Sunday, 30 October 2016

Chivalry is Dead

For the past six or seven months I've been doing a night job involving people and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. I won't say much more than that because I don't want to actually tell anyone what I'm doing, as I have a privacy agreement in place that I will not break. So how 'bout you just don't ask, kay?

Suffice it to say, it's completely legal, and quite helpful. Nuff said.

I've never worked customer service before, I never manned a drive-thru, never ran a cash register, never cleaned up aisle three. I'm green with dealing with people, and anyone who knows me well would conclude that I'd just rather not. People are inherently dumb and I would like to avoid them at all costs. Suddenly, I have to deal with an astonishing level of dumb nightly. It takes an amazing level of self-control to maintain myself sometimes and not get myself canned.

Let's just say I've seen some shit. Serious shit. Wow level shit. And I've drawn a few conclusions about this job: First, reasoning with a drunk person is like arguing with an area rug, secondly, drunk people think society is a hedonistic nudist colony, thirdly, everything must be decided by some sort of MME style smackdown. In short, drunks can be assholes. On the other side of the coin, they can be funny as fuck, which is why I'm sticking around.

Now on to why I'm telling you this.

Last night I saw what really happens to someone when you add the right amount of booze, instant asshole, just add alcohol. And it made me very sad.

A girl and her boyfriend were in my care. She was around 35, single mother of two kids, and her boyfriend was much younger. All through the time I had them, he berated her severely. I was incensed, and she was crying. I won't go into specifics of what he said to her, but he was vicious, mean and unrelenting. She quietly and meekly rebuked him and denied his accusations all while crying. There was some other incoherent drool coming from this neanderthal, and she repeatedly maintained her stance. I was turning red, and so badly wanted to step in and stop this turd from ruining this poor girl's life. I know nothing of them, and in most cases, I don't care. I've seen domestics before, and I tend to stay neutral for obvious reasons. I've never seen someone bring a girl to tears. My only thought was why is she with this douche? But again, It's not my place. Had he raised a hand to her all bets would have been off, I kept watch for that but it never happened.

When I cleared off I talked with my partner and we both were furious about the exchange. It's unbelievable that men will treat women like that, brutal tirades, and in earshot of complete strangers. As middle-aged men we both concluded that we would NEVER treat a woman like that, EVER. And we have taught our children the same thing. NEVER. This knuckle-dragger didn't get the memo.

I know women like the bad boys, the rebels, the rough guys. I don't get that, but hey, I don't fit into that category, so I don't see it. What I do see is a fucktard who treats women like complete shit for his own gain. What does he think he's getting out of this? Why is she with him? Just a pile of WTF questions arose. I was raised to treat woman like gold, to always be a gentleman. Open doors for them, give them my coat if they're chilly, defend them. Treat them above all, like human beings. Treat woman the way I'd want to be treated if I was a woman. 

So answer me this...

Why do women stay with complete asshats? Is it money? Is it sheer physical attraction? Is it the whole bad-ass rebel style? Sorry, but having not ever fallen into that category I can't understand it. I never will. All I understand is that we both wanted to pummel this overcompensating little turd into dust for treating that girl the way he did. Maybe If we had of done that we might have felt better, but of course, we couldn't get involved.

Near the end of the encounter, they walked off together. I don't know how it ended. I hope they settled their differences as most of the issue was caused by drink. I also hope she tossed his sorry ass to the curb. I hope both because I have no idea how or why any of this happened, I'm a fly on the wall with these customers, and that bothers me some days. I can't get involved, I can only hope for a happy ending.

I've seen the other side of the coin as well. I've seen men being wonderful gentlemen to their ladies, and you can see the love in their eyes. It's wonderful to see that, however it is always with the older generations, never the younger. The Millennial and Gen X customers I have treat each other vastly different from boomers every time. Maybe that's why I don't get it. Relationships and people in general are so different from 25 years ago. What's happened? Why have things changed so much in such a short time, and why with all the public information and assistance available to abused women are these people enduring so much?

I can't see it because I'm old school. And a guy. But one thing I realized last night is glaringly simple;

Chivalry is indeed dead.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Muricans and Americans - A Cultural Comparison

I have several friends either in the US or from there. And believe me I feel for them now. I thought I would offer my thoughts on the reasons behind the current shitshow that is the US elections, from an outsider perspective.

There are two factions at play here, I will endeavour to differentiate them. Please keep in mind I am discussing the people. Not the government. There is a massive difference.

