In the Face of Dreadul Odds

“That’s a story every Australian knows and, now, you do too.”

I stand there, brought up short. It isn’t the first time.

It’s been all of four hours since we met our Melbourne tour guide. We can see he’s lanky and given to vaguely Outbackish hats, but we’re still getting a feel for his communication style. Although consistently (and admirably) competent, our guides to date have exhibited no-two-alike personal styles: warm and a little raucous, witty and a little self-deprecatory, friendly and a little motherly, helpful and a little organized.  Just as if they were, you know, people.

So, on this lovely day in late November, 2014, I’m listening more for tone than for content as our guide prepares us to enter the ANZAC memorial—ANZAC being the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps. With respect to content, I am, in fact, thinking, “I get it, you know? Let’s get on with this.”   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives


In the eternal-now and never-live-it-down that is the internet, you can see the interaction again and again. What’s more appropriate here than a spoiler alert is a patience-needed alert. Gibbs’ artless question doesn’t come until the 27-second mark of the 30-second #NCIS promo (I know! #forever), but it’s delivered so straight it’s #worththewait.

“Hashtag this could work, Boss.” Tony DiNozzo
“What’s a hashtag?” Leroy Gibbs

Leroy Gibbs, played by the ever-appealing #markharmon, is a little, umm, late to the #socialmedia game. I empathize. I, myself, first encountered hashtags on #Twitter only a few years ago. A helpful someone explained that they facilitated searches by topic.  Continue reading


Filed under Language & Communication

Wit and Wisdom in Wyoming

“Ah, Wyoming. It makes Nebraska look picturesque.”

Dismissing both Wyoming and Nebraska with one practiced parry, the wit represents the confluence of heritage (Italian), upbringing (New Jersey), and training (courtroom litigation). But, as we find to our sorrow the next day as we drive from Utah to Nebraska, the comment is not just witty: It’s true.   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives, Travel

How to Estimate an Alligator’s Length

“To estimate an alligator’s length, convert the distance in inches
from the tip of the nose to the eye ridge into feet.”

I check it twice. Yes, that’s what it says, apparently dead serious, no pun intended.

The night before visiting St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in Tallahassee, Florida, early in January, I was checking out their website to see what fabulous birds we could expect to see at that time of year. But under the “Wildlife and Habitat” menu option, it’s not birds that catch my eye but, rather, a navigation tab for alligators.

Uh oh. I had not thought about alligators.   Continue reading


Filed under Travel

Did Hamlet Shop, Do You Suppose?

He looks confused. I tilt my head, silently inviting him to speak. There is a pause as he works it out.

“We went so you could buy a necklace like Gram’s.”

It’s not really a question, but I answer anyway. “That’s right, but they were too heavy for me.”

Another pause, and I know we haven’t got to the nub of it yet.

“But Gram bought a dress.”

And there we have it: the source of the confusion. From a teenaged boy’s perspective, this perfectly ordinary excursion in the mid-1990s was one of life’s mysteries. We went to buy something for one person, and came home with something completely different for another person. How the heck did that happen?

By shopping.

Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

What It Is to Scale the Heights

Putting genteel Georgia behind us, we angle across rural northern Florida to the Gulf Coast and hang a right. And then we drive. And drive.

Most of those two days in early January is spent on the who-knew-it-was-so-wide Florida panhandle, an on-the-face-of-it ridiculous allocation of coastline that undoubtedly reflects some fascinating history of which we are, as Canadians, completely ignorant. To support the underdog, on the second day we stop for lunch somewhere in the don’t-sneeze-or-you’ll-miss-it bit of Alabama that borders the Gulf of Mexico. And then we drive. And drive.   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

To Boldly Go

“That’ll be three fifty, ma’am.”

I hand over a scruffy five-dollar bill for my bag of milk-chocolate mini bars. “Make it so.”

The convenience-store attendant’s head snaps up. “Did you just say, ‘Make it so’?”   Continue reading


Filed under Language & Communication

Goldilocks as Lousy Role Model

It’s pouring. With the temperatures peaking for the day in the mid-teens (Fahrenheit of course), it’s a chilly, gloomy day in the neighbourhood.

Not that I expect any sympathy from anyone north or east of here. It’s been a nasty cold and stubbornly snowy winter in most parts of North America this year. By contrast, my biggest concern has been scheduling my daily walk early enough to reduce my heat-stroke risk. Lolling under blue-sky days, we’ve see rain only three times since arriving in metro Phoenix in mid-January.

Over several winters in Arizona this is exactly what we’ve come to expect, although we don’t always get so much precipitation. But if the weather is delightfully consistent, year after year, the spring wildflowers are frustratingly inconsistent.   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

Trusting No One

“Is he turning he has to turn there are barricades why isn’t he signalling why isn’t he slowing down he’s going to crash into the barricades is he turning he has to turn he’s going to hit me I can’t stay here which way should I move is he turning HE HAS TO TURN!”

As the speeding pick-up truck bears down on me, what is going through my mind is a bona fide run-on paragraph, there being no time for even mental punctuation.   Continue reading


Filed under New perspectives

Humble Pie

They don’t have Pepsi™.

Well, maybe that’s a little sweeping. In the spirit of Heinlein’s Fair Witnesses, let me amend that statement to reflect precisely what I saw or, more accurately, did not see.

In four weeks in the major cities of New Zealand and Australia, I did not see one can, bottle (glass or plastic), or soda fountain dispensing Pepsi™. Not in a restaurant. Not in a bar. Not in a full-service grocery or convenience store. Not in a vending machine.

I did not see even one ad for Pepsi™—no billboard, street sign, or TV spot—and I think that says it all.   Continue reading


Filed under Travel