Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016: First socks-free day in my Keens

I said I was taking a blogging break to pack, but I guess I’ve become compulsive. I just had to record this first rite of spring – wearing my Keen sandals without socks. It was a bright, sunny day with the temperature reaching 8C (46F), and forecast to hit double digits for the next week.

Through the winter, I wear black socks with my Keens. Socks with sandals are generally considered a serious fashion faux pas. “Hideous,” says a close family member. In last fall’s federal campaign, the Conservative government promised to establish a tip line for people to report “barbaric cultural practices” – racist code for such things as the Muslim niqab. Social media generated a slew of satirical examples, including white socks with sandals. I think the closed-toe Keens look great with or without.

Today’s instalment of “Lorne is losing it”

Yesterday, I made an appointment at what I thought was Carter Honda to change my winter tires – another harbinger of spring – and have them store them for me to free up space in my storage unit. This afternoon, I drove to the appointment. But they had no record I was coming. Seems I had gone to the wrong dealer, Destination Honda. Quickly I drove to nearby Carter Honda, but they too had no record of an appointment. But they were happy to do the job for me on the spot. While I waited, I checked my phone log – the real appointment was with yet another dealer, Vancouver Honda. Doh.

Oh, and Monday I turned up at the Jewish Community Centre to pick up my hamentashen (pastry for Purim)  a full month before the actual date.

Back to packing. I’ve hired someone to help me pack on Thursday. Could procrastination be just plain laziness?

Monday, Feb. 22, 2016: #OccupyVancouverCohousing

I’ve been waiting a long time to use that hashtag #OccupyVancouverCohousing. At least in a headline, because I don’t really understand Twitter. Today we finally got our occupancy permit for Vancouver Cohousing, which clears the way for completing our home purchases and possession. As our usually understated development manager, Ed, announced in an email: “At last !!!!!!!!”

If I don’t utterly fail to pack up by Friday, I’ll be sleeping there at 1733 East 33rd Ave. on Friday night. In the meantime, yesterday I brought a few things there from my storage unit – see photo above – so I can make space for more stuff from my Kerrisdale place to go into storage. Do you remember George Carlin’s hilarious routine about “Stuff”, that a house is just a pile of stuff with a cover over it.


Let me stop here. I know my aim has been to post every day that I’m 69, but I’ve only packed one box so far and Friday is fast approaching. I spent a chunk of this evening promoting next Sunday’s Chanting & Chocolate. I’ve posted on 54 of the last 55 days. Now I’m going to take a break from blogging until the weekend and focus on getting myself moved. See you soon.

Being 69 –Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016: Roots of wasabi

Growing eggplant in Uganda, detailed in yesterday’s blog post, is not my only vegetable gardening adventure. I’m growing wasabi in Vancouver. You think that green mound nestled next to the pickled ginger on your sushi plate is the real thing? Most wasabi served on this side of the Pacific is a mixture of horseradish, mustard and green food colouring.

I can hardly call my wasabi a crop. It’s just one pot – see the photo above – growing on my balcony. I was shopping two summers ago at Izumiya Japanese Marketplace in Richmond when I saw they were selling little wasabi plants. I picked one up and put it on my balcony.

Quite quickly the leaves were wilting in the summer sun. A quick google revealed they like to be in the shade, so I rigged up a lawn chair over the pot to shield the plant. With plenty of water, it’s been happy since. I’ve snipped off a few leaves to add to salad; they taste like mild wasabi.

In Japan, wasabi grows naturally in rocky river beds. In 2014, the BBC did a story  on wasabi farming in B.C., which had started a few years before on Vancouver Island. “Wasabi is deemed by most experts to be the most difficult plant in the world to grow commercially,” the story said. But the rewards can be very lucrative, with the roots fetching hundreds of dollars per kilogram.

The story said chef Nobu Ochi has been buying Island-grown wasabi and selling it to customers at his Zen Japanese restaurant in West Vancouver. “We send the grater out with the wasabi in it, and let them have the experience of grating fresh wasabi,” he said.

