LONDON, ONTARIO – This week I delivered a paper for our first meeting in almost three years, entitled A Personal History of the Baconian Club in Four Obituaries.
A THIRTY-TWO month interruption in the proceedings of this rather unlikely club that I joined thirty-two years ago has been raising some existential questions and challenges in my mind. Like, why did I join this club in the first place?
LONDON, ONTARIO – All through the years of our life together – me a night owl and she an early riser, me usually working at home and she usually going out – it’s been unusual for my wife and I to sit down to breakfast or lunch together. But before we had kids and all through their growing up and in the years since they’ve moved out, we’ve always made a point of gathering for a properly observed dinner which either one of us will have made.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I don’t expect she remembered me from that sunny July afternoon in 1959 when my parents herded their four boys, all decked out in our Sunday best, onto the track-side loading dock of Canada Packers; a perfect royalty-viewing perch that our meat salesman father secured for us across from the old London Arena and not even two blocks west of the Canadian National Railway station. We waved to our yellow-dressed Queen (or was it pink?) and the Duke of Edinburgh who waved right back at us from their platform on the very last car of a train that was slowly pulling out of London en route to points west.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Read any account of a North American boomer’s awakening to the wonders of the 1960’s popular music scene and you’re going to find a reference to The Ed Sullivan Show. And I’ll touch on the giddy excitement of that transforming moment in musical history in a bit. But first of all let’s take a few minutes to consider what a wildly eccentric showcase that staid old variety program of Ed’s was . . . and the grounding it gave its viewers of all ages in all kinds of entertainment whether they wanted that wider purview or not.
LONDON, ONTARIO – I’ve been reading books (and knocking back films) by and about the Brontes for most of my life now. What follows is a montage of commentaries and snippets about this fascinating family that I’ve made along the way.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Seventeen year-old Nigel Mawson was drifting his way through an unrealized summer; struggling to find ways to pass the time in the ghost town that his daily life had become. He’d never experienced so barren a summer. Where had everybody gone? He was the only kid left at home as his older brothers had landed jobs as a groundskeeper and a busboy at the same Northern Ontario lodge. And all of his friends who mattered the most – no longer content to just hang out at the pool or devote entire weeks to Monopoly tournaments or loafing and spinning records – had shrewdly planned ahead to acquire semi-serious seasonal jobs.
A SLIGHTLY amended version of this essay – with more pictures! – was featured at Quillette on July 2, 2022 with the title The Opposite of Junk.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Though I didn’t plan it this way, I have long enjoyed a rather handy numerical symmetry in my life. Whenever a birthday comes along which is distinguished by a zero or a five for its second digit – as will happen later this month when I achieve the full Biblical allotment of seventy – then I know that come November and December, I will also be marking significant anniversaries for occupancy in this home (our fortieth) and marriage to my favourite human being (our forty-fifth). Two of our three babies were born in this house, and all of them were raised to an approximation of adulthood here and shared precious space with a succession of four superb dogs and one so-so cat. (Not Una’s fault. She couldn’t help it if her species is dull.)
LONDON, ONTARIO – I was sickened to learn yesterday about the on-stage attack on author Salman Rushdie by a knife-wielding Muslim hothead at the Chautaugua Institute in upstate New York where, ironically enough, the Bombay-born author had just begun a presentation in which he was going to talk “about the United States as a sanctuary for exiled authors and a home for freedom of expression.” It was estimated that he received more than a dozen stab wounds in the horrific assault. A medical report late in the day said he was expected to live even though he was hooked up to a ventilator, his liver was badly damaged and it was pretty well certain that he would lose an eye.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Knowing that I live in used bookshops (and never more so than in the week when we host David Warren on his annual book-buying safari to southwestern Ontario) one of our friends asked us last month to keep an eye out for a good un-woke dictionary of the English language she could buy. We zapped her along some details about a 1973 edition of the two-volume Shorter Oxford Dictionary which we found at Cardinal Books for thirty-five bucks. My own edition of the Shorter hails from 1993 and has never struck me as particularly woke but the ’73 would be an even safer bet.
LONDON, ONTARIO – When my son bought his first drum set at the age of fourteen and learned how to navigate his way around that kit with pretty impressive finesse, it set off a lot of memories of my own percussive explorations at that very same age. The day we set up his drums in the darkest corner of the basement, I tuned them and showed him some of the rudiments and it was a golden father/son moment. Epiphanies between the male generations can come with considerable time lags. It can be twenty or thirty years until the kid realizes, “So that’s what Dad was talking about.” This was one of those wonderful occasions when I was able to give him the key to some arcane body of knowledge at the very moment he was burning to learn it.
If you would like to contribute to the ongoing operations of Hermaneutics, there are now a few options available.
THE AQUINAS LECTURE
G.K. CHESTERTON AND THE GIFT OF GRATITUDE
ALL LIFE IS A GIFT :
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRADITION :