The Washington Redskins have been told their team name is offensive. So have the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves.

That’s the prevailing atmosphere these days, as team sports monikers once considered acceptable are now considered politically incorrect.

But sometimes the shame flows in the opposite direction. Consider one of Canada’s NHL teams.

Do those guys in Ottawa really want to be called the Senators? Would you?

This august body of sober, second thought has once again proven itself to be the laughing stock of the country, providing more ammunition for those demanding its abolishment.

So where does this leave the Ottawa Senators (hockey-playing variety)? Do they really want to conjure up images of pork-barrelling to their faithful fans? After all, when a guy comes home from work, cracks open a beer, prepares a bowl of Fritos and plops himself in front of the tube for a game of shoot-duh-puck, does he really need to be reminded of what’s going on in that room with all the gauche red carpet?

Pity the fan trying to shake the images of  Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau in Senators’ uniforms.

Wallin might be able to handle herself in the corners. Duffy, if he could stay up on skates for more than 2 minutes, could talk himself into the corners. As for Brazeau, he could look at home in a Senators’ uniform. But he’s already proven, in a boxing match with Justin Trudeau, that he’s not as tough as he thinks he is.

So, if the hockey Senators agree they need to present a new face to the public, what are some options? The Ottawa Parliamentarians, sadly, would offer a similar public image as the Senators. The Ottawa Statesmen would be contradictory. The Ottawa Puppets won’t work either..too close to the truth.

You need a team name that invokes power and a willingness to drop the gloves at a moment’s notice. A team that can change lines on the fly, to confound all opponents. Ottawa Harpers, it is.

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One Step Back

It’s funny how a little dose of reality can lower one’s expectations.

Yesterday, on my trip to Weyburn, I experienced the worst pain since returning home from my hip replacement surgery.

Diana, Bruce the Dog, and I were filled with optimism as we headed out for my first day trip since September the 18th.

I knew the easiest bits would be the parts where Diana did the running around, with Bruce and I hanging out in the truck with the windows rolled down a crack.

But the day also called for some activity on my part. I had to hand in a form at Service Canada, and had a couple of questions to ask concerning my first-ever application for Employment Insurance.

Also, there was a physiotherapy session, and the day had come for the Removal Of Surgical Staples, all 55 of them.

But I was ready, and pumped. Days earlier, I had eschewed the geriatric walker in favour of a crutch…one single crutch. Man, I could pop up from the recliner and dash down the hallway toward the bathroom with the greatest of ease.

As the morning unfolded, the hanging-out-with-Bruce-in-the-truck part went just fine. The only complication was to actually get into the truck. But, with the help of a folding stool, and some gentle nudging from behind on my heel from Diana, I managed to bend my left leg enough to ease myself onto the front passenger seat. It was a process to be repeated several times throughout the day. Not once did I end up flat on my back on the ground, and for that reason I will deem the exercise a resounding success.

Then came the walking, first into physiotherapy, and next to Service Canada in the bustling Weyburn mall.

On both occasions, after a short distance, there was pain, excruciating pain. Poor Diana didn’t know how to help me. It must have seemed to her that something had gone terribly wrong with my new left hip.

As it turns out, that really wasn’t the case. Although, if the source of the pain had been my hip, I wouldn’t have noticed. It would have been over-ridden by that emanating from my feet, which were ensconced in the cheapest pair of slip-on shoes I could find. I bought the bloody things last fall. My character in the Creelman Dinner Theatre needed black shoes, and the comfortable pair which I had owned had disappeared.  What harm could they do if worn in a few scenes of the play?

As it turns out, a lot of harm, if you planned to walk any distance. Whomever coined the phrase, ‘No Pain, No Gain’, did not have a $20 pair of Bata shoes in mind.

The only other pain came during the removal of 55 surgical staples. It wasn’t from the actual removal of the staples themselves, but rather because I was forced to lie on my side for about half an hour. For some reason, that caused great discomfort to my knee, the one just south of the new hip.

