It happened again. That funny question that irks and tweaks the underbelly of self-identity. “What are you?”
The snark rises and I stutter, “Ahh…huu..man?”
The smirk flashes annoyance, “No I mean like where are you from?”
“Oh I am Canadian – born in Ontario. Not far from here…”
Interruption arises, eyebrows raised, “No I mean your people where are they from?”
“My parents were refugees, fleeing tyranny. And…”
A spark dawns and interjects before I can finish, “Oh you are Middle-eastern. Turkish?”
Now I am annoyed, and I can feel the emotions brush across my face and furrow my brow.
“How about I finish. They came from Europe. 1956. The failed Hungarian Revolution made my father realize he couldn’t stay because he would be arrested and tortured again. And my mother had just had a baby. So when the river froze in December of 1956 they walked across the ice to what is now Croatia.”
A nod. I see they are listening.
“My mother’s brother was in Toronto, so he sponsored them to come to Canada. And in July of 1957 they arrived in Quebec on a refugee ship. And…”
I can see the question coming before it becomes sound, “So you are European – cause you don’t really look white. Kinda Asian actually. Your almost black hair, and skin with a hint of colour and your eyes are almond which is why I said Turkish…”
My turn to speak up and over, “Yeah. Hungarian-Croatian. Well actually Croatian-Hungarian is more accurate. The village was mostly Croatian, but in the Hungarian side of the border. That part of Europe is a mix of people spilling between tribes and blending. I hear there is some Gypsy – Roma – ancestry in my genetic makeup. And some of the tribes that settled in the area had Asian and Middle-eastern origins.”
The other listens, and nods. And summarized my label, “So you are white then..huh. So hard to tell.”
I sigh, and reply, “Nope I am not white, but I’ve been mistaken for one before. I am human. And while my skin has a lighter-tone, my attitude is universal. The place of my birth, and the colour of my skin has nothing to do with how I have experienced the world, or how I think. My advice to you is top labelling people based on outward appearances. You cannot judge a book by its cover; Nor can you see the human inside the body if all you see are the shape and colour that they wear. Yes indeed we are each unique individuals; but close your eyes and open your ears! And you will be surprised to learn that we are all more alike, than we are different.”
I can see my words have offended, as they turn and move away. Truly they meant no harm in asking such an innocent question. Yet it wasn’t innocent at all, merely unthinking and presumptive. As I watch them leave, I can hear my mother’s voice in my head, “This is why you can’t have nice things – you always break them.”
Yes Mom, I do break them. Because I expect them to be better than that to begin with…
It is strange how we create a routine out of the obligations of life. A pattern is shaped from necessity and reluctantly overlaid. Eight years ago my father died, and my mom asked me to come see her more often. At first it was every other week. Somewhere in there it became a weekly visit. Usually on a Saturday, I’d be up by 6am and on my way. The 2-hour drive a quiet pleasant meditation through lovely Ontario country-side. A stop for a coffee. Sometimes a pause for walk on a trail.
(Yes I am recycling. This is a copy of my Good Friday post from 3 years ago. I liked it so I am sharing all over again!)
This day seems to be the forgotten holiday of the year. There is no lead-up to Good Friday. No frenzied fanfare of festivity. No elaborate feasts to plan and prepare. That is probably why I like this holiday the best.
Good Friday really is a day off from the bustle and hustle of the consumer world. No sales. Just time to contemplate the world. I am sitting here this morning with a second cup of coffee, watching the sun peak over the horizon. There is a slight mist on the roofs of the houses as the day slips from springtime chill to springtime warmth.
I have time to think. Let my brain play with words. Roofs. Rooves. I remember learning in school that the plural of roof was rooves. But now we use the american “roofs”. When did that change? The rule I learned was if it ends in ‘f’ or ‘fe’ then to make the plural you drop the “f” sound and writes “ves”.
dwarf to dwarves
elf to elves
hoof to hooves
knife to knives
leaf to leaves
life to lives
self to selves
wolf to wolves
Of course then there are words that ignore the rule anyway – like the plural of beef is not beeves. And the plural of proof is not prooves.
Ah English the language of rules, and long lists of exceptions to the rules! This is why English is such an exceptional language.
As you can see Good Friday is for getting diverted and contemplative. Mindless musing. The above was simply pointless stream of consciousness. A raw slice of my brain straight up. I am full of trivia. Or full of something.
My favourite memory of Good Friday is from many many many years ago. I was in my early twenties. I was with some friends driving up to Midland, Ontario to find a very specific restaurant that served Lake Huron whitefish. Our friend and driver had heard the fish was incredibly fresh and delicious.
Now I don’t remember the restaurant name but I do think it was Henry’s Fish Restaurant. I’ve been back a few times so my memory may be muddled. And the fish is still worth the long drive!
But this memory isn’t about the destination. It is about the journey. That day was a foggy Good Friday. Dense white cotton fog slowing us down to well below the speed-limit. The trees and posts shadowy dark flickers flashing by us. The road shiny black and slick. There was no-one else on the road. Just us – some friends on a journey. Cocooned in our own reality.
In the back of the car was a book – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – and for me it was an incredible find. At that moment, in that space, that book and the message inside clicked with me. There are concepts in that book that I had no idea could actually exist! My friend – the driver of the car – saw me thumbing through the book and gave it to me.
