Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Hot Chocolate

The year 2011 is coming quickly to a close...yadda yadda yawn.

I'd planned to share a third fave for this third December post.  But, at some point today, I decided to make a more personal one about what 2011 was for me.  Long and short, there were way more good times than bad.  There were only two things I would've done different.  But, learned that God has a way of giving me beauty for ashes; making something beautiful out of ugly.

Now for the other stuff: I visited Jamaica; turned for-ty; finished a play; came back and bought a house; had a kind o' surgery done - the attending nurse had said that post-op was gonna "hurt like a b*tch!"  That it did.  For months!  Experienced healing; had a crush; was crushed upon - mutually exclusive; crushes crashed - not into each other; did a photo shoot; wrote a novel; was told I was "a hot chocolate."  Aaaaand hosted my first Christmas family dinner at the new place.  Blessings galore!  Thank You, God.

Btw, don't want the ugly from the (almost) past year to go with you into the new?  Then...let go.

Thanks for sticking around and checking out this blog for 2011.  Thanks for supporting me as I write "to save my life." #writeorsuffocate. Yeeeaah, I know this is one of the shorter posts.  Much more to say about my year in review but, like I said last year, my prayer journal gets it all. ;-)


Sunday, 18 December 2011


The following account is false.  It has been widely spread across the Internet as "a telephone exchange, between a hotel guest and room-service at a hotel in Asia"; an exchange which, to boot, "was recorded and published in the Far East Economic Review."

Actually, the author of this delightful piece is renowned comic Shelley Berman.  (Same guy who gave us “Hotel Soap”.)  And, in true Shelley Berman style, it is oh so funny!  Enjoy!

Room Service (RS): Morny. Ruin sorbees.
Guest (G): Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service.

RS: Rye. Ruin sorbees, morny! Djewish to odor sunteen?
G: Uh, yes I'd like some bacon and eggs.

RS: Ow July den?
G: What? Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry, scrambled please.

RS: Ow July dee bayhcem?  Crease?
G: Crisp will be fine.

RS: Hokay. An san toes?
G: What?

RS: San toes. July san toes?
G: I don't think so.

RS: No? Judo one toes?
G: I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what 'judo one toes' means.

RS: Toes! toes! Why djew Don Juan toes? Ow bow singlish mopping we bother?
G: English muffin!! I've got it! You were saying 'Toast.' Fine. Yes, an English muffin will be fine.

RS: We bother?
G: No, just put the bother on the side.

RS: Wad?
G: I mean butter, just put it on the side.

RS: Copy?
G: Sorry?

RS: Copy, tea, mill?
G: Yes. Coffee please, and that's all.

RS: One minnie. Ass ruin torino fee, strangle ache, crease baychem, tossy singlish mopping we bother honey sigh, and copy. Rye?
G: Whatever you say.

RS: Tendjewberrymud.
G : You're welcome.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

And You Thought Your Holiday Greeting Was Politically Correct

My friend, Debbie, shared this with me back in December 1999.   I thought it was a keeper.  I wrote about being politically correct the other day.  At the time, I thought of inserting this piece.  However, by the end of the post, I figured that doing so would've made the entry way too long.  (My search for the author has not yet borne fruit. Kindly advise, if you know, so I can give the credit as due.) Here is, for your reading pleasure - or to your chagrin - one of the most politically correct holiday greetings everrrrr!

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all...

...and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year [2012], but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Britain great, (not to imply that Britain is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only country in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.


(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms.) This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal and is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher who assumes no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the holiday spirit.

The colour of this greeting has no bearing on anything whatsoever and is purely arbitrary given the limited selection of colours and tones available to choose from within the browser used to prepare this message."

Merry Christmas, everybody!!!


Monday, 28 November 2011

Here Lieth the Art of Conversation

I don't like to talk. I find that I spend the better part of my day not talking.  My job does not require me to be on the phone constantly (thank God!) And, when I do make presentations because of my job, they are scheduled, timed and completed.   I do like that aspect of my job - very much.  I enjoy making the presentations and interacting with the audience.  After that, though, it's like, "There, there.  We're done," and I go back to the company car, turn the volume up on the Country channel I've pre-set in all the cars (it must drive my colleagues crazy!) back to the office then, later on to the sanctum of home.  Home.  What a wonderful place to be.

For, we know it's not just the house that makes a home.  It's the people who are there or the person with whom you share it.  Or, the people or person with whom you don't share it.  Know the old Jamaican saying? "See me and come live with me - two different things."  True that, Ruthie.  True that.  I also recall a quip that a former manager of mine made many years ago.  Something ...rather someone had annoyed her that day.  She said, "Claudia, I just tell myself I'm not taking them home with me."  Nice, eh?  Yeeaah.  That has worked for me over the years.

So, sometimes when I arrive home, I mightn't get engaged in a conversation.  And that suits me just fine.  Other times, I may connect with family or one, maybe two, close friends.  I think those after-work connections  - whether at home or on the way home - are often with people with whom you feel you can unwind.  Even just a little.  The conversation relaxes you; sometimes you vent; sometimes you burst out laughing, the people on the train take a quick glance before going back to their BBs or newspapers.

One of the things that irk me is meaningless conversation.  I'm not talking about the social tradition of initial small talk about the weather or an item of news that is shared between strangers.  Yes, it is meaningless, more often than not; participated in just to pass the time, really.  But, I'm talking about chatter that beats a dead horse - to glue; talk that comes only because the speaker likes to hear him/herself talk; talk for the sake of talking - nothing else; the constant droning on and on and on because silence makes the speaker uncomfortable.  Ever get that?  Or, when you're talking with someone but you feel it in your bones that the convo is going nowhere - fast.  And, you probably start repeating stuff you'd said earlier in the convo - way back when.  Ever get that?

You know, even when they are jovial and funny to the point of rib-tickling, I want my conversations to be meaningful.  I want to get something meaningful out of every conversation, each encounter.  Is it too much to ask that if I make the effort and show up, that I should expect to leave with something, y'know, other than the query, "Whom do I see about getting those ___ minutes of my life back?"   I'm not saying every conversation should be serious.  I'm saying every conversation should be meaningful; should have some value.  Darn it!

I imagine that's why we surround ourselves with the people we do - especially close friends.  Over time, you draw to you people with like values, interests, blah, blah blah.  They get you and you get them and there's little to no need to explain ...yourself.  That's comfort, right there.   I have two Ceciles in my life. Just remembered this joke. I was visiting with one of them in New York years ago, while the other was living in Florida. When we got home, she checked her messages. One of them started out, "Hi Cecile. This message is for Claudia from the other Cecile." So funny. They're both like sisters to me, yet worlds apart from each other.  But, I digress.  There are times when one of my Ceciles - any of the two - will call. Even though we know it's just a "hello" call, in short order, we're talking about something that is of import to either or both of us.  You'll probably say, yes, that's what friends talk about.  And you're right.  My point is, I have come to recognize the value of those conversations; more and more, I don't want to waste my time participating in something that is just a waste of time.  Sure, we should all try to come away with something from each encounter.  And I do try.  I also try to give something in each encounter.  But, there must be at least one other that shares this sentiment: Some talkers just waste your time.   (And, it's worse when I'm hungry.  "I'm not me when I'm hungry," to borrow from the Snickers ad.)

How often do you strike up a conversation with a stranger and he/she simply holds your attention and, next thing you know, you're opening up with your own experiences and the whole thing just flows in a rather rhythmic give-and-take?  There is a connection - even for a short time - and it leaves you feeling fresh like morning; with a smile; inspired, even.  And you think, "Hmm.  I'd like to do that again." 

Ever get that?


Friday, 18 November 2011

"I'm Not Jamaican Like That"

My youngest sis and I were visiting with relatives and their friends in another city in Ontario some time ago.   Shortly after we had had dinner, a few of them, of Jamaican parentage, announced that they would soon have to leave.  One of them, who had remained reclined in the couch, replied, "No, I'm not Jamaican like that!"  The entire room burst out laughing!  No explanation of the "nyam an go weh" (eat and leave) kind was necessary.  For, it is thought, by many Jamaicans, that that is a behaviour which characterizes many a Jamaican.  It doesn't matter how long the length of time before the meal, as soon as the meal is finished, one can listen for the announcement of pending departure.

