My neighbour told me yesterday I need new running shoes. My neighbour says a lot of things like that that don’t make any sense. These shoes are just getting broken in. Besides, they cost me $200 when I bought them new 10 years ago. That means I have to wear them for at least another 20 years to get my money back. My neighbour does not understand economics. Or footwear.
My father-in-law was a very good minister, artist and woodworker. We inherited seven or eight of his big, heavy woodshop machines and have had them in the shed for the past year. A few months ago, it became clear to me that they would be better situated in our finished and heated garage where we can make a proper workshop. Since then I have fretted and worried about how this transfer of machines would be accomplished. I knew I needed help but foresaw a number of problems with the project. Broken windows, scratched doors, injured helpers, damaged machinery. Where would we get a dolly we would need to carry the heavier pieces? I wonder, if I could put all that anxiety together, whether or not it would take up two hours or three or four. Maybe.
Tonight, my son and a bunch of his 17-year-old friends happened to be over at our place for burgers and pop. Afterwards, I asked them if they could help me move the machines, thinking they might get three or four of the lighter ones moved. Sure, they said. And they did. All the machines were moved, settled, done in 10 minutes. Then they hopped in the van and drove off. Nothing broken or scratched, no pulled muscles, no dolly needed. They just got together and got it done, as though they were doing the dishes after supper.
A few minutes later, I took the dog for a walk and I noticed that old familiar tension behind my eyes and wistful tears sitting there. Oh, to be 17 again. To not look ahead and behind. To not think there are things you can’t do. To live every day as an adventure with your pals. To be forever in the moment.
What happens to us to take that away? Do we get too cynical, or too bored or too tired?
Last year I took a van load of those guys to Port Huron, Michigan, for the day. It was the most fun I have had in years, just listening to the banter, the joking, the expressions of joy and anticipation of good things to come. The talk of cars and girls and music. The finer things in life.
I don’t know enough about the issue of raising the minimum wage to have an educated opinion and need to do some research but I remember when the minimum wage was $1 an hour in the sixties. Then by the mid seventies it was $4.20, I believe. I was at a job that paid $4.20 an hour, so that was probably minimum wage. I know it’s complicated because I believe there were different minimum wages for different sectors. In any case, I find it interesting that if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it should have been $20 an hour or more by now. I remember the $1 minimum because I had friends who were working as chicken catchers for that wage while I was exalted, working on bridge construction for $1.65 an hour. I worked 50 hours a week for $82.50. We were paid normal rate for overtime hours, no extra pay. In spite of the $4.20 an hour days, later on, I did manage to buy my first brand new car for $4,000.
(The Canadian province of Ontario, where I live, is raising the minimum wage in stages, starting at $14 an hour and increasing eventually to $15 an hour. In my bridge construction days, when I was 16, I earned $16.50 for a 10-hour day.)
A heart-warming story. A six-year-old boy removed his hearing aid and refused to put it back in. The reason? Because superheros don’t wear hearing aids. His mother wrote to Marvel Comics to see if they could help. Before long, a package arrived with comics featuring the hero Hawkeye, an actual Marvel Comics character who had a hearing aid. But Marvel went further. They had an artist draw up some new artwork of a superhero who not only wore a hearing aid, but who got his superpowers through his hearing aid. And he had a sidekick – a young boy about the age of the little guy who had started all this by pulling out his hearing aid. After that, the boy was happy to wear it again. Angels all around us.
I saw this beautiful 1951 Chevrolet Syleline Deluxe in my hometown of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday afternoon. I took photos and talked to the owners who have had the classic vehicle for almost 20 years. It still has the original paint job. The car has a bit of signifcance for me as it was made the same year I was born. I pointed that out to the owners and said, “All things made in 1951 were beautiful.” They looked me up and down and replied: “Yes, but the car has held up so well.” Ouch!