Friday, November 07, 2008

Gord Guenther, RIP

Night Visits from the Angel of Death

By John Taylor; 2008 Nov 07, 04 Qudrat 165 BE

Several months ago my little son Tomaso asked me where money comes from. Specifically, he wanted to know how you can get it into your own pocket. After a half hour of dialogue we came up with six basic ways of making money -- you can steal it, counterfeit it, save it, borrow it, you can earn it or, lastly, you can receive money as a gift, either by inheriting it or, say, by winning the lottery.

After further discussion we came up with a seventh alternative, you can make your own money. You can print it. This is not necessarily counterfeiting. It is perfectly legal to make your own money as long as your notes do not resemble legal tender. If enough people trust that you will redeem it for face value, just about anything can be legal tender. Businesses do this all the time with their coupons, sweepstakes and other reward schemes. You can also print money that encourages barter arrangements. I mentioned this "seventh path to money" to my friend Gord, and he pointed out that "green bucks" schemes where labor and services are indirectly bartered are collapsing, at least for small businesses. This happened, Gord said, as soon as the government went after them for unpaid income taxes. Still, it is theoretically possible for an individual to print money, though it may not be practical at the moment.

I have my own way of rewarding our kids with reward points, using what I call (in Esperanto) "rekompenso poentoj." It resembles printing my own money, except that it is a number I write on a blackboard in the kitchen. It even has a fixed exchange rate. They can redeem twenty "rekompenso poentoj" for a dollar.

Last month, nine-year-old Tomaso devised another scheme to get him more money quicker. Realizing that his mother does pretty much anything he asks, he raided an old board game and extracted its play money. This funny money he calls "Mom bucks." He got her to invest the equivalent of three seed dollars. They use a complex exchange scheme between funny money and real; I do not even try to figure it out. By this means, he derives a regular income in Mom bucks. Call it a maternal allowance, I guess. Last night he came with a handful of Mom Bucks, the equivalent of almost seven dollars.

Interesting contrast. Two monetary schemes in a single household. You could call my system "Dad Bucks," to match the name of his mother's allowance. Dad bucks are conditional and invisible. Silvie and Tomaso get them strictly for merit. For example, an "A" on a test gets twenty points, a "B" fifteen, and so on down. When Silvie was much smaller and was committing a small transgression, I took an eraser to an imaginary, invisible blackboard hanging over her head. I would start vigorously wiping out point after point. Inevitably she would stop what she was doing and leap up to hold my hand, determinedly preventing the erasure. Then she would comply. Generally speaking, she is more avid not to lose points than to go out and earn more.

Mom bucks are in some ways an improvement. For one thing, Tomaso invented them himself, so he has an imaginative and emotional investment in the scheme. Dad Bucks he inherited from his sister. For another, Mom Bucks exist physically in the form of official-looking paper bills. He does little jobs in order to get more Mom Bucks, and -- as far as I can make out -- Mom Bucks encourage him to use business acumen to make cash faster than my reward points. The fact that he gets more out of it than he puts in adds a thrill that my strict Dad Bucks system does not.


I wrote the above fragment a while ago, and just finished it off.

I mentioned in it my chess buddy, Gord Guenther. This week I got the sad news that he had died. His funeral is tomorrow, Saturday.

It seems that he was pitching hay during the day with his little brother Joe -- Joe is not literally his little brother, as I thought for most of the time I knew them. Gord and Ellen are members of the Big Brothers program, and Joe is the teen from what used to be called a broken home that was assigned to them. Anyway, Gord may have been strained by the exercise; he did have a heart valve. That night he died peacefully in his sleep. Gord was not much older than me. He was a strong chess player -- in our total number of games he probably won more against me than I did against him. He also played many other games, including war games and diverse board games. When Tomaso came up with a new game, Gord usually could explain it to him.

From The Badi Blog

Gord at his barbecue when we visited in July, 2008

He was, by trade, a fine cabinet maker, that rare combination of high intelligence with manual dexterity; he was an accomplished worker with his hands. For years he had worked for a large cabinet business in Dunnville, but when it closed he set out on his own. The name of his business was “Gord’s Job Jar.” He could build anything, but after a while he specialized in finish work. One of the barns on his land he converted to a finishing shop. He was pioneering more environmentally friendly water based finishes, but I still could not walk into his shop without getting an instant headache.

