Posts from the ‘Fun’ Category

Aaahhh…patchouli, incense, and pan flutes…

I need another massage. For those in the gutter, stop smirking.  I do not mean the flashing neon light, happy-ending kind of “massage” that some might pay dearly for. All I can say of those, to quote Sgt Schultz, is  – “I know nothing…”.  What I am blogging about is a therapeutic, deep-tissue massage…a good, but painful treatment delivered in a candle-lit a room that smells of sandalwood and lemon-grass and lavender, with soft mellow, soul-healing music playing in the background.  Sadly, my last one was over two weeks ago…

Now, please do not imagine that I have always taken a massage regularly. Truthfully, I have never really been the kind of guy to pamper myself.  Pampering usually meant an extra pint at Happy Hour, or using the ottoman (that is a foot stool, tuffet, hassock or pouffe, for you non-Canadianswhile watching a major sporting event on the big screen, or springing for the full-size Bucket instead of the 9-piece meal. Back then, for me the word “pampering” brought up images of extravagance, frivolity, femininity.  And because many guys are from the “Real men do not eat Quiche” school of thought (like I was), they think that any guy who likes massages should start carrying a satchel and wearing a purple scarf (sorry – a bit of a poke at my FB friends :)

Way back in my youth (by that I mean 2007 and before), I guess I was a “quiche-hater” too (an analogy only…I like “egg and bacon” pie).  Like most guys, my bar of soap served as body cleanser, hair shampoo and shaving cream. Lotion was a lubricant…and only came in those little bottles you stole from the hotel room.  And all my laundry was a nice uniform hue of pinky-grey.

Exfoliation, marjoram, conditioner, scented candles, nail file…not in my vocabulary.  Suicide chicken wings, armpit farts, rugby, torque wrenches, happy hour …now you’re talking my language.

But then I changed.  Maybe I realised that I did not give a hoot that some guys think that pink shirts are for women only.  I like pink shirts….a very attractive woman once told me they complement my skin tone – and that was good enough for me.  And also, maybe I discovered that my skin hurt most of the time because it needed some moisturizer.  I then realised that maybe, just maybe, you can pamper yourself while maintaining your cojones.

Mind you, the transition was not easy. In the late 90s during a tour in Bosnia, I had tried a massage once during leave in Budapest…but it was an old-school, barely post-communist era, rub-down in a room with all the warmth of a tiled operating theatre.  I was unclothed and feeling vulnerable – and though the skilled mature masseur managed to convert tense, knotted muscles into limp pasta – I was not comfortable with the “intimacy” of being manipulated by a sweaty middle-aged Hungarian man.  Seriously, the only people to touch me like that before were the Numbers 4, 5 and 8 in the Scrum – and my wife.  I would have preferred Ross and the wooden spoons.  And since I was afraid, to quote George Costanza, of “embarrassing movement” in similar circumstances in the future,  I gave up on the massages.

But, the turning point came after a New Brunswick half-marathon – this one marked by a wee lack of training, and some serious drinking the night before.  Post-joggle, I was sore…very sore – in body and mind.  So I went for a massage.  And it was not one of those analgesic/liniment/chinese tiger balm torture sessions you get from the team physio after the mandatory 15-minute soak in the ice-filled tub.  Nope…it was a pan flute-fuelled soothing, calm session in a candle-lit room that smelled of incense and patchouli.  Oh Em Gee!  What a difference!  The rub down was fantastic.  The heated, scented oil applied expertly by a skilled massage therapist was unbelievable.  Tension and pain bled way with each pass.  By the end of the hour-long full body massage, I was boneless; a large lump of formless flesh on a massage table lying in a puddle of sleep drool – I was not sure of the time, the day, or the year.  I do not think I could even remember my name – and even if I could, I did not have the motor coordination to say it without sounding like I had been to the dentist.   There was no hurt, no stiffness…and almost no consciousness. After this surreal experience, I was hooked.

And so, with that resonating in my mind, and some coaxing from my wife, I then dipped a toe into the world of pampering.  Not figuratively, but literally – I mean that I tried a pedicure.

Now, I have given a foot rub once or twice before – sometimes willingly, sometimes grudgingly, but always clumsily – and even with my crude technique, I have listened to the “oohs and aahs” the effort has generated.

Toung the feet…a sign of respect to an elder…called upasangrahan

But I never understood the allure. Maybe because, in an East Indian way, I am uncomfortable with someone touching my feet. (In India, touching the feet is how you show respect to someone (usually older); so having someone touch my feet seemed a tad elitist.)  But looking at the complete expression of ecstasy on my wife’s face during a foot rub, I gave in.  And then the light turned on.  I got it.  A warm water wash, the soothing kneading touch with a revitalising, minty balm on the arches, the heels, the toes, and the balls (…of my feet, filth-mongers, of my feet), and I suddenly realised that I had fallen down the rabbit hole.  My feet had dragged me into the abyss – head first.