According to the BBC, the heat and flavour – significantly less bracing than imitation wasabi, but similarly sharp – last only for 10 to 15 minutes, so wasabi is grated as needed. “Once they taste it, like anything else that’s good, you don’t want to go back to the other stuff.”

I’ve lived in Japan for three years and visited several times. I must have had genuine wasabi but I don’t seem to have the discriminating palate to tell the difference. A blind taste test would be interesting.

I’ve learned that it takes about a year and a half for wasabi to mature and grow the roots. That’s now for my potted wasabi. I have no idea what’s going on under the soil. I’m a little afraid there may be nothing. Not quite ready for the Big Reveal.


The wasabi root is stood on a grater made of a piece of sharkskin fastened to a wooden paddle. Using a circular, clockwise motion, you press the root down and a paste is formed.


Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016: Love affair with eggplant

I don’t recall when I first fell in love with eggplant. It was never on the dinner table growing up, but the affair probably dates from when I began going to Chinese restaurants on my own as a teenager. I love to cook eggplant and to grow it. At one point when I lived in Uganda, I was determined to become the Eggplant King of Nabugoye Hill – see the photo above. (I’m surprised, for a period that was a little more than a year of my life, how often Uganda comes up in my blog posts.)

Most of the Abayudaya Jews, like their Moslem and Christian neighbours, are subsistence farmers. Eggplant was fairly expensive in the market, so I decided to grow my own. One of the farmers, Aaron Galandi, kindly let me cultivate some land between his banana plants. Together we planted 600 seeds. Unfortunately, there was no irrigation and not much rain. I didn’t water often enough. In the end, I harvested only 40 plants. But it was still a thrill to hold that modest bounty in my hands.


Preparing the soil for sowing eggplant seeds.


It was raining one day when Aaron Galandi came to bring me to his fields, so he hacked off a banana leaf for an umbrella.

When I go to restaurants, I look for eggplant dishes, eager to try something new. Japanese, Korean, Israeli, Thai, Indian, Persian – they’re all good. I like saucy food and there’s something about how eggplant soaks up and highlights the flavours. Sometimes the eggplant is lightly cooked and firm, sometimes it’s soft and melts in your mouth. I also love the purple colour, more and more of which is in my wardrobe

For years, my favourite meal to whip up in the wok has been Hot and Spicy Eggplant Sichuan-style (a close family member claims I made it twice a week). Instead of ground pork, I use the soy product called Yves Meatless Ground Round, which has great texture.

A more recent favourite is Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango (love mango, too!), from Plenty, the fabulous vegetable cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. Try the recipe, you’ll like it.

Are you an eggplant fan? Do you have a favourite recipe?






Friday, Feb. 19, 2016: Life of procrastination

It’s a little ironic – I’m sitting here procrastinating about writing about my procrastination. I’ll go get another glass of water. That’s better. It’s 11 p.m.; I’ll really can’t let it go any later. One friend has noticed that I’m often posting to this blog at 2 in the morning.

It’s not that the day hasn’t been full and active. I played tennis this morning, took care of errands at the bank and post office, renewed my driver’s licence, did my daily practice, napped, watched a bit of a tennis match online, talked to my extended health insurance company and lit candles for Shabbat.

But I’m just getting down to writing this posting. And I haven’t touched a most important task – packing for my move to Vancouver Cohousing. Next Friday the movers come and I have to be ready but I haven’t filled one box yet.

My earliest memory of procrastinating goes back to Grade 8 at McPherson Junior High School in Burnaby. To that point I had been a high-performing student. We were supposed to have prepared a science notebook for a parents night. But I delayed and delayed. In desperation, I played sick.

Somehow, I actually got sick and spent a month at home. When I got back to school and took exams I got B and C+ grades instead of A grades, and the sky didn’t fall in. After that, I gave in to delaying more and more. At university, I worried more about procrastinating over getting papers done than about the contents of the writing.

In the work world, as I noted yesterday, toiling for daily newspapers forced me to meet deadlines every day. Outside of work, being married to a non-procrastinator was very helpful to keep me organized. But we divorced 23 years ago, and I haven’t done so well on my own.

