My Relation to Jaws

Shannon Kernaghan Bait-twit My Relation to Jaws Adventure Covid-19 Family  Steven Spielberg jaws carl gottlieb

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That’s one of my favorite lines from the blockbuster movie Jaws. I’ve borrowed these words several times throughout my life.

I smile when I flip through photos in my copy of The Jaws Log written by Carl Gottlieb. a book based on the making of the movie. Considering the ongoing popularity of Jaws, released to theaters in 1975, I’m not the only fan.

What delights me as much as watching the film again (yes, I own the DVD) is the reminder that creativity has no expiration date. People keep talking and writing about Jaws. Today I read an online article on UPROXX. Writer Mike Ryan interviewed Carl recently about the film’s current relevance.

Wait . . .  a comparison to covid-19? Why not. In Jaws, Amity Island residents were angry that the beach was closed for 24 hours, even though people had died. And despite the lingering threat – much like coronavirus – those same people insisted on returning to the beach and into the water. Read the full story here: https://buff.ly/2YRryMm

Carl is the ideal person to make this comparison – he was hired by director Steven Spielberg as a screenwriter for Jaws, and Carl also played the role of Harry Meadows while working with a cast of brilliant people.

Back to my smiling: Carl Gottlieb is not only a talented screenwriter, actor, director and comedian but he’s also my second cousin. He connects me even more tightly to the delight I experience when I watch this movie again and again.

The Jaws popularity continues. In 2021 a musical will premiere about the challenges of filming this 70s classic. Better yet, the production is created from Carl’s memoir The Jaws Log, the very book I’m enjoying today.

This time top billing won’t go to the great white shark who chased people flailing and screaming out of the water. Limelight shines on the mechanical shark nicknamed Bruce, which is also the name of the musical.

I feel proud to link with this legacy, even if by a thimbleful of blood. Wait . . . I shouldn’t use ‘blood’ when referring to sharks, mechanical or otherwise.

Rock on, Carl! And may our own expiration dates be equally enduring.

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Dad Wins ‘Best in Show’

Shannon Kernaghan Leon-boat-photo-e1548017023153 Dad Wins 'Best in Show' Relationship Family Memories  respect june fathers day

It’s that time again, the third Sunday in June when we tip our ball caps to the good fathers in our lives. I treat this day with plenty of respect, which is easy to do because I had a great dad.

Bottomless patience. That was one attribute that made him wonderful. While other dads shouted at their kids for denting cars or coming home late, my pop rarely lost his temper.

Take the time he bought a boat so we could cruise the river or enjoy a dozen rides on the lake during our weeks at a rental cottage.

Once, while my dad was tying our boat to the pier after one of those excursions, my brother dropped his glasses into the water. They quickly disappeared through the murk.

Some fathers would have yelled at their son’s carelessness. Not my dad. He donned a pair of goggles and dove once, twice, five times through gasoline rainbows until he found Randall’s horned rims on the lake bottom. That’s how Dad took care of business, without finger pointing or threatening words, and without expecting big thanks.

On another occasion it was my turn to test his endurance. I entered our teacup Chihuahua, Mini, in a local dog show. When Dad and I rolled into the parking lot, there were no cars, only a notice on the building’s door: DOG SHOW MOVED. The new address was a 45-minute drive.

On his day off – only one each week – Dad could have said, “Oh well, try again next time.” But he didn’t. We sped across town through pouring rain and hurried inside with Mini, who wasn’t overly excited about imminent fame, fortune or Best in Show.

Unfortunately, we were too late and I missed my turn in the ring. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in a crowd of milling people and their pooches. Again, my dad could have been annoyed for wasting his afternoon. All he said was, “Let’s get a hot dog from the canteen before we leave. They look like good ones.”

And that was it, all part of being a father and spending time with his children, supporting their dreams.

Remember to cherish your own dad, whether he’s near or far. To all the patient dads on Father’s Day, I raise my hot dog to you.

And for the record, Mini could have won that Best in Show trophy. At least that’s what I’ve told myself since age thirteen.

audio version song
Airport Lounge
by
Kevin MacLeod 

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Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan Stop-Confusing-Your-Pumpkin-451 Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins Childhood Culture Family Food Friendship Humor Parties Risk  pumpkin makeup halloween communal water chocolate bar

I can’t understand the rationale behind applying special Halloween make-up and then dunking your head in a tub of communal water, all for the prize of grabbing an apple. I need more incentive.