From where I sit today I can see that same book looking at me from my shelves. It is bedraggled and stained and dog-eared. The book has survived the years – my friend the driver did not. He died later that year from leukemia. But on that Good Friday there was no leukemia darkening our thoughts. On that day we were full of life twenty-somethings on a road trip. Our driver was a big robust man full of life and zest – and by the fall of that year he was an anemic husk gasping for air in a hospital bed. He was much too young to die.
That Good Friday held no hint of the sadness waiting in our future. We laughed, we talked. The restaurant wasn’t open we arrived, so we walked the waterfront. We drank early morning beers (cans in bags – oh we were so clever!) by the lake, while we discussed philosophy and how we would change the world. By the time we had finished our exploration of Midland – the sun had burned away the morning fog.
The fish was indeed wonderful, and we promised that next year we would repeat the road-trip. We promised that this would become our Easter weekend ritual. I’ve been back since then – but the ritual never blossomed. It withered and died.
In the mid-afternoon sunshine we drove back the way we had come. No hurry to get anywhere, we stopped at used bookshops and curio stores along the way looking for old National Geographic magazines. And books on World War II history. Our own version of an Easter Egg hunt for those that no longer believed in the Easter Bunny.
Good Friday: A good day to remember how we have arrived at this moment in time. And to remember those who we loved and left behind.
There is no way around this. I am large. Full on fat.
And I mean that in the nicest way possible.
I am corpulent. Disgusting. Rotund. Obese.
Go ahead judge me. Place me on the scales of social comment and weigh me down with your words. I can take it – after all I am a big boy. And I do mean big. Huge even. Go ahead snicker and snidely aside to your trim posse of the svelte.
The past year. Well really these past many years I have tried to lose some weight. I set reasonable achievable goals of 5 pounds this month. 2 kilos. And it does work. For a while. I have dropped 15 pounds some years starting from January and keeping on into September. Then October hits and it starts with the food fests – Thanksgiving, Halloween, and into Christmas. Food glorious food!
My bane however is a simple pastry. An easy to make and easy to eat flaky fold of delight. The apple turnover. Oh how do I love thee – let me count your flaky sheets of joy! Here are the food stats on a typical apple turnover.
Calories:400 Sodium:150 mg Total Fat: 16 g Sugar: 26 g
Nutritional value? minimal amounts of vitamin C and A. Not exactly a health food.
For the past ten years I have walked past a coffee shop on my way into work – and the smell of cinnamon and coffee has lured me in nearly every morning. Fresh baked goodness tickling my nose, tantalizing my tongue. Pavlovian zombie I slip inside. Grab a cup, fill it up. Add 1% milk to cool the hot black brew. Make a promise to only buy the coffee. Stand in the line that snakes past the pastry display. Resolve firm. Smell cinnamon. Eyes glance. See that delicate curve. Soft gleam of sugar. The seeping hot inner juices wanting to be set free.
Just. One. More. Time. Only. I surrender, slip one into the white paper bag. Quickly pay and rush out with my sweet sin firmly in hand.
I walk out with coffee and apple turnover. Back into the fresh air. Slip the pastry free of it coverings, and savour the first sweet flaky mouth filling bite. This is happiness. This is joy. This is guilt. Once more I have given into that wonderfully seductive pastry.
For years I justified that excess by not eating breakfast. After all breakfast is about 400 calories as well – so it is all a trade-off right? Except breakfast may contain other ingredients – many with real nutritional value and fibre. And a heck of a lot less sugar. But none are as sweet and as full of joy as my apple turnover.
This January I resolved to stop the pastry guilt trips of gluttony. This January I did the math – 400 fewer calories primarily from sugar and complex carbs times 5 is 2000 calories. Times 52 is 104,000 calories. And that is 29 pounds. That is of course the optimal count – let’s be conservative and say 20 pounds for the year.
And dollar-wise that was $1.50/day. $7.40/week. $390/year. Again let’s be conservative and say $300/year saved.
Here it is 6 months later in July, and I have managed to *mostly* avoid the lure of apple turnovers. I should be 10 pounds lighter given all else being constant. Weight check: Up 5 pounds. WTF!?
So I reviewed my food diary (as spotty as my record keeping is…) and the problem is of course that I didn’t really stop eating that 400 calories! As I mentioned I had already deluded myself into making apple turnovers a part of my (un)healthy breakfast. By eating breakfast at home – even if it was one piece of multi-grain toast with butter (or cream cheese) and a small serving of fruit – I was still eating at least 400 calories. A slice of multi-grain bread with butter is about 200 calories. A banana is about 100 calories. That breakfast is 20 grams of sugar and 8 grams of fat. Plus more fibre, and other nutrients. So plus on the better eating. Not so much on the caloric intake.
And here is the kicker – because I ate breakfast at home I was finding myself hungry by mid-morning and snacking. Now my snacks are reasonable on the healthy scale – being some combination of fruit/veggies/nuts/yogurt/water. BUT under my own “less healthy” eating pattern I never ate snacks.
Conclusion: Fat man FAIL.
This morning I walked past that coffee shop and walked into the tantalizing sinful aroma of sweet pastry sins. It was the best god-damn fricking pastry I have ever eaten. It was like going home for Christmas and finding out that Santa Claus is totally real. Cinnamon sugar fantastically awesomely real. In case you didn’t quite get that: I enjoyed that apple turnover like nothing before. I’d go all cliche on you and say it was better than sex – but since fat-men don’t have sex I wouldn’t really know!
Whew. That was good. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I need a smoke.