Of course, since that afternoon, sis and I use the phrase at every opportune moment to distance ourselves from things - and people - that would be thought to be undeniably Jamaican, but, at the same time, undesirably Jamaican.   "I'm not Jamaican like that" is quite a catchy phrase that accomplishes so much at one go.  It says, to me, at any rate, that the particular act/behaviour is widely-accepted as a distinctly (if not uniquely) Jamaican one.  Also, that the speaker is Jamaican, or of Jamaican heritage, and that he/she is more than willing - would be happy to - associate with other types of Jamaican-esque acts/behaviour.  And, for sure, it implies that it is necessary to make the distinction between "us" who would "never do such a thing" and "them" who "would do such a thing".

Does it sound like we're being selectively Jamaican?  Yes.  I hope so.  In the same way that we as human beings hang our heads in shame, or simply shake our heads in bewilderment, when we hear of a grotesque act committed against another. Well, it's kinda like that.  In Canada, once in a while the media carry a report about some Jamaican guy or another who has been charged with a criminal act, or a fraudulent act, or who has been involved in some kind of nefarious activity. I certainly and absolutely do not wish to be associated with that character!  I am not Jamaican like that!

Given the emphasis on multiculturalism and inclusiveness and diversity, it is generally thought that Canadians are likely not to paint everyone of a particular group (race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender etc.) with one brush.  But, whether we like it or not, everybody has a prejudice of some kind. And, what is more, some have not taken the time to pinpoint/evaluate their own level of awareness with respect to diversity and inclusion and all that.  That's an important step in the journey toward reducing some prejudices. But, they simply feel what they feel and that is that.

So, one might understand the need for the distinction to be made in certain quarters.  True, so far, I've only used the phrase among family members and friends.  It's used in a jovial, light-hearted way.  Like, finishing a drumstick and then chewing the bone. It's not a bad thing, but, I just don't do it.  Or, arriving late for an event. Again, many have heard the term, "Jamaica time."  But, having lived with my father who would practically be out the door without waiting, I'm punctual.  I've been thinking, though, how soon will I have to utter that phrase, in more public quarters, in an attempt to make a distinction; to clarify that, really, not all Jamaicans are like that?

Come to think of it, there was such an occasion where I had to make a distinction.  (But, I think it was before I had learnt the phrase.)  My colleagues and I were participating in a workshop and the presenter made reference to the intolerance of Jamaicans of homosexuals.  I explained that (1) not all Jamaicans feel that way (given JFLAG and other supportive voices) and (2) I could not be seen as a part of any "gay-hating" crowd - in Jamaica, Canada or wherever.  I have relatives who are homosexuals and they are relatives that I love.  After that session, in other conversations, I reiterated that my Christian convictions and the Word of God points, not to condemning the sinner, but the sin.  And no sin is "worse" than the other.  I'm Christian.  It is what it is. And, it is, mostly, about love.

People from other countries, I believe, would quite easily replace "Jamaican" for their own nationality.  I was honoured to have been invited to the wedding of a friend of mine last month.  But, she warned me, we'll be on Pakistani time.  And, so we were!  A start time of 7:00, ran into 8:30!   Similarly, I - any one of us - could look on in disgust at inhumane behaviour and go, "I'm not human like that."

Of course, I've also used the phrase when the converse applies.  That's when I gladly and readily associate with the triumphs and glory of the country; the people and things of which I can be proud.   Even in the little things, too, like eating Millie or East Indian mangoes and having the juice run down the elbow.

It's the acknowledgment of good home-training (broughtupsy); the recognition of that indomitable and resilient spirit; the ability to "tek bad tings mek laugh".  That is how I grew up in Jamaica and I took the best of my home training, and the best of how I was nurtured in Jamaica, by Jamaicans, to become a citizen of the world - as a former manager put it.  So, I gladly associate with things "desirably Jamaican" and, post-haste decry and dissociate myself from things "undesirably Jamaican."

So, whenever the acts/behaviour are in sync with my own values and beliefs, demonstrated by a Jamaican, or one of Jamaican parentage, then, yes.  If asked, I will say, "I am Jamaican like that."


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

That's Just Stupid!

When was the last time you used that phrase? Not within the privacy of your humble abode.  I mean out in the open - at work; at the supermarket - in public.  Now, when was the last time you really wanted to use that phrase?  Last week?  Yesterday?  Five minutes ago?

And, while you think about that, think about this.   I'm in no way talking about name-calling. The "that" would be in reference to an act committed; a behaviour; a conclusion illogically drawn and the like. So, the thing - not the person.  Now, back to the second question.  When was the last time you really wanted to use that phrase?  Whatever your answer, my follow-up question would be: "Well, why didn't you?"  And, I'm guessing, your response would be stteo: "Are you crazy?  That'd be so politically incorrect!" 

You'd have been right, of course.  After all, in today's society, we don't say things like that. Out loud.  We either use our inside voice or none at all.  Then, we go home and vent on our spouses or siblings or BFFs!  In other words, we don't always say exactly what we want to say, as we try to be politically correct.

We don't want to offend or be seen as offensive.  We want to speak and, in our speech, be mindful of and sensitive to the needs of everyone and their race, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender and so on.  But, as sure as I am that this horse has been beaten several times, the last you read of it was, actually, not the last you read of it.  For, as we indulge in, or are consumed by, new societal trends (especially those of the technological kind), we inadvertently form new etiquette to govern the new (kinds of) interactions.  For example, no one has to tell anyone these days that the use of upper case means YOU'RE SHOUTING! (Especially when followed by an exclamation sign.)  Unless, of course, you do mean to shout.  But, what stood out for me, as I gave some (more) thought to the idea of anonymity in online interactions, was the probability that some people might just be using that as an outlet.

As I tweeted to my sis @MizDurie, the other day, I think the degree to which some people exercise political correctness is proportional to the level of frankness or harshness as (anonymous ) posters.  Imagine being cooped up in a "prison of political correctness" all day.  At the end of the day, you simply get behind the wall of anonymity and there, in your familiar place of freedom, you can happily call a spade a spade.  You can bask in the ability to describe its colour and its shape; the thickness of its handle and the sharpness of its blade.  But, this doesn't mean that you need to be harsh and caustic and vitriolic and mean, though.  I mean, I do see where it would be quite a relief for you to get your point across, vent what's on your mind, without risking career suicide or having to backtrack on something you said.  Ever heard the term, "I misspoke"?  That's one of my favs to be chuckled at.  Or another, "I misquoted...myself."

George Carlin had a line in one of his comedy routines as he spoke about politicians trying to back track on offensive speech or downplay indiscretions.  It was a kind of template go to line:  "I"m just trying to put this thing behind me and get on with my life!"  Carlin remarked that he "would just like to put this "I would just like to put this thing behind me and get on with my life" thing behind me and get on with my life!"

I'm thinking it'd be quite a while before we venture on that road; before we go out to our media interviews and...speak frankly.  Just the thought alone is refreshing!  We'd certainly know exactly where each speaker stood on a particular matter.  Couldn't we re-learn how to favour honesty and frankness over hypocrisy and PC-driven drivel?

Because the truth, as always, does come out anyway.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Helping Hands

I've talked a bit in this space before about accepting help; how difficult it is for some to do so. That used to be me.  To an extent, it still is - but not in as many instances.

One of the instances in which I find I will readily accept help, is in the area of career development.  I have been blessed to cross paths on this journey with several people who've had my interest at heart.  The role that they have played in my life cannot be overstated.  Even as I have had to do my part - dream; study; apply myself; work hard; aim high - theirs has not gone unnoticed.  For the most part, it's the inspiration.  I've often said that sometimes, you just need to be inspired.  And it's true.  Sometimes you just need to feel that wind beneath your wings.  Sometimes you just need to hear that voice beside you saying, "Don't worry.  You can do it.  I believe in you."

And, I have had that.  I've had that from my parents and siblings.  I've had that from teachers at all levels.  I've had that from dear friends and new friends and, occasionally, associates and colleagues.  And, while I do not take for granted that which I've received from family and friends, it is the help from senior persons in my field for which I am very thankful at this point.  I imagine I could look at it this way.  Years ago, I got the foundation of inspiration and encouragement down pat.  Now, as I venture into new areas, God is blessing me with a new kind of help; help for this time, if you will.  I don't have blinkers on, shutting everything else out; crushing people beneath me and all that jazz.  But, I do aspire to positions in which I feel I would make a positive difference; know exactly what I'm doing and why; like what I do; be good at it and impact the way in which the service or program is carried out, to make people's lives better.