When I was a kid, apples were not my friend on Halloween. People who handed out chocolate bars? Now those were folks forever etched in my heart. The larger the bar, the more respect they wielded in the neighborhood.

Besides apples shunned by us sugar-loving kids, pumpkins are also given a bad rap on October 31. Sure, they’re respected over Thanksgiving when they sacrifice their lives for our pumpkin pies, but come Halloween we develop short memories. Instead of revering them, we cut, scoop and hack away, defacing pumpkins into leering jack-o’-lanterns. Then, we let them shrivel to unrecognizable pulps before tossing them into a compost bin or the next trash pick-up. Talk about ‘dissing an innocent gourd.

Know who else gets a bad rap? Teenagers. The rumor that floated through school at Halloween was the same every year: “Look out for those AWFUL teenagers! As soon as they spot you walking with a full bag, they’ll steal your candy!”

Sure, teenagers are notorious for egging windows and trimming trees with toilet tissue, but not all of them are evil. During one childhood Halloween, I almost made it home after a fruitful trick-or-treating mission. After saying goodbye to my friends, I looked over my shoulder for those awful teenagers. I was a mere six doors from home when the unthinkable happened: my bag of treats – weighed down by apples – tore and spilled my candy onto the street! Horrified, I ran home crying.

Before I could explain the tear-choked tragedy to my mother, our doorbell rang.

“Gee, that’s a grown-up looking trick-or-treater,” Mom said after peering through the window. She opened the door to one of those awful teenagers. He’d taken off his jacket and gathered my candy. Since he watched me run home, he followed.

My mom whispered that I should give him a reward for his kindness, so I surrendered several of my most-coveted chocolate bars.

From then, I wasn’t frightened by teenagers on Halloween. Instead, I’ve developed a fear of dentists because in addition to collecting candy, I garnered a few cavities that year.

If you’re still brave enough (read: crazy) to bob for apples at your Halloween party, insist on going first. The last contestants in line have a tough time breaking through the oil slick of grease paint on the water’s surface. And don’t invite me unless you plan to bob for something good, like diamonds or a plane ticket to Honolulu. For that I’ll smudge my make-up.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN to teenagers everywhere. I’m thrilled if you’re reading my post. That means you’re not out egging our car.

Audio verison song
Old Salooner Blues
by
Midnite North

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Don’t Sniff It on Father’s Day

Shannon Kernaghan Fathers-Day-scent-2017 Don't Sniff It on Father's Day Family Humor Pets and Animals Relationship  skunks rubber vomit pracical jokes odd animals fathers pets

My father’s primary loves were his family, his pets and his television store, in varying order. No doubt that love toggled, depending on which source offered the most pleasure, the least annoyance.

Although I was less appreciative as a teenager, now I cherish the Saturdays and summers I worked by his side in “the shop.” There, I had a front-row seat to watch him operate in his favorite his territory.

His sense of humor was wry, often edging on rude. Since he was impossible to insult, he assumed everybody had the same thick skin. His guileless smile and kind heart enabled him to get away with more than the average proprietor.

I blanched when I heard him greet a customer: “Mrs. Finegold, what happened? You got so fat! Did you leave any food for the rest of us?”

“Such a kidder,” the woman said, laughing and hugging him. I don’t think he was kidding.

He was also a fan of practical jokes, whether on the playing or receiving end. One night my parents went for dinner with another couple. Outside the restaurant, someone had been sick on the sidewalk.

“Doesn’t say much for the food here,” Dad said as he gallantly scooped up the mess with his white silk scarf.

“Leon, what are you doing?” his friend gasped. “Not your nice scarf!” Dad eventually ‘fessed up to his prank: he’d brought along his own novelty store rubber vomit.

Trust was another strength my dad possessed. He’d hand over big-ticket items based on a handshake. Only once did a customer give him a bad check. After repeated and patient attempts to settle the bill, Dad drove to the customer’s home and took back his new TV. Solved! Um, he might have climbed through an unlocked rear window to retrieve it, but why sully this sweet tale with borderline B&E.

