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10. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

May 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter 10

The awkward kiss ended abruptly. Both Milton Korn and Honey Freed realized what they were doing, at the same moment.

“Sorry,” said Honey. “I guess the smoke…”

“I know. It’s my fault,” said Milt. “Can we just forget it happened?”

“We can be more careful in the future,” said Honey.

“Of course,” said Milt. “Let’s take a break to clear our lungs, and our heads.”

“Good idea,” said Honey. She rose to go to the kitchen. “I’ll make fresh coffee, okay?”

“Perfect,” said Milt. “I’m gonna get some air on the terrace, okay?”

“I’ll bring the coffee out,” she said. Honey had solid ideas about her dream farm, because she’d been thinking about it, analysing it, and planning it for years. Milt, on the other hand, had run into the plan abruptly, and needed to catch up.

Milton Korn sat at the small table on Honey Freed’s terrace and gazed blindly at the array of buildings across the city. His mind was not there. His mind was sorting through the characteristics of his life, and how dramatically they had changed. He wondered why he had been so firmly redirected by his happenstance meeting with Honey Freed.

His mind did not dwell on the farm. Rather, he reviewed his brief acquaintanceship with Honey. Such unlikely commitments were not typical of Milt’s behaviour. Milt took his time with things, as he took his time with his paintings. The thought flashed in his mind for a millisecond that she might pose for him. He noticed her walk as she brought a tray with coffee and bagels. She swayed gracefully on long legs that brought her to the table, and Milt imagined that she’d be quite beautiful when nude.

Honey worried that the unexpected kiss might have changed the characteristics of the  partnership. They had never discussed the stimulation that might come from sharing close quarters in a remote location. They each thought about sex. Milt felt it would intrude into his life too much. Honey thought sex with Milt might be nice. Might be.

Too Damn Lucky

May 23, 2017 1 comment

The birth of a new person creates a considerable disturbance in the lives of the parent(s) and other people. Some newborns have the misfortune to be born into a dysfunctional family, or an impoverished family, or to a drug-addicted hooker. Those people come into society already in a deep hole, out of which they must climb. They must, to rise within their environment until they can escape it. It’s a forbidding quest.

Some people, myself for instance, are born into poor families that intend to not stay poor. We lived above a corner ‘smoke shop’, my parents, my grandparents, my uncle and me. I was surrounded with love and protection, and had no idea I was poor. I was comfortable and well fed.

My father was smart and ambitious, and by the time I was four, we lived in a lovely little house, outside of downtown. It had a front lawn, a back yard, a concrete driveway and a cute garage. My mother had roses growing up the sides of the garage, and a blossoming cherry tree in the middle of the yard.

My father had been partners with his brother in a small, downtown lunch counter. After a year or so, The Second World War came along. My father took a job in a scrap yard. After he learned the ropes, he bought a classy suit and a pickup truck. Mornings, he would put on the suit, look great, and go out to manufacturers to buy their scrap metal. At midday, he returned home, ate lunch, put on work coveralls, and returned with the pickup truck to fetch the metals he’d bought. He then sold the load at a profit, to an established scrap yard. Soon he had a scrap yard of his own, with cranes and trucks and railway sidings. Stuff was happening.

Then came a large home, cars for my father (Buick), my mother (Pontiac), and me (Corvette). Also, a lakefront cottage, and several boats. We had rowboats, speedboats, sailboats, and my father’s large cruiser. I don’t know how dad did it, but I was certainly a beneficiary.

After a while, he sold his scrap business and started a lumber business. He was a restless man, always seeking new, unlikely challenges. After the lumber business, he became founding president of a new department store chain. I didn’t benefit so much from that plateau, because I was grown up, out of the house, and getting my own life going.

All my life, I’ve been too damned lucky.

05. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

May 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter Five

 

Milton Korn had never had any interest in cars. He didn’t actually like to drive. On this occasion, with Honey Freed doing the driving, in an Alpha-Romeo Spyder, Milton began to feel in a unique mood.

The make of car meant nothing to Milton, but the beautiful design and the luxurious leather upholstery gave him a feeling. He had never felt any feeling from riding in a car, but on this occasion, he had feelings.

