Just imagine you’re Hank the 8th

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“…..He used to marry a new wife every day, and chop off her head next morning. And he would do it just as indifferent as if he was ordering up eggs. ‘Fetch up Nell Gwynn,’ he says. They fetch her up. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head!’ And they chop it off. ‘Fetch up Jane Shore,’ he says; and up she comes. Next morning, ‘Chop off her head’ – and they chop it off….”

Excerpt from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

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HenryVIII (Burton) and Anne Boleyn (Bujold)

Richard Burton as HankVIII and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn in ‘Anne of a thousand days'(This is a publicity still, not a movie scene)

The guy Huck Finn was referring to was Henry VIII, King of England from 1509 (when he was just 18),  till his death in 1547. Though Huck’s was an amusing remark, it came pretty close to being very accurate. Henry VIII sure was a piece of work.

The closest guy I know of today could be Vladimir Putin if I can imagine him being a patron of the arts. But more about that later, maybe in a follow-up piece. Hang on.

No, you don’t have anything better to do. If you can scroll down this page using just your pinkie, you can read and twiddle your thumbs at the same time.

Imagine you are a commoner, born in sixteenth century England, a dark and treacherous place in a dark and treacherous time, reverberating with squelching sounds as folk step on horseshit on the roads. If you are taking a morning walk, you learn to stay away from the sidewalk and walk in the middle of the road even though a passing horse might kick you in the nuts.

You avoid the sidewalks because folks clear out their ablutions by simply opening a window and chucking the contents of their bedpans out and you wouldn’t want that in your face, would you? They haven’t yet gotten on to the concept of bathrooms and toilets and sewer systems.

Hey, hey, hey, stop right there. The history that we usually study doesn’t tell us about the world that folks like you – shit shoveling commoners – lived in. Instead, the history we read is actually the biographies of famous men and the battles they fought. So if your dad happened to be king, chances are good you’d be in the history books and I’d be reading about who you fucked and who you ordered wacked and so on.

So let’s imagine you’re not a commoner and instead, a member of the elite. It is the 16th century England and your Dad is King. In those days Kings would give anything to have a male heir to carry on the dynasty and your Dad is no different. He has two sons, you and your elder bro.

You are a magnificent specimen, tall, well built, with flaming red hair and you enjoy jousting, a sport where two knights bear down at each other on their steeds, with long lances in hand and try to unseat each other with the tips of their lances.

You don’t have to worry about being unseated from a horse. You are King Junior. The other guy won’t touch you, unless he fancies having his own little dungeon in the Tower of London and likes to help the executioners’ union with some overtime pay. But of course, nothing stops you from letting the knight have it with your lance. What’s he going ta do? Sue you? Hot damn, you are the fucking law.

Jousting

Jousting. Relax, this is a 21st century demo. Spectators didn’t wear jeans those days (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia)

Your elder bro is a frail, scrawny kid who is always falling ill. Not surprising. With all those charcoal and wood burning stoves right in the middle of the hearth and London’s typically dank and muggy climate, folks are always just a step away from contracting tuberculosis, which right now is a terminal illness. Why, even a bout of flu can get you killed these days. Add to that an unhealthy diet of almost exclusively red meat, probably slightly putrefied in the heat, and you have to have a pretty solid constitution to get to the double digits.

And so it is with Arthur, your big bro. Your Dad had gotten him hitched with the daughter of the Spanish King Ferdinand when he was just two. That is quite normal with European monarchies, this advance booking, since royals want to marry only other royals and there aren’t many going around. Besides, marriages these days have little to do with love. A lot of gold, territory and favors change hands as dowry and new wartime alliances are forged.

A cute plump and unassuming 16yr old, Catherine of Aragon, unfortunately never gets laid. By Arthur, that is. Arthur dies before the marriage has been consummated. They call it ‘sweating sickness’, whatever that is. Your Dad doesn’t break out in a sweat either, since he still has you.

Now, you are quite unlike your elder bro, may the Lord rest his soul. You’re a horny stud. You’ve been escorting Cathy around, holding her soft pudgy hands through her bereavement. You’re just 12 but your crotch-hugging long hose breeches are bulging fit ta burst. You can’t wait to have your left hand inside her bodice while your right wants to blaze a trail into her padded skirt. That’s you with Cathy below:-

Hank and Cathy

Hank and Cathy

The moment your Dad gives up the ghost in 1509, you are pronounced King, being next in line. You’re 18 now and young dames and duchesses are being lined up for you ta marry but you decide to marry old Cathy. You’re pushover for sweet young widows with puffy pussies.

You fuck. All the time – in the antechamber, in the chapel, before a joust, after a joust. You want a male heir, remember? And besides, you’re just a plain horny guy. Alongside, you carry on affairs galore, with women who are commoners. You have a commoner-girl fetish. Hey, I live in the twennie-first century and I have a commoner girl fetish. If you’ve seen those Malayalee Indian farm girls who don’t wear bras, you’ll know what I mean. But this isn’t about me, its about you, Hank the 8th.

The years go by but Cathy fails to give you a male heir. She does give birth to the famous future Queen Mary I, but that doesn’t matter to you. You want a guy, period. When Cathy starts gaining too much weight, you realize that your interest in her is inversely proportional. It is round and about the same time that you set your horny eyes on one of her maids-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn.

Maids-in-waiting are nubile young girls from noble families who are ostensibly employed on an honorary basis by the queen to keep her company and help her get dressed and all. However, their actual job profile and key performance criteria are to be spirited away and get laid by the King whenever he wishes. In this, Anne Boleyn excels and you’re soon infatuated. She has there massive baobabs you love getting lost in, don’t you now, you horny bastard.

(Actually there is no evidence that Anne had big tits. But then this is my blog and if I say Annie had big jugs, she had big jugs).

