April 27, 2022

Taking The Fifth

 It is 5am on the 27th of April in the year 2022.  The temperature outside is 5 degrees.  I am the fifth son of a family of seven children, all grown now, one gone, so six now.  As I am up and awake at this ungodly hour, I am reflecting, not in a shiny thing in the sun, but more of a perusal of the many meanings of “ the fifth”.   

In law, when they speak of the “fifth degree”, it is understood that “The fifth degree means any person by blood, adoption, or marriage as follows: a spouse, or a surviving spouse, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, parent, grandparent, great- grandparent, great-great grandparent, sibling, nephew or niece, grand nephew or grand niece, great-grand nephew or great-grand niece, uncle or ...” essentially, the fifth degree is just about anybody you are related to by blood, adoption or marriage.  It appears to be a fairly broad designation.

In medical terms, “ the fifth degree” is a classification of a burn that is so severe, that “ results in all the skin and most of the muscle layer and ligaments in the area burned away. It is not uncommon to see charred bone in a fifth-degree burn. Char results when the oxygen and hydrogen in the skin burns. When char is present, the wound requires a graft and will leave a permanent scar.” A permanent scar? Do you think? “ As a result, fifth-degree burns are often fatal.“

In music, the fifth degree is named as “Each note of a scale has a special name,” and is “called a scale degree. The first (and last) note is called the tonic. The fifth note is called the dominant. “

In modern slang, the fifth degree is “Used to describe the punishment someone is going to or already has gotten. Usually the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.”

These definitions sum up giving or being designated.  But taking is different than giving. When one “takes the fifth”, it means that one is taking advantage of the fifth amendment to the US Constitution, when one can “plead the fifth,  meaning to refuse to answer a question, especially in a criminal trial, on the grounds that you might incriminate yourself.”

A fifth is also a bottle of liquor. “ For instance, a standard 750-milliliter bottle (also called a "fifth") is 25.4 ounces. That results in about 16 shots of liquor, and if it's the base spirit (such as vodka, tequila, or whiskey), you can generally expect to make 16 cocktails from one bottle.“ 

This term fifth, however, “comes from when bottles were 4/5 of a quart, which is the same as 1/5 of a gallon.”

 Why Do We Still Use the Term Fifth? 

If you take this type of fifth, you most likely are a teenager raiding your father’s liquor cabinet. If you actually take it, not as in straight thieving, but as in consumption, you would be well on the way to alcohol poisoning. Take it from me, as I have been there, once consuming on a birthday, my 30th if I remember correctly, 16 bourbon Manhatans. Now that is a lot of cherries. Especially considering that a Manhattan contains more than a single shot from a fifth, be it bourbon or rye.


  • 2 ounces rye whiskey

  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 dash orange bitters

  • Garnish: brandied cherry or lemon twist

    I remember back in the 90’s at The Gate, long gone club that was the hotspot for the Swing revival,  I met a woman DJ  from Seattle, who drank only Manhattans, and only with 5 cherries.  In this incarnation of my band The Jazzmanian Devils, we had been persuaded to rebrand ourselves as The Blue Devils, and present our eclectic musical offerings to the retro Swing crowd as swing.  To say we sold our soul for 5 pieces of gold is no understatement, as the Swing Kids, the dancers, they were not fooled.  Our exclusive drinking club did not offer enough consistent beats for extended swing dancing, i.e. our songs were too short, we were too long in the tooth, and long past our fifth Manhattan on most nights.   If my memory is a bit harsh, I plead the fifth, being the fifth child, having consumed many a fifth, scarring my liver, not the fifth degree, as that would imply more than a burning stomach or headache the next day, but an actual charring.   As jarring as the morning after was, it was rarely charring.  

    Another fifth is the fifth wheel.  

    “n. Person who accompanies two (or more) couples in a social situation, who does not have a partner of his or her own. Often the fifth person's attendance is encouraged by one of the well-meaning but ignorant female partners, who may feel sorry for the lonely person, but will inevitably ignore them once the lovemaking starts. It carries the connotation that the fifth person is often an unneccesary and unwelcome addition to the scene in these conditions. Derived from "the fifth wheel of a car", which needing only four wheels to run, has no need of a fifth.”
    This definition does take into consideration that every car has four wheels, but also a spare, in case of flats. In basketball, the spare off the bench is called the 6th man, not the fifth, as the fifth player is normally “The center (C), also known as the five, pivot or big man, usually plays near the baseline or close to the basket (the "low post"). “
    And now it is 5:59.  I have spent an hour after only 5 hours sleep reflecting on the meanings of Fifth, and 5.  But now we are 6, which brings to mind A.E. Milne. 
    When I was One, 
    I had just begun. 
    When I was Two, 
    I was nearly new. 
    When I was Three 
    I was hardly me. 
    When I was Four, 
    I was not much more. 
    When I was Five, 
    I was just alive. 
    But now I am Six, 
    I'm as clever as clever, 
    So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever. 