The top was down, and the wind noise made conversation uncomfortable, so Honey just drove, and Milton sat and thought. He began to think about Honey, and her car. He was comparing the character of the car with the character of the woman. If she is successful, and can choose any car she’d like, and she chose this example of understated elegance, perhaps she is not superficial or false.

The road was wide and smooth at first. When Honey took an exit off the Autoroute onto a two-lane, the surroundings became interesting. Broad fields of corn, hay, and soybeans lay like blankets across hundreds of acres on both sides of the road.

Before long, Honey turned off the secondary highway, onto a dusty dirt road. This road led them away from the open, cultivated fields. They drove through the cooling shade of huge Maple trees that lined the small road. As they emerged from the grove of hardwoods, Honey tuned up a long, dirt driveway that led up to the top of a large hill. Honey stopped there and got out of the car. Milton followed suit. They stood together and looked out over the grassy fields.

“Where’s the house?” said Milton.

“There is no house, yet,” said Honey. “I’m going to design and build my own, if I can ever get to own this place.” She pointed out various features of the land, and said that she wants her home to be on this hill, where they stood together.

“Do you want a partner?” said Milton.

“God, no!” said Honey. “I want to be free.”

“So do I,” said Milton. “This is a great spot. If you change your mind about sharing, I’ll put up the money and you could repay me your half.”

“Geeze, that’s a serious temptation,” said Honey Freed.  “I have to think about it.”

“I have to decide where I’ll go if  you decide to take this on alone, so please try to decide soonish,” said Milton Korn.

“Within a week, okay?” said Honey.

“Okay, thanks,” said Milton. He stood there and visualized  what it would be like to have a home and studio in this environment. He thought about buying this place out from under Honey. The acquaintances each had to make a hard decision.

Sugaring

May 1, 2017 Leave a comment

I was about 8 years old, sitting at my antiquated desk in the antiquated grammar school in my district of Toronto. This was about 1945, and John R. Wilcox School was living in the 1930s, but that’s another story. This story is about sugaring, the wonderful procedure of extracting sap from trees and making into one of the world’s wonderful, natural treats. I mention the school because that’s where I was when I opened a book and saw an illustration that stayed in my mind for decades. Actually, to this day, I can easily see that picture in my mind’s eye.

The illustration was of a family, ‘sugaring off’, as they refer to it. A large workhorse was harnessed to a sturdy wooden sled. A man sat on a bench at the front of the sled, and held the reigns to steady the horse. The sled bore a large, round, metal tub. People were gathering buckets from trees. The simple line-drawn illustration made a strong impression on me, although I have no idea why. I wished I could have that experience. I remember a time, many years ago, when I was at a New Year’s Eve house party in Paris. A gentleman approached me and asked if Maple Syrup is Canada’s national beverage. I explained that it comes from hardwood trees, and is used similarly to honey. They found it difficult to believe.

I had the sap to syrup experience, 40 years later. We owned a horse farm in the mountains, as a hobby. We had an agreement with a neighbouring farming family, wherein they could seed and harvest the open fields, and tap the Maple forest for sap. When the early spring weather was right, the sweet sap began to flow. Freezing cold nights and bright, warmer days bring the sap into its run.

I was happy to volunteer to help with the Maple harvest. I found myself in that drawing from many years ago. The smell of the horse, the steam from his nostrils, and the jingle of the chains and buckles on his tack set the background sound. Cheerful voices of the half dozen people expressed pleasure with the yield. It requires 40 liters of sap to make a single liter of syrup. The buckets hang on small spigots that are drilled into the trunks of healthy Maple trees. These are unique buckets with convex bottoms, so they cannot be used for other purposes because they will not stand up.

We picked up buckets, one at a time. Each was carried from the tree to the sled with the large tub on it. We poured our sweet sap, clear as water, into the tub. A cover on the tub had a hole wherein we poured the sap. Efforts are made to keep insects and leaf bits out of the sap. They could discolour it, so it couldn’t be made into the clearest, number one syrup. The buckets are also mostly covered with metal lids.

I was privileged to go to the sugar house that night, under a bright moon. I fed the pieces of firewood to the old man as he fed them to the fire. He was boiling the sweet, watery sap into sweet, flowing syrup. It was especially a privilege to be there, because I was able to watch the old man teach his sons and daughter how to do it right. He’d take a ladle of the hot liquid and hold it up to let the golden syrup pour in a long stream, back into the cooker. He’d eye the consistency and the colour, and advise the siblings on what to observe.

