Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Psychic Stuff

Call it spring fever. Call it laziness. But I'm going to plagiarize myself and reproduce one of my columns: Baron It All Issue #72. All rights reserved etc.

Read an interesting article the other day about a Toronto-area woman who helps police all over North America solve crimes via her psychic ability. We’ve all read similar stories. This one was neither more, nor less credible than others I’ve read. I have a pretty open mind. Some might even say its doors are permanently ajar. They can hear the wind blowing.

Hahaha. I made a self-deprecating joke.

What was kind of neat about this particular woman, aside from the obvious, was her husband. He met her when she was called in on one of her earliest cases, some 20-odd years ago. He was a Homicide cop assigned to the case and highly skeptical of her abilities. Guess she convinced him. And then some.

The story got me thinking about psychic or paranormal stuff. I’ve mentioned in an earlier column about my great-grandmother, Big Baba, being a card and tea-leaf reader. During my teens I was fascinated by all things paranormal; devouring books by Hans Holzer (the ghost hunter), Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery and others. I exhausted the local library’s store of books about astrology, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, telekinesis, telepathy, psychometry and spiritualism.

My then-future-ex-wife and I had our charts done by an astrologer. We got his phone number from an ad. The only information he wanted was our place and times of birth. No names or other identifying info. He gave us an appointment about a week later. Each of us received a long, detailed reading. I recall being amazed when he recounted a near-drowning experience I had when I was 10. At that time, only about three people on the planet knew about it. I hadn’t even told my parents.

I began to read books by Herman Hesse, Kahlil Gibran and Carlos Castaneda. Along about this time I was also experimenting with mind-altering compounds. (Hay! It was the late 60s - early 70s.) Finally, one nasty night I learned that thinking about paranormal stuff while under the influence of certain substances was a Very Bad Thing.

So I pretty much stopped doing both, or either, for a very long time.

In the intervening decades I’ve had the occasional, outside-the-norm experience. I expect many of you have as well. Here’s a couple that, although not overly dramatic, stand out:

1 - I was in my early 20s and a recent university graduate, living in London, Ontario. I was (and still am) an inveterate people-watcher. It’s part of the writer-thing to observe and speculate; to mentally file quirks and tidbits of conversation, tone of voice and mannerisms.

I was sitting at the back of a bus (from where one can see everybody), on my way downtown. At a stop a girl of about six or seven, a woman, and a man got on board. I glanced at each in turn and almost physically recoiled when I saw the man. I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt sick.

There was nothing obviously loathsome about his features necessarily. He was of medium height, dark-haired and had a sallow, slightly waxy complexion. I realized that I just very, very strongly felt evil emanating from him. That’s not a word I use a lot but it was the only one that fit.

The woman and girl sat in one seat, the man opposite them. None of them exchanged a word. They got off one stop before me and I was struck by how passive the little girl was, as was the woman I assumed to be her mother. Both walked, eyes lowered, to the exit. I glanced away as the man neared, not wanting to make eye contact, however briefly, with him.

I’ve never felt such a strong, negative visceral reaction before or since and hope I never do. I’ve often wondered about that woman and girl.

2 - For several years my ex and I lived in an old house built in the early 1900s. We lived on the main floor and basement, another couple on the two upper floors.

The basement had cold spots; well-known to ghost story readers. The temperature could change dramatically one step away from wherever you were. The spots were not constant and they existed all four seasons of the year. I grew used to them for the most part, although every now and then, when alone down there at 2:00 a.m. watching a late show, I would get creeped out. Once or twice, I actually ran upstairs when I felt a cold spot starting to surround my chair.

Our main floor kitchen had a door added to separate it from the front entrance, used by the upstairs couple. We were friends and visited often. When in the kitchen, we could hear them come downstairs, or enter their front door from outside. Practically every day we’d hear their footsteps approach that kitchen door as they visited.

Late one night, three or four of us were sitting around our kitchen table talking when three very loud knocks suddenly rattled that door. We all started because nobody had heard approaching footsteps, either from the neighbour’s stairs or front door.

I took three steps and opened the door. Nobody there. Nobody going upstairs. Nobody going outside from the front door. We hadn’t been playing music, just quietly talking. It was late and we would most certainly have heard someone approaching and leaving that door.

As the wise sage Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

But you can’t always explain what you observe.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Serendipity: Part Deux

Last week in my column I wrote about serendipitous stuff that has happened to me over the years. I then related my fortuitous online meeting with a pro tarpon fisherman and budding writer named Dino Ramaciere. I urged everyone to check out the latest (April) issue of Field & Stream magazine, wherein they could find Dino’s first published story - Beauty and the Tarpon.