You want Anne Boleyn but can’t, because there’s only one church these days and that’s the Roman Catholic Church and it won’t allow you to divorce Cath because it says divorce is a sin. The church’s message is that you can fuck all you want and whomever, even your horse if you are into such dalliances. But you can’t get a divorce.

Anne is a nymph, adroit at getting to your erotic zones and you are one big erotic zone, you. She is dark complexioned, perky, impish, impertinent and has a flash of a temper. She drives you nuts and leaves you with one perpetually sore richard.

The Roman Catholic Church has not morphed into the ‘Facebook for pedophiles’ yet. That will happen in later centuries. Right now it has enormous power and greed and it is represented in every European country by its archbishop who runs things like a parallel government, collecting taxes directly from the citizens while the monarch sucks his thumbs and picks up the crumbs and bows allegiance to the fucking Pope.

Hank weds Anne

Hank weds Annie-big-boobs

But you are King, dammit. And you are hot headed. You have been chafing against this no-divorce papal leash for some time. You see an opportunity here. When the Pope refuses to allow the divorce so you can marry Anne, you show him your bejeweled middle finger and establish your own church, the Church of England.

What the Almighty would think about all this – creating a new church just for the sake of a pussy – does not cross your mind.

You go ahead and have all those bishops who still insist on allegiance to the Pope, beheaded. Oh yeah, an executioner’s is the only recession-proof job around these parts. All that a rookie executioner needs to know is how to swing a fifty pound axe and get the sucker square on the neck.

After you’re done with the bishops, you confiscate all church property and wealth (which is enormous and parallels the King’s). Anne, a power hungry harlot, is thrilled.

You wed her, you import a kama sutra expert from the land of spices and gold and you fuck Anny-big-Boobs any which way but alas, she has an air but no male heir and we all know what you do with broads who don’t give you a male heir. All that frenzied fucking does provide Anne with a baby (England’s most successful monarch of all time, Queen Elizabeth-1), but she is a broad. Not good enough. You are fixated with having a son.

Like I said before, your new queen, Anne, is brash and arrogant and that doesn’t go down well for a lady – even a queen – in 16th century. Soon she ends up making powerful enemies in your court – men you have ta mollycoddle and depend upon, in order ta maintain your own power. Very soon Anny-big-Boobs turns into a perceived liability.

From this point, her days are numbered.

You fabricate a story about Anne sleeping around and even screwing her own bro and plotting against you and then – after having laid the groundwork, you sentence her to death. You had originally wanted her to be burnt at the stake but then, thinking of all the times she gave you awesome head, you decide to have her beheaded.

For the execution, you get an expert swordsman from France. (You have your own executioner but you don’t trust the bastard alone with your wife). The swordsman is an authentic French knight, hung like a bull, his biceps (and his stretch pants) bulging. You schedule the execution for the next Friday. You have plans with another MIW that weekend. MIW Maid-In-Shtup…err..Waiting.

Anne is thrown inside the Tower of London. This is a forbidding structure made from huge blocks of stone. There is a dark dank dampness and the air of death in there, torches flickering along the walls, stone steps leading down to infinity. Umm…that was in Ben Hur, sorry, I get mixed up these days.

Anyways, Anne calls for the executioner and tries one last time. She tells him, “C’mon big boy, you an’ me, we could be in Hawaii in six months, I got a fast boat. How ‘bout it’? Let’s split, hunky-doo, ooooh.”

Doesn’t work. The swordsman is gay. Sorry, Annie, Monsieur Swordsman has a date with Hank’s executioner as soon as he has your head on a platter.

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I have to go now. Will definitely let you know what happens after Anne’s beheading and all his other wives, soon as I fill up my mug with another Stella Artois. Story telling makes me thirsty.

Even when its your own story I’m tellin’ ya.

Toodle-oo.

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Jamai Shashti

I clearly remember ‘Jamai Shashti’ of 2000.

Jamai Shashti, a Hindu tradition, is the day when Bengali sons-in-law are feted and feasted. In Our culture, the Jamai (son-in-law) is like God on earth. There is no parallel celebration for the daughter-in-law – perhaps a pointer toward the stark patriarchy that rules India.

If you’re a Bengali man, on Jamai Shashti you get invited to your in-laws and they mollycoddle you and stuff you with the choicest hilsa fish in a bed of ground mustard paste and red chillis, heap your plate with seaming rice. Sweetmeats out of cottage cheese round off a lunch that will take at least 48 hours to travel through your intestine. That’s not all – you go home loaded with presents.

If you are not from Bengal and your daughter is thinking of getting married to a Bengali, Jamai Shashti might set your bank balance back a bit.  

With me Jamai Shashti has been different. If I said anything about Jamai Shashti to my mum-in-law (I call her Maman), she wouldn’t know what I was talking about. She’s Iranian, a dear woman who brought up a small army, five kids, one of whom was lassoed and reeled in by this Bengali cowboy. At the time of writing this, she remains lassoed proper.

On Skype, weekends, my mum-in-law chatters away, bubbling with news and repeatedly asking after my welfare.

“Salaam, jan, holé shomo khubé?” (Hello dear, how are you?). The ‘jan‘ added after the name stands for ‘dear’.

Mèrci, mamanjan, man khubam. Shomo khubee? Aghajan khubé?” (Thank you, Maman, I’m fine. How are you and father?)

That’s where my Farsi begins showing cracks in it’s foundations and while Maman chatters on, I look around helplessly for Farah and wait for her to come over and translate. While I’m waiting, I catch some familiar snatches like ‘love you very much’, ‘waiting to see you in Iran’, ‘look after your health’, ‘don’t work too hard’. The sort of thing that parents say to you.

After our son was born, Maman flew down to lend a hand. She stayed a few weeks and we have no idea what we’d have done without her. She cooked, scrubbed, cleaned, washed and waited. This was her first visit to India but all the while that she was there, Maman never once asked to be taken out sight seeing, go shopping or anything else.

