Ankle Update


I was back to see my surgeon today and I’m happy to report that my ankle is healing well, although I will be hobbling about on crutches for some time. As well, it will be quite a while before I do any driving, since it is my right leg in the cast. All those white lines in the photo of my X-Ray are screws holding me together. The smaller white lines on each side are the staples along the incisions. The surgeon had to go in on both sides, and as well as the screws, he had to sew up some ligaments.


I also got a new fiberglass cast today, which is much lighter than the plaster cast they put on after surgery. I go back to see the surgeon again in 4 weeks and we’ll go from there.

The Outlander

Our neighbours M & D left a care package in the mailbox – a pair of novels. I started into the first one the other day – Gil Adamson’s first novel, The Outlander. It turns out this is a page-turner, and it pulled me right in, taking me back in time to 1903.

The Outlander is the story of a young woman on the run after killing her husband with a single gunshot to the leg. Her husband’s brothers are after her, in hot pursuit as she heads west into the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

This is a fantastic adventure story, beautifully written, a story with a number of surprises, not the least of which occurs when Mary, the central character, finds herself amidst a very famous Canadian natural disaster, at a place it happens I’ve visited on multiple occasions.

Excellent and highly recommended.


Since breaking my ankle, I’ve been spending most of my time in a large room that was built by the previous owners of our house above the garage. The only problem with this plan is that there was no railing at the landing at the top of the stairs from the ground floor to this room. As well, there was no railing along the short flight of stairs from the main level of the house down to the bathroom.

Today our friend Frank installed some new railings, which have immediately made it easier for me to get down to the main floor or the bathroom. I’m continuing to hang out most of the time in the one large room but now when I do need to tackle the stairs it is a much safer adventure.

On Monday morning I go back to see the doctor. Hopefully this injury is on track for healing. I’m trying to be a patient patient, but no two ways about it the restricted mobility is no picnic.



I had Patrick DeWitt’s short novel, Ablutions, with me while I was in the hospital, but I learned very quickly that I am incapable of reading while taking uber-strong pain medication. I’ve been backing off the pain pills (I still need them occasionally and especially at night) and last night I gobbled up this book.

I chose to read Ablutions on the strength of DeWitt’s brilliant The Sisters Brothers. Ablutions, his first novel, is written in a format of notes for a novel written by a central character, a barman, who works in a seedy Hollywood bar. He befriends the various characters, most in various states of alcohol and drug-induced decline. Along the way, the barman experiences his own descent into the world he is observing.

It’s a dark book, a bleak book. Beyond the barman, the characters are treated in a sketchy way and so some of them seem clich├ęd. The drunken underbelly of urban California has been well-explored by others from Charles Bukowski to Tom Waits. DeWitt does Ok in this crowded space and the short novel format is deftly handled. There are no surprises, but I still found the big slide downhill to be strangely compelling. It isn’t for the squeamish and it isn’t pretty. Still, Ablutions is a pretty good first novel, and even if it is not in the same league as The Sisters Brothers, it’s worth the read.

Tough work?

The other night I watched a bit of one of those cooking game shows. It was one of those shows hosted by a panel of so-called celebrity chefs, in which home cooks subject themselves to a great deal of humiliation in their quest for a piece of the celebrity chef action.

It got me thinking that the restaurant game must be pretty tough work when some of the best in the business jump at the chance to become game show hosts instead of spending their energy doing restaurant work. On this particular show, the host judges seem way out of place trying to cobble together the game show, even with the assistance of aggressive editing, a tight formula an plenty of dramatic music.

I have never worked in the restaurant business. As someone who enjoys cooking I can see why some people would be drawn to doing it at a high level. At the same time I can see that being a line cook must be a very difficult, hot and nasty gig, and being a chef must be a management gig above all else.

This reminds me of a discussion with a working musician a number of years ago. She had played in various orchestras and was respected as a strong player. It turned out she disliked doing the orchestra work and eventually she stopped doing it altogether. Even though she was a top rate player, she found no room for creativity in her job. She had to play out somebody else’s interpretation of the music and she was frustrated doing it the same way every time. She had to sit in the same spot each performance and simply execute time and again.

