Wednesday, 18 May 2016

To Fuck With The Purple People

Fuck labels.

Liberal, conservative, democrat, NDP, Republican, LGBTQ, vegan, vegetarian, white, black, purple, Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Hindu, Shinto, Jew.  Fuck anything that identifies you with a group. It's overboard. We all have just one label - human. 

It's completely out of hand now. We as a people use labels to identify ourselves with a group for many reasons, whether it be a sense of belonging, community, faith, political stance, whatever, there are so many labels, and that is now a problem. 

Drop the labels and we'll drop the hatred.

As soon as you identify yourself anymore you invariably invite the ire of someone who hates that group. If you're a liberal, you're now a labelled a libtard by conservatives. If you're gay, you're a faggot. If you're black some racist shit is going to call you a nigger. Labels beget hatred. For every group out there that advertises it's beliefs, customs or associations there is another group actively fighting to slam them into oblivion. Each year a new label emerges, immediately followed by some asshole who hates them and begins a campaign of terror against them.

This year the fight is with what bathroom a transgender person can use in North Carolina. That sounds awfully similar to the old southern segregation rules about which bathroom blacks could use, or what store Jews could go to in Germany in 1933. Stop this shit. Everyone pees. Everyone. Just so you're aware, the bathrooms in your home are not labelled, why should any other be?

I'm very ambiguous about my affiliations to one group or another online for good reason. I don't want to be a target. I don't need to be addressed by someone who disagrees with my views. I don't need that kind of negativity in my life. While I admire the tenacity of those who fight for the rights of their personal affiliates, I see the shitstorm it causes and I don't care to be part of it. I see friends online who actively tout their labels as the 'correct' choice, and damn those who don't agree. Do you not see that you're part of the problem? 

People are getting killed all over the world because of their labels. Everyday in the news there is a story of one person somewhere who died horribly because of their beliefs, and that's not new, it's been going on since the dawn of humanity. But why are we fanning the flames here? Why after evolving to a higher life form haven't we figured out how to be simply human and do the right thing? Why are we devolving into communal groups fighting (literally) to convince everyone else they are wrong? 

That's exactly what it is now, nobody is fighting to get their view across, they're fighting to disavow the opposing view. Shut down what they don't agree with. Dispose of the other labels. It's stupid. 

I see it everyday. Trump supporters wear their red hats, and refuse to do business with those who wear blue bumper stickers. Christians wear the cross, muslims wear the hijab, PETA fanatics usually wear nothing but draw carve lines onto themselves and stand in busy intersections. Whether you intend to pass a message on or not, it doesn't matter. Most labels are innocuous, people invariably do something to themselves before going out to classify themselves. In the case of race, simply existing paints your label. Sadly, there are those who hate that label just because, well, because they're fucktards. Another label, willfully granted.

Here's my new label - I'm a separated, skinny middle aged basement dweller. Go ahead, raz me on that. I'm sure someone will find a reason to hate me for it. Simply because that's what we do now as a people, we categorize ourselves and file ourselves into the appropriate folder, never touching or associating with another label unless it's out of hatred or making the attempt to convince someone they're wrong. 

Fuck the labels. We're human beings and we should all act like it. Lately, we're acting like selfish children on the school ground and I can't see it getting any better. With that, all you purple people can fuck right off, you have no place in my existence.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Basement Observations

Several months ago there was a major shake up in my house which saw me moving into the apartment in my basement. As I was alone I no longer needed the two floors and three bedrooms upstairs, and as I'm so bloody skinny I really don't take up much space anyway. Add to that my rather minimized lifestyle, I don't need all that room for 'stuff'. I have what I need, bedroom and living room furniture, computers, TV, kitchen stuff, yadda yadda. Oh, and a drum set.

Given that change in the past months I've taken to noticing things I never noticed before. Things I took for granted or never even bothered thinking about. And as I tend to spend most of my time in this space I've taken to noticing them often. Very often, like all the time often. When something happens once or even twice you may ignore it, put it out of your mind and never give it a second thought, when mundane things happen constantly you start to perk up to them. So here I give you the short list of weird things I notice living in a basement.

