Happy Birthday Bruce, Lorrie, Isabel, Doady

Death as a Dinner Guest

Happy Birthday Bruce, Lorrie, Isabel, Doady

Happy Birthday Bruce, Lorrie, Isabel, Doady

Today was a good day. A long, tiring day that started far too early for someone who usually falls asleep between 4 and 6 in the morning, but it was still a good day.

And a bad day.

A bittersweet day.

Today was the family birthday party for all the people whose birthday is this month.

One of them is dead. Well, that’s how it starts.

He wasn’t, I don’t think, when they ordered the cake. Dead. And when we picked up the cake, there were no musical notes on it, which WOULD NOT STAND for VARIOUS REASONS and my aunt Dinny immediately called over the chief baker and had some musical notes piped on it as had been the plan all along because my aunt Dinny always goes to the top and gets results fast. The musical notes will be important later; this is foreshadowing.

But yes, my awesome, kind, funny, warm Uncle Bruce had been very unwell for a very long time, and had been in and out of the hospital recently. On his last day he was at home, and his wife was booked to help at a dance, and he wouldn’t hear of her staying home with him. He was good. Go.

So she went.

When she got back, they chatted about the night, she made some tea for them both, and before she could give it to him, he collapsed. It was all over.

In the same spirit, she wouldn’t hear of keeping his name off the cake. Bruce wouldn’t miss a party, particularly not a party where he’s the guest of honour! My family is one that takes party obligations very seriously; people practice for things like being the guest of honour, and making their initial “what I’ve been up to in the last six months” remarks.

Partying is serious business.

Partying is, in fact, the family business at Uncle Bruce and Aunt Donnie’s house, as well as their preferred activity: always an enthusiastic and talented musician, once he retired from his job as a genetic technician at the Experimental Farm, Bruce made music his full time gig. How good was he? Well, lots of Canadian people go to Ireland. How many get paid to go to Ireland to teach Celtic fiddling to the people who invented it?

That good.

And Donnie was always by his side, with a pot of tea and a sheaf of papers and often with a phone at her ear, running their road show with an efficiency that would be the envy of any nation’s chief executive even if it often looked like an octopus in a hurricane and felt like that to those suddenly caught up in it unprepared. And when they decorated the house for Christmas, you’d never seen more holly on more gilded fiddle ornaments. Joy and music and family with their four boys were where they lived, and South March was only the place where this glorious galaxy happened to intersect with Planet Earth.

So, in many ways including being named on the cake, Bruce was indeed at the party.

Cal was also at the party.

Cal liked my tee shirt: the one that says “Ain’t no party like a Gatsby party cuz a Gatsby party don’t stop until two people are dead and everyone is disenchanted with the Jazz Age as a whole.” In retrospect, I should not have worn that tee shirt.

Today is the first day Cal and I ever met; he’s married to a second cousin from a side of the family that my mother never spoke to, so we didn’t speak to them either. But Cal was charming and sat across from me at lunch, and he and his wife Gail gave me a birthday card with actual cash money in it (that’s how you know you’re still Kid Generation, even if you’re middle-aged) for my birthday, even though they’d never laid eyes on me before either, which was very nice of them. Cal had high cheekbones and bright blue eyes and excellent posture, and he was a sweet, low-key gentleman with a good sense of humour and was not in the least phased by the presence of my pinko politicking, purple-haired self as many gentlemen of A Certain Age are. We joked across the table about my shirt and all the hippies in BC and many other things besides, and listened to all the family stories, and stood up and sat down over and over for many, many family photos, and then it was time to go, so we all went.

Cal died on the way home from the party.

I expect that, wherever they are, Bruce is showing him around and introducing him to people, because that’s what Bruce would do, and since Martin Landau and George Romero died on the same day as Bruce, and Kenneth J. Lane died on the same day as Cal, they are probably having an amazing (and well-dressed) party right now.

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Sky Pilot: raincoaster?

cessna 182

cessna 182

Yes. You’d be surprised, but I’m actually a more accomplished aerobatic pilot than the guy bringing you in to La Guardia. And The Sister is twice as accomplished.

I’m stealing these and copy/pasting them from a Gawker post about junior pilots, racing around the world to beat the Guinness book and dying in the process. Enough.

Really.

Enough.

I was a child pilot and I don’t have any issue with teaching kids to fly, but when you add the competitive aspect, and the extreme range of conditions mentioned above, you have a recipe for disaster. These competition kids die. They DIE in disproportionate numbers. Because of a fucking deadline, because of ambitious parents, because they are pushed too far.

Rebel Rebel

Tell it to this guy.

GregorMendel

“I was a child pilot.” Do tell!

raincoaster

I think I’ve told it a few times before, but what the hell.

My dad was a natural-born aviator who could make clunky, run of the mill planes do anything he wanted. Unfortunately for him, he did not come from the class who sent their sons to university, so he was a Sergeant, not an officer. As a non-officer, he wasn’t allowed to be a pilot, although he would occasionally give flying lessons to those who were, and wanted to try something different.

Most every weekend he’d take us up in a rented Cessna, my sister and me, and do aerobatic manoeuvres these planes were never meant for. They’re good planes, though, and he was an excellent pilot, so it was fine. Eventually he taught us. My sister could do an eight point barrel roll by the time she turned ten. I wasn’t that good, and only managed a four.

But we didn’t compete, we never felt pushed, and if we’d rather have stayed on teh ground that would have been okay with my father. It would have saved him saying (as he did every time we landed) “Don’t tell your mother.”