From The Badi Blog

Gord talking with my other chess buddy, Stu Edwards

Gord was one of the most well spoken fellows I have known, a true raconteur. It was very informative and illuminating to hear him expatiate on any subject. He especially liked to explain background details of local politics, especially the woodlot association (of which he was president). Twice he took us on a tour of his land, explaining how he had planted various endangered species of trees here and there, and worked to improve the place for animals, for example by putting in a pond for passing ducks. Our children were delighted by his horses, dogs and barn cats. Once, when we were volunteering together in the Youth Center Gord and I were discussing the new influx of Chinese pilots into Dunnville.

From The Badi Blog

Youth Impact Centre, July 2008

A teenage boy standing by heard the word "Chinese." He spouted a string of racial epithets, complaining that immigrants were taking jobs and opportunities away from Canadians. No doubt he was only repeating what he had heard from his elders, but it was still galling. As always, I was struck speechless. Where do you even start to respond to such nonsense? I knew I had a moral duty to say something but what? Fortunately, Gord was on the spot. He instantly came up with a truly brilliant, eloquent counter argument. Without antagonizing the boy, he pointed out that we have abundant opportunities here but so many Canadian youth do not take advantage of it. We squander our lives and then sit back and complain about how immigrants, who do nothing wrong but only work hard, are advancing while we stagnate. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. If I had studied and worked on it a week I could not have written a better response than Gord gave off the cuff. For me, that was Gord's finest hour.

From The Badi Blog

Gord playing chess with one of the volunteers

May God be a big Brother to this big brother through all the worlds of His Creation.

Other posts featuring Gord are at:


I was going great guns producing an essay or more each day until -- right around the time Gord died, now that I think of it, I lost it. I could not think. I tried job after job on my long “to do” list but entire regions of my brain were just not there. At times it seemed to be an apoplexy of will. Finally I gave up and restricted myself to activities less demanding of my retarded brain. Day after day I would wake with high hopes. I would go to do something and my mind would wander. My days were wasted. And I was not the only one. My kids were subject to emotional outbursts, and my wife was more miserable and snippy than normal.

Then I noticed the weather conditions. It was very strange. There probably were smog alerts but I do not listen to the radio or television, so I was not warned. On Wednesday we drove to Hamilton to pick up the new Futurama movie, Bender's Game, that the kids had been bugging me to buy. Tomaso in the back seat noticed, when we passed a large field, that there was a fog hanging low to the ground. It was quite beautiful.

"That is not fog," I pontificated, "It is coal smoke. Let me know whenever you see even a trace it. If it is there in even tiny quantities, I get a migraine."

After purchasing the movie and visiting the library, we turned right around and drove back home at dusk. I noticed a strange thing. As it got darker, the smog set in very quickly. In fact, I began to suspect, it had been there all along, it just happens to be invisible in daylight conditions. The next morning I confirmed this. I woke before sunrise and there was a thick fog. Half an hour later the sun rose and it had disappeared completely -- at least to the naked eye. No normal fog could dissipate that quickly. No, this is the plague of Moses, the angel of death visiting the Egyptians, and the first born that are dying are not babies but the higher mental faculties that make us rational, cogitating human beings.

I look at that coal smoke, generated courtesy of our local Nanticoke Generating Station, and I think about Gord. He had a heart valve, so he must have had heart disease already. The same day I was unable to think my way out of a paper bag because of the smog, that was the day he died. I remember reading soon after moving here that epidemiologists had found this area to have one of the highest incidences of heart disease in the world. The medicos were talking about exercise programs or something to counteract this problem, causes unknown. Of course, there is no conclusive proof that this sky high heart disease rate has anything to do with the fact that North America's second worst polluter is situated just down the road. If any proof is forthcoming, it is already too late for the likes of Gord.

From The Badi Blog

John Taylor



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