I feel like I was Shanghaied five times on this trip to China, dragged to the sell, sell, sell locations. One day it was pearls, another day it was jade, another it was silk or green tea and then finally herbal medicine.  Each time it was almost a waste of two and a half hours.


Pearls, pearls and more pearls. Even though we were Shanghaied the pearls were interesting to look at. I wanted to hold a fist full just to feel their cool caress.  I didn’t know that one oyster could have 25 – 30 pearls – amazing. I didn’t know that pearls came in so many different colours – pretty cool – I have to say. And then there were some pearls that were as big as a marble but I think that I would rather put a down payment on a house than dangle one from my wife’s neck.


Jade, Jade and more Jade – green, white and even red carved into what we might think of as Chinese clichés but for the Chinese they are layered with mythological and cultural significance. The lion’s paw on the ball or kit signifies male or female, the power or gentleness. Don’t you dare touch the eyes or the teeth of a dragon in fear of one calamity or another.


Silk, silk and more silk was displayed in a department store atmosphere with soothing Chinese music as a subliminal hint to buy, buy, buy after a short not very educational presentation about silk and silk worms. Inflated prices chopped in half then half again if you were astute enough to dicker but don’t be upset if you found convincing knock-off scarves at 100th of the price on the streets.


I could not afford pearls, silk or jade. I buy my green tea in Toronto and I don’t need any green tea pills to cure my fatty liver. Finally herbal medicine, no thanks. Am I supposed to trust someone that says he is a doctor that gives me a 20 second stick-your-tongue-out examination followed by a diagnosis and then sell, sell, sell some pills to cure all of my ailments.  LOL – I think not.


I soon realized

we were not tourists

but products sold

to the sell, sell, seller.

The tourist company paid

to bring me there

to buy, buy, buy.



The term “Shanghaied” comes from the term “Shanghaiing” which comes from the practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors by coercive techniques. The verb “shanghai” joined the lexicon in the 1850s, possibly because Shanghai was a common destination of the ships with abducted crews. The term Shanghaied has since expanded to mean “kidnapped”.

Praise for my book “Trapped In Paradise”

Praise for my book “Trapped In Paradise”

I thoroughly enjoyed every single page of your book Trapped in Paradise.  The inclusion of your email exchanges with Manuel and your other traveling companion were very instructive, and I heard the voice of Manuel, and your voice too, coming through clear and true.  And then, the body of the book, with your adventures in Cuba, your evaluation of the state of affairs set against a backdrop of your understanding of the history of Cuba since the revolution, and your hope for the future … these along with brothel nights, and spelunking with Jorge, and your revisiting of the occasion when you were foolish enough to venture deep into the cave without benefit of light except for the odd flash of your camera. These were all very enlightening and entertaining. The fact that I know many of the players notwithstanding, I found myself drawn to the spirit of the book, which is your spirit, Manuel’s spirit, and the spirit of Cuba.

John B. Lee

Stuck in the Mud

Stuck in the Mud


It was a beautiful spring day. Overnight the grey heavy clouds of doom turned to hope allowing the sun through, for the first time in 10 days, laying a patch of warmth over the ground.  A dozen pigeons swooped and darted in splendid unison and then out of sight through the dangling louvers of the upper loft, on the south side of the barn. Sun glinted off winter’s dirty snow ploughed in under the row of cedars that formed a wind break for the ramp into the hayloft.


“René. You old bone head. What the hell have you done? You’ve got old Betsie buried to ‘er excel in mud. How the hell are you gunna get her out’a that mess?”


René turned slowly sucking one boot at a time out of the deep mud to find his buddy Marv standing there with his hands on his hips, belly sticking out through his red suspenders.


Marv stroked his grey goatee and laughed. “It ain’t easy to get one of them 1355 Cockshutts stuck but then again you got well over five thousand pounds of steal and a lot a mud under them wheels.  What year is it, a 70 or 71?


The two men stood there without a word looking at the muddy mess.


“Let me go home and bring my tractor and pull you out of there. You sit in the sun a spell. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I gotta unhitch my bailer so it’ll take me a few minutes. I’ll bring my chains.”


Marv turned on his heels headed off whistling. René settled into a dry grassy patch of sun and pulled some papers from his pocket and started to read.


