It’s easy to put on a pair of grumpy pants these days.
Physical distancing, social distancing, isolation, quarantine, health care workers under siege, empty parks, streets, beaches and churches, businesses going bust, lost jobs, lost lives…COVID-19 is overwhelming.
And it doesn’t help when you step outside on to the battlefield and realize that some people just don’t give a damn.
For example, there’s a sign in my seniors residence building that states there are to be no more than two people in the elevators at any time. So what did I see on Friday when the doors slid open on the eighth floor? Three people staring at me. And that was on the smaller of our two elevators. Oh, and did I mention that the two-people-limit sign is also posted inside the elevator? Yup, two signs that three people chose to ignore. And these are seniors, supposedly the most at-risk group.
So much for keeping your distance.
Meanwhile, I had to pick up meds that prevent my heart and other body bits from going kaflooey, and there was banking to do.
No problem with securing the meds at the Cool Aid dispensary. I confirmed that I have no coronavirus symptoms, so it was in, out and on my way to the bank, which was a different matter. There was a lineup outside Coast Capital, 23 people stretched single file down the street, standing in an on-again, off-again drizzle. It was a smile-free zone. Except for one moron, who recklessly approached people and got right in their faces. He was a close-talker. I decided that paying bills would have to wait for another day, and began to trudge home, dismayed and discouraged.
But as I strolled up Quadra Street, it occurred to me that plenty of things still make me smile even in these dire times. Such as…
British Columbia’s top doc, Dr. Bonnie Henry, makes me smile. Her unfrayed voice and unfrantic directives are the calm in the COVID-19 storm for those of us who reside on the left flank of the land. She is a blessing and I just wonder if this remarkable woman finds time for zzzzs. I hope she doesn’t burn out before we make it to the other side of this thing.
Picking up a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh makes me smile. I’m not sure how many of Thay’s books I’ve read, but I started with Peace Is Every Step in the 1990s and now I’m 46 pages into One Buddha Is Not Enough. Next up will be a third re-read of No Death, No Fear. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk might be the most peaceful man on earth.
A good neighborhood pub makes me smile, and it doesn’t have to be located in a neighborhood to make it good. Patrons and, of course, staff/ownership is what makes a pub, not locale.
Mike the cab drive makes me smile. Mike is one of the regular elbow-benders at my favorite watering hole, Bart’s Pub, and he’s among the coolest people I know. An old jazz and blues man who plays a soulful clarinet, he’s in his early 70s and still believes every woman who walks into the joint is after his body. I suppose that makes him sound like a dirty, old man, except he isn’t. Mike’s solid.
Women who succeed in a man’s world like major league sports make me smile. Katie Sowers of the San Francisco 49ers became the first female to coach in a Super Bowl game this year, and I suspect she won’t be the last.
Western movies make me smile, although they probably shouldn’t. I mean, as often as not the cowboy rides away at the end, leaving a pretty, heart-broken, teary-eyed damsel staring off into the horizon and wondering if she’ll ever see the cad again. I cuss those cowboys who make their women play second fiddle to a horse and tell them that “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, pilgrim.” But there’s a romanticism to those old dusters that draw me back every time. Giddyup.
My movie collection makes me smile. I’m not sure how many flicks sit on the shelves of my modest dwelling, but between VHS and DVD I reckon I have 300 to 400 titles.
In the past week, I’ve re-watched To Kill A Mocking Bird, Fried Green Tomatoes, Finding Forrester, The Great Debaters, The Illusionist, Steel Magnolias, The Help, Gospel Hill, The River Niger, Ocean’s 11 (Sinatra and the Rat Pack version), Papillon, Thelma and Louise, and Angel and The Badman.
John Wayne was the leading man in Angel and the Badman. He was 40 at the time and looked every day of it. His leading lady was Gail Russell, 21 in real life and looking as fresh as morning dew. Why this gorgeous, thee-and-thouing Quaker girl fell hard for a crusty gunman almost twice her age is the real mystery of the movie. It wasn’t until the Duke became Rooster Cogburn that he picked leading ladies his own age, and Katharine Hepburn always makes me smile.
My VCR makes me smile, because every time I mention it to someone under 50 they laugh like hell. I realize a VCR is old school, but the bad guys are just as dead whether the Duke shoots ’em on VCR as on DVD.
Willie Nelson’s guitar Trigger makes me smile, because it’s every bit as beat up and scarred as Willie himself.
Print newspapers make me smile, because they were supposed to be dead and buried by now. The rag trade hasn’t been kind to a lot of old friends in the past few years, but some have survived all the layoffs, buyouts and shutdowns. May the -30- on their careers arrive on their own terms.
Seeing someone under 50 holding a newspaper in their hands makes me smile. It tells me they’re old souls.
Knowing I have something in common with Willie Mays makes me smile. The Say Hey Kid might be the best all-round player in Major League Baseball history, but he was no match for legendary fastpitch hurler Eddie Feigner of the King and His Court fame. King Eddie whiffed Willie one night in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium in L.A., and he whiffed me one night in a fun game at Renfrew Park in Calgary.
So, Willie and I were two of Eddie’s 141,517 career strikeout victims. Ditto baseball Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente.
The King sat me down with a knee-buckling changeup after I had fouled off two of his fastballs on my first trip to the plate, but I also swatted a single off him my next time up. Alas, that base knock came with an asterisk: The King and His Court, you see, took the field with just four players—the 60-year-old Feigner, a catcher, a first baseman, a left fielder. My soft, looping hit fell just beyond the reach of the first sacker, into an empty right field. And, yes, it was a total fluke.
Festus Haggen makes me smile. I watch Gunsmoke every afternoon and I’m not sure there’s been a quirkier character in the history of television than Ol’ Whiskers. Maybe Archie Bunker. Maybe Barney Fife. Maybe Aunt Clara, who collected doorknobs and entered rooms by coming down the chimney on Bewitched. But Festus does it for me. And did you know that Ken Curtis, the fellow who played Festus, succeeded Frank Sinatra as vocalist with the Tommy Dorsey band? True story. Festus was a crooner. Curtis also was the son-in-law of legendary western film maker John Ford and a lead singer with the Sons of the Pioneers of Roy Rogers fame.
Watching videos of Alison Krauss and Vince Gill perform together makes me smile. She has the voice of an angel, and he makes magic with a guitar in his hands. His voice is syrupy sweet, too.
Discovering at 5 a.m. on Friday that Bob Dylan had released a new song made me smile. I mean, what a great way to spend a bit of down time. Then I listened to Murder Most Foul and stopped smiling.
I can’t speak to the entirety of the tune, because I shut it down when my ears began to bleed after 6½ minutes, but I can tell you that it’s Bob’s way of reminding us that bad guys with guns splattered John F. Kennedy’s brains on the seats of a limousine in 1963. Dylan’s never been a songbird, so it’s easy to forgive his flawed voice, but this is nothing more than 17 minutes of shaky narration with a lot of rhyming and name dropping.
I’m a huge Dylan fan, so I’ll be kind and suggest it isn’t his best work, but you can judge for yourself.
(After giving him the hook at 6½ minutes, I dug out my Infidels album to remind myself what Dylan used to sound like. I smiled the moment the needle touched vinyl.)