Overall perceptions of Americans are of a normal, intelligent, hard-working people. Americans have dedicated themselves to their place in the world as a whole, being a leader and helping others whenever they can in terms of development, human rights, economics trade and so much more. They have much in common with the rest of the world in that they want what's best for their children, their families and the community as a whole and wish to prosper in a difficult era.


Muricans are a funny breed commonly located in the southern United States and as far west as Texas. They are mixed among the populations of Americans in these regions, and they can be found as far north as Alaska. Some have even been found in Hawaii. 

They are a simple common folk, normally less educated that their American counterparts, and therefore they maintain a different set of views and logic. Simply put, they don't really see education being in their best interest, and prefer instead to simply make shit up as they go, then convince everyone around them they are right.

Muricans can be identified by their overuse of the phrases FREEDOM!!! and BENGHAZI!!! And as muslims refer to the prophet with the phrase 'peace be upon him' or (PBUH) when referenced, Muricans shall be given the same respect with the title (F!B!)

Americans have the second amendment to the constitution that allows for armed militias to help protect the people from all enemies foreign and domestic. This right is honoured as millions of Americans are law abiding gun owners who follow the rules set down by the government.

Muricans (F!B!), love guns and believe the second amendment to the constitution means that the world has to love them too, for having too many guns around is simply the best problem to have. Muricans (F!B!) never have any fear of someone accidentally knocking on their doors during dinner hour and disturbing them (those that have doors) and will actually enjoy the opportunity to second amendment the intruder. They apparently have a quota on how much ammo they can have and must find reasons to expend it whenever possible. This includes shoplifters, J-Walkers, people making bad lane changes.

Muricans (F!B!) also believe the second amendment gives them the right to arm everyone, including children, carry weapons anywhere fully loaded, and basically shoot anything that moves. This notion is backed by the National Rifle Association. The NRA believes that every Murican has the right to their own flame thrower, gattling gun, and piece of artillery. Of course with the proliferation of weapons comes the natural instinct to use them at any opportunity. Gunfire in Murican areas is common, sadly with deadly consequences. More Murican are accidentally killed each year with firearms than all developed countries combined. But that's ok, because freedom.

American culture is rich in sciences, art, music, drama, and many other scholarly pursuits. Americans are the only people to have walked on the moon. Their achievements are notable through their history and no doubt will continue to do so long into the future. The influence of Americans as an economic, intellectual and entertainment powerhouse is evident in the furthest corners of the globe.

Muricans (F!B!) drop science in their last year of school, usually grade 7, or at least stop listening. They prefer instead to get this sort of information from parents while putting the added time to better pursuits such as repainting old cars and cleaning guns. The Murican art community consists largely of redecorating the double wide at the trailer park, and decorating large trucks with humongous American and Confederate flags. Drama and entertainment usually come from supermarket tabloids and variety gossip TV shows. The value Kanya and Kim are not to be understated to the common Murican. Literature is provided by Captain America comic books and websites like and 

Americans honour their heroes of society, whether they be academic, scientific, sport, or entertainment with some of the highest accolades. Many Americans have won numerous Nobel Prizes in every category, The Academy Awards, The Kennedy Centre Honours, Medals of Freedom, and many more awards acknowledge outstanding achievements in every field giving hope to those upcoming in their fields to someday stand with their protegees. 

Muricans (F!B!) don't typically honour their heroes, except with the occasional nomination for government office. Recent honourees include Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.

Americans are very enthusiast about sports of all kinds. From major league baseball, to football, hockey and basketball, to equestrian events, tennis, golf, track and field and many more Olympic calibre events. Sports is a major economic driving force in American culture, with billions of dollars of spin off to countless benefactors. Simply, the US economy would shrink considerably with the contribution of sport.

Muricans (F!B!) have NASCAR.

Americans have a level of diplomatic involvement that is admired around the world. The ability to sit down and negotiate problems and help parties find common ground is the stuff of legend. President Carter was the catalyst to peace between Israel and Egypt during his tenure, the only peace treaty in the middle east to have lasted this long. Level headed and driven towards human rights equality, Americans have beaten back oppression on many levels to be a world leader in terms of equality in race, gender, faith, sexual orientation and economic status.

Muricans (F!B!) are usually not as culturally adept. It's usually their way or the highway. Arguing with a Murican can be simply nauseating as they will never accept another belief, opinion or look at any factual proof to the contrary of their own inward beliefs. Don't even try. It will be like arguing with a shoe. They are closed in and frown on outsider influence on their way of life. Bigotry and racism are the norm, and this behaviour is encouraged to the new generations of Muricans. Frankly, you won't find many gay female jewish mexican rich folk among Muricans (F!B!)