On the day she left, I accompanied her in the Deccan Queen Express to Mumbai for her Iran Air flight back, while Farah stayed back in Pune with our baby son.

Most of the way she was quiet, huddled in her seat with her nose touching the window glass as she stared out the window at the countryside rolling by and I sat next to her with an issue of Time magazine that I’d picked up at the AH Wheeler’s and listlessly leafed through it. That morning even Joel Stein’s irreverently funny column, which was on the recent Tech bubble bust, couldn’t make me burst into laughter and I wasn’t even an investor.

Soon the DQ cleared the Lonavala platform, clattered over multiple track changes and finally settled on one as we ran lickety split into the Western Ghats.

At one point, the coach suddenly swayed a bit more vehemently than normal. My shoulder bumped into Maman’s. Turning to apologize, I saw she was quietly crying. I reached around and held her gently by her tiny shoulders. She turned, sighed and rested her head on my arm, the tears now rolling down both cheeks.

“Thank you for everything, Maman,” I whispered to her softly. Even though she doesn’t speak a word of English, she nodded. Her head was still nestled on my shoulder when the DQ sallied into Dadar Central, platform-4 and eased to a halt. We took a cab to Sahar, reaching there just when they were announcing check-in and security for the Iran Air flight. It was on time.

Those days, if you were seeing someone off at Mumbai’s Sahar International Airport, you couldn’t go in. Because of horrific terror attacks through the previous decade, entrance was barred for all except for passengers and crew and folks who worked inside the airport. You had to say your goodbyes from behind a barrier at the entrance to the departures area.

At the barrier, Maman loaded her one small bag onto a trolley and started toward the Iran Air counters. I don’t usually do this but I tarried and I craned my neck to catch a last glimpse of the small, dear, scarfed woman as she disappeared round the corner of the hall with a pause and a wave.

Maman is still around, back in her native Isfahan. Only, now she has receded into the background, mostly ignored, letting her children and grandchildren run her sprawling home, venturing out rarely and only to pay a visit to the neighborhood mosque. 

The most important people in our lives are always the ones who occupy the quietest corner of our hearts.

 

Lizzy of Isaleigh Grange

When you are browsing second book stores for antique hardcovers, sometimes you got ta choose between a famous but not so old (maybe 60-70 years) book and an authentic antique whose content sucks, written by some jerk.

Let me tell you about one I got yesterday that falls in the second category – it’s a racist harangue, “Germany and the Germans – from an American point of view,” by a turn of the 20th century white nationalist American bozo named Price Collier. The book was published in 1913, in Toronto. So, why Toronto? Maybe because it was a year before the start of WW1 and German U-Boat activity was already beginning ta hurt American merchant shipping in the North Atlantic, pissing off the Americans. American publishers would hesitate to publish a pro-German rant in that milieu, wouldn’t they?

It all kinda ties in neatly. Jeeze, I coulda been a forensic behavioural sciences specialist. If you need ta figure things out, give me a call. I charge $300 an hour and I’ll figure anything out for ya.

It is highly likely that this Collier dude was one of the thousands of German-Americans who wanted President Woodrow Wilson to intervene on “their side”. Woody would have joined on the German side, given the massive German-American voting bloc in those days, but when Fritz began sinking too much American merchant shipping around the North Atlantic, he couldn’t justify it.

In case you would like ta know what happens when somebody hurts American commerce, just ask the 1950s Guatemalans about the time when they told the American giant, United Fruit Co. to shove it. In case you’d like to be further enlightened about it, type “The banana conflicts” in the search box of my blog ‘spunkybong.com’. Go ahead, its free, though nothing stops you from sending me money.

Getting back to Germany and the Germans, the book rages on about how the demographics have been growing darker over the past decade, how in 1882 almost all immigrants were white Christian protestants from Europe, how there was law and order then and how today (1913) one in four newcomers is an “Asiatic or Turk, rampaging through America, unchecked, killing our innocent young white women”.

Fuck you, Prick Collier.

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The feel of an antique book is overwhelming. The binding is almost invariably sturdy, the type bold and double-spaced, the font-size large, sprawled over thick beige paper. Bring it up to your nose and sniff it and you will detect a certain innocence, even in bigotry. Hold it in your hands and you will feel the weight of history in it.

On the inside front cover of “Germany and the Germans” is a beautiful piece of handwriting, with a flat-tipped fountain pen of the type that is used in calligraphy. It says….

Elizabeth J. Greenshields

“Isaleigh Grange”

Danville, Jan 2

1916

The book wasn’t gifted. It has no ‘To’ and ‘from’ in the writing. Elizabeth Greenshields bought the book and therefore had to have been in her late 30s/early 40s at least, to want to read the crap that this Collier guy had written. If she read the book in 1916 as her handwriting suggests, I figure Lizzy was born sometime around the late 1870s and had been living in Danville, today a town of 4000, situated a two-hour drive east from Montreal. Isaleigh Grange is shown in the Statistics Canada website as a “locality” in the town.

The fact that Elizabeth Greenshields spent money to buy right wing propaganda tells me something. But then, she also popped up in a Google search. Old Liz and her descendants apparently started a foundation in the early 1950s, then supposedly well into her 70s, to help underprivileged aspiring black and native American artists in Quebec. Remorse, then the search for redemption? Understandable. They say that within every bigot is a soul crying out to be proved wrong.

And within every old Bengali, is a sleuth, with the urge to express himself (and/or make an ass of himself).


Ale, Malamud and the Hadzas

Bigotry and the search for morality …… and decadence. That’s Malamud’s ‘The fixer’ and the pint of Rickard’s Red.

Red ale is decadent, specially when a plump, pink-cheeked Quebecois girl – with a cleavage you could ski down – serves it to you with a twinkle.

And Malamud’s Yakov Bok is actually me. Jeez, how did Malamud know I would grow into a Yakov Bok?

