Quoting depressed comedians


I’ve said before that I’m a big fan of the way blogger pal Bill Pearse writes — maybe it’s our near ages, maybe it’s the way he captures the conflict between the work brain and the art brain, maybe it’s his great taste in music, maybe it’s the beard… His stream of consciousness flows steady and true and I find myself getting caught in the current, happily. Bill took a break for a while, but he’s back and he deserves more readers. I loved his post yesterday about sitting in a meeting with the alpha males — no wait! don’t go! Trust me, this is great stuff that any aspiring writer should read.

Originally posted on Pinklightsabre's Blog:


We start the 9 o’clock meeting some time after 9 o’clock. I book one of the conference rooms on the north side of the building, the ninth floor, picturesque views of downtown bathed in blue: sky blue, water blue, railroad cranes and ferry boats, boxcars, sea gulls, crows…the raw collision of industry and nature, Seattle.

There’s something about meetings when it’s only guys that’s different, especially when they’re older and they’ve all made their careers in construction. There’s this guy thing, one ring out from the job site.

And for whatever reason, triggered by a reference to bird shit on the window, they all start quoting Bill Murray from Caddyshack.

And it goes around from guy to guy like a secret handshake, the comments and quotes, the Bill Murray-way he spoke like a kind of stroke victim, with his mouth slung low. It goes around from guy to guy…

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Bye Bye Beardy

ross no beardI’ve been suffering facial trauma all week, ever since I shaved off my beard. I walk by a mirror and instead of my usual “Hey there, handsome” it’s “Aggh! Who are you?” And then I remember it’s me, only smoother.

It’s as though I were abducted by aliens and they put my brain into a new body, one that’s familiar but not quite right. A little off. A little more off than usual, that is. I mean, if the aliens were going to put me in a new body, the least they could have done was put me in something with more in the way of shoulders and less in the way of George McFly.

Of course, I haven’t been abducted by aliens (although that would explain the tenderness in certain delicate regions). I’ve merely shaved the hair off my face in order to prepare for a play I’m in later this fall. But just like my acting will do to my audience, going barefaced has made me squirm with discomfort.

I’ve had this beard for two years and I’ve become accustomed to the look. I’ve become accustomed to the way it makes me feel. I’ve become accustomed to the scratching. Before I grew it, I had never even heard of “beard dandruff,” and there was a certain comfort in knowing that, as gross as it already was being a middle-aged man, there were still frontiers of grossness to explore.

“You look younger,” people have told me. “Thank God; I hated that beard,” some have said. “Why are you walking funny?” others have asked.

No one – yet – has said, “I never realized your lips were so thin.” Or, “Losing the beard really brings out your nose.” But I know they’re thinking it. I know they’re thinking “wattles,” too. They think it the way they think, “Boy, he must eat garlic, like, all the time,” but are too polite or too far away to say anything.

But I’m not particularly worried that I look worse without the beard because that’s not necessarily the case. To be honest, it was a pretty hideous beard. Some men can grow an impressive beard. Mine, on the other hand, well, let’s just say that as beards go, it was definitely made of hair. As a beard grower, I’m an excellent actor. If my beard were a dog, we’d be seeing the vet about that. If my beard were a song, it would be one of Weird Al Yankovic’s lesser parodies. When people mentioned my beard, three out of five would use air quotes.

It wasn’t much to look at but without it, I’m overwhelmed by a sense of loss. What exactly did I lose, you ask? The beard, of course! Pay attention!

The beard offered me a facade of maturity to cover up the fact that I’m a man who makes jokes about alien probes.

The beard gave me the ability to sing wistful folky music in a high, keening sissy voice.

The beard allowed me to mingle with hipsters. Ironically.

Without my beard, there’s nothing to distract from my habit of pursing my lips the way Bruce Willis does when he’s all intense, only in my case it looks like I’ve just smelled something bad. But mostly there’s nothing to distract from the weird hairs growing on my earlobes. Gross.

When I swam across the lake this summer (fine, it was a pond…), and I started to think about panicking, which in turn made me actually panic, though I did make it, thanks to hanging onto my daughter’s flutterboard (just for a minute, I’m fine… no, you can have it back… okay, I’ll keep it…), and then I had to walk back around the lake (pond) because there was no way I could manage the return swim, and I felt defeated, emasculated and weak, I took solace in the fact that I had a freakin’ man-beard! Now, I’m just a pasty-faced guy in a bathing suit walking through the woods. Of life.

I realize now that my beard provided me with power. It touched something primal deep inside of me. As noted gorilla communication expert Dian Fossey once said: “Oo-oo wu-WUmmmp URRR!”

I miss my beard. I’ll grow it back after the play. Maybe. It really was kind of itchy.