Contrary to our sisters feelings, my job, with every breath I take, is to love you brother. That is it, just love. It is a hard job, that to some degree, I have resisted. In loving you brother, because you have no one else in your life, I feel it is my role to teach you something even if I have to hit you over the head with a two-by-four. Even if it is going sting like iodine applied to an open wound.


René reached into his pocket for his pen, crossed out a few words, made a couple of scribbles and started to read again.


First let me address the topic of you visiting mother. You have every right to visit. I argued that point with our sisters. As a compromise they would like you to give me notice of when you are planning on going to visit again. It is either that or they will claw your eyes out if they bump into you without any notice. It is only right that you send me a txt saying your day and approximate time of arrival and departure. I will let them know. It will save a lot of strife for everyone – maybe even mother. Mother still doesn’t even know you were in jail let alone what you did. Everyone is afraid that it would kill her if she found out.


René jotted down a couple more notes and put his pen in his pocket, tilted his head into the sun and closed his eyes. Brotherly grief started to melt from his face. His shoulders slumped. Breathing slowed. Before he knew it he was sawing logs on his dead grandfathers farm at the age of sixteen.


“René, you old bone head. You must’a been sound asleep. You didn’t even hear me pulling up.”


René snapped to his feet. “You back already. I must have fallen asleep. I had the weirdest dream that I was chopping wood somewhere and skinning a deer with my brother. The dogs were whining and yelping and licking up the blood as it dripped to the ground. It was so weird. I’ve never skinned a deer in my life, I haven’t see my brother in years.”


Marv, kicked at the muddy ground. “OK, now that you’ve had a bit of a sissy snooze in the warm sun let’s see if we can get this puppy pulled out of your mud pit. This is why I told you to buy a tractor with sixty horsepower and four-wheel drive. You can tell me about your dream some other time.”


With a bit of grunting and groaning, and squishing through clods of mud the two men silently stretched out the long clinking chain and hooked it to both tractors. René mounted his old Betsie ready to steer. Marv climbed up to his John Deer thrown, slipped it into gear and gently let out the clutch. The long chain jumped up from the ground, stiffened and started to vibrate like a bridge cable holding up tons of steel. Marv ever so gently revved his engine. Like a fork being dragged through butter old Betsie started to plough her way through the mud until she was on firm ground. Engines still puffing exhaust, both men climbed down from their purring machines.


“Well that’ll teach you, you old bone head. No more snoozing for you. Time to get back to work.”


René and Marv smiled and shook hands. “Thanks Marv, I owe you big time.”


“Furgit-about-it man. What are neighbours for? Were you working on one of your stories when I drove up. You had a pen and a piece of paper layin’ on your chest. I figured you were doin’ more of your artsy-fartsy writing stuff.”


René patted his pocket with the paper. “No, no it’s not a story exactly. It’s a letter to my senseless brother. I am trying to write a long letter to him but it’s kind of hard.”


Marv calked his head. “I thought that you weren’t speaking to your brother, or hadn’t seen him for years.”


“Well it’s true but because my mom is in the hospital it kind of stirred up some communication. There are a lot of unresolved matters between us all so I decided this was a good time to set things straight before the wheels of communication get stuck in the mud again.


“It’s so hard because, on some levels, he is such a smart guy but in other ways he is so shit stupid. I feel like I have to shake him by his ears to get him thinkin’ in a less selfish way. Well anyway that is not for you to have to listen to. Thanks Marv for comin’ over and dragging Betsie to dry ground.”


“No problem. I gotta get back to milkin’ so see you ‘round.”


René kicked clods of mud off of his boots and fell back into the sun to mull over the letter again.