Americans have always been a melting pot of faith. The original 13 colonies were settled by emigrants fleeing religious persecution. In the 400 years that followed the original settlers, millions more have landed on US shores under the promise of openly following their faiths. This has made the American society one of the most diverse religious centres on earth.

Muricans (F!B!) are Christians only. Those who practice other faiths are normally doing it underground. Religious tolerance only goes so far.

Finally, The American system of government is based on a multi-party republic system where the congress and the senate have the power to make laws, and the president has the power to veto them, approve them or in rare cases act alone (executive power). This system also works in reverse in that the president can propose a law and congress and senate have the power to approve or disapprove them. This has been mostly effective for 240 years.

Muricans (F!B!) believe that the other guy is always wrong, a crook and should be in prison or shot for treason. Then they will take the other guy's ideas and claim them for their own. Muricans have no original ideas, and rarely contribute to the continued development of the country as a whole. Instead they prefer to make laws of petty natures that have the affect of divided the populous instead of helping it.

So there you have it, a brief overview of a two people system within the United States. 

The haves, and the have no fucking clues. If anyone doubts what's happening here, watch the movie Ideocracy.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Continuing Evolution Of Me

I'm sure by now readers are tired of hearing about my hopes and dreams, my reaffirmations and stated goals. 

So here's another one.

Since Kim and I split last August my life has changed into something completely different, and sorta weird. It's a surreal sort of existence now, living in my basement apartment while my sister's family lives in the rest of my house. I'm getting used to it, however, Joanne and I are siblings, and with that brings back and flurry of childhood issues some of which remind me of the old children's standard 'get out of my room!' We get along, but at the end of the day, we will always drive each other nuts. I still love her like a big sis.

Being down here in recent months has brought up many challenges, and my mind has not always been up to the task of maintaining a healthy life. Too much time alone, too much time to think. Last week I had an epiphany. it came to me while working on some repairs outside. It came to me when I tried to stand up, and almost fell over. It came to me as I gasped for breath from working.

Holy fuck, I'm falling apart!

I came inside, soaked my head with a cold wet towel, and fell onto the couch, thankful to be there in my place of solitude and comfort. As I regained my breath and dried off, I googled 24 hour gyms and an hour later was a member of one. Just a little spontaneous, yes, but that short time between falling over with a feeling of morbid exhaustion over a simple task and sending my payment, a whirlwind of thoughts went through my head - most of which focused on my not being here if something doesn't change. So I made it change.

Years ago I was healthy, active, fit. I was an avid camper, canoeist, and general outdoorsy type. While I was never one for a football field or basketball court, I was always on my bike, walking for hours, and a host of other activities that kept me from keeling over. At one time I was taking karate and Aikkido classes regularly just to stay fit. When I went working, I kept myself together long enough to finish any task.

I was never a big guy, I always maintained a steady 160ish throughout my adult life. Being skinny was never a drawback for me as I just simply accepted the way of things, now, as I sit here writing this, my gut is actually sticking out. So now I'm a skinny, out of shape smoker with a beer belly. 

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I went to the gym for the first time a couple days ago and did a 30 minute basic cardio workout. It was fine, nothing spectacular or fancy, no personal training needed. Just a few basic machines like the treadmill, the bike, elliptical and strength trainers. After my 30 minutes were up I walked out feeling alive, albeit a bit sore. Last night I went in again. I had the place to myself as it was quite late. This time however no sense of exhilaration filled me, on the contrary it was a sense of dread. Suddenly those simple machines were all larger, darker, and were actually mocking me. They watched me as if they were alive, and I know they thought 'we're going to kill you!'

So I started my 30 minute regime. I lasted 24. The first night shocked my body, the second night, I hadn't recovered from the first and the pain was intense. As I mustered through the somewhat tedious repetitions every muscle in my body screamed at me with a sort of 'what the fuck' notion. I carried on as long as I could but I was cooked. Once I got home I felt a little better, breathing returned to normal, heart rate came down, but that glass of scotch was the heaviest it's ever been. I swear that bottle weighed 20 pounds.

A little later I went outside for a smoke, and the second epiphany of the week hit me. I CANNOT do this without quitting. Duh. Not like I didn't already know that. I was wheezing and coughing a lot last night, and again all day today. The unexpected shock of working out had jarred something loose, and I don't imagine it's very pretty. So starting tonight I am going on the patch and quitting. Fuck this, I'm done.

