Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 29, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Covid Crazy

 

“Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you,

If you’re young at heart,

For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind,

If you’re young at heart.”

Young at Heart (as sung by Frank Sinatra)

Oldies for oldies.

That’s not quite how it’s advertised on Sirius XM radio, but I will claim copyrights on the title. One of the great joys of spending this year in a colleague’s home while she’s away on sabbatical is having access to satellite radio. I miss having cable TV, but it is a small price to pay when I get to listen to wonderful music on demand, across many genres. I start every day listening to Symphony Hall. I believe it is an important component of my own self-care, to start each day in a calm state… before all hell breaks loose at school!

When I get home from school, my music tastes can go all the way from rock and roll, to folk, to gospel and everything in between. Lately, I stumbled upon a channel devoted almost exclusively to the music of Frank Sinatra. Now there are some who might question his sketchy dealings with some nefarious folks, but the man could sing. The Frank Sinatra channel also features other singers from that era. Two of my absolute favourites were, and still are, Perry Como and Johnny Mathis. Their voices were woven in silk. I chuckled to myself the other day when one of these artists was performing the old Fats Waller tune “Ain’t Misbehaving”. It’s rather hard to misbehave in the north when all you want to do after a day at school is sleep!

But, back to young at heart. I’m guessing that if you polled 1,000 senior citizens, 999 of them would say the same thing. “I don’t feel my age”. Of course, when they say this, they are talking about their mental outlook. Those same 999 would also be quick to point out that physically they feel closer to 100 on many days. What is it about our brains that makes us feel “young at heart” even when reality tells us differently?

In some ways, I think I am doing a version of Benjamin Buttons, in regards to my work career. Most of us eased into the workforce in our early teens doing easy work like delivering newspapers, babysitting, cutting lawns, pumping gas, or shovelling people’s driveways in the winter. In our 20s, we began our work careers in earnest and from 30-60, we were going full throttle. Entering our 60s, we started gearing down and then finally retired. Then why in the hell am I working harder than I could ever have imagined at the age of 70? Part of it is fate and part of it is that I feel young at heart.

Covid crazies.

I have all but stopped consuming Covid news. The only thing I look at daily are the Covid numbers in Nunavik. At the present time, we have no Covid cases in our village which is rather remarkable when the vaccination rate is still hovering around 35%. I still find it a bit bizarre watching 6-year-old students getting off the bus every morning fully masked. Everyone in the school with the exception of kindergarten children must wear masks all day except when they’re eating or drinking. Speaking of the youngsters, I have been asked to set up a Covid vaccination room in the school as the health authority rolls out vaccine to the 5-11 year old cohort.

I left school last Friday and ripped off my mask. It must be akin to a woman tearing off her bra. My relief was short lived as a few minutes later, I stopped at one of our two grocery stores to pick up some snacks. The mask went back on. I rarely buy junk food. As I have mentioned before, much of the healthy food is subsidized by the government making it possible to eat fresh fruit and vegetables at prices very similar to the south. I planned on visiting friends after supper and didn’t want to go empty handed, so I picked up two, 235g bags of potato chips and a jar of peanuts. The total came to $28.90. Luckily my CPP cheque paid for this larceny. Honestly, I have stopped caring about the price of things in the grocery store. The things I consume most of the time are very reasonably priced so that when I treat myself, I don’t blink when I see the price. An EKG might show otherwise.

I left the store fully masked and drove home. Yes, drove. Shocking at this may sound to those of you who know me as an avid walker, but after an exhausting week at school, taking one of the school trucks home is more dignified than crawling. I kicked off my boots, threw my backpack on the floor, turned up the thermostat… and exhaled. After about 10 minutes, something didn’t feel quite right. It was 4:10 and pitch dark but that wasn’t it. I flicked on the radio. Johnny Mathis was singing “Chances Are”, one of my favorites. https://youtu.be/NEH3uqbpsm8 Slap on some headphones and give it a listen. It might bring back memories of falling in love. “Shit, Len. Keep your focus”.

It was only when I went into my bedroom to get out of my work clothes that I realized I had been wearing my mask around the house. Oh dear, it has come to this.

“Chances are…” I’ve gone Covid crazy!

Have a great week.

December lurks in the shadows.

P.S. I’ll be back in Nova Scotia in 18 days and three hours but who’s counting!

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 25, 2021 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

Country Food

 

“Food, glorious food,

Don’t care what it looks like.”

