LONDON, ONTARIO – In addition to the beauty of their forms and the rich variety of their characters, no small part of the magnificence of dogs is the lessons they so effortlessly impart to us about the nature of reality itself. I’ve recently been thinking about two dogs from my youth and was suddenly struck by the book-ended lessons they inadvertently taught me about life and death and the way our world wags on.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Nearly 40 years into its existence, Museum London has wisely rejigged that never-optimally realized gallery space just north of the restaurant and down a flight of stairs that always felt like a dismal and under-attended adjunct to the rest of the building. There was a rather pointless reflecting pool down there when our spiffy new art gallery opened in 1980 but it was summarily sealed over when some poor blue-hair toppled into it at an opening. Thankfully, she didn’t sue, which seems to be a generational thing. Our ‘lady of the dunking’ didn’t come of age in a time as enlightened as our own when every witless mishap is routinely exploited for personal profit. But ever since her accidental baptism, that lower gallery has had the feeling of a poorly designed space that badly needed to be rethought.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Another round of predominantly gay clerical sex abuse scandals is roiling away in the Catholic universe. Three major detonations have set off this latest fusillade of clerical creepiness. All of them happen to be based in the United States but could have happened (and I fear will be happening) anywhere and everywhere in the world. The first was the suspension of the now-geriatric Cardinal Theodore McCarrick from any form of public ministry following allegations of decades of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians. As the former Archbishop of Washington, the formidably well-connected McCarrick was one of Pope Francis’ most trusted advisors and emissaries and an absolutely crackerjack fundraiser.
LONDON, ONTARIO – My first excursion off Canadian soil took place in my sixth or seventh summer when our parents packed up the four Goodden boys and took us down to Detroit to visit my mother’s Aunt Bea and her husband Ern. I remember certain moments from that trip with astonishing clarity; particularly two little side trips we made. One of these was to the Detroit Zoo which had an amazing reptile house where all kinds of slithery, cool-skinned creatures could be seen face to face with a sheet of thick glass intermediating the encounter.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Over the last couple decades, I’ve taken to reading the daily death notices in The London Free Press. It’s a hard habit to form any earlier in life and is less likely to take hold in people who haven’t lived in their community for a long time. You simply won’t know enough of the people whose ends are recorded there (usually, it must be admitted, in less than scintillating prose) to reward any but the most morbidly dry curiosity.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Matrimonially speaking, we live in bewildering times. On the one hand, we are asked – indeed hectored and not so subtly commanded – to not just regard as ‘marriageable’ pairs of human beings who 20 years ago would not have been regarded as biologically qualified for the position; but to approve of whatever sort of union they contractualize. On the other hand, a large proportion of young couples of all orientations don’t see the point of marriage at all and blithely forgo it altogether without censure or reprobation (except perhaps from their traditionalist elders whose concerns are of little account).
LONDON, ONTARIO – I first became aware of G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936) in my late 20s on a literary tip from my friend Jeff Cencich. “I think you’ll like this guy,” he said, dropping a copy of his Selected Essays on the counter of City Lights Book Shop where I was working as a clerk. As I identified with Chesterton so immediately and so strongly, I’m glad that introduction wasn’t made any sooner; that my character and literary proclivities were more or less established before he arrived on my scene. We’re both inclined to portliness, we both have walrus moustaches, we share a birthday, and we both enjoy the composition of humorous essays. The overlap between us (cue Twilight Zone music) was a little spooky. I admire the man tremendously but I’d hate to be accused of aping him
LONDON, ONTARIO – As Labour Day draws nigh, we sigh along with our deflating beach balls and dinghies at another summer’s passing and turn our gaze back to the work-a-day world we must now rejoin. Anything new on the horizon to distract our ennui at the same old routine? Well, any sort of vista is a little hard to make out with all those electoral signs cluttering every intersection and sprouting up on more and more front lawns. So yes, it would seem we’re having ourselves another municipal election on October 22nd.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I suspect I’m not the only person who walks by a house or apartment where I used to live and wishes there was some way to slip back inside for a few hours and see what kind of memories and associations come burbling up to the surface. But I don’t have the gall to knock on the door and ask a suspicious stranger if they’d mind terribly if I just barged into their personal space and mooched around for a while. But on an admittedly less personal level, I do get a somewhat similar sort of charge whenever I pay a visit to Eldon House.
LONDON, ONTARIO – As summer 2018 starts chugging its way through its final third, here’s a book tip for anyone looking for a worthy volume to take along to the cottage or the beach or your air-conditioned basement: White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd. It might help if you retain an abiding fondness for that most fertile and inventive of periods in popular music when – in the wake of a Beatles-led British Invasion of the entire English-speaking world – unprecedented numbers of young musicians, alone or in small groups, started making music in vital and ingenious new ways.
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