And it got me thinking, why is it that men don’t do that sort of thing as a matter of course?  Why are massages and manicures and pedicures and hot stones and reflexology, all considered to be too feminine? All un-manly things unbefitting a manly-man? I mean, really, no one sex should have a monopoly on feeling good – it should be a unisex sort of thing.  Why shouldn’t men stand up for equal rights and have massages and pedicures.  They are awesome.

Now the heresy.  So I suggest that maybe it is time to shed the tough guy image, and think about experiencing those products and services and treatments that can take care of your skin and soul and stuff.  Lads…I think I can read your minds, “Clint never would have used those kind of products.” Maybe…but seriously, have you looked at his face recently?  Maybe he should have.  (And honestly, I am sure he has had more than his fair share of shiatsu…and he probably asked for Chuck Norris’s personal masseuse.)

So while many of you may not be quite ready to put your wallet and Kleenex and cell phone and iPod and Bosch Headphones and pen and notebook and kindle and newspaper and chewing gum and eye drops in a Satchel as you walk around town, maybe you will sign up for a full body massage. Go with your wife, or your girlfriend (but if you are a Player, don’t try to take both at the same time).

To quote Morpheus, “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”  Trust me.  Take the red pill and go for the massage.

Enjoy another kind of happy ending!

Later,

ASF

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Happy Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty…

The Queen, née Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, is celebrating her 60th anniversary on the throne.  Most people would be retiring at 60 years of age, yet alone six decades on the job…but Her Majesty, however, appears just to be warming up!  Now you may say what you want…you may be a republican, or you may be an anti-Monarchist.  But I bet regardless of your age, if you ever have the chance to meet any of the Commonwealth’s Royal Family, you will probably regress to a bashful young child.  I did…

I have always been part of the Commonwealth – my parents are from British India, I was  born in Britain and finally, I am a Canadian citizen – and I have only had one Queen. I have lived in what I guess historians will call the Second Elizabethan Era.  As a child, I remember watching the Royal Christmas Day Addresses…it just wasn’t Christmas without the Queen saying, “I wish you all a Happy Christmas.”  And when I joined the Service, she symbolised my commitment to Country and Duty; she is the Colonel-in-Chief of my Corps, the Royal Patron of the Canadian Military Engineers.   And I have met her…transfixed and tongue-tied as I was, as I half-bowed and muttered a confused reply to The Question, “And where might you be from?”.  I recall grinning ear to ear and looking like a complete idiot. “Er…ummmm…Canada, Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”)…you are my Colonel-in-Chief”…as if she did not know that…very insightful and witty banter from a guy who considers himself well spoken.  I suppose everyone reacts like that.  Or at least I hope so…

And how popular is The Queen?  To me, and many others, Her Majesty is an icon. Queen Elizabeth is Britain, and Canada, and the Commonwealth. She is the fight against tyranny – having  served during the War. She is proper British diction and High Tea. She is the stiff British upper lip in the face of hardship, criticism and strife.

And sadly, like all of us, She has felt pain. She suffered through occasions of tragedy and death, and the annus horribilus, full of scandal and strife.  It is the stuff closet-skeletons are made of and things that most of us would desperately try to keep private from prying eyes.  But because The Queen lives in the public eye, her pain and discomfort have become fodder for the tabloids and the critics and she has persevered.  Not many of us could survive that kind of scrutiny and still function – not only function but keep up a diary that would have most collapsing in fatigue. And I can only imagine the small talk she must entertain and endure while fulfilling her obligations…

And like most that serve the public, she has been the object of parody and satire.  Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious wrote an Ode to Her Majesty – not a fawning one either – and She has been parodied in bad Hollywood Movies.  Helen Mirren has played her on film – showing her human side, as has Emma Thompson who has depicted her calm response while dealing with an intruder into her Palace bedroom.

She has been on every coin I ever collected as a newspaper boy.  I have affixed her image to my letters, and I have dusted the Silver Jubilee plates that my Mother placed on the mantle.  She, or her likeness, have been ubiquitous.

She has travelled the World.  Aboriginals from many nations have danced for her and lit peace pipes or shared other ceremonies. Republicans have dropped their opposition and shaken her hand.  First Ladies have hugged her, and Presidents have blushed. She has won over countries that do not even have Royals – unless you count baseball playing ones in Kansas.

