Sunday, December 20, 2015

Staff Meetings: A Primer for the New Employee

We all have to attend periodically scheduled staff meetings all the while fighting off sleep, boredom and dreams of overthrowing the current regime. When you are a new employee, you do not have the luxury of "mailing it in" or adopting a sarcastic or ridiculously regal tone during meetings. Instead, you are still in the embarrassing phase of trying to impress the boss and meetings are your prime opportunity to demonstrate your love and affection for management in a public fashion.

Here is my primer on how to thoroughly enjoy staff meetings while also placing yourself smack on top of management's good books without drawing too much ire from your fellow employees.

1) Show up early! Nothing says "I love my job, and therefore, you" to your boss than being one of the first people at the meeting. Being late on the other hand only works if you are (a) the boss's son and/or daughter, (b) the boss's husband/wife/concubine, (c) the cool one who seemingly gets away with anything as they are that cool (you aren't).

2) Don't show up too early, though. You shouldn't camp out over night like you are waiting for concert tickets to your favourite boy band. It doesn't pay off in the long run to appear overly eager as your currently friendly colleagues may want to "rip your head off" or "slash your tires" or "send you enticing emails with pornography that is full of hidden viruses that will cripple your hard drive".

(3) Management usually offers light breakfast items and hot beverages. Now is not the time to prove to your new colleagues that you can in fact stuff five doughnuts in your mouth at one time. Make sure you blow carefully on your steaming beverage of choice before taking a sip unless you enjoy the special feeling in your mouth that only scalding can bring. Rule of thumb - eat before arriving and then refuse all offers so as not to look like a pig. If necessary claim to be on a cleanse or fasting for religious purposes.

4) When the meeting begins, your boss will invariably open with a joke. It will fall somewhere between tear-your-hair-out unfunny and excruciatingly horrible. See this as a test. A test that if you fail, you'll be unceremoniously fired, and if you pass, you will both literally and figuratively live to see another week. Resist the urge to one-up your boss with your own comedic stylings because no matter how funny and witty your jokes seem, now is just not the time.

5) The meeting will invariably have its slow moments and your mind will naturally drift and yet it is supremely important that you appear attentive and focussed at all times. Come prepared with some mental logic problems, a pencil so you can draw series of funny pictures of your colleagues as farm animals on the agenda and silly string, just in case it is that sort of staff meeting.

6) When the management asks for a volunteer to strike a committee or take on extra responsibilities or act as a human Guinea pig you must avoid coming across as annoyingly super-enthusiastic as that will only draw the ire of your peers who will either super glue your stapler to your desk or just bypass the stapler and go directly to you.

7) By all means raise your hand and contribute to the discussions, but try not to speak too much or too often or with grammar that is too perfect, as this meeting isn't about you and your brilliant ideas and lovely voice and impeccable English skills. That meeting is next week (it isn't).

8) When it is time for different departments to give updates to the staff on current projects and developments do not call out things such as "you da man!", "damn straight!", "you go girl!" and "those ideas are well and good and quite cute and rudimentary, but in my spare time I did a little research and I think you will all agree that my ideas far surpass yours in every way."

9) After the meeting is over, shake as many hands, slap as many backs and run as many shoulders as you can without injuring yourself or others. Whatever you do, don't shake, slap or rub too vigorously or people will be prone to get the wrong idea.

10) With another meeting come and gone, return to your office, cubicle, broom closet and await the next meeting. Well done!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Four of Us

A photograph.
A single, slightly-brown photograph.
A memory of a day, an era, a period of time in my life that my mind always goes back to when I daydream of the past.
There we were.
The four of us.
Best of friends. Smiling and laughing in our youth. Together. As close and connected as four separate people could be. So happy and full of life, we were.
That summer of ’92 was amazing.
Dinners and beaches and parties and late night movies with popcorn and homemade brownies that filled the air with a distinct sweetness that only homemade brownies could.
Afternoons would turn to evenings which would turn to late-night, early-morning why-go-to-bed-it’s-only-4am experiences.
Looking at the photo in the album that gathers dust in my closet feels like going back to a simpler time, as clich├ęd as that sounds.
We were young, so young.
Sure we had part time jobs, always-on-the-verge-of-empty bank accounts and a slowly increasing amount of responsibilities as we bravely crossed the threshold into adulthood, but, at heart, we were young.
The soundtrack of that summer still plays in my head today; while I shower or run in the woods or close my eyes and take a much-needed break from the grind.
That summer felt like it would never end. Our time together seemed infinite. We’d forever be as close as we are now, we thought, taking time and closeness and youth for granted, as young people always do.
Sheer pleasure in the a-little-too-glossy shot that is found in many of the photos from the 90s. The four of us as one.
None of us could have predicted or guessed that it would all end so quickly. How could it? We were so tight.
But, as summer turned to fall, one travelled, another fell in love and promptly disappeared, and a third got accepted to some program studying something halfway across the country.
Only I remained.
We’d get together, connect again, recapture this special thing we all shared and soon, we all told each other.
It sounded so good at the time.
We believed it when we said it.
But everything changed, as it invariably does.
All I have from this incredible time in our lives is this photograph. The photograph speaks thousands of words about back in the day when the four of us were together.
This old photograph never fails to bring both a wistful smile as well as taking me close to the edge of tears, but not quite.
I miss that time.
I miss those days.
I miss them.
The four of us.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How I Deal With Boredom

Do you ever get bored?

Do you ever come close to clawing your eyeballs out due to extreme boredom only wishing you could do something, anything to feel less bored?

Do you ever wonder if this only happens to you?

Do you wish you had some tools in your toolbelt to escape this feeling?

Well, I too have momentarily felt bored and over time I have developed a handy list of ways to handle situations or experiences that are less that exciting.

You are welcome!

1) Pretend you are being followed or stalked. Not fun, but definitely not boring.

2) Make up a game with an intricate set of detailed and confusing rules. Hours of fun playing and arguing with yourself all afternoon that you are cheating.

3) Every crack you hear from above your head is one less crack before your roof collapses. Think about that for a while. Not boring!

4) Consume a ton of honey and then reorganize the furniture in your place and see how "bee-like" the end product is.

5) As your friends are busy, take out a handful of chocolate chip cookies and name each one with the name of one of your friends and then proceed to aggressively eat each of them. Confusing and a field day for your therapist, but a great way to pass the time.

6) Invent a dance that is heavy on eyebrow movement.

7) You're a spy! Now you're a princess! And then you become a cowboy! Followed by a hyena! Your only limit is your imagination and the selection of clothes your wife/husband/roommate/grandmother/cellmate has.

8) Log on to social media and refresh each minute for an hour to see if anyone has liked any of your many late-night posts from the previous evening, and therefore, you. Ultimately potentially depressing, but the sheer amount of rapid eye movement will make that hour seem like 48 minutes.

9) Write a play about a lonely person who was tremendously bored, was friendless, never accomplished or amounted to anything and then died alone. Now turn on some upbeat Broadway show tunes and notice how quickly your story comes alive.

10) Re-read emails from work associates and your boss with as much paranoid speculation as you can. Step back and allow your neuroses to do their job. Start plotting your revenge. Ultimately this will cause you hours of stress and may potentially cause you to look for employment elsewhere, but the afternoon will go flying by.

