Archive for the ‘humour’ Category

If I had a dime for each time someone asked “what’s the point of Twitter, anyway?”, I’d have $3.20 cents.

There’s a possibility I once asked that question myself.  I mean, how much can you really say in 140 characters?  And what’s the point in reading such pithy offerings?  They’re not novels, and you can’t build characters.

People so often dismiss Twitter because of all of the above and more.  Add to that comments like “do I really need to know about how awesome your dinner is?  Do I want to read about what cute thing your son did today?”

The answer to all of that is obvious: no.  No, I don’t need or want to know about any of that.

Ihaveadream

Despite these objections, I’ve been a long time user and reader of Twitter.  Since I’ve had to explain my fascination so many times, it seemed a good idea to blog about it at least once.  That way I can just cut and paste the blog link whenever yet another person says “Twitter?  Can’t stand it (even though I’ve never used it or even read anything from it).  Why would you waste your time?”

oatmeal

One thing you learn when communicating in your workplace is to make sure your main point is contained within the first few lines of your email.  People don’t want to have to wade through paragraphs of pre-explanation prior to getting to the point of your message.  This is especially true if you want something from your reader.

You can start with something like “I would like you to come in early on Friday to help with the TPS report”.  You can then feel free to use a few paragraphs to explain why.  They’re free to read it or not as they see fit.

The neat thing is, if they want to say “no”, they’ll have to read through the rest so that they can better understand the request, and build up a compelling reason to decline.

manscape

You are used to hearing the phrase “information overload”.  There are so many sales pitches, requests for help, and offers to help you enlarge your penis or get bigger breasts (not to mention family and friends forwarding messages with the title “HAHAHA CHECK THIS OUT, BRO!”), that it’s hard to track.  And it’s definitely hard to keep focus.  Almost everyone suffers from this, thus the need to get straight to the point while sending emails at work.

FridayFreak

Twitter doesn’t offer explanation.  There’s just simply no room.  So you’re left making your point as concisely as possible.

boss

Frankly, with all of the serious news coming out of the internet, I don’t enjoy doing anything serious while on my own time.  I rarely write serious stuff on my Facebook wall.  And I certainly don’t want to engage in serious Twitter posts.

My secret for using Twitter is: I generally only follow funny people.  People with the funniest tweets interest me, especially as they don’t have the room to do a full setup of the joke.  I like that. I think it shows a superior wit.  And so I not only read them, but try to emulate them as well – using my own jokes of course.

ladybonerSometimes I fail miserably, but that’s okay too.  It’s just so much fun to try.

As you begin reading some of these people (and dropping the more serious Twitter feeds), you learn a few tricks along the way too.  Such as: find out who these funny people are following.  Generally, they’re interested in reading other humorous people.  Eventually as you begin following those too, you can build up an impressive list of hilarious comedians who make Twitter a truly engaging and fun place to be.

Like this guy:

wantedadaughter

This isn’t to say that I don’t (ab)use Twitter for my own non-funny reasons either.

booze

It’s a great place to posts links to my reviews for Criminal Minds and NCIS.  But mostly I like laughing, and at the middle of a stressful day, it’s great to have access to so many truly fun and funny people.

P.S. I don’t really drink while on the job.  At least, not from a flask. (And not because it doesn’t hold enough, either)

Such A Deal

Posted: August 5, 2014 in dating, humor, humour, Life, romance
Tags: , , , , ,

kirsten-dunst-8

The first thing I noticed was her smile.

It was full, and warm, and it matched the twinkle in her eyes.

I didn’t trust it at all.

She came up to me, and asked me if I ever had a facial.

“Yes, actually I have”.   It had been a Father’s Day gift from my children.

“Well good!  Can I talk to you for a few minutes about our product?”

She was gorgeous, and thin and she was wearing a filmy blouse that hinted of treasure.

I sighed.  My little guy had taken over, while my brain shouted “NOTHING’S HAPPENING THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME WHAT ARE YOU DOING OH GOD OH GOD OKAY”

The sun was beginning to set, and the warmth of the summer night hugged us both as I followed her down the stairs of the little Yorkville shop.

“Is green your favourite colour?  It’s mine.”

“No, actually my favourite colour is blue”.  Why were we talking about colours, I wondered.  She pointed at my green shirt.  Oh.

“Why don’t you sit over there while I try this product on you.”

It wasn’t a question.  I sat.

As she applied something to my arm (I have no idea what it was) she described the product and asked me bright questions while smiling.  Truly I had no idea which end was up, what she was using on me, or where this was going.  (Though I suspected).

“Are you married?” she asked.

I smiled.  “No, not at all.”

“So you’re happy.”

I looked at her.

“You know, either you’re married or you’re happy”

I thought that was rather cynical.  She carried on talking before I could pursue the thought.

I don’t know how we got around to talking about it but suddenly she mentioned tequila.

“I’ve never had tequila” I blurted.

“Really?  Oh we’ll have to go to a bar so you can try it” she said.

The woman didn’t lack for confidence.  I was kind of stunned though.

“We will?  Oh, I mean yeah.  We should definitely do that”

(“We’ll never do that” I thought)

“You’re eyes are hazel” she announced.

“No, my eyes are brown”

“No, my eyes are brown, yours are hazel”

Apparently this was not an argument.  My place was to say yes.  Even though I’ve had brown eyes all of my life.

I had to keep up with her.  I nodded.  She smiled.

She was such a pleasant winner.  A good-looking winner.

Also I was such a pushover.  I wondered how I was going to break the news to my family that I now had hazel eyes.

She turned to get another product.  I noticed through her see-through top that she had a tattoo.  It was comprised of some foreign words.  I wanted to ask her about it, but she started talking again.

This time she was giving me the sales pitch.

“What do you want the most?”

(You, in my arms would be a good start)  “Uh, what do you mean?”

“If you were to change anything about your face, what would it be?”

Oh.  “Well, I suppose it would be the bags under my eyes”

She brightened.  “I have the perfect product for that!”

(I’ll bet you do)

“Try this product”  She rubbed it on my arm, which I’d like to point out was no where near my eye-bags.

“It’s infused with diamonds!” she enthused.

(Diamonds!  That must mean…….uh, it means it’s likely expensive.)

“It’s guaranteed to help.  But you should apply it only at night.  No sense in putting it on at the start of your day.  Gravity would just pull everything down.”

I was getting an education.  I tried paying attention but she was so distracting.

“Okay then.”

She smiled the beautiful and satisfied grin of a predator.  “Shall I package it all up for you?”

“Package what?”

“All of the products!”

I smiled.  “Well, I would need to know how much it costs.”

“Oh” she said. “It’s not that much.  Normally it’s $1,600 for everything.  But…..since it’s you – and don’t tell anyone else about this – I’ll give it to you for only $800.”

I smiled wider.  “No, I don’t think so.”

She cocked her head and looked at me.  “Maybe I can take a bit more off.”  I shook my head. “Maybe I can give it to you for $700.  But you can’t tell ANYONE.”  She put a finger over her lips.

“No.  I’m sorry.  Can’t do it.”

She hesitated.  Then, “well, if you could only have one product what would it be?”

“The eye thing I guess”.

“Oh well I can help you with that!” she was pleased with herself.  “It’s only $400!  Such a great deal.”

“Uh huh” I said.  “Sorry, that’s too much.”  I mentally punched myself.  Why was I giving her these openings?  I wasn’t going to part with a dime.  Just thank her for her time and leave.

“Okay okay” she grimaced.  “How about I give it to you for $160 and you don’t tell anyone?”

I looked at her.  She looked at me.  I thought about her whole spiel, and the time we’d spent together.  I knew she was desperate for this sale.  I also knew I didn’t need any of it, and could easily walk away.

Some stupid idiot inside of my brain said “don’t disappoint her.  Just buy the damned thing and get out.”

I nodded.    “Okay” I said, aloud.

“You’ll take it?”

“I’ll take it”

“Oh good!” she replied.  “Let me ring it up.”

I proceeded to kick myself mentally.  Hard.

“Maybe we can go to the bar sometime next week” she said.

The idiot inside of me said “see?  Totally worth it, dude!”

I mentally replied to the idiot “there’s no way she’s going to a bar with me. It was all about the sale.”  The idiot went into a pout.

“Here, let me get your phone number.  I’ll call you on Monday, and we can get together.  Here’s my number, too.”

The inner idiot smirked.  “See?  And you thought she was faking an interest.  Who’s the idiot now?”

I smiled, took my purchase and left.

——————-

Later that weekend I checked online.  Apparently the product I bought normally went for $400.  So I did get a good deal.

——————-

After not getting her phone call on Monday I called her on Tuesday.  It took her a few moments to remember who I was.

“Oh, I’m at home right now.  How about I call you tomorrow?”

“Okay” I said.

(“I’m at home now”?  What the hell was up with that? )

——————

She never got back to me of course.

If it’s too good to be true……

I used to love computer technology.  Ended up with a dream job working with computers for a living.

One year at Thanksgiving, my boss called her staff into her office (it was a small gang), and we had a Thanksgiving meeting.  She asked each of us to talk about what we were thankful for.  Two of the girls rolled their eyes.

I said “I’m thankful for my job”.  One of the girls barely stifled a snicker as they grinned at each other.

“I’m serious.  You don’t know the kind of hellish job I came from.  For the first time in my working life it’s a treat to get up in the morning.  I actually look forward to coming to work.”

The point was lost.  These girls had it great, and didn’t appear to know it.

It wasn’t the computers so much, I now realize.  It was the fact that I’d found something interesting that made me curious.  This job was all of that.  I got to be the lone computer guy for the office (among other things).  I managed a consultant and soaked in all of the knowledge that I could.

I think maybe it was the shiny buttons and lights that attracted me.  Press a button and something happens.  Press another combination and something else happens.  I loved exploring that world.

shiny

Eventually I moved out of that job and into another one, again involving computers – only more so.  Once again I had an excellent boss, who believed in letting his people stretch the limits of their understanding.  He encouraged us to work with servers.  At first, we spent time learning about them.  Then they became our responsibility.  We spent many long nights in the server room trying to figure out why one or the other server wasn’t working.  Long nights talking long distance with the server manufacturers, jointly troubleshooting problems.  While we had lots of frustration, it was coupled with bouts of joking and laughter.