Brother, it is obvious by your previous email that you still have a lot of learning to do. Your txt with the disgusting selfie of you bawling your eyes out and the one that said: “I just talked with Mom. I told her that I love her, as I always do. She was happy but tired. And now I’m bawling my eyes out. I ruined my life and one more of my reasons to live is dying.” are both proof you are stuck in a deep hole of self-pity. I showed the bawling selfie to a therapist friend that I hang out with. He said yes my interpretation is correct. The underlying, in fact the only reason that you sent the bawling selfie is that you wanted me and anyone that saw it to know that you are in pain. This was a very selfish act. You did not say poor mother. Oh dear is mother in pain? Is mother eating? Should I come to be at her side? How imminent is her passing? Is she doing ok? You made it about you and your pain. We all feel anguish but never do we make it about self. We are all sad, as sad as you but our sadness, our gloom, is about mother and her condition. Sorry for slamming you so hard but yours seems to be about you. Poor me I was sick and felt like I was dying. Poor me I didn’t die. Poor me my only reason for living is going to die.


So that is the tough love. Now for the tough advice. You need to counter balance all of the selfish things that you have done in your life with totally unselfish acts of giving, loving, sharing. You need to do virtually nothing for yourself. You have a lot to pay back to both of your daughters and the family.


You said that you almost died with a stroke and you wish you had? Well get this brother, dying for you is the easy way out. You have already manifested a stroke. You have no right to die before you pay back for your sins that put you in jail. If you die before your daughters have come to forgive you, you should be shot. You need to do so much good with the rest of your life that your daughters will weep at your grave wishing they could be as good a person as you. If you die now you will condemn them to a life of hating you all the way to their graves. Don’t you dare do that to them. That will be the ultimate selfish act.


René slumped back against the fence post and let the sun wash over him. His gold pen spinning in his fingers. He flattened his paper on his lap and continued.


We both came from the same parents brother and as you know I’m not perfect but I hope you take my advice. Go down to city hall and feed the homeless that are camped out on the benches. You might just turn their life around. If there are any crumbs left from feeding the poor go down to the lake and feed the ducks. The old lady down the street from you has a bad set of front steps. Go and fix them for her for free. I know you don’t have a lot of money but someone else will chip in for the wood if you ask. Who knows you might just save her life by making the stairs safe. Give that old computer that you are holding onto to a student so they can get better grades. They could become mayor and spin into doing more good just because of your generosity. Good and bad acts have a habit of spinning into more good or bad acts. You have a lot to undue brother. It is time for you to turn things around instead of just dying just to get from under all the bad you have done. Just think of all the good you can do with the rest of your life.


Your brother René




Dust and gravel spit up from René’s pickup as he came to a stop in front of Marv’s barn. “Marvelous Marvie.” René yelled with a smile. “I’m going in to town to mail that letter I was writing the other day. Do you need anything or do you wanta come with me? It did me a lot of good to write the letter but now I gotta take it to the Post Office before I change my mind.”


“Thanks for the invite but I better stay right here. It looks like it is going to rain again. I gotta load up these fence posts and drop them down to the south corner. If I do it tomorrow after the rain I am afraid I might get stuck in the swale at the end of the lane.” He looked up at the doom filled clouds heading his way.


“I’m not in that much of a hurry. Let’s get these guys loaded before I head off.” René pulled his work gloves from his back pocket and stooped down for a fence post.


The men worked in silence until the job was done.


“You goin’ near the Co/Op. You could pick up ten pounds of wire staples for me.”



April 05, 2019

Owed to T. S. ELIOT and the first stanza of his poem “The Waste Land”


April is the cruelest month

with temperatures rising

finally into life, even at night.

Lilac buds are kissing

the warm air with swelling buds

stunted by the still

frost threatened landscape

that mixes memory with desire

only to be slammed

by her sister, winter’s

punishing  joke.

The last of shadowed snow

the gloomy reminders

of hunkering down

are all but gone.

Black budding branches bulge

with the promise of life

now full of winged music

singing to pale

face-poised sun worshipers.

Catching Up to Her

Catching Up to Her


It seems that mother is not ready to go,

which is joyfully fine with me, even though

the longest journey that she currently takes

is walking to the end of her bed and back.


The black dog of death has been licking

gently at her heels for some time. No pain,

no fear, just a gentle slobbering

as if your black lab was licking

the honey of life from her reluctance to leave.

She does not even know that she should,

could or would want to leave us to feed

that black dog of mortality.


Now, she, the oldest on our family tree

for generations past, I am

slowly catching up to her

as “I now ache in places that I used to play”,

as my idol, now passed, Leonard Cohen,

said in one of his poems.