And true, she has her detractors. But yet, She and everything she represents, endure. Like everything else that survives for a long time, Her Majesty has evolved; some say the face of the Royalty has changed and that it is more in touch than ever before. The British Monarchy has even embraced Facebook. And with 60 years on the throne, she is still going strong.  I don’t know many other figureheads that have done the same – at least not in my lifetime. And whether you like the idea of a monarch or not, you still have to admire Her Majesty’s dedication and service and longevity. It is leadership by example.

With her colourful hats and her matching coats and frocks, she walks among her subjects and others; wherever she goes, Her Majesty becomes everyone’s Queen.

And even if you are not a Monarchist or a citizen of the Commonwealth, take a moment to enjoy the history of the Day. For my part, I will enjoy the Jubilee. And as I am lucky enough to be in London for the Jubilee, I will raise a glass and toast my Sovereign and my Colonel-in-Chief.  And I will sing the second verse to the Anthem – as surprised as I was to learn there was one! Even if you do not know it, do not fret.  You can send your best wishes with four simple words…

God Save The Queen.

Happy Diamond Jubilee Ma’am (rhymes with “jam”).  Long may you reign.

Later,

ASF

I don’t want bushy eyebrows…

I have a pinched nerve in my shoulder.  My left shoulder.  It is so painful that I had to eventually go in to the doctor…of my own accord…without my wife asking me to. All you married people out there – You know that is bad.

And how did I injure myself you ask? Rugby? Hockey? Soccer?  Nope. Nope. Nope. I aggravated it on a soft hotel bed, using pillows that were too hard.  How lame is that?  And over the last two weeks, I have made it worse by spending 8+ hours a day at work in a non-ergonomic work station. I can’t believe I used those words –  ergonomic work station. Even lamer.

But before the doc diagnosed it as a pinched nerve, I was the typical man.  Yep…I self-diagnosed using my years of medical training (countless hours watching ER and Doogie Howser and House, MD)  and writing it off as too much pumping iron, or perhaps the onset of osteoarthritis from an earlier dislocation.  But a couple of weeks of continued pain in the left arm and shoulder, an inability to sleep in my favourite position, and soon I was on the Internet, checking my symptoms on the various medical pages.  There I was, clicking on pages and links that no young man would ever look at…and because it was my left arm that was ‘a-paining’, I was directed to myocardial infarctions, cardiac distress, cholesterol levels (with a lengthy diversion onto the benefits of a high fibre diet courtesy a well-placed hyperlink).  I then moved from there, distracted by Lance Armstrong’s personal sruggle, and starting reading about testicular cancer and prostates and PSA tests. And then it was a simple leap (of  just a few centimetres, really) to learning more about bowel issues and other topics that are just TMI for this blog.

Then I was struck by a thought:  How did I get here? When did I start giving a crap about things like that (no pun intended)?  What has happened to me? And…more importantly…what is happening to my body?  As I edge closer to the half century mark, so many things are changing – and many are unflattering and just plain annoying.  I miss the resilience and endurance I used to have when younger.

I mean, I still love spicy food and curries and jalapeno peppers and hot sauce and wasabi. But, my stomach lining and my diaphragm,  do not. The mild splash of stomach acid weeping into places it shouldn’t weep is just so sad.  No more asking for the Five Alarm CheektowagaIrv Weinstein” Nachos, the “Weep-at-the-aroma-only” suicide wings, theTabasco and Tequila fuelled Prairie Chicken.

Now it’s, “No, not the cheeky vindaloo, Sir.  I’ll have the mild korma, please”.  And, things that were in the old man aisle at Shoppers’ are now an occasional buy – Pepto, Tums, Gavsicon, Maalox.   My new catchphrase to the young and fool-hardy, the ones who have the asbestos-lined stomachs is, “If it burns on the way in, it’ll burn on the way out!”  Most don’t care – they are young and will heal quickly – but it makes me feel wise.  Like the old bull who walks down the hill.  The old bull who rations his chili pepper that is…

And what happened to the full night’s sleep?  That seems to have disappeared along with the hair. Caffeine after dinner is simply inviting the” kiss of death” for the Sandman. And if you have suffered a sleepless night, you will know that insomnia is insidious. Night time is much too quiet, much too long, and too full of bad TV infomercials, to spend awake thinking about all those little things that are in the recesses of your mind – things like did I put enough into my RSPs, why is my shoulder hurting, are the kids happy, should I buy snow tires?  Don’t small problems just grow bigger in the dark?   I do not enjoy that aspect of getting older.

And to add to the insult, just as the diaphragm weakens in the face of the acid onslaught, the nocturnal bladder seems just as frail in the face of the evening peppermint tea or just-before-bed glass of water ( I have learned this unfortunate reality is called nocturia, and is way too common). If I am lucky, I make my mid-night bathroom run at 2am or 3am, allowing for a delicious second “nap” before the alarm buzzes.  If I am unlucky, I do the porcelain shuffle fifteen minutes before I have to get up.  And I hate that…I fight it savagely.  I play mind games and struggle to deny that “too full” feeling like I am in a sleeping bag in a tent in the middle of a wet night. It would all be better if I could just fall back asleep and my bladder could wait until it is time to get up…but there is no cooperation. I might steal a few more ZZZZs, but they are always interrupted by the dream involving a waterfall or rain or a babbling brook.  Muscles that were once taut and resilient are older and less robust (Note to Self: read up on kegles for men…).  I hate the mid-sleep pee, especially since sleep seems to be a rare commodity.

Another sign of the age apocalypse hit me when I was at the barbers’ in Kingston (the Wilstassier was a little too long for the Gillette Mach 3).  At the end of the Zero, the barber asked me if I wanted my ears and eyebrows trimmed.  Excuse me?  What did you say?  Who am I? Dumbledore … Oscar the Grouch…my Dad?  And after a quick glance in the mirror, I relented.  Sadly, I now realise that I am part of the fuzzy-ear, bushy-eyebrow crowd (we won’t mention those unruly nose-hairs). I will need to include this new grooming ritual with the rest of my old man routine of belly lint and toenail clipping and corn medicine and Gold Bond anti-itch powder.  Soon it’ll be sock garters, the suspenders and belt combo, the trousers’ waistband pulled up to the nipples, the love of pastel colours, and the blue-plate special at Denny’s. Though my body may be heading that way, in my brain I am not ready yet – not in the slightest.

The shoulder is annoying, and I will need a physio or massage therapist to work out the issue.  And as I am wiser, I will actually do all the prescribed therapy. I will use the big stretchy rubber ribbons and the 5lb weights and I will stretch.  I will do it because if I don’t, my body will not forgive me. And, I will eventually run out of ibuprofen.

And that leads me to the tragic bit.  Though I really know better, and realise that it is not wise, I will continue to emulate the life I lived when I was 20. But eventually (like the next day) I will have to cash the cheque I wrote earlier.  And while I am not ready to give up the spicy food yet, and I still enjoy my evening tipple, and I will still hobble onto the rugby pitch for an Old Boys’ or alumni game – everything must come in moderation. That is what old people do. They act sensibly.

But I hope that as in the past,  a wee, tiny, little bit of me will rebel and on occasion  quote Oscar Wilde: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  And because I am man, and still want to frolic in the fields with the young bulls, I will follow that siren call.

But until then, please excuse me. My beverage just kicked in.  I have to go use the restroom…

Later,

ASF

House Hunting Week from Hell!

Not quite a horror movie …but almost as scary

We have just finished the week(+) from hell…a limited time frame to find, inspect and finance the purchase of a house to live in as a step to moving to my new job.  Don’t get me wrong: the sponsored house hunting trip is a fantastic perk (I’ll just call it The Hunt).  But, it is a complicated and emotionally draining process – only slightly less complicated by the fact we did not have to sell a house, too.  (In my opinion, that just makes it a Orwellian “double-plus-ungood” scenario).

There are many steps to The Hunt – and for you novices, out there, let me warn you that gender has a big role to play in how much emotional capital is invested in each step.  Again – Venus versus Mars!!! First comes the weeks of internet searching, Google-mapping, cross-referencing, short-listing. Questions and comparisons follow: how many bathrooms? Bedrooms? Finished basement? Backyard, hot tub, pool?  Photos?  Price? Every new house that appears on the internet is a veritable hockey-sock full of nervous apprehension – is it sold yet? Now? Will it be sold before I get there?  Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!

And every digital version of a house looks like it is your next new home…its details painted in rosy hues using the painfully optimistic – and truth-bending prose of the realtor’s spin jargon ( I mean really, an “unspoiled basement”? Just tell me it is not finished.  4 bedrooms – really, isn’t the fourth nothing but a utility room with a bed in it?  Slight fixer-upper? Recently renovated? By whom, The Golden Girls?)

But while the ever-present spin can be annoying – there is significant potential for an Evil that lurks below the surface. Is the seller honest, is the realtor trustworthy, is everything transparent, is the house inspector reliable and skilled?…It is all a potential minefield seeded with broken hopes and drained finances.

But even though we fly away from our new Hometown exhausted, emotionally sprained – and for a brief while spiritually crushed – we do have a house!  And soon the pain will subside, as we look forward to our new house with a degree of optimism.  It comes with the promise of many more happy memories.