April 15, 2022

Good Friday is no Happy Monday

wonder if Jesus ever said, “if you call this “Good” Friday, I can only hope that I never live to see “Bad Friday.”  

For how could any day be worse for Jesus than Good Friday, the day he was nailed to a cross for “our sins”.  The day he realized his only purpose was to teach us undeserving people the lessons of sacrifice.  To teach us lowly creatures that even if your Dad is God, not just any god, but the God, well….fathers and sons are always a complicated relationship.  

Especially when your Dad is God.  

Growing up, Good Friday’s always seemed to be dark cloudy dismal days.  It was a holiday, but such a dark somber holiday, how could we celebrate?  Conversely, Easter was always a sunny morning, blue skies, nary a cloud to be seen, so many colours, white and yellow, green and blue, my mother making new matching dresses with Easter bonnets (yes bonnets) for my sisters.  I don’t recall receiving any new Easter tie or hat bought or made for me, but there were baskets with painted eggs and chocolate bunnies.  

Alas, the poor chocolate bunny, whose ears and then entire heads, were eaten first.  This is my body, eat me.   This is my blood, drink me. 

And there was always a man in white robes who said, “May we who share Christ's body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us so we and all your children shall be free and the whole earth live to praise your name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

But where in the Bible do the bunnies come in? Memories start to melt into each other, paint running into blood, turning into chocolate, melts in your mouth not in your hands, blood on our hands turning into chocolate, as Jesus himself is transfigured into a rabbit, and we are all Alice, and the Holy Land is paved over, and becomes Disneyland.

“Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME' were beautifully marked in currants.”

Of course, the story of Good Friday is also a story of betrayal. The kiss of Judas, betraying his Lord for a pocketful of coins.  Gold coins in our Easter baskets, opening up only to reveal more milk chocolate.

I grew up in the sixties, in the days of the folk mass, when acoustic guitars were introduced into the weekly service.  A time when Jesus was a patch sewn on your ratty jeans.  A time when Jesus became a Superstar. 

“ I don't know how to take this

I don't see why he moves me
He's a man, he's just a man
And I've had so many men before
In very many ways
He's just one more
Should I bring him down?
Should I scream and shout?
Should I speak of love?
Let my feelings out” 
Of course, this is the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, as sung by Mary Magdalene, the beautiful sex worker who loved Jesus. She was one of the two Mary’s. A regular Jenny from the block.  
There was also something about a cave and a bunny who saw his shadow.  It’s all a blur, these memories.  Have mercy on my soul if somehow I have forgotten any details.   
Have yourself a Good Friday.  Remember, for this is no Happy Monday, and for poor Jesus,  there was no happy ending. 
On this weekend of pomp and circumstantial evidence, of baked ham and scalloped potatoes, I have a guilty craving for bacon.  

April 2, 2022

New and Improved

Five months after the triple bypass.
I start my day doing cardio exercises for 30 minutes. This is my new routine everyday since the end of January. I am down 26 lbs from pre-bypass weight.  I feel sharper and stronger with more energy.   I am limiting alcohol to 1-2 nights, 1-2 drinks, usually 1. I have been drinking only decaf coffee since last year.

After 43 years of marriage, I feel more in love than ever before.  In my twenties, love was a drug.  In my sixties, love is hard work but worth every minute.  I am in love with love. I know that am an extremely fortunate guy.  So much lucky.

Now I take joy in simple pleasures, like being able to get up and exercise everyday. And you can see the difference this bypass and change in diets and exercise has done for me.  I feel so much better than pre-bypass.  Before,  I was tired all the time, short of breath, challenged in the afternoon with brain fog.   

I had blockages of 70-90%, which means I was running on only 10-30% of proper blood flow.  For years I was told to exercise, that it would help with my depression.   I didn’t listen.  

Now I listen.  

About a year ago I was complaining to my wife about having to crouch and bend down to dry our little dog after walks in the rain.  It hurt my knees to crouch.  She said “So you’re happy with living like that? You want to accept less and less mobility for the rest of your life? 

Think about that.  

How do feel when you get up in the morning?  

I won’t lie, I still feel stiff when I wake up. My muscles need waking up. But mid way through my daily routine, I start to come alive again.  

Guess what? Feeling good makes you…..

wait for it….

feel good.  

I feel alive.  This is why I strongly believe it is essential to take control of what goes into your body.

Take control in the way of fuel but making better food and drink choices.  

Take control of exercising your body every day.  It helps to keep all the parts in working order. I had a car once that just died on the highway.  The engine had gone dry, not having the needed oil to keep it running.  That is what your body will do if fuel it with bad choices.  It will go dry and die.  

Back in the 70’s we would go out for liquid lunches. 

Now I am in my sixties, and I am learning to love throwing punches, ( in exercise not at people!) I am learning that sometimes the best drink is a thing we call water.

 Yes, I said water.  I have the recipe. I can send it to you if you want it.