It helps to be prepared for when new opportunities arise. It doesn't make sense to simply sit waiting - as if with a sense of entitlement - twiddling the thumbs and nothing else. Additionally, sometimes, having done the work, I've had to put myself out there, expressing an interest, even if there is a probability of not getting it.  However, by now we've heard the term in biz-speak: "top of mind".  Yes, I've seen that "top of mind" thing work!  Recently, I wanted to get into a particular program and was told that it was closed for the rest of the fiscal year.  Well, wouldn't you know it?  I got a call sometime after when a vacancy arose.  As the caller put it, when he was asked whether anyone would be interested at this point, I was the first person to come to mind! Long and short, I got in.

That's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "help".  It mightn't be something tangible, but it is a move that prepares you for, or propels you into, more favourable positions for greater development.  It's sad but true, that in the world of business, many new opportunities are realized through "who knows you".  The main question is whether you are prepared for an opportunity, or simply "fake it 'til you make it"?  Those who receive the kind of help that propels them into a position for which they are clearly unsuited, more often than not make the lives of those around them sheer terror!  But, that's another story.  My point here is that for those of us who are in fact prepared; who are ready, willing and able to accept and assume the role at hand, should not be abashed about 1) making our interest known 2) indicating that interest to the right people (some co-workers will sabotage your efforts if they get wind of them) and 3) graciously accept the help you receive.  It may be in a simple word of encouragement/inspiration or a tip or a lead or a recommendation or a reference or a definite connection!  Then, 4) show up and apply yourself to that for which you have been preparing all this time!  And, for heaven's sake 5) please turn around and say thank you!

There's a saying, "Favour ain't fair," referring, I believe, to God's favour upon His children in the many aspects of their lives.  There are some inexplicable ways in which He works out things in the interest of His children, sometimes defying reason, and making them come out on top.  And, there's no point in arguing about it.  It just is.  I believe in God's favour.  I have experienced it oh so many times.  But, His word admonishes us to keep from being slothful; if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat; honour Him with the first fruits of our increase - and so on.

So, yes, these days, I find I'm graciously accepting help in this regard.  I try to keep myself in "ready" mode.  Y'know?  "Just in cases." And,  I'm humbly acknowledging and accepting God's favour - His helping hand.  Again, no point in arguing with it.  It just is.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Eyes Have It

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with a stranger - a white fellow.  No details necessary.  The point of the reference is to say that he told me a story about a certain reaction of a friend of his who was, to put it this way, not inclined to Blacks.  You see, he had another friend, a Black girl, whom he had the pleasure of introducing to his white lady friend.  As he did so, he related, the eyes of his white lady friend glossed over; like they just...changed.  He asked whether I'd ever seen that.  I told him no.  I don't recall ever witnessing something like that.  He said he knew for sure that his white friend was uncomfortable when, in addressing his Black friend, said, "Oh!  Your eyes are beautiful!"  And that was pretty much all she'd said to her the whole time.  He then went on to explain to me that her eyes were kinda like those of "Aunt Jemima" - big and round.  He got the sense that they stood out as such a strong feature, that her sole comment was on the very thing that helped make her feel uncomfortable; as if she couldn't help herself.  And, in an even more telling reaction, her eyes "glossed over".

I'm still not a hundred percent certain of what that looks like.  What I can say is that I believe I saw something pretty close to it the other day.  At least, something that made me immediately think of that story.

Recently, I had the occasion to talk with, let's call her, a saleswoman.  Now, by this, (and having gone through some form of Mary Kay Independent Consultant training and what not), I have a fairly good idea of the tiered approach, and a whiff of the psychology that's usually used, in scenarios such as these.  They don't tell you cost up front; you are asked to share; you get involved emotionally; you bond; you invest time.  And the more time and emotional involvement, the harder it is to walk away - the more guilt you are likely to feel if you do. Or so they hope!

Anyway, as Ms. Lady went through her spiel - and I'm participating because 1) I was curious about their offer 2) I've convinced myself I need to do new things to help me with material for my writing if nothing else 3) I had the time - I became engaged.  And I shared - willingly.  Then, it got to cost.  There was no way of telling that I was shocked at the prices that jumped out at me.  (Ever been invited to a Direct Buy session?  Kinda like that.)  So, when she asked what option would I prefer, I coolly answered, "I need some time to think about this."  Ladies and gentlemen?  That was when I saw what could only be described as her eyes glossing over.  We were about two hours in, and here I was, about to make her time add up to naught.

Her pleasant facial expression - the one that had accompanied the offer for coffee or tea; the one that met me at the door; the one that had listened so intently as I'd "shared" - had disappeared a the sound of "need some time."   As I told her, I'd had no idea of the cost - I had asked and (of course), no one had mentioned it.  But, now that I know, and it's more than I expected, I would have to think about it.  I held to my position and she was not amused.  Like, seriously.  I have never before experienced such an about-turn in someone's demeanour, countenance, approach and general disposition in such a short time.  I reminded her that I was assured there'd be no obligation after the information session.  She held that that was true but.  She couldn't grasp that I needed to think about forking out more than I'd expected; I couldn't grasp that she couldn't. I still held to my position and explained that once I had some time to think about it, I might get back in touch in a few days or something.

Well, she excused herself, saying that she was going to tell her superior that I was leaving.  In short, he made me a seriously discounted offer.  That was not the reason for my hesitation.  (I had had the impression that what they had on paper was cast in stone.) As it turned out, it was a heck of an offer!  I took it.

But, the eyes, man!  The eyes!  They just...changed.  The light went out; the smile disappeared.  Her face got dull.  Her expression one of incredulity.  (Someone said the other day that a certain politician's smile doesn't reach his eyes.  I'd thought of that then, too.)  She wasn't smiling at that point, but, her effort to remain pleasant was betrayed by that look of consternation/disbelief/incredulity and, kinda bordering a bit on anger. (Well, maybe reading a bit much into it?  Nah.  Just enough.)

And, after I accepted?  Yep.  The smile came back.  This time, gentility.  I kid you not.  It came to me after that I should've asked whether I was the first person to say no; to ask for time to make a decision.  It was not a distinction for which I was seeking but, based on her reaction, it sure looked that way. 

They say, "In vino, veritas." (In wine, [there is] truth).  That episode reminded me that truth lies within.  And the eyes have it.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

"At Water's Edge"

Water splashing at my feet
Wind blowing salty air in my face
My body is bathed in the
Calm, cool, peaceful surroundings of nature.
An atmosphere of tranquility.
The seagull cries
I hear the noise of the water
As heavy waves hit the rocks.

I sit on one, remembering those days
When I used to wish I could enjoy this enchantment
With you.

Oct. 1, 1987

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Behind the Wall

The brouhaha has kinda died down now, well, for the "regular" Facebook users.  I'm thinking, for the developers that showed up at Facebook's f8 conference on September 22?  Not so much. Much has been written about the during and after - and I'm not even going to pretend to be a techie.  But, what I am interested in are two issues.

Something about this sentence (from the same site referenced above) disturbs me: "He said that he wanted people to “fill in the gaps” so that all users’ personal information was on their Facebook profile."  I believe that was largely in reference to the soon-to-be-released "Timeline" feature.  I'd tweeted about it that day - or the day after.  Stteo: "It's not your online life; it's your life online!"  Now, I'm for slowly - and guardedly - adapting to advances in communication technology.  I'm just not comfortable with putting my life, for each moment to be tracked, online.  Yes, yes.  Manage your privacy settings, you might say.  Even then, why would I want another human being - any other human being - to be able to be all up in my stuff?  And that's just for those to whom permission is given.  There are those, behind the scenes, with access to servers on which ALL that information is stored.  I like my life offline, TYVM.  And, for the parts of it that I allow to be online? Well, they'; parts that don't offer too much personal information.  (Having said that, though, I will be taking a third look at my online presence.)  It will be interesting to see the road down which this new development leads; the advantage enjoyed by those who use it.

And, speaking of behind the scenes, this next issue has little to with the latest FB developments.  It has more to do with the tendency of folks, who, because of the luxury of anonymity behind the wall of ones and zeroes, tend to unleash their awful selves.  Who knew that there was so much venom and vitriol in some folks?  I'm talking about comment boards, social networking sites, t.o.night newspaper (Toronto).  From friends of friends to total strangers, if you should happen to offend one of these persons, they go behind that wall and let loose!

To be honest, that's not something that I've experienced.  (Well, not counting that one occasion on which a 'friend of a friend' made a comment after mine on FB - kind of questioning and disagreeing with mine - and ended her's with "kmt" (kiss mi teet).  For the uninitiated, that's a Jamaican gesture (not about to teach the 'how to') that meant, in that context, "You're talking foolishness and I'm dismissing you!"  As I recounted that to my sis, she (a more regular user of FB than I) was quick to point out that some of these people can be "dangerous" with their comments.)  I have been, for a while, simply just looking on in amazement.