There was the time that four of us were stuck in a tiny room, working on a server.  There was a guy about my age, and a vendor rep around the same age, a younger woman, and then of course me.

The vendor guy said “I don’t know.  This isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.  Do you know anyone who specializes in this server type?

My older colleague said “Oh I know.  I’ll give Dave a call.  He works with these all the time.  He’ll know just what to do.”  He got his cell out.

“Can I speak with Dave?”

While waiting, the vendor blurted “Dave’s not here”.

Three of us burst out laughing.  The poor younger girl looked confused.  Never had I seen such a clear barrier between one generation and the next.  Someone should make it a rule that as part of their education everyone gets exposed to the material of “The Beatles”, “Cheech and Chong” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.  Make it mandatory.  I guarantee you very few would complain – those are all classics.

For the past number of years, the number of new and innovative applied computer technologies has diminished, as have the opportunities for late night struggles with workmates.  This all mirrors my level of engagement and interest.  If there’s nothing new, there’s little to be curious about.  No new shiny lights and buttons.

Getting up in the morning has become more of a chore than a joy.  In fact, over the past couple of years, there’s been a new interest to take its place during my off-work hours, a new shiny bauble.

Writing – something I used to do as a hobby – has become something a little more.  I now write freelance critiques of a couple of TV shows.  The challenge is to make them interesting and readable. To have an opinion and to articulate it in such a way as to invite comment and conversation.  Luckily, the shows themselves are so well-written that they provoke emotions in our readers.  This helps.

Seems a little ironic that the one subject that bores me is being used to indulge another passion.  The computer, far from being a fascinating innovation, is now serving as a tool to enable the expressing of my ideas in writing.

There are a ton of questions I’ve yet to answer, and a bunch I’ve yet to ask or figure out.  Like, what’s next?  Where can I take this writing thing?  I mean, beyond the obvious (e.g. a novel).  If I’m to escape the “golden shackles” of computer-related employment, how do I leverage this love of writing?

(That’s an open question, by the way.  Any of your ideas would be gratefully received.)

The bottom line is that Dave is most certainly here.  Keep knocking.  He’ll get there eventually.

Bum Doctor

Posted: March 25, 2014 in humor, humour, Life
Tags: , , ,

I felt an inward flinch as I approached what looked like a set of mahogany doors.

I’d been both looking forward to this visit, and dreading it.  Something was wrong with me, but I had no idea what it was.  All I knew was that a Google of my symptoms all concluded with the ominous warning “get thee to a doctor – pronto!” And so I had.  First to my family doc, who then set up a referral to a bum doctor.  Okay, a proctologist.

bumdoc

Feeling squirmy yet?

You can imagine how I felt. I only had to wait a month – which, believe me, was just fine as far as I was concerned.  I didn’t want unwelcome news coming my way.  And the potential varieties of prognosis was just too awful to think about:  it could be cancer, it could be something to do with my prostate.

And then there were the cures to consider: from chemo to radiation to removal of parts.  My imagination – with the kind help of WebMD – had no limits.  So I waited out the month and tried not to think about it.

Which brought me to today, and those dark, dark doors. I walked in to a reception area which was similarly dark.  One might say “rich” in tone.  Dark wood reception desk, muted lighting, and classical music playing on the P.A.

I kind of expected a maître d’ to come out and look me up and down with disapproval. “No, no, no.  This won’t do”

And then he’d hand me a smoking jacket.  “Would you like to try one of our cigars?  And please, have a brandy while you’re at it.”

The frowning receptionist thrust a questionnaire at me and intoned “fill this out.  Front and back.  Sign it and return it to me.”

I sat down.  Looked around.  The guy closest to me was slim, and probably my age.  He wore a denim jacket and jeans, and was watching his iPhone with rapt concentration. The lady sitting across from me looked like a frightened bird.  Her carefully coiffured head turned this way and that.  Looking, I think, for a way out. She knew she was trapped.  Maybe I was projecting my state of mind.

I completed the form and handed it back.  “Have a seat.  Someone will be with your shortly.”

Eventually I was ushered into the doctor’s sanctum sanctorum.  I sat on a little black stool.

Presently he entered. A more genial and welcoming doctor you couldn’t imagine.  This small smiling thin guy looked like he was in his 80’s.  I felt my stress evaporate almost immediately. Still, I kept glancing around, looking around for cattle prods and other instruments of torture.  I wasn’t born yesterday.  I know what goes on in these offices.

My stupid ADD brain of course kept a running commentary of smart remarks, all of which I kept to myself. I mean, that doctor asked me a lot of questions.  So when he asked “are you gay or straight?” and I answered “straight”, my brain added “yup. It’s a steel trap back there doc, so you’re gonna have your work cut out for you trying to invade it.”

I smirked, and hoped he didn’t notice.

After ten minutes of discussion about my medical history, my eating habits, my family history and the current Maple Leaf standings in the NHL, he was able to give me even more relief by saying “I’m pretty sure your problem is one that involves your diet.  Put simply, the food you’re eating is all wrong, and it’s irritating you down there.”

“So…” my brain added “not cancer then?”

“But I’ll need to examine you to see what exactly is going on.”

Oh. I had hoped that just our discussion would be enough.  Guess not. I swallowed.  It was time for the Big Reveal.

In front of us was an examination table.  I looked but couldn’t find the stirrups.  Maybe he was going to have me lie on my side, like my regular doc has me do when I’m getting my annual physical. No such luck.

“I want you to kneel there, and then pull your pants and underwear down.”

“Shit” said my brain.  “Okay” I said aloud.

I kneeled on the kneeler (which I hadn’t noticed until he pointed it out) that was attached to the table.  The table was for me to lay face down on. Perfect praying position.

After pulling everything down, a female nurse (or someone, I have no idea what her role was) sauntered into the room, nonchalant and uncaring. My brain said “HEY! DID YOU GET A GOOD LOOK, BITCH??” She wandered over to the sink and got busy….doing dishes I guess.  Seemed this was going to be a community event.

The doctor said “okay you’re going to feel some pressure” I laid there on the table, ass in full flower display, just waiting for the moment.

Then I heard a buzzing sound.   Brain: “WTF???”

He was raising the table up. It was on hydraulics. I nodded to myself.  Made sense.  He’d have had to kneel himself otherwise, if he wanted to get a good look. The buzzing stopped.  Another buzzing sound began.  The table was rotating slightly, so that my ass could be fully pointed in his direction.  Lovely.

Finally it stopped.  And the prodding began.

I could feel something slimy going on back there and realized I was being medically violated. “Okay” said the doc.  “I want you to squeeze my finger”

“Fine” said my brain.  “Just give me your hand and—-oh.  I see what you mean.” I squeezed.  My brain confessed “I know it’s not much, but frankly you can’t blame me – I’ve been slacking on my kegels lately.”

He removed his finger and inserted the scope.  I felt that.  I really really felt that.

“You’re going to feel even more pressure, because I have to get some air in there so I can see better.”  I heard him squeezing a bladder as my insides pushed sideways.

*plop*

“You can pull your pants up now”.  Oh good, it was done.   And the nurse was still over there, washing her dishes.

He took about fifteen minutes to educate me on what I should and shouldn’t eat.  Additionally he wants me to come in for three treatments to correct a few things that are wrong up there.  Nothing major, and the end result *cough* will be very positive.

I walked out of that office with a smile on my face and a relieved spring in my step. I even thought about whistling.  A glance at the frowning receptionist made me reconsider.

Penny

Posted: March 23, 2014 in humor, humour, living, show business
Tags: , , , , , ,

She died a few weeks ago and was laid to rest the following Saturday.

While it’s a shame when any friend or family member passes on, the fact is she left us while she was still young.  She had many more years of sowing oats ahead of her.  I think (but am not sure) that she was in her early thirties at most.

Penny* was a hard nut to crack.  I first saw her in my improv comedy class some years ago. She was a tiny thing who tended not to say much.

I couldn’t get a read on her: maybe she was just naturally introverted; maybe she disliked me; maybe she didn’t like men in general.  I wasn’t sure.  Funny how that works: how quiet people are often misinterpreted as anti-social.  I’d seen that happen a few times before with other shy people, so was loathe to make assumptions about her.  She remained, for me, somewhat of a question mark.

Another friend, Lisa* (who was married at the time), invited me into their small gang.  All of them were in the same improv class as I was, and all of them were hilarious and friendly.  Penny was part of the group too.

Maybe back then I had a natural need to make people warm up to me.  I was usually successful too:  all it took was reading them to find out what makes them tick, and then finding something in common.  Often, humour worked for me.  For some reason, it just never worked with Penny. It bugged me a little bit – but only because I wasn’t sure if she hated me, or just tolerated me or what.  I had to try and stop guessing and stop trying to figure her out.

The main reason I enjoyed being in our little improv gang, actually, was that I couldn’t read any of them.  Not at all.  This usually meant they were self-aware, typically self-confident, and curious as hell about the world.  That described the gang perfectly.

The corporate training man in our group, who had the same name as me – Wolf* – was friendly, gregarious and welcoming.  He could switch on a dime though. I was certain of that.

I remember going with the gang to his huge condo in Toronto after improv class one night. We were joking and having a good time, and, needing to say something I blurted out something about pot.

“Well we have some” someone said.

“What?  Pot?”

“Yeah, maybe we should smoke up.”

I looked around at them, thinking.  Finally:  “I’ve never done it”

Everyone’s eyes widened with disbelief.  Including Penny’s.

Wolf said “you haven’t?  Wow.  Really?  Not once in all your life?”

“Never” I said.  “I grew up as a religious guy all during my teens.  Didn’t even drink back then.”

“Well we need to get you going then.  Do you want to try it?”

I did, and said so.  I could tell they were pleased.

Someone lit up a joint, and we passed it all around.  I coughed.