But what a ride The Hunt is!  Early optimism and mirth is replaced by desperation and tears; further renewed enthusiasm is shattered on the rocks of “creative web design” versus “the real walk-through”…of bad smells and magenta walls and rotting window sills and ugly cabinets and poor plumbing and cracked foundations and wall-to-wall berber carpet and crumbling roofs and daycare-running neighbours. None of these drawbacks were clear in the creatively deceptive and attractive web images.  And into this cocktail of vulnerability, add a healthy shot of the realities of making an offer on a house (and the fear of a bidding war if you are too timid or disrespectful) and offers and counter offers and counter-counter offers – it is, and always will be a high stakes poker game.  In the end, there is the possible loss of a wanted house (or a sale for that matter) – and other potential sad endings.  All can become a stark reality brought about by a simple misunderstanding of the other parties’ psyche, or a poorly-timed burst of  self-righteousness, idignation,  and pride…“ Well I am not paying $500 more – they can bend a bit, too…dammit!”

As I think back on it, and though I have had more than enough, The Hunt had its funny moments, too.  I remember the  two-dozen, or so, houses that did not make the grade – and I took mental notes of the flaws and features that had us backing out the door as fast as we could.  Things like:

Eau de Labrador (or two Labradors and two cats) that permeated the carpet and was only made worse by the unmistakably saccharine sweet smell of the flower-scented powdered carpet deodorizer.  All the Febreeze in the World will not cover up the smell of doggy anal glands rubbed on the carpet, with a nice dash of cat-ammonia to boot.

The Hoarder House…stacks of magazines, paper bags, rubber bands, newspapers, mason jars, … stuffed bunnies and bears and spooky dolls looking down on the marriage bed like lifeless voyeurs.  A weird Bates’ Motel motif that leaves you breathless – for all the wrong reasons.

The Cheap “Good-from-Far-but-Far-from-Good” Basement Bathroom RenovationPrettily executed by a DIY cowboy, complete with bubbled laminate flooring hiding the drain hole and non-functioning ventilation fan…a potential breeding ground for the black mold and microbe infestation after a few months of long hot showers.  It almost had us duped until we noticed that it was like the Wyle E’s numerous schemes – good on paper but a complete disaster in the making.

The Partially-Finished Basement House…all tastefully done in concrete floor and plastic wrapped pink fibre insulation wallpaper, with one dry-boarded, but un-taped-, un-mudded, and unpainted exterior wall. True…so very true that it was only partly finished – I’d say about 3% completed.  It was very cozy in a card-board box kind of way.

And in the same vein…

The Fixer Upper – all you need to do is install new carpets, new floors, new drywall, new roof, new furnace, new appliances (the avocado green and harvest gold are retro-chic, but both appliances in a kitchen should sport the same 1970 Kenmore hue).  A steal at $350K+, as long as you have a spare $50K sitting around and three years to flip it…

The War of the Roses House…aka The Divorce House.  A steal at the selling price I am sure, but rendered completely undesirable due to the complete lack of furniture save the folding camping chairs,  army blanket bed linen, the stacks and stacks of Liquor Store paper bags and a lovely growth of mold in the basement.  Oh yes, and add the smell of depressed man hygiene and unwashed feet to the mix. Given the Sad Sack owner’s poor state of affairs, I would be afraid to have any pets in the house lest a misdirected ex-spouse not realise the house had been sold…and set about preparing a rustic rabbit stew à la Glenn Close…

The “The-Owner-Won’t-Leave-the-House” House Showing. Now we never really had a full one of these, but we did have the “owner sitting on the back deck”, and the “owner coming home early” showings. It is amazing how much people want to show you about their homes – the fantastic touches that make it a great buy. And it is even more amazing how we can make up wonderful things to say about houses that really, really suck. It is actually kinda sad…our politeness gives them false hope. I can just imagine them after our departure, “Looks good, Hon’! Didja’ hear him? He said it showed really well. I have a good vibe on this one!” So cruel…

The Turnip House…our nom de plume for the variety of houses where sellers would benefit from the services of a Fluffer, or Stager…whatever you call them.  The Turnip House sticks out because it smelled bad. “Why?” you ask…because the rotting uncooked turnip in the cast iron pot on the stove smelled bad. And I do not mean just soft…I mean oozy and minutes away from hosting the fruit fly convention that was partying in the bowl of black (yes, black…not speckled, not bruised…but black) bananas a few metres away.  Things that make you go “hmmmmm”.  And into this category falls the dirty underwear on the laundry room floor or the damp towels sitting on the bathroom counter. If you don’t know what sells, I only have one word…Fluffers, people… fluffers…they’re not just for porn stars.