I read a comment on the Gleaner's Letter of the Day on its website a few days ago, that, I think, captures much of this sentiment. It was made by "Ibumpg".  Writing from behind the wall?  Yes.  And how:

"Most people globally, like to comment or criticize.  This is best done from the sidelines.  We 'preen our feathers' and 'flap our wings' and announce how knowledgeable and experienced we are but will not enter the field of play.  You see, analyzing decisions made by others is always easier that making them, especially under scrutiny.  We are all great in hindsight.

Many of us would never present ourselves as political representatives, not because we consider ourselves incompetent, but because we are not prepared to be treated the way we do them."

This isn't something that's going away any time soon.  As long as there's the provision for anonymity, there will be a spewing of venom and vitriol by total strangers.  In some cases,even by those whom we know.  A little change of name here; a little moniker or handle there, and they enjoy the freedom to lash out.  I imagine that some folks need some form of outlet.  It may be therapeutic for them.  I just think that when it's carried out in this way, it simply reeks of incivility.

What of the art of (civil) conversation?


Sunday, 18 September 2011


I'm not a fan of things.  Y'know?  Things that are acquired for reasons like, "It'd make a great conversation-starter!"  No.  For me, there have to be more creative, less expensive ways to start a conversation.  I imagine that many of those conversation-starters have been picked up at many a garage sale.  I used to enjoy going to garage sales.  Not only for the off-chance that I might discover the multi-million dollar painting behind the painting, but, because I liked looking at certain kinds of old things.

But, I've stopped.  Well, I've cut waaay down.  I've convinced myself that, for the most part, other people's discards are making their way into my home.  More than likely, in the not-too-distant future, I might want to get rid of them, too.

Before moving into my new space, I kinda made a deal with myself.  I would be very careful about the "things" I acquire.  They should have utility value built right in!  Now, anyone can see how I would be able to rationalize my way into getting that 3-piece work of art. (That wall needed something to cheer it up. It's blue!")  But, I think so far, for the other purchases, I've held up.  My prayer is that I'll be wise in my spending.  And, of course, I'm mindful of St. Luke 12:15: "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth."
One of the motivations for that deal was the fact that I already have too many things I treasure; items of high sentimental, nostalgic and my-sweat-and-blood-is-in-this value.  I think I might have mentioned this in an earlier post, or a tweet or something, but, there came a time recently when I had to declutter.  Create space.  That'd be space to dance, to stretch. Even space with which to do nothing but to connect one part of the house to another.  Not every space needs to be filled!

So now, I try to acquire and keep the things that, as I said, have some built-in utility value. Bonus if it looks nice and promises more durability.  (It's true.  You get what you pay for!)  The other motivation was from a piece that was read several months ago by my Pastor - Pastor Robbie Symons of Harvest Bible Chapel, Oakville.  I asked for, and was emailed, a copy from his office.  My plan is to have it framed and hung.  A bit of a reminder, y'know?  "Just in cases." (Love Actually.)

Mr. and Mrs. Thing
 Mr. and Mrs. Thing are a very pleasant and successful couple.  At least that’s the verdict of most people who tend to measure success with a thingometer.  When the thingometer is put to work in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Thing, the result is startling.  There he is, sitting down on a very luxurious and expensive thing, almost hidden by a large number of other things.  Things to sit on, things to sit at, things to cook on, things to eat from.  All shiny and new.  Things, things, things.  Things to clean with, things to wash with, things to clean and things to wash.  Things to amuse, things to give pleasure, things to watch, and things to play.  Things for the long, hot summer and things for the short, cold winter.  Things for the big thing in which they live, and things for the garden, and things for the lounge, and things for the kitchen, and things for the bedroom.  And things on four wheels, things on two wheels, and things to put on top of the things on four wheels, and things to pull behind the four wheels, and things to add to the interior of the thing on four wheels.  Things, things, things .  And there in the middle are Mr. and Mrs. Thing, smiling, pleased as pink with their things, thinking of more things to add to their things, secure in their castle of things.
Well, I just want you to know that your things can’t last.  They’re going to pass.  There’s going to be an end to them.  Maybe an error in judgment, maybe a temporary loss of concentration, or maybe you’ll just pass them off to the second-hand thing dealer.  Or maybe they’ll wind up a mass of mangled metal being towed off to the thing yard.  And what about all the things in your house? Well, it’s time for bed.  Put out the cat.  Make sure your lock the door to make sure some thing-taker doesn’t come and take your things.  And that’s the way life goes, doesn’t it? And someday when you die, they only put one thing in the box. 


Thursday, 8 September 2011

Invaluable Collection or Intrusion ?

On returning from lunch with sis the other day, I got to a traffic light about half-a-block from my workplace.  As I got to the intersection to wait on the walk sign, I heard 'Oooh!"  Not in an "Ooh and ahh" way, but in that guttural tone that makes you know, instantly, that something has gone terribly wrong.

I looked at the bus/coach that had just stopped in the intersection while making a left and, almost instinctively, looked beneath it.  There they were, his two legs.  No, they hadn't been severed.  They were still attached to his body.  But, that was all I could make out from his lying right next to the left front wheel.

At the next signal, I crossed and got to a better vantage point.  It was an elderly man - maybe late seventies/early eighties, white, gray-headed. There he lay.  Still.  Just as it had happened, one woman literally took off!  She dashed across the road (from where I had been waiting at the light).  By the time I got to the other side, getting a better look, she was kneeling beside him, her phone to her ear.

Of course, a few dozens of us - on both sides of the street -  had, by now, stopped to look.  I had seen the driver make a mad dash from the bus, leaving the door open (of course!), round the front and, again, by the time I got to the other location, he was also already kneeling by the man's side.  So, there were about four people - the woman on her cell; a bulky looking guy picking up the man's bag of grocery; the driver and a police officer who had been on the beat at that intersection (or pretty close by), leaning his shoulder in as he spoke on his device.

There were a few things that struck me as I stood there.  One, I got there after the accident occured. (Somehow I think I need to make that clear in writing.)  I saw some of what had happened just after.  He lay there, seemingly unable to move, while the four people did what they were doing as they/we waited for an ambulance to arrive.  I wondered how many people had actually seen it happen.  Y'know?  In real time.  Next, it somehow made sense (and I'm not trying to justify my non-involvement), that the folks who were close to him on the scene, were not being encumbered by anyone else.  It took about five minutes for an ambulance to arrive.  It was at about this point I noticed something I hadn't even thought of before.  A man stopped close to me, held up his smartphone, and started some form of recording - not sure whether they were still or moving shots.  Now, I'm pretty sure that there were quite a few of us within that gathering with smartphones.  Yet, he was the only one I noticed.  Whether he was the only one doing it, is not really my point.  My thoughts are going to the why.  Why did some of us decide that this was a moment not to be captured in picture or video?  Even after I saw him do this, I still did not have the "urge" to record.  I dunno.  Wasn't it like a sort of intrusion on the poor gentleman's demise?  And, what the heck would I be doing with that shot anyway?  What place would it have in my collection?

I'm not sure at what point he stopped recording.  All he'd got from me was that glance.  It could have been after one of the paramedics stooped by the old man with a flat board-looking contraption.  Maybe it was after they gently turned him  - he had been lying on his belly with one side of his face to the ground - revealing the other bloodied side.  I grimaced.  Maybe it was after the paramedic, after assisting with that manoeuvre, rethought his choice, went back to the ambulance and returned with the gurney.  At whatever point it was, I imagine that the man and his phone had got their fill and he'd moved on.

When the gurney came out, that was when I moved on.  I told myself that he was in very capable hands; prayed for his speedy recovery and left the scene.  I really hope that he fares well.

My question lingered...lingers, however.  Who thinks to record an accident like that?  I mean, it's something that happens all the time.  Unfortunately.  And some people are going to record - hence the terms, iReporter and Citizen Journalists, etc.  But, in the heat of the moment, why does the thought not even occur to some of us who are social media users with our smartphones at the ready?  Why do some of us not even think to capture such a moment for posterity or sharing or sending to a media house or whatever?  Opting, instead, to behold it through no other lens than our own?  I understand that this has been an on-going debate for journalists - especially photo-journalists.  If you just happen to be there when something goes horribly wrong, do you rush to help?  Or, do you grab your camera, start recording and hope beyond hope that "someone else" will assist, while you capture a key piece for your story later on? 

I imagine that others would ask, why write about it in a blog - even days after; even as I ask my own provocative questions?