Lisa said “that’s good.  That means it’s working.”

The only sensation I got was a sore throat.

“It’s not working” I said.  “I feel the same”

Wolf replied “well that often happens with the first toke.”

I nodded.

Penny said “next time you puff, trying holding it in longer”

I nodded, happy that she was talking to me.

Wolf blurted “oh my God!  We have to get you some munchies!”

And with that, he jumped up and opened up his cupboards, looking for some snacks.

“Here.  Try some Doritos”.

I took a chip, obedient to the core.  I wasn’t actually hungry but didn’t want to destroy any illusions.

Penny laughed.  I grinned.

Ever afterward, I joined them after improv class, and we went on some typical late night adventures.

Once, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant at 3:00 in the morning to have some soup. None of the servers seemed to speak English, so we ordered off the menu according to the number assigned to each dish.

Another time, we all went to a strip club.  Wolf bought a VIP lap dance for Lisa.  After she went to the VIP lounge, Wolf said “let’s go watch!”  And so we did.  I can’t recall if Penny was there.  It seems likely that she was.

I recall the bunch of us going up to the roof of Wolf’s condo late one night after improv class, and looking up at the stars. This was the first time that pot had a negative effect.  I looked at the edge of roof and had the sudden thought that they could so easily push me over it, if they wanted.  My paranoid brain thought “why wouldn’t they?  It’d be a perfect crime.  No one knows I’m here.”   I got nervous, and couldn’t wait to go back to his condo apartment.

In later weeks, I only recall Penny and I doing an improv routine together just once.  We were playing a couple of friends who were riding the subway while standing. Subways tend to shake a bit, so we had to shake to create the illusion.  Penny looked at me and said “nice tits”.

This was so unexpected that I broke character.  Near as I could tell, though overweight I had yet to develop man-breasts.  She had triggered my Achilles Heel.  I looked down.  I forget what I said, but just remember that it was lame.  What I should have said was “I just had them done.  You like?”   And then I should have put one of her hands on my chest.  “Here. Feel.”

Penny invited a few of us over to her place after class. I knew I was finally on her approved list when she said to me “listen, I know you commute into Toronto every day. How would you like to room here with us instead?”   I was honestly taken aback and so grateful that she asked.

“Um, thank you!” I said. “I’ll have to think it through, figure it out.  How are you guys with cats?  I have two of them”

“Oh” she said, looking at her roommate. “That might not work.  Jake* is allergic.”

“Well, thanks so much for the offer!” I said.  I was truly grateful and touched that she even asked.

“What are your cats’ names?” she asked.

I smirked.  “Um, well one’s named Princess”.

We all laughed.

“You’re not going to believe the name of the second one” I said, through my tears.

“Tell me!”

“Muffin”

They roared.

Wiping her eyes, Penny asked “so who named them?  Your wife?”

“No……” I began. “Uh.”

“Not you” she said, incredulous.

“Yeah.  Me.”

The laughter increased once again.  I have no idea why it was so funny, even though I smile now, remembering it.

Once, when I moved into my small apartment in Oshawa after separating from my wife, I invited the gang in for a house-warming party.  Wolf brought his girlfriend, and Lisa and Penny came too.

While waiting on the pizza delivery, Penny checked out the books on my bookshelf.  I was a little embarrassed, as some of them were swords and sorcery novels.  I noticed her smiling.

We plowed into the pizza and got some beer going.  All night long we laughed and talked about everything.  I don’t know what it was: there were no egos involved, no holding back on anything.  We were free with each other.   That little group of ours was magic to me.  I’ve never grown quite so close to a group of people as I did to them.

The improv classes ended, and we all drifted apart, as friends sometimes do.

I heard that Penny had changed her name and had gone into standup.

Lisa did some standup too, right before she traipsed on down to California to break into the acting world there.  She eventually came back to Canada and we became Facebook friends.

I was shocked when Lisa messaged me one day a few years later and said “Penny died yesterday”.

It was a death through illness.  And it was a ripoff to the world.

Damn it. It should not have happened.

*all names have been changed, as per usual

In case you missed it, it seems that a large number of folk in France dislike the whole subject of gays and homosexuality.  They would prefer their children not be taught about the differences in people.

Isn’t it amazing how fast news goes around the world?

connected

We’ve come such a long way in just a few short years.  Seems that way anyway. 

After the first plane hit one of the twin towers back in 2001, most of the world tuned in to watch the second one hit, in real time.  Reactions were mixed: most folk were horrified.  Some actually shot their guns off into the air, rejoicing.

No wonder newspapers are having a hard time of it, and struggling to stay afloat.  In an instant-gratification, instant-access world, the fate of the traditional news rag is to stand as an anachronistic beacon; a signpost to another, calmer era.

Who knew that when the internet became available, the thoughts and trends of faraway countries would transmit to those of us in the U.S. and Canada, in the blink of an eye?  Who knew that libraries too would become dusty relics, at a time when Google provided access to all of the information you could possibly need or want?  About anything!

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  All of this has been obvious for a while.  I’m just struck by the effects of the increased access to knowledge, to news, and now to culture.

Living in Toronto, I find I’m used to the presence of multiple cultures involving nationalities and sexualities.  Every summer we have food weekends, which celebrate Greece or Italy (and a host of others, I’m sure). 

Like many large cities, we also have Gay Pride week, which also involves at least two parades.

I’m used to a culture of tolerance here.  So it seems surprising when I read about what’s going on in France, and how gay marriage has been enshrined in law, despite the outrage of many of its citizens.

Not so surprising, given Russia’s autocratic supposedly he-man leader (the great, the wonderful, the amazing, the virile and often shirtless Vlad – the Vladimir – Putin) is the anti-gay culture enshrined in that society.  A culture which promotes a passive acknowledgement and appreciation of anti-gay violence, while hypocritically giving lip service to a decidedly tepid tolerance of gays.

Despite Toronto’s enshrined tolerance, there are a few conservative newspapers which (unwittingly? unintentionally?) provide a forum in that same city for those who find gays disgusting.

“I don’t want to hear about what they do with each other’s penises”.  Trust me – no one does.  Just as no one wants to know about how your grandfather services your grandmother.  But then again – that’s a red herring, isn’t it?  Of all of the gay people I know, not one of them has ever expressed any interest in vocalizing any details about their nightly romantic escapades.  (Not that I’ve asked, mind you). But then, I don’t ask my hetero friends about how much hot wax their girlfriends poured on their naughty bits either.

The intolerant in our society are barking about what gays do with each other, but this isn’t information based upon what gay folk are actually saying to straights.  It seems to be mostly based upon what they imagine gays are doing to each other beneath the sheets.

This aversion to the gay culture stems from religious intolerance.  Religion has always had a problem with sexuality in general though. Ask a preacher about masturbation and watch the sparks fly. 

When I was entering adolescence, I didn’t know who to turn to, so I asked my Baptist preacher about it.  You never saw a face turn so quickly turn red.  After mumbling a few words about “the sin of Onan”, he shut the door.  He just couldn’t get rid of me fast enough.

Back then, we didn’t have Google or the internet, so I had to search elsewhere to find out what he was talking about.  (You, on the other hand, had full access to Google, so have it. I won’t explain it here.  Search phrase: “sin of Onan” “spilling seed”).

I could lay all of the angst about sexuality at the feet of religion, and I supposed I’d probably be correct in doing so.  The sad fact though is that change and acceptance goes largely unappreciated, as part of the human condition.  It goes beyond mere religion.

We like things to stay the way they are.  We like our values to be static.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.   We cheerfully rejoice when a thief is jailed, and even more so when we learn that someone in a far away land has been hung for his crimes.  Some of us don’t even mind when we hear about a thief having his hand chopped off.  We’re not really interested in the sick child he had at home, or in any of the circumstances which precipitated his crime.

There was a time when it was acceptable to own slaves, or to treat people with different coloured skin differently.  It took a long time to change all of that – and it didn’t happen without a lot of blood being shed first. 

Seems almost crazy to think that there are still evolving cultures out there where people still have to stay in the closet, or hide their nationality.  You’d think that with the advent of the internet, we’d all come together and cast off our prejudices.

The Olympics has given us yet an opportunity to do so.  Putin’s announcements and laws about homosexuality has given him somewhat of a Pyrrhic victory, as he has opened the door to discussion, to debate, and to protest.

Cities around the world are raising the gay pride flag, in support of the Olympics and in support of the gays who participate, and in support of the gays who live in fear in Russia.  Those with entrenched hatred of gays are complaining loudly about it.  This includes our Toronto mayor, who is vehemently protesting, and trying to get the Pride flag removed. 

“I’ve done everything I can to ge the Canadian flag back up” he said.  What he didn’t say was that a Canadian flag had not actually been removed.

I have to admit that it’s fun to see genuine hypocrisy hard at work. One has to tweak logic pretty hard on the nose in order to get it to support one’s prejudice.

Someday, the brotherhood of man will be understood and embraced.  Until then, we’ll continue to have mobs, and lynchings and wars. 

Still, there’s a catharsis in knowing that the fight for tolerance is persistent.  No matter how badly folk want people to shut up about it, it’s just not going away.

I wasn’t late.

I never really intend to be late anyway, but normally I am, despite my best efforts to plan ahead of time, for traffic, for getting ready.  Despite the understandable outrage of those who are forever punctual, lateness doesn’t represent a lack of respect on my part, nor does it mean I think my time is more important than theirs.

It’s a function of a brain that works in kaleidoscope, rather than lines, the latter of which has starting points and focused destinations.  Didn’t find that out until the diagnosis I received a few years ago.

But I digress.  This was a rare victory, and I was relieved.

I even had time to relax for a bit.  Sit down and watch the automatic doors as they briefly opened, and burped out a few people before closing again.

I could feel my heart starting to race, and found that I could no longer sit.  So I stood up and watched the doors, until my little girl sauntered out, smiling.

She rolled her suitcases to the end of the ramp where I stood waiting.  Both of us dropped our stuff and we grabbed each other for a huge and tearful hug.