As for the physio session, it went as expected. And much to my lack of surprise, Melissa The Therapist advised me to begin spending my nights in bed, instead of in the ever-so-comfortable leather recliner which has been my home 24/7 since my return from hospital.

Last night, I took Melissa’s advice, and tried sleeping in an actual bed. I don’t know if it’s because I had had such a long day in Weyburn, or because of the removal of the surgical staples, but my sleeping came in fits of 20 to 30 minutes at a time. I rose at 4, returned to the recliner, and slept soundly for two and a half hours.

I’ll go back to the bed tonight. I know if I keep doing so, eventually I’ll be retrained in the art of sleeping flat on my back.

Until then, I’ll continue doing my exercises, and keep monitoring Kijiji for a good pair of shoes, already broken in, laces not required.

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My Left Hip

I have a new BFF. He supports me, no matter what position I find myself in. When I need to stand on my own, he’s backing me up all the way. And then there are times when I let myself down, and there he is, taking the weight for me.

View from my recliner

View from my recliner

I refer, of course to my recliner, and let me be clear about this, no man should be without one..hip or no hip.

When I first goose-stepped into the house after receiving my full left hip replacement surgery, the immediate question was..where to I plunk myself down?

I needed something with armrests high enough and strong enough to support my weight, as I ease myself down into a sitting position.

We have solid leather recliner/couches in our living room, but the issue at the time was how to slowly sit, and how to get up. The armrests and seat cushions aren’t nearly high enough for me to push myself up.

Our first solution was the standby, a Coleman campchair. It was easy, sitting myself down, but after a couple of hours I was in great pain. My legs, you see, were not supported. They were vertical from the knees down. My left leg was swollen, and I could barely move.

So, it was onto the bed. Don’t get me wrong. Beds are good. But you still have the problem of getting in and out. Besides, I discovered that lying flat on my back still resulted in pain in my lower leg, and turning on my side was out of the question.

The following night, we decided to give the recliner a go. There remained the issue of something to lean on as I eased down.  Suddenly, the woman I live with, the one who is ten times smarter than me, (despite which she agreed to marry me 16 years ago), spotted our little plastic folding stool.

“Why does this have to be on the floor”, asked she, setting it on the couch.

“That’s ridiculous”, I responded. “Why would I stand on that in the middle of the couch? It’s not stable at all”.

But then it hit me. She was proposing it as an armrest, not a footstool. I stood in front of the couch, reached back to the stool, and realized it would stay put as I leaned against it, and down, slowly, I went.

And now this is my new home, 24/7. I can sit up, I can lie back, I can sleep. My laptop computer, my i-pad, my i-phone, my pain meds, and my walker are all here in reach.

I’m doing fine, my friends. Each day I feel more mobile, and I’m looking forward to the day when I can regain my normal life, not worrying about hip pain, nor about dislocating that little piece of titanium that now resides in my left hip socket.

I’ve given a lot of credit to my BFF, Mr. Recliner. But, seriously it’s my real BFF, my loving wife Diana, who is really my support through this. I’m doing all I can to be as independent as I can. But, who are we kidding? You can’t do this on your own, without the support of such a loving life partner. In addition to attending to my needs, Diana is also spending countless hours keeping things together in her new role as administrator for the Village of Creelman. When she’s not doing that, she’s filling in at rural post offices here and there, and in libraries, as well. The thing she truly loves doing the best, her artwork, has sadly taken a back seat to all this for now.

Here’s hoping that as I end up on my own two feet, a sense of balance returns to her as well.

A post script:

I had been debating whether or not to blog about my hip surgery. It’s not as if this is something revolutionary that others will be clamouring to read about. After all, according to one report I’ve read, people have their hips or knees replaced more than 60 thousand times a year in Canada.

One of my friends drove all the way to Alberta to have his hip replaced, and came back with one leg shorter than the other.  That’s the only hard-luck story I’ve heard of. There may be others, but all in all, these surgeries have become routine, and highly successful.