Even though I will miss my dear mother

when the gentle black dog

inhales her final breath

I am ok with her passing now.

I often say that she, I, we all,

are “only” going to pass on.

After all we are now,

as dead as we are ever going to be.

It is not the worst thing

compared to some of the traumas

of this mortal trapping called life.


Lionel, great grandson, in some

abstract time-veiled way, still

remembers riding on Great Grandma’s scooter

beeping the horn of life, filling her

with joy and there he is smiling at eternity

catching up to me. I hope one day

I have a great grandson that I can remind

man is neither young nor old

but lives in eternity.


From Don Gutteridge – A beautiful poem, Tai and obviously close to your heart. A fine tribute to what captures both the sadness of dying but also the joy and pride in those following her. Thanks for sending it.


From Dr. Miguel Ángel Olivé Iglesias – Sweet profound poem, tai.


From Jorge Alberto Perez Hernandez – I love the poem very much, I enjoyed it and I read to Michelle in Spanish, great, you are a faaaabulouuusssss poet.

A great review / essay about my book – Some Sort of Normal

A Journey into the Dark:

Review of Some Sort of Normal (Richard M. Grove)

by Brian Way

In Kafka’s iconic short story, “The Metamorphosis” (referenced in Some Sort of Normal, Ch. 32 and elsewhere), Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to discover that, while his physical body has been transformed into a “gigantic insect,” psychologically, he continues to exhibit emotional and intellectual capacities. In other words, he remains human. Even though he appears to be a bug, he remains human. He ruminates on his traumatic condition and reflects on the dreariness of his previous life as a travelling salesman and on the drabness of his room and the weather outside, and he feels hurt in being shunned by his family, yet he still feels “tenderness and love” and duty toward them. In the end, suicidally, he wills himself to death to give them freedom—at which time, ironically, his undeserving family begins to herd his beloved sister, Grete, onto the same fatally “buggy” path. Gregor’s situation is pathetically echoed in the condition of Mark Beetleman, the protagonist of Richard M. Grove’s Some Sort of Normal; as Gregor has been forced into his terminal carapace by his family’s (and society’s) parasitic greed, Mark has arrived in his isolated (s)hell by enacting, and re-enacting, his own latent desires. Mark confesses to being an incestuous pedophile, of having had sex with his adolescent daughter repeatedly over a several-year-span; now that he has been exposed, in his own words, he is “living a nightmare … [he] can’t shake” (Normal Ch. 1)

To exacerbate his situation, at least in his mind, Beetleman is living his “nightmare” alone. Except for conversations with his often-silent therapist Dr. Waleed; with an acerbic confidante named Frank; with his extremely narcissistic self; and with us, the reader. Mark finds himself cut-off from everyone about whom he really cares—his wife, his daughters, his brothers, his friends. His life has become a serial soirée of wives and lovers whose names he cannot recall. Some Sort of Normal is Mark Beetleman’s attempt to come to terms with his condition, with his feelings, with the meaning of what he has done and who he is. The novella is his soliloquy in search of identity, his “book of bosh,” his “wheelbarrow full of horseshit” (Normal Ch. 7).

Several canonical pieces of literature, from Light in August to Death in Venice, from The Color Purple to Lolita, from God Help the Child to The End of Alice, have broached the topic of incest and pedophilia and Some Sort of Normal joins that club, bluntly and ferociously. Grove’s novel tackles this topic in its own unique way by abandoning linear narrative. Here chapter after chapter appear like random snapshots, pages of a disoriented, fragmented photograph album, all presented with a range of literary styles: traditional third- and first-person narrative, epistolary forms (letters and e-mails), diary and journal entries, and poetry, all effectively layered as a biographical palimpsest to capture Mark Beetleman’s fractured life. In these, Mark revisits the actions and ideas that have led him to remorse, doubt and desolation, including an account of his ascent toward the original carnal act and his descent toward isolation and suicide after his behavior is exposed. In exploring such dark recesses of the human spectrum, Some Sort of Normal unfolds as a complex and fascinating fiction, a compelling read that sheds light into areas rare to the reader’s eye.