The adventure ended that night with two sweet things: I got to taste a spoonful of Maple syrup, hot, straight from the cooker. The second thing was the ride back down to the road from the sugar house in the hills. There was a bold, full moon in the black velvet sky. The path to the road was deep mud. I stood on a fitting of some kind on the rear of the tractor, between the huge rear wheels. Looking down, I could see the squished mud moving past, a few inches beneath my feet.

It had taken 4 decades, but I did, at last, live that drawing that had so captured my imagination. I believe, if you keep a vision in your mind, without aggressively doing anything to realize it, it will come to pass on its own. Take care not to hold negative images, because they, too, will be realized. Read Psycho Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. It worked for me

04. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

April 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter Four

Goldstein’s was a very popular delicatessen. He arrived a few minutes late and found himself in a line of a dozen people, waiting for tables. A few women were seated in the few chairs available. The rest of the people were either conversing, or were impatiently rocking from foot to foot, looking anxiously for a table that might be vacated. A waiter in a green apron reached through the crowd and asked Milton Korn to follow him.

Others in the waiting area looked at Milton suspiciously, some angrily. In a back corner of the restaurant, the waiter waved Milton toward a table where Honey Freed was sitting. The waiter left them with a pitcher of water, glasses, and menus before he departed.

“I was afraid you might not come,” Honey said. She slid out of the booth to greet Milton with a furtive, cheek-to-cheek semi-kiss. They sat down, facing each other across the table.

“Sorry,” Milton said. “I was waiting in line.”

“I thought you might, so I send Walter to fetch you in.” Walter the waiter approached the table with a carafe of coffee and two mugs. “I thought you’d like to start with coffee. I hope you do,” said Honey.

“Yes, coffee is fine. Thank you, Walter,” Milton said.

“You thank the waiter?” Honey said.

“He brought coffee. He brought me in to your table. I appreciate it,” said Milton.

“So, my interesting artist, where do you get the visions, the subjects that you paint so beautifully,” Honey said.

“Every person is programmed by the flow of their life,” said Milton. “I lived in a town as a privileged person. I didn’t like it. I want to be ‘regular’, and let my work be known ahead of me. My work is important, at least to me, and outside of my work, I am unimportant.”

“Do you live the life you desire?” said Honey.

“Does anyone?” said Milton. “If I had my choice, I’d live in a comfortable farmhouse in the middle of 100 acres. Green fencing around the perimeter, with a solid gate, locked against visitors. I’d have a remote camera and gate opener.

“Are you antisocial?” said Honey.

“People always disappoint me,” said Milton.

“Why are you here, then,” she said.

“I was restless at home. You’re good to look at, and you like my paintings,” Milton said.

“Is that all it takes?” said Honey.

“That’s all it takes to get me to share a table,” he said. “I hope you don’t disappoint me.”

“I grew up on a farm,” she said. “I’ve found a place I’d like to buy, but I just can’t manage the mortgage without a bigger down payment.”

“Where is it,” said Milton.

“It’s about an hour out of town, on a small, dirt, farm road near Vantage Bay,” Honey said. “Do you want to see it?”

“What? Now?” Milton said.

“Why not?” said Honey. “Do you have something that you have to do this afternoon?”

“Okay, let’s go,” said Milton. Honey led him to her car, an Alpha Romeo Spyder.

I’d Prefer to be a Seagull

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I used to stand out at the end of the pier in front of our cottage at Thunder Beach, on Georgian Bay. I’d stand with the wind at my back, so the seagulls could hover in front of me with the wind beneath their wings, so to speak. They’d line up in tiers, five or six levels high, dozens of wings gleaming in the summer sun.

I’d toss bits of bread up in the air to them. One golden beak after another would snap my gift out of the air and zoom off, while the next gull filled the space. It was a wonderful feeling, standing less than 3 feet from a soaring cloud of gorgeous birds.

