
Sure … ask away.
And then an immediate reply:
Thanks for your response.  I am sorry for bothering you with this mail.  I need to get a Google Play Gift Card for my friend’s Daughter, It’s her birthday but I can’t do this now because I’m currently away and I tried purchasing online but unfortunately had no luck with that.  Can you help purchase it online or from any store around you?  I’ll pay back as soon as I am back.   Kindly let me know if you can handle this. I promise to refund as soon as I’m back. 

I so much wanted to be helpful …
Yes, I’ll buy the card.  How much money am I putting on it?
Quick like a bunny came a response:
Thank you very much.  The Total amount needed is $300 ($100 or $50 denomination ) you can have it purchased from any store around you (Gas station, Walmart, Drug Store) or Online.  I need you to scratch the back of each card to reveal the pin, then take a snapshot of the back showing the pin and have them sent to me via my email.  So I can forward them to her with some Birthday Wishes.

Once again thanks.
Oh, I’m such a nice guy!
I’ll get some gas today and pick up the cards.  Stay tuned …
“Bob” was totally tuned in:
I will be expecting.  Once again thanks
I got to work on the task at hand …
Here you go, Bob!  You friend’s daughter will be very happy.  (complete with a photo of six $50 Google Play Gift Cards, with the codes revealed via thorough scratching)
I imagined the girl’s squeal of delight.
Thanks so much.  I really appreciate it.  I have forwarded the card to my friend’s Daughter, she was very happy you need to see her email but kids will always be kids she is really holding me to my promise because i told her i had do anything for her on her Birthday.  she just emailed me that the cards weren’t enough to complete what she had to do with it .  Please can you render me one more favour and I promise to pay back as soon as I am back.  I need you to help me purchase another gift card worth $300 ($100 or $50 denomination) so she could complete what she has to with it.
Thanks once again let me know when you purchase them and I promise as soon as I am back I will refund your cash. 
That’s enough of the sordid details.  I remained completely oblivious to what was really happening.  Somehow I’m smiling as I write this.  I was so eager to talk to Bob again and help him out that my rational mind went to sleep.  I do believe that the word for me is naïve … thoroughly so.
Here are the clues that blew right by this clueless human being:
1. “Bob” never called me “Bruce”.
2.  Throughout the correspondence, “Bob” showed an unusual use of capitalization (or lack thereof) … e.g.  Daughter, Total, Gas station, Birthday Wishes, i told her i had …
3.  “Bob” was “away” but why would he have “no luck” with buying these cards online?
4.  “Bob” was giving his friend’s daughter a gift of $300 ($600).  That sure sounds excessive.
5.  Unusual phrases within the e-mails, not the way Bob would speak: e.g. I’ll pay back, I will be expecting, i told her i had do anything for her, so she could complete what she has to with it
I am humbled
I still trust my fellow man and woman
I need to have my eyes open

Day Thirty-One: Going to the Home Continent

Goodbye Senegal, for now. I love you.

I thought yesterday’s bus trip from Toubacouta to Dakar Airport would be five hours long, but doorstep to doorstep it was only 3:25.

We were dropping young Ansou off at his new hometown of Passy. His brother Ali and I have become close during two visits and I wondered if he’d be on the side of the road as we slowed into town. Actually, I knew he’d be there.

He was. I saw a boy in the distance. From my perch in the front passenger seat, I started waving, just as he too began the greeting. I hugged Ali twice in those few minutes. I wear his bracelet on my left wrist. He’s my friend.

This was one more goodbye in yesterday’s lingering departures. So many African friends, not stopped by language in the pursuit of love. I have families both here and there.

The road to Dakar was sprinkled with villages – fruit stands, parked semi-trailers, rows of motorcycles with young men astride. People flowed everywhere and the din of voices blasted through the open windows. There’s just such an incredible energy in this country.

Lydia, Marie-paule and I were flying overnight to Belgium. I was scared about my ability to stay well all the way to San Francisco. Lydia gave me half of a sleep-promoting tablet to see me on my way. It didn’t work. I got less than an hour of shuteye. I experimented with different sleeping positions. At home, I flop from side to side, but on the plane this left one foot edged onto the floor. That hurt after awhile and sleep didn’t come. I finally figured out that a symmetrical stance worked best, head straight back on a pillow and feet flat on the floor. But that didn’t produce the result either.

We landed about 5:30 am, and Jo was soon there to whisk the women home. I had more than five hours before getting on a plane to London. A flight attendant on the Dakar-Brussels flight told me about a lounge that had actual beds! Oh … give me sleep.