Could the answer be as simple as, "To each her own"?


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

At For-ty, I'm Beginning to Understand... 2

My thanks for the kind comments on my previous post (via FB and email).   Got a few from unexpected - but delightful - sources.  Shall we continue?

At For-ty, I'm beginning to understand why some people enquire, regarding their recently-deceased loved one, "Did he/she suffer?"  I didn't quite get it, really, whenever I'd heard it before my maternal grandmother's passing.  Her's was sudden.  And because of the how, that was one of the foremost thoughts in my mind.  "Did she suffer?"  It happened a few years before I turned For-ty, but, it's something on which I've since dwelt.  Now, having heard of a few other people who've passed on since then - whether relatives or relatives of friends - I've tried to understand what it is about knowing whether they suffered toward the end that is so important.  Admittedly, I haven't come up with much.  However, the little that I have says this.  Those of us left to mourn their loss just need that last bit of assurance that they went without suffering.  We are just glad and thankful that their final moments were not awful ones.  Even to the end, we want the best for those we love!  The answer we are always hoping to hear is, "No.  He/She didn't suffer."  For, in a strange yet comforting way, that answer brings a great relief!  And we think, "Good.  I'm glad to hear that."   In another sense, it's kinda for our benefit, too.  In an unintentionally selfish way, we are comforted knowing that they went without agony.  For, if they hadn't, how much more painful for us to know that we could not have been there to alleviate some of that pain/agony/suffering?  But, I'm wont to think it's more the former.  We want the best for our loved ones even in the end.

I'm beginning to understand that it is important to have a hand I can hold every now and then.  Sometimes I just need a hand to hold; that could be all the conversation and connection I need.  That hand, at the right moment, makes me feel comforted and loved and special and that I'm not in it (whatever it is) alone.  It could be the hand of a friend or a family member - even that of a stranger.  Hm.  True story.  I had been invited to a function that was to take place on the 51st (or was it 54th?) floor of a TD Bank building downtown Toronto.  I am scared of heights.  As the elevator ascended, I said as much to the two strangers who were en route to the same function.  The woman next to me said stteo: "If you want, you can hold my hand."  She must've heard the sigh of relief as I said, "Thank you!" And I reached out and took her hand.  Long after we'd exited the elevator - after what seemed like days - I kept thanking her.  But, that's what I'm talking about.  A hand to hold at the right moment.

I'm beginning to understand that people need people.  One of my fav stories is about a little girl who was asking for her dad's help to get undressed.  She was about 5 years old.  The father knew she could do it on her own and told her so.  She replied stteo: "Yes Daddy.  But, people need people, even when they can do things by theirselves [sic]."   I've grown accustomed to doing a lot of things by myself.  I hardly ever ask for help.  I don't like DIY, so I buy things that don't require assembly.  And, if they do, the store "will send somebody out."  But, that's beginning to change - because "people need people."  It's not just about putting things together, either.  I've found that it's about the company and the connection and the camaraderie and the celebration of unified achievement that comes with getting help and doing things together.  And, of a truth, there are some things that I simply am not able to do on my own. For those things, it is okay to ask for help.  And, wouldn't you know it?  The people to whom I reach out usually say yes.  (They may sound a tad surprised, but that's beside the point.)  I'm reminded of my fav Tina Turner song, "Help" (a cover of The Beatles, I believe.  And, btw, this live version sounds exactly like the one I taped from radio in the mid-80s, btw.)  It starts out, "When I was younger/So much younger than today/I never needed anybody's help in any way/And now those days have gone/I'm not so self-assured/And now I find, I've changed my mind/I've opened up the doors."   Guess life's just like that.  You get to that point, at some point...

I'm beginning to understand that it's okay to know who I am and what those things are up with which I will not put! :-) That I do not have to apologize for liking or disliking, wanting or not wanting, preferring or not preferring certain things.  In my conveying these preferences, I remain respectful - more so diplomatic - with a hint of a smile.  Sometimes an outright one.  A few years ago, in two jobs I held for (not surprisingly) under two years, an unfamiliar sense of relief swept over me when I finally admitted to myself, "I hate my job! I hate going to work there!"  I didn't leave right away.  But, somehow, that verbalized truth added gusto to my steps.  I didn't have to hold it in anymore and was able to endure the remaining months without imploding!  At For-ty, it's easy to sense what's in sync with my own preferences and likes and so on.  Easy to spot.  If it's not, it's kinda like another fav story of mine from years ago.  The watchman at a lighthouse kept watch night after night. A bell or a horn or something went off marking a given time every night.  One night, due to some malfunction, the bell didn't go off.  The watchman was startled out of his sleep by the omission of the familiar sound and jumped up, "What was that?" 

For me, in some cases of a new acquaintance/relationship, the omission of a quality or trait that should be in sync is easy to spot.  My "What was that?" moment sometimes lasts too long, as I give way to my main resolution (at For-ty) to be more "open". Whatever the heck that means!  Well, what I meant at the time  - and I imagine I still do now - is that I wouldn't be quick to write people off for saying or doing the occasional "dufus" thing.  Get to know 'em.  A few traits mightn't be in sync, but, I'd give it time.  In general, try new things; go for the adventure.  You know?  The one outside my square - home, work, church, store?  But, the truth is, it's easier said than done.  As that longtime quote (don't recall who said it) goes, "I want somebody who's already ticking the way he should be."

I'm beginning to understand that it's okay to want that; that and a number of other things on that shrunken list.  I've had a few relationships over the years and in each of them I have "loved thickly" - as that Toni Morrison line goes.  For, "what good is thin love?"  I'm glad to say that I have learned something from each of them.  After a six- or seven-year break from dating, I now desire my him.  Like I said, the list has shrunken but a few things have remained. He has to love our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Just...just take my word for it that other than that, there is no point.  He must love me - and like me.  Be each other's BFF.  He has to be affectionate - occasional PDA, not so much to make me or other folks uncomfortable - and romantic.  Sense of humour; good job (that he likes); can help the kids with their homework - especially Maths and Science and not be afraid of li*ards!  The laundry thing?  I'm kinda getting over that, given that it has become more convenient now.  But, if he wishes, I might be up for negotiating wrt to that particular chore!  Other attributes/qualities/traits/characteristics I pray that I can live with.  Another woman might go, "No way!"  While for me, re that same trait, I'd be like, "Pshww! I'm fine with that."

Hmmm.  I'm definitely beginning to understand that as much as I desire my him to be this that and the other, wherever he is, he is praying for his one and only to be this that and the other, too!  So, as someone said to me the other day, "You don't know how sexy it is that you have your sh*t together," (he had asked me to excuse the language), I take some comfort that I am on the right track.  Funny thing is, because I do have much of my stuff together, it could be a tad more difficult to discern the right one.  I'm old fashioned and do want to marry for love.  Not because it makes economic sense; not because of what I have etc.  For love.  And, it is exactly for this reason that I have to continuously seek God's guidance in my interactions with those with whom I come into contact - on and offline.  (Yeeeah.  The square isn't working. Other means necessary. Or so I think.)  I will be true to him.  As Proverbs 31 admonishes, his heart will be safe with me and I will do him good and not evil all the days of my life.

I'm beginning to understand the love and mercy of God.  That I truly am undeserving of His grace and mercy and lovingkindess.  That my only plea is that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for me and calls me friend and I'm joint heir with Him.  That in Christ's doing so, God's wrath and judgment that I do deserve was satisfied - not by any good deed or any other thing I could possibly have done!  That Romans 5: 7-8 and 1Cor 1: 18-29 will always tear me up and bring me to my knees in gratitude to Him.  When I was about 27 or so, I experienced Christ's rescue.  Sometime in this my year of For-ty, I have experienced His mercy and His love.  There are no words to describe how grateful I am to Him; how much I love Him and how much He means to me.  Yes, I'm beginning to get a glimpse of how much I mean to Him.  I simply ask these days that He help me use up my talents and apply the necessary hard work; that He help me be obedient and fearless!

Oh, there's so much more I'm beginning to understand.  People I don't know will care about me; people I've known for a while, won't.  Sometimes I have to apologize, even - and especially - when I don't want to.  Sometimes I have to force myself / be my own cheerleader, to get cracking on the things I must do - even when they're things I ordinarily enjoy doing. Sometimes I need to relax. I need to learn how.  I'm laughing a lot less these days, maybe 'cause I've been living alone for a while now.  Still, I need to get back to that place.

Sigh. Clearly, this post won't hold 'em all.  Might have to do a Part III  - at some point.   But, thankfully, I am beginning to understand these things.  I may never get them all down pat.  But, I'd like to think I'm off to a good start.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

At For-ty, I'm Beginning to Understand...