They weren’t always soaring; sometimes they were walking on the beach. Waddling, actually, and picking up tiny edibles from time to time. Sometimes they were floating, comfortably bobbing over the waves. At will, they would rise from the surface and gracefully power themselves to… anywhere they want. They can literally go anywhere in the world. They can fly on a breeze, and if they’re tired they can sit on the water. If they want to avoid a storm, they can walk under a tree. If they’re hungry, they are capable of either scavenging or hunting. So, I’d Prefer to be a Seagull.

I’m a seagull on a weekend, walking along the beach at the foot of Toronto. Not only is this a lovely place, where people can stroll together on the boardwalk, but also, a law protects us seagulls. People can go to jail for hassling us. Cool, eh?

There’s a lot to eat along the boardwalk. People drop pieces of hot-dog bun, or a kid drops an ice-cream cone, and there we are, earning our keep. We pick up and consume the dropped things of others. When we’ve had enough, or some kids bother us, we just glide out to sit on the cool waters of Lake Ontario. The water’s clean, with things for us gulls to hunt, as well as scavenge.

The only thing wrong with the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood, which is gorgeous, by the way, is that winter comes to Toronto. It’s not serious, like Montreal or Buffalo, but it’s winter, and Lake Ontario freezes in places. I’d rather not stay by the city and live uncomfortably, even though there’s plenty to eat, even in winter.

I spread my broad, beautiful wings and lift off. I could go to Spain, or Australia, or anywhere. It’s no problem for me, the seagull. I can stop anytime, anyplace, to rest or eat. I think I’ll glide over to Malta for a few months. I’ll be “The Maltese Seagull.” Take care of yourself.

Always in the Wrong Flock

March 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I came from an upper-middle class family. Sufficiently ‘upper’ to belong to a top country club, an exclusive yacht club, and to have a fine city home and a fine summer home on a lake. The catch is; I hated it. I liked having a speedboat, a sports car and a free credit card; after all, I was a teenager. At the same time, I hated the kind of people among whom I lived. I hated the country club ways, and the people that gathered there. If you’ve seen ‘Goodbye Columbus’, you get a look at what it was like. It wasn’t for me.

I like simple people. Honest people with car payments and rent problems like average people. So I lived among simple, hard-working people. I became a simple, hard-working person. I worked in a wholesale fabric warehouse, assistant to the shipper. But I was always separate. Most of those people are devoted Christians. I’m a devoted Atheist. I speak in a more accurate way than my neighbours, and it’s obvious to them. I know some things about art, theatre, and music. They know country music, agriculture and animal husbandry. The people in my area tapped the trees and boiled sap into maple syrup. I helped neighbours with that, just for the love of the experience.

After a few years, I had some friends in the area, but still at arm’s length. I dated women I met on the Internet, so I could seek some that were from a somewhat similar background to mine. They were just small social events among people who wanted to spend less time alone. I believe some of the women would like to have formed relationships with me. To avoid misunderstanding, I always made it clear that my intent was to enjoy with her, some dinners, some movies or concerts, some picnics and goodnight. Each always agreed that it was simply keeping company. These women were usually up to twenty years younger than I was, and a relationship wouldn’t work.

I felt fed up with being semi-accepted in my community and in my private life. I decided to change up, although I’m not sure that the wealthy community is up and not down. Especially during the era of Trump. In any case, I sold out and took my talents into advertising. I used my art and writing commercially. I also created and wrote a television series. I was soon able to buy my way into the pinnacle class of Private Clubs. The average member family had at least a billion dollars. I wore the right suits, I spoke the right words and dated the right ladies. Still, I was again on the fringe.

It was the reverse of the simple, hard-working people. These people never worked. They only lived high and wasted excessively on grandpa’s efforts and innovation. They collected art by price more than quality. They supported operas but rarely attended. Their children were ghastly and destined to replicate their decadent parents. I didn’t fit in. I couldn’t stand them.

Finally, I realized that I’m deeply antisocial, and all of these different levels of society don’t fit me, nor I them. I took a job as a lighthouse keeper. Now I sit out there on that rock, the sea around me leaping and dancing, while I make lunch. Sometimes I paint pictures. Sometimes I watch seabirds, plunging and rising with their struggling prey held tightly in their sharp beaks. I have my dog. He and I have an excellent, calming relationship, and all is well in the lighthouse. My flock is me and my dog.