If I am to fix this shit, I am going to fix it properly.

Healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, working out, quitting smoking, it all sounds like one of those late night self-help TV shows that nobody watches, but it just happened. And all because I had to repair some concrete.


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.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016


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. 


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.


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.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Life 2.0

Everyone knows by now that Kim and I have separated. The past five months have been the most difficult I've ever dealt with, but life goes on, and so must I, and in that vein I am finally putting some of these thoughts to paper.

Our separation, thankfully, was amicable, and we remain friends. That's a huge blessing, I don't know how I could have handled this if we weren't still there for each other and our kids. What it really came down to was the fact that we couldn't live together anymore, we began growing in different directions. Given that, we still share many interests and we will always have things in common that drew us together to begin with over 25 years ago. But we both needed our own lives, hence our current arrangement. Since this happened in August I have talked to at least three other friends who have gone through a similar situation of late with much more negative impacts. One friend only married seven years has already been to court a couple times. His words were not pleasant. I guess in the end, we're lucky.

It's been hard on all of us, the kids twice as much. My son had a quick revelation that he'd have to go out on his own, and at twenty years old that's not a bad thing. He's got his own apartment now and he's learning the ropes of managing his own life. Sure it's tough, but we all had to start somewhere, and it's time he learns for himself. He's a smart kid, he'll make it. My daughter is with Kim in her new place. She's very reserved and typically doesn't let her feelings known. It's difficult to feel her out sometimes, however one clue to her frame of mind is the screen saver on the computer that simply says 'choose happy'. I know she's doing well, we've resumed our long intense conversations about life, the universe and everything. She's smiling, and most importantly, baking. Last week I went to see her and I was greeted with two fresh loaves of zucchini bread cooling in the kitchen. I do miss waking up in the house to her baking though, it always smelled so good. Kim is adjusting as well, decorating her own space and truly owning it.

I've never been on my own. I lived with my parents until I turned 25, at which point I moved in with Kim when we got engaged. My home was always hers. Now, I am in my own space for the first time and with that comes the challenge of deciding who I really am. How to define myself through my own home with no influences. I decide where to put my stuff, I decide what stuff I want out, I decide what pictures will go on the walls, I decide what shelf to use in the fridge. Not that I never had the choice before, but now it's only my choice. Nobody to offer a second opinion, nobody to disagree with a decision, and that's a bit weird. I'm getting used to it, slowly. I am a little indecisive in that regard anyway, I've already moved the living room around and will probably do it again.

Stranger still is the sounds of the house. They're all different. No longer am I hearing the voices and footsteps I've been accustomed to all these years. A house has a personality and that is enhanced by the occupants - each one of them adds to the ambiance. Now with different people in the house it's like the place has become a different person of sorts. Footfalls on the floor above are unfamiliar, voices are new, smells are not familiar, and to boot, I now have five cats.

My sister and her family moved in. There was no way I needed a house this big to myself, so I let her have the upstairs, while I have taken the basement apartment. It's cozy, yet small. I still go upstairs quite often, but I want that to be her home. At first it was strange seeing her furniture and decor instead of mine, but as time goes on it seems to be normal. As I have my own familiar decor here, it's not a big deal. After all a home is not just a house, but the stuff you put into it. I still have my stuff. I also now have low pipes. I used to giggle when I heard my son yell when he bashed his head off them, now my sister is the one giggling. You'd think after almost 13 years in this house I'd know where the damn things were but no, thump.

Things have worked for everyone, at least as good as this type of thing allows. We're all still talking and interacting, just not from the same residence. The future is still unfolding. I can't see what's down the road, but I do know one thing, my family is still and will forever be, my number one concern. I even still worry about Kim. As for me, I've got to start the next chapter in this story, now it's time to get back outside and see the big wide world. I must find myself but I don't quite know how to start. I have ideas and dreams not unlike I had years ago, they just burn a little brighter now. Life 2.0 has begun and it's up to me to bring it to fruition. As my daughter likes to remind herself - choose happy.


Thursday, 18 February 2016

An open letter to American refugees to Canada

As many of you are in the planning stages of your flight from the terror reign of President Trump I'd like to give you some pointers to your new home, Canada. This is not a comprehensive list, there are many things you will find out for yourself once you arrive, but I thought I'd give you a head start.

Firstly, Canada is huge, but sparse. There's only 35 million of us, and as much as we are a caring, open people, don't expect to be adapted by a Canadian family all too soon. You will have to endure our social system for a while, being put up in hotels and military bases across the country for a start. Don't worry, Aunt Pattie will bring you a pie.