Perhaps for the celebrity chef it is simply a chance to lever some experience and expertise to get out of the game. I’m sure the television money is great, and for those chefs doing high-level management of a number of restaurants, the publicity might add to the bottom line. Still, when I watched this show, I felt bad for these guys who seemed to be fish out of water.

A Canadian Art Controversy? How unusual.

Perhaps you have read about it. the Vancouver Art Gallery has come into possession of 10 “new” works attributed to J.E.H. MacDonald, a member of Canada’s hallowed Group of Seven. Some doubts have been raised as to the authenticity of the paintings as reported by The Globe and Mail.

The story around these paintings suggests that MacDonald wrapped up and buried the pictures in the 30s to protect them, and they remained buried – safely – until the 70s. I find this part of the story to be incredible and fascinating. I’m a painter and I know plenty of painters. We all have storage problems. At one time I destroyed many of my paintings because I could neither find homes for them nor afford to continue to pay to keep storing them. Still, it never occurred to me to wrap up a bunch of them and go dig a hole in the garden and send them to a temporary grave.

Considering how to go about wrapping up 10 painting in such a way that they do not succumb to the various creepy-crawlies, moulds and fungi, all determined to turn them into a compost heap, makes my head ache. It is very peculiar behaviour. Stranger still is that the painter’s son must have known they were in the ground all those years because in the end he dug them up.

Why were only these paintings buried, and not others? Or, are we to expect other Group of Seven paintings to appear from various Ontario gardens. I’m very interested to see if this art controversy has legs.

A Week Later

It has been a week since I slipped and messed up my ankle. Sheila, my family, friends and neighbours, my boss and my workmates have all been super-supportive.

The whole business continues to be uncomfortable, and it is difficult to focus really well on the pain medication. For instance, at this point, reading a newspaper is fine but I can’t get very far on something like a novel. I expect that will change as I am able to back off the medication. I’ve been watching a lot of DVDs for now. I’ve tried playing the banjo for short periods, but again it has been hard to focus well enough, and my usual drive to play just isn’t there.

Over the weekend, quite a few friends did a great job of keeping me distracted and laughing. I have mission control set up here with everything I might need around me. Not much else to report. It seems hard to believe my injury took place a week ago. Thanks everyone for your support.

Arse over Teakettle

I looked for ice on the steps. It was that kind of weather. I thought of the Wade Hemsworth song, The Shining Birch Tree…’twas the in-between season of freeze-up and thaw. of course I wasn’t in the north woods, just on my way into the office.

I didn’t see any ice at all and didn’t know it was there until I took a flyer, arse over teakettle. I recall heading head-first down and thinking this is bad, so bad. somehow my foot caught on a stair and bent back in a way feet aren’t supposed to bend. I tried to convince myself I hadn’t broke a bone but my ankle extended several inches out to the side. Sheila brought out a chair for me to sit on then called an ambulance. I assessed the damage – a minor scrape on my hand and The Ankle.

The ambulance took me to Western rather than St Joes. “They got better bone guys”. Ok. the hospital calls the process of setting and casting the injury reducing it. They tried three times during the day to reduce my ankle, unsuccessfully. The first time they gave me some kind of trippy sedative. I remember strange voices and shadowy figures but no pain. the second time they tried with pain meds only. I mostly recall the pain. The third time, a surgeon came to see me. He said I was going to need surgery for sure, but he was going to try one more time to reduce it. When this was not successful they had me ‘on call’ for surgery, and I went in at about 9:00 pm.

I was given a choice of anesthetic…either a spinal or a general. This was accompanied by detailed descriptions of the risks, rendering a decision next to impossible. I finally went with the spinal, which worked just fine. hardware was installed. since then bearing up to the discomfort has been my main activity. the degree to which this is coherent has a lot to do with being past due for a blast of painkillers. Yes it is throbbing but my brain is not swimming and drifting. My reward for completing this post will be medication. I’ve been told the first few days are the worst, and I seriously hope that is the case. I won’t be posting nearly as much as usual here at 27th Street but I’ll try to check in often enough that you don’t entirely forget about this blog. See you soon.