To Be. Or Not.

By Jim Hagarty

We spend so much time, in our youth, trying to figure out what we should be. And hardly any time on the more important question of what it is that we are. As it turns out, what we are is all we can ever be anyway. The object seems to be to become something other than what we are, as though what we are is not enough for the world. In other words, we are cats trying to be dogs, dogs trying to be wolves. The nice thing about “being” a “senior” is so much of that stuff just goes away.

The Cockroach Watch

By Jim Hagarty

In 1977 I scored my first job as a reporter on a little hometown newspaper called The Advocate. At least that was the name on the masthead. Readers knew it as The Aggravate.

The job came with a hefty wage of $4.20 an hour and all the cockroaches you could kill. The newspaper was located next to a butcher shop. The roaches came to our place for a rest from chomping on meat and stuff all day.

But there was a bonus, or something that would eventually look like one to me. Among my duties which included chasing a bat out of the darkroom every morning and keeping the sidewalk cleared of snow in winter, as mandated by a strictly enforced town bylaw, was the job of writing a weekly column. I took that up with gusto. It was the prize whistle at the bottom of what really was a very stale box of Cracker Jacks.

My column was aptly named One Day at a Time. And if a person was foolish enough to work at that newspaper with anything but a one day at a time approach, instant madness was the reward. I got the job because the reporter before me lasted only three weeks and at the end was walking around the office in his bare feet. Apparently, he looked ahead a little too far. Like maybe two days at a time. And what he saw literally freaked him out. Last I heard he was selling pencils from a cup on the streets of Toronto and was much happier for it.

So I unleashed One Day at a Time on the world, a world which, I now see, was probably not ready for it. I wrote seriously about all the big issues of the day. But I was confronted with a handicap: I knew less than nothing about all the big issues of the day. But, perversely, the less I knew, the more I wrote. A favourite request of my editor made by readers during this time was, “Make him stop!”

I didn’t stop. Me? Hah!

But one night I ran into a wall. I had taken home my primitive little Radio Shack laptop which weighed about the same as a small tractor. My lap is still depressed where that mammoth machine used to sit. Anyway, I sat there stumped. I was fresh out of no knowledge about the big issues of the day. I had absolutely no ignorance left to share.

But then I noticed something strange. My two cats were fighting over the same heat register. Thirteen heat registers in the house, and they both were willing to battle to the death over that one special register, which was only special because they both wanted to sit on it. If you have ever seen two cats fighting over a heat register, you have seen every world war ever fought, start to finish.

Desperate, I wrote my column about the catfight. And crazily, it was the first column any reader appeared to have liked. No dummy me, cat columns flowed from me from then on like pee from a toddler when the diaper comes off. It got so bad, a letter to the editor came in and was published and these were its very words: “Tell Hagarty to stop writing about his cats!”

I was undeterred. But I got a bit bored with my cats, so I started writing about the neighbour’s cats. And eventually, his dog. Also, about my pathetic home renovations. And my rattly car that was a car in the same way a dandelion is a tree.

And then it happened.

I won a best humour writer award in a newspaper competition. Little did those poor judges know they had poured gasoline on the dying embers of my writing career.

It is popular to disparage awards. I have probably done it myself. But that little bit of encouragement from my peers in the newspaper business was like a flagman on a highway, directing me into another lane.

More awards. Soon, I stopped writing for my readers and started writing to win more awards.

The awards stopped.

But it was OK.

I no longer chase cockroaches and bats.

And I still write about cats and broken down cars.

And love every minute of it.

Turns out, all I needed was an opportunity and a pat on the head.

And to one day finally see all 10 Writer Commandments wrapped up into one line which every beginning writer needs to see:

“Write what you know.”

Shake Speared

Shakespeare

By Jim Hagarty

Big news out of England today.

A letter found in a pew in the Anglican Church in Stratford-upon-Avon confirms that William Shakespeare did not write any of the plays he has been credited with writing for almost 500 years.

In the note, apparently written by “The Bard” on his deathbed, Shakespeare claims he never wrote anything his entire life. Furthermore, he claims he was probably England’s worst speller ever.

“Hell, I couldn’t even spell my ohn name,” he admitted in his final, astonishing confession.

“I signed everything ‘Willem Shakspur’. Look it up! You’ve seen the dinky little grammar school I atended.”

In a related development, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada has been sold and is being turned into an auction barn.

Updates at 11.

The Playoffs

By Jim Hagarty

In my younger days, I pursued young women like Sydney Crosby chases the Stanley Cup.