11) Remove your clothes and literally coat yourself with a thick layer of peanut butter, allow it to dry and then enjoy spending the rest of the afternoon in the bath trying to scrub yourself clean.

12) Imagine your existence as a variety of inanimate objects in the room: a window sill, a raincoat, a plastic straw, a filing cabinet. Now stand up and walk around the room resisting the urge to taunt. Enjoy the flexibility and freedom that is easy to take for granted. If still bored, chose four new objects and repeat. 

13) Play a rousing game of Hide the Wallet While Blindfolded in the Dark After Spinning Around Till Dizzy. It's a crowd pleaser!

14) Read the headlines from the newspaper out loud using delivery styles that alternate between cute old lady and savage animal. Be careful to avoid the temptation to maul yourself.

15) Pretend you are trapped inside a box with limited access to oxygen and all you have at your disposal is some dental floss, a toothpick and some unchewed bubble gum. A great way to use your problem solving skills and creativity! Bonus marks for actually trapping yourself inside a box. 

16) Call your most boring friend and spend the next thirty minutes listening to him or her drone on about the plights of their existence and instantly you'll feel a whole more exciting relative to that loser.

17) Start writing your tell-all autobiography full of every sordid detail, shady backroom deal, explicit affair and any actual events that may have occurred that are truly interesting. Note: this activity may yield tears and a feeling that some/most/all of your life has been a waste. Consider this - when crying, you definitely aren't bored and this list isn't about how to feel better or raise your self-esteem. That's a whole other list for another day.

18) Wrap yourself up in all of that asbestos-free insulation you were saving for a moment like this. Take pictures using your Polaroid camera in a variety of hilarious poses and ridiculous facial expressions. Put photos away for the next time you feel bored.

19) Sit by the window and smile, wave and jump up and down enthusiastically at each passerby with as much energy and fanfare as you can summon. Barking, yelping and slobbering are optional.

20) Don't fight the boredom. Embrace it. Accept yourself for who you are and where you are at. Love yourself in all your glory. If that doesn't work consider entirely removing all hair from your body.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Will Succeed