We use the metric system here. On the highways, distance is measured in Kilometres, within the cities, it's measured in terms of how many Tim Hortons' you pass along the way.

You will need to know who Tim Horton was for your citizenship exam.

All able bodied refugees will have to serve time in our armed forces, but you should bring your own equipment with you, our jets are forty years old and the government sold our navy for scrap.

Leave your guns at home. You won't see people slugging an AR-15 at Starbucks here (yes, we have Starbucks). Guns are legal, but we don't use them as penis extenders here, we'd still rather just have an old fashioned fist fight. Watch out for Aunt Pattie's left hook.

Toronto and Vancouver are full, don't think you'll be going there. There may some room in Edmonton or Calgary near where the oil industry used to be. Montreal has some room left, but if you don't speak french you're fucked. They speak english, just not if you don't speak french first. Yeah, they're assholes.

This is a bilingual country, so everything is in english and french. Everything. Don't be surprised if the stock clerk at the grocery store had a fight with his boss and put all the french labels outfacing. Eventually you'll get used to shopping in french, even though you'll never learn to speak it.

If you end up in Newfoundland, learn to drink and catch fish.

If you end up in Nunavut, grapes are $28 a bag.

On the subject of money, bring lots. I mean billions. We could use the cash reserves. And we have our own money, not monopoly money as you like to call it, get used to it.

Health care is free and universal, the rumours are true, however terms and conditions apply. It'll be more fun for you to find out when you get here. Learn to make a tourniquet.

Anyone who voted for Trump, Cruz, Rubio or Carson will immediately be disqualified from entering. People of that magnitude will collectively reduce our national IQ. Frankly, they helped make their bed, they must sleep in it. Also anyone who flies a confederate flag on their truck, has a gun rack, or no teeth won't get in. We have standards.

Don't worry about not getting news from home, we're inundated with American media here, so there's a good chance you can still keep abreast of what's going on with the Kardashians and Jerry Springer. For those of you with brains, we do get PBS and NPR. Canadian media offerings are not what you're used to, frankly most of our entertainers went to the States. You'll have to wait for them to be kicked out of the country under Trumps new anti-immigrant laws.

We're not taking Bieber back. He's Trump's problem now. We'll trade him for Neil Degrass-Tyson and Bill Nye.

Our Netflix kinda sucks, so you'll have to bring your access codes and get an IP blocker.

We don't have spray cheese. 

When you arrive don't ask the first person you see if they know Jim from Toronto. Just don't. It's getting old. I do however know a Bob from Pine River.

Learn hockey. It's our game. It'll be better though, once Trump deports all the Canadian players back. You seemed to end up with most of them. You'll have to leave football behind you, believe me after a while you'll be better for it and thank us. You'll also need to learn Curling and Lacrosse.

You're more than welcome to bring your own traditions and beliefs with you. Customs of our homelands makes for a vibrant community. Feel free to open a club. But we get to choose what beer you serve, that stuff you try to pass off as beer is simply rat's piss.

It's cold here. Get used to it. Buy a coat. There's a reason 90% of us live within 100 km of the US border, we're trying to get closer to Florida. On that note, we measure temperature in celsius, and it's normal to start any conversation with a stranger by discussing it.

Our national animal is a beaver, our national bird is a loon. They'll be on the test. In case you might think that wildlife here is wimpy consider this, we have moose the size of school buses and people in the north leave their cars open for strangers in case of polar bear attacks. Do the math.

Learn to apologize to inanimate objects.

Anyone who lists their musical interests as Niki Monaj or Kanye West will be pulled aside for further screening.

Further to that, the first person who refers to our Prime Minister as the President of Canada will be put on a boat. Obviously with Trump's wall in place the boat won't be heading to the US.

Further rules will be laid out upon your arrival. The code of conduct and laws of the land will be given to you and it's up to you to figure them out. If you really want to live out your life in one of the most progressive and prosperous countries in the world while still maintaining your unique American identity, you're more than welcome. Just understand that you will have to adapt to your new home. Soon enough you will be eating poutine, playing road hockey and gearing up for our annual Roll Up the Rim festival. Everyone is welcome, Canada is a country built on the backs of immigrants and we're proud of it. Your heritage is protected and encouraged. As long as you follow these few simple rules. Welcome exiles, your days of living in Donald Trump's Utopia are over. Just hope he doesn't sue you for leaving.