But if I was Crosby, I was out on the ice in my galoshes with a broom for a hockey stick. No Stanley Cups on my mantle.

Then I talked to a wise friend who wore a lovely Stanley Cup ring on his left hand.

“I want to ask this woman out, but I can’t figure out what she would like to do,” I said.

“Who cares what she would like to do?” came his shocking reply. “Decide what you would like to do and find a woman who would like to do that too.”

That was the day I took off my galoshes and threw away my broom. Next time you see me, ask me to show you my Stanley Cup ring.

A friend of ours fell down laughing when my fiance and I told her we were all excited because we were getting together that night to watch the vice-presidential debate on TV. Not the presidential debate. The vice-presidential debate.

Birds of a feather …

Nurses Rock

By Jim Hagarty

It’s an old joke, for sure, but one that has been aptly laid at the feet of every male prude who ever changed the channel during any TV show when the laundry started coming off.

“He never got over the fact that he was born in bed with a woman.”

My older brother first introduced me to that old saw and I thank him for it. My experience with male prudery goes back a long way. I might have even flirted with it a time or two myself.

The only counterforce that saved me from a miserable life of tut tutting was the glorious creature known to the world as the nurse.

Thank God for nurses.

Justin Time

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

By Jim Hagarty

I was born in the same hospital as Justin Bieber.

I had the good sense to time my arrival 43 years before his, giving me a headstart in the music business.

Turns out, I needed a headstart.

But he and I have a lot more in common than our origins and hometowns. We both play our guitars left handed. We both write songs. We both have recorded music. And we both have bank accounts with some money in them. And we are males and our first names start with the letter “J”.

Also, we are both incredibly good looking, and while he has merely maintained his Adonish features in that department in recent years, I am as astonishingly handsome as ever, getting Brad Pittier every day.

A few years ago, I decided my singing career needed a jumpstart. So I started looking around for a stage name. Something catchy. I always liked the name Justin, for some reason. And one day I saw a truck go by with the name “Bieber Construction” on its doors. I was kind of drawn to the name Bieber. It had a happy quality to it.

So I settled on the name Justin Bieber and decided to use it in all future publicity for my stalled career.

However, a friend got wind of my plans and told me there already was a Justin Bieber in the music business. Living under a rock, as I always have and prefer to, this was news to me and I was disappointed.

But not deterred.

I liked the way “Justin Bieber” rolled off the tongue. So my friend and I put our heads together and we soon came up with what I think is a workable alternative.

And so I have changed my stage name to Justa Geezer.

The name change has not yet had the impact on my musical fortunes I thought it might. On the other hand, at the age of 65, when I look out from the stage at my adoring fans, I notice an awful lot of geezers among them. Many of them probably born in the same hospital as Justin and I.

Some of them no doubt had the wisdom to arrive years before either one of us.

Justin might have his Beliebers but I have my Geezers.

There must be something in the air at that hospital for it to have produced so many of the world’s great ones.

Even if we are all southpaws.

The Toastenater 500

By Jim Hagarty

I am a fortunate person. I have so much.

Including my own special toast-disposal service. The service is conveniently located nestled between my ankles below my chair at the breakfast table. As I munch away on my flakes and toasted bread, the service idles patiently below me. Now and then, I break off an unwanted small sliver of toast and lower it carefully with my right hand in the direction of the floor beside my chair. When the toast bit reaches the level of about halfway between floor and chair, the toast disposalater sends out a jaw-like contraption complete with what can only be described as a set of teeth. These instruments clamp down tightly on the toast and sometimes on the fingers holding the toast. The toast then disappears under the chair, never to be seen again.

It is a very convenient service I have lucked into and it can also be depended on to remove many other table items such as cereal flakes, shreddies,and krispies. The device can also be used to remove other food items such as bits of noodles, meat, potatoes and pancakes.

It is sort of a mobile waste-disposal contraption which, unlike the stationary ones installed in sinks, requires some upkeep and care. It is necessary, for example, to attach it to a leash and take it out of doors several times a day to capture the waste products that the waste disposer itself generates, ironcially. Also, unlike most waste gobblers, the one I use needs more than table scraps and must be topped up several times daily with store-bought nuggets of meat and cereal kept under the kitchen sink in order to keep it in peak running order. It is also necessary to sit the device on your lap while watching TV at night and it is even recommended that it be taken to bed with you.

It is an unusual contraption, to say the least, but almost human-like in many ways. So uncanny is the resemblence that many times, owners of such machines are tempted to give them a name. Mine, for example, is named Tobe which is short for Total Breakfast Eater.