Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 15, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with one comment

In 2 days, it all goes up in smoke


Something is terribly wrong.

Does the world seem off kilter to you?  There are natural disasters and extreme weather events with every turn of the page. Democracy seems to be in peril. Capitalism is facing challenges.  Social media seems to bombard us with bad news stories with a ratio of 100 to 1 good stories. Like Anne Murray once crooned, “Sure could use a little good news today.”

Today’s musings are about capitalism and poverty. They seem like an odd couple. That’s because they are.  I am not anti capitalism. But I am very much anti-poverty.

I am helping to organize a discussion on poverty tomorrow evening, October 16th. from 6:00-8:30 p.m. at People’s Place Library. You are welcome to come and add your voice to the discussion. You might be surprised at the high levels of poverty in a community that appears to have everything.

A news story, actually a sports story, caught my eye the other day that made me think of that old April Wine song, “The Whole World’s Going Crazy.” I’m not going to get into a debate about salaries for professional athletes. Sports are entertainment and entertainment is big business. Historically, athletes got a raw deal from team owners but today any decent pro athlete who can walk and chew gum commands a seven figure income.

A current NBA (National Basketball Association) player is in a snit. I won’t mention his name so that he doesn’t receive hundreds of tweets from Nova Scotia. He is annoyed that his team’s ownership only offered him a 4 year, $110,000,000 contract extension. Yes. One hundred and ten million dollars.

Let’s break this down. On a yearly basis (had he accepted this deal), he would earn $27,500,000. A regular NBA schedule has 82 games so every time he dons a jersey; he is guaranteed to make $335,365. A regulation NBA basketball game is 48 minutes long. Very few players play the entire game but let’s be generous and say that this particular athlete is a super hero and plays every minute of every game. This means that he earns $6,986 each minute. On a per second basis this comes to $116. In the time it takes him to tie one of his sneakers (roughly 7 seconds) he earns more than a single person on income assistance in the province of Nova Scotia for a month.

I am not going to suggest that a professional athlete is not worth this kind of money, such is the nature of capitalism. This is an over exaggerated demonstration of the disparity between the rich and the poor but most would agree that globally, the chasm between the poor and the well to do is ever widening. I think we will continue to see the consequences of this inequity.

The meeting tomorrow evening will NOT be examining NBA contracts. Poverty is an extremely complex topic and we’re not likely to solve it in 2.5 hours. But we can pool our collective wisdom and see if we can tackle some of the root causes.

Ok. Here’s the big reveal. My fourth book is within a few months of publication and I have a title: “Chaos and Wonder: Six Months in India.” All of the pieces are coming together including the cover which is being designed by Jean Pearcey ( I will be donating all of the proceeds from the book to my friends in India, The Daughters of Mary. Many of you know that I spent four months volunteering with the Sisters. They are remarkable women doing incredible things with limited resources to help the plight of the poor.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Gillis MacKinnon (R.I.P.) used to let us in the Parish Centre after hours to shoot hoops. I’m thinking that I just might give the NBA another shot!

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 8, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Bingo. Bango.Bongo


Yes indeed, Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the abundance afforded Canadians. We are inundated every second of the day with negativity and bad news, that is, if we choose to get sucked into that vortex. Life is not without its trials, tribulations and suffering but there is a lot of wonderful stuff going on around us. As we gather with family and friends today to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s reflect on those things that make us smile.

Let’s start with bongs and bingo.

As a rule, I don’t purchase lottery tickets. It would appear that this is a retirement strategy for a lot of people. On my birthday in August, I received a (saucy!) card with a few scratch tickets. They sat on my desk for the better part of two months, such was my faith in instantly winning $100,000. I was surprised to discover that I won $4.00. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I would have to go somewhere to claim my prize.

I sauntered down the Main last week clutching the winning ticket which felt something akin to transporting contraband across the border. I looked in both directions before for skulking into Downtown Convenience. I was just about to enter when another older man appeared and I did my best Emily Post impression and held the door.


He made a beeline for the counter. For once in my life, I prayed that the person in front of me would buy cigarettes. When he pointed down at the myriad of lottery tickets peeking out under the glass enclosure, my heart sank. He painstakingly pored over every ticket before choosing the “cupcake ticket.” He tendered his $2.00 and I drew a sigh of relief. As the clerk was making change, he decided to increase his odds by purchasing a “poker lotto” for $5.00. She returned $13 from the $20.bill.

Well, that wasn’t too bad as I stared up at the wall behind the counter and saw an impressive array of bongs or water pipes, apparently a big seller at this establishment.

The man was set to take his leave when he stared at the small Lotto screen that flashed all kinds of pictures of winners and other potential winning scratch ticket options. “I think I’ll have one of those,” he said pointing to the plasma screen. “Which one,” replied the clerk? We all stood and watched the screen in breathless anticipation. “That one.” Yes, there was little doubt that “Super Crossword” was a winner.

For the uninitiated, a bong or water pipe is a device used for smoking marijuana or other drugs.