1. Cats will go out of there way to sit in a basement window. They will viciously fight for the spot and to the victor go the spoils, regardless of how small the window is, or how utterly impossible it is for them to achieve this perch. I swear they moved my furniture to get up there. Massive bay window in the living room? Nah, 12x24 inch window opening up onto my neighbour's foundation will do just fine.

2. Water metres sound like freight trains at 6:30am. It's in my bedroom and except for this little tidbit I've never paid the dumb thing a second thought. We all have them, and we all ignore them. Now, I know when anyone else has a shower, does the dishes, brushes their teeth, waters the garden, and I know exactly how long it takes them. 

3. I don't know anything about the outside anymore. I no longer know when there is an emergency vehicle on the street, or a weird car roaming, I no longer know when it's raining, snowing, or in some cases, daylight. I can't hear anyone knock on the door, I am completely impervious to the outside world unless I go there.

4. Pipes hurt my head. I haven't quite learned to duck yet, and at least once per day I crack my noggin.

5. I know everyone's every move. This is an old house and as such the floors are not exactly thick. I can hear when someone goes into the kitchen, living room, and even up the stairs. I've started tuning it out, but it gets tough. I even know what TV shows are on in the upstairs living room.

6. It's dark, I don't have the luxury of a huge window anymore, so I have to rely on artificial light, which annoys the hell out of me, but I'm adjusting. When a bulb burns out down here, you may as well be in a deep cave at midnight.

7. Basement floors are cold as a witch's heart. I have to wear slippers, Always. Everywhere. Even my carpeted living room is frosty. However on the flipside to that, I know from this being my former family room that this is the place to be in August. Nice and chilled on a hot summer day.

8. Laundry is much easier. The washer and dryer are right outside my door, so no more hauling baskets down the stairs. Flipside is that like the water metre, I know when anyone is running a load. 

9. It never rains in a basement. I've left all these windows open during the worst storms we've had this year, and not once has there been any indication of rain getting in. For some reason, it just doesn't happen. 

10. I am very attuned to the shortcomings of house trim and finish. I never realized this upstairs, but down here it's obvious that a basement, being the place visitors usually don't go, tends to be missing bits of trimwork from windows and doors, has exposed rafters, concrete floors, and the like. My basement is finished, but here and there, there are places where the people who finished it just seemed to stop caring. 'Don't worry about that, nobody will ever look there'. Yeah, except me. Now I'm looking at these places thinking I have to finish the job.

As I sit here with my open window full of cat(s), I can hear birds outside. I wonder what kind? I wonder if it's raining. I wonder if my clock is correct. I guess I should wander out and see the world for a while, 

Then I'll crack my head on the pipes again on the way to the coffee pot.

Cheers.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Changes

This has been a week of change. For the first time in almost five years I've gone back to work. After five years of no boss, no responsibilities beyond that of normal everyday living and child rearing, nobody to report to, nobody telling me when to be where, nobody telling me how to dress, or get my hair cut. Nothing. That all changed this week and quite suddenly. 

I went for a job interview on Thursday at 1pm. It wasn't an interview, it was a deliverance of terms. I was asked to start at 6pm, a short five hours later. I hummed and hawed at that for a brief moment, realizing quickly that this was not an opportunity to pass on, so being as unprepared as one could be, I accepted. My first work shift in five years was literally thrown at me with no notice, and to boot it was a ten hour midnight stint. I've always worked day shift, at my desk at 8am in Kingsville an hour down the highway. And like clockwork, in bed before 11. Now I was working til 4am. That was a fun night. And when I finally got home, sleep eluded me. I ended up over-exhausted. 