Food, Glorious Food – From “Oliver”

I love Sundays.

I was fully retired for nearly five years before I became unretired. Is that even a real word? It is now. Like most retirees, the weekends had just become other day of the week. Time kind of lost its meaning. No longer did hump day (Wednesday) cause my heart to quicken or was Friday as eagerly as anticipated as Christmas. When I was a working stiff, Saturday and Sunday just felt different. Saturday usually meant running around doing chores, going to the Farmer’s Market, going for an outing with the family and finishing of the day (in winter) catching a hockey game. Sunday was a day to gear down. Go to mass. Go for a walk. Watch some sports and begin dreading that Monday was but a few hours away.

In the fall of 2019, I resumed my working career and my mind easily slid back into its usual patterns. The weekends became cherished again.

This past Sunday, I was in serious chill mode. No. It wasn’t -40. I eased into the day sitting in my lounge chair with a coffee listening to Symphony Hall on Sirius radio. I did a load of laundry and watched an excellent movie called The Necessities of Life. (For rent or purchase on Youtube): https://youtu.be/lam3rtJ4UiY) . It is about TB back in the 50s, the story of an Inuit man forced to leave his home in the arctic to go to a sanitarium in Quebec City.

It was late morning and I was starting to think about a Sunday walk. There’s a group of teachers who routinely go walking, hiking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing on Sunday. My phone pinged and it was a message from my good friend Mary Arngak. “I’m inviting you for lunch at my house. We are going to have ammiruq – beluga tail and blubber that my husband and son harvested. For you to watch and learn. It is a tradition for the women to take part in the amirruq. For men there will be other food too.”

Never one to pass up a free meal and learn at the same time, I quickly agreed.

I was given a warm welcome by Mary and several members of her extended family. The youngest attendee was 11 months old and a few of us north of 70. Everyone was sitting on the floor as is the custom. There were two exceptions. I assured Mary that if I got down on the floor, I might not be able to get back up (Bad back, bruised ribs, weak mind…). The other was Mary’s husband, Lucasi who opted for a chair. On a long piece of cardboard, a large array of country food was laid out. Very often, fish and meat are frozen. The Inuit use an ulu, a very sharp, curved tool to cut up the food. I was told the reason for sitting on the floor had to do with physics. It is much easier cutting up frozen food when one is able to exert the full force of their body in the cutting action.

As we ate, the air was filled with conversation, much of which I didn’t understand but Mary (my teacher!) translated as we went along. I learned that two of the elders were brought up on the land. One was a summer baby, born in a tent while the other was born in the middle of winter in an igloo. I heard stories of forced relocation. Lucasi regaled me with hunting stories. I was fascinated to hear the process required to hunt the massive bowhead whale. All the while, we ate. I tried a bit of everything including small bites of frozen arctic char, inaluaq (sausage stuffed with beluga), and nikkuk (dried beluga meat). I think they made an exception and let me try the beluga tail and fin! As the meal was winding down, I made the fatal mistake of asking Mary if she ate the eyes of the char (like the eyes of the ptarmagin I had consumed last spring). Before I had a chance to reconsider my question, Mary presented me with iji, the eye of the char. Lucasi chirped in that the Inuit also love to eat raw seal liver just after it has been shot. The meal was finished off with coffee and Bannock.

There weren’t a lot of scraps leftover. I have discovered that nothing is wasted when it comes to the harvesting of animals and fish in the north. It seems that every part of the animal has a purpose and even the bones are kept to use for games. The few remaining pieces of the beluga were shared with the ravens.

Everything is shared. Nothing is wasted. The family already shared some of the beluga with community members as is the custom and they plan to send some to relatives in other communities.

We retired to the living room. Mary produced a guitar and a ukulele. Mary and the women sang some traditional songs. I sang a few of my own and we collaborated on a few spiritual songs. I would sing in English, and they would follow up in Inuktitut. It was the perfect ending to a lovely afternoon.

Later that day, I posted a few photos. Some people in the south often cringe when I tell them that I have eaten raw fish and meat and other body parts that seem to make people feel very squeamish, but the Inuit have been living and eating off the land and sea for centuries. I like to try new things and I have found, without fail, that there is nothing offensive or gross about eating animal parts not normally found in a southern grocery store, neatly packaged and processed to the hilt. I think if most people went to a hot dog or sausage factory, they would quickly change their tune.

I was very honoured to be invited to Mary and Lucasi’s home.

My education continues.

Have a great weekend.