That same trust went for payment plans. Customers could have their new TV if they verbally promised to make regular payments. He accepted a few dollars each month until the bill was paid.

These scenarios were ordinary events during my childhood and teens. As an adult, I have a renewed admiration for my father’s view of humanity. A person’s age, culture, gender and income was irrelevant; my dad had respect for everyone. By the time he retired, he’d sold TVs to several generations of customers. I never grew weary of hearing their praise for him through the years.

Besides humans, he treasured animals. When my mother phoned our nearby pet store to find a remedy for our pet turtle’s filmy shell, the store owner said, “And by the way, Donna, your skunk’s ready.”

“That’s funny, I thought you just said skunk.”

“I did, the one your husband ordered? Flower has been de-scented and can come home now.”

“Over my dead body!” Mom said and quickly hung up the phone. Who surprises his wife with a skunk? We’d already sheltered and rescued a plethora of critters under our suburban roof, from dogs and cats, chickens and pigeons, to rabbits and rodents.

This weekend, do something special to celebrate your father. But don’t surprise him with a skunk. Brunch and a new gag gift should do the trick.

 

Audio version song
Little Drunk Quiet Floats
by
Puddle of Infinity

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My Beer is Child-Lite

Shannon Kernaghan Spy-on-Girl-4 My Beer is Child-Lite Childhood Beer Childfree Culture Family Lifestyle Personal Decisions Pets and Animals Relationship  shannon kernaghan rotten childhood no kids life with no children children childless childfree audio story

I don’t want children. My decision is not for physical or political reasons, or because I had a rotten childhood. It’s simply a personal decision.

I refer to myself as child-free. If I call myself child-less, it suggests I’m missing something, like a limb. On the contrary, I feel quite intact.

Well-meaning people have made what I consider dumb comments in regards to my choice. One woman said, “Don’t you want to leave behind a little piece of yourself?” She asked this while struggling to hold a red-faced squealing toddler in her arms.

“Not really,” I said as her son kicked her in the shins. Her face melded to a mix of grin and grimace.

I’m not geared for this kind of commitment. When Paul and I are out for coffee, I order a to-go cup, even if we plan to stay. What if I want to finish it later, or what if I want to leave? It’s obvious I’m not a fan of long-term leases or events that map out my future.

My biological clock must be set on perpetual snooze because countless women have told me there’s no turning off that shrill buzzer. But I’ve never heard mine. If I were a brand of beer, I’d be Child-Lite.

The other dumb comment I hear is, “Won’t you regret not having children when you’re old?” I liken this to being born with one eye and then asked if you miss the second. How do I know? Since I’ve never had the urge to reproduce, it’s tough to regret what I’ve yet to miss.

This subject of children comes down to choice and circumstances. Perhaps if Paul and I could put down deeper roots instead of always wanting to move or travel, I might have been more enthusiastic. And I’d probably be a decent mother, if the wonderful relationship I’ve shared with my own mom is any indication.

For example, I’d pass on sage advice to a son: “Don’t run with that stick. What are you trying to do, poke out your eye? You’ll miss that eye when you’re old!”

Or to a teenage daughter, “You need a bra under that top. It’s so transparent I can see what you’re thinking!” Um . . . perhaps I’m channeling my own mother here.

It’s easier to compare apples to apples. Or babies to cats. We had cats for years and I was absurdly maternal in regards to their well-being. I lost sleep, wept buckets and altered trip plans over our four-legged friends. Paul once chose a house “because the cats will love the screened-in porch and balcony!” But not everyone wants cats.

His comment is the most realistic yet: “If we have a kid, it’ll be the baby, the cat, and then me. I’ll come third!”

Is that an alarm clock I hear in the distance? Nope, it’s only the buzzer on my dryer. I might not have children, but I still have plenty of laundry.

So go forth and multiply. Or not.

 

 

Audio version song
The Emperors Army
by
Jeremy Blake

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Caved In

Shannon Kernaghan Caved-In-4 Caved In Relationship Family Health Lifestyle  phlebotomy iron overload hemachromatosis ferriton death cirrhosis celtic curse blood letting

“He’s not waking, should we get him to Emerg?” a nurse asked.

“No, he hasn’t seized,” said another. “Give him a minute.”