The job isn't much, but I wasn't looking for much. Just part-time to start so I could weed myself back into a lifestyle I haven't seen in a long time. That and am not quite prepared to give up my pension quite yet. Not that I don't want to, I really do, it's just a simple matter of the job having to be good enough to take the risk. If I took something that didn't pan out, I'd be stuck without income, a very uncomfortable thought. This offer was perfect, except of course for the 4am thing.

I can't say (or don't want to) say too much about what I'm doing. Not that I'm embarrassed about this course after my previous career, on the contrary, this is a very honourable pursuit, and one I will enjoy. I just don't want to let out too much until I'm comfortable in my new shoes. 

Shoes, that reminds me, I have to buy new ones. 
I also had to arrange a flurry of other actions, haircut, cell phone, and razors. Yes, razors. When I'm alone at home there is really nobody there who cares if I shave. Certainly the cats don't. But now, yeah, customers. Picky, finicky, judgemental customers. I need to clean myself up, literally. 

My first night was without the necessary prep. I have the wrong shoes, I managed to scrape my face with a mustache trimmer, my hair is out of control, yadda yadda. You see I made a command decision lately to see what my hair would look like long; I've always worn a military cut, and call it mid-life crisis, but I wanted to just see. Maybe I'll hate it? Don't know. But the point it's at now is between a crop cut and uncontrollable mop. Again, who cares, I'm alone. Not so much. My first night a customer told me I looked like Weird Al. I laughed, he laughed, the random guy walking down the street laughed, it was all good. Yesterday I got a trim. Baby steps.

My first days were nuts busy. No down time, no break for the wicked. Tonight I'm working til 2:30 and here I sit at Tim Hortons writing. It's strange how suddenly things hit a wall. Mind you in my former life working on publication deadlines was very similar. Monday and Tuesday were production days and that usually meant a 12 to 14 hour day in Kingsville, then the dreaded commute. Wednesday we drifted off into a sort of quiet clean up, a short day of tying up loose ends and preparing for the next wave. Hump day usually ended after around six hours. A nice break. Tonight that brings up memories of the former environs. The calm after the storm. It's funny how these two jobs are so different, yet so similar. A nightmare frantic rush of customer care followed by reflective peace.

It's been three days now since I once again became a productive member of society (as it were). In this time I've come to realize the benefit of work, five years of retirement is enough. Five years of boredom. Enough. Just plain enough. Once again I feel useful, wanted, needed. Not just the troll in the basement. This isn't to say these past years have been a waste, on the contrary, I had a chance to do something most people dream of - retire. Take time for myself and my family. Take time to actively pursue things I've always been curious about but just never had the time for. But time was the enemy, way too much of it. This job will occupy a desperately needed aspect to my existance, that is taking up some of that unused time slot. 

Getting paid for it is gravy. 

Cheers.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Storytime - The Old Log In The River

Disclaimer - This story is about stupid things we did as kids, and stupid things you will have told your own kids not to do. That being said, you all did them. And without your knowledge, so have your kids. But damn was it fun!

The log must have fallen into the river in the sixties or seventies. It was always there growing up, and by the look of it, it had survived many previous kids. Covered in carved graffiti, much of that washed away with the ebbing tides of the Detroit River. It was about fifty feet long, completely stripped of bark, and its wood bleached by the sun and water. The log lay in the water about twenty feet out from what little shoreline there was, at the foot of Moy Avenue. Its limbs splayed out in an effort to hold up the massive trunk that remained, with the evidence of its uprooting plainly visible on the one end. This log was a nature-made playground and a destination for many of us all year round. This of course, pissed our parents off big time.

In order to get to the log you had to cross the tracks. At that time the riverfront parkland did not exist, a railyard was in its place. Stretching from the Hiram Walker plant to Dieppe Gardens, the rail yards were the last stop for cargo destined for the US on the old barges. Of course, they were private property and off limits, mostly for our own young protection. That never deterred us. The yard was in the way.

My old friend Hans and I played there for several years. I know he'll read this, so I welcome him to add any flourishes that come to mind!