“Do you sell many water pipes,” I asked the clerk as she took my ticket to validate my new found fortune? With a university crawling distance away, my guess is that they were the target market. I was surprised to learn (not really) that many ordinary folks in the community like to experience a higher level of consciousness.

I was tempted to buy one and see if it might be useful for pain management once marijuana becomes legal on October 17th. Actually, if the man in front of me had purchased one more ticket, I might have asked for a demonstration of the bong on the spot.

Other than in my childhood, I have played bingo exactly once in adulthood and I am pretty sure that on that occasion, it required a few adult beverages to coax me into going. What I remember most was the cigarette smoke. It hung in the air like a thick fog. Someone in our group (outsiders all) won $100 and I distinctly recall the withering stares.

So when my brother announced that 18 of us (average age well north of 65) would play bingo down at the cottage after Thanksgiving dinner, it was met with a few raised eyebrows.

I didn’t think I would be remortgaging my home at the age of 67, but when there’s a high stakes bingo game, a fella will go to any lengths to get part of the action. We all plunked down $5.00 and a few extra bucks were tossed in to round the pot up to $100. We played three games: the first two games were warmups and the prizes were non- monetary. The last game was full card, winner take all.

There were a lot of laughs as you can well imagine. It was a beautiful fall evening and we could hear the gentle rolling of the waves in the background, a far cry from a smoke filled hall. The winner graciously donated his winnings to the Antigonish Emergency Fuel Fund. Others in the room followed suit and we were able to round up $700 for this worthy cause. Over 400 families in the Antigonish area require support to keep their homes warm during the cold winter months. On this day of Thanksgiving, it was a good opportunity to pause and remember those who aren’t quite as fortunate. The organization always welcomes donations.

Enjoy Thanksgiving and be grateful.

Have a great week.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on October 1, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Albert the eagle


It would appear that many human beings have become a complacent and occasionally lazy lot. Instant gratification and entitlement rule the day.

Do you remember the good old days of two channel television where you actually had to get up out of your chair to change the station? Can you imagine the crisis if all the remote control devices mysteriously disappeared? How would we get into our homes, garages and cars without a keyless entry system? And God forbid but can you imagine the consternation and confusion if someone had the temerity to shut down the drive through lanes at fast food restaurants and coffee chains? People would actually have to haul their butts out of their vehicles and walk 20 or so feet to get their caloric or caffeine fix, prepared by someone else, of course.

These random thoughts occurred to me on the weekend at the wharf in Bayfield. This would appear to be an odd place to have this sort of existential crisis, a moment when an individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose or value. And what triggered this moment of angst, this feeling of deep anxiety and dread?

The appearance of a bald eagle sitting on the massive rocks of the breakwater.

Normally, the sight of a bald eagle makes my heart soar, lifting my spirits to the heavens. The eagle is known for its long life, great strength and majestic looks.

I had wandered down to the wharf to watch fishermen catch bass off the end of the wharf, hardly a spectator sport for most normal people but I have yet to be labelled “normal.” I parked my car near the community centre and walked the length of the wharf. Part way down, I spotted a bald eagle sitting on the rocks of the breakwater. I whipped out my cellphone (Brownie camera?!) and quietly posed to take a picture. I inched my way further along to try and get a clearer picture. Normally, a bald eagle takes flight the moment it senses humans. I was almost at the end of the wharf and the bird hadn’t moved a muscle. I started to wonder if it was a decoy.

There was a car parked on the wharf. As I approached, a canine in the back seat let out a blood curdling howl announcing my arrival. The fact that the bald eagle didn’t flinch with this intrusion should have been my first clue that something was amiss.

There was a solitary fisherman casting his line into the waters of St.George’s Bay. He told me that he was fishing for mackerel and bass. I thought this to be an odd combo but hey, I’m not a fisher person. He explained that catching the mackerel was to key to catching the bass as it would be used for bait. I watched several unsuccessful casts. I peered across at the breakwater.  The eagle still had not so much as tilted its head.

I queried the fisherman about the near comatose bird. “Oh, that’s Albert.” His response was nonchalant in much the same way as if his cousin had just appeared. I would come to learn that Albert is indeed a permanent fixture at the Bayfield wharf. And why has one of Mother Nature’s most awe inspiring creatures become so inured to human beings?


You see, Albert has become part human. He expects immediate gratification. Rather than work for his prey, he sits patiently on the rocks waiting for fish to be caught for him. When the fisher person hauls in the first mackerel and cuts a sliver off for bait, the remainder of the carcass is tossed aside. This is when Albert takes flight gathering up the mackerel remnants, his own version of a dive through restaurant.

I felt like hanging around to witness all of this and possibly getting  Albert’s signature or posing with him for a selfie.

I finally have a title for my India book and hope to have the book published by the end of November.

Please check out Faces in the Crowd this Thursday. My subject is an Iraqi (now Canadian) surgeon. His story is quite fascinating. He spent nearly three years on the Iran Iraq border during the war in the early 80’s. It sounded very much like a M.A.S.H. unit without Alan Alda’s humour.

Have a great week.

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