I honestly forgot how long it had been since we last saw each other in person.  We keep in contact all the time via phone (and occasionally by Skype) but hadn’t spent time together since, I’m guessing perhaps two years ago, when we went on a camping/canoeing trip together.  And where I learned the importance of only camping with a trailer that features a Craftmatic adjustable bed.  She on the other hand could camp out on the floor and not be affected.  The brat.

After the hug, she stood back and mapped out my face, checking for imperfections.  To her delight (and to my tolerant amusement) she found one.  There was a single hair growing on my cheek, which it had no business doing.  Mind you, there was like, a million of them growing on my chin and beneath my nose.  But I guess those were okay, as they were only following instructions.  So she plucked that one hair, saying “hold still, Dad.  Take a deep breath”

I didn’t. I pluck hairs all the time from errant locations.  I’m used to it, and the performance no longer brings tears or even flinching.  I smiled.  She plucked and missed.

Horrified, she said “oh I’m sorry. Let me try again. Are you okay?”

I nodded, still smiling.  She plucked again and this time she got it.

Grooming all done, we turned and began walking.  “How are you doing?” I asked. “Are you hungry? Did you get a bite to eat on the plane?”

She thought for a moment. “Well I could use a tea, Dad. Is there a coffee shop nearby?”

There was, and so we went, chattering as if we hadn’t spoken in a year.  (Well, she chattered. I added an observation here and there).

Our relationship has always been like that though.  We can not talk on the phone for weeks at a time, and when we connect, it’s as if we just spoke yesterday.  I never realized how rare that was until encountering some folk who feel rejected if you don’t check in with them in scheduled intervals.

Afterward, and after dumping her suitcases into a limo-SUV (I really don’t know what to call those things: it’s a limo service, but our ride took the form of an SUV), I warned her about my place.

“You’re going to hate it” I said. She looked at me, grinning.  We both knew she would be making some changes, even though she would only be there for a few days.

And change it she did.  Prior to her arrival, I had the perfect bachelor setup: big-ass plasma TV, front and center, Lazy-boy chair right in front of it. Dolby surround-sound speakers placed in such a way as to make the chair the “sweet spot” for….well, for pretty much everything. 

man_cave.jpg

Not exactly like this, but you get the idea.

The sofa was to my right, along the wall.

As soon as we walked in the door, I braced myself.  This wouldn’t do.  Not at all.  And she confirmed it fairly quickly.

She also didn’t like my office setup, which was situated in the dining room.  It was too closed off for her liking, and “no one can see the beautiful screensavers – all they can see is the back of the monitors and all of the wiring”.

“No problem” I thought.  “It’s just me looking at the stuff, and I really don’t care.”

“Trust me, dad”, she said. “If you don’t like what I do with it, you can put it all back.”

We spent most of her second day there, going to town.  I was assigned the task of sorting out the bookcase.  I have no idea why I still have a bookcase, actually, since I buy all of my books in e-book format, and have no need of physical books anymore.  Right now the bookcase serves as a drop-off point for stuff that lacks a home. Receipts that I haven’t shredded, the odd flyer, pennies and pens that I pick up off of the floor.

My apartment isn’t nearly as bric-a-brac as I’m making it sound.  It’s just that when I have something in my hand, and no time to figure out where it goes, the bookcase is my instant repository.  I put stuff there, knowing that I’ll get around to sorting it someday.

“Someday” is right.  When I started sorting, I found a lot of outdated stuff that belonged in the trash.  Stuff I hadn’t seen in a couple of years actually. It was a little embarrassing, particularly since I’ve made it my life’s goal to de-clutter.  The protocol is: if you don’t see or use it within a year, you don’t need it.

I had a lot of stuff there that qualified for the green bin.  Still do, actually, since I didn’t make that much of a dent in it.

Daughter however did just fine with her tasks – which was pretty much everything else.  She shoved everything around, made it all tidy, grabbed whatever twist ties she could to make the entertainment center and desk wiring all serene, if not beautiful.  When she ran out of twist ties, I became the scotch tape caddy, doling it out as she needed.

When she was done, my place looked presentable again.  The big chair was kitty-corned to the TV set, with the couch forming the other part of the scene.  The TV itself was in a corner.  And my office space was transformed such that any visitors could clearly see everything I was working on. I don’t plan to have many visitors.

“What do you think, Dad?”

I stood in front of my office desk, looked up at her and gave her a small wave and a smile.

She laughed out loud and went to grab her camera.  So I had to hold that pose for a while. Such jocularity loses its pizzazz when you have to pose for it.  I think we both knew that.

Our time together ended way too soon.  I saw her off the next day, when she left me to go visit her mother for the other two days she would spend in Ontario.  And now she’s off to western Canada, there to provide massage treatments for tired skiers.

I miss her already.

parking-lot

The sun sneered down at me, with the wrath of a thousand carcinogenic volcanoes.   (Didn’t know that did you?  I’ll bet volcanos are totally cancer-causing.  That is, if you survive the slight burn you get from the magma)

I was on my way to a birthday party, and this was the second car of the day.  And I was late.

The first car – a Mini Cooper – had betrayed me in the worst possible way.  It had winked its “check engine” light at me.  At least, I think it was “check engine”.  Might have been “engine is on its way to blowing up big time and you have ten seconds to get out”.  I have no idea.  It was just a symbol, really.  It looked like what some engineer thought an engine should look like.  If I wasn’t a guy, I might mistake it for a badly cut piece of pie though. 

(Wordage helps, people.  Let that be a lesson.  Say what you mean.  Don’t just draw a stupid picture and hope your readers can glean the meaning.)

Oh and the light behind the symbol was yellow.  Which means “caution”, I guess.  It wasn’t glowing red.  It wasn’t pink either.  “You have a ridiculously sparkly and entirely fabulous piece of pie waiting for you, right where the engine should be.”

Anyway, it was a rental, and so the rental agency offered to set me up with a replacement Mini. “After you drop it off, you’ll have to go to one of our other lots to pick up the replacement Mini.  It’s all set up for you.”  And with that, they gave me the address and off I went.

The lot was (they said) at the corner of Finch and Yonge.  They were right.  There surely was a parking lot there.  It didn’t have just one rental car though.  It had pretty close to a million shiny cars, all parked cheek by jowl.  I was supposed to go to the section of the lot that had the rental agency’s cars, but I didn’t know where that was.  Usually the company has signs up near the cars, featuring the name of the company emblazoned in hard to miss lettering.

I looked at that vast vista of chrome and sunlight and wondered where to start.  Did I mention the carcinogenic light?  Okay so it wasn’t a volcano but it was just as bad.  It was the sun.  That thing I used to worship when I was younger, which all of the doctors now say can kill me.

I remember the time I went to a dermatologist.

“Have you used a tanning bed?” he asked.

“Why yes, I have” I answered proudly, as I turned my profile so he could better glimpse all of my tan beauty. “Why do you ask?”

“I ask because you’re a moron” he grunted.  “Those things will kill you.”

“Oh” I said.  “I didn’t know that.”

“WELL DON’T DO IT AGAIN” he barked.

Seriously, the guy was upset with me.  Like I’d stabbed his grandmother in the eye or something.

I took his warning to heart and, since that time, I’ve been religious about applying sun block before heading out the door in the summer time.  Every time.

Except that morning.  I was in a rush, and I figured that my sunlight exposure would be minimal:  I’d be either underground or on a bus until those few minutes when I would move from the bus to my rental car. 

Never realized I’d have to spend an obscene amount of time under the blazing meatball hunting down an elusive tiny little car in a reflective death chamber parking lot.

Ten minutes into my concrete nature hike a mildly helpful thought sauntered brazenly across my consciousness, hands in its pockets.  “Maybe” it said “you should call the rental company to get their help in finding at least the correct quadrant of this maze.” 

Like all good thoughts, it didn’t intrude too far.  I replied with “I’ll find it.  I don’t need anyone’s help.”  The helpful thought wandered off while whistling a carefree tune, unoffended by my manly obstinence.  Clearly it knew I needed help but wasn’t yet ready to admit it.

Anyway, I was in luck.  I had an app on my iPhone that would allow me to unlock the rental car, or honk its horn.  I took it out and pressed the horn icon.  The car horn honked twice. 

“There!” I thought. “I heard it!”  I was overjoyed.  This wouldn’t take long at all.  I knew where the car was.  It was down on the bottom right quadrant of the lot, about a mile away from where I started.  So I began the walk to that point, using the app to re-honk every few minutes.

Weird thing.  As I got closer and closer to my destination, the honks began to change.  They were no longer emanating from the northwest corner, so much as the north-middle corner.  So I changed trajectory and headed due north, honking all the way.

When I reached the northern limit of the lot, and pressed the horn icon again, I heard the sound coming from the exact opposite side of the lot.  The southern side, middle.  So I started walking toward it again, still honking.

As I progressed, the honking changed direction and this time, it was back at the northwest corner again.

About a half an hour later, the concept of “echo” finally dawned on me.  So I broke down and called the car company.

The lady was nice.  “Are you at the corner of Yonge and Finch?” she asked.

“Well yes.” I answered.   “Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“The instructions said to go to the subway station at Finch and Yonge, and that’s where I got off.  Directly across the road is a parking lot.  But I just noticed that there are no signs for Finch.  Is it possible I’m in the wrong lot? I keep honking the horn with the app, and I hear it.”

“You hear it?  Then maybe you’re where you should be.  I’ll stay on the line and honk the horn from my console until you find it.  How about that?  Would that help?”

“Tremendously” I replied.  “Thank you so much.”

“No problem” she said.  “I’m honking now.”

“You’re honking? Have you seen a doctor about that?” I blurted.

“What?”

“Sorry.  Nothing.  I don’t hear the car horn though.”

We finally figured out that I wasn’t in the right lot at all.  Forty-five minutes had passed under the blazing evil orb and I was in the wrong lot.  I had to walk a full block south to get to the right one.  And there it was, sitting in the tiniest little parking lot ever.  And it had signage!  Big bold signs.  “Here’s your rental car, dude.  Right here.  Right between these two signs. Honestly, I couldn’t have made it clearer if I’d painted little devils all over the place, with their pitchforks all pointing at the car”.