I quit.
I just want to give up.
I tried my best and have failed, again.
Nothing ever works out.
I thought I was supposed to get wiser as I age.
I can’t do this anymore.
I’m so very tired.
I never learn my lesson.
There are no fairy tale endings.
I never have any luck or get any breaks.
I just want to go home and be by myself.
I’ve fallen short once again.
I feel like a shadow of my former self.
Always letting others down who are counting on me.
I tried my best and have failed, again.
I just want to give up.
I quit.
Everything will work out in the end.
I’m not perfect.
I am only human.
I can’t change the past and can only move forward.
I will make mistakes.
Even when I try my best, sometimes I will fall short.
It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.
I need to go easy on myself.
It’s not healthy to dwell on what I cannot change.
It’s alright to cry.
With a positive attitude, everything seems better.
I want to make a difference.
It’s hard to always put my best foot forward.
Sometimes I don’t say what I mean.
I am only human.
I’m not perfect.
Everything will work out in the end.
I will succeed.
I’m not done yet.
I’ve still got it.
I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to.
I am persistent and hungry.
I love challenges.
I know I can do this.
I am resilient and full of character.
Though I may occasionally appear weak, I am strong.
There is no quit in me.
The best is always yet to come.
When I fall down, I always get back up.
Failing does make me stronger.
I will rise to the occasion.
I’ve still got it.
I’m not done yet.
I will succeed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Claire was a girl. A pretty girl. A girl who had pony tails and freckles and a somewhat concerning fascination with medieval interpretations of justice. At the end of each school day, she would walk home, as many girls did, in her fashionable outfits and shiny hair accessories attracting attention from all who ventured into her wake. She was the sort of girl that boys so badly wanted to stand next to and attempt to drum up the courage to ask out, with or without an actual drum, but once in her presence they were invariably reduced to monosyllabic words and utterances, of which she happened to be a big fan. And yet nothing ever transpired.
What those boys didn't know was that she was shy and lonely. Shy, lonely and creative despite her appearance which made her look a tad prehistoric. Her appearance was hard to read, as it greatly lacked any letters or words, though one pair of pants just screamed Shakespeare. How she would have loved to have been asked out, or in -"we wouldn't need to actually be outside!" she wanted to tell them all, but they were never all in the same place at the same time making the logistics of telling them all next to impossible.
Instead she would return home each day and, after completing her homework and vegetable peeling for hours even when her parents pleaded with her to stop with the peeling already until their throats grew hoarse, she would retreat to her room and spend hours and hours in a dreamworld of her own making though she had gone online for some ideas.
It was a world she had carefully constructed from the tall, pink skyscrapers down to the most minute details like the precise shape of the minute hand on the town clock, only stopping when her imaginary microscope reached the limits of its magnification. Her world would have been infinitely more exciting than reality aside from that being theoretically impossible. She generally struggled, at a young age, accurately quantifying and comparing the level of excitements at the best of times.
She loved every aspect of her world - her friends, the abundance of elephants, the relaxed rules about keeping library books past their due date. The only negative she could think of were the results of the most recent election, where she had somewhat surprisingly finished third even though she was the only candidate and had just completed what seemed like a vastly success mayoral campaign. She'd even handed out freshly-baked cookies.
Yet, despite her frequent drifting from reality, Claire was the stereotypical girl next door. She took great pride in her close relationship, and proximity, to doors. She was the girl everyone loved and admired for her next-to-impeccable posture, dripped wax creations and crocheting skills. The girl all of the other girls loved for her innocence, sense of comedic timing and endless supply of lined paper. The girl who bought into stereotypes as much as any girl could, going to extremes to act and appear as stereotypical as possible, only stopping due to time constraints. The girls loved her, and yet kept their distance, with each girl having their own, randomly assigned and self-regulated distance, because Claire seemed to want it that way.
Throughout the years she had always been the girl next door, except for a short period of time when her parents leased a houseboat and their only neighbours had been adventure and seasickness, as well as a particularly "frisky" family of sharks. There was also that other time when they had no neighbours as the house next to her parent's place was considered haunted, but it turned out the owners were just really into mood lighting and old sound effect records.
Families had come and go and she had watched them pack and unpack, only to repack eventually, after a period of time, though sometimes using newer and shinier suitcases. She had often wondered what had happened to the old pieces of luggage, but not enough to actually ask.
And there had always been boys living in the house next door to her. An almost never-ending turnstile full of boys just as her mother had randomly predicted before they had moved into the neighbourhood. Cute boys, muscular boys, nerdy boys and boys who turned out to just be hairy dogs which went a long way towards explaining why they crawled around on all fours so often and chose to bark aggressively and attempt to lick her leg whenever they saw her.
The boys next door were only a short distance and two front doors away and yet they seemed miles off. All they would have to do, the determined after months of research, is open their door, walk approximately 15 metres taking care to avoid trees, knock on her door and they could be together forever just like the Disney Princess movies she had watched as a kid and continued watching to this day, only with what could only be described as "rabid" attention to non-realistic character traits and deficiencies in the plot.
When not escaping to her room, she would sit on her front porch just waiting for one of these boys to make their move and sweep her off her feet, before placing her down as she wouldn't want them to hurt their backs. And yet they never did, aside from that one time she got in the way of one young man when he was aggressively sweeping his sidewalk due to an abundance of pine needles she had "accidentally" place on his yard as part of her convoluted dating plan.
At first she thought it had been fate, and that they were meant to be together forever, but she quickly realized that he had only been interested in the needles; really interested. A little too interested which, while raising a series of questions that, when answered, could form the backbone for an average-at-best Masters' thesis, was really a turn off.
Back in those days she spent lots of time walking in the tall grass in the field near her house collecting wild flowers and wondering what was holding her back from entering the world of dating as well as showing an equal appreciation for the "tame" flowers her parents grew in their backyard. Her parents' backyard was impressive and acted as sort of a sanctuary away from the sanctuary of her room, but she just couldn't get over its placement behind the house. Seemed weak.
As the years passed girlfriends started dating, becoming serious over time and then getting married and finally moving on to having ridiculous and sordid affairs all the while growing taller and needing new shoes. Claire felt envy, mostly due to their increased shoe sizes and backroom canoodling and a part of her wished to be part of that game, so she wouldn't feel left out, but another, more significant part of her didn't want to grow up.
She wished to remain a young girl for as long as she could and to avoid the myriad of complex emotional states that the women she knew were experiencing. Yes, she was jealous when she sat there observing weddings, and yes, the graphic and gasp-inducing details of these affairs left her titillated and nearly out of breath due to the excessive amount of gasping. She knew that overtime she'd build up more of an ability to gasp for longer periods of time, but that wasn't the point, even though that would be a welcome relief from her current inability to gasp more than a few times an hour. The point was that the affairs were exciting to hear about, even the ones that were politically risky or involved box after box of ruined chocolate cakes.
When the time seemed right, she had moved out of her parents' house. She couldn't believe the deal she had received from the moving company. That imbecile of a mover didn't even charge her extra for the imaginary world. She felt more adult-like now that she was renting a house near the university, and yet, she was still the girl next door.
This once desirable title had become a cross to bear, an anchor, a weighty metaphysical construct of which she was usually a big fan, except in this case as it forced her into therapy. She loved therapy, just not feeling forced to go, which she wasn't really and only said that to friends as her therapist had oddly suggested it as a necessary first step in their work together. It was the time in therapy where she would talk of her intricate dream world. The world she had first developed as a young girl and still escaped to on a regular basis when not studying, working or practicing revolutionary songs full of controversial political propaganda on her digital piano.
She told her therapist how she was jealous of her girlfriends and how badly she wanted to run out of this room, or whatever room she found herself in later today or next week sometime, as it was hard to predict exactly what room you would be in so far in advance, although she had a fairly good idea as there were limited rooms she usually entered on a week-to-week basis, but she wanted to keep an open mind at this point about the potential to enter new rooms and needed to move on with this thought before her 50 minute hour was up.
Yes, she wanted to leave a room and find the first eligible bachelor and marry him. She wanted to have a marriage full of love and passion and down comforters. She wanted to have a marriage full of stir fries, hanging baskets and shower gels. She wanted to have a marriage that she could sing about, engrave into oak trees and write home about even though she knew that her parents lived just around the block and sending a letter or postcard via the mail was infinitely slower than just dropping it into their mailbox herself on her way to work.
And she wanted to have an affair. It was hard for her to speak these words to anyone or anything. She even trembled when she started to formulate the first word of the thought about the desire to have an affair in her mind. People on the bus were clearly wondering what was up with the trembling woman with the smile on her face who was having troubles gasping.
The idea of an affair was so risque and out-of-character and embarrassingly-blush-producing-especially-due-to-the-fact-that-she-was-really-pale-and-easily-embarrassed-and-already-wearing-a-bordering-on-intimidating-amount-of-blush-thus-rendering-any-actual-blushing-hard-to-detect-but-she-knew. After years of "playing by the book" and "obeying all the rules" and "composting organics" she wanted to live on the edge and break free from this predictable, dependable and vanilla-eating-investing-her-money-in-low-risk-tax-free-savings-accounts woman she had grown up to be.
She had done her research and wanted to have affairs of all kinds: emotional affairs, opportunistic affairs, revenge affairs and ones that went out of their way to be impossibly hard to define or explain and may, in fact, not be affairs and just be a staff meeting or a mug of hot cocoa. But, she just couldn't and she felt trapped in her life and her imagination.
The world she had so innocently started all of those years ago as an escape, now felt more like a prison. Sure it was a country-club-style of prison where the inhabitants felt less like prisoners and more like they were at a spa with free, unlimited time with registered massage therapists as that was the only kind of prison her imagination could dream up due to her father's country club and registered massage therapy magazine subscriptions he had when she was a child.
Claire awoke each morning and had such a hard time telling dreams from reality. It used to be easy, but over time, it had become more and more challenging. Though she wanted to fix things and had weekly appointments with her therapist, her dream world was so comforting and no one, especially her, ever got hurt aside from that time she was viciously attacked by an imaginary wild bear who seemed to be immune to her playing dead.
Claire wanted to have an affair, but she just couldn't. Not now, not yet. One day, soon she hoped, she would figuratively tear down the walls of this world she had created and venture forth, head figuratively full of steam, into reality. She craved to be slapped in the face with all that reality had to offer as long as reality didn't have calloused hands. She was close to breaking out and she was so excited. Watch out eligible bachelors, here comes Claire!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Not to Say to Your Pregnant Wife

So you got your wife pregnant? I hope congratulations are in order. I'm sure you are feeling super excited and over the moon these days, and though I don't know you at all, I'm happy for you.

As a father of two young children, I have been where you are. My wife was pregnant too and I learned that while it is a blissful and wonderful period of time, you may be so overcome with emotion or exhaustion or enthusiasm and lose touch with reality and say things that may upset your wife.

Remember, whatever you do, never say any of the following to your amazing and lovely pregnant wife.

1) Do you remember those days when you used to be able to see your toes? No, neither do I.

2) Hey this flyer says the wedding store at the mall is having a sale on size zero dresses - want to go check it out?

3) I had this dream last night that I was sharing a bed with a whale.

4) You up for an Alien movie marathon this weekend?

5) For dinner I'm going to eat salad because I'm really trying to keep my slim schoolboy figure.

6) These bikini models in this fashion magazine have the most amazing bodies and are really, really good looking...if you are into that sort of thing, which I'm not. At all.

7) Go ahead, have a second piece of cake. I figure if you're going to get big, you may as well get really, really big. Am I right or am I right?

8) You want to go muumuu shopping today?

9) Some people are always going on and on about how beautiful pregnant women are, to which I always reply, "Sure, aside from the morning sickness and overwhelming amount of flatulence they are."

10) When you were sleeping, I placed a whole bunch of my old action figures on your belly and pretended that they travelled to the moon.

11) I know you aren't feeling great this morning and that you are badly in need of a shower and are essentially living in those old pajamas, but I decided to surprise you by inviting over all of your girlfriends. They'll be here in 5 minutes.

12) No one ever talks about how hard and challenging and exhausting this has been for me. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

I Quit!