But wait, that’s a kinda first impression. I have just started on the book. I am on page 45 of 271 pages. Maybe by the time I reach page 271, Bok will be a stranger. The reviews say he redeems himself in the end.

I don’t see me redeeming myself ever.

I bought the book at Nova, the 2nd hand book store by the riverside, because it had that old Penguin paperback smell that reminded me of once being young.

I really need a refill and have ta walk up to the bar since Miss Chubby TwinkleEyes isn’t looking in this direction. And why would she? There’s a hunk in a soiled paint-spattered construction worker outfit chatting her up.

I wish I was sweaty and hunky. Dear female readers, are women turned on by sweaty, smelly men? The Hadza women are. Hadza men don’t bathe for weeks in order ta smell desirable. Read this if you don’t want ta believe me……

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2009/12/hadza/

But hey, wait a second. I might have got it the other way round. Maybe its the Hadza men who insist that their women go without a wash for two weeks before they can consider having sex with them.

Heck, what’s the difference? If men are able ta get a hard-on only with stinky women, obviously women like their men to be stinky too. The two cannot be mutually exclusive.

Dear readers, do answer this poll, though. I’ll decide ta stop bathing on it’s basis.

There, see what you did to me? I was talking about this amazing book by Bernard Malamud and you waylaid my thoughts. So, toodle-oo!

Comeuppance

The old woman with the walking stick had a weathered look. She and I had been the only two passengers on the 354, all the way from St. Anne. At 4:30am an empty bus is not unusual. That’s when I leave for work. I am a regular but I hadn’t seen her before.

I wondered what compelled her to make the trip so early in the morning. “Must be a nanny, catching an early shift,” I surmised. She’s a Phillipino. QED – stereotyped with the flick of an eyelid. For all I knew she might have been a McGill Professor, early because she was going to chair a seminar on space medicine that afternoon.

At the Atwater Terminus, she waited for the bus to come to a complete stop, before she clutched the stick with both hands for leverage and rose unsteadily. At the doorway, the gap between the edge of the running board and the sidewalk was wide, filled with a dirty grunge of slush and melting snow. She hesitated. I glanced at the driver who recognized the problem and activated the hydraulic platform that extended and slid onto the sidewalk. The hydraulic platform is used for folks on wheel chairs.

The woman turned to the driver and smiled a wan smile, forming the word “Mèrci” on her lips, before she stepped off.

This early in the morning, downtown Montreal bears the haunted look of a weary drunk. The ground zero of bustle – Atwater – is totally deserted, the bars having closed at 3:30, the homeless having found their bus stops and their shopping mall awnings to find some space where the chill -6C wind can’t get at them.

When I stepped off the bus, I peered into the darkness. She had disappeared. There’s a neighbourhood for rich folks nearby – Westmount. Her nanny job probably takes her there, I thought.

I made my way to the massive Alexis Nihon Mall, which stays open because it has a McDonalds inside and McDonalds are 24-hour joints. I usually park my ass on a bench there because the mall has a direct access to the Atwater Metro Station and I can sit there with a cappuccino and wait for the Metro Station doors to open.

The 5:42 to Berri Uqam was on time. I got on. Usually I don’t sit down. I always prefer to stand because I have my back pack on – it has my lunch, my Bose headphone case, my Nikon, my pills, kleenex and paperback. I usually get on the train, hook my arm round one of those vertical shiny stainless steel rods, stand facing the door inches away and tune into morning NYT “The Daily” podcast.

Metro doors have a fail safe system that ensures a passenger doesn’t get stuck between closing doors. It allows someone inside to step up and bar the doors from closing. The doors say “Oops” and spring back open. And as long as the doors are open, the failsafe system prevents the train from moving. This ensures that you don’t get accidentally stuck half in and half out and the train starts rolling.

The clinging chimes signal sounds 10 seconds before the doors start closing and it had already gone off when there she was – the nanny with the stick. She had stepped off the escalator and was desperately trying to bridge that gap before the doors closed, infirmity preventing her from running the few yards in.

She didn’t make it. The doors closed with a hydraulic sigh and the high-torque Siemens electric motors propelled the carriage forward with a swoosh.

My last glimpse of her as she flashed by remains till this day – the same wan resigned smile, accepting what life has dealt her, unquestioningly. I could have stepped up and prevented the doors from closing so she could get on. The next train was 45 minutes away and a Metro station so early isn’t the safest place for an old woman.

But I didn’t. I stood there rooted, inches away from that door, oblivious to everything as I listened to BBC Analysis blaring through my headphones, on the Syrian refugee crisis, only a fraction of my consciousness noting that the woman couldn’t get in.

I believe in comeuppance. I hope that I get mine while I am still alive.

The Library Beyond Our Time

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Once upon a time, in the northern American state of Vermont, there lived this rich land owning family – the Haskells. Now, there were many rich white guys in America then but this one family kinda stood out and let me explain why….

The Haskells were really really rich. They owned farm land on both sides of the border with Canada that had been theirs since long before the border even existed. The scion, Col. Horace Stewart Haskell had a bright idea for a legacy to leave behind when he passed, one that has never been repeated hence. It would be meant to stand out as a symbol of brotherhood and amity between Canada and America.

Thus, in 1901 Horace Haskell began building a library on his land and chose an interesting spot to build it on – the border. Yes, the Haskells built the library and an opera house deliberately on the border so folks from both nations could stroll in and use it with equal access.

The library has two different addresses, one American (93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont, USA 05830) and the other Canadian (1 rue Church (Church Street), Stanstead, Quebec, Canada J0B 3E2). It even has two different telephone codes (+1-802-873-3022 and +1-819-876-2471).

The library collection and the opera stage are located in Stanstead, but the main entrance and the opera seats are located in Derby Line. Due to this, the Haskell Library is known as the only library in America that has no books and the opera is called the only opera house in Canada that has no seats. Painted on the floor, through the middle of everything, is a thick black line that designates the border.