The only thing that makes this case different, is that it ‘s not happening to somebody else. It’s happening to me. How narcissistic is that? I’ve chosen this way to talk about my experience, rather than countless Facebook status updates, or 140-letter tweets.

I’ll probably blog again, and perhaps in more detail than you need. I’ll be linking it to a hip replacement support website when I occasionally post there.

For now, I feel a nap coming on. Recliner, all the way back, please.

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It’s easy to say the Olympic games are about sports, not politics. But, when the debate over whether or not to boycott centres on a country declaring war against gays and trans-genders, it’s not so cut-and-dried.

But let me say this. The Olympic games are about athletes, not politicians.

Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws unveiled in July should come as no surprise to anyone, considering how regressive the country has become under the leadership of former KGB senior officer, Vladimir Putin.


Jesse Owens awarded a gold medal at 1936 Olympics in Berlin

But you can no more control a country’s offensive laws than you could in 1936, when Hitler’s Nazi regime hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics.

There have been many Olympic boycotts in the past, as detailed in this excellent article at As the article points out, they have had little effect.

But, there was one suggestion which I would like to see taken even further.

Send the athletes. They have been training long and hard for many years, for the privilege of competing with the best in the world. Holding them back hurts them more than it does the host country.

Go the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Compete for the glory and the gold. Embody the true spirit of Olympic athleticism.

But, to make a statement, don’t send your team to the opening ceremonies. Even better, have one representative march into the stadium, holding a sign either smuggled into the country, or hastily drawn the night before, declaring support for gays, lesbians, and trans-genders.

Let Russia know how your country feels about its offensive laws. But let the winter athletes compete. And, hope for snow.

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One in One Hundred

I had mixed feelings the first day I laid eyes on our new house in Midland, now a subdivision of Drumheller, Alberta.

For the first time in my nearly eight years on this planet, I was getting a home with indoor plumbing.

No more hauling ass to the smelly little shack in the backyard. No more dipping a metal ladle into the water barrel when I was thirsty. No more bathing in a galvanized wash tub. We were entering the 1960’s, and I was elated.

I don’t remember if more vehicles were involved, but I do recall riding in the Brown’s Dairy milk van which was loaded with our belongings. Dad worked for the dairy, and getting the use of the vehicle for such a task was no problem at all.

As we crossed the tracks and pulled into the weed-strewn lot alongside the Dinosaur Trail, my heart fell. The building was ancient. Not ancient like some grand old brick structure with ivy covering the walls, and columns and porches and elegant things.

No, this old thing had  a weathered grey clapboard exterior. I doubt that it had ever experienced a fresh coat of paint since it’s construction in 1926.

I don’t know how long that house had stood vacant before we moved in, but there was dust everywhere.

The plumbing had become so oxidized that when you cracked open a faucet, you needed to run the water for a bit until the reddish rust gradually cleared away.

The furnace was fuelled by coal. I still remember being awakened some cold mornings by metallic reverberations coming through the heating vents. It was Dad, ‘stoking’ the furnace to get ashes to fall through the grate.

Sometimes, the fire went out overnight, and he would have to get it going again, using broken wooden milk crates for kindling. On those mornings, a choking smoke would come up through the heating ducts, filling the rooms.

Until that old thing was finally replaced by an oil heater, Mom was kept busy washing soot off the walls. Years later, natural gas arrived, and the heat became even cleaner.

Over the years, the old house took shape in so many other ways.

Plumbing gradually got replaced. The water well and its finicky pump were abandoned when the city extended its water line to our property.

Cultivated gardens and cut lawns took over for the weeds. Surrounding brush was gradually cut back. Coats of paint covered over the ugly grey. A new roof, new siding..more paint.  Over the years the inside benefitted from ceiling tiles, upgraded plumbing, and carpet.

Due for demolition.

Due for demolition.

The place was transformed from an ugly old blotch into a jewel, bounded on one side by a busy tourist highway, a railroad on another side, and the other two sides by a curving creek bed which filled to its banks every spring, emptying into the Red Deer River about half a mile away. Then the creek would dry away to virtually nothing during the summer months.