(Not really.  The signs just had the name of the rental agency.  But yes, it was pretty obvious.)

I pressed the horn icon just to make sure.  The replacement Mini honked back with severe cheerfulness.  It sounded different than what I’d heard before though.  Seemed kind of odd.  And how could I hear this tiny little horn honking from such a great distance away, yet not hear it when the help line woman honked it from her application?

I squeezed my sweat-soaked sunburnt body into the seat, started the car, turned on the air conditioner and took off.

A few hours later I realized that the horn I had heard honking wasn’t coming from the car, nor was it coming from an echo of the car.  It was coming from the iPhone app itself.  The app mimics the sound of a horn honking.  I had been following my own silly ghost around all afternoon.

Urban Soak

Posted: July 9, 2013 in humor, humour, Life, romance
Tags: , , , , ,

Rain

Teeming.

That was the word for it.  I tried out other synonyms.   “Pouring”.  “Pounding”.  “Sneaking”.

Sneaking?

The early weather report had called for occasional thunderstorms and brief moments of rain.  I was prepared.

The day before, I had carried my collapsible umbrella onto the subway train.  After getting off at my stop, my ADHD brain said “wait.  Something’s wrong.”  And it wasn’t until the doors closed that I realized I’d left my umbrella on the car.  I watched helplessly as the train picked up speed and nonchalantly took off.  No doubt it would provide someone else some protection.  Not me though.

The next day I watched the weather report, and in particular took note of the word “chance”.  “Chance” as in:  if you bring your umbrella you’re going to be the only person holding one, as everyone else around you – all wearing sunglasses and tans – will smile at you with patronizing derision. 

Still, I had a bit of walking to do, so I hunted down my spare umbrella – the huge clunky one – to carry with me for the day.

When I got out of the massage therapist’s office, I noticed it was …..teeming outside.  “Good” I thought.  Unlike some of those bedraggled sun-tanned miscreants standing in the doorway, waiting for it to settle, I had my giant black Marry Poppins umbrella, all deployed and ready to go.

I stepped out, secure in my dryness, and walked across the street to the bus stop.

Midway through the intersection the rain stopped teeming and began to roar with abandon.  At one point, the only part of me left dry was my face.  Barely.  The rain had sneaked under the umbrella – by virtue of the gunshot pounding at the ground, which could only ricochet up and at my clothing – and soaked me thoroughly.  A girl and I took what shelter we could find in the overhang outside of a dentist’s office.

“Nice weather, huh?” she said, smiling.

“What?” I replied.

“I SAID—never mind” she frowned.

I could barely make out anything she said over the storm’s argument. 

“Funny how….FUNNY HOW WE HAVE TO STAND HERE WITH OUR UMBRELLAS AND STILL CAN’T KEEP DRY” she offered.

“What? Oh…  Yeah” I rejoined.  I must have intimidated her with my magnificent social skills and verbiage, as she gave up saying anything after that.

I tried though.  “So”, I started.  “SO.  JUST HEADING HOME FROM WORK?” I asked.

She nodded.

The bus came.  We could see the poor travelling souls, standing in the bus aisles, bum to rump and wet clothing all sticking to each other.

She got on.  I said “I’ll wait for the next one”.  I could see it in the distance.

After it arrived, I found an empty seat and sat down, grateful and wet.  The novel I was reading was just getting interesting when the driver announced “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – THIS BUS IS OUT OF SERVICE AT LAWRENCE”. 

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  It wasn’t until the short older lady with the moustache and hairnet sitting in front of me turned around and glanced my way with a startled expression that I realized I had said it aloud. 

We all bundled out of the bus, and stood in the rain with our shielding umbrellas until the next one arrived.  It was already fairly packed with people, so we had to force our way onto it, bum to rump, all wet and miserable.

Then we noticed something else.  The power was out everywhere.  This meant there were no stoplights.  And this meant that the rate of travel in amongst the rat-like horde of cars went from slow to “oh my God it’s like we’re going backward”.  Some Hasidic Jewish kids, all dressed in black took it upon themselves to direct traffic at one intersection.  They had no umbrellas and looked like they were having a blast.  I smiled, kind of wishing I was a teen again.

The thought of the romance of rain blossomed.  I recalled that first romantic kiss I took with a girl when we were in our teens.  It happened under her see-through umbrella on a dark rainy night.  I remembered the lemony scent of her perfume and the intense, surreal joy of holding her closely, and sharing breath for a while.

Though we all made it to our destinations (after passing drowned cars – so many drowned cars – along the way), I couldn’t help thinking.  One important pass-fail aspect of any future romantic relationships will be my partner’s tolerance or acceptance of rain-enhanced public displays of affection. 

But by that I mean “light rain” not “sneaky, pounding, pouring teeming ricocheting rain”.   That crap’s just gross.

pool

The first thing I noticed was the cut.  It stung when I washed my face.  And when I looked up to see what was wrong – there it was, staring at me like a third eye.  In fact, that’s about where it was too – right where a third eye would be if I were an alien (or maybe a little more spiritually enlightened than I am).

“Damn”, I thought, staring at an otherwise perfect face “I wish I knew how I got that.”

Slowly, bits and pieces of the previous night came back into focus.  Dinner, drinks (so many drinks), a game of pool and a ride home via taxi. 

My head wasn’t aching and my stomach wasn’t upset so I think I was safe in assuming I wasn’t hung over.  By the same token however, the room was still swimming, just a bit, so perhaps we can assume I was still slightly drunk. 

I took out my phone and texted my dinner and pool companion.

I jut got up and not hungover either.  May actually be still drink though. : )

A minute later I read what I wrote and provided the correction.

*drunk

Totally missed “jut”.

Much as my eyes wanted to close, I couldn’t stand the thought of missing work, or of calling in late.  Not on account of drinking anyway.  So I had a breakfast.  You know, to soak up the alcohol.  Although frankly – it didn’t stop the room from trying to twirl me around in a hazy ballet dance.  I kept wondering why my stomach didn’t want to heave.   It never does, actually, when I drink Chardonnay.

(By the way, I need to mention something before talking about this further.  I value the privacy of my friends and family so will never ever take liberties with their names or identities on my blog.  In fact, as much as I adore my good friend from that night, I won’t write much about her.   This blog is about me.  Beautiful, exciting, slightly narcissistic and totally humble me.)

As I was preparing breakfast, I suddenly gasped.

“Holy shit” I thought.  “Did I even pay for the pool and drinks at the pool hall?  Did we inadvertently scam that place?”  My friend had generously paid for our dinner and drinks, but I really had no idea whether I paid for our game of pool.   I know I *intended* to pay.

Me and my facial cut scrambled over to the computer to quickly look up my bank account.   I sighed in relief.  There it was.  $103.74 to Jerry’s Pool Hall. 

Memories of that never-ending one game of pool filtered through my alcohol-soaked consciousness.   It seemed the balls were all were magnetically repelled from the pockets or something.  We couldn’t get near them.   Sinking one of them was like a miracle.   We cheered each other wildly whenever it happened.  I’m pretty sure my cue was defective because several times it refused to even go near the while ball, preferring instead to skid along the green felt. 

Wait.  Not green.  The felt was actually kind of a pukey white.

And when we were done playing……well actually we weren’t done, exactly.  I think we just lost interest.  The black ball retained its stately dignity, having never come close to making an acquaintance with a pocket.   My companion went to the washroom, while I made a majestic attempt to get the balls back together.

I took all of the balls – both of them – out of the pockets and lined them all up with the unsunk balls.  Then I put the triangle thing around them.  Then (I swear to God this is true) I tried to gather them all up in my arms so as to return them to the front.  But they kept falling out of the triangle, scurrying away like bratty mice.

The guy at the front got tired of laughing I suppose.  He eventually came to my rescue and provided a tray for them.

I paid up and we left.  And that’s all I remember.

I don’t recall the ride home, don’t recall paying the cabbie.  Worse, I don’t recall whether I brushed my teeth or not before falling into bed.  The only evidence I was in the bathroom at all was the tube of suntan lotion and tube of toothpaste lying on the floor in there.  

What a night.

P.S. Bits of the night are still coming back to me.  It’s entirely possible that we did finish that game.  I really have no idea.  I do know I didn’t win.  I have no idea why this is important.

A friend of mine just posted this cartoon on her Facebook wall:

Funwithwords

So I responded that we should not forget the other replacements for “said”.  Like “go”, for example.  I illustrated my point with the following:

————————

Jim goes “so I buried the dead hooker, like you asked”.

And Pete’s like “hold up. Not near the petunias!  Dude, I *just* planted those things.”

And Jim’s all “nah, bro. She’s, like, interred and stuff, in your neighbour’s yard.”

And Pete goes “righteous!”

————————

A walk in the mall or a ride on the subway allows you to hear many conversations like the above (minus the dead hooker of course).  Proving, I think, that today’s vernacular has taken a kind of colourful turn.  Would you agree? I’m not at all convinced it’s a bad thing.  My belief is that a word or the usage of a word becomes evident and valid when one person says it, and his listener understands it.   Webster would likely grunt and do his best to turn over in his grave at that notion; however, he would hardly be in a position to object openly.  Therefore my point remains unchallenged.

Contrast the above conversation to this:

————————

James encountered Peter on his morning tour of the neighbourhood. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, James raised an unpleasant topic. “Peter” he said “I have taken care of that matter we discussed yesterday.”

Peter furrowed his brows in confusion. “I’m at a loss as to the meaning of what you just referenced. What matter?”

James replied “oh you know – I have dealt with the recently deceased ‘working girl’ who suffered the misfortune of having a heart attack while in your employ.”

Peter sighed. “In what manner did you – ahem – take care of her?”

James smiled. “Well, I simply dug a shallow hole and planted her in it.”

Peter gasped in surprise. “Oh dear Lord. You didn’t bury her near the petunias did you?”