Dear Mr. Mason

I am writing you this letter today to let you know that I am quitting, immediately.

Before I explain, I want to start by thanking you for the opportunity to work for you all these years. You gave me a chance, a shot, when so many others wouldn't. You claimed that you saw something in me when you first met me -  you couldn't say what and you claimed that "the words escaped you" and not even the provided dictionary and thesaurus helped. Oh, I was young and naive and far sighted in those days. I had finished school and moved out. Most of my friends had moved west or east, but I always liked the middle of things and moved central. It just never sounded good when I said that out loud, which I often did, and usually in your office on Fridays after a long week in the factory.

I wasn't initially sure that factory work was for me, but you wouldn't take no for an answer, even when it was the correct answer and all others answers were horribly wrong and confusing. I kept asking you to just take the 'no' and be done with it, but you adamantly refused - it was something that I both admired and hated about you, and I still do. And yet, I grew to love this work; this slaving away over machines creating an infinite amount of seemingly random parts that were instantly shipped away never to have their usage or value explained to us no matter how many times we wrote letters and signed petitions.

The work was almost literally back-breaking at times and other times the loud roar of the machinery coupled with the near blinding incandescent lighting that you installed based on your interpretation of your horoscope caused me to feel like I was trapped in some sort of soundproof pod that would have had the most ridiculous electricity bills. Not to mention the dry cleaning bills! "How are you dirtying so many socks" my wife wondered during our evening chats by the fireplace. "Always with the dirty socks!" she'd mutter under her breath with a level of anger that was really really hard to quantify. She almost came across as happy. She was always so concerned with the condition of my socks and my lungs, and usually in that order. But I loved her. I also loved the work in a very different way, for a time, although that time has now come to an end, as all periods of time do, mostly by definition.

Yes, I am quitting. In case that isn't clear - you will stay and I will go, as that is how it works and I won't negotiate! My time has come to leave. You can't make me stay or convince me to change my mind, but you can try all you want, with the only catch being that I will already be gone and you'll be talking to yourself in the mirror as per usual. I am not making this decision lightly, as I believe you deserve the darkness and not only because of your high sensitivity to light.

You may be wondering if I am leaving solely because of you and your propensity for strictness and tough love and your unique management style you often refer to as "starving-wolf-around-slow-lazy-deliciously-fatty-pigs" which I always found borderline offensive as well as being borderline a great idea for a series of hilarious children's books full of moralistic messages. Well, rest easy my old friend - I am not leaving because of you.

But why then? It is just so hard to put it into words why I must go. It's sort of like you are a monkey and I am a banana supplier who is either out of bananas for the foreseeable future or has raised the prices from nothing to $20 a bunch fully knowing that a monkey has no access to money. Does that make any sense to you? Oh why is this so hard! Is it because you were like a father to me when my own father was quite supportive and it just felt repetitive and strange and you both got so upset and jealous of the other? Is it because I can't look you in the eyes without crying as you have always kept an ample supply of all of my allergens nearby for reasons beyond my capacity to understand? Is it because you need me and would be lost without me especially because the factory is way too "maze-like"?

Well, I am sorry - I have to look out for myself and do what is best for me and after doing that, I then have the option to do what is best for someone else of my choosing and then I have to leave. I know, in time, you and your business will be equally fine, but my money's on the business to win. You have my backing to hire someone to replace me, though if they have too many similar characteristics or physical traits to me or if you force them to dress and walk like me, it will raise eyebrows and that will only be funny if they are big and black and bushy like large caterpillars.

I am excited to see what is next for me out there. I anticipate that there will be many doors and windows and potentially stairways linking the doors together and, if they decided to splurge, the occasional floor or ceiling or electrical outlet. Look, please don't take this overly personally, or, if you must, at least take it only slightly personally, but you have micromanaged me so much so that I think the micro part lost all connection to the truth. I should resent you for it, but, I also have to thank you as you have helped me develop a resiliency that I thought only cartoon rabbits or the occasional actual rabbit, could achieve.

I now see that I am just a screwdriver and you are not only all out of screws, but it's like you have evolved beyond the need for screws or screwdrivers at all and you have forgotten how great those good ol' days with all of the screws really was. I feel redundant and superfluous and a little tight in my hamstrings and should probably go see my physiotherapist, but I will probably put it off and put it off, as many of us do, until it turns into a debilitating injury.

Part of me doesn't want you to cry, while another, much larger and infinitely more significant part, wants you to cry for days just so can see how it felt for some of us who worked for you and had our hopes and dreams and extremities crushed repeatedly and ritualistically while you stood there and watched with your eyes. But, I don't want to leave like this, angry and vindictive and efforting to make you, of all people, cry, so instead, I have written you this paradoxical letter to say thank you for all you have done in my attempt to "take a higher road" and "be a better man" and "use up my stationary". I have also decided, against my best judgement, to give you this vase. Why would I give you an empty vase? Why would I not give you a vase with flowers? Why would I, an adult male, give you, my adult male superior, a gift that has anything to do with vases and flowers at all especially considering neither of us is at all comfortable with anything that isn't extremely masculine and macho like ground beef and car tires and charcoal? Am I attempting to be cryptic or euphemistic or mystic? Why would I write you a letter doused with perfume, covered with rose petals, and including overexposed photos of myself dressed like a pink fairy? Why indeed?

I will leave you with these questions.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Painting without Ventilation

"Cry me a river" an ex-girlfriend once said. "On demand?" I wondered through my tears.

I always wanted to be a part of the clean plate club. Think about the exciting meetings!

A famous singer on the radio seems to think you can't fix bullet holes with bandages. To which I reply, where is your can-do spirit?

"Look both ways before crossing the street" I was told as a child. To which I always thought "there are only two ways to look?!?"

I'm never fully dressed without a smile? No wonder I feel so light and free!

"Don't bite off more than you can chew", others tell me. I'm sorry, but have you ever heard of sharing?

Toothpaste brands are always so proud that four out of five dentists approve of their product. Well, I can tie up five dentists in my basement too!

I don't care how sensitive the situation is, I refuse to spend the better part of the afternoon tiptoeing. Unnecessary strain on my arches.

You finished with flying colours? Nothing like an afternoon painting without ventilation.

A close friend once advised me not to wear my heart on my sleeve. The best dry-cleaning bill in years!

"If you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours?" I guess I didn't waste my money on that backscratcher after all.

I never walk more than a few steps in another man's shoes. A woman's on the other hand, especially if my orthotics fit, can yield much much more.

"Four-eyes" they called me, underestimating me once again.

Growing up, I was never the talk of the town. Towns are much quieter and more into small talk than you'd think.

"Don't count my chickens?" I wasn't going to, but to be honest now you've piqued my interest.

I've been told that I won't know what I've got till it's gone, but I'm not at all confident that I'll even know then. 

"If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" said the kind old woman next door when I was young. Sure, but $3 per glass? No thanks!

No pain, no gain? I can't have both?

"My bark is worse than my bite" said my blind date. Use your words!

An entire village was used to raise me. No one got off easy.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Exchange

"Sorry I'm late. Do you have the stuff?"