Some years, growing up there, I wondered what would happen if the creek overflowed its banks. For 45 years, it benignly kept its distance. Until 2005, the “one in one hundred years” flood event.

The house was surrounded by water, filling the basement to the top of the stairs.

Family and friends rallied. The water was pumped out, mud sucked out, and order gradually restored.

Eight years later, June 24th, 2013, another “one in one hundred years” flood. This time, the water rose to only 2-thirds of the way up the stairs. But the foundation of the house couldn’t withstand this second assault.

It has been weakened, partially washed away. Unless huge quantities of money are spent, the house will not continue to stand on its own. It’s time to move.

Obviously, Mom and Dad aren’t as mobile as they were 53 years ago. One could consider this event a silver lining, in that it has persuaded them it’s time to move into town, to some place with a smaller yard to maintain.

It would be a sad enough occasion on its own. But, thanks to two “one-in-one-hundred” year flood events, they’ll never get back what they put into this place.

Moving day is July 20th. We should all be celebrating a new stage in Mom and Dad’s life. A life that no longer requires maintaining an acre of grass, and worrying about snow and ice on a steep driveway. A life without having to climb up and down stairs on arthritic knees, or having to drive a few miles to get the mail or groceries.

Now they’ll be just a few blocks away from Mom’s sister, my Aunt Maxine and Uncle Barney, and to their best friends, Rick and Gayle Trembecky.

Elsewhere in Southern Alberta, many people lost so much more in the flood that hit Calgary and High River. Three even lost their lives.

But even with that perspective, it’s hard to let go of what you once had, and will never have again.

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Grumpy Old Men

The event didn’t present itself with any great magnitude, certainly not to the degree that anyone outside our immediate vicinity would take any notice.

Diana and I were standing in line at the Stoughton Co-op, preparing to pay for our groceries. “Have you ever tried this?”, asked a voice behind me.

“Excuse me?”, I responded. Turning in place, I viewed an older man, likely in his late seventies. I didn’t recognize him, but he spoke as if he knew me.

“Have you ever tried these?”, he repeated, pointing to a box of Co-op brand frozen hamburger patties.

“No, I haven’t”, was my response.

“Had ’em a while back”, he said testily. “They didn’t even taste like burgers. Do you think they taste like burgers?”

I thought it was time to ask the obvious. “Then, why are you buying them again?”

He ignored my question, in the same way I ignored his about whether I thought they would taste like burgers.

After making our purchase, the old man was next in line. He placed the box of frozen burgers on the check-out conveyer. “Have you tried these? Do they taste like burgers?”, he asked two young employees, one woman operating the cash register, the other bagging the groceries.

They looked at each other, then back at him. “I don’t know”, they said in unison.

“Then I don’t want em”, he snapped, pushing the colourful box in their direction.

I was chuckling as we left the store, taking delight out of some old codger who thought it important to make a point about his obvious unhappiness with the recent purchase of some burgers that didn’t taste like burgers.

The episode must have put burgers into my brain, because our next stop was the New Hope Restaurant in Stoughton.

I’ve been pretty good at restricting my eating habits for the last five months or so, managing to eliminate some 33 pounds from my five-foot-eight frame. But tonight, upon learning the pork cutlets were not an option, I opted for the Bakken Burger. I make a living working in the Bakken oilpatch, so it seemed only right I should make a meal out of  something that helps put bread on my table.

Not reading the fine print on the menu, I was somewhat surprised to see this was a monster of a burger, with two fat patties, bacon, cheese, and all kinds of carb and fat inducing indulgences, piled into a monster bun.

I did my best, and tied into it. I ate the whole damned thing. I also chewed the french fries, something which I had eschewed since last fall.

During the 20 minute journey home, both belly and brain were full of burger. I thought more about that sad old man, and what drove him to this point in life where he was railing at the world over a box of burgers that didn’t really taste like burgers.

He was maybe 15 or 20 years older than me, and I wondered if I would be like that when I reached his age.

Something to write about, I mused. Settling into my recliner, I opened my laptop, determined to enter this into my blog.

