Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's That Smell?

I often hear the question, "What's that smell?"  Unfortunately, I have no answer. I lost my sense of smell in 1972 as a result of a bicycle accident.  Several weeks after the accident, I was putting on some perfume.  I couldn't smell it, so I put on more and more.  Then I thought, "Maybe it isn't the perfume that has no smell - maybe it's me."  I ran around the apartment sticking my nose into everything:  bleach, vinegar, shampoo - nothing, nothing, nothing.
Doctors told me this:  The inside of my head was travelling faster than the outside.  When I landed hard on the back of my head, the olfactory nerve was either stretched or severed.  The nerve was still in my brain, but had been disconnected. 
For my first few anosmic years, I had mysterious-smelling olfactory hallucinations. After sampling some boiled eggplant for the first time some months later, I recognized it as the taste of my hallucination.  Does that mean the inside of my brain tastes like eggplant?  Perhaps.  The hallucinations faded and my world has been odour-free ever since.
I went home to stay with my mother after getting out of the hospital, and accidentally put a dent in her car.  She said, "Oh sweetheart.  It's all right about the dent in the car.  It's the dents in your head I'm worried about."
People continue to stick things in my face and say, "You've got to smell this."  I say, "I have no sense of smell."  They say, "Oh, you'll smell this."  But I don't.
When I'm with people and a stinky thing enters the atmosphere, they say, "You're lucky you have no sense of smell."  I say, "Really?  You really think so?"
I say things like, "Does this food smell okay?"  I say that a lot.  "Has this milk gone off?" and "Crap, I burned the ...."  I've burned a lot of things over the years.
Bottom Line:  Wear a helmet.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How Cold Have You Been?

I spoke about the depths of winter in my August 15 quotation blog.  Summer is still here, but I'm thinking about winter and reading Paul Auster's inspiring memoir Winter Journal.

In Canada, conversations eventually roll around to coldest cold stories.  My friend David K spent this past winter in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.  On the winter solstice, 2011, it was minus 31 C, minus 44 with the windchill.  Dave reported days as low as minus 50.  The cold Arctic landscape is beautifully photographed and described in Dave's blog:

David went to the Arctic prepared for the cold.  People aren't always able to prepare.   Russia and Ukraine suffered a brutal cold spell in 2012 which killed 175 people.

77-year old Elisabeta Dumitrache, left, watches as firefighters dig her house out of the snow in the village of Carligul Mic, Romania, on Feb. 11, 2012, as heavy snow and freezing temperatures continued to blanket much of Europe.

I rarely mention my coldest cold story.  I don't like to compete ("You call that cold?  Let me tell you about cold.)  But I will tell it here.  A medical emergency brought me to a Vancouver Hospital in fall 1974.  I had lost a lot of blood and had to be given blood immediately so a procedure could be performed in the morning.  I'm the universal donor, not the universal recipient, but they had some O negative blood stored in the freezer.  They briefly defrosted the first bag and began transfusing it while the other bag thawed.

As it flowed into me, I felt colder and colder and colder.  They kept throwing more blankets on me, but I was cold from the inside out.  I was cold, but my life was saved!

That was 38 years ago.  I imagine emergency medicine has changed.

What's your coldest cold story? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Do We Love Quotations?

I love quotations, not all quotations, but the good useful ones.  I add them to the bottom of my emails as part of the signature file.  Here's one:

"Speak now, kiss now / Before the river freezes altogether."  - Troy Jollimore

If I read that all winter, it reminds me to speak and kiss.  Climate change might stop the river from freezing altogether, but there are still rivers of passion coursing within me.  I wouldn't want them to freeze, so I keep speaking and kissing.  Or this one:

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."  - Albert Camus

That one reminds me to be resilient.  You can tell from those quotes that I live in the north.

A lot of people also add quotations to their email.  We copy one another's.  My friend Sergio in Salvador, Brazil, translates quotations into Portuguese and copies them to the bottom of his email.  They look like this:

"A coragem é resistência ao medo, domínio do medo - não ausência do medo."
"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."  - Mark Twain

Quotations are both reminders for me and little messages to others.  They nod to the great writers and thinkers of past and present.  Lines from speeches, songs, and conversations are pulled out of context.  Lyrics are extracted from songs to sing to the immediate moment:

"You live your life as if it's real, a thousand kisses deep."  - Leonard Cohen

William Renauld wrote me that he loved my sig file quotations because "the quotes stretch a particular experience into a common, shared space."  Yes, they do that - move all readers towards a moment of communal thoughtfulness.  Here's one of my favourite quotations:

"We are all here for a single purpose:  to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.  We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or by failing.  All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class" - Rachel Naomi Remen

It's my birthday Thursday.  Please send me a question or a quotation.  I will use them in my speech.
Update:  Please take a look at   This website is written by Garson O'Toole who applies his enormous investigative skills to verifying the source of quotations.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Should My Boyfriend Move in with Me?

I love men.  I even live with one.  My answer below is in no way indicative of an anti-male bias.

I was recently asked this question by a female friend.  She's in her 30s and employed.    Rather than give her a direct answer, I asked value-clarifying questions so she could come to her own conclusions.   I will, however, give a direct answer here:

Should I let my boyfriend move into my apartment?
PROBABLY NOT - If it was a good idea, you wouldn't be asking Google this question.

You are asking the question because you fear that
  • he might not contribute to rent and utilities
  • he'll get more stoned or drink more often than you'd prefer
  • he'll make more work for you, not less
  • he won't do what he says he will do and then find a way to make it your fault
  • you have not introduced him to many of your friends
  • he doesn't like the friends he's met
  • he wakes up grouchy
  • he complains and whines
  • and you feel alone when you're together.
Moving in together tends to make any bad thing worse, not better.

If you go ahead and let him move in with you anyway, remember that you were 100% aware of all your doubts and fears going in.

When he moves in with you, it will deepen the intensity of your life (since you'll be angry all the time).  Don't mistake intensity for intimacy.

On the positive side, his presence will fill the emptiness within you and you can prolong having to face your life a while longer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Do We Have No Sympathy for Coyote?

While people often cheer on the perceived underdog, why is it no one ever roots for Wile E. Coyote?

The coyote makes us uncomfortable.  Like many of us, the coyote is the dupe of consumer culture.  His solutions are always technological.  He doesn't train for months so that he can catch the roadrunner.  He doesn't study or consult.  He goes to the the giant ACME OUTLET MALL and buys some piece-of-shit consumer item that promises more than it delivers.  A rope, a crane, a catapult, a trap -- whatever it is -- never works.  The bomb always blows up in Coyote's face.

Meanwhile, the roadrunner seems to be the ultimate carefree hippy zipping through the desert.  Beep Beep.  We discover, however, at the end (6'24") of Episode #23 ("To Beep or Not to Beep") that the technology bought by Wile E. Coyote to catch the roadrunner is built by the roadrunner's own manufacturing company.  Way to go roadrunner!

If only the guns sold to the coyotes of society would blow up those same coyotes before they do harm to others.   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are You Nursing a Grudge?

My friend, Dabuoy, has a blog called "What the F**K Is He Talking About?" (  He recently posted this poem which I find just a little scary.

I held a grudge today...

I held it gentle
as a baby
all the while

I held a grudge today...

I traced my love
upon its furrowed 
and giggled

I held a grudge today...

I nursed it
I burped it
I changed it
I learnt from it

I held a grudge today...

I taught it to hunt
I taught it to protect
I taught it respect
I taught it to love

I held a grudge today...

It called me 'MOM'