Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Oasis of Refreshment

As much as I might prefer to avoid the characterization of a hopeless addict, the frozen truth is that I am uncommonly comfortable with habit.  This is especially so when I have succeeded to adjust to conventions which I find both healthful and beautiful. In my present circumstances it is undeniable that the amenability of which I speak is no accident, a triumph which exponentially adds to both the pleasure and the propensity. Granted my congenital dislike of novelty buttresses what some might call my narrowness of practice. I on the other hand rationalize the foible as a ready willingness to embrace what by and large is a good thing - without the necessity to prosecute tireless alternatives and wistful objectives.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Nemo dat quod non habet

Everyone has heard the quip about weddings and funerals, something to the effect that they both bring people together and afford an opportunity to reconnect. There is another less popular adage about funerals in particular; and that is the unspoken attention to the Will of the deceased, more specifically what if anything one will inherit. In the broad delineation of estate administration the over-riding consideration is captured in the maxim, "Nemo dat quod non habet" - that is, "No one gives what he does not have".

Saturday, October 27, 2018


"The depictions of proletarian life, immorality and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial."

"Carmen" an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet

More years ago than I can now safely recall - when I still qualified as a young man - I was introduced to the opera "Carmen".  My mentor - whose name I also shamefully forget - was appropriately either Italian or French. He may even have been from Montserrat, the multi-peaked mountain range near Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. I remember distinctly that he had an accent. He was visiting a mutual friend - my erstwhile physician - in Canada at the time. He was clearly captured by the opera.  While I wasn't able to identify the opera, there was at least one of the songs which was familiar to me. The introductory acquaintance shall forever remain impressed on my mind as an example of how I have been affected by what in retrospect I consider important.

Midnight Pass to Casey Key

We rallied briefly with our friends at their digs on Siesta Key then headed down the coast to a fish shack for lunch. The season is still not upon us and the traffic was tolerable as a result - though the tiny waterside restaurant, hidden among the subtropical trees along a dusty narrow road, was remarkably congested. And noisy with chatter and clatter. Seated on the deck above the water we strained to hear what one another said, bending our heads alternately in search of the sound waves, sometimes pretending to understand though not caring a damn, it was just too pleasant to confound the tide with detail.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Collection of Daily Anecdotes

Today's tales don't qualify as shaggy-dog stories but they are reminiscences, a sketch of life on Longboat Key. When traveling abroad there is an inclination to latch onto events which rise above the mundane occurrences of living. But with only infrequent exception that is precisely where the action is. It is besides these seemingly uninspiring episodes which provide the real fodder of account.

"Longboat Key is a town in Manatee and Sarasota counties along the central west coast of the U.S. state of Florida, located on and coterminous with the barrier island of the same name. Longboat Key is south of Anna Maria Island, between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

All is vanity

Given my advanced age, protuberant belly, heart by-pass and Pacemaker, it flabbergasts even me that I have anything surpassing the remotest regard for matters sartorial.  But apparently the "Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem" knew of what he spoke (as related in Ecclesiastes 1). Astonishingly my curiosity concerning clothing extends beyond what is purely functional. I am certainly not yet confined to the irresolute quandary, "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" Instead I regularly find myself animated by garb especially as exemplified in the American vernacular. Evidently my interest is further promoted by the proximity of the sea, the balmy weather and the fragrant flowers.

Monday, October 22, 2018

So where do we stand?

At an uncertain juncture years ago I cultivated the all-consuming practice to recapitulate the entirety of my existence in order to assess what had transpired and where I was headed. While the fixation smacked of penitential dialect I privately considered it pragmatic in the same way one reviews a document before signing it. The summary and reiteration seldom embraced more than the currency of my being which, if I were to put a limit on it, captured only the predominant features of my life as then expressed. I never felt the exigency to re-evaluate my childhood agenda (if indeed I recalled any of it with accuracy); but the contemporary salient features of domesticity, productivity and foreseeability certainly mattered. My guess is that the obsession began 40 years ago when I opened my own law practice - an occasion which accentuated a multitude of disparate parameters that weighed upon my survival. That at least is my apology for the mania. The sobering collateral of this phobia is the admission that much of the detail was meaningless, a trajectory which I nonetheless fashion as a useful motivation to dwell instead only upon the present and what is pleasing. Perhaps the initial objective is the same in the end, being simply a justification. Let's face it, no amount of hindsight will do anything to change the past - though in fairness it may have a bearing on the future.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Nautical Theme