One of the things I'm beginning to understand is that I am only beginning to understand certain things.  There is still much ground to cover.  (I remember the saying: "God put me on this earth to accomplish a number of things.  I'm so far behind, I'll never die!" LOL!) Very few are the things that I fully understand - given hindsight and frame of reference and perspective and experience and what not.

I had a bout of illness the other day.  Apparently, when you're not in the best of health, that's one of the first and primary avenues to putting things into perspective.  All of a sudden, the bright light does appear.  It shines on everything around you, allowing you to assert and focus, with unparalleled clarity, on what really matters; what is important.  As it happened, this slump - yes, let's call it that.  Or, we could also call it this slipping under the radar, happened at For-ty.  Ah!  In time to help me shape my understanding of the necessity of being healthy, even as I began to understand a heck of a lot more things.

At For-ty (and, as I'd said just after celebrating my birthday earlier this year, writing it with the hyphen just makes it sound pre-tty), I'm beginning to understand that no matter how grown up I am, my mother will always be Mother.  We have the same age difference between us.  She loves me just as much as she did when she gave birth to me. She still has that maternal instinct.  Even when we disagree, I can count on her still liking me and loving me.  She is always looking out for my best interest, and, if I choose not to speak to her on certain matters, she finds other matters, until we get back to the matter at hand.  I'm beginning to understand that as long as she is alive, she will continue to pray for me and her support will be reliable.

I'm beginning to understand that my dad is prouder of me than he'd say to my face. (He does say it to others.) I'm beginning to understand that he prays for me and has high hopes for me and supports me more than I think, well, used to think.  Though, honestly, it's not something to which I gave a lot of thought.  That he is happy that I am a good role model for my sisters and that I help them when I can.

I'm beginning to understand that sisters sisters are a mix of sisters and friends and mean more to me than my closest friends.  I'm beginning to understand that my closest friends are like my sisters. 

I'm beginning to understand the value of having a brother-in-law with whom "the family" gets along; who is liked.  Seeing myself through the eyes of someone coming from "outside",  I've accepted that sometimes I could do things better; be nicer - it helps me strive to be a better person.  Thankfully, there are more times when I am appreciated and admired.  And, at all times, respected.

I'm beginning to understand that having a niece that I can "borrow" for my "kid-fix" is priceless!  Especially so when that niece is, for like, 90% of the time, an absolute pleasure to be around.  The conversations we have are uncomplicated...simple and creative.  I'm beginning to understand that the world as seen through the eyes of a 2 and 1/2 year old is, shall we say, a different place.  Her view of the world seems to be borne out of her being one word: Fearless!  She grabs it, dives into it, leaps off it, sometimes makes it up as she goes along; jumps onto it - whatever it is - with what we hope is the appropriate amount of protection.  In other words, I'm beginning to understand that caution is oftentimes taught and learnt - sometimes too well.  And that it may lead to fear, and limiting oneself and...and a type of (or many types of) paralysis.

I'm beginning to understand that many people who have children love them.  And want the best for them.  And that, having a child adds inexpressible meaning to one's life that simply cannot be realized through any other...experience.  I am beginning to understand that most parents think their children are special and are really princes and princesses - even if the rest of the world, shoot, even if the neighbour, mightn't think so.  I am beginning to understand that parenting really does not come with a manual - no matter how much "they" try to prepare you for it - and that new parents just try their hardest to get used to, and make the best of, the new addition(s).  I'm beginning to understand that some fail miserably at this and some manage quite well - and many fall in-between.

I'm beginning to understand that I have never lost in loving. And, my choice of "loving thickly" has always been the right one.  Hmmm.  More anon in the Pt. II of this :-)

I'm beginning to understand that my health ought not to be taken for granted.  And, even if I never used to take it for granted, (which I never did), it is possible for my body to do things that are neither pleasing, nor pleasant.  I recently increased my understanding of what it means to be in pain - all over! Enduring what felt like daggers clawing through certain parts of the body more than others; high temps; muscles on fire while being physically alone.  My understanding that "health is first and everything else follows" as expressed by my Bodysculpt instructor, Maha, increased significantly!  In those moments when I had nothing but a prayer and Jesus (ok, and some painkillers, and my family via phone), I began to ask the "What ifs?"  Admittedly, I didn't - couldn't - dwell on them for long.  I found more strength in being hopeful in Christ that He could - and would - make me well.  After all, I was beginning to understand the whole "His body was broken for me" thing.  Out of that came something else I quickly acknowledged as well.  Negative sentiments such as one uttered by an acquaintance; stteo: "And it's just getting worse, eh?" grated every nerve and sinew!  My quick response was, "No.  It's not.  This is just something different I have to deal with."  Upon a brief reflection, I realized that I do surround myself with people who have faith; who are positive.  Clearly, I had to declutter - and fast!

And, since then, each day gets better!  (Oh, so many uses for that John Legend song.)

I have promised to catch up with the 3rd entry for this month, by the end of the month.  I imagine that, life spared, it'll be the Part II to this heading.

Btw, today marks the 3rd Anniversary of this Blog.  As I'd long mentioned, I was inspired by Usain Bolt's performance at the Olympics in Beijing.  Sometimes, you just need a good start.  For me, it was a matter of becoming fearless and writing for public consumption (and criticism).  But, mostly, a matter of writing.  Just writing.

It's write or suffocate, remember?


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Breaks Allowed

So, for my two or so readers, my apology for not posting on the 8th.  Been terribly under the weather.  But, given that you're my biggest supporters - on and offline - you already knew that.

I imagine that there are those who'd file this under "excuses".  That's fine.  For, you see, as I've often said, I take many trips; none to where guilt is.  It would appear that in some of today's fast-paced environments (there are so many of them), one is not "allowed" to take a break; to pause; to get sick.  If that should happen, the worker is often left wondering whether these are strikes against them.  If you're the go-to guy or gal in your field/vocation, you might be left wondering how much of your credibility has been shot, since you've had to be off the radar for an extended time.

Of course, more often than not, all that's required is some communication.  Let your peeps know (as much as can be shared) what's going on.   Everyone needs a break from time to time; it's good for the body, mind and soul.  That's not so bad - even expected - when it's scheduled.  Y'know?  Like vacations and such.  It's those "that blindside you on some idle Tuesday" that will get you scrambling!  And worrying!  And wondering how ever, and in what light, are your fellow men and women, and followers and tweeps and connections the world over going to perceive you now!  I've heard the saying, "The brave ones play hurt."  I'm sure they do.  And, while that may be admirable and inspiring in one context, it also says in another context that one is not allowed to go off the radar just because one's hurt.  Try communication.  Let 'em know!

Today, given the electronic leashes to which many of us are attached, we remain accessible and in touch, even when we barely have the energy to speak.  After all, the fingers work, don't they?  But what of the mental and emotional and psychological etc. energy?  Surely, the fact that we are accessible doesn't mean that we should be accessed?  The fact that we are connected doesn't mean we should be contacted?  And, if we choose not to be; if we choose, instead, to just lay low and recoup, even in the face of deadlines and commitments, by society's standards, are we wimping out?   Good for those who communicate early the break they have to take because of certain other priorities - health, family, marriage etc.  Better yet when people understand that it's necessary.

The occasional inevitable pause due to, say, genuine ailment is, of course, not to be confused with "slacking-off".  There are those who opt to take a break when deadlines are to be met.  Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.  It is not of these that we speak.

I do intend to make up for that missing post before the end of August, my life being spared.  After all, it is the month of my Blog's anniversary.  Go figure! 


Friday, 29 July 2011

"Dying Swan"

Here I am, all alone, by choice
By my stupid, punishing, frustrating choice.
I cling to every hint of reason
That tells me I'm in the right.
With all my might I try to find
That great redeemer in  my mind.

If I were brave, I'd say, "Return."
"Return," I'd plead, "to me, with love.
The love that caused you to hate and hurt
With the passion that was meant for the lover."

These arms and lips, they yearn for you.
The dying swan's first song is almost through.

Oct. 29, 1989

Monday, 18 July 2011


My wall broke this morning.
My prison of supposed defence
Came down block by block.

And I stood
For a moment, I held my breath
And nothing happened.
Nothing would happen.
And I exhaled.

When I spoke,
At that moment
I broke
Into laughter, with joy.

For I realized
That I was now FREE!


Friday, 8 July 2011


My most beautiful moments
Have been with you
Under a black velvet sky -
By the sea -
You, my dreams and me.