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The Canada-US international border – the thick black line – in the middle of reading room of the Haskell Library and Opera

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There’s no entrance on the Canadian side, just an emergency exit. All patrons must use the main entrance on the American side, in order to access the building. The American customs hut is situated further along Main Street, beyond the turning at Caswell Street and therefore folks from Canada can enter through the US door without needing to report to US Customs. Immediately upon crossing the border, they have to hang a left on Caswell Avenue and drive the short distance to the library entrance. And they have to return to Canada immediately upon leaving the building, without turning left on Main Street.

The customs guys on both sides are the sweetest I have ever known. I didn’t take the turning at Caswell Ave because I was listening to Garth Brooks on the car stereo and you know Garth can have your undivided attention. I carried on a short distance, up Main Street and began feeling this strange tingle up my spine that happens when you fuck up big time.

Already on the edge because I was crossing the border, I was driving at crawl speed, when this Ford150 with flashing lights overtook me and signalled me to pull over. It had U.S. Border Patrol emblazoned on it. The color of my skin is brown and I have a funny name. Both attributes conjured up the image of a dank dark cell in a joint with a funny Spanish name somewhere in eastern Cuba and me dying of old age in it.

But like I said, those border agents were courteous and sweet. “We have this happen almost every day”, they said to me,” Canadians take a wrong turn and blunder in, no big deal.”

They went through my passport (which I had had the foresight to bring along). Working for a large US Defense Contractor helped. In their minds, if I was building engines for the F35 Lightning, surely I was up and up. They let me turn around and go back without even stamping my passport, like it never happened. Double Wow!

Since I had overshot the turning, I had to go through Canadian customs. Two agents checked the car with a fine-toothed comb. One of them said, “We have to do this because of the sudden increase in the refugee influx, gun running and opioid smuggling. We have a crisis on our hands.”

Gun running through the Haskell border came into the glare of the spotlight in 2010. Over a couple of years, this Canadian – guy named Vlachos – smuggled in thousands of handguns using a novel means. His American partners in crime would legally purchase the guns on their side and leave them in back packs, inside the toilet in the Haskell Library. Vlachos would walk in from the Canadian side, pick up the backpack and walk back into Canada.

It was when video surveillance of the foot traffic across the border began that agents started noticing this Canadian guy visiting the library a bit too frequently, walking in empty-handed and walking out with a backpack on his shoulders. They nabbed him on his next sortie. Dumb bastard.

In the aftermath, both the American as well as the Canadian border services, attempted to shut down free access to the library, the only thing that had put the two towns on the tourist maps. But the Derby Line and Stanstead townsfolk would have none of it. The warmth and friendliness in there is incredible. Thus, so far the Haskell Library has remained freely accessible to Canadians.

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The Haskell Library is not all that is novel about this joint. Two kilometers to the west there’s a 500-meter stretch of Canusa Street that is actually on the border, ie: the median road divider is the international border. Oh yeah, if you are driving west, you’re in Canada and if you’re driving back east, you are in the US. The thing to remember if you are Canadian is that when you are on the US side of the road driving east, you must drive on and not get out of the car under any circumstances.

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Canusa Street, Stanstead

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Wait, I’m not done yet. I forgot my passport at the Canadian customs hut and blissfully drove away. It was around twennie minutes later – I was on the 55, already 30kms from Stanstead making my way back to Montreal, when I noticed a car with lights flashing signalling me to pull over. Behind him was a larger truck, also with flashing lights. Both vehicles were unmarked.

“You forgot your passport at customs, Sir. Follow me,” the cop said. She was gorgeous, a cross between Amy Adams and Emma Watson. I followed her back to the Stanstead police station where they took a look at my ID and handed me back my passport, no questions asked.

I apologized profusely and thanked ‘Amy Watson’ for the trouble she took, though inwardly I wished she had slammed me in a cell instead and beaten me blue with a birch branch.

Must all my posts end with sex?

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Sniff! Bawwwwl!

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It’s a chilly Saturday night in February 2013 and the people are crammed into the small conference room at a mental-health center in northern Tokyo. They have all gathered there for an evening of communal rui-katsu – “tear seeking.”

The event organizer, Hidefumi Yoshida says to the 20 men and women who range from college students to middle-aged office workers, “Whether you’ve had a tough time at work, your business is bankrupt, you lost your spouse or you have crippling health issues or your partner left you for another person, crying does a much-needed reset on your emotional well-being”.

Yoshida then switches on the video player and a series of videos are flashed on a screen. One is a Thai TV commercial titled, “The silence of love”. Watching it, the people in the room begin to sob quietly.

At the end of the screening, there is a group discussion and Yoshida can feel as if a veil has lifted. The members are visibly cheered up.

Rui-katsu is growing in popularity in Japan, not because the Japanese are big criers, but precisely because they aren’t. The International Study on Adult Crying polled 37 nationalities and found that the Japanese in fact are among the least likely to cry. (Americans, by contrast, are among the most likely.) The Japanese are a stoic people and consider hiding one’s sorrow a virtue.

In the five years since the first rui-katsu session, crying clubs have popped up all over Japan and even spread overseas into Europe. Websites have sprung up that post books, movies, poems and music that enhance the desire to cry.

Since most members really don’t have any problems in their lives that would cause a meltdown, most sessions of rui-katsu are not expressions of genuine sorrow, but hey, it makes members feel better afterward and that’s all that matters.

I found an instance of sham sorrow in fiction – Herman Wouk’s City Boy, which is about a lovably plump, very intelligent, Jewish eleven year old boy named Herbie Bookbinder who lives in Bronx. The delightfully funny story is centered around events that happen during his summer camp, in the summer of 1928.

I’ll read you a part where camp is over and Herbie and the rest of the kids are leaving for home. Herbie is grief stricken…….

