Saturday, April 30, 2011


The pianist and I took our daughter the other day to see our plot where we will eventually be planted! I lay down in the section that we have chosen and it felt comfortable; a grassy knoll next to the Celtic cross in an acreage of rolling hills with a blue sky and scudding clouds above. My daughter took a nice picture of me in repose. I had asked the pianist earlier if she would consider sharing the same urn with me so our ashes could be mixed since I am such a codependent! She was adamantly opposed to that idea and stamped her foot. "I want to rest in peace." she said," I have lived with you for 54 years and shared the same bed but I want privacy for my ashes.My vow extended to have and to hold as long as we both shall live!" Well that was pretty clear. "What's more," she said, "Your ashes are likely to jump and turn repeatedly and snore a lot and that's not going to be restful in peace for me! I'll finally get to have a good sleep! " I rethought the matter and it is probably not practical anyway as the timing is everything in these matters. I'll have to be a big boy!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Received wisdom has always said that the New World provided Europe with potatoes, tomatoes. tobacco and syphilis. I wrote a treatise on syphilis as part of a graduate studies programme at UBC refuting the idea that syphilis originated in the New World. At the time I was taking an Archeology minor on the way to an Anatomy degree. Ancient Corinth, a coastal city, was from the evidence of excavations at the time, the major Mediterranean port into the heart of Europe. From excavations of the healing Temples of Asklepius, one of the more interesting findings were what were called the votive offerings. These were pottery replica of the anatomical part of the patient that the priests of Asklepius had healed.They were accompanied by testimonials and hung on the walls of the temple. The votives could be purchased off the shelf at an adjacent Stoa and given to the priests by the grateful, or if you were rich you could commission a custom made part by an artisan. Curiously enough, many of these replica were male genitalia. Problematic for the student in these matters was that the nature of the disease was not displayed in the replicas so the pathology was unclear. The Asklepians it seems, insisted that only disease free specimens were to be hung on the sacred walls. My treatise advanced the idea that the prevalence of genitalia was evidence of syphilis in the Old World since the primary chancre would ordinarily disappear in time and secondary syphilis, that would appear much later, would not be connected. Since archeologists don't know anything about syphilis this treatise was accepted. That was 1962 and I was 28. As wisdom gradually seeped into my being, connected with age, I now and have for some time realized it was impotence that the priests were curing! Adjacent to the healing temple was the Temple of Aphrodite. Aphrodite was the Goddess of Love and the patroness of prostitutes. Teamwork counts! No wonder St. Paul was so exercised at the Corinthians!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


When I was in grade 12 my mother wrote to her father and her twin sister about me. It wouldn't have been easy for her to write a letter like she did. She told them both that my marks were good and that I would be a good student at University. She asked them for financial help as she and my dad did not have the ability to help. My grandfather and my aunt responded with enough money to augment my summer earnings and the amount my family could provide. After the the first three years I was able to finish paying for my my medical degree classes more or less on my own. My mother was willing to risk her esteem for my sake! There was no other option for her. Later, in the same year that she wrote the letter, when I was still in Grade 12, I met my aunt in Winnipeg at a family gathering. She was a family doctor who practiced medicine and lived with a wealthy husband in Connecticut. I was glad to see her and take the opportunity to thank both her and my grandfather. When you live, as we did in a small town,and your dad is the station master, he may not make much money, but no one else in the town did either so you still are a family that rates. As my friend Ian says, "When we were growing up we didn't have much, but we didn't know there was much!" I felt poor for the first time in my life. We may have struggled, but in the society that was ours, we were never poor. Poverty is often relative!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eagle Trial

This morning looking out in the harbour at some distance I watched two monster wings flapping with what appeared to be desperation(my interpretation). At first it looked like a seal. On close inspection it was a mature eagle in the water trying to take off to no avail. The pianist and I watched for about 10 minutes as it intermittently flapped and struggled and got nowhere. I couldn't bear to watch any longer as I thought it was exhausting itself and soon would drown. The pianist thought the same thing and we went out to the car to leave the house. Suddenly she said " Look it took off." I looked back and it was gone. Then it hoved into view in a tight circle just in front of us, close to the water, flying easily with what looked like a big bird in its talons. Not a Bufflehead or a little duck, but probably a Merganser since there are a lot of them out there right now. The bird was almost too heavy for it to lift off since they are impaired because of the half wing swing they have at water surface. If the eagle can't lift off, they can drown as it is hard for them to detach from the prey due to claw locking. Makes you think doesn't it how easy it is to bite off more than you can chew? Can't move on, can't let go, nearly going under, seduced by the big prize. Little and often, little and often.