Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Thing(s) I love, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I thought I’d start this thing on Valentine’s Day last year where I make a list of things I love, and I only got as far as garlic bread before I gave up.

Then, about a week ago, when I was going back through the ol’ posts looking for something suitable to read at a story night (and as it turned out my name didn’t get drawn so it didn’t matter anyway), I was reminded of my garlic bread post and thought two things:

1. Maybe I can read out this thing on garlic bread at the story night.

2. Maybe I should think of writing another post for Valentine’s Day about something I love.

Well I wisely chose a different post to read out (and then didn’t read, as it turned out) and I couldn’t really come up with anything that I loved. I guess I’m just not that enthused about anything right now.

So I came up with this half-assed thing. Sorry guys, maybe I’ll try harder next year.

1. The Olympics

All right, so we’re sort of at the midpoint of the 2014 Winter Olympics coming to us from 9 hours in the future out of Sochi, Russia.

There’s been nothing but bad press leading up to these games, right? I mean, Russia’s ridiculous anti-gay laws, the ongoing suppression of human rights most recently and publicly demonstrated through the arrest and conviction of Pussy Riot, and of course those saucy Chechens, always poised to blow stuff up.

And then you got the early reports last week from snide western journalists tweeting pics of spartan accommodation, questionable toilets (but come on, maybe it’d be fun to poop next to a friend. maybe us “westerners” don’t know what we are missing) unfinished venues and this horrible report of wild dogs and the concerted effort to KILL them (sorry Jamie, I should have put a spoiler in here). Maybe they are not killing them, maybe they are all going to a farm somewhere where they are being retrained to perform in the first “all dog” version of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Because you know, if you introduce a newspaper in the first act, someone’s gotta piddle on that newspaper by the end of the play, am I right? I’m not even going to mention the weirdness of having a “summer seaside resort town” hosting the games with no snow. I mean, it would be like Vancouver hosting them or some damn thing, right?

And then, of course, this had to happen during one of the preliminaries.

So for all of these reasons (and many more than I can’t think of right off the top of my head) many people have decided to boycott these games. I really respect that. I am always happy to see and hear people who feel strongly about something actually do something about it. I’ve heard of boycotts from merely not watching the games, to actually boycotting sponsors of the games like VISA and McDonald’s, to even boycotting the outdoors generally. “Hey man, I thought about going skating, but you know I can’t because: Olympics.”

Even though I agree with the reasons why people are boycotting, (except for the dog thing. Who WOULDN’T want to see an all dog version of Uncle Vanya right?) I just wasn’t feeling any particular motivation to join in with them. In fact, I just hoped that we could all get through this thing without anything horribly bad happening and then we could get on with our lives. Maybe I could boycott by just ignoring the whole thing.

So I watched the opening ceremony, and got the feeling that there was a lot of tension going on behind the scenes. The stadium wasn’t full, and you got the sense that people were smiling with their teeth but not with their eyes, and it all sort of felt sad. But then, the countries started walking in (one of my favourite things about the ceremony, actually. It’s the olympics equivalent of watching the players get introduced at MLB’s All Star Game) and then all of a sudden it was Canada’s turn. I had stayed away from most of the coverage leading up to the Games, so our uniforms were a surprise to me. I felt a sudden and rather unexpected warm rush of pride as I saw this red sea of Hudson’s Bay Company coats march into the stadium. The one black stripe across the bottom was genius. It called out the classic HBC blanket that was a staple of many of our childhoods and a touchstone for what winter means around here. At that moment, I knew I wouldn’t be boycotting these games. I couldn’t. I had to watch them. I was hooked. Despite the 9 hour delay and the busyness of this week, I’ve managed to watch quite a few events (or at least the highlights) and will most likely glue myself to the TV over this upcoming long weekend and into next week. Every time we win a medal, or do something amazing, my heart glows a bit brighter. And considering the long winter we’re having, I’ll take a little warmth wherever I can get it.

So there. Something I love. The Olympics. Despite everything.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Here’s a little pic that a friend posted on Facebook to keep it all in perspective.


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Thing(s) I Love

“It is in love that we are made, in love we disappear.” Leonard Cohen

“Love is not a pie.” Amy Bloom

Well Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I thought I’d write a few words on “things I love” for the occasion. I could go all sappy and write about the love I have for my wife and daughter, but that’s boring and who wants to read about that anyway?

So I’ve put together a list of other things that I love. I was going to rank them in magnitude (pop pop) of loveliness, but that’s kind of hard. It certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, because as readers of this blog know, I am generally hateful of most things, but there are a few things out there that touch the ol’ heart in a special way.