It has cost me. At my job, I chronically failed to claim for medical and dental expenses. I haven’t been late with my taxes but am always last-minute. Even now I haven’t taken care of all the paperwork from a change in bank account numbers and could face penalties.

Life is the choices we make and I take total responsibility for my procrastination. Scientists have been looking into this bad habit. A study by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder has found that a tendency to procrastinate is affected by genetic factors, which are also linked to a propensity to be impulsive.

How about you? Do you procrastinate? Do you have strategies to overcome delaying? I saw this illustration.




Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016: Sunset of my work?

Love those sunsets from my balcony, even if this one was last week. I’m using it as a tenuous connection to reflections on the work I’m doing in retirement. Before my “Freedom 59” in 2006, I went to a financial planner at Vancity to see if I could afford to pull the plug on working 9-5. I only had 12 years in the pension plan. But he told me I was OK to retire, and that if I worked part-time during my 60s, my money would last until I’m 96.

That was incentive enough to seek out opportunities. One was working as publications manager for the Uganda country office of BRAC, the world’s largest anti-poverty organization. From our compound in Kampala, they sent me to South Sudan, Tanzania and other areas of Uganda to document for glossy annual reports the impact of their programs, mainly micro-finance, to raise mainly women out of poverty. It was inspiring to interview young mothers who had been selling say a small basket of tomatoes in the market, and then with a series of micro-loans were able within as little as 18 months to open their own market stall, build a house and send their kids to school.

After writing the annual reports, the job got a little tedious and I remembered why I had left the full-time work world. I returned to Vancouver and another opportunity fell into my lap. Because of a conversation between a close family member and a former university classmate, I was offered a contract to edit reports for an infrastructure strategy consultancy in Ottawa. That same former classmate recently moved to a provincial government agency in Toronto and now I edit for them too.

For a few years I wrote and proofread from time to time for the weekly Business in Vancouver. That work dried up but I’ve been updating a website and doing digital newsletters for a former editor of the paper. Which is what I was doing this morning.

As well, I do plenty of editorial work for no money. My favourite is editing the performer profiles for the program for the annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival. That earns me entry for the weekend and my lunches and dinners backstage. For two years, I created the program and promotional materials for the Limmud Vancouver learning festival as a volunteer. I’ve done similar promotional work for Vancouver Cohousing plus a monthly digital newsletter for the community. Ditto for promoting Chanting & Chocolate, and my charity projects for the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda.

So, my 60s are about over and this decade of occasional work has helped preserve my capital. I could ease off the work and play more. Well, after making a book out of this year of blogging. But there’s still a slice of my identity wrapped up in being an editorial professional. I don’t think I’ll be quitting it all anytime soon.



Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016: Approved at last / Conversation with Ian Brown

Today was huge for Vancouver Cohousing, almost four years after the process first began. We got approval from the City of Vancouver’s property use inspector, the occupancy permit is days away, I’m signing papers for my unit next Wednesday, we close on Friday and I’m moving the same day. Glory halleluyah, gotta get packing.
I took the photo above to show our address sign and the state of completion (Strangely, I get a kind of prison-like vibe from the image). I like our address: 1733 East 33rd Ave., and our postal code, which echoes our address: V5N 3E3.
It was an eventful day. I took my 2007 Honda Fit Sport to get cleaned at Premium Detailing, thereby eradicating the sour smell I could not locate. Drove me crazy. It was a deal on Groupon.
I went to my dentist to get my newly made night guard. While I was there, a regular patient came in and presented the receptionist, Silvana, with a big stuffed animal. The patient said when she turned 90, she got nine of the fuzzy creatures and wanted to spread them around. Silvana was overjoyed.
This afternoon, I donated blood at Canadian Blood Services. Without my car all day, I rode a lot of buses and walked a few miles. And after becoming Facebook friends with Ian Brown, my inspiration for “Being 69”, we exchanged some messages. I bought his book, “Sixty” at Chapters.
• • • • • • •

Hi Ian. Your “Sixty” has inspired my “Being 69”. Since my 69th birthday Dec. 30 I’ve been posting daily to my blog, lornemallin.com, with a link to Facebook, with the intention to complete a year and turn it into a book.

