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Around the Kitchen Table

Lloyd Ratzlaff

03/23/2016

Here’s how a “Scratch & Win” saga went over the past few days. I purchased a Blackjack for a loonie, and it was a $2 winner. With the money I bought two more Blackjacks, one a dud, the other a double winner — $5 and $2. The $7 netted me a Quick Pick Plus and an additional five Blackjacks — in all, three duds and three winners @ $5, $10, and $2. The $17 procured three new winners @ $2 each, with which I bought another six Blackjacks — five duds and a $2 winner, and with this toonie had just enough to buy two final duds. An entire gambling life in three days!

I’ve never understood the fascination (let alone addiction) of gambling, though God knows I contend with my own versions of The Great American Axiom: “If some is good, more is better, and too much is just right.”

***

On not buying impulsively: At the Bay I saw a $40 shirt which I thought I wanted, and nearly bought it but finally resisted. I already had a similar shirt at home, and in the store window display saw a method of giving the old one a new look by wearing a black T-shirt under it. I’d have had to earn $70 before taxes to pay for the new shirt, but luckily avoided the pointless work and instead went home to play with words — which is what writers do, though often enough we get a good working-over from them too.

***

Beside a country road near the racetrack a pine hedgerow recedes into the distance. Next to it stands a knotted power pole, which once was a tree itself but now is frozen in time to serve our human ends. Ironically, it may last longer as a post than it would have as a tree.

Yet what glories that wood must remember! Sucking sap, sprouting, branching, bird-nesting, re-seeding itself. Now it merely holds up wires, and it will be a long time before it turns green again.

***

Last night I had a moment of intense nostalgia (or was it love?) listening to Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 City to City album, a wave of blessing washing over the whole past exactly as it was, failures and triumphs together, everything worthwhile and precious.

Yet such treasuring of personal details can turn imperceptibly into a clinging that has no chance of success. Even that overwhelming preciousness passed like an ocean swell and left me here, as ever, where I am.

To include the cosmos within oneself and disperse oneself into the cosmos, these are both the adventure and the riches we seek. If the search never culminates, it has no point; yet found treasure must be spent again, since hoarding it has no point either.

On the other hand, treasures should not be on constant display, shouldn’t turn into common coinage. Aren’t the best ones those that remain sunk in the sea, or buried under a tree trunk on some unknown island?

Who’s that a-writin’? / John the Revelator / Wrote the book of the seven seals.

I love how black gospel music juxtaposes images from all over the Bible without heed for logic or common sense. John a-writin’ his book somehow calls to mind Adam’s nakedness and shame, which suggests a further stanza (looky here!) about the raised-up Christ meetin’ his disciples in Galilee, and the whole song finds its way into a revival tent in a Blues Brothers movie where white renegade musicians start feelin’ the holy ghost fire, and then everybody better watch out for what’ll happen next.

***

Half of a molar cracked off last night as I was eating a piece of garlic toast. (Garlic toast!) The tooth had first given me trouble 25 years ago, when a Winnipeg dentist already wanted to pull it, and only with reluctance after my pleading agreed to fill it once more.

Four years later I was living in Saskatoon and the molar flared up again. A new dentist immediately re-filled it, far more optimistic than the man in Winnipeg had been. Several years later another dentist gave it a root canal, and still the enamel held.

Today my dentist says the old tooth really is shot. But consider this: it’s had a quarter-century of use since being judged useless.

***

I think for the first time I saw the worm of childhood — the one my daughters saw when they were small and tried to show me. This fat green cigar with uncircumsized head (and tail!) crawled over the pavement one section at a time, feeling its way toward a distant curb, spelling esses and jays and dashes as it went. Sometimes a gust of wind rolled it over and it curled tight and waited, then righted itself and crawled on.

I picked up a popsicle stick from the ground and with it raised the creature to eyeball level. It wriggled a bit, but quickly divined that there was nowhere else to go, and sat quite still. I wished it the best of luck, set it down again and watched it resume its struggle toward the curb. The wind rose and rolled it over, it curled and re-opened once more, seemed to sniff upwind, then turned and eventually made it to the curb.

But where it will be at nightfall, who can say?

***

I award honorary doctorates as I see fit. This one is given posthumously to a friend whose prescription for every ailment was: “Take two placebos and get lots of rest.”
Rest easy, Dr. Jim Weseen.

***

A busker on Broadway Avenue was playing leisurely sax solos beside the statue at the Bulk Cheese Warehouse. Suddenly he stopped, faced south, and looked up at the sun. He kept his head tilted back for so long that I began wondering what had frozen him into another statue beside the first one.
Then he sneezed. And leaned back against the sunny side of the sculpture and blew more notes to the passing traffic, notes as warm as the March sun on Broadway’s face.

Ratzlaff is the author of three books of literary non-fiction published by Thistledown Press: The Crow Who Tampered With Time (2002), Backwater Mystic Blues (2006), and Bindy’s Moon (2015); and editor of Seeing it Through, an anthology of seniors’ writings published by READ Saskatoon. Formerly a minister, counsellor and university instructor, he now makes his living as a writer in Saskatoon.