1. Garlic Bread

A couple of years ago, on Channel 4’s “Big Fat Quiz of the Year”, David Mitchell was asked a question about a service in London where you could send a text and they would deliver a pizza based on your geographic coordinates. He said something about how he would love to have a lifestyle where there was a garlic bread vaguely following him around town. I couldn’t agree more. I think I declared a little while ago that if I had to have only one food on a desert island, it would be garlic bread. I said this because I would hopefully figure out how to trap lobster, crab and fish, and what doesn’t go better with seafood than a little garlic bread? The best garlic bread is crusty on the outside, but warm and mushy on the inside (like my first wife, heyo!). There are variations: you can melt cheese on top, you can shape them into bread sticks, both types are fine with me. But when it comes right down to it, a nice French Loaf buttered up with garlic and warmed through in the oven can’t be beat. Traditionally, you’d eat garlic bread with pasta, and I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THAT, but last night I was at IKEA and I had the usual meatballs and mashed potatoes, but I also added a slice of garlic bread on the side for 50 cents! I could have had 2 for a buck! They weren’t the biggest pieces of bread in the world, mind you, but they were an inspired addition to the meal and I can only imagine the envy behind my wife’s eyes as she sat across the table from me. You know when you buy those garlic breads wrapped in foil at Safeway or wherever? Have you ever read the instructions on the bag? In addition to the heating instructions, they say something like, “Why not stick a loaf in your freezer and pull it out when you have unexpected guests?” Now that may sound deranged to you. Who serves garlic bread as a snack on its own to interlopers? I’m telling you that wording applies exclusively to ME. So note to the fanbase, if I ever show up unexpectedly on your front doorstep and you go to your freezer and whip out a loaf of garlic bread and stick it in the oven, I’ll love you forever. That’s a promise.

I was going to write about a few other things that I love, but I can’t think about anything else except garlic bread. It’s going to be a long day. Amy Bloom said that love is not a pie, i.e. loving one thing or person does not in any diminish the way one could feel about other things or people. She’s right. It’s not a pie, it’s more like a never ending order of warm gooey garlic bread.

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

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such small hands

One of the great things about working in a public library is that you really don’t ever know what you’re going to get asked. The other day, the phone rang and it was a woman who was looking for something meaningful to put in the newspaper as a memorial for her husband. He died a couple of years ago and she likes to put a short notice each year. She was tired of the usual passages and wanted something special. She said that her husband’s favourite flowers were roses, and that in his work he used the “Happy Face” symbol a lot, so if we could find any quotations or poetry that incorporated roses and smiling or happy faces, she’d be grateful. She said she’d be here in an hour.

My coworker Remi and I set off to shake the library down. We felt like we were contestants in an obscure Japanese game show or something. The clock was ticking. We scoured all our usual sources, from paper poetry tomes to online poetry databases and even good ol’ Google and came up with several things that might be appropriate. We compiled a varied list that included everything from Robbie Burns: “My luve’s like a red red rose” to Poison: “Every rose has its thorn” with a little Bette Midler thrown in between.

Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, Lies the seed that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes the rose.

In our searching, I came across a poem that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It was by e.e. cummings, a poet I first encountered in Jr. High. Our english teacher told us that we needed to memorize at leasteight lines of poetry and present it in front of the class. Within about five minutes, Brad put up his hand and say he was ready to go. None of us could believe it. Brad always came across as a bit of a dumb jock. How could he have already memorized eight lines of poetry? A few days later I clumsily presented the first stanza of John Keats’ “To Autumn”.

 Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
        With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
        And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
            To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
        And still more, later flowers for the bees,
        Until they think warm days will never cease,
            For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

But Brad had other ideas. He stood up at the front of the classroom and proudly recited:



balloonMan      whistles

That’s actually nine lines!” Brad proudly stated as he went back to his seat.

Our English teacher had a bit of a grin on his face and said, “Okay. You got away with that, but no one else gets to choose e.e. cummings!”

I learned two things that day. First, I learned that you really shouldn’t judge people by their looks. Brad was way smarter than I had given him credit. Secondly, I was introduced to a new poet that would soon become one of my favourites.

His poems break all the strict grammar rules that we had been slavishly following up to this point, and there was a delicateness to the way he arranged words on the page that made you look at things a little differently. Some of his poems have a dry wit to them that appealed to me, and some of them just were really sweet and romantic.

The one that came up on our “roses and smiley face” search is called “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond“. It also plays a significant role in a scene from my favourite Woody Allen movie, “Hannah and her Sisters”.

I don’t know which poem or lyric that woman eventually chose. She came in an hour later and picked up the pages and silently left. What we took as an interesting assignment was a real labour of love for her and I think we kind of got caught up in the fun of it without realizing this woman was remembering the love of her life and wanted to do it right.

If it were me, I would have totally gone the e.e. cummings route, although I bet the editor at the newspaper would try to “correct” it by inserting some grammar and punctuation.

Anyway, here’s the original poem. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

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