Author Archives: Gary Johnston
I have started teaching myself calculus. Well, I have not started calculus yet. I am still reviewing the algebra and trigonometry needed for calculus. It is precalculus.
How much further ahead would I be in life if I had this desire to learn everything while I was younger and still in school? I had no idea of the fantastic opportunities I had to learn things. I discarded these opportunities because I saw learning as a chore and homework as a burden. I tried to find ways of avoiding both. What the hell did I know then? What the hell do I know now?
Oh well, I am still on this side of the grass. And as my good friend Alfred Tennyson said, ” ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.”
My grandmother, Mary Wright (née Henriksen) was the oldest of three children. She had a brother named Christopher and, as mentioned in Friday’s blog, a sister named Gudrun.
Mary saw Gudrun once after leaving Norway, but neither Mary nor Gudrun saw Christopher after World War II. Mary could not see her brother because she was in Canada. Gudrun could see her brother, but chose not to. Christopher became a Nazi in Norway during the war.
Imagine that! My grandmother’s brother was a Nazi! How would he feel knowing that his older sister married a “darky” and that they lived in a mostly Jewish neighborhood in Toronto? I bet he is rolling in his grave.
As for my father’s side, my great-grandfather was from Scotland. I do not know his first name, but his last name was Johnston, a fine Scottish name. He went to Jamaica and married a Chinese-Jamaican woman. I do not know her name. They had my grandfather Ferdinand, and other children.
Ferdinand became a police officer in Kingston, Jamaica. He met my grandmother, Christine Agatha Cooper, who worked as a nurse in an asylum there.
I don’t know anything about Christine’s parents other than either her father or grandfather was Scottish. Cooper is another fine Scottish name. Also in her background was Native American Indian.
I don’t know why Christine and Ferdinand left Jamaica for Canada after they married. Christine came first, 1910(?), and worked as a maid for an influential Toronto family. When Ferdinand came, 1912(?), he tried to get a job as a police officer with the Toronto police. But hiring quotas and tokenism had not been invented yet. The family Christine worked for used their influence to get Ferdinand a job as an inside worker at the post office. He worked there until he retired.
Christine and Ferdinand had eight children, but three died during childhood. The five survivors were Doris, Harold, Leonard, Hubert (Bump) and Roy (Chic).
My parents, Minnie and Chic, were both born in Toronto.
Sometimes I get confused when I think about my racial background: White Norwegian, Black American, White Scottish, Black Jamaican, Native American Indian, and Chinese. When I get confused, I ask my friends, “What am I?”
And they answer, “You’re an idiot!”
That ends my confusion because that makes me a human being.
On June 6, 1976, my grandmother Mary (Maw) Wright and her six children celebrated her 84th birthday with her sister Gudrun who was visiting from Norway. The sisters had not seen each other for 63 years after Mary left Norway for Canada.
Mary Henriksen had a childhood sweetheart: Arne Johann Fahstrom. Mary called him “Johann.” They would have married, but Johann left Oslo, Norway to go to New York to learn the theatre business. He was planning to return to Oslo and open a theatre making Mary the lead actress and his wife. He left on the Titanic.
A short time after Johann died, Mary’s father died. Mary was close to her father. With the love of her life gone and her father gone and her dream of acting crushed, Mary felt that there was nothing to keep her in Oslo. She left Norway and later came to Toronto, Canada.
William Henry Wright was from the United States and had become a Canadian citizen. He worked as a cook on a boat that toured Lake Ontario. Mary worked on the same boat as a cleaner. They fell in love. It did not matter that William was black. There were lots of blacks in Oslo, Norway when Mary was growing up. She had a school teacher who was black. His parents were black and white. He had dark skin and one brown eye and one blue eye. After marrying William, Mary found out that the attitude towards blacks was not the same in Toronto as it had been in Oslo.
Mary and William had six children: four boys and two girls. (William, Henry, Alice, John, Minnie, and Frank)
Mary never told her husband or her children about her childhood sweetheart who had died on the Titanic. She would have carried that secret to her grave if I had not asked her, when she was 91 years old, why she had left Norway to come to Canada. She told me all about “Johann” through a gush of tears. I had never seen my grandmother cry so much. Imagine carrying that grief all those years.
I always think about this part of my family history in November. Mary and her daughters, Minnie and Alice, left the planet in November. Mary left November 15, 1991. Minnie left November 9, 2002. And Alice left November 18, 2009. Of course, I also think about it when anyone mentions the Titanic. Indirectly, I would not be here if an iceberg had not introduced itself to the Titanic.
Around 2:00 pm today, the westbound subway on Line 2 stopped at Spadina and left the doors open longer than usual.
“Attention Passengers,” said the conductor. “We’re going to wait here for a bit.”
That was all the information he gave.
Two female police constables walked along the subway platform casually talking while looking through the windows of the train. Then a male police sergeant boarded the train slightly crouched. He remained slightly crouched as he moved down the train looking in all directions at the same time. He had his hand on his gun, which was still in his holster, ready to draw.
The two constables and the sergeant left after searching the train, and the train continued westbound on Line 2.