In the end, our Short List was really short and, like Life, timing is everything.  When we lost out on our first house due to someone’s omission (and not ours) we were thoroughly dejected and despondent. But as my Mom says, “Everything happens for a reason, Dear.” And that is so true.  We found one that suits us better!  Happy with our purchase, we now return for our last two months in Europe.  And while we are tired and drained, and perhaps a little sad that our fun outside Canada is ending, we have a bright, tidy, lovely home to look forward to with excitement.

And, thankfully, a great list of things “not-to-do” if we ever decide to sell up because we are moving.  But that, given my experience over the past 9 days, is not something I hope to do in a hurry!  As those of you who are just returning from The Hunt already know – it just hurts too much!

I am sure there are many untold house hunting disaster stories out there.  It would be great if you left a comment and shared some or your personal “best” moments or memories from Your Hunts. I am sure it would make all of Us feel a lot better. Like they say, “Misery loves company”…  🙂

Later,

ASF

Sibling Joviality…I do miss it…

 Southall, UK…1969…Jammin’

Siblings…you hear all sorts of stories about them.  Bad blood, disputed inheritances, jealousies…

It’s too bad.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family – obviously said by someone older who has had a bad experience.  I don’t think anyone who is 12 or younger has ever said that! Why is it that all the problems arise only when you are older?

Really, of all the people in the world, who are you the most similar to?  Brothers and sisters have all the ingredients to be more alike – nature-wise and nurture-wise: same parents, same house, same schools, same toys, same food, same clothes (unless you were lucky like me, and were the oldest).  When and why do we go astray?  Simply age, I guess.

And even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a close relationship with your siblings, do you ever really enjoy the same closeness, same joie de vivre, and energy as when you were kids?  I know that I enjoy my time with my brother – and would with my sister too (if we weren’t 7 time zones apart) – but when we were kids, oh boy were we inseparable!  And the memories we share – like all siblings, I guess – remind me of the craziness that kids can generate.

I mean, who among us hasn’t damaged a sibling? And I don’t mean figuratively – who has “felt like pummeling them” – I mean literally “almost did them in”.  In Grade Six, pushing my 10 year-old brother to school, on – not in – an abandoned grocery shopping cart, we hit one of those ubiquitous sidewalk bumps  (young Canadian street-hockey players know it well, the kind of bump that rudely jams the butt of your hockey stick into your diaphragm as you are running home dreamily,  leaving you out-of-wind, spasming and gasping uncontrollably on the ground!).  Bumpity-bump bump, and then there was nothing but a whirling Matrix-like slow motion somersault of me over the cart, the cart over my brother, and my brother becoming the human shock absorber.  Thankfully, as the back of his head made full thudding contact with the rough concrete sidewalk, he cushioned my fall!  There was no doubt he was concussed, maybe he even had a fractured skull.  But as he looked at me with dilated pupils, not quite hearing what I was saying, we both knew that there would be hell to pay if Mom and Dad found out.  So after a bit of pleading from me, he toughed it out, suffering through the full school day with the wound congealing under his hair. He definitely put up the good fight. The folks did eventually find out – perhaps the fact that my brother could not remember his name was a clue – but what fraternal loyalty!  Now, before anyone gets on my case (and it was 36 years ago), keep in mind that he was no saint either. Ask my sister about her two front teeth jettisoned forcibly by my brother.  In his best Six-Million-Dollar-Man impersonation, he flying-kicked her “loot bag” novelty bugle during one of her peace-making charges to end a brother v brother UFC match.  Never has the cry, “Ta-da-ta-dahhhh…here comes the cav-a-wee”  been transformed into the piercing shrieks of de-fanged six year-old girl so quickly!!

If you kids do not settle down, I am coming up there! GO… TO… SLEEP!  I was a kid – so you woudl think I would get it as a parent, and let it slide!  I remember the ludicrous sessions with my brother – we did share a bedroom for almost 8 years.  Not being sleepy, everything we said or did – and I mean everything – was “side-splittingly” funny.  We would almost pee ourselves laughing as we did impressions, made strange bodily noises, recited Bill Cosby’s comedy routines, sang goofy songs and told jokes until all hours of the night (okay, in hindsight, maybe it was only until 10pm)…there is nothing like the innocent, uncontrollable hushed giggling of kids as they work themselves into a ridiculous unable-to-breathe frenzy – unless you are a baby-sitter or a parent.  The Giggle Sessions still continue on the rare occasion, but now they seem to be beer or wine-induced! And they seem to be a lot more painful in the morning than I remember.

