Thursday Tidbits

Posted on April 26, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments


Mt. Douglas, Victoria, B.C.

(Peter MacDonald photo)


“Go rest high on that mountain,

Son your work on earth is done.”

Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill

So much sadness. I hate to start off my post with bad news but sometimes there just seems to be so much death on our doorstep. It started with the horrific bus crash in Saskatchewan, leading to the deaths of so many young lives, followed by the senseless killing of innocent pedestrians in downtown Toronto.

And now, in the space of a few days, death has stolen of few of our own. I went to school with Heather MacVicar. She was one of the Brookland Street MacVicars. I don’t think I have seen her since we passed through the doors of the old AHS in 1970. She was looking forward to attending a 50th class reunion in 2020. Heather died a few days ago. Life can be so cruel and unforgiving.

I didn’t know Barbie (MacMillan) Whalen growing up. She was Wally and Mary’s daughter. She spent a lot of her life in California and lived the last two years of her life in Antigonish surrounded by her compassionate and caring family. I met her at the RK. She was my mom’s roommate for a few days before being moved. Her health deteriorated but she never lost her sense of humour. I would drop in from time to time to sing a few tunes and tease her. She lobbed a few good one liners right back at me.

Life is so quick, fleeting and fragile. It can be cruel and unforgiving.

I’m back on Canadian soil. I had a wonderful time in Arizona and was treated royally by my hosts, Lisa and Dudley. We walked, we ate, we hiked and shared lots of laughs. I enjoyed hanging out with their five pets while they attended a funeral in Vancouver. The weather was spectacular. I am told that when summer comes, people rarely spend much time outdoors at the temperature can soar to 120.

As much as I travel, there is something very comforting when I arrive back in Canada. Somehow, Canadian Customs doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating as other countries. After the fiasco in India last year, I renewed my Canadian passport for 10 years so I won’t have to worry about this expiring any time soon. I hope to live long enough to renew it for another 10!

A Nexus card is worth every penny if you do any amount of traveling.

I had barely touched down in Victoria when my brother Tom pushed me out the door for a walk. He tells me that this was by far the nicest day of the spring. I must have taken some sunshine with me from Arizona. Victoria is such a beautiful city especially at this time of the year. The flowers are in bloom and the lawns are lush and green. Despite all the walking I did in Phoenix, I was a bit ragged by the end of our jaunt. The two of us plus Tom’s dog, Oslo, logged 12 kilometres in 25 degree heat and quite a bit of the walk was hilly.

Quick. Fleeting. Fragile. If you’re going to do stuff, do it now. Don’t procrastinate. What are you waiting for?

Have a great weekend.


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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on April 23, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Downtown Scottsdale


And just like that, two weeks in the desert sun have evaporated. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m really busy and engaged or inactive and slothful; the relentless ticking of my life’s clock still amazes me. But time is about the only thing that evaporates around here. Every day, I take a peek at the weather early in the morning and it’s always the same: sunny with a 0% chance of rain. But this should not be surprising as Phoenix is situated in the Sonoran desert, otherwise known as “The Valley of the Sun.”

One interesting feature of the Phoenix area that I have never seen before is something called a “wash.” Washes look like dried up river beds but they are filled with all manner of vegetation. Many of these washes are actually artificially irrigated to keep plant life alive. Washes concentrate water and nutrients from a large area and serve as dispersal corridors for plants and animals.

It is hard to imagine how people decided to set down roots in the middle of a desert. But it is not hard to imagine how this has affected nature’s delicate balance. A recent New York Times story spoke about the looming water crisis in the Phoenix area as expansion continues relentlessly. I still believe that water is going to be the next battleground between our countries as the U.S. tries to slake its unquenchable thirst. And, if you believe in climate change (the proliferation of wild fires et al) the water problems will continue to escalate.

I’m staying with friends who live in a fairly new development in the north east part of the city. Like the rest of the area, it was carved out of the desert. You can walk 10 minutes from where I’m staying and be standing smack in the middle of the desert. Mother Nature has noticed this. It is not uncommon to encounter snakes, scorpions and coyotes in the wash areas. In order to get the dogs out to a nearby park for their morning “constitutional”, one has to walk through a wash area… something that the locals do all the time as they are sometimes connectors of streets.

I have yet to encounter a snake or a scorpion but coyote sightings are commonplace. I saw one the other evening at the end of my walk not 100 yards from my house and Friday evening past, I was out walking Daisy when another couple coming from the opposite direction warned me of three coyotes in the wash a few feet away. My hosts told me early on that these coyotes will not bother you and are frightened of humans. I have yet to test this theory.