 

Cutting the beluga fin with an ulu

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 22, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Frigid Air Appliances

 

“I am not a crook.”

President Richard M. Nixon

“I am not a scrooge.”

Len MacDonald

By the time you finish reading this piece, many of my new readers will be convinced that I have the worst traits of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch. My long-suffering readers know that just about every year for the past 10 years, I have posted something similar at this time of the year… the lead up to Christmas. Actually, it occurred to me to take the easy way out and just recycle one of my old posts, but I was too lazy to go and search for it.

I don’t hate Christmas. There are aspects I love like travelling in jam packed airports during the festive season or going grocery shopping on Christmas Eve Day.  Seriously, I do love spending time with the family during the holiday season. Luckily, we have special events like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving which give us a reason to get together otherwise we might remain in our caves all the time. Having missed last Christmas because of Covid, I am anxious to be home this year.

The last poppy has barely been lain at the cenotaph to honour those who died in wars when some well-intentioned person (with the IQ of an aging gerbil) will ask you, “Are you ready for Christmas?” Shortly thereafter, you will be treated (?) to the first of 450,000 renderings of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”. I’m sure Mariah is a lovely person. Does she have a song about the Easter bunny? I just wish there was some way of celebrating Christmas without the hype. (You can address your comments to Grumpy Old Man”)

Look, I’m all for peace and joy but just without the nauseating commercialism. I am not insensitive to the needs of small businesses who rely on Christmas sales to survive but that is a rather sad commentary on the current business model. This Christmas, in particular, will likely be make or break time for many enterprises after the devastating effects of Covid. I wish them well.

Shop local.

Luckily in the north, I am immune from all the pre-Christmas hype. By the time I get home for Christmas, I might even welcome Mariah Carey and The Little Drummer Boy.

I’m not one of those trash talking kind of guys but today is an exception. No, I am not going to boast about my prowess at reorganizing closets or one of my legendary long walks. So far, my work at the school has been more or less what was described in my contract. I am doing administrative work and some teaching. Nowhere in the job description did it mention anything about ‘dump diving’. No, that’s not a typo. We don’t have dumpsters in Kangiqsujuaq.

Our large school yard is dotted with large storage containers. These come in by ship a few times a year. They contain everything related to the school. There are maintenance and janitorial supplies, school supplies like desks, chairs, bookcases, photocopiers etc and furniture for teacher’s houses. They also become storage units for obsolete equipment like old washers, dryers, and fridges which will eventually be shipped down south and recycled.

A large shipment of school furniture and household items arrived this fall. My job was to go through the containers, check the packing slips, review the order forms and then tag items for our maintenance guys to deliver. Several teachers ordered items for their apartments including new stoves. Actually, before I left last year, I had indicated that my apartment needed a new stove as it always ran 75 degrees too hot. I enlisted the support of a colleague (ER was amazing. Thank you again) to assist me with labelling these items. We spotted a few stoves and immediately tagged one for my old apartment.

On the day that the stove was delivered, the new tenant contacted me to tell me that there were no oven racks. This, I found odd until it dawned on me that the container with new fridges and stoves also contained older, used appliances. She had received a “gently used” stove from our kitchen program. That did not explain the missing oven racks. When I told our principal early the next morning about the conundrum, she immediately dispatched me to the dump. “You need to find the old stove that the maintenance guys took to the dump yesterday. Grab the racks quickly.”

It was early and the sun was just beginning to rise as one of the maintenance guys accompanied me to the landfill to show me exactly where they had deposited the old stove. It is hard to believe that a dump can look majestic but on this day the sun crept above the horizon directly behind the dump. It was spectacular. We quickly found the old stove but sadly there were no racks inside. There were a few dozen others and after clambering over piles of old appliances, we found three racks.

Our joy was short lived. The new tenant in the apartment informed me that the racks I had retrieved were too small. Knowing that the apartment across the hall was vacant, I suggested that she go there and borrow a few until we could order new ones. There were no racks in that oven. I discovered that oven racks are routinely removed from old stoves and used as cooking racks at local peoples’ cabins. My friend was able to borrow a rack from someone else in her apartment building.

I never realized that an oven rack could be such a hot commodity!

Maybe if I cheerfully embrace Christmas without any whining about Mariah and commercialism, Santa will bring me some oven racks.

Have a great week.

P.S. With the possible elimination of fossil fuels in the coming years, at least Santa won’t be able to leave a lump of coal in my stocking!

 

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