Emerg? Seized? I tasted my morning coffee, now bitter.

He suddenly opened his eyes and yawned once, twice. “I was dreaming.”

“Welcome back, Mr. –” he’s out again, unconscious.

I took hold of his hand and they worked around my kneeling form.

****

From the beginning of Paul’s dance with doctors, I’ve sat next to him and squeezed his hand through the pronouncement of hemochromatosis. The first doctor said his high iron level – if left untreated – will make him sicker than he already felt, possibly kill him. Her laundry list started with cirrhosis and diabetes, moved to cancer, and ended with heart failure.

Heart failure like his mother at age 54? Bingo.

Until recently, she explained, the test for serum ferritin, the protein that stores iron, wasn’t routinely done. Worse, the complaints of fatigue and joint pain were misdiagnosed.

Listening became a struggle under her florescent office lights. I thought about how life can change in a blink. Our turn.

“Is there any medication to get rid of the excess iron?” Paul asked.

“No, only weekly bloodletting for the next six to nine months–”

“Wait,” I interrupted, “bloodletting as in removing blood?” She nodded and explained the phlebotomy procedure. Visions of a medieval barber with a sharp knife and collecting bowl were close to her description: take one 16-gauge needle, pierce into crook of arm and withdraw 500-mls of crimson. Every week, a Sweeney Todd donation.

When you give blood, you’re advised to wait a couple of months between donations yet Paul would undergo two phlebotomies in six days.

****

Because his iron levels were dangerously high, the doctor ordered another round of tests. We returned to the hospital where I sat in the lab’s waiting room. The murmur of Paul’s voice was replaced with a woman’s call for help. I jumped up and followed a second nurse through the lab door. Paul was propped on a chair, motionless, his eyelids shut and head tilted to the side. My only question: “Did he fall and hit his head?”

“No,” the nurse said as she draped a wet cloth across his forehead and pressed another with ice cubes on the back of his neck. His usual ruddy skin was translucent.

She pointed to perspiration that beaded his knuckles. I wiped them dry with my hoody sleeve. After several decades together, I’ve never seen him so vulnerable.

****

When I guide myself onto the rink, hand-over-hand along the boards, I balance on razor blades, not ice skates. Paul sits behind Plexiglas and videos my inaugural skate.

Skate to center ice, I see his mouth move as I totter past, my head fighting the urge to tip backwards. He waves his free hand, wanting me to give him something video-worthy.

No way, I mouth back. Instead, I reach for a nearby skate aid that resembles a walker, a gizmo used by many of the children. Quickly, I soar between pockets of people, even if my “training wheels” are responsible for this renewed confidence. I’m careful to avoid small bodies that race past, practiced and fearless during Family Skate afternoon at our local arena.

A toddler who grips his own skate aid slides near and extends his arm. Braden is stenciled in black across the front of his white helmet. He’s trying to help me. Then I sigh and accept his mitten-covered hand. With locked hands, Braden and I make a slow loop around the rink, his father following behind.

****

I rue the iron that overloads his system, the “Celtic Curse” genes bequeathed by ancestors on distant battlefields of lavender darkened by bloodshed, bodies hoarding iron to live another crusade. Today Paul rides into battle with a Honda Civic, not a trusty steed. His arsenal consists of leathers and a welding stinger, not a shield and sword.

He had to sign forms that allowed our health care providers to release test results and instructions to me. Otherwise, in this movement of perceived privacy, people on the other end of the phone won’t even let me set up his appointments.

It’s not that he can’t take care of these details, but I want to be supportive. The seeds of my advocacy were planted through more bouts of unconsciousness and a weekly series of painful needles, needles that poke and mine for iron-rich treasure. Needles that can’t always withdraw enough blood but leave muddy bruises, painful for days.

I have become lead researcher, studying labels to avoid buying iron-enriched products. No easy task as every staple I reach for is heavily fortified, from cereal to bread and pasta. Sayonara to the red meat he loves, and ciao to shellfish. I read bulletin boards written by my new community of iron-overload victims.

“How do you feel?” I ask after each hospital session.

“My chest feels caved in and my back has a weird ache. It’s hard to explain.” He no longer works on phleb days. After the hospital, he eyes our couch like a welcoming pair of arms.