Now the Universe has another mystery: Was the sergeant overreacting, or were the constables underreacting?
Our government seems to forget. A dead soldier is honored. But a soldier who comes back broken finds little or no financial or psychological support.
Too bad the energy that politicians put into photo opportunities and speeches at war memorials was not channeled into supporting war veterans.
Come along. Let’s take a brief tour of my imagination. It won’t cost you anything except some time, but time does not exist . . .
Look. There are clumps and bumps and dumps of a novel I have started and started and started again. Will I ever finish it? Does the world need another novel? Will the Universe stop running if I don’t complete it?
. . .
Oh no! There’s a sexual fantasy involving 47 women and a pair of rubber gloves. Let’s move on.
. . .
Look! There’s an idea. It’s still in its larval stage. What will it become? And will I use it once it becomes what it becomes?
. . .
No, we won’t go through that door. It leads to my subconscious. I’m afreud to go there.
. . .
Reality? I never thought that I would find Reality in my imagination. Reality doesn’t belong here, does it? Let’s leave it and I’ll figure out how to use it later.
. . .
“We spend a lot of time here.”
Yes, you’re the voices in my head. Tell me, are you real or just something I have imagined?
Thanks. I’m glad your answer clarified that.
. . .
Well, that’s enough for now. You can see that there is no horizon. My imagination, like yours, is limitless. I wish I could say that about my intelligence. Thanks for stopping by.
What a feeling after I finish writing something! It is a natural high. It lasts for as long as it does, and then it is gone. The only way to get it back is to write something.
If I do not write something, then I feel down. The more I do not write, the more down I feel. It is a vicious circle: I must write to stop feeling down, but sometimes I feel too down to write.
If there was a way to keep the euphoria from fading, then I would not use it. It would not be euphoria if I was euphoric all the time. I need the downtime to appreciate the up time.
Up, down, manic around—it’s all good. It’s all raw material for writing. It’s all raw material for any creative activity that requires us to express what we feel when we look inside.
People think signs and rules apply to other people and not themselves.”
That last line from yesterday’s blog reminded me of a friend who received a speeding ticket for going 120 km/h in a 100 km/h zone. (75 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone)
“I don’t deserve the ticket,” he said.
“Were you speeding?” I asked.
“No, I was just keeping up with traffic.”
“What was the speed limit?”
“A hundred kilometers.”
“And what speed were you going?”
“A hundred and twenty.”
“So, you were speeding.”
“No, I was just keeping up with traffic.”
Neither he nor the other people speeding felt that the speed limit applied to them. After all, they are good drivers and special and should be exempt from speed limits. It is another example of outstanding human reasoning.
Of course, I can look down on people and laugh at their reasoning because I am special and the signs and rules do not apply to me. So there!
My mornings are sacred. A large part of my sacred mornings is silence. I like silence as I come back to the Land of the Living. I cannot stop noises such as traffic or people talking, but I can keep an inner silence by not talking.
This inner silence shatters when someone says, “Good morning” or asks me a question. I say “Good morning” back, or briefly reply to a question out of politeness. But my preference is to not talk at all.
I practice mindfulness during my morning routines at the YMCA. I focus on whatever I am doing whether it be shaving, showering or getting dressed. I cannot practice mindfulness with my inner silence shattered by people talking to me.
I do not do anything to encourage people to talk to me. I avoid eye contact and keep my head down. But this does not stop people from approaching me to talk about the weather, sports or some other trivial topic. (For this we were given the power of speech?)
I am thinking of borrowing the title from one of John Callahan’s books and wearing a sign that says, “Please Do Not Disturb Any Further.” I doubt whether this will work because people think signs and other rules apply to other people and not themselves.
I am boycotting the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) by not buying any lottery tickets. I doubt whether my lottery boycott will cause the OLG to go bankrupt, but my boycott has put more money in my pocket because I am not spending it on lottery tickets.
It has been just over a week since I stopped buying tickets. I am not sure how long my boycott will last.
My boycott started because I got fed up with almost winning. My numbers, for several lotteries, would be one number off the winning numbers. For this, I won the square root of zero. It was happening every draw. Unbelievable! For example, with Daily Keno you need to match four numbers to win $100.00. My numbers – 23 32 44 and 47. Winning numbers – 23 32 44 and 46. Or my numbers would be 22 31, 43 and 45. Damn!
This almost winning kept happening over and over draw after draw. Finally, I got fed up and said, “Have sex with this!” (Actually, I did not say the three words, “Have sex with.” I used one four-letter word instead of those three words, but the meaning was the same.)
At first, it was hard not buying lottery tickets. With each lottery ticket came hope. And I would delay checking the ticket, for as long as possible, to keep the hope that the ticket was the big winner. But the longer I go without buying lottery tickets, the easier it is not to buy them and still have hope.
What hope do I have without buying lottery tickets? I hope that Prince Charming will come along and bring me gold, myrrh, and frankenstein—or something like that. It does not have to be Prince Charming bringing me gifts. It could be Three Dumb Guys as long as they are bearing gifts.
People tell me, “You can’t win if you don’t have a ticket.”
“True,” I say, “but if you don’t have a ticket, then you can’t lose.”