Moral philosophers, from Socrates and Plato to Mill and Kant, have contextualized ethical principles—if one knows what is right, one will do what is good; Kant’s categorical imperative affirms the existence of certain fixed moral laws and posits the rational idea that humans will shape their actions in alliance to those codes. But what if you know what is right and still do what is wrong? One begins to rationalize—what is right; what is wrong; according to whom? Mark grapples with the ethical issues inherent in his action as he sees them, and spins the wheel of blame from self to daughter to circumstance to society to differing historical norms and even to the periodic vacillation of cultural morays. At times he seems honestly pleading his case; other times, he is the unreliable narrator caught in his own web of lies, maybe? He weaves in broken pieces a “beetle-man’s” quixotic vision of the issues at hand.

Sometimes, as reader, one is nearly seduced by Mark’s arguments, nearly buys into his salesman’s lingo of prepubescent sexualization or adolescent desire, nearly forgives him his trespasses. Other times, not so much. By the final chapter, one thinks of Dickens as much as Kafka; like some kind of Scrooge discovering Christmas morning, Mark wakes from a hopeless and frightening dream and, in the end, forces himself into the realization that he is not a cockroach like Gregor Samsa. He simply chooses the froth of a Cappuccino over the acidic taste of the barrel of a gun. Now, for that choice to be credible, like those Dickensian heroes before him, he needs only to discover a benevolent heart.

The front cover of Some Sort of Normal shows a picnic table beneath the waters of a flood—whether the waters are rising or receding is unknown in much the same way, one supposes, as the state of “normal” is ultimately indeterminable. In “The Garden of Paradise” by Hans Christian Andersen, a fairy tale referenced by the therapist Waleed (Ch. 23), a prince travels on a lengthy and dangerous quest to find eternal life in the original Garden of Eden. Once there, “on the very first evening” he succumbs to his human folly and weakness, relenting to his desire, kissing the princess and losing his salvation; Eden sinks into the earth forever beyond his grasp. Death then forces him from the spot “to wander about the world for a while” with the uncertain hope that he will find, far away in the future, a “happier life in the world beyond the stars.” And so it is in the end for Mark Beetleman—like that picnic table in the flood, his is a flawed, imperfect life and ‘some sort of normal’ is the best he can have and, probably, the best he deserves. He is a bug after all, but he is human too.

Brian T. W. Way

English scholar, writer, poet


A Poem For Nico

Welcome Nico


My Dear Nico:


My grandson, only hours old

in terms of terra firma, this

your human existence. Welcome

to this earthly plane.

Is it your pennants or your reward

that you landed here though

through thought and deed

that is for you to determine.

It was wise of you to pick

two loving mothers

that will dote over you,

love you like no one else

possibly could but maybe not

fulfil your every whim.


Nana Kim and I are still in Cuba

but already love you nonetheless

despite the salt wind distance of flailing

palm fronds and pushing waves

into frothing white caps .

One day I hope we will walk

these sandy wind swept shores

of Cuba with you and snooze

under swaying palm filtered sun.

For now you will have to be content

to be cooed at by mothers’ love,

gawked at by the many others

that swoon in your presence.


We look forward to meeting you soon.


Grandpa Tai



Chapter 26 – Therapy Excerpt – Thanksgiving

Therapy Excerpt – Thanksgiving

Mark sat week after week in the infamous green, wingback chair; comfortable but not so comfortable that one would be inclined to be totally relaxed. Dr. Waleed sat in an identical chair facing almost directly across from Mark. “I have told you about my mother and father, about Frank, my brothers, my wives but you have never asked about my old girlfriend Jan.” Mark rubbed the arms of the chair back and forth before he continued.


“Jan was just about the only gal that I was interested in for more than just sex. I had a strange conversation with her before we drifted apart. I don’t know if she was fishin’ for an ‘I Love You’ or what, but she looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Mark, have you actually ever really been in love before?’ I was a bit taken aback because we had never talked about love before and I am not sure that I wanted to. What is the point of talking about love? You are or you aren’t I figure but at any rate she pushed me for an answer.” Mark paused for a moment to let Dr. Waleed finish writing a note.