Somehow, I had the idea when I read that your project began with a post to Facebook that you continued your diary there. But I think it’s clear you kept it privately, except for some feature pieces in the Globe – right?

In your book, there isn’t an entry for every day. Did you write in your diary every day?

I’m a lifelong journalist, beginning with reporting at The Vancouver Sun at 18, later editing at The Toronto Star and ending the 9-5 at The Province where I retired early at 59. These days I do editing on contract.


Ian Brown
Ian Brown: That’s an excellent idea, Lorne Mallin–if I do say so myself. And you are right: I did not continue my diary on FB, just privately. I did keep it every day, or almost every day, in one form or another–notes, long entries, artifacts, what have you–which I then edited and often rewrote. But I didn’t want to “publish” on FB every day, for fear of…well, publishing daily, I guess. Not that that is a bad thing, especially from someone like you, who knows how to hit that ball. Anyway, your blog is terrific. I envy you that view in BC–and your old place on Quadra.
Like · Reply · 2 · 13 hrs
Lorne Mallin
Lorne Mallin: Great to hear back from you, Ian Brown. With the books you’ve published, clearly you’ve got the discipline to write regularly. I’m too much of a procrastinator to do it on my own. Working for daily newspapers left me no choice but to meet deadlines. Similarly, I’ve got daily deadlines to post to my blog, self-imposed but public, and it gets done. I have to say I enjoy having written more than writing. By the way, I went to Chapters today and bought Sixty.
L69-021716-Ian Brown Magic

Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016: ‘Your ebbing abs’

Karen Heaps, my yoga teacher, was a little tongue-tied in our class this morning. “Tuck in your ebs,” she instructed. “Ebs? Abs. Your ebbing abs.” Cute, and oh so true. They’re ebbing. Maintaining my body at this age takes more work than I often want to do.

The camping photo above was taken last May when my weight was where I like it, around 175-180 pounds. Yesterday I weighed 192. It’s been up and down for decades, ever since my metabolism began snoozing. And like my weight, my determination to stay in shape yo-yos.

The laptop has gravitated from the treadmill desk to the dining table, where I’m sitting right now in a comfy faux leather office chair. The approximately two hours a day I spend maintaining this blog is time I had been devoting to brisk walking – about 3.6 mph – on the treadmill while I watched The National, Netflix and tennis tournaments.

On the plus side, I’m still going to racquetball and yoga twice a week and tennis on Fridays, although this morning I brought my tennis gear to racquetball and had to borrow a racket. A brain snooze. Nothing against snoozes though. I nap pretty much every day, usually after lunch when the blood gravitates to my digestive system and I begin nodding off.

Today I didn’t nap until after dinner at home of a tilapia burger and salad. I knocked off for a half-hour before heading downtown refreshed to meet my Tuesday movie buddy. This week we didn’t agree on a movie to see. He wanted the Filipino film “Everything About Her” and I wanted “Room”. Instead we met for coffee and got into our usual subjects, such as journalism, politics here and the Mideast, and the futility of Internet dating.

Making a match seems near impossible. He dates almost exclusively Asian women. I seek out women with an active spiritual life (if they have to ask me what I mean by spiritual, they don’t have one). A friend asked me yesterday what my deal breakers are. I responded: Smoking, not available to eventually merge lives, more than a little overweight, needs to drink every day, lives more than an hour away.

I don’t make it easy. Maybe I ought to take more to heart the reading from Saint Thérèse of Liseaux (1873-1897) that Karen offered at the end of yoga class this morning:

“May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”




Monday, Feb. 15, 2016: My dad in WWII

Today I got a call asking me to bring my father’s military records when I make a family visit back East for Passover. I received them from Library and Archives Canada in 2014 and pulled them out for a look this evening. My dad, Hyman Mallin, shown in the photo above in Winnipeg with his father, my zaida Louis, didn’t talk much about his service in the Second World War. The records tell more of the story.

I learned that Dad first tried to enlist in July 1940 in the army, which his older brother Sid had joined and was in active service. But he was rejected for bad eyesight. Then he applied in January 1941 for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and officially joined as an aero engine mechanic on June 3, a month before he turned 23.