The Sibling Fights…ahh, epics.  Now with three of us, there were always alliances and allegiances and double-crosses: boys against girl, youngest against oldest, all against the middle (mathematically, I think that is  3!/(2!1!)  – Grade 13 Relations and Functions for those Ontarians that are old enough to remember, or care!  Just think of it as my attempt to do a Conjunction Function). Early childhood fights were all so simple…what show to watch on TV, whose toy it really was (and if – at the time of the transgression– the owner was really playing with it), who really broke the lamp, who cheated playing a Barrel Full o’ Monkeys, who was supposed to take out the garbage (that cost my brother his beloved replica Led Zeppelin Concert t-shirt), or who Mom or Dad loved more (c’mon… seriously… parents can’t love ALL their kids equally ALL the time – can they? ) The fights were epic…pushing and pulling, pinning and holding, kicking and punching, biting and pinching…all good cage match/roller derby stuff. But in the end,  it never mattered who started it, or why – as the eldest always gets the blame. “You should know better!”, “You are supposed to look after you little brother/sister!”, “Grow up!”, “What kind of example are you setting!”…the usual the refrains heard all over the World, and ironically at our house usually punctuated by a good parental smack or two to reinforce that violence was never the solution to conflict.  Aaahhhh…good times.

And then there was my parents’ favourite strategy to keep me out of trouble when I was a teen – forcing me to take my little brother with me…I assume he was just as thrilled…but boy did he get an education!  I suppose it was the guilt of almost fracturing his skull that motivated me not to ditch him.

But when you grow up, you naturally drift apart.  Different towns, different careers, marriages, kids…the bonds flex and elongate – but, if you are lucky, and  nurture them, they will stay elastic.  Sometimes close, sometimes far…but alwas there.  And sometimes when they are stretched and thin,  I think back to the fun crazy times I shared with my little brother and sister – with a happy smile. And though the relationships have changed  – no more a question of oldest or youngest, biggest or strongest, smartest or funniest, girls versus boys…you realise it is more about knowing you share the same roots and same DNA.   And no matter what,sooner or later, you will get together and giggle uncontrollably again. When next my Sis’ and Bro’ meet to jaw about the old days, I’ll bring the beer (I am the oldest, after all…)

Think of your siblings and give’em a hug, eh? Not everyone is so lucky.

Later,

ASF

What happened to the cape?…

What happened to the cape? I mean when I was younger they were so cool – where did they all go?

As for me, I have worn a cape – seriously, mind you – twice in my life…once when I was three years old –  a safety-pinned old blue towel and I was Batman – and the other was in my early twenties, as part of the ceremonial dress at Military College.

While one was definitely cuter than the other, I have to admit that the Scarlet jacket and the dark blue/black cape (worn with the one side thrown casually over the right shoulder, with the red-silk lining showing) were pretty dashing. It sort of captures everything good about a cape. Unfortunately, not the best look to meet the ladies at The Sting, or The Forge, in Victoria BC!

So…where did they go?  Once upon a time they were everywhere…on TV, in comics, on pop-stars, on daredevils.  Wherever anyone looked, there seemed to some cape-wearing star.

There were the glitzy, flashy ones….like Elvis’s.  Sadly it was not the cool 1960s black-leather Elvis, but the later Elvis…the puffier, sweatier one. Older, flabbier but, somehow, still a panty-magnet! Wise men say… it must have been the cape.

And then at the other end of the over the top cape-scene was Liberace.  Polished, svelte…playing it safe and appealing to both sexes…panties and boxers flying everywhere…

And who could forget Evel – before the jumps he would get that cape flowing as he did wheelies and practice runs up the ramps – teasing everyone that this might the flight over the gap.  The cape on my toy SST Knievel never flowed as well as his real-life one.  Funny, I never saw the cape at Snake River Canyon…

And after that there were the ones that graced the pages of Marvel and DC.  Capes that created the mystery, the power, the persona.  The superheroes and the villains…goodness and malevolence…colour and form….a world where capes were just part of the wardrobe.  So many styles and so many heroes…so easily replicated by a toddler sporting a pinned towel.

And then there were the monsters…the monochromatic, black and white ones, that scared the bejeezus out of us on late nights or 35mm film…back when the frights were all implied – not the graphic nastiness of today that leaves nothing to the imagination.  It was a time when Karloff and Lugosi and Chaney ruled…and all you needed to fight off the baddies were Abbott and Costello . And who could forget the badass  cape from Star Wars…”No. I am your father…” just wouldn’t have had the same impact without the menace of a helmeted, asthmatic capester.