“….Herbie was enjoying his grief so much that he was disappointed when it started to wane, like the tingle from an ice-cream soda, after only a few minutes. He began using devices to work it up and keep it alive, such as humming, “Bulldog, Bulldog” and tapping dismally to himself, and reviewing every detail of his final hours at camp.

True sorrow is painful. Sham sorrow compares to it like riding down a roller coaster does to falling off a roof. The thrill is there, but not the cost……”

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Have you ever enjoyed crying and not wanting to stop? I know I have. I used to make myself watch Schindler’s List whenever I wanted to cry. And I felt so good – virtuous even – after that. (Having sex did that too, but don’t get me going on that now).

I overdid Schindler’s List and I’m now sick of reading or watching anything about the Holocaust and I need some fresh stuff to make me cry. Since this blog has been free enlightenment for you all these years, dear reader, the least you can do to show your gratefulness is to suggest a book or movie I could bawl over. I miss bursting into tears.

Crying – even sham tears – is good. Medical experts say that crying is healthy. It rids the body of harmful toxins and reduces stress and even the risk of cardio-vascular disease.

Crying is great for your mental health too. Displaying your emotions openly – wearing your heart on your sleeve – tells others you are not a phoney shit-faced jerk, but a genuine and vulnerable person. It draws others closer to you. Crying in fact is a sign of inner strength, that tells the world that you don’t care about what others think.

When you cry in front of others, you are showing us all that it’s a perfectly normal and natural emotion. You are setting a trend. Haven’t you felt like crying at a funeral, after watching others cry, even though you had never known the dead dude?

Crying is infectious. Crying could even indicate that you are great at sex, but like I said, I won’t get into that. I shall however say this to all my male readers – try bursting into tears in front of a broad you have the hots for. You’ll be surprised when she gets turned on seeing your vulnerability and draws your head into her ample bosom and rocks you and says, “There, there, my koochie woochie woo, come here you.”

Ooops, I gotta go. My eyes just fell on Sathyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. I can feel a good cry coming up. Toodle-oo!

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Post scrotum:

In case you want to try having a nice big bawl, here’s the link to that Thai TV commercial I spoke about in para-3……..

https://youtu.be/qZMX6H6YY1M

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Musings of a God-Whisperer (Part-1)

Every religion has it’s myths. Christianity swears by a Jesus who walked on water, brought a dead dude to life and turned water into wine. (Jesus chose the wrong profession. He should have taken out a lease on a bistro instead).

Likewise, every religion has it’s accompanying myths. Myths seem fantastical but they are meant to create symbolisms.

Take Hanuman, the half-ape, half-man demi-God in the Hindu epic “Ramayana” who was known for his blind loyalty to the capo-di-tutti-capi of Gods, Rama. Rama is an exiled God king.

Oh yeah, Hinduism likes it’s messiahs and Gods to be members of the elite, unlike those of the Abrahamic faiths which have strictly blue collar messiahs who fit the narrative – fighting oppression. Jesus was a carpenter, Mohammad a camel washer in a caravan and old Moe – just a dumb bearded nut with a stick who wandered around the wilderness for forty years, mumbling to himself over and over…”Where the fuck am I?”

In this little anecdote, Rama, the exiled heir to the throne at the kingdom of Ayodhya, returns to claim his crown after 14 years in the wilderness. If you are not a Hindu, you’d want to know why Rama took off on his decade long camping trip, but it is a wierd Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings story. You’re better off not knowing why, trust me.

Rama’s triumphant return from the hills and coronation is a grand affair. On a certain level, it bears some similarity to the marriage of Connie Corleone in ‘The Godfather’. Custom dictates that the bride and groom have to award gifts and boons to the help. So, Rama’s wife, Sita, gifts her priceless sapphire ring to Hanuman as a reward for his blind loyalty to Rama.

Hanuman takes the ring, pops the sapphire from it’s setting and scrutinizes it as if he was looking for something in it. When he sees nothing but a dumb sapphire, he chucks the ring into the dumpster. This annoys Sita. Understandable. If you gift someone a priceless jewel and he destroys it in front of your eyes, you’d be pissed too.

Rama is perplexed too. He asks Hanuman what the eff he was trying to find in the ring. Why did he pop the precious stone and throw it away? Hanuman replies, “I am trying to find my Rama in the ring. Anything that does not have Rama in it, is of no use to me.” (I have to say, Hanuman sounded a bit like Mike Pence there).

You’d think Hanuman is bonkers but there’s a symbolism in his words. In our race for material comforts and luxuries we have forgotten God. We have begun believing that there is happiness and peace without Him. Life and it’s pleasures and desires is the sapphire ring that Sita gave Hanuman.

But in spite of it’s priceless value, the ring failed to attract Hanuman because he didn’t see Rama in it, meaning thereby that whatever may be our possessions and attainments, we shall never be able to attain the ultimate nirvana if we are not devoted to the Supreme.

What puzzles me though, is the fact that it was the divine Sita who tempted Hanuman with the ring. Had Rama orchestrated the whole thing? Did he make Sita give Hanuman the ring to test his devotion to him? One never can tell. Trust me, Gods can be nuts too.

There are parallels to that inexplicably petty act on part of the divine, in other faiths as well. The Christian/Jewish/Islamic God’s ‘test’ of Abraham’s faith comes readily to mind, when an egocentric and insecure God forcibly orders Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, not bothering to tell him why the kid has to die. Of course, God – through his own version of Sarah Huckabee Sanders – tells Abraham to stop at the last split-second, when Abraham’s arms are raised and about to strike. What a display of vicarious, macabre cheap thrill seeking!

Let me tell you something. If someone I am devoted to asks me to kill my son, I’ll tell him to go fuck himself and if I see him again I’ll kill him with my own bare hands, plain and simple, God or no God.

Is it small wonder that I am an atheist?