With your laughter,
You share the music of my heart
The rhythms of my soul
All that I've longed for
To have and to hold...

On to your thoughts
That you share with me.
You touch. I feel.
There's more to meeting than just company.

My most beautiful moments
Sharing our laughter, our thoughts
With the wind.  By the sea.
You, our dreams and me.

Feb. 8, 1993

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Of Twanging and Shakespeare and Snowclones

I’m referring, of course, to the new catch phrase being bandied across borders, “Nobody canna cross it!”  Thanks to the viral (refix) video by Kevin-Sean Hamilton that simply glistens with creativity.  The phrase has its genesis with Clifton Brown (aka Cliff-twang Brown), during his interview with Dara Smith, the TVJ reporter.   The multi-use of the phrase has put me in mind of Shakespeare.  More anon.

The rains had come to Jamaica – some parts of the island feeling its effect more than others. The roads of Mavis Bank, linking Robertsfield and other communities in the parish of (East rural) St. Andrew, were masquerading as river courses. Needless to say, they were practically impassable – except for professionals, the likes of Clifton.  As he articulated the plight of the residents, and the help that they were able to provide to each other, viewers hung to his every word – mainly, perhaps, in unbelief!  For, Clifton was twanging.  Like, real live twanging!  On TV!  And he wasn’t joking! 

Although twanging is not new to the ear, it’s hardly ever done in such a public interview and for that length of time.  Of course a lot of people twang, or as Jamaicans are wont to say, “dem put on twang” or “dem a put on accent”.  But, more often than not, it’s not, y’know?  Aired!   It may be done in public, but, only those within earshot are treated to it.   The scripts in theatrical or made-for-TV productions in Jamaica may call for some kind of twanging – with the distinct intention of eliciting laughter! 

Twanging, to my mind, at any rate, is not the same as speaking with an (American – ‘cause it’s gotta be American or, ok, fine, Canadian) accent.   There are kids, for example, who’ve grown up in a Jamaican-American or Jamaican-Canadian household, who speak Jamaican patois (with a genuine "patois accent" - there's more than one) and English, (with a genuine American or Canadian accent).  They aren’t twanging.  Twanging – and feel free to enlighten me – is an affected way of speaking where one tries to speak with that other accent, where inflections and enunciations (and whatever else those steeped in linguistics will tell you) are added and subtracted randomly, to much comedic effect.

That is why that original news clip was so funny!  It’s a way of speaking that Jamaicans usually find funny, as the speaker seems to be trying too hard to “talk good” or “speaky spoky” - to fit in with those perceived to be of a "higher social calibre" who are known to "speak properly".   It’s a way of speaking that is sometimes intentionally used to generate laughter (especially when mocking the speech of another). Recall Miss Lou's "No Lickle Twang" and "Dry Foot Bwoy" that reference a possible no-win situation. (Contact me for translation if need be :-).  It’s a way of speaking used, as just mentioned, in certain productions for comic effect.

So, when we were treated to this way of speaking, in a situation where none of the above was applicable, it was both surprising and funny! He wasn’t speaking to elicit laughter; he wasn’t speaking as a character in some form of production (well, at that point, little did he know…).  And, he certainly wasn’t speaking to mock someone else.  As a matter of fact, during one of his interviews, either with Mutabaruka, or Smile Jamaica, Clifton admits that he invoked this way of speaking to try to talk like the University students (if he only knew…#justsayin.  Don’t shoot the messenger!)  That he hadn’t gone to University and was trying to copy them (that perceived "higher social calibre" thing).  

So, he was being real; he was being passionate and, in his inimitable Cliftonian style (yes, accorded his own distinction now), getting his point across.  I mean, don't you imagine that, although people have been twanging for so long, whenever you hear someone else put on a twang, somebody is going to be like, "Yuh pulling a Clifton man!"  In his delivery, "Nobody can cross's only a fisherman or a fisherwoman" became "Nobody canna cross only fishermain or a fisherwomain" and there were those who "can monij di wotah."

One of the things I admire about this recent development – apart from the publicity and kudos for Kevin-Sean Hamilton; the exposure wrt Mavis Bank and Robertsfield; Clifton Brown’s concern and his taking this whole publicity in stride (hope it doesn’t get too much for him); the “official Nobody Canna Cross It” dance and the “We Can Cross It! - Let’s Build a Bridge!” FB page – is how the phrase has been appropriated into popular culture. 

And that is what put me in mind of Shakespeare!  How often do we hear ourselves using phrases like: "One fell swoop" - Macbeth; "Lend me your ears" - Julius Caesar; "Much Ado About Nothing" (title) and so on.  If we changed any of those up a bit to, say, "In one fell scoop" - talking about ice-cream; "Much ado about...anything"; or "Romans, countrymen, lend me your cash!"  We'd get it!  Of course, Shakespeare is not the only one from whose bank of writing we have found ourselves making regular withdrawals (My word!  Where did that come from?)  Remember Bill Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid!" to grab a more recent one. How about, "It's the software, stupid!"  You get the point.  So, that’s where my mind went – to Shakespeare and the catch phrases or, as they morphed over time, to the more correct snowclones.

(A snowclone is defined as "a verbal formula that is adapted for re-use by changing only a few words, so that the allusion to the original phrase remains clear." (  Or, as Wikipedia puts it: A snowclone is a type of cliché and phrasal template originally defined as "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants.") 

So, I've been hearing/reading about people using the phrase in different scenarios.  E.g., in talking about an exam, they go, "Can you cross it?" or about multi-tasking, "I can cross it!" Or, even on Twitter, a tweet about your rough day ending with #crossit, indicates that you managed it in spite of the odds.  This is something to smile about. After all, I think this one is going to be around for quite a while - never mind its unlikely beginning.

I imagine there will be highs and lows with all this, but, more than anything, it has brought much-needed laughter.  Clifton?  Keep your head up.  Handle this new-found publicity well.   I hope "they" hurry and build the bridge - and name it after you! 


Saturday, 18 June 2011

Can You Cross It?

By this time, I imagine that you have heard about one of the latest video sensations going viral.  Well, in case you haven't, it's the hilarious refix (and I understand why remix wasn't used) dubbed: "Nobody Canna Cross It" by Kevin-Sean Hamilton (aka DJPowa) -  

I've decided to provide a translation - primarily for non-Jamaican tweeps who've been bearing with me as I go on about the vid, and make references to select lines.  Truth is, I imagine that when some of them get to the vid, they are not able to understand most of what is being said.  Same goes for non-Jamaicans who've been hitting it on YouTube and other media.  Figured I'd help out.

(Btw, we're going in with the understanding that "nobody cannot" is the dreaded double negative.  But that, really, is the least of your worries re translation.  Hope you catch the nuances that add to the hilarity.  Also, some words will have to be replaced with others to get to the meaning - so, not necessarily word for word translation, per se, in some parts.)

Here goes:

Right now, nobody can cross it
It's only who can understand it cross it
Nobody can cross it
It's only a fisherman and a fisherwoman, trust me!
Nobody can cross it
It's only who can manage (handle) the water
It's only so (that way) they (can) come over
Or if we're around to help them.

Nobody can swim
'Cause if you cannot swim,
You cannot cross it
Nobody can cross it
(Unless) we're around to lift them over
A fisherman can cross it
And a fisherwoman (can) cross it
Cannot swim? Trust me
You gone (you'll be carried out by the current) to St. Thomas pond

Nobody can cross it
It's only who (can) understand it, cross it
Nobody can cross it
It's only a fisherman and a fisherwoman, trust me!
Nobody can cross it
It's only who can manage (handle) the water
It's only so (that way) they (can) come over
Or if we're around to help them.

Not all the vehicles - can cross it
This vehicle - cannot cross it
We're locked away in the wilderness
Nobody crosses it. (Baby pic: CROSS!)

Yesterday, the bus was coming from town
A bus load of people

It was just the mercy of God why the bus didn't go over
The bus can swim
The bus can swim
The bus can swim
Believe it or not
The bus can swim
Yesterday, the bus was just coming from town
The bus can cross it
The last time, (we had a) hurricane 
(And) we had dead to bury up the top
Nobody should walk
The bus can swim
Nobody should walk
The bus can cross it

Nobody can cross it
It's only who can understand it cross it
Nobody can cross it
It's only a fisherman and a fisherwoman, trust me!
Nobody can cross it
It's only who can manage (handle) the water
It's only so (that way) they (can) come over
Or if we're around to help them.

