Friday, February 25, 2011


A colleague entered the staffroom at lunchtime today singing a song.   I recognized the melody and the lyrics.  I started to play it fast, in my head, hoping to get the title and artist before the buzzer sounded.  I failed.  Oh, Jeebus yes, I was nearly there.  I only needed a couple more seconds, goddamn it.

Shows how old I'm getting.  (Sadly, instant recall is not one of my more reliable skills these days.)

The song?   This one.  And I've even got the bugger on vinyl.  On 45!  I can tell you where I was the first time I heard it.  I love this song.

Yeah.  So I tell myself that long-term memory trumps instant recall -- but bloody hell, I hate fucking losing in the here and now.  Especially to myself.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Two books I've been reading recently, thus delaying, postponing -- or otherwise having to invent yet another excuse, for not, er, um, actually -- writing anything:

Barney's Version, by Mordecai Richler.  Meant to read this one a few years ago but never got around to it.  Great read.  It's basically about the Montreal Canadiens, booze, Alzheimer's, cigars and marriage... with a (murder?) mystery tossed in.  (Don't exactly see it working as a film, though.  No movie of this book could possibly do it justice.)  From the Afterword: "Before his brain began to shrink, Barney Panofsky clung to two cherished beliefs: Life was absurd, and nobody ever truly understood anybody else."  You got that right, Barney.

Searching for Bobby Fischer, by Josh Waitzkins' dad. Josh is a chess master who spends a lot of time in this book being, like, eight years old.  They made a movie out of this one, too, so I'm told.  If you love chess, you'll love this book.  Hell, if you don't know the first thing about the game, you'll still enjoy it.  Spoiler alert: they don't find Fischer.

Maybe this counts as writing something after all.

Monday, February 14, 2011


The school Chess Club tournaments are (mercifully) over.  I survived, winners were declared, prizes were awarded, and not a single candidate master anywhere in the country will be in jeopardy any time soon -- or likely ever, truth to be told.

Still, they are learning the game.  And a couple of kids are becoming quite good.  A couple.  Well, four to be exact.  Which, out of a total of thirty-two children, is really not too shabby.  Right?

Before each round, I gave them a pep talk.  The last one ended with these words by a famous chess champion (whose name escapes me): If you see a good move, look for a better one.

A sentiment that could be applied to life in general.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


My mother died one year ago today.  The last cogent thing she said to me was "Please... a cold drink."

That was four days before the end.  She was desperately thirsty but could only be given this 'thickened' water, which was like clear gelatin.   Because water made her vomit.  And she was already dehydrated.

I remember the last spoonful of that shit dribbling down her chin.  And the nurses.  I will always remember the nurses.  They were brilliant.  Like the sisters I never had.  Like the daughters my mother would have loved.

Thank you, ladies.  Always.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


You'd think that the more ancient the civilization, the more likely were its constituents to have 'got it right' by now.  But getting it right can have a million -- or a billion -- definitions.

Perhaps the only thing history can teach us is that evolution is a process that proceeds in the dark.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I suppose that when I retire I will miss all those little voices calling out my name.  For attention, for recognition, for comfort (and for what lately has seemed, more and more often, the whininess of long-distance whiner.)

But sometimes, I swear, I am becoming royally sick of hearing my name.  It conjures those years when my mother wasn't, um, the most stable octogenarian in the precinct, and she'd call, at least a dozen times a day, leaving messages on the answering machine, all of them beseeching and pleading, some tearful, most ridiculous, every one prefixed by my name.  Fuck, I got sick of hearing my name.

So I need to remind myself -- on my way to the finish line -- that children are children.  And they are the reason I wanted this job in the first place.  So,

Yes, Isabelle, I'll get to you in just a second.  Benjamin, go ahead.  Your hand was raised first.  Then you, Katy.  And Liam, you're after Katy.

Oh, hell.  I guess it's better that not being called at all.

Llewellen... need I ask?  More beer, old son.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


'Tis time to toss the caber
'an eat the oatcakes, sure;
'Tis also time to stab the haggis 
'an get ye sooo fookin' pissed
ye won't notice me stealin' ye'r bloody wallet -- 
or ye'r girl.

Yeah.  Okay.  Robbie didn't write this.  So fookin' sue me.

Llewellen... pipe in that haggis and bring us a few wee drams o'the good stuff.