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hanuman

The divine Sita, presenting Hanuman with the sapphire ring. I have no idea who that black broad (right foreground) is.

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Wolf

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Canadian timber wolves at Parc Omega, Quebec

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Alternative facts – the beast we all have to face down today.

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Patriarchy today is a wounded beast. And wounded beasts are dangerous.

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Roller blading is a different beast than ice skating.

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I had a beast of a headache.

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There, one word, used in different ways, but we usually say ‘beast’ for something that we perceive as dangerous and associate with evil – like wolves, for instances.

I have wanted so much to come face to face with a wolf in the wild. Should have been easy, given that I find myself on a tree stand with my Sapua Magnum and a thermos in the woods off La Tuque most autumns, during deer and moose season.

But I have not seen a wolf in the wild yet. (The timber wolves in these photos live in comfort inside a wildlife preserve an hour’s drive outside Montreal that I drove to last weekend – Parc Omega.)

Wolves hate us, oh yeah. They look cute as hell – with all that fur and all – but make no mistake, they have it in for you and here’s why….

Before the early 1600s, native North Americans had co-existed for centuries with wolves – timber wolves, grey wolves, arctic wolves, black wolves – all kinds of wolves. They had learned to hunt in teams by watching wolf packs hunt. Unless wolves killed their livestock, they left them alone.

Europeans landed in North America with a kinda blood lust tinged with paranoia. 17th Century European culture saw wolves as evil – reps of the Satan – to be exterminated on sight. That’s how wolves have learned to loath us – for indiscriminately decimating their numbers. Today, if a she-wolf found Romulus and Remus abandoned, suckling them would be very far from her mind, trust me. She would throw a fookin baby rib roast party.

Over the centuries, wolves have taught themselves to recognize our smell and developed so keen a sense that they can detect our presence from two miles. So, unless you have found a way to mask your smell, there’s very little chance you are ever going to catch sight of a wolf in the wild.

There are of course all kinds of products in the market that promise hunters complete concealment but I haven’t found one that works. Of course if you are lucky to be downwind a wolf won’t detect your presence, but then the wind is a fickle beast and keeps shifting direction without notice.

My hunting partner, Michel, noticed that he could go undetected if he followed the trails that were frequented by ATV enthusiasts who bump around the countryside in those All-Terrain Quads. Quads leak oil and gas along the trail, besides belching exhaust. He surmised that the lingering gas smell masks the human smell. He got a majestic six-foot specimen last winter. Weighed in at 100lb, he did.

I probably never will see a wolf in the wild, as I have decided to give up hunting. It’s physically too demanding at my age and I don’t wish to injure my back at this late stage in life. A slipped disc could ruin my bounding sex life, y’know. (I am yet to try out all them positions in the Kama Sutra). Hauling the carcass of a 300lb elk through the brush and then bending over and skinning and cleaning it, cutting it into four massive chunks and then hefting them onto the back of your pick-up truck – it is back breaking work, even with the help of a hunting partner.

I did hear a wolf wail once, though. I was camped in Michel’s shack on the banks of the Lac Memphremegog. It was one long howl and his voice kinda cracked after a while – somewhat like a yodel. Eerie, gave me the heebies. I was snuggled up inside my sleeping bag when I heard the wail and I missed catching his silhouette on a knoll, against the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. We were zapped on some sterling shiraz cabarnet and dozing off, listening to Dire Straits’ “On Every Street”. You wouldn’t get me out of that sleeping bag even if it was your Scarlett Bowdi (Scarlett Johanssen) in flesh, wailing.

Just as well. You don’t walk out of your shack in the Canadian wild, in the dead of the night, under any circumstances. There are more black bears than wolves in the wild and if you thought wolves were crazy, you have no idea how kooky bears are.

Anyway, I was enlightening you on the history when you waylaid my thoughts…..

The decimation of wolves had been going on unchecked when, around the 1930s, Canadian conservationists began to see a worrying pattern emerge. With the wolves gone, the population of rabbits, deer, elk, moose, whitetail and wild boar exploded. Perpetually hungry, they had one single mantra – “When do we eat? When do we eat? When do we eat?”

The bastards threatened to defoliate our farmlands with their grazing and lay the countryside bare and the Canadian government realized that the wolves had been serving a purpose after all – conservation. A decision was taken to reintroduce them into the wild. The sprawling Parc Omega – with it’s surrounding countryside and rolling hills – is one of those establishments that is involved in the process of maintaining the balance.

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Wolves really are wild. They are a wholly different beast from most other predators. You can get a bear or a cougar to stand on a stool or ride a tiny three-wheeled bike in a circus, but try that with a wolf and he’ll tell you to go fuck yourself (ie: if you have a richard that is long enough).

And don’t assume that wolves won’t eat human flesh. Given a choice maybe they would prefer something else – maybe venison or boar or rabbit or something – but if they’re hungry, human flesh will do just fine, thank you. And wolves are hungry all the fookin time.

God forbid, but if you find yourself surrounded by a wolf pack for the first time, I swear you have no idea what you’re getting into. Picture this………..

The day had been dull, with no game in sight and you’re cramped, crouched on the tree stand. You’re tired. You need to take a leak. You also need to check why the fucking motion-sensing Spypoint you had installed in a wedge on the poplar 50 yards away isn’t transmitting. It’s still in warranty, thank God.

You leave your 7.62mm Nosler M48 leaning against the tree stand railing and you climb down to the ground. Very soon you are 50 yards from your tree stand and your Nosler and the light is failing. The voice inside is telling you, “ars–le, you shouldn’t be here”.

But you’re cocky. You have brought along your Colt Python even though handguns aren’t allowed on a hunt. Your ass could be in deep shit if a ranger caught you with one.

But everybody brings along his own trusty little life insurance on a hunt, okay? So here you are, your Colt out and you are pointing it at the closest m—-er f—-er. You think you can blast your way out of this jam.