"Of course I have the stuff! Who do you think you're dealing with? I am that guy! The guy who brings the stuff! If I didn't have it, then I wouldn't be that guy. I am always bringing things places. Am I making myself clear?"

"Alright. Alright. I got it. I'm just nervous, that's all and hungry and a little bit tired as I didn't sleep well last night. So....where is it? In your jacket? Stuffed up your pant leg? Hidden under that trash can over there? Where is it? I gotta have it!"

"What do you think this is, a movie? In good time, my friend. I'll produce the stuff from its secret spot when the time is right and not a second before or after. I am that precise. All the time."

"Look, I appreciate precision as much as the next guy, but it's cold out. I'm shivering. I'm freezing. It's late and it's windy and I'm tired. I also need to call Darrell or else he gets all suspicious and weird and I don't like it when he gets weird. The suspicion I can handle, but the weirdness really creeps me out. Do you think you could hurry up?"


"Please. You don't understand how badly I need what you say you have. I'll pay you double."

"Why do you want it so badly? Not that it's my business. You can go spending your money on anything you want, but why this? Why now? Why here? Why not over there a few steps? I've gotten stuff, different things, for so many guys. Guys like you and also guys quite different from you...hairier and with muscles. But never this. Look, you've never told me the reasons and you don't have to, but I'm just wondering why risk so much for something so...odd?"

"Good questions. Very good, in fact. I did make a list, but I left it at home and I don't remember half of it. Actually, I'm kidding with you about actually making a list - it was more of a mental exercise. All I can tell you is it is the final piece of the puzzle and I am not being euphemistic right now, although I may start any moment. It is going to help me and my team finish our project and move towards the next phase."

"You've lost me. I have no idea what puzzle or project or team you are working on or with, and although I love puzzles and projects and teams most of the time, it sounds like you are up to no good and I don't want any part of that."

"Ha! You? Steering clear of things that may be perceived as no good? Ha! That's right, you heard me, I actually did laugh out loud over that. What happened to you? When did you go soft?"

"Soft? Are you calling me soft? Like did I really hear sounds leave your lips after travelling up your throat that somehow formulated the word 'soft'? I think it was last month after Jane left."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Man, I'm sorry. I know that must be hard for you."

"It is. I know I act all tough and cool and hard, but on the inside I have feelings, real feelings and if you dig further down, past those feelings, I am soft. So are you. We all are. And right now, I just can't stop thinking about her, especially when it rains."

"When it rains?"

"Yeah, when it rains. We met on a rainy Monday. Five years ago, although she always claimed it was 7. It was sunny the day before and the weather forecast was for cloudy skies, but it rained which bothered me, as how hard can it be to get the weather right? Really, I have no idea how hard that is.
Anyways, I was working and didn't think to bring my umbrella and then I saw her, and was initially not interested as I was solely focused on needing an umbrella. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and stood out sort of like a sore thumb, but not really. I literally bumped into her and then she was in the right place at the right time. Funny how quickly that can change sometimes. I still remember her, with that ridiculous sweater she was wearing and that hair. Her hair was wet and hanging down on her shoulders, most likely covering them, but I couldn't be sure as all I could see was hair. And the hair was dripping all over her back and I just fell for her seeing her like that, with a wet back covered with a ridiculous sweater. And now she is gone. Poof. She actually said that when she left. Poof. Can you believe it?"

"That's rough. You know, you could always call if you needed someone to talk to or just hang out with, although that would be better in person as long periods of silence on the phone are awkward."

"Sorry, what? Just because I told you what could be misconstrued as a sob story, even though I wasn't, for the record, sobbing, don't forget who you are dealing with! I can be your worst nightmare or your best friend, or occasionally a little bit of both, just to keep you on your toes. I don't need your sympathy and I don't want your sympathy and I don't even fully understand the whole difference between sympathy and empathy and pity, but I don't have time to get into that right now with you as I am on the clock, not literally of course."

"Okay, okay, okay. Don't shoot me for trying to help and while you are at, please don't shoot me for any reason at all. Just give me my stuff I came for and I'll be on my way,"

"Sorry. I'm just a bit touchy and can't get caught out here with you. I appreciate your kind words and don't mind the other words as well. My ears need the work. Here, let me get your stuff. It is cold and late and I should get home, as should you, just to your home, in case that was unclear. We don't live in the same home. Sorry if I talked your ear off, it's just that I really miss Jane on rainy Mondays, as well as the other days regardless of the weather which makes the rainy Monday aspect a little unnecessary to mention, but it helps me remember the good times."

"It's all good. Thanks for this. I can't believe you procured this so quickly and so easily and without arousing suspicion. This is exactly what I wanted and the guys will be so excited. Here is the cash. I also threw in something extra to sweeten the deal. You like nougat, I hope. Don't worry - your identity is safe with me. I'll never tell anyone. Take care. I'll be in touch if I need anything else and I meant what I said - call me."

"Thanks. I won't. I hope you understand. It is best that we keep things like this. You call when you need stuff. I get the stuff. We meet and exchange said stuff for money. I occasionally tell a vaguely personal story. You try to offer your support. I refuse and summarize the evening as I am right now and then we leave. Good night."

"Good night."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Here's Tommy!

One day a young boy was born.

And then a number of days passed. 

Now that boy, who became a man along the way, writes. 

Some refer to him as Tommy Paley, while many others whisper strange and mostly true rumours about him behind his back, mostly because he is sleeping at the time and because his back seems to always be facing them sort of like how the moon rotates around the Earth.

Tommy types words that he finds in dictionaries and encyclopedias and on sides of 2 litre milk cartons after his daily 2 litre milk shower. Yes, he takes those words and magically spins them together, as well as spinning himself around on a computer chair just to see how the words feel. The stories that pop out are practically begging to be read. How do these stories beg? We aren't sure, but, we have to admit, it is a really good trick.

Tommy comes from a long line of averagely-sized people who wish they were just a little bit taller without giving up any of their "small person charm". There have been actors and artists and fashion designers that have come before him, and he always just wants to fit in and not be embarrassed at family gatherings at holiday times when everyone else comes across as "worldly" and "creative" and "huggable". 

So one day it hit him - with "it" being his own hand - that he should put his thoughts on paper or on a screen and that, if he did finally select paper, for the paper to come from one of those value packs found at the dollar store as the incredible cost per sheet just can't be beat! One fateful day, he rose, ate breakfast, went for a walk and then finished a number of other chores or things on his To-Do list and then he sat and started to type. This story would have been a great idea for a movie, if it wasn't so incredibly boring.

At first the ideas spilled out of his brain and someone had to constantly be on mop duty. Those early ideas were quite rudimentary, even by Tommy's standards, and were mostly comprised of solely conjunctions and punctuation. He was nervous. Tommy often is at first. But then, as he gained confidence, and the gears were properly greased - Tommy naively thought he could use cod liver oil which both didn't work and made the place smell like a cannery - and it was only then, on his hands and knees at midnight trying to desperately sop up the oil with a day-old baguette, that he released that it was merely an expression. 

Angrily and more full of passion then ever before, except the infamous "Minestrone Soup" ordeal, he attacked his writing and started to include adverbs and their born-out-of-wedlock-something-always-seems-a-bit-off-about-them-cousins, the adjectives. His writing almost (but not quite) came alive and he treated himself to a shave as the sorry excuse for a beard that he was absent-mindedly growing was pleading to be released.