“Do you want to hear about this? I told her that my first wife, Rose, and I loved each other but we never actually said those three words. It started out as a bit of a game. Kind of like who’s going to hang up first when you’re dating and swooning over spending every minute with the person. She didn’t want to say it until I said it and I didn’t want to say it until she said it first because I knew she was playing this silent game of who speaks of love first. I think that I loved her. I wrote I L O V E Y O U ! ! one letter per square on the toilet paper one time and rolled it back onto the roll just to see if what her reaction would be. She never said anything. To this day I don’t know if she just wiped her beav with it and didn’t notice or what. How could she not notice bright red letters, big letters, one on each square? I wasn’t going to ask if she saw the letters or not so to this day I’ve got no idea. Maybe all she saw was E YOU.


“Even on our wedding night all I could say was ‘love yah’ and all she said was ‘right back at yah.’ It’s kind of like how I was raised. I don’t ever remember my mom or my dad saying ‘I love you,’ or even ‘love yah’ for that matter. They never said it to me or my brothers for that matter. I can hear my mom saying – ‘You don’t need to say such things with words. I say “I love you” every time I wash your underwear and cook your dinner. You think I do that because I hate you? Don’t be a bone head.’ I can remember her waving her spoon at me. ‘You don’t need smooshy words, you need actions.’


“I know I loved Ruthie, my third wife. She was a nice girl in a lot of ways even if she turned into a nagging bitch but I never told her either. That might be part of why she fucked all those guys behind my back, just to hear someone say, ‘I love you’.


“I was at my girlfriend, Jan’s parent’s place for a Thanksgiving dinner about a year ago. I never smelled anything like it before. The aroma of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and yams greeted Jan and me as we walked into the warm house. Like I’ve told you, Thanksgiving has never been my favorite time of the year but this was kind of special. Holidays in general have always been filled with some level of consternation almost all of my life except for when I was little and didn’t pay much attention to the fighting. I just can’t fathom the mythical harmony that apparently revolved around some dining room tables and post-dinner antics. Telling stories, laughing over spilled milk, playing charades until you had a side-splitting stitch was not part of my family experience. At the very most, my family would watch a football or hockey game with a case of beer, or three. The men would get drunk and argue until they fell asleep. The women would take one car and drive us kids home. The men would show up in the middle of the night, chauffeured by the least drunk of them all.


“Even though I was not all that eager to go, Jan, wanted me to finally meet the rest of her family. Jan and I had been seeing each other steady for five, almost six months and I had managed to avoid spending what she would call, family time, with her parents, brother and sister. We arrived early and no one else had shown up yet. Jan is so nice. She put her arm around me and gently dragged me into the kitchen to meet her mom. After an awkwardly stiff hug, a short but polite exchange, it was suggested that I hang out in the family room for a while. ‘I’m going to be with mom, helping in the kitchen.’


“Well that’s about the end of the story really. I mulled around the posh but friendly family room. I sat and bounced up and down testing out a large cushioned armchair. I had never sat in such a nice chair before. The house was pretty nice. I just kind of perused all of the original paintings. Some of them were pretty nice. It wasn’t till I was looking at all of the books that filled an expansive built-in wall cabinet that surrounded a large bay window that I knew Jan and I were not going to be together very much longer. She came from highbrow stock and I came from common people. It’s like she grew up drinking champagne and I grew up drinking cheap beer or wine out of a box.


“I stopped and studied the photographs that paraded the fireplace mantel. It was crazy, I was flooded with memories, though very different from the history beaming from the smiling faces that stared back at me through the silver and black lacquered frames. I realized right then that I had no pictures of my daughters even taped to my fridge. Smiling faces of my estranged daughters only make me depressed. The few family pictures that my family might have are concealed deep in dusty disorder at the bottom of a cupboard somewhere in my aunt’s, not so family, family room.”


Mark sat quiet for a moment and then repeated his words. “…not so family, family room.” Silence. “It is kind of strange to have a family room that is not all that friendly. I never really thought of it before but my family memories were more aptly linked to unscrewing the top from the third bottle of cheap wine, glugged by my father into mother’s chipped, coffee-stained mug. I started to think that maybe Jan and I wouldn’t even last another date. Unlike her group-hug-holiday-snapshots, memories in front of a glistening bronze turkey poised for carving, mine were of my father passing me a smoldering joint and telling me to take it into the other room to mommy.”