I'm very concerned; very concerned
Because nobody can cross it
Not even the kids can go to school, trust me!
Because nobody can cross it
A fisherman and a fisherwoman can cross it.
Like, they understand it
Cannot swim? Trust me
You gone to dead up (you're going to be dead up there)...

Nobody can cross it
It's only who can understand it cross it
Nobody can cross it
It's only a fisherman and a fisherwoman, trust me!
Nobody can cross it
It's only who can manage (handle) the water
It's only so (that way) they (can) come over
Or if we're around to help them.

Nobody can cross it
Nobody crosses it
It's only who can swim (can) cross it
Cr cr cross it CROSS!
No no no nobody (can) cross it

[Dara Smith, TVJ News]

Hope this has helped you to cross it!  Thinking I might write more on this - the appropriation of the #nobodycancrossit and #dibuscanswim into popular culture - one signifying a general acceptance of a perceived impossibility or improbability; the other, the underlining of the victory when seemingly daunting feats have been accomplished.  (Btw, sometimes all you need is someone there to help you!)  Not to mention, too, the derivatives.  Personalizations to read: I cannot cross it; you can cross it and so on.  We just need the "cross it" and we get the reference.  When positive, we're simply making the link, or transition, from the realm of impossibility to possibility.  OK.  Lemme not get carried away.  After all, I can cross it.

Noted Kevin's tweet a short while ago: "Truth is, without the ONLY Lord and Saviour ! Him a di ONLY one dat can ensure seh ! BRB..."

True that, Kevin. True that.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"Scared Heart"

He chants the rhythms and I am held
Suspended in time and Bandele's face.
"Let me belong to me
Before I belong to you."
Each beat sets my heart nearer breaking.
My heart's afraid of breaking
So, it will never dance.
My heart's afraid of breaking
It will never take the chance.

He sings of you; he sings of me
Though (God forbid) he knows it not.
Our problems, highly universal,
But belonging only to us.
We nourish them with insecurities
'Til they inflate...then burst like a sore.
My heart's afraid of breaking
It won't dance anymore.


Saturday, 28 May 2011

Customer Service "or" What?

There's a knock-off saying from the more familiar one: "The customer is always right - and usually ugly, too!"  I tend to think that the kind of ugly to which this refers, does not always mean that of the physical kind.  You know, the sort that doesn't fit with our societal construct and perception of beauty?  No siree! I have come to believe that the ugly implied in that tongue-in-cheek remark, does sometimes refer to the customer's conduct, behaviour, if you will - especially when the candour of his/her retort is unexpected.

Let's take the scene a few months ago.  I approach the customer service desk, the relevant card in hand, ready to make a payment to my account.  (After all, the flyer that the company mailed to me earlier that week did say that I could come in with either card or statement. As I was already on the road, I figured I could just drop in and be done with it.)  I produce my card.  She looks at me. She  proceeds to explain that I need the statement.  I point out the operative "or" ('cause that's what I do). She repeats herself.  I proceed to explain that it would take me about 40 minutes of highway driving to get home and get back with the statement.  Plus, I continue, their flyer did say "or".  Her explanation is stuck on repeat.  I ask to speak with the manager.  He approaches their side of the counter.  I explain why I expect my payment to be accepted, even though I do not have the statement.  He pretty much gives the same explanation - they are the store; the card company is independent of them. They need to see the number on the statement, which is not necessarily the same on the card.  I tell him the number on the statement - only the last two digits are different.  He still needs to see it.  I now take the time to point out the "or" on his flyer.  He says something about seeing to a change in the copy because it is in fact misleading.  I leave to go home to get the statement.

While there, I call the card company.  As I had imagined they would have, they explain that the card alone is fine. They are able to update the account whether payment is made to the card number or the statement number.  I sigh.

I head back to the store. I explain what the card company said. The manager apologizes for my inconvenience and assures that he would check in with corporate re the the copy and recommend a revision.

Fast forward to last week. I have both statement and card to close the store's account. The sad part now?  I do not have page 2.  I have page 1 with the account number that they'd asked for the last time, but I do not have page 2 with the transaction numbers (single digits, mind you).  The guy at the counter says he needs the trans numbers. I tell him I know both of them by heart.  He still needs to see page 2.  He checks in with his supervisor - Ms. CSR from a few months ago. I tell her I know which is which.  She insists that I need page 2 for them to allocate the funds to the correct trans numbers.  I remind her that the last time I was there, I had to drive all the way back. She apologizes.  THEN she suggests that I could call the card company using the phone at the other end of the counter! The counter!  Right there! They would be able to confirm the trans numbers and then she would be able to apply the funds accordingly.  And I'm thinking, why did you not suggest that in the first place?  Couldn't that have been done the last time and save me gas and time and effort?

When it was all over, I asked the guy to beckon to her as I really needed to talk to her.  As she made her way over to the counter, I could feel myself taking deep breaths as I tried to maintain my cool.  As I relayed to her my disbelief that there had in fact been an option all along - a simple call to the card company, from their store!!! - I questioned why customers aren't given that option in the first place!  Why would they insist, as if it were cast in concrete, that customers who turn up without their statements leave and return later that day (if they have the time) or another day?  And, yet, the stupid "or" is still sitting there, ensconced between "statement" and "card".  (I didn't say stupid.  I just pointed out the fact that their flyer (yes, they'd sent another) still had the "or"!)  Her explanation was that they don't want to encourage that option, as customers would be taking a risk if they're not sure of their trans numbers and can apply funds to wrong trans numbers etc.  And I'm thinking, and finally said, that the customers should be the ones to decide to take that risk.  Give them the option! Moreover, with the quick phone call, once the customer ascertains the trans number, he/she gives it to the store's CSR. The CSR simply writes it on the receipt after payment and the customer initials it - taking responsibility wrt where the funds are going.  That's what they had me do.  I really wanted to reach out and touch her around the neck! Cho!

She went on about understanding my frustration and again apologized for the inconvenience but wanted to assure me that they are in fact addressing the matter of the misleading copy on the flyer (no doubt from my previous point out - maybe others had done their own pointing out, too.  Who knows?) Again with the understanding, but it's in the interest of the customer blah blah blah.  In the end, I didn't even say thanks for her promise to follow up.  I just sighed - exasperatedly - and left.

So, I guess I was both right and perceived to be ugly that day.  I didn't raise my voice. But, I did feel bad after about not saying thanks, and for leaving so abruptly.  As I replayed it, I imagined that I can be right without being rude. That was my little lesson from that episode.  At the same time, however, I did feel a slight satisfaction that I communicated my frustration and the reason for it.  It can't be right that they turn people away (as they had done with me the first time) when there is a phone-call option just at the end of the counter!

Like I tweeted the other day, there really is a difference between customer service to die for and customer service that just kills you!


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Turning Back a Few Pages

I've found some sweet spots on the pages of Facebook. Yeah.  Let's just dive right in, shall we?

Having decided to be open in my Cyopro connections on FB, I've been transported back to a time about which I have really precious memories.  I've connected with people I met and knew in my twenties; people who cared to groom me and inspire me and look out for me - that sorta thing.  And, I've simply embraced the transport and the nice feelings that come with it.  We've touched based, shared a little, laughed (the LOL kind) a lot. But, invariably, it's with the comfort's okay.  I don't have to wonder about probable hidden agendas; chips on shoulders; slight narcissism - you know, the kinds of things you are hap to discover in one or two people as you discover...yourself.

True, I've spoken before about linking with people you haven't seen from Adam.  That you never know how they have been shaped and by what: whether it's something from which you'd want to stay far far away.  However, I'm talking about a connection with older folks (I'd say not so much to be my mother, but they were, in a sense, pretty motherly); folks who were eager to affirm my strength and drive and self esteem and potential...  They were not afraid of doing so because they themselves stood secure in who they were.  That's how it seemed to me, and I've had no reason to doubt it.  So often we find that some stay clear of affirming the strength and beauty of others (not that they're needed to validate all that!) it's like, it'll diminish them in some way if they do.

But not these.  They gave of self and support.  That's how I remember it.  That's what has stayed with me from the season we spent together years ago.  And, it brings a smile when I read a message saying how proud they are of me!

As in every nostalgic episode, I imagine, we seek out and cling to that which makes us feel all happy and gay and free and at ease! (Yeah, that's what I said.)  We cling to that which makes us experience, in some way, the comfort and security we felt at that point in time.  I get it.  That is what has happened/is happening to me where these special connections - reconnections - are concerned.

And, I like!

They'll probably read this post one day so I say, thank you, Faith and Pat! (They did say I could drop the Mrs. this and Mrs. that! :-)