When you read Tommy's writing, you are really reading him as if he was a screen with words on it that you could scroll through quickly and claim that you "loved" as it is just too hard to give honest feedback to someone who seems so desperate of praise. When you read his writing you are seeing what makes him "tick" and occasionally "tock", although the new meds are supposed to help with that. His brain and heart and the blood currently coursing through his veins and possibly his arteries are on display for the world to see and judge and analyze and embrace if you happen to be wearing a hazmat suit.

Finally, Tommy is attempting for his writing to be "approachable" and "biodegradable" and the kind of writing you could cuddle with on a chair by the fire on a cold, winter's night. He is aiming for his work to be all things to all people or at least some things to some people, with the hope that those people appreciate his writing the same way he appreciates a plate of cooked salmon, which is a lot.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The 100 Words I Would Say After Winning the Lottery


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

So you have been invited over for dinner? While some would be celebrating or excited, you seem to be mostly stunned. A little nervous, are we? Well, you are not alone - we are all nervous. Being a guest for dinner is so challenging especially when the hosts are your in-laws, your boss or even the rare times when your boss' in-laws call you up.

You are probably overwhelmed thinking about what to say, which fork to use for what and how off-colour your jokes should be. And it is just so hard to concentrate on eating without making a mess with all of these other thoughts swarming around in your head as well as staying attentive enough so as not to miss the off-chance that you are actually called upon for your opinion.

Well, worry no longer! We are here to help you not only relax and enjoy yourself, but also to be considered an amazing guest and a cinch to be one of the first included the next time a dinner party is held. Here are some helpful hints on how to be an amazingly awesome guest for dinner.

1) When greeted at the door, immediately comment on how beautiful and handsome your hosts are as well as saying that whatever they paid their plastic surgeon it was 100% worth it despite what their neighbours say.

2) The house will be stunning and immaculate, which means that your dust and dust mite inspection should be brief.

3) Before being seated, you insist on playing musical chairs and will not take "no" or "we're grownups" or "have you taken your meds?" for an answer.

4) If the meal starts with a breadbasket, you are initially only interested in artisanal baked goods although you quickly modify that by demanding baked goods that are very high in fiber and then insisting that only flour from ancient grains be used, before finally settling on gluten free. Once the bread arrives, decide to save your appetite for the main course.

5) Insist on everything being free-range, even those things that cannot be, like carrots and wine.

6) You only eat salads comprised of micro-greens, yet, the greens the salad is comprised of can never be micro enough.

7) Propose a long, rambling, mostly unintelligible toast to your gracious hosts before dissolving into loud, sobbing tears.

8) Yes, you would love some champagne, but not the kind that is fizzy as that makes you burp. When served some flat champagne make "she's crazy" faces and hand movements when your host has looked away.

9) Food must be seasoned well and for you Pink Himalayan Rock Salt is required on your meal. You won't be fooled by labels or common hoaxes like receipts from health food stores. No, you need to see actual, physical proof that your hosts mined the salt themselves in the Himalayas within the past 3 months.

10) Your intolerances include, but are not limited to, dairy, nuts, wheat and investment bankers.

11) If one of your fellow dining companions choses to tell a story that doesn't feature you as the protagonist or hero, mock snore like a cartoon baboon until the story either includes you or comes to an end.

12) You only eat salmon that is wild, organic and caught by actual grizzly bears.

13) To aid with digestion, you prefer sipping unbottled water served directly out of local glaciers regardless of how close your host's house is to the nearest glacier.

14) If food is served featuring thinly sliced foods cut on a mandoline, you would also like a quartet of  musicians playing Spanish ballads on mandolins at the same time. Just seems appropriate.

15) When nibbling on some cured meats before dinner, you insist on knowing exactly what they were cured of.

16) For your eating pleasure you would benefit from having a table setting with no fewer than 5 forks, which you would not actually eat with seeing as you always bring your own.

17) If a roast has been prepared, you will be carving it after a confusing prayer that involves a high-risk sword demonstration. End of conversation.

18) If conversation slows down or becomes awkward, which it will, break out an obscenity-laden gangsta rap using a chicken drumstick as a mic.

19) You insist that everything connected in any way to the dessert be flaming - like literally on fire.

20) The evening is over and it is time to go home, which is your cue to launch into a biting critique of the evening expressed in third person that will later on end up on your blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Large Scale Fraud

She understood that some things weren't funny until they hit you, but personally, somewhere around the 5th hit, and even the most hilarious became significantly less funny.
He felt like the walls were closing in on him and that they had ears. A suggestion made to him at multiple times by multiple people in the past all of a sudden became crystal clear: cut back on walls, as you only really need four per room.
She didn't want to just act rationally, she also wanted to be the human embodiment of rationality thus justifying the new hat she wanted to buy.
He drew series upon series of really dark sketches that were starting to pile up in his basement until he ran out of black coloured pencils and it was then that he entered his blue phase.
She thought seriously for days and days about ending it all, but thankfully found the courage to go on and she emphatically placed yet another comma, her 10th, in the sentence and kept on writing.
He bobbed for apples with the best of them, but was never quite good enough to feel like their equal regardless of how much he needed to floss afterwards.
She raced down the ocean highway with nothing but sweet nothings in her ear and an empty honey jar on the seat beside her, or as she fondly referred to the experience, Wednesday afternoons.
He so badly wanted to avoid the stigma and the harmful stereotyping, but he just couldn't resist the hot, buttered aroma of the freshly popped popcorn at such reasonable prices.
She knew herself so well and whenever she was so sad, and yet so happy at the same time, the only cure was a nice massage followed by large scale fraud.
He watched the raindrops streaming effortlessly down his window and he imagined that instead it was he himself who was streaming down the window and the drops were inside watching him and then planning to go finish all of his ice cream. He needed to get out more.
She often glamorized a life in the jungle mostly because her parents spent a lot of time and money ensuring their children would have not only a deep respect for lives and jungles in general, but also specifically a life spent in the jungle.
He had the force and conviction of a younger man who was burning the candle at both ends which he was not only working his way up to, but also planning to surpass with his patent application for a three-ended candle.
She wished for many things: to be serenaded, but only after having recently showered; to have a clean home, but not at the expense of having to expend any time or money; and to have the choir in her dreams either sing on key or take up macrame.
He entered the classroom and greeted his math teacher who started barking at him like a dog, which should have been more out of place, but wasn't as he had made the conscious decision last month to drop everything and go live among the dogs.
She had an overwhelming desire to train rabbits or to link the rabbits one-by-one thus making a rabbit train for purposes she was yet unaware of.
He was always quiet impatient until he got his balm as balms always soothed him until he grew impatient of being soothed and then he danced the tango.
She locked the door to her room and walked towards her bed and then looked around and noticed that she was actually in the backyard, and it was then that she realized she should have hired someone who actually knew how to build roofs.
He wanted to count sheep to help himself fall asleep but the fox he had seen frequently in his dreams ever since he was a child kept scaring the sheep away, and he would have been angry if that fox hadn't been such a father figure to him which went a long way towards explaining his decision to move permanently to the woods.
She sat against the big oak tree feeling slightly guilty as even though that tree was always supporting, she was secretly planning on chopping it down to teach herself a lesson about valuing those that support us, even trees.
He just didn't know how to feel anymore. A little help please!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What Not to Say when out with the guys

1) Let's all grow matching moustaches!