Mark contemplated his past for a moment, “My Thanksgiving memories were not of family bliss, jokes told around the dining room table, ‘pass the gravy’ and ‘more pumpkin pie anyone?’ My Thanksgiving memories were of shattered plates slipped from trembling, inebriated fingers, stacks of unwashed dishes and squabbles over who was going out for fish and chips and another box of wine from Joe’s wine shop beside the tattoo parlor. My memories were not framed in silver, tastefully placed on a mahogany mantel. Mine were framed in shame, guilt and fear, tucked away in the dark recesses of avoidance, glazed in anger.


“It’s strange Dr. Waleed but the longer I stayed at Jan’s parents’ place the weirder I felt. I pondered the photos, one after another and picked one up to bring it closer. By then I was just sad. It was of a kindly, wrinkled old lady, smiling through the dappled shadows of a white sunhat. She had gentle wide eyes, an arm full of tulips pressed to her chest. For me it was unfathomable that this was a real person and not an image clipped from a magazine.


“Just as I was looking at this nice photograph, Jan walked in the room and said, ‘That’s my Nanna. She’s the one that died about 10 weeks ago. I am sad that you didn’t get to meet her. She was such a darling. I miss her so much. I used to stay overnight at her house when I was a little girl.’ Jan took the photograph from me, smiled and placed it back precisely where it had come from.


“It made me sad to think that I had no photographs of the only grandmother that I knew. There may be some in a family photo album somewhere. I have no memories of what she looks like. I called my grandmother, ‘G’. G for grandma. She was kind but distant. She was firm, rather than friendly. She was my only grandmother.”


Mark stopped for a moment, shuffled in his chair as if uncomfortable, “I got ticked off at Jan when she offered me a glass of wine. I said, ‘Why would you offer me a glass of wine when you know that I don’t drink anymore?’, even though it wasn’t totally true but she didn’t know that I was still sneaking a drink time and again? And then she offered me a soda and for me to go in the kitchen with her if I wanted to peel potatoes or I could just turn on the TV and see if there was a game on. She reminded me that her dad would not get home from golf with Denis and Deb for an hour. I guess I was just feeling weird or something because I made some comment about me watching a stupid game and I didn’t play golf or something stupid like that.


“I just reached for the remote control, grabbed a cushion and stretched out on the long sofa bewildered by the mysteries of family bliss. I laid there for a while without the TV on wondering how different my life would have been if I had grown up in such a family with a sofa, uncluttered, untattered and the peace of mind to relax uninterrupted. What would my life be like if I was the one coming home from golf with a dad who cared? What would my life be like if I was the one to have a smiling, doting grandmother and a mother cooking a turkey?


Mark’s mind wondered into oblivion for a moment, “I stayed there alone thinking. I knew that in the long run, one can only blame your past so much for the pain of the present. I guess I was not willing to look at the past, the present or the future with Jan. I kind of screwed up and let her go.”

Some Sort of Normal, Chapter 25 – Coffee with Frank – Leonard Cohen and Donald Trump in the Same Sentence?

Chapter 25 – Coffee with Frank – Leonard Cohen and Donald Trump in the Same Sentence?

Mark and Frank sit in their favorite café for their weekly Saturday ritual coffee. Frank flails his newspaper in the air in front of him as he complains about the high price of gas. “For Pete sake I paid $2.26 a gallon yesterday and the price at the pumps is up almost twenty cents over night. Why do we have to pay more for our gas than the rest of the country? The paper says our USA national average is $2.10 a gallon. It’s just not fair. The price for everything is going up every time you turn around and they blame it all on the price of transportation. High gas prices means more expensive everything.”


As Mark goes to sit down he grabs at Frank’s paper that is still swirling in the air. “I just placed an order for our coffees. Sarah will bring them mover when they’re ready. Frank, you think that the price of gas is high now you should wait until Trump is sworn in and starts messing with the economy, then you will see high gas prices. I was reading a blog this morning that was comparing Trump with Hitler and that fuel prices skyrocketed when Hitler took power and then the German economy tanked. Oh man, don’t get me started.” Mark was already well into a diatribe that he wanted to avoid.