On Aug. 12, 1942, he married his sweetheart Molly Shuer, who was 21, and they honeymooned at Clear Lake, Manitoba. Both my parents died years ago, my mom cruelly young at 50 in 1971 and my dad with a fairer share of life at 85 in 2004.

On March 27, 1943, Dad shipped overseas, boarding the troop ship Queen Elizabeth (a Cunard liner post-War) in Halifax and served as a baker before landing in England on April 4. At first he was stationed in southern England, where he recalled German planes strafed the base.

Then he spent the rest of the war with the 423 Squadron at Castle Archdale air station, a seaplane base for the Royal Air Force and the RCAF 120 kilometres west of Belfast. His mission – maintain the carburetors in Sunderland reconnaissance flying boats. And he played on the basketball team.

According to the website forgottenairfields.com, the station was located on the banks of Lough Erne. It was “an important flying-boat base for Coastal Command due its close proximity to the Atlantic, just about 30 miles away. Unfortunately those 30 miles lay across County Donegal, a part of neutral Eire, the present day Republic of Ireland. However a secret deal was struck between Britain and the Irish Republic, which allowed Allied aircraft to overfly Donegal along a narrow corridor to reach the Atlantic. This concession gave the Sunderlands and Catalinas an extra 100 miles range, which was crucial to the protection of the North Atlantic convoys, and the detection of enemy ships and U-boats.”

When the war ended in 1945, Dad returned to Winnipeg on a troop train. While everyone else filed off the train and marched in formation, he said he quietly left on his own. He had had enough.


My dad with his brother Sid in Trafalgar Square in London.


My mom and dad when they were courting in Winnipeg.


At Castle Archdale air station, the flying boats were pulled out of the lake, Lough Erne, before it froze over one winter.

Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016: Light at the end of the tunnel

Vancouver Cohousing is looking a lot more like a finished project than a construction zone. Look, grass in the front and no more fence. Taryn took these photos on Friday when she had a walk through of the common house with Colin and Ian. “I have to say,” Colin commented, “the common house is stunning, and the view from the dining room onto the patio and gardens is far beyond my expectations.”

We passed the first of our final City inspections on Friday and the second is Monday afternoon at 3. We’re sending our team of professionals all our support for a positive result.

We’re pinning our hopes on moving in by the end of the month. I found a lovely couple to sublet my place in Kerrisdale from March 1. It’s only for three months. Maybe I’ll know by then whether I’ll want to stay in cohousing or move back.

L69-021416-VCCH-diningLooking out from the common house dining room into the courtyard.


Part of the container gardens and children’s outdoor play area.


The children’s play area inside the common house.


The centrepiece of the common house kitchen – the fabulous gas range.

• • • • • • • •

Falling in love with a chant

Valentine’s was not rewarding romantically; coffee dates on Saturday and today were not mutual matches. But I did fall in love with today’s Flavor of Gratefulness chant by Rabbi Shefa Gold in my daily practice, which is still going strong, by the way. The melody is infectious. I find myself belting it out to reach the heavens, and singing it ever so tenderly to my heart. I look forward to leading it at the next Chanting & Chocolate on Sunday, Feb. 28.

I sent Valentine’s e-cards to a close family member and to my first wife, Betsy, in New York. I was also in touch by email today with my second wife, Shoko, on a non-Valentine’s matter. I posted this cheeky Ikea Valentine to my good friend Ingela in Sweden.


This evening I was remembering my last girlfriend, C., when I prepared a dinner we used to enjoy – triangle pasta stuffed with sweet butternut squash, from Trader Joe’s. While I ate, I listened to an episode of “The Why Factor” on the BBC World Service about the science of pleasure. People learn to love the foods they enjoy. In my part of the world, not so many people eat really spicy chili peppers, while in Thailand, for example, most people love them; but their domesticated animals – dogs and cats – don’t like the peppers at all.

C. couldn’t stand the taste of cilantro; for her it was like soap. Scientists have identified most cilantro haters as people with a shared group of olfactory-receptor genes that pick up on the smell of aldehyde chemicals. The chemicals are found in both soap and cilantro.