First, though, a video posted by my friend Stefani came to mind, one which I had spotted on Facebook earlier that day. A cute video, showing the failings of penguins trying to navigate through everyday struggles such as, oh, walking on ice.

Must show Diana, I thought. We have this magnificent contraption called Apple TV wired into our television set. I’ll simply use the technology to transmit the video from my Apple laptop to the TV.

It’s a wonderful system, but not without its glitches. We each have an Apple laptop, and the problem is that usually both computers are in the living room along with the TV. Using the Apple TV remote usually activates her computer. Diana has found a solution, providing an older Apple computer remote to stop the sound coming from her computer.

When I tried showing the video on our TV, some book narration began emanating from her computer, and from mine, it was Abba’s Take A Chance On Me. I aimed the old remote at her computer. I’m not sure if it worked, because Take A Chance On Me wouldn’t shut the hell up.

“Goddamn it”, I sputtered in frustration, and threw both remotes across the room. “Forget it, it’s not worth it”, I said angrily.

My lovely wife hugged me, calmed me down, and I settled back into the chair. And then it dawned on me. The Bakken really did taste like a burger.


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Thongs Hinder Shagging of Flies

Despite closing in on the 61st year of life on this planet, I found myself sniggering like a schoolboy while listening to The Count Of Monte Cristo on my iPhone recently.

snowblowerI’d never read the classic, and when I spotted the 37-CD audio book on a library shelf, I thought it was time. I knew I had many days ahead of me, blowing snow in the heated comfort of a John Deere tractor. Audio books have become a constant companion.

Of course, I knew of the The Count of Monte Cristo. Who hasn’t? But for some unknown reason, I had never had the opportunity to read it. Standing in the library, curiosity overcame my penchant for cheap mysteries and spy novels. I wondered how the English language has changed since Dumas penned the classic back in the 1800’s, and thought I would discover for myself.

It truly was an amazing book. Small wonder that The Count  is considered a literary classic. This guy Dumas knew what he was doing when throwing together a yarn filled with betrayal, reward, and revenge, not to mention a decent prison escape.

The 19th century language wasn’t too difficult to follow, even though I was listening, and not actually reading. A downside of listening to audio books is that it is more cumbersome to rewind back to a phrase than it is to go back and re-read, pause, and reflect.

But I certainly hit the rewind button on the first reference to ejaculation. “Suddenly he uttered an ejaculation of joy”, droned the narrator, without even a hint of humour.

“Holy crap!”, I uttered in distinctly non-nineteenth century language. “What did he just say?”

Then later, one of the characters ejaculated mentally, without even moving his lips! Later, there was my favourite: “Horrible!”, ejaculated the Priest.

What if Dumas’s character spoke out of turn? “Horrible!”, ejaculated the Priest prematurely.

If that had happened, I’m certain my next call would have been for a tow tractor, to pull me out of the ditch.

Fast forward to last night, when I was watching The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart. During a spoof on the upcoming conclave to select a new pope, I learned that good catholics ejaculate all the time. As it turns out, a catholic ejaculation is a short prayer that is to be repeated throughout the day.

When exactly did that word become exclusively synonymous with a sexual act? Our changing language is a mysterious thing.

A much more thoughtful piece on this topic was published by Benjamin Schmidt, on his analysis of the historical accuracy of the language in the award-winning movie, Lincoln.

I’m not sure why I should be surprised that our language has changed so much in nearly two hundred years. The english of my childhood has provided its own linguistic quirks. I used to wear thongs to the beach, on my feet, no less. Apparently they still do that in Australia.

Some younger members of my family recently chastised me for suggesting my grandchildren go out and shag flies. I’m not sure that is a dated expression, because it is still considered part of baseball vocabulary. Trust me, I was only referring to catching fly balls in the outfield, and there was no suggestion that my beloved ones should commit sexual acts with winged insects.

Something you should never try though, is shagging flies while wearing thongs. They slow you down, and the guys wearing runners will beat you to the ball every time.

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