2) I had a dream last night that we were all cute little bunny rabbits.

3) Sometimes when I'm by myself I pretend that I'm a sexy robot. Makes cleaning the toilet infinitely more enjoyable.

4) Have you ever gone out and bought a big barrel of apples and then returned home and just sat there peeling apple after apple after apple and occasionally cutting yourself but not caring as you just feel so alive?

5) Whose got da funk? No really, who has it? Was it my turn?

6) Do you ever stop to wonder where bark comes from?

7) Is it just me or does anyone else want to literally cover themselves with melted cheese right now?

8) My blender hates, and I repeat, hates my microwave.

9) Have you ever wished you could instantly gain 100 lbs all in your right leg?

10) On Thursday evenings I take out all of my shirts, lay them on my bed, stuff them with socks and assign them names and act out scenes from popular movies.

11) I like to run in the woods imagining that I am being chased by wolves only to slowly realize that I am also a wolf. Then I realize we are all just wearing realistic wolf outfits and they just want to sell me insurance.

12) Oh my god, the napkins here are crazy soft against my cheeks! I could just rub them against my face forever! 

13) Don't take this the wrong way, because I really value our friendship, but if you mess with me, I will be forced to eat tray after tray of brownies and then not only write down my feelings about you and how you've hurt me in my diary but also to go through hours of therapy trying to sort through my issues of trust and betrayal and I can only hope to get to the point where I can value a friendship again. Nachos anyone?

14) I love sitting by the fire with a good book and losing myself in the story. Literally. For days. 

15) Rain makes me wet. The wind playfully blows my hair. The sun warms me. Snow covers the world with a white blanket. And all the while I just stand there singing show tunes in my head off-key.

16) Yesterday I got my pay cheque and I ran to the bank to get money and then, as quick as I could, I raced to the store and finally bought myself a yellow shirt! Yes!

17) The more I think about it, the more I wish I was all thumbs, or at least more thumbs.

18) I made each of you a friendship bracelet out of dandelions.

19) You guys remember our grade 7 teacher Ms. Harvey? Man, did I have a crush on her! Easily the hottest 65-going-on-90 female teacher in the school. Damn!

20) The one thing I would never do is sell government secrets to the enemies unless the enemies ask really nicely and have worded their request well. What can I say? I'm nothing if not a sucker for good manners and proper grammar.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Day She Left

She was walking ahead of me as we transversed the airport.
I couldn't believe she was leaving, even though I'd had the date mentally circled in my brain for months now. Somehow her leaving never felt real until it was actually happening.
As we rode the escalator up to the departure deck, I gazed up at her body which was highlighted by the sun as it shone through the skylight above making her appear almost angelic or magical.
I was fighting with my emotions as if they were wild animals.
The drive from the room, the apartment, the place on this Earth that we had shared so closely was silent.
Yet in my brain I'd had a millions things to say. How I wanted to express my love, convince her to stay, tell her I needed her more than anything and that we could just tear up her ticket and run away and be happy together till the end of time.
If it had been a movie I'd been watched the cliches would have nearly made me sick.
Reality was smacking me in the face, hard.
The silence was like a wall between us.
She looked back at me as I lagged behind and gave me a smile.
A smile?
Was she happy? Trying to cheer me up? Being strong for the two of us?
It had been my first love. I was so young and I had fallen so hard and so quick. She was older. So caring and sensitive, yet I always felt that she wasn't as invested emotionally and psychologically as I. I knew she had been protecting herself and me.
I had never been so aware of each step I was taking as every one of them brought me closer to the moment when she would disappear down a narrow corridor towards another existence without me.
This wasn't her home. She was a visitor. It was never an option to stay.
Or was it?
A small part of me was trying so hard all this time to convince her not to leave. If only I could be funnier or dress better or make her feel as special as any person could feel? If only I could do those things I wanted to believe so badly that she would, in the end, choose me and not board that plane.
And yet, here we were. At an airport. As planned.
Was this how fairy tales ended? Didn't the guy get the girl? I had done all that I could and was I actually going to lose her?
And then we stopped.
It was time.
A muffled voice was calling passengers to present their tickets.
She looked at me as only she could.
And then we both started to cry.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How to Ask a Girl Out in High School

So, you are in high school and you think you've found the girl of your dreams. You don't want to mess things up you say? Well, you've come to the right place as I've been where you are so many times in my past and said and done the wrong things enough to be considered a Rhodes Scholar on the subject. Do you want to get the girl? Follow this advice.

Approach with confidence. Nothing says "don't date me" louder than a total lack of spine. Check those feelings of self-doubt, no matter how strong, at the door. If confidence is generally a challenge for you, consider an accessory like a hard-to-place accent or freshly baked cookies.

Timing is everything! Attempt to catch her at a moment of weakness. Tears are your friend and your queue to enter. If you are lucky she will have just been asked out by a real loser making you seem relatively cooler in comparison.

It is important that she is alone when you approach so you can have her undivided attention in case you decide to perform some magic tricks. Don't perform magic tricks.

In all likelihood she will be surrounded by her girlfriends, who are like a pack of wild dogs. If they believe their friend is under attack, and they will, they will rip your face off. Bring raw steaks.

Don't forget about hygiene! Any extra washing or positive aromas or sparkling teeth are a plus. Now is not the time to show off your acne or your recent ability to grow a handlebar moustache.

I can't say enough about being prepared. Stretch, warmup your vocal chords, liberally apply moisturizers and memorize all of her posts on social media in the past 12 months.

Open with a compliment about her appearance. Don't be too descriptive or graphic or overly verbose. You may be the next Shakespeare or star soft porn director, but now is not the time to show off. Keep it simple and appropriate as if your grandmother happened to be around. Don't bring your grandmother.

Make small talk. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you are down-to-Earth and normal. Ask her about something general and non-personal like school, music, or taxation.

Don't be too subtle. It is okay to be transparent about how you feel in your comments. If you are aiming for actual transparency, consider opening your science textbook on a more regular basis. It may not be safe for you to be around other humans.

Tell her you like her and want to go out with her, but not in those words. Strike a balance between perplexingly vague and creepy.

Obvious signs to watch for that she is not interested include, but are not limited to, shrieking, constant warning of imminent bear attacks, vacant looks by her where she looks as if she is dying a slow death and being tasered.

If you have gotten this far, good job! You may now proceed and ask her out on a date. You may never know if she is truly into you or is using you as part of a detailed plan of revenge. Thankfully you don't care.

Present a detailed date proposal analyzing the costs, benefits and risks of plans A through H and then step back in anticipation of a standing ovation followed by a brief question and answer period. 

With plans set, excuse yourself. Walk off slowly and proudly on a grassy field in the gleaming sun towards the horizon like a general returning from war. You are a hero and the things of which statues are made on.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Year on the Sidelines

Hey! Come check out my piece on spending much of the past 12 months injured and trying to cope without sports.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Medal

So there I was, standing on the podium, having just received my medal.