Firstly, the log was not on land. In order to get to it you had to venture out into the water. Surrounding it was a kind of rocky beach area that was only 100 feet long at most. The water was shallow and easily traversed. So needless to say, we never came home dry. There was a small portion of it that acted as a sort of bridge, but invariably, by design of children or simply being klutzy, we always ended up in the water. We would stay there for hours at a time, inventing silly games, watching ships go by, or wading into the river as far as we could go. Frankly, at my age I have no idea why we spent so much time there, however, try to understand a child's imagination at our age, even if it was your own. I also now firmly believe that I've developed an immunity to damn near anything, as I swam in that shithole of a river, and probably drank more of it than tap water.

Occassionally we got ideas. Ideas that now are, well, dumb. Then, they were fucking brilliant. One day, we realized the caboose near the log was unlocked. (Back in the days of the caboose). We got intensely curious, and went in. A caboose is essentially a staff room for the train men. A full kitchen, lounge, observation areas, storage, and more. It reminded me more of a mobile home on rails. Within this home away from home, we found the kid's holy grail - flares. Tons of flares. Of course we took them, what would you expect? We walked back to the log with our jackets stuffed with flares, bulging out in front as if we were pregnant. I walked right past a railway employee, and I was scared shitless. I looked him right in the eye as I walked past and said a quaint hello. He replied, none the curious and carried on with his duties. I let out a huge sigh of relief and bolted to the log. I thought I was cooked! We spent the next couple hours lighting flares and tossing them into the river. And yes, they do indeed stay lit. I'm sure twenty or thirty feet from shore at the foot of Moy there are still a pile of old flare butts laying on the bottom.

Winter brought new experiences to the river. When the ice-breakers plowed a channel for the ships that got stuck in the freeze of the river, the results of the efforts became a playground themselves. The ice would dam up against the shore in massive uneven broken sheets, all the way downriver. The blocks would stick up on angles up to 45 degrees, smashed together by the force of the river, and welded themselves together in such a manner that it became a better obstacle course than any army could have dreamt of. We of course, saw adventure in this. 

Starting from the log one fine January day, dressed in our winter finest, we set off downriver. Climbing the mountains of ice as if climbing glaciers, we made our way first out into the river as far as we could go, and then turned toward the old pump house, at least a half kilometre away. It's still there by the way, partially restored and now sporting a nice dry walkway. Back then though, it was a decrepit and derelict danger, at least ten feet out into an unforgiving river. It was much deeper here than at the log, so it was always difficult to get to. With the ice flows it became a walk in the park. Our park.

Downriver we went, climbing up steep angled ice, dropping down onto the next, hopping to an outcropping, and so forth. We were having the time of our lives, and the cold air did not matter one bit. Kids are resilient, and we were fearless. Until I fell through the ice.

I jumped onto a flow that was lower than the rest and flat. As soon as I landed I was in trouble - it gave under my weight (not that there was much of that, but it was enough). I went halfway into the hole and managed to stop my descent by sticking my arms out and breaking my fall. When Hans was finished laughing, I had him help pull me out. I didn't feel the cold at all, only the excitement of the moment. It wasn't a far stretch to realize our day on the ice was over, and we began for home. It was about six blocks to the house, and I was completely drenched. We carried on as we walked, and still I didn't feel the cold. By the time I arrived, my pants were literally iced over. The joints of my jeans were cracked, but my thighs, shins and butt were solid ice. It was really quite funny, especially from Hans' point of view, he was still dry. 

My dad was furious. Pissed. I got blasted that day more than any other. I went to have a hot bath and change all the while hearing dad yelling at the walls about how irresponsible his son was. I giggled a bit, even though I was petrified. But I knew my dad. He lectured me later on the dangers of the river, and for the umpteenth time forbade me from going near that log. Then he laughed.

Years later he recounted the story of how his son the popcycle came home that January day. He knew damn well that his threats were empty. We were kids; adventurous and sometimes quite stupid. But we survived. We had fun against the odds.