It turned out that this lounge was only for customers of Brussels Airlines, but I found another one … the Diamond Lounge. They had a little bed available, and a shower! I got wet, washed my hair, shaved and brushed my teeth thanks to the supplies provided. My toiletry kit was in my checked luggage. There was even a spread of food and drink. Yay. After, I set my alarm for two hours thirty hence and fell to the sheets … … Nothing. No sleep. (Sigh)

Here I sit in another departure lounge, this one in London Heathrow Airport. The direct flight to San Francisco will be twelve hours, not the fourteen I thought it was. Small mercies.

I’m now at the thirty hour point of little sleep. Another twelve hours on the plane plus maybe two hours to get to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, and I’ll stand at forty-four. If I can’t sleep on this flight, I bet I’ll be delirious. No thanks. I have a full version of one of Lydia’s sleeping pills at the ready. Pray for me.

Being Written

I’ve been doing this blog for more than four years, and 750 posts later I’ve discovered a few things:

1.  Whenever I sit down at my laptop to write, a post is revealed.  Maybe I have a clear picture of the future words, or maybe nothing has come to me.  Either way, I trust deeply that my inner me will express itself in some manner.

2.  I write about what moves me, whether it’s silly or serious.  If the topic doesn’t “sing” to me, why bother?  Sometimes I feel a narrowing of my forehead skin and a pursing of the lips … signs that I’m engaged.   A quickening of the heart.

3.  Increasingly, I don’t care what you folks in cyberland think of my thoughts.  First of all, I have no idea how many of you there are.  “Likes” are nice but that’s just small ego stuff.  Even if you don’t enjoy what I have to say, I figure I’m planting seeds that will somehow enhance life on Earth.  “That sounds egotistical, Bruce.”  Oh well.  I don’t think it is but if I’m perceived that way by some, that’s okay.  I deeply want to contribute but even if you’re all sitting there shaking your heads, I’ll keep writing.

4.  I’ve read a lot in my life, and my posts often reflect what someone else has said.  Works for me.  But beyond that, what brand new things can I bring to this existence?  Yes, brand new.  I think it’s in me, and in you, to bring new flowers to blossom.

All right, how about a quote, from one of my faves – Teilhard de Chardin:

I would like to speak as I think, without concern for what is accepted, with the sole idea of translating as faithfully as possible what I hear murmuring in me like a voice or song, which are not of me, but of the World in me.  I would like to express the thoughts of a man who, having finally penetrated the partitions and ceilings of little countries, little coteries [groups that are exclusive of others], little sects, rises above all these categories and finds himself a child and citizen of the Earth.

Often, such as tonight, the words flow from my fingers without much thought.  It feels like I am being written.  It feels like I’m a conduit for something big.

Okay, Bruce, that’s enough musing.  Just publish the darn thing.


In any given moment, such as this one, what is wanting to be born? What is just over the edge of the horizon, beckoning to me? I wonder … and wondering is so uncertain, not solid, unknown. I like the not knowing.

I’m sitting in the beer garden at Sunfest, a world music festival in London, Ontario. When I arrived with my trusty cell phone, I had made up my mind to blog about the wild group I danced to last night – Five Alarm Funk. I was going to talk about my wounded knee and still my determination to move the body. But sitting here right now, the story of yesterday isn’t on the tip of my tongue. It’s not pulling me forward. Since Five Alarm Funk isn’t alive in me right now, I don’t want to tell the tale.

And so I sit, watching what I’m drawn to do. Fifteen minutes ago, the musicians on the stage moved me to tap out the rhythms on the table. There was no thinking, just my hands starting to caress the wood. Soon all that morphed into playing table piano, and then this Samsung phone found its way into my hands.

There are about ten people in front of the stage, dancing. I look inside and see that dancing is not emerging, and so I’m still at the table.

What’s real now? The leader of the group onstage has just invited all of us to dance to their last song. What’s bubbling up is leaning over to the woman sitting to my right and saying “I don’t want to dance.” She smiles and says she doesn’t want to either, but she’s happy to tap her toes. Smile returned.

What if I felt into each moment and looked for what wanted to express itself? No judgment, no have-to, no contraction. That sounds like a very sweet way to lead my life. Let’s do it.

Now there are about forty folks dancing in front of the stage. Good for them. I love dancing and I don’t want to join in. Good for me.

And the next moment is about to burst forth.

Boston Pizza Epiphanies

I’m in Cambridge, Ontario for the LPGA golf tournament.  I love watching women hit the ball down the middle and sink curling putts.  Plus most of them are friendly … just nice people.

Tonight I went to Boston Pizza for supper.  I enjoy watching sports on their large screen TVs.  I keep searching for myself onscreen but no luck so far.  I ordered the spinach and artichoke dip that comes with pita wedges.  Yummy.  I was chowing down and not being very observant about my remaining pieces.  Oops.  Three pita bits to go and lots of dip.  Oh well.  A few spoonfuls of dip would go down just fine.