Scratching his head, James replied “are you truly concerned about your flowers, and not the recently deceased? I am frankly surprised at your glaring coldness, my friend. Are you perhaps an untested psychopath? Do you feel the need to study others’ emotions, so as to mimic them as best you can?”

Peter laughed. “By no means. It’s just that those petunias were chosen by my wife. If they died before their time, I envision my poor wife attempting to dig them up, only to encounter some part of a dead woman’s hand or leg at their roots.”

James sighed with relief. “Worry no more, my good man. I have interred her remains in the garden of your neighbour.”

Peter smiled. “Indeed you are a prince among friends.”

————————

Given the subject  – a deceased prostitute – I would find the above conversation as colourful and as entertaining as the first, albeit for a different reason.

I think this is one of the reasons I love the English language so much.  There are so many different ways to arrive at the same meaning, each method providing a nuance and shade of meaning that differs from the other.

Peer review time:  what are your thoughts on the above?  Are you disgusted by the slaughtering of the English verbal language or are you amused by it, as I am?  Be honest: has some of it crept into your lexicon?

Attention

When I was a little boy, I used to watch a couple of my dad’s brothers with curiosity.   They were so outgoing and carefree.  And drunk too most of the time.  The beers just enhanced who they were though – something I believe is true for all drunks.

They were huge men and they truly didn’t care about how they appeared to others and didn’t try to hide much of what they thought.  They were irreverent and loud and loved to laugh – unlike my dad who, though he was just as large as them,  was the polar opposite in character:  angry and belligerent and always spoiling for a fight.

As I grew up, I could never picture myself being as free as my uncles.

While riding your bike up and down the street as a child, the idea of inhibiting yourself in any way doesn’t even cross your mind.  You have fights with your friends, you make up, you play “flying saucers” with them (always you get to be the captain, and they are your underlings, if you have any say about it) and together you go through a full range of emotions every day.  And the next day you forget what the previous day was about.  It doesn’t matter.  You are in the now.

Kids don’t seem to have a sense of nostalgia, even for a moment.

Flashes of memory:

Scene:  teenaged me on a stepladder, applying paint to the eavestrough of our house.  I don’t even recall the colour.  Though lost in ADD-addled thought, I was intent on ensuring the paint went where it was supposed to go.  The sun was shining in the west, and my dad was out on the front lawn scowling as he watched me work, an ever-present bottle of beer in his hand.  I was a little unfocused while my brain processed yet another shiny ball piece of inspiration.  He could tell, because he would say something and I would provide one-note replies.  In exasperation he bellowed “you’re always in your head.  You never talk.”  He barked “so what the hell are you thinking about?”

That was a surprise.  I knew he was right but it was the first time I remember being forced to be a little self-aware.  I probably turned red – I didn’t like being in the spotlight.  Not his, anyway.  As I struggled to reply, he huffed again and walked away in disgust.   A more mature me would have been able to analyze it:  I didn’t think I mattered to him.  At least, he didn’t show it, in amongst all of the anger and shouting and drinking and swearing and hitting people.  So why would it would occur to me to talk with him?  I was afraid of him.   I was slowly building a belief in his hatred of me.   Hindsight reveals so much.

Not being mature, I had no sense of all of this at the time though.  I just knew I had somehow angered him, and I was afraid of what that might mean.  I had no idea what the consequences would entail.  Would I be beaten up?  Was he going to use this as an excuse to come at me?   God knew.   I kept painting, fearful and shaking inside.

(Nothing happened)

Scene:  a dark night, my best friend and I were in a camping trailer in his parents’ front yard, talking about something.  This was probably within the same year as the painting scene above.    I thought Joe was a genius: his marks in school were excellent and we both kind of knew he would end up becoming some sort of an academic.   The guy was linear and logical, and we talked about a great many things.  This night, however, it was me doing most of the talking. I remember really enjoying the time, until I realized that he wasn’t saying much at all.

“Joe, what’s wrong?”

He looked at me.  Shrugged.  Put his head down, staring at the floor.  “Nothing”.

Being around a drunk father for most of your life, and being taught how to read him in order to survive, I had developed somewhat of a sense about people, even then.  I landed right on the problem.   “You think I talk too much don’t you?”

He hesitated.  Then nodded.

Shock.  Teenage immature revelation.

I shut up.

And then, like many teens, I made a point of fitting in by keeping quiet, and making sure my image was intact.  There was no way anyone would ever have to become disgruntled about my saying too much ever again.  I had learned my lesson well.

Such behaviour, once learned, becomes hard to unlearn.  It becomes your new “normal”.  You get used to it.  You think this is what you’re supposed to do.  This for you is social conditioning, and though marginally disappointing, you’re happy to have learned it.  Now you can fit in, and not stand out or become the focus of anyone’s attention.  It doesn’t occur to you that “focus of attention” can be a positive thing – you’re only used to seeing it as a negative, ranging from the disdain of your friends to the red-eyed drunken and raging stare of violence.

Scene:  I’m an adult, sitting in the basement of a building in the heart of the downtown Toronto entertainment district.  A bunch of people – maybe fifteen or so, all different ages and backgrounds – are assembled.  All are paying attention to the teacher.  Only, it’s not a lecture.  He’s giving instructions.

“Never say no”.  He starts.  “You may think you have a better idea, and maybe you do.  But if someone gives you an offer, take it, and leave your ‘better idea’ in your back pocket.  You may get a chance to use it later.  It’s more important to follow the lead of the other guy.   Think instead of how you can help build his idea.”  He smiled.  “Or hers”.

It was a comedy improv class.  The objective was to tap into our “inner child” and play pretend with each other.   It was entirely positive, and it involved taking the focus, and becoming the center of attention, if only for a few moments.

It was exhilarating.  I was the guy on a fishing trip with a friend, and we were discussing my getting a job at his company.  And all the while we were sitting in an imaginary boat, casting our lines and winding the reel back in.   He built on my idea by presenting an offer:  if he could have a date with my wife, he’d see that my job application was approved.  My instinct was to immediately say “no” but then I remembered the teacher’s instructions.    “You know – that might work.  I’m going to need more than a job though. ”  I thought for a moment, while casting the line once again.   “Maybe stock options.  And your cool new car.   That would be my price.”  We dickered back and forth, adding conditions and treasures, until we finally ended it by reaching an agreement.

So odd, playing that scene.  We had became oblivious to the fact we were both the center of attention – except for the brief moments when the class laughed.

In another improv exercise, we were learning about adding dimensions to our invisible props; to be aware of them.   The teacher said “very often you’ll see some actors on stage, sitting in a car.  One of them will get out and walk to the other side – RIGHT THROUGH THE IMAGINARY ENGINE.  It irks me every time.  It destroys the scene.  I want you to be aware of your scene, and everything in it, and respect it completely.  Make it real.”   He looked at us, intently.  “If you can make yourself believe everything in your scene is real, your audience will follow you and they’ll believe it too.  Every time.”

To illustrate that point, the teacher chose an imaginary thick heavy door that didn’t open too well.  One by one, classmates went up to the door, used big heavy keys to unlock it, and then struggled to get it open.  Then they would struggle just as hard to pull it closed behind them.  Then they would sit down, or go to an imaginary fridge, grab an invisible drink and open it.   Or read a newspaper.  About four or five of them went up.   Then I had an idea:  I walked up, struggled with that same door, got inside and closed it.   Then, with my back ramrod straight, I looked around at them in disgust.    “One, two, three….” I counted them all.   “All five of you are in here… ”  I raised my voice in anger.  “….and there are 1,500 prisoners out there, all unsupervised.”   Their eyes all widened and they got up in a rush and scrambled to get out the door.

The class laughed.   That did it.  The seed was planted.   Attention.  Positive attention.  Instant addiction.

Scene:  a sports bar in a small town.  Noon hour.   About seven colleagues and I sitting around a table, having lunch.   A TV set was situated on a shelf  that was close to the ceiling, and it was tuned to a music video station.  The theme was 90’s music, and we were enjoying it, and discussing the songs as they came on.

Then the Divinyls’ song “I Touch Myself” came on.   Anyone who’s ever heard it knows the lyrics fairly well.  It features a woman singing to her lover about how she masturbates when she thinks of him.

The conversation around the table stopped abruptly.  Most of us were guys, and we couldn’t even look at each other.   For some reason I found this hilarious.   My improv-enhanced mind whirled with possibility.

I cleared my throat, turned and looked at the guy next to me (who, aware of my gaze, elected to stare with apparent focused and fascinated attention at his plate of fries).   In the deepest voice I could muster I growled “kind of embarrassing isn’t it?”

The table exploded with laughter.

—————–

I didn’t know it then, but I was reprogramming myself.   Detoxing from a lifetime of self-repression.  Learning that embarrassment should be reserved for honest mistakes, not for honest behaviour. Not for speaking out.  Not for truth-telling, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous the truth, or even whether it was couched in humour or bold straight talk.

I brought that dynamic to my workplace, often blurting out wild-eyed stuff to the disbelief and laughter of my friends and co-workers.   Safety doesn’t seem that much of a factor anymore.   And even when there is the possibility of violence – like on a crowded subway or busy mall – it’s better to face it head-on, with truth.   People truly don’t expect that.  They expect fear, and hiding.

I was learning that you get a lot more done, accomplish more, find more satisfaction in throwing off the safety of quiet, and replacing it with risk, and attitude and laughter.

To this day, I still have to coach myself though.   What about you?  Do you find yourself, as I do, having to repeat “what’s the worst that can happen” to yourself?   Do you find what that is, and then say to yourself “to hell with it – I’m doing or saying this, and if they don’t like it, or me, that’s too bad”?

 

Last night the inner child came out to play.  I was thinking about that seemingly ridiculous saying “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”.   Of course it doesn’t sound so ridiculous when you’re suffering from an illness and you think “if I had a million dollars right now I’d still be miserable and wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.”   So, in a sense, the saying is somewhat valid.  Let’s just say it’s one of the prerequisites for everything else.

Still, the kid wanted to play.  And so I tried to post something to my Facebook page which was too long, so I had to truncate it.  The following is what I wanted to post.  Abe replied with an addition, and then I added some more.  Feel free to add your own.