Most of us have stories like this one, we all did dumb things as kids, and frankly if you don't remember them, then you weren't having a fun time of it. And don't think for a moment that your kids haven't done some things that would fall into the category of dumb shit. You just haven't found out about it yet. I'm sure my dad never found out about the flares.

Cheers.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Syrian Refugees

Canada has been a haven for the unfortunate and downtrodden since it's inception. Hell, Canada was built by the unfortunate and downtrodden. The earliest beginnings of this country were in the hearts of the refugees from the American Revolution, when thousands of loyalists fled the colonies for fear of their lives. My ancestors were among them, John Depue lost 980 acres of land in New York and fled with his wife and children through the wilderness, all the while being hunted by patriots who wanted to kill him simply because he was loyal to the King. He ended up in Niagara where he began the painstaking task of rebuilding.

Sound familiar?

Canada has accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees who want nothing more than to live in peace and rebuild. I have no issues with that. I have no problem with helping those who can't care for themselves. We Canadians have accepted waves of refugees before, Vietnamese boat people, Cuban refugees, Iraqis fleeing war, and Jews fleeing Hitler. Oh, wait, that boat full of 900 jews in 1939? The government refused it entry, turned it around and they headed back to Germany, where most them died in the camps. But I digress. For the most part, Canada is mostly nice to those in need.

But like the jews of 1939, help is selective.

I'm on disability, which I will publicly state, I fucking hate. I want to work, I want to contribute, I don't want a handout. And I am diligently working to that end. That being said, yes, I'm on the dole. But when you actually think about it, CPP is worker contributed, so I'm essentially living off my savings. I worked 20 years for that money. Are Syrians?

People who are living on welfare have a mixed reaction from others. Many think they are lazy moochers who just don't want to help themselves. While this is true in some cases, far too many for my liking, it is also true that people on welfare have fallen on hard times and are simply using it to pay the bills and put food in their kid's stomachs. They want to be on welfare as much as I want to be on CPP.  People on Unemployment Assistance don't want to be on that. Again, they paid into it, so they're living off their savings. Nobody, unless you're a total douche, intends to fleece the system and living on EI.

Then there's the homeless. The homeless veterans. Homeless university educated people, homeless families. Ask yourself this - Where are the Syrian refugees living?

Help is selective.

The Trudeau Government initiated this settlement program immediately after taking office. On day two, right after taking our CF-18s out of the middle east on day one. Why didn't they take care of homeless families on day two? Why couldn't the refugees wait til day seven? Because they were in danger? Because their lives were on the line? Weren't homeless people really in the same boat as another Canadian winter was about to set in? Nope. Refugees got the highest bidding.

Yes, we're a nation of refugees and immigrants. Yes we're a country founded on principles of compassion and humanitarianism, yes we're country people all over the world aspire to come to and live freely. But for fucks sakes, we're a country in trouble. Over 35,000 are homeless in Canada on any given night (The Homeless Hub) There's been 25,000 Syrians let into the country since October. How many of those are now getting new homes, TVs, cars, government cheques and more? I can't find a story to link to, but last week there was a CBC story about a British Columbia man who asked for assistance in Saskatchewan. Their response was a one-way bus ticket back to BC. Literally, they gave him a ticket. Fuck you very much.

We should help people if we are to remain a world influence. We are one of the richest nations on earth and with that it is every Canadian's responsibility to help where and when we can. That's why we have so many working abroad in hundreds of charitable organizations in war-torn and destitute regions. That's who we are! We're world-respected for that, peacekeeping, mediating, and innovation. But really, when do those 35,000 homeless get help? Before or after the next wave of downtrodden hit?

Mr. Trudeau, stop trying to impress the world this way. It isn't working. If you want to impress anyone, take people off the doles. Give me the economic benefit of a good economy so I can get back to work. Help those in need get off welfare, help the homeless families. Please Mr. Trudeau, pull the doors closed a bit instead of throwing them open to everyone.

Fix us first.