Mark grabs at Frank’s newspaper again and misses. “Frank, I’m not sure I am going to survive this current news cycle. It seems to me it’s so full of shit. Trump the devil incarnate elected president of the free world, versus the old man iconic of the music world, Cohen, the saint of Pop and Rock dies at 82. They are battling it out for attention in the media. I am already tired of hearing ‘So Long Marianne’ and I am sure tired of hearing what a misogynistic prick Trump is. Cohen was just as much of a womanizer as Trump but you don’t hear the media harping on that. You wouldn’t want to tarnish Saint Cohen’s reputation now that he is dead. I bet the sales of Cohen’s newest album ‘You Wanted it Darker’ are going through the roof. Why is it that everyone wants a piece of a dead guy? In Canada they worship him as a cultural icon even though they know in his early days he was as much of a womanizer as Trump.”


Frank swished his paper at Mark and says, “It sounds like you have quite a big bee in your bonnet, which side of the bed did you wake up on?”


Mark interrupted Frank with a quick reply. “Let me tell you what side of the bed I woke up on. I woke up on the, give Trump a chance, side of the bed. I know that Trump is probably a total misogynistic, redneck, s.o.b. the way the media paints him but surly he isn’t all bad. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t vote for him but I also didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton either. The entire country acts as if there are only two viable candidates running for president. I voted Libertarian again. Not because I thought that there was a chance in hell that Gary Johnson would be president but because we need an alternate voice shouting from the damn rafters to make sure the government doesn’t run rough-shot over the people. Fabulous, thank God our coffees are coming.”


Mark pushed their things out of the for the server and slapped his paper on the table and raised his voice, “The media is crazy. Do they really think they’re going to hang Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski and Donald Trump with the same rope. The media is crazy. It is like they are on a witch hunt. Next thing you know they are going to hang Lassie for sniffin’s some bitch’s ass end.”


Frank shakes his newspaper at Mark, “Oh man, Mark, you don’t have a bee in your bonnet you have a bee up your butt. You are starting to sound like Trump spouting half-truths that don’t make any sense. First of all I don’t know Cohen’s sexual proclivities or his past and neither do you but even if he was a womanizer it doesn’t mean that he was a misogynistic blow hard like Trump. You can tell that Trump is a woman hater just by how he talks about women in public. Cohen’s poems and songs were not at all about disrespect of women. You are just trying to paint them both with the same broad brush you have painted yourself with.”


Frank slowly leans forward. In a low harsh voice he reminds Mark about his not so distant past and his non-existent relationship with his oldest daughter, Rachel. “I hate to bring it up again Mark but you can’t compare Cohen’s womanizing past with Trump without looking in the mirror first.” Frank leans even closer to Mark. In an almost whispers he says, “You can’t do what you have done in your life and not have been, and I think you still are, a misogynistic prick. No doubt you have some good qualities and that is why I still hang around with you. believe it or not I think you are redeemable. You are a good person in many ways but you still objectify women and you still haven’t publicly apologized for your past deeds. Until you do you should keep your Trump and Cohen judgments to yourself.


“Every time you talk about Trump and Cohen and call them “Misogynistic” I can’t help but think about you bragging to me about you fucking this one or that one in your van and how many different sets of footprints you have on your van ceiling. At least Cohen went into monastery and became a monk for years. I bet he became a better person. You can bet there was a lot of reformation going on in those years.” Frank laughed out loud, “Maybe you should follow his example. Maybe you and Trump should join a monastery together you silly dweeb.



Poem – November 09, 2017, Morning Comes with Its Slanting Light

November 09, 2017, Morning Comes
with Its Slanting Light


We had our first frost of the season last night.

It dropped from a glorious +12oc to -11

within hours. It was the start of our journey past

the rising full moon, to black-armed

naked trees, rustling leaves in tall grey grass.

We are now past the first snowfall and have arrived

at the moment of now, waiting, watching

the drifting dull of winter that keeps on coming.

We hear the chattering ice-lined waves that never stop,

never stop on our journey to the now of forever

even in the slanting light of morning.


Thank you James Deahl for the title for this poem

from your line – Morning comes, its slanting light –

from your poem – The Jack Pine,

from your fine book – Red Haws to Light the Field

from Guernica Editions