Archive for work-life

Reminders

16 Mar. 06: This Tuesday I taught my three Kwantlen classes, starting at eight in the morning and ending after nine at night, accomplished with maybe half a brain [due to a concussion] and, truly key, the forbearance and consideration of my students. Throwing oneself at their mercy is the name of the game (if you want everybody to win).

20 Mar. 06: As I was walking down Georgia Street to a meeting with the new director of communications and education at the BC Securities Commission today, it occurred to me that her first impression would be of a guy with a big fresh Frankenstein scar on his forehead who was at an occasional loss for words. Within seconds of this thought, I saw a woman with an almost featureless face walk by: a little hole for a mouth, two nostrils but no nose, and two slitty eyes, that was all. Not that I need reminders as to how fortunate I am, but reminders are always there.

Home

This is from late 1999, on my way to the clinic to get my staple-stitches out. I had injured myself trying to hop a curb with my bike: I tipped over, shattering my humerus, separating my shoulder, and breaking a bone in my neck. I was in the hospital for about a week.

It was an exceptionally sweet time for me, though. My care at St. Paul’s hospital was marvellous and friendly, and there was no bill. Lots of friends and colleagues and clients from work came by. My brother and his wife brought their kids. I enjoyed morphine for the first and last time.

I was still pretty new to Canada – born here but raised in the States, not returning until 1996. It was during this hospital stay that I saw manna falling from the sky – here, in Vancouver, BC. I was given such grace.

The photograph is by my dear and esteemed friend Lincoln Clarkes, who had brought two pies to my hospital room.

Happy to help

Leonard Bernstein died thirty years ago today. I always think of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg on this anniversary. I wrote this ten years ago:

Twice in the last week I have helped to prevent a calamity from befalling a colleague. One colleague was irritated and the other was infuriated to receive my editorial help, though they each requested it. Both will come out “smelling like a rose” (to use an expression my Dad has always loved and that I now love, too).

In my last couple of years in book publishing back in the early 1990s, I spent more than half of my time, it seemed, addressing legal matters: Making sure that my authors weren’t going to get the company I worked for, Prometheus Books Inc., sued for defamation, libel, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, and the like. Although I did not become an editor so that I could act as an ersatz lawyer, I did enjoy the role, especially because I got to talk to a REAL lawyer, and a great one, Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, a lot.

Stefan provided his services for free, because he liked the books we published. He was a wonderful and brilliant and eclectic man, who reached the highest levels of accomplishment as a musical conductor and mathematician and teacher before starting his career in Law. I didn’t know he’d been a conductor until I called him one afternoon regarding a lawsuit. Leonard Bernstein had died the day before, and for some reason I brought that up with Stefan. “I was his assistant conductor for a year,” he said. “This sounds more impressive than it was. My main job was to have a cigarette lit and ready for Lenny when he came offstage.”

Back to my point: Because of Stefan Bauer-Mengelberg, many of my authors *didn’t* besmirch their reputations and *didn’t* get their butts sued. To a person, they were unhappy receiving the help they received, because they believed they didn’t need it. They all asked: What could go wrong?

A calamity is smaller than a comma when it’s born.

Remembering Stefan – and remembering my mentor Paul Kurtz, the difficult boss who introduced me to him – fills me with gratitude. Some very gifted people have shared their time with me.

#WorldMentalHealthDay

God bless Aly Raisman.

A gift for friendship …

I’ve certainly been the lucky recipient of John‘s. Many have.

I remember the moment well: I was lounging in bed on a Saturday night, drinking red wine and reading some escapist nonfiction, when the telephone rang.

It was a young friend, a guy half my age, and he was in crisis.

He and his girlfriend had moved in with her parents to save money. He was calling to report that they’d just broken up.

“Damn, dude,” I said. “Where are you right now?”

He was still in the room with her. There was nowhere else to go.

“You can’t stay there,” I said. “Come to my place.”

He was just one of the wards to take up residence in the suburban rehab facility of penance and partying I call the Home for Wayward Men.

Many check in, serve their time, and move on. Some return for more deeply-seated therapy, higher dosages of medication.

Others drop in regularly while on business trips. One blows in once a year like a disheveled desert tumble weed rolling down Interstate-15.

Most are younger than me, one older. Sometimes they arrive in twos.

What they all have in common is that they need a place to go, to escape crumbling relationships or just the suck of everyday life.

The door is always open.

I live alone, my wife resides in another state. I have time and space to lend my ailing droogies a helping hand.

I have no clue what they do in their room once the door is closed. One is like a messy teenager, leaving the place a disaster zone of plastic swizzle sticks, hairballs and oily orphaned socks each time he leaves.

No matter. I just hazmat the joint and await the next checkin.

Meanwhile, I keep two chairs in the living room, one facing the other. One guest and I refer to them as the Sultan’s Chairs. …

Read ‘The Home for Wayward Men’ to the end.