From the moment one crosses the bridge separating Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the John Ringling Parkway from Sarasota to the Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key there is an immediate nautical theme that insinuates the barrier island. The isolation of the island ensures the survival of this romantic narrative. From almost any perspective on the island the maritime tincture is inescapable. Even now as I write I hear the crashing waves.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

James Desmond ("Des") Houston, deceased (1933 - 2018)

Des Houston died on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018.  He was the former Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Almonte, the former President of the Mississippi Golf Club and the former President of the Mississippi River Power Corporation. Those three hallmarks of association were for me and for many others the very foundation of the past, present and future of the area in which we all live.  If anyone were ever entitled to a showy send-off, it was he.  But typically for Des - and I have no doubt whatsoever that this happened entirely upon his unqualified instruction - there was no public service following his death.  That's just the sort of guy he was, exact and modest to a fault.

It's the little things that count

"Little things console us because little things afflict us."
Blaise Pascal

No matter how extravagantly one describes anything in life, in the end what matters most is the little things.  Very often it is those same whispers of contentment which go virtually unmentioned - not because they don't count but because it's almost impossible - or maybe even commonplace - to verbalize or quantify their distinguishing elements.  How for example do you portray in a meaningful way the delight of a morning bicycle ride in the yellow sunshine while sailing under a banyan tree and listening to cicadas and the shrill of a tropical bird?

The Caravan

The image which most people have of a caravan doesn't include a battalion of renegades intent upon destruction. Yet to listen to the words of many Republicans that is precisely what we're up against:

"The caravan of about 4,000 migrants from Central America seeking to enter Mexico and then the United States illegally is attempting to invade and attack the United States. This caravan attack is the right place to draw the line and say “no more.” Congress should come back and pass the laws that would enable Americans to re-establish the rule of law at the border and protect our country with dignity and authority. If you want to defend America, let your House member and senators know how you feel."

by Newt Gingrich/Fox News

Friday, October 19, 2018

Simple is good

After battling yesterday with acres of parking and endless retail stores at the astonishingly remote Mall at University Town Centre in Sarasota (Macy's at one end, Saks Fifth Avenue in the middle, Dillards at the other and everything in between) it was a welcome serendipity this morning while going for my untroubled constitutional bicycle ride along the Coast to discover a men's wear clothing boutique in a small shopping centre nearby on Longboat Key.  I had started by looking for a salon (which I also found in the same shopping centre and where I have booked an appointment). I am further informed that our proposed dental office is located not far from the Publix grocery store.  This means that the only obvious exception to the ready fulfillment of what we anticipate to be our customary needs while on Longboat Key is a Lincoln dealership.  Paradoxically I have already located a franchise on a mainland road parallel to my erstwhile physician's winter lodging on nearby Siesta Key.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dear John and Donna

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Longboat Key, Florida

Dear John and Donna,

It was but a week ago that we left home and headed south for the winter.  After an agreeable but sedulous 4-day road trip we have spent the past three days attuning ourselves to this ducky barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico. I won't pretend that I am not as exuberant about our choice as I was when we first casually visited it less than a year ago during our sojourn on Daytona Beach Shores. At the risk of sounding overly zealous I can honestly say that we are pleased as punch!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fish Shack

Not everything here has been without its rough edges - though admittedly the inconveniences have been paltry by most standards.  The refrigerator for example has been on the fritz since our arrival. Today the property manager sent a technician to look at it.  He messed with the innards and advised we leave the doors closed for the next 24 hours.  This meant we were obliged to dine out this evening. It turns out to have been a blessing in disguise.  We went to Mar Vista in Manatee County at the north end of the Island.

Bike Ride

It should not surprise me that my initial enthusiasm exceeded my subsequent capacity!  Granted riding the new bicycle was an instant thrill - but the moderately prolonged activity soon reminded me of the oppressive heat and my escalating age.  Whew!  Even on the sea level straightaways it was an engagement not for the pusillanimous. The superiority of the new bike over a normal rental number is unassailable. Once again the decision to purchase a bike this year instead of renting one exemplifies the high regard I have in general for this particular resort, consistent in my opinion with the top gear standards of everything else.