And then Adrianne the bartender comes over and says “Would you like a few nacho chips to finish off your dip?”  I stared for a second, and then smiled.  “Yes, that would be wonderful.”

I fell into the moment of kindness.  It seemed to represent all the kindnesses that have come my way in life.  It was lovely.  Adrianne was lovely.  I believe I thanked her three more times.

When it was time to pay, I reached for my wallet.  But an empty pocket greeted my hand.  Panic … but just for a second.  I remembered that I’d left the wallet in Scarlet’s console this morning.  I didn’t want to lug it around all day on the course.

To Adrianne:  “I have a problem.  My wallet’s in the car.” > “That’s fine.  We’ll chase you if you don’t return.” > “Back in three minutes.”

So off I went into the night.  I stopped walking halfway across the parking lot.  I realized that there was no possibility of me getting in Scarlet and leaving.  That’s not who I am.  Choosing to go back in and pay my bill had nothing to do with the prospect of being caught if I didn’t.  Acting with integrity is simply essential to my being.  I couldn’t live with myself if I hadn’t paid.  (Oh.  That’s me.  How ’bout that?)

No need for a place of worship
No need for a mountain top
A chain restaurant will do nicely

Off to the Printer

So here I am … an author.  Jodiette: My Lovely Wife is a reality.  I won’t have a proof copy for a week or two, but the deed is done.  Earlier today, I did my last little bit of proofreading.  All the words are as I want them.  And they’re spelled right.  The commas are where I would like them to be.  The front cover (Jody in Quebec City), the back cover (a gorgeous painting called “Cosmic Tree”, created by Kym Brundritt), italics, centering, lots of space around the entries … It’s all there!  Happy am I.

What impact will the recent story of Jody and me have in the world?  Large maybe.  Or small.  I do know that the book will reach people’s hearts.  And those hearts will extend to other human beings.  If something that Jody said or did can foster an opening in someone – wonderful.  Waydago, my darling wife.  Your courage and love and kindness will live on.  You live in me every day, dear one.

Somewhere around March 15, 500 copies will arrive on my doorstep.  This was the number that came into my head months ago.  I sit here right now and smile, knowing that all of those books will find their way into the hands of folks who want to read them.  Perhaps it will take years for that to happen.  I don’t care.  Jody touches.

I’m giving the book away.  It’s the right thing to do.  It makes me happy.





Jody’s Celebration of Life is on Saturday, two days from now.  And my brain is messed up.  I still cry for Jody every day.  That’s a blessing for me, not a mess at all.  It’s all the other stuff that intrudes.

I want lots of people to come.  But I have no control over that.  It could be 50.  It could be 200.  I’m trying to let go of the numbers.  I know what’s true is that there will be a lot of love in the room.  That’s what’s important.  Love for Jody.  Love for me.  Love for the loved ones of the loved ones attending.  It’s going to be a Celebration of Life … Jody’s life, of course, but also of life itself.  What a precious gift we’ve been given to be on this planet, to contribute to the lives of others.

I want to laugh a lot on Saturday.  I have some funny stories about my lovely wife and I hope that I’m rolling in the aisles as I listen to her friends talk about Jody’s smile and fun spirit.  But I will cry too.  And I worry about crying all the way through the ceremony as I gaze out at Jody’s friends and think of her.  Then I worry about not crying at all, of suppressing myself, both the joy and the sorrow, as I wallow in the stress of the day.  But there doesn’t need to be stress.  How about if I let things unfold exactly as they do, and trust that our time together will be good for our souls?  Yes, that’s a good idea.

I’m playing four songs for Jody – two YouTube videos and two from DVDs.  I played them at my darling’s funeral too, and struggled with the technology.  What if that happens again?  Well, at the funeral, people were wonderfully understanding of my imperfections.  Nice folks will be coming on Saturday too.  We’re all in this together.

There was a fifth song in November, and it will also appear this Saturday … me singing “Annie’s Song”.  Back then, I only got a line or two into it before my sorrow ground me to a halt.  Friends and family picked up the tune and sang it for me.  It’s okay, Bruce, if the words won’t come again.  The choir will respond.

I think about the food that will be available after Jody’s celebration.  I had to order enough for 150 to get the room.  If only 50 people show up, health regulations would prevent me from donating the excess to the Men’s Mission downtown.  If there are 200 guests, there won’t be much for each person to eat.

Oh, what a tangled web I weave!  Let it all go, Bruce.  As the Desiderata said, “The universe is unfolding as it should.”  Let it do its dance on Saturday.

I’ll let you know early next week how the moments blessed us all.