I have gone to Scottsdale a few times as it forms part of Greater Phoenix and is only a 30 minute drive from my house. Scottsdale is driven by tourism and is a well-known golf destination. The first time I went there with my hostess, Lisa. She was doing a bit of shopping at Nordstrom’s. My aversion to shopping is well known by regular readers. Luckily, Nordstrom’s realizes that having a place for non-shoppers to sit is good for business. I chose the women’s shoe section which was a few feet away from one of the entrances, in case I started having heart palpitations. I wasn’t the only man sitting there, btw.

I was to discover later that this wasn’t just any shoe section. This store is massive and there were other locations in the store to buy footwear. I found it odd that there were six nattily attired sales people serving customers in this one small corner of the store. That was until Lisa informed me later at a coffee shop that shoes in this section start at $600 US. It was fascinating to watch the go ahead as the mostly male staff served this obviously high end female clientele. I doubt that I have spent $600 in footwear in the past five years since I stopped buying expensive sneakers for running.

Because tourism is everything in Scottsdale, I was not surprised to learn that parking throughout the city is free. This includes parking garages. I think I could easily live in Scottsdale but I’m afraid I’d have to go barefoot!

I’ll be heading north and west on Wednesday as I make my way to Victoria, my favourite city in Canada.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Please turn the heat up when I return in early May!

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on April 19, 2018 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Sedona, Arizona


“But it’s alright now; I learned my lesson well,

You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself”

Garden Party. Ricky Nelson

It’s so true. Not everything we do in the run of a day is met with universal praise.

My piece on baptism which ran on Tuesday was one the most read stories that I’ve posted in quite some time. Maybe it was the picture of the baptismal font with the stained glass in the background that caught your eye. Whatever it was, most of you liked it. Writing about religion of any sort is tempting fate. It remains an important part in the lives of millions of people throughout the world.

Writing about growing up Catholic is a tricky proposition in our part of the world. There have been good times and times we’d rather forget. A few of you took exception to me taking a light hearted approach to the sacrament of baptism. As I have said many, many times over the past six years, my posts are intended to entertain and give people an opportunity to smile in a world that seems so fragile and agitated. Maybe religion is too sacred a topic to treat lightly. Weigh in!

I was so pleased to hear that a few women have decided to join the local chapter of 100 Women Who Care after reading my post on Monday. Don’t know what this is? Check this out from Monday’s post.

Arizona is as advertised… hot and dry. I’m not going to rub it in, especially in light of the destructive weather that I’ve been witnessing in Central and Eastern Canada. For the next four days, I’m animal sitting for my hosts who are away on family matters. I am looking after three small dogs and two cats. One of the dogs, Daisy, a kooikerhondje, loves to walk. We do a couple of walks daily totaling around 15K.

I have heard a lot about the small town of Sedona, Arizona and yesterday, after feeding and walking the pets, I jumped in the van and drove a few hours north to Flagstaff and then down to Sedona. My guess is that many of you have been there. Driving through the desert, it is hard to imagine how this land became inhabited, being so arid and desolate. I got a kick out of some of the names along the way: Bloody Basin and Horsethief.

The road from Flagstaff to Sedona is quite stunning with high mountains on either side of the road amid groves of pine trees. How did they ever construct this road? It descends over 20 miles or so with some of the tightest switchbacks I’ve ever seen. Sedona is visually stunning with red sandstone mountains. Apparently this area was once an inland sea with high iron content. The iron oxidized giving the mountains their reddish hue. It’s a bit of a tourist trap.

Because my time was limited, I took a one hour trolley tour which went outside the town to some of the famous vistas. The highlight was the tour guide. If he was a Californian, he would be a surfer dude but this guy lives to hike. When he’s not chatting up tourists, he’s somewhere in the mountains. He claims to have seen just about every kind of wildlife including bears, bobcats, mountain lions and rattle snakes. His worst encounter? One day he was walking along a popular trail when he met a young girl walking with her Chihuahua. As he bent to pet the dog, it snapped at his feet causing him to recoil and take a few step backwards… right into a cactus plant. It took him three days to remove the thorny splinters from his butt.

In a week’s time, I’ll be flying up to Victoria to spend some time with Pete and brother Tom.

Some of you have asked about my India book. I am spending a fair bit of time in Arizona doing some editing. It’s coming along well and should be ready to go in the late fall.

Have a great weekend

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