Your choice

I never tire of analysis. Properly done it affords what amounts to the purity of mathematical certainty - an elevation of domestic detail to axiomatic theory. As unsettling as the examination may be at the outset it eventually translates into relief, both understood and undeniable. It is the imposition of logic which demystifies the conundrum of life and makes living manageable. To preserve both my sanity and my direction I consider it imperative to minimize confusion by reducing the enquiry to elemental constituents. Initial broad strokes are therefore required.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Settling in

The drive yesterday (our fifth day of non-stop peregrination) from Lake City to Longboat Key was more lengthy and arduous than we had anticipated. As was the traffic.  It was a 3½ hour uneventful but speedy roller coaster ride southwest through the peninsula during which we competed with and darted among a plethora of anxious BMWs, transport trucks and Ford F-150s pulling commercial trailers and mobile homes. Luckily for us we had some prior acquaintance with the area when we arrived here so our settlement was not unduly burdensome.  After collecting our keys from the concierge and unloading the car we went directly to the grocery store.  The provisions we bought (with the capable assistance of Eddie in the aisles) included premium crab cakes and superlative fruits and vegetables.  When late last evening we finally put something on the table to eat it was worth the slog.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Geriatric Florida

This morning we began the last leg of our 4-day journey from Canada to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico. South Carolina (where we hung our hat last evening) is a comparatively large State.  It was several hours before we had succeeded to drive out of it into Georgia whence the transition to Florida was a mere skip. It likely signals a descent into a decrepit state of mind that my awakening curiosity encircles birds and plants. I can't pretend that I have ever been an ornithologist or botanist but undeniably the exoteric features of nature in Georgia and Florida have intrigued me.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Across the Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon Line was originally the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the United States.  In the pre-Civil War period (1861 - 1865) it was regarded, together with the Ohio River, as the dividing line between the slave states south of it and the free-soil states north of it.  Between 1763 and 1767 the 233-mile line was surveyed along the parallel 39°43'N by two Englishmen, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, to define the long-disputed boundaries of the overlapping land grants of the Penns (proprietors of Pennsylvania) and the Calverts (proprietors of Maryland).  Today the Mason-Dixon Line still serves figuratively as the political and social dividing line between the North and the South although it does not extend west of the Ohio River.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Courtyard® Marriott, Hagerstown, MD

It isn't often an avowed curmudgeon such as I willingly confesses the subtleties of youth.  Yet the casual acquaintances at Courtyard® Hagerstown earlier this evening provoked such singularity. I feel compelled as a matter of record - and deserved recognition to those of whom I speak - to itemize the particulars. The keenness of these youth deserves the praise of this old trout. Perhaps it is an admission of the passing of the sword from us to them, from one generation to another, from the past to the present.  The frozen truth may even be that there are others in this world who are as perfect as you and I!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

1000 Islands

Our departure this morning went remarkably smoothly.  We only omitted to turn off the water heater. A hurried retreat from the garage resolved that small oversight. Then it was a mechanical performance of our initial plan which included gassing up the car, putting it through the automatic wash and translating the few remaining Petro-Canada points into what we fully anticipate to be the winning lottery ticket for a reported nine hundred thousand dollars. From there it was an unrestricted launch southward along Highway 416 through a very agreeable autumnal corridor to Prescott. As we sank to the St. Lawrence River and traced its meandering shore through to Brockville and onto the Ivy Lea Parkway to Gananoque we passed by street signs like Mud Creek, Blue Church Road, Apple Blossom Drive, Dunham Bay Lane, Tumledown Road and Shipman Point Road. The spectacle was enhanced by the yellow and red changing leaves, the historic riparian stone mansions and the inescapable military flavour of the erstwhile garrisons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

15% discount on eyelash extensions

It's easy to become high-spirited when a glowing cause is in the offing. Tomorrow we begin our trek to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a journey which hasn't been without its trials throughout the past six months since we returned from our previous winter sojourn on the heels of a near-fatal bicycle accident on the beach at Ponce Inlet in particular and subsequently the mounting discrimination of aging in general. The agony of old age is irrepressible! But with what I can only characterize as propitious serendipity we accomplished what could be done to address these incremental inconveniences and we're now - on the eve of our departure - in a boomps-a-daisy state of mind. The dynamic may certainly enjoy no more than that of a temporary obsession - because as I have reiterated one thousand times "There ain't no ship to take you away from yourself!" For the time being our zeal has willy-nilly embraced a boundless prospect. What after all is the point of diluting this optimistic though potentially ephemeral enthusiasm with weariness of any description! Our detour to southern climes while not qualifying as a holiday per se is nonetheless of sufficient singularity to promote that instinctive human bent for discovery, novelty and escape that comes with travel of almost any description.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Parable of Immortality