You have everything, if you have your health.

And $15 million dollars.

And a beautiful spouse.  With a big house.

And a wine cellar.

And a speed boat.

No, a schooner.

Wait. No. A luxury yacht.

That’s it.  If you have these things, then you have everything.

Wait.  No.  A rocking bod.  If you have these things, and a six-pack, then you have–

And an infinity pool.  Behind the big house.

Big houses.  An infinity pool behind all six…sixteen of your big houses, which are all around the world.

That’s it.  If you have all these things, and your health, then you have…..

And an island.  If you have all these things, and an island where you can paraglide.

Then you have everything.

(And maybe some grapes, fed to you by your beautiful spouse)

…..wait…I’m not finished….

And a mountain named after you…
…with a castle on it
…that you live in
…when you feel like it

‎…and the castle has a winding staircase….
….and a fireman pole that you can slide down when you don’t feel like walking…..
….and there’s a pride of lion cubs, for playing with, and for taking care of the rats…..
…and a freshwater moat all around that doubles as yet another swimming area….and trees with lights that shine down, with built in speakers that plays the best music……
….and this is all located in a place down south where there’s never any winter……
..then you have everything

The Normal Kid

Posted: September 19, 2010 in humour, Life
Tags: , ,

Peter was a little odd to look at.

For one thing, he was in a wheelchair.

For another thing, he was all twisted up in it.  And when he spoke, he did so slowly because his mouth and neck were all twisted too.  And he spat a lot when he was talking, too.

To this day, I don’t know what he had.  Whether it was cerebral palsy or whatever.  That was probably what it was.  But at any rate, he was initially very difficult to look at.  People (read: me) felt uncomfortable because of his jerky movements and odd way of speaking.

I don’t know how he broke the barrier of social ostracization in our high school, but he did it.  A few of us, me included, started talking with him more.  Maybe it was because he knew exactly what he looked like, and didn’t care.  Maybe because he was so willing to speak up during class.  Ask and answer questions.  I don’t know.  A few of us became friends with him, but not because we were special or anything.

We found that, after you got past the spastic movements and the wheelchair, ultimately what you had was an older teenage boy, who was mischievous and funny.  The guy was really no different from many of us.  We found a basis for friendship.

Peter loved telling dirty jokes.   As a bona-fide died-in-the-wool long-haired plaid-wearing tight-assed Christian, I found them offensive.  Or tried to anyway.  God knows I tried.  God probably smirked when he saw me biting my lip and then finally laughing out loud.   You could tell when Peter was going to tell one of them.  There’d be a twinkle in his eyes and he grinned hard, as he took a deep breath.  And we’d sit there with him, waiting expectantly.  Me, with a slight furrow to my brow, and my other two friends, just grinning.

One day we sat in the hall way, Peter in his wheelchair and us on the window sill, just outside of the teacher’s lounge.  Peter launched into one of his long-winded jokes.  It took him a lot longer to tell a joke than any of us, because of his condition.  I’m convinced that the length of the joke time extended the hilarity of it.   To this day I can’t recall what the joke was.  Only that, as soon as he told the punch line, the door to the teacher’s lounge suddenly burst open, and the vice principal walked out, glaring.

We were shocked.  We didn’t know if he heard it or not.  (Peter was pretty loud).  But then, as we stared at each other, Peter just burst into gales of laughter.

The vice principal frowned at us all in confusion, and we started laughing too.   We couldn’t help it. nor could we stop.   The VP just shook his head and walked away, while we stayed there, laughing it up.

Peter, like us, loved the girls in our school too.  Especially Maria.   Maria was this cute little button-nosed beauty with shoulder-length dirty blonde hair who smiled an awful lot.  She was gentle too, and not at all stuck up or snobby.   We were all out of her league and we knew it (well, our growing but still limited self-esteem told us that at the time anyway).   Oh, and she wore short skirts too.   That helped.

One day, we were joking around with her, and then we decided to start chasing her.  She let out a high-pitched squeal of laughter and started running down the hall.  My buddy Willis pushed Peter’s wheelchair, while Peter assisted by pushing the mobility handle on the chair, giving it an extra horsepower or two.  Larry and I ran alongside.  Willis looked at me, and winked.  Then he let go of the wheelchair.  And as Maria continued to run, we saw Peter still pushing the wheelchair mobility handle, moving the thing by himself, with a maniacal look of glee on his face.  We stood there and watched, just laughing.  Peter was busted.

I think when teachers saw Peter in his wheelchair, they felt sorry for him.  And I think he milked it for all his worth.  As did we.  We were often late for class.

“Sorry Miss Gannon – but we were helping Peter get to class”.

Miss Gannon would sigh and nod her head.  I don’t think we fooled her.  Mostly because we were too stupid not to realize that she saw us grinning to each other.

I don’t think Peter ever spoke of his condition with us.  He may have explained what it was one time.  I forget.  I think it just wasn’t that big a deal to him.  And it wasn’t for us either.  Eventually we stopped noticing the looks of the other students.  It just didn’t matter.

In my Christian zeal, I may have tried to convert Peter at one time or another.  I’m pretty sure that attempt died an ignominious death.  Back then I probably thought he was just too full of lust.

Which, really, was true.  The guy had a lust for life.  Big Time.

At the end of the day though – he was just a normal kid.

Hey gang!

I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t do my due diligence to the blogging community by forgetting to point out some great writers here.  (I’m not sure if that last sentence had enough negatives in it.  Hopefully you know what I mean. ) 

Anyway – most of you know each other and most of you will see your blogs sitting right there to the right, in the Blogroll section   ===>  

You’re there because I enjoy reading you, and because I don’t like having to hunt around for bookmarks in my multiple browsers. 

You’re also there because you are more than worthy of my admiration, and because I really want others to read you as well.  You should feel good about yourself, now. 

Can I get an A——MEN!

Having said that, there are at least three new additions to my blog-trophy collections.

First, there’s the AcidWoods blog, written by my friend from MySpace, who is known as Art Carcass (*1).  He creates some wonderful photography blogs, and provides some thought-provoking and well, just generally provocative blogs.   Lucky for us, we get to see some of the world around us, through his highly artistic vision.  Frankly, I think we’re the better for it.

Go, Pop. Go! is a blog written by a father.  Anyone who has been a father (or a child of one) can appreciate his humorous(*2)  take on life.

The Whatever Factor is a blog written by someone who is known as “izziedarling”.  (I’d love to name my next baby that, should I be so lucky as to warrant the temporary or permanent use of a wife.   Can you imagine?  “Meet my daughter, izziedarling”  “What?”  “izziedarling”  “Why are you calling me ‘darling’?  We hardly know each other.  I’m Mr. Cooper to you, jackass”)   ANYWAY….her writing is personable and compelling.  She draws you in.  Check out her blog about a couple of doggie playthings.  That’s the one that hooked me.

The Idiot Speaketh , written by a guy who calls himself the Idiot, but is also known as “redriverpak” (someday when I know him better and can ask him this without abrogating some sort of unwritten more, thus condemning me to a social hell of my own making (God help us all), I’m going to ask him what that name means) has some hilarious blogs up, mostly about his family life.  He is no stranger to exaggeration, and thereby manages to pull the mundane into the ridiculous.   I’m all about the ridiculous, firmly believing (against most medical analysis) that it probably keeps those of us who live on the edge from going completely insane.  Unless “insane with laughter” is a problem for anyone.

Finally, I just added Old and in the Way to the blogroll today.   Like redriverpak (you know, the more I write that name, the more I like it.  It fairly flows off of the fingers.  I stare at my navel too much.  I’m also into non sequiturs.  I’m on a horse), this guy – named Sank (and I guess he got there without first saying “hey there’s a hole in my ship, do you think I should worry?” or “hey, the water level’s pretty deep here.  Maybe we should start bailing?” – but went right straight to “sank”) talks about family life, through the lens of a *very* twisted father.  Read his blog today about his adventures with toilets, if you don’t believe me.

There.  I’ve done my duty for today.

Now I get to go to bloggers’ heaven.

(Do they drink wine there?  Do they have iPads?  I have to have my iPad.  It won’t be heaven without it.)

(Um, have I blasphemed already?  And it’s not even Sunday yet)

—————————————————————————————————————

(*1 – some names aren’t real.  Even if I know the real names, I won’t publish them.  It’s not for me to do so.  Also, it’s not my job.  I like saying “it’s not my job”, because it’s far easier than volunteering to do something.  I hate volunteering. I also hate work.  Work sucks.  Work is for Other People.  People Who – unlike me – actually care.  So there, Alphonsus.  Your name is safe with me.)

(Shit)

(*2 – Yeah, I know you’re not used to seeing “humorous” spelt that way.  You’re probably also not used to seeing the past tense of “spell” spelt as “spelt”  [Gee, wasn't that last sentence fun?].  Anyway, get used to it.  We use the Queen’s English around here.  We love the Queen.  We love her very much.  So much we’d very much like to spank her.  Spank, Queenie, spank.  Good girl)

Wanderer

Posted: March 12, 2010 in humor, humour, Life
Tags: , , ,

It all started when my friend Abe (you’ll see him in my blogroll) asked a question I had asked myself so many times before.  I don’t think he’ll mind my sharing it here, as I’m sure many of you have asked the same thing too.

Which is:  is there a way to email a blog that you read to someone’s email account? 

I started to reply to him and then thought “hey maybe I should take a good look” and so that’s what I did. 

Or started to do.

I went to wordpress.com’s personal dashboard, which is basically a menu system that allows you to customize the crap out of your blog.   Everything from general appearance to widgets (that’s those things you see along the side of this blog, like stats, and twitter comments and the like), to how many nested comments are allowed.  (I set mine at the max, by the way, which is ten.  Apparently that’s still not nearly enough).

And then I discovered a menu item called “domains”.  

“Hmm” I thought.  “Maybe there’s something in there.”

I’m an IT guy, so I know damned well there would be nothing in there having to do with emailing blogs elsewhere.   Still, my ears were up and so I went sniffing around.