GregorMendel
Absolutely wonderful! Thanks for sharing even though you’ve done it before. I had no idea you had such an adventurous childhood. Dang.

raincoaster

Thanks. Actually, till I became a teen and started comparing myself to my peers, I’d no idea what we’d been doing was cool at all. Since high school, the only place it’s been cool is here, in the Gawker comment section.

PS still jelly my sister was the better pilot. We both went on to completely unrelated careers, her to high-level academic administration, me to (spam alert) The Cryptosphere.

Ride for Dad: but give Dan the donation money!

Dan Sparling Ride for Dad

Dan Sparling Ride for Dad

This is my almost-brother-in-law, Dan Sparling, boyfriend to The Sister for lo, these 23 years, and many thanks are due him for taking her off our hands. He’s spending his weekend doing the Ride for Dad through scenic southern Ontario, raising funds to fight prostate cancer.

We raise funds through large scale one-day motorcycle, snowmobile, watercraft and ATV ride events and through ongoing public fundraising throughout the year. TELUS Ride For Dad events take place in multiple cities across Canada, representing every Canadian province. To learn more about a ride in your city, please click here

Since 2000, the TELUS Ride For Dad has donated more than 13 million dollars to the Prostate Cancer Fight Foundation, charitable number 85133 3179 RR0001, to support prostate cancer research and awareness in the communities where the funds were raised – we give where we ride! 

Dan’s already met his goal of $500, but if you’re feeling generous and like possibly saving the lives of any of the prostate-having men you know and are fond of, click through and kick him a few bucks. God knows, it’s hard work touring the scenic countryside on a motorcycle on a beautiful spring day. Eh?

So it sprinkled! They earned their money! NOW GIVE THEM SOME!

So it sprinkled! They earned their money! NOW GIVE THEM SOME!

 

Did I tell you the one about my Gramma, John Kerry, and Jack Daniels?

John Kerry only WISHES he had my Gramma's swag

John Kerry only WISHES he had my Gramma’s swag

That is not, contrary to appearances, a picture of my grandmother (known to all as “Gramma” and god help you if you didn’t call her that but tried something more formal, ooooh she wouldn’t be having any of that, now. But it certainly does appear to be a picture of Gramma, for verily it looks very much like her down to the too-short haircut, and I’m pretty sure she had that shirt as well. But that’s actually a picture of ‘Murrican mucky-muck John Kerry trying and failing to blend in at a dance ceremony in Bali.

That is most definitely NOT what my Gramma would have done.

At her eightieth birthday my Gramma got up on the table and danced to Patricia the Stripper, and if she’d been at this shindig with Kerry she’d have gotten those temple dancers to do the Dougie before you can say “Gramma, you’ll break a hip!”

Speaking of hips, my Gramma was pretty. Hip. Follow along!

I was over on Facebook the other day, having taken too many flu meds to do any decent work, and my friend Cassandra was in need of distraction (what is it with the #DramaSec these days? People deleting accounts left and right. Assange taking a family quarrel to Twitter in front of two million followers. Takedown notices, bogus and not, flying all over the digisphere. Enough already, the new moon is over!) so I told her the following story, for distraction purposes only. Do not operate heavy machinery under the influence of this story. Do not read if pregnant (because you have better things to do with your few remaining hours of freedom) or breastfeeding (because it’s really, really hard to handle a baby and a laptop at the same time and what if puke gets in the keyboard, eh? You’ll wish you’d listened to me then!).

Where was I?

Oh yes, on Facebook, telling Cassandra a story about Tennessee. You see, it’s considered quite exotic in Ottawa, where my Gramma lived. And here is the story about my Gramma‘s travels to exotic Tennessee just as I told it to Cassandra, for lo, I am very lazy and I just copy-pasted it.

Now, Gramma did not drink. In my family, this alone makes her somewhat legendary. But Gramma was not above knowing the value of an alcoholic comestible, or of taking advantage of that knowledge by running what amounted to an arbitrage on the celebratory beverage in question, by the simple means of purchasing it in one physical location and transporting it to another, where its selling price was higher. The ungenerous would call this “bootlegging,” and it has been the start of more than one great Canadian fortune.

Gramma would take bus tours of what she called “my old people”, ie they were like five years older than her, but not as lively, down to Tennessee and Missouri to do whatever it is old people do there. Tours. Watch the Osmonds. That sort of thing. And coming back she would get them all to smuggle bottles of Jack Daniels anywhere she could find a space. Under lumbago cushions. In big granny purses. In wig cases. Everywhere. Once, she struck gold because a guy had been in a cast from his waist down to his toes for a couple of months and his leg wasted away and she could fit four bottles in the space between his leg and the cast. When they got to the border, she would just yell at the border guard, “THESE ARE SENIORS, YOUNG LAD! THEY NEED TO GO HOME AND REST!” and never once were they searched. She gave the bottles as wedding and Christmas presents, and would supplement the punch at family parties with it, among other things.

I find, upon leafing through the ol’ raincoaster archives, that there is indeed an actual picture of my Gramma. At my cousin’s house. Legally blind. Shooting at a turkey from the deck, beside a stack of beer cases, with a tank of propane between the muzzle of the gun and the target.

You go, Gramma!

Bang Bang, my Gramma shot you down!

Bang Bang, my Gramma shot you down!

The Family Circle Jerk

The Family Circle Jerk

The Family Circle Jerk

The ultimate Don’t Dad. No wonder the kids turned to religion.