You’ll empty your magazine, maybe kill a few, but wolves are relentless. That won’t stop them. Wolf packs count at fifteen plus animals. They’re a disciplined, tight-knit fighting unit. You’ll down a few but they’ll just keep on coming at you.

You are a novice at this. You’ll look directly at them, unaware that they are looking back at you – specifically your eyes. They are staring at the pupils of your eyes. You are staring at them, trying to tamp down the panic and they’re watching your pupils and noting how they dilate. With fear.

That’s another thing wolves know to recognize in you – fear. Never ever look a wolf in the eye. Look away, wear sunglasses, whatever, I am not kidding. Wolves are unstoppable when they sense fear.

Then they’ll begin the game. Oh yes, for wolves it is just as much the game as the actual kill. They like to play with their food. They’ll circle round and round, the diameter of the circle tightening gradually. Soon they’ll be brushing past you, deliberately bumping against you and grinding their butts against you. They’ll be playing with you, their lips curled slightly up, giant canines barely visible, a low guttural hum of a snarl escaping from between their teeth.

Wolves have a strict code of discipline. They’ll wait for the ‘chief’, the alpha male, to make the first move, have the first bite, take out the first chunk of flesh, maybe from your calves or thighs. I have a toe-fetish. Purple nail polish on well-formed evenly sized toes turn me on. Wolves too love toes, but in a strictly culinary sense. They don’t give a flying f–k if you had nail polish on.

After they are sick of bumping and grinding against you, it’ll be a slow descent into hell. Since they really think human flesh sucks, they don’t like the idea of being forced to eat you out of hunger. They resent having to eat you. Add to that the fact that you might have killed one or two of them with your Colt Python before the magazine dried up and they’ll be mighty pissed. They’ll make your death take a long long time.

But here are some tips in case you find yourself encircled by a wolf pack……

Whatever you do, don’t try to make a run for it and don’t even turn your back on them. Do not look them in the eye because that will give them the opportunity to watch your pupils and discern if you are scared. If you have a flashlight, turn it on them. Make slow, unhurried, deliberate moves. If there’s a tree nearby try climbing it. Wolves don’t climb trees.

If there is no tree and no flashlight and you’re a schmuck who stared them in the eye, all hope’s not lost just yet. Tell them you never ever hurt a wolf and they are making a big mistake stereotyping you as a big, white male human hunter. In case you own a dog, tell them you own a cousin of their’s whom you treat with utmost respect. If you’re Italian, tell them that two of your long lost ancestors suckled their female ancestor three thousand years back. Tell them anything but make your voice sound deep, like a baritone. Wolves are scared of bass.

wolf-1wolf-3wolf-4wolf-5wolf-6

But wolves are relentless. After all your pleas, they still may not let you walk away. Carry a cyanide capsule at all times, bite into it. You’ll like the taste. Potassium Cyanide tastes like sweet figs.

And don’t be sad. Think of the plus side – all those big-breasted angels wearing flowing chiffon and nothing else underneath, up there. I understand that in heaven everything goes. It’s the heavenly version of a Hugh Hefner party at the Playboy Mansion. Think of all those boobs you can watch for all eternity.

So, take it easy. Wolves are nice, wolves are good……

 

 

 

Of Racks and Tines

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My friend, Michel Dupuis, would have loved to put a .306 round through his neck, but season is over. The deer can sense it when the season is over. Its like we’re friends again – until next October, that is. If you hunt off-season, you are a schmuck because of the consequences of getting caught – a five grand fine, the loss of your firearm and hunting licenses and the confiscation of your gear – your truck included.

But a hunt is something one has to experience at least once in a lifetime. Or be a hunter, like me and Michel. It is not just the kill, it is the whole thing – the prep, the drive through the wild, the chill, the bivouac, the buddies, the booze, the wait, the click of the bolt hitting the round in the chamber, the shot, the leap-back of the stock, the jarred shoulder, the pinging ear, the frightened scampering, limping flight in the brush, the trail of blood, the carcass, the drag over the cold hard ground, the hitching up and the skinning and cleaning, the packaging and the venison in the freezer for a whole year.

It is a heady thing but if you haven’t experienced it, you’ll never know it. Are we hunters bad? Maybe, but if I kill for meat, I do not think I am being cruel. I take my time and try my best to get the animal with one shot at the right spot. He doesn’t know what hit him. I have never had a doe run injured through the brush and get torn to pieces by coyotes.

Don’t you eat mutton or chicken? Just because you get someone else (the butcher) to do the killing for you, that is moral and my killing a whitetail isn’t – does that make sense?

That buck in the foreground is a 12-pointer, six on each side, each point being one tine on his rack. Eventually the whole rack will fall off and regenerate.

The time of the year a buck sheds it’s rack depends upon his age. If he is old, he will shed in December. This one still has his rack, which means he is young and will shed in spring (anytime now, that is). It figures, since the rack seems fully developed.

The antler grows back through summer and by fall, it is fully grown, ready for the inevitable locked horn fights for pussy in the October mating season. And as he ages, the buck will grow more and more tines every year and by the time he dies (if he is lucky enough to die of old age, that is) he will have a 16-point rack.

Its really crazy – we salivate over and kill them in the fall and now they amble over trustingly and we feed them carrots.

This one didn’t budge though. He had a kinda world-weary, been there done that, ‘seen it all’ look in his eyes. I whistled, clicked my tongue, snapped my fingers, clapped my hands, fell to my knees and begged him to come over and have the carrot I was waving at him and maybe take a photo with me but he said,” Shove it up yours. Carrots, carrots, carrots, ugh! Don’t you m—-er f—-ers have nuthin else to bring? Get me a hamper of pears and blueberries and I might think about it. Now scoot. Lizzy, over there, says season is over but she likes to get it on in spring. Scram.”

I could identify with that. Why does sex have to be confined to a season?