What a feeling! 

I closed my eyes and let the wave of applause from the appreciative and excited audience wash over me. Wow, this feels good!

"You'll never receive a medal, let alone a plaque or a certificate!" my father used to say to me as I stood in front of his bursting-at-the-seams trophy case in our basement. Why he decided to make a trophy case out of cloth was as bewildering as it was inspiring, especially to my best friend Andy's dad, who owned the local fabric store.

I was never sure if my father was just trying to motivate me the only way he knew how or just being honest because his father was never honest with him and he swore to his father on his death bed that he would not only earn countless medals, but also always be truthful to his children even when it became readily apparent that they would never earn their own medals. My grandfather appreciated this honesty, even if it was quite narrow in its scope.

For a time, as a child,  I thought my dad had said I'd never have any metals in my life and I remember racing home from school with a bag literally overflowing with scraps of aluminum they were just going to throw away at the elementary school. "Those idiots!" I laughed to myself as I sped home dreaming of my father's embrace and pride at my literal bounty of aluminium. To this day I can still hear his derisive laughter in my ears. Why did he have to stand so close to my ears?

"Aluminum? A soft metal? Is that the best you can do? I didn't raise a young boy of 9 to love aluminum! And I was talking about medals, with a 'd'! Learn to listen to me as I speak words to you using my mouth and occasionally my tongue based on my rudimentary understanding of speech! Do you fully understand that concept, or do you need me to act out a short scene?" I hated when he threatened me with acting. He was a great actor, that wasn't it, it was just that the acting made me realize just how poor my own acting skills were compared to his.

He'd go on and on about medals he'd received in wrestling competitions, at dog shows, and during the rare wrestling competitions that evolved organically into a dog show. He won them all even though he didn't even own a dog on the grounds that he felt dog ownership was "so last week" and that human dog relations were ready for a revolution. He'd tell me all about his radical, scary and inspirational ideas about the future of dogs vis a vis humans while waxing his muscles depending on the current sheen of his muscles at the time. It had to be just right so no one would be blinded or bored by their dullness.

Had I used his words to motivate me? My wife said that I had. My mom said that I had. My barber didn't say anything as he was a selective mute, but cut hair like it was his chosen career to do so. He once cut hair like it was going out of style, but it was affecting his business too much so he changed. He also wore the same sweater to work for 12 consecutive days once because he believed that it was either good luck or at least better luck than the current state of non-luck he was experiencing. On the 12th day he burned the sweater and then promptly won at bingo that evening which led him to burn a single sweater on the anniversary of that day each year.

I knew, deep down inside, that my father pushed me in ways he'd never know including some ways that he would know because how could you not be aware when you were physically pushing someone using your arms with your eyes open while the person being pushed is saying "you are pushing me, you do realize?" and "enough with the constant pushing" and "you must stop, the neighbours are starting to stare, more than usual, which must be causing them significant eye strain".

As I remembered the past, I stood there on the podium smiling in a way unlike I'd ever smiled before. I had practiced for the occasion. I had run fast, just like my coach had suggested. I had initially countered with a suggestion of starting fast, but then slowing down just to throw people off and then he suggested alternating slow, fast, slow, fast every 5 seconds if my main goal was confusing others and giving my knees more than I bargained for. We continued this way far into the night and then up until race time when he threatened to shave my hair and sell it to the local bedding store, which he knew I was opposed to a variety of levels, including level 1. I sprinted away from him and his shears and won the race. The glory was mine and I couldn't wait to go home and run my fingers through my hair in front of the mirror, so my hair could watch this time.

I left the podium and stood under an arch for photos and grew slightly jealous that the photographers were a little more interested in the arch, but I let it go, as it was a really nice arch. Maybe in a different life the two of us could have been really close, or as close as a man and an arch can be in this country. I knew that the arch reminded me of something, "probably just another arch" I thought to myself, and even though I knew I was right, I wished I wasn't. It was confounding contradictions like that both drove away countless girlfriends and roommates all who insisted on keeping the toaster and led me to meeting my wife. She was lover of fine wines, sharp cheeses and confounding contradictions and I hit in out of the park on all three. Those hours we spend looking around in that park trying to find all that I had irresponsibly hit out there, was when we fell in love.

And there she was now, walking towards me with a huge smile on her face that seemed to indicate that she has happy and that she could even take that smile to a whole new level if the situation came up. I ran to her and lifted her up and momentarily wished that I could twirl her above my head as if she was a baton. I wished I owned a baton for those moments, however fleeting they were. After placing her down, I tried to hint that it was my turn to be lifted, but my hints were either too subtle or she was ignoring them as she told me she would if I ever hinted at something just after leaving a podium.

We walked off the track, hand in hand, and left through the exit, which also functioned from time to time as an entrance. I commented that sometimes exits were just exits and other times exits were actually entrances to something else and that if you thought about it, exits are quite beautiful and also quite scary. I went on to share a hope I have for the future where all the people of the earth can join together and live in harmony and that all exits and entrances can be rendered obsolete.

My wife turned to me and asked me to shut up. She rarely made a request for me to shut up, and when she did, it was usually in writing. She always wanted me to cease talking immediately and to maintain that level of silence until I believed she would want me to make noise again, with the only exception being comments about the changing of the weather as she liked to be kept appraised of any and all weather changes.

As we approached our car in silence, I remembered the day we got married and how we ate croissant after croissant after croissant. How fresh and exciting our unique brand of reckless-French-pastry-consuming love was! Sometimes, even today years later, when I walk past a bakery, the amazing buttery smell of the croissants recently removed from the ovens makes me shudder and clutch my stomach and remember the bliss of our wedding day up until the consuming of the croissants went a little too far.

Sitting there in the car as we drove to the airport to fly home, it occurred to me that I had achieved everything I had left home all those years ago to achieve. I'd found a beautiful and supportive wife, I'd earned a medal that my father never believed I'd win, and I'd conquered my irrational fear of flying in airplanes thanks to hours upon hours of therapy. True, I'd fallen deeply in love with my therapist which almost cost me my marriage as well as my desire to earn medals from running, as I always believed that a love one has with a therapist is a medal in and of itself. Thankfully, I came to my senses just in time. And to think I initially scoffed at a smelling salt company as a sponsor.

Sitting on the airplane, I close my eyes and relax into my seat and drift off to sleep. I had a reoccurring dream where I am walking with my wife in an open field, holding my pet bunny rabbit from my youth under one arm and a giant croissant in the other. In the dream, I then realize that I was the pet bunny rabbit from my youth all along and my wife is my dental hygienist and the person I initially though was me was actually a giant stack of soggy newspapers. Then the dream transitions again and now I'm the croissant and my wife and my father are eating me and laughing all the while hurling insults at me about my inability to earn even a certificate seeing as I'm a croissant and I'll soon be eaten. The dream ends with the two of them licking the crumbs off the ground and then hopping away like bunnies while I settled down to an evening of commercial-free TV.

I wake, shake off the feelings of doubt and fear and being literally consumed by close family members and am overwhelmed with a desire to stand on a podium again, only this time, with freshly polished teeth.