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A Ross by any other name…

Daucus_carota_May_2008-1_editIn our vegetable garden the other day I was pulling Queen Anne’s lace. Actually there was only one stalk in the entire garden – barely enough lace to make half a hankie. In French, this plant is known as carotte sauvage, which sounds prosaic and possibly anti-imperialist until you remember that Queen Anne’s nickname actually was “Wild Carrot.”

I recognize Queen Anne’s lace when I see it (or maybe it’s yarrow…) but it occurred to me I know very little about Queen Anne, which is a lapse in my knowledge, both historical and botanical. I also wonder whether it was a big deal to have a plant named in your honour back in ye old daye. Was it the equivalent of a modern celebrity having her own line of perfume? If she were alive today, would we all be sniffing Queen Anne’s Kissing Cousins? And the fact that it’s a weed, was that someone’s idea of satire?

These days, celebrities do occasionally sneak into the names of newly discovered plants and animals. There is, for instance, a rare horsefly named Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae, named after singer Beyoncé. The horsefly is distinguished by its shiny gold butt. Write your own jokes…

Read more at Life in Quebec…

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House of strippers

swatchWhat I learned at the hardware store this week – besides the realization that a career as a paint-colour namer is my roller not taken – is that late August is not the time for home renovations that I thought it was. Things don’t start heating up home-wise until September, my local hardware guy told me. That’s when folks wake up in a post-Labour Day haze and say, “Oh, crap! Summer’s over and I still haven’t glazed my gazebo!”

Here at the Murray house, where we always buck the trend, we’ve been working all summer on the semi-regular task of painting our downstairs, if by “semi-regular” you mean “every 20 years or so.”

When we first moved into our home, we looked at the living room wallpaper and said, “That’s got to go.” We just didn’t specify when. Eventually, we stopped noticing the frou-frou rose vines and the navy blue runner. It became like, well, it became like wallpaper.

But this past weekend, with great delight and the occasional maniacal laugh, we peeled off that old wallpaper and only some of the plaster with it. As with every other aspect of this painting project, we anticipated there might be surprises, but we were undaunted – in for a penny, in for a pound of Polyfilla. Continue reading

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So I wrote a book…

IMG_2798Regular visitors will appreciate how much I hate to talk about myself (“HaHAHA! Good one, Murray! Such a cut-up!”), but I feel compelled to mention that I’ve written a novel.

Statistically, this is no big deal. If you’re sitting in a row of people, take a look at the person on the left of you and then on the right. Chances are that one of these people has written or is in the process of writing a novel or at very least has a great idea for a novel or may in fact be sitting on a novel at that very moment, which leads to the question: what kind of row are you sitting in, anyway?

From a technical point of view, it has never been so easy to write a novel. When I first started writing, it was either by hand or on a typewriter, which meant you really had to be motivated if you wanted to tackle a long work. Revising and editing meant re-typing the whole thing all over again. Who had time for that, what with Rubik’s cubes to solve and parachute pants to purchase? Continue reading

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Quiet hours

IMG_2797I want to be buried in one of those deep-sea diving suits, the metal kind, like Sylvester the Cat might wear in some over-complicated and ill-fated attempt to eat Tweety.

One hundred million years after my demise, give or take a million, earth and ocean will have piled on top of me and subsequently receded. Meanwhile, in a mere blink of a century or five, there will be nothing left of even my bones inside that diving suit, and eventually the suit itself will disintegrate. But by then, that suit will have created a mould in whatever clay has settled on me. Millennia-long story short: I want to come back as a fossil.

I was thinking this during my recent vacation. I know: some vacation. But it wasn’t so morbid as it sounds. Deb and I and two of the kids were camping on Grand Isle on Lake Champlain, and we took a drive up to Isle la Motte, where there are remnants of the reef that once lay beneath the ancient Champlain Sea. During our drive, we made a detour to look at old fossils at the abandoned Fisk limestone quarry. I know: some vacation. Continue reading

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Old man, cook at your life

Cookbook row, post-puppy.

Cookbook row, post-puppy.

They say the cookbook industry is booming, despite sluggish sales elsewhere in publishing and the fact that the Internet is positively bubbling over with recipes. Why do people buy a single book when they can find infinite recipes for free online? The same reason you read newspapers rather than get your news from Twitter, except instead of rumours of celebrity deaths you have someone who thinks guava gravy is a good idea.

In our house, we haven’t purchased a new cookbook in years. The most recent books that didn’t just somehow appear (because, believe it or not, that happens sometimes) are Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook and Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites, copyright 1995 and 1996 respectively. This was around the time we were flirting with the notion of being partial vegetarians, until we remembered that we had children. Continue reading

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