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Deplorables

The term "deplorables" (except when famously employed within the context of a "basket of deplorables" by Hillary Clinton on September 9, 2016 to describe the intolerant and hateful nature of half the supporters of her Republican opponent Donald Trump) is a word that does not exist in highly regarded English dictionaries.  Strictly speaking "deplorable" is an adjective which has morphed into a noun referring to the "group of low-life, die-hard Donald Trump supporters who are on the fringes of society, like racist KKK members who support Trump. Now this same group of swamp-dwelling skinheads are no longer offended by the term, now they proudly refer to themselves as deplorables - akin to the way some people proudly embrace calling themselves hillbillies or red-necks or trailer park trash".

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Life Lessons

"GILBERT. Ernest, you are quite delightful, but your views are terribly unsound. I am afraid that you have been listening to the conversation of some one older than yourself. That is always a dangerous thing to do, and if you allow it to degenerate into a habit you will find it absolutely fatal to any intellectual development."

The Critic as Artist:  with some remarks upon the importance of doing nothing
by Oscar Wilde

Life goes on...

Yesterday at one o'clock in the afternoon my sister and I were invited to meet with a physician's assistant and a social worker at the Ottawa Civic Hospital where our 92 year old mother was recently hospitalized following a stroke. We were told that her death is imminent. Apart from palliative care there is nothing further to be done to improve her condition. Naturally there is no certainty regarding her life expectancy - possibly days or weeks - but not likely beyond six months. We immediately began the process of winding up current arrangements (newspaper subscription, massage, dental and hair appointments, manicures and pedicures and residency lease).  Funeral arrangements were made years ago.  An inter vivos trust agreement was already similarly established. A Power of Attorney for Property Management and Personal Care is in place as well as her last Will and Testament.  Only days ago I received from Canada Revenue Agency a Tax Clearance for Distribution Purposes for the estate of my late father who died at 95 years of age on April 8, 2014. Documents for my mother's income tax reporting for 2018 are prepared for delivery to her chartered public accountant before I leave for the winter. Last week I met with her financial advisor to complete the annual performance report of her investment portfolio.  About ten days ago I prepared her draft obituary which I reviewed with her one late summer afternoon in the garden of her retirement residence.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Out of the closets!

Though our scheduled audience today with a learned medical professional did not elicit the most favourable prognosis we could have hoped for, the report is nonetheless palatable (considering our advanced age and incremental tailspin) and more importantly marks a transition.  In the most fundamental terms we have exhausted the obtruding necessities of life and are now free to embrace what we prefer to do.  This includes removing the luggage and cotton clothing from our closets to prepare our sojourn to southern climes.  Our obstacles are now unilaterally those of our respective physicians!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tech Toxic

Nothing propels me downward more speedily than a new "piece" of technology - whether a new computer, Smart Phone or "app". Without exception every new device or software is a legend of frustration and annoyance, anger and regret. Considering that in my lifetime I've owned and adjusted to more than 30 different automobiles (the latest of which are computers on wheels) - but without the agonizing alteration surrounding those new pieces of technology - it infuriates me that I am compelled to endure the predictable lack of achievement every time. I would have expected the pernicious exasperations to be on decline as the technology market widens - but inevitably the latest technology is non-functional at the outset.

Monday, October 1, 2018


Conflating the Universe and one’s personal life may initially seem both ludicrous and impossible, an undertaking far too exact to be of any import. Yet kindling our private response to public affairs is the legitimate product of any analysis in spite of its admixture of general and specific, abstract and particular, theoretical and practice. The contrast is especially evident in a time of great social and political turmoil such as the current global challenges surrounding nationalism, pluralism, entitlement, sexuality, democracy, freedom and religion.  The  ingredients of conjecture and detail precipitate the evolution of some unanticipated reactions ostensibly unrelated. It is however Nature’s product, the sometimes bizarre unfolding of intimate response to abstruse philosophy.