One of my readers, who I think lives in Australia, wrote to ask if any of Dino’s writing appeared online as he had no access to the magazine. I knew Dino hadn’t posted or published anything except for his F&S story, so I wrote back saying I’d ask Dino’s permission to send the draft of the story that he had sent me some months before.

Dino did me one better and sent me the galley from the magazine which included one of the spiffy illustrations used to accompany the piece. I forwarded the galley and made a note to offer to do so in my next column to anyone who had problems finding the mag.

Now a bit of back story:

About a month ago I came across a reference to Google Alerts on the Absolute Write boards. Many of you probably know about it but for those of you who don’t - it’s a service provided by Google wherein you input keywords and they’ll email you any search results containing those keywords. I thought it might be a fun way to track my book so I entered “what fish don’t want you to know” (without the quotation marks).

Every 24 hours I received an email from Google Alerts which contained links using my keywords. Unfortunately, probably because I didn’t use quotation marks, I got mostly inappropriate results - stuff like:

Trout season tips to live by Trout are safe, healthy meal Rules ...
Scranton Times-Tribune - PA, USA
... have broken or unusable straps, or that don’t fit are ... Also, if you catch fish, like perch or sunfish, that have no minimum size and you want to clean ...

The first line would be a clickable link. The second was the source. The rest was a snippet from the linked page highlighting the “appropriate” keywords.

Usually among the 10-15 results there would be one or two that actually related to my book’s listing on Barnes & Noble, or Amazon or elsewhere but most weren’t at all germane. I tended to delete the mail after a five-second scan and each time would make a mental note to alter the listing to include quotation marks to winnow out the inappropriate links. But as we all know, mental notes aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on and I kept putting it off.


This morning, the first listing in my Google Alerts was:

Beauty and the Tarpon
Field and Stream - USA
... I went fishing one morning with my wife and my sister. Initially, my sister didn’t want to make the trip. ... You know I don’t like to fish....

Yep. Dino’s story is online. Now you don’t have to shell out bucks or visit your library to read a fine story by a fine writer. Go read it right now. You won't be sorry. I'll wait.

I suppose sooner or later Dino, or someone, would have tripped over the online listing and let me know. But it was a hoot to come across it this way.

Might even call it serendipitous.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pamela Anderson (both of her) and a nice story

Unique seems to have taken on the task of being my Muse. She's hinted rather broadly that it's past time for another entry. So blame this one on her.

I read a nice story in the newspaper this morning. A young woman from New Jersey, Lindsay Scharzwaelder, (you can't make those up) was vacationing in Ontario in January. She and her boyfriend were returning from a ski trip when they lost control of their car on a very snowy road. The car rolled over and ended up in a ditch. Luckily, both Lindsay and her boyfriend were unhurt and walked away.

Later, she discovered that two rings she'd removed while skiiing and placed in the car door's armrest were gone. They'd must have fallen out into the snow when they opened the door after the accident.

Lindsay was distraught at the loss of the rings and tried to call the 1-800 number the attending police officer had given her. But it didn't work from the States so she wrote a letter to the Ontario Provincial Police, asking if it would be possible for an officer to look for the rings after the snow melted.

Last Sunday, OPP Constable Russell Elliott walked along the ditch near where the accident had occurred months before. He didn't have much hope of finding the rings but figured he'd give it a shot. He shone a flashlight around the muddy area and something gleamed.

Uh-huh. It was one of the rings. He dug around in the mud nearby and found the other one too.

They are now back where they belong, on Lindsay's fingers in New Jersey. She's happy. Constable Elliott is happy. I'm happy I read it.

Also last Sunday, I watched the Juno Awards, Canada's equivalent to the Grammys. The show was hosted by two of Canada's most famous expatriates, Pamela Anderson.


I hadn't watched the Junos in decades, since back in the days when Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfooot, Count Basie and the Guess Who copped all the hardware. The show was boring and predictable. (Those words should be synonyms.)

But I was drawn to it this year because the Canadian music industry is booming, with lots of individuals and bands worth a listen. Michael Buble, a crooner in the Tony Bennett tradition, was the big winner, with several awards. But The Arcade Fire, Bedouin Sound Clash and Nickelback didn't go home empty handed. Bryan Adams was deservedly elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. (I forgive him his recent obsession with power ballads because Summer of 69 is one of the great rock anthems.)

Coldplay and the Black Eyed Peas also performed and help present awards. All in all, it was an enjoyable show and Pamela and Pamela had nothing to do with it. Hardly anything. Much.

You know, if some of you would like to read more of my stuff you're allowed to subscribe to my (mostly) weekly, (mostly) humourous, free, emailed column/newsletter. (Hello? Unique!?) The column is BCC-d. Nobody will get your address (except me - and I keep it safe in my underwear drawer). Just drop me a line at baronitall(at)rogers.com. You know what to do with that (at).