“Interesting!” I thought.  This was clearly an item that, when accessed, would allow you to provide your own domain for your blogs.  I didn’t have a domain though.

“Hmmm.   I wonder if anyone’s chosen wolfshades.com yet”  (Those of you who’ve looked at your address bar at the top of your browser now might have an idea where this is going.)

So…I went to godaddy.com.  Bear in mind: I still hadn’t replied back to Abe’s email yet.

Nope.  wolfshades.com was available.   For only $7.99 or something.  Such a deal.  I thought I should go for it.

So I decided to buy the domain.

The sign up area wanted an email address, and not one of those throw-away free ones either.   The website indicated that a godaddy.com email address would work.

“How do I get one of those?” I wondered.  “Maybe I should click on ‘new account’ and I’ll get one that way.”  The website wasn’t clear.

I set up my new account, but it was still wanted an email address, so I gave it the one I’m using.

“There” I thought.  “Done.”

But wait.  Where’s the godaddy.com email?

So I spent another fifteen minutes looking around for that option, clicking on various links.  And then finally I found it.  And yes, it costs money.

“Well screw that” I thought, disgusted.  “I already pay enough for my current Apple email account”

So…I went back and purchased my wolfshades.com domain.  And I also bought the Canadian version – wolfshades.ca – just to keep it safe and out of other people’s hands.

Then came the add-ons.

“Do you want five email accounts with 2 Gigs of storage?”

“Or maybe ten email accounts with unlimited storage?”

“Or do you want the Deluxe package?”  (Ten email accounts, unlimited storage and I think a yearly vacation in the Bahamas and they come take your ex mother-in-law away, never to be seen again.  I could have that last one wrong though.)

I started to sign up for the middle option so that I could have unlimited storage.  Then I thought “what in heck am I going to do with ten email accounts?  That’s just stupid.  And do I need storage?  No.  Absolutely not.”

“In fact, I don’t even need one email account.”  And with that, I clicked on “remove”.

“Do you want to protect your domain?”   From what?  Raiding invaders?  Gingivitis?   I read a bit further.  Apparently there are people who will park themselves, just waiting for your account to lapse just so that they can scoop the domain.  Yup.  Need to protect myself.  So I clicked on “buy”.

“What about privacy?  Do you want your real name, address and email blasted across the internet, whenever someone does a WHOIS on wolfshades.com?”  (Not in those words of course.)   Absolutely not.   I’ve got stalkers out there (long story, and another blog).  I figured I’d better buy my privacy too.

“We’re assuming you want two years on this account right?”   I looked at the bottom line.  We were into about $120.00 by now, so I changed that to one year.

“Do you want people to know your website is safe?”   Kind of like “stampsies” I suppose, where you slam your foot to the ground and say “HOMEFREE!”   Yes, I suppose I want people ot know my site is safe.  Buy.

Are we freaking done yet?

Nope.  “Time to pay sucker sir.  How do you want to do this?  Credit card?  PayPal?  Two goats and a pig?  Staring contest?”

I made my chose and, just before I click on “buy” I noticed that there was a little field called “coupon code”.

SCORE!  That must mean I can get this a bit cheaper.

So I googled “coupon code for godaddy”.  Found a site immediately, and plugged in a coupon code. 

The page refreshed.   The cost hadn’t gone down.   Damn.

I went back to the coupon page and chose another one and plugged that one in.

The page refreshed, and there it was.  $10.00 cheaper.

Man do I rock.

So.  Are we done NOW?

Not quite, as it turned out.   It took a bunch of verification mechanisms, including one phone call to my cell phone, before godaddy confirmed my purchase of the two domains.   Time to plug that sucker into WordPress.

I tried. I clicked on Domains and then entered wolfshades.com.

“Sorry dude.  We can’t even see you ever here.  Did you enter it correctly?  Did you wiggle the mouse?”

I had.  But I did it again, because as everyone knows it takes a least two tries at doing the same exact thing before it works.  Right?

Wrong.  It didn’t work.  WordPress suggested that I needed to add their name servers (it’s a long story.  If you’re in IT you’ll understand but if you’re not, don’t worry your pretty little head about it, ‘k?).   Anyway, I went back to godaddy.com and entered wordpress’ name servers.    Then I went back to WordPress and tried it again.

It worked.  But we weren’t quite done.  WordPress wanted its slice of the pie too.  “That’s gonna cost ya, buddy.”   It sure did.  $7.99 per annum.

I paid, and now finally, it worked.

But wait.  What was I trying to do in the first place?

Oh right.  Figure out if it’s possible to email a blog to someone.   I spent another five minutes looking around and googling.

Nope.

And so finally, two and half hours after Abe sent me the message, I finally replied back to him.    

Sorry, Abe.   I just lost focus again.  I would tell you that it won’t happen again but …. I’d be lying.

Who knew a simple email would cost me $62.00?   

Got any more questions for me, buddy?  :)

Life in the Artistic Lane

Posted: March 4, 2010 in dating, humor, humour, Life, romance

The title of this blog is a bit ironic, since art really doesn’t follow a line, or a lane for that matter.  It tends to wander over the terrain of possibility, poking its nose in normally closed, otherwise unremarkable places.  The successful artist knows that his work will hit each observer differently.  That dynamic, the doing and the observing – whether we’re talking about painting, interpretative dance, acting or music, is part of the artistic process.  The artist who insists the observer see his work in only a determined fashion is likely not a true artist.   (That’s my opinion, not fact, and I’m sticking with it)

The Girl and I went to see a stage show, based upon improvisational comedy, at Second City in Toronto.  Fortunately, we were early and so managed to grab some seats right at the front of the place.    It was a treat to hear her musical laugh all the way through.

After, we got to talking. 

She shook her head. “I could never do that”.

“Oh I don’t know.  I’ll bet you could.  I used to be fairly shy on stage but once you get into it, it’s a lot of fun.  And there are so many other benefits too.”

“Like what?”

This took me back about five years ago, when I started taking improv classes.  For those who don’t know what improv is, think about that show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” with Drew Carey.   The four member cast at the front would take suggestions from the audience and then build stories that they would act out.  For example, they would ask the audience about an object that they might find in the trunk of their car.   “An old doll!”

“OK, and what kind of room can think of that would only hold four people?”

“A closet!”

“A bathroom!”

“A sausage factory!”

“A sausage factory?  Wow.  You’re weird. I want to talk to you afterward.  I think we’ll go with the bathroom.  So, right.  We’re talking about an old doll in a bathroom.  And…..SCENE!”

With that, the actors would act out a story using those two elements.  It remained for them to figure out the relationship between the four people.

It sounds difficult but really, it’s about going back to your childhood.  Any of you reading this can probably remember playing with your friends at a very young age, and making up stories and relationships, right?  It’s about letting go of your dignity long enough to be a child again.

When you take the improv course, there are two important rules:  one, everyone participates; and two, no one is allowed to say “no” to any suggestions being made.  Since everyone in the classroom has to participate, it’s pretty difficult to feel shy or centered out.  The risk belongs to everyone, not just one single person.

I frankly can’t think of another adult group activity that was ever so much fun.  You got to be as creative as you like.  You could learn different personalities and act them out.  And once you did it in class for a few years, as I did, going up on stage wasn’t that big a deal.  It kind of made it more exciting.

I once played an old man who was married to a gold-digging wife who was seeing a doctor on the side.  Her and the doctor decided they wanted me dead, so he prescribed an experimental drug on me, which had the unfortunate side effect of causing a permanent erection.  For that, we developed a prop which I wore under my medical gown, creating a larger than life tent, which I used to bump into things and people and knocking things over.  A little low-brow perhaps, but you couldn’t argue with the audience, all of whom were laughing in disbelief.

In one of our classes, the instructor was teaching us about the weight of our imaginary set.  In this case, he wanted us to imagine a heavy heavy door, and he wanted us to build a scene where we had to open and close that door with great difficulty.  Anyone could go up, and so we did.  The first guy walked about to the door, took out an imaginary heavy set of keys, stuck it in the lock, fooled around with it for a while trying to get it to work.  Once unlocked, he had to put all of his body weight into opening it, and then again when he had to pull it shut.   The next guy went through the same routine, entered the room and began to have some low chatter with the first guy.  A few more went up, using different variations.

Until that point, we didn’t know what this door was, or what room it opened into.  So I went up.  Like the others, I had difficulty opening this imaginary door.  Once I got inside though, I looked around in disgust at them.  “Hey, how many of you guys here? ”  I began counting.  “One, two, five. Ok you’re all here.  So let me ask:  WHO THE HELL IS OUT THERE GUARDING THE PRISONERS????”   With that, they all scurried back out of the door.

The side benefits? 

Well, hanging out with all of these vibrant creatives types after the show was just magical.  So many summer nights when we tried out different late night restaurants, or went to one or the other’s house, where we’d end up drinking and talking until the wee hours of the morning.  Our discussions turned serious sometimes, and we got into some heavy topics.  We also got into a lot of “what if” topics – perhaps a by-product of the improv creative process.

We learned to practice our improv art in real life situations too.  One night, three of us talked about what we wanted to do for Hallowe’en.

“I know!” said our host.  “Why don’ t we go as priest and nun?”

The girl in our little group looked at me.  “You can go as an altar boy.”

Our host grinned.  “And I can put of those S&M dog studded collars on your neck and we can walk down Yonge St., just to see the reactions.”

I both loved and was horrified by the idea.   We never got around to doing it, of course, because by the time Hallowe’en rolled around we were all off doing our own thing.

My friends and I had such a good time, being on stage and then hanging out afterward, that I kind of took it for granted. 

This, for me, represents the artist lifestyle.  Being with people who by virtue of their own fertile imaginations, allow and provoke creativity in your own mind.  It, along with Tom Robbins’ book – Jitterbug Perfume –  provided a sort of life epiphany for me. 

“Epiphany” murmured The Girl, in her sweet Russian accent.

“Right.  A sudden insight, usually brilliant, which can cause a change in your thinking and actions.”  That was the best I could come up with.

She smiled.  “I’m adding that one to my vocabulary.”