****

In the dark of night I weep into my pillow, careful not to wake Paul. I worry about him, his future health and freedoms uncertain. Other nights I feel sorry for myself, forced to shelve our plans for a warm desert getaway. In place of travel, we brace ourselves for a grey-white winter of Alberta cold and snow. “Until we get this sorted out,” I say aloud, my mantra.

After lowering his serum ferritin level, Paul should need less frequent “maintenance” sessions and lab work. More selfish thoughts circle, buzzards: no more leisurely evenings dreaming together over a bottle of red wine as the disorder makes him susceptible to cirrhosis.

Paul is more stoic. “Whadya gonna do,” and he’ll shrug. “At least I won’t die like my mom.”

****

Paul waves me over; we have to leave for the hospital before the lab closes. He needs blood work done again, something about a significant drop in his hemoglobin.

“Dammit, I’m just starting to get the hang of this.”

“So stay, have fun. I’ll pick you up later.”

I face him through the glass. “Are you sure?” He nods. This will be the first time he’ll go on his own, whether for blood work, bloodletting or trips to specialists of hematology and gastroenterology. For ultrasounds and FibroScans.

I’ve imagined him going solo, in the event of scheduling conflicts. Cool compresses and warm blankets will envelop his fears – of needles, blood, hospitals – and a familiar face will greet him, call out, “I’m ready for you, my blood brother.” Tall and strong, he’ll walk towards that voice, that needle presented in open palms, an offering.

He leaves me on the ice, waving, and I feel unexpectedly happy, not only that I’m skating, sort of, but that he’s confident to go without me. I watch him walk through the arena door, sloughing off his own training wheels.

Spring 2017  Flare  – The Flagler Review

 

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Hardening of the Articles

Shannon Kernaghan Hardening-of-the-Articles_image Hardening of the Articles Family Humor Languages Memories  writing reports spelling sativating poor english mispronouncing mangling english language language ignorannce cant spell

The English language gets pretty much taken for granted until I hear the word “sativate” used twice within thirty seconds.

“When he walked through the chocolate factory he sativated. The smell of all that chocolate had him sativating.” This from a fifty-year-old businesswoman, one responsible for writing reports and signing contracts. She went on to say that her arc-hilles heel was sore and that the doctor was “pacific in his instructions for me to stay off my feet.” Perhaps I should have corrected her but I figured she’s managed to survive this long mispronouncing ordinary words, and her mangling of the language intrigued me.

Days later I phoned an old friend in the prairies, one I hadn’t spoken to for years. Her first words were, “I can’t believe you called, I was just axing Kerry about you.”

I can live with all of this, experiencing little more than an involuntary grimace when it’s from an adult with English as a first language. But if you’re within punching range, don’t even think about using a double negative.

While I’m no Harvard grad, I did stay awake long enough to learn the fundamentals of grammar, and at least a modicum of pronunciation. If I’m lucky, a well-balanced diet of reading should stave off any “hardening of the articles.”

But language confusion is forgivable in the young, even comical. Take my cousin who argued with her grade seven teacher that plunish indeed was a word. “‘He was plunished for his crime and went to jail.’ What’s wrong with that?”

And then there’s yours truly. I spent all of grade six blanching every time the teacher announced an administration day. Funny, I scanned the room but nobody flinched. I’d recently begun to “administrate” along with most of my female classmates, and was surprised when none of them reacted to such a personal word.

Correction, I must have snoozed through a few of my English classes because I still avoid the mention of prostrate and prostate in conversation. And when I write, all of my characters stand, recline, or stretch out across the couch because I never remember the simple rules for lay and lie. (Nor, for that matter, would you find them prostrate/prostate.)

I have to go now. Paul wants me to come grocery shopping with him.

“We’ve never got nothing to eat in this house,” he yells from the kitchen, making the skin on my neck ripple. But I don’t mind leaving my keyboard, because just the thought of those candy aisles makes me sativate.

Find Shannon’s books on AmazonShannon Kernaghan books-row-display-800 Hardening of the Articles Family Humor Languages Memories  writing reports spelling sativating poor english mispronouncing mangling english language language ignorannce cant spell

Audio story music
“Cancun”
by Topher Mohr and Alex Alena