But to quote PonyBoy and Soda Pop…that was then, this is now.  Who really wears a cape today…fashionistas like Lady Gaga (meat or hair, take your choice (Bleccchhhh), or Little Red Riding Hood (on the internet at least)…

Now that I think about it, I suppose capes are no longer cool. (Hey, I figured that out all by myself – I did not even need a teenager to tell me that.) Such a shame…I was hoping they would make a come-back.  Guess I’ll throw out the torn towel and utility belt now…

Later,

ASF

Hair today…gone tomorrow…I hope.

At least he has nice teeth and a nice jacket…

I have just noticed the ridiculous number of ludicrous hair styles among some obscenely paid professional athletes.  It is as if, to stand out, they are trying harder and harder to outdo each other.  Flowing locks, curled locks, tethered locks, coloured locks, braided locks, beaded locks…it is all there on the pitch.  It is absolutely hair-raising!  And then, like when all you can do is think of elephants when someone says don’t think of them, I noticed male haircuts and hair styles in other sports, and on rock stars, and on American Idols [Idles] or on Britain’s Got [No] Talent, and on the London Underground…everywhere in fact.

And I can say, with the solid backing of the Experimental Method, that outlandish coiffures are not the sole domain of the rich and the wannabes. Men with bad haircuts are everywhere…

Now, to be honest, I have had my share of hair disasters…when I was young, my dad tried to save a few bucks and cut my and my brother’s hair.  That may not be a bad idea – if you understood anything about the mechanics of the buzzer, the geometry of the human head, how to layer and most importantly, how to cut in a straight line.  But Dad did not appreciate any of that, and my late primary school and early junior high days were a misery…it is hard to look cool when your bangs look like the top of a castle wall and your head looks like it lost a fight with a weed whacker.  He would have done 1000% better if he had used a cereal bowl. For those that were at my 40th , you have seen the pic enlarged to preposterous  proportions  – it remains an absurdly comic tragedy. For the rest of you – here’s a scan…be kind, I am still scarred and not keen to have that snap show up in an internet search for Bad Haircuts!

But I was 10 years old – I had no choice. I had to march down to the unfinished basement, sit under the bare bulb, wrap the torn bath towel around my neck, and then face the tools of shame – in retrospect, it all had a bit of a hostile interrogation feel to it.  I was trapped, so I suppose I have an excuse; being kind, may be others with bad haircuts have an excuse, too.  BUT, that kind of logic is kind and pure and honest and worthy.  Those sentiments have no place in a blog!

So I will put those virtues aside, and will maintain the aim – the aim of today’s blog is to entertain and run through the Best of the Worst…haircut choices that just make you ask, “ Why?”

So here goes with the easiest first –

The Mullet.  The Mississippi Mud Flap just says, “Business up front, party out back”.  This haircut just begs for a number of descriptors:  hillbilly, redneck, NASCAR, Whitesnake, 80s, squirrel pie, bad judgement, acid- or stone-washed denim, European Hockey Star (ask Jaromir Jagr) …add your own to the list– its fun! And I am sure you have some good ones…

The Afro.  The Afro still sends a political  statement.  It still denotes all the 60s “black-pride” – Soul Train, TV shows like Good Times, the bad-asses on early Dirty Harry flicks, disco, the Jackson 5.  Black Afros are styling…I just don’t get the White-fro…that is a totally different statement: “I am Shaft – a pale Shaft, mind you…or I am a huge Gino Vanelli fan.”

The Fauxhawk (aka the Cockatoo…by me anyway).  The Mohawk is bad enough – and unless you have a safety-pin nestled in your cheek and hang around London’s Camden Market, or are entering the Thunder Dome sporting hockey shoulder pads before  your grudge match with Mel Gibson, you have no right to wear one. But a Fauxhawk The FH says, “I love the haircut, but I don’t have the cojones to go the Full Monty. I lack the strength to commit.”  If you like the Mohawk so much…do it right…not half-assed.  No one that I know would tangle with a guy (or gal) wearing a real Mohawk – if they are crazy enough to get one of those, then they are crazy enough to do anything.  But unlike its cool and intimidating cousin, a FH just dares the onlooker to gawk and ridicule the wearer. (As an aside, during the last rugby game I saw, a fellow spectator had a lovely statement of originality…a Fauxhawk that ended in a Mullet….I call it the “Hawklet”.  I would define the Hawklet as a misguided attempt to look mean and fun-loving at the same time – and while not committing to either, he failed to convey that happy-go-lucky toughness he so obviously intended.)

The Pony Tail.  Okay, this one is not for me, but apparently it appeals to men of all ages. What does the pony tail say?  Does it say, “I am confident enough to sport long hair, but practical enough to know I must leash it?”  Or does it say, “ I am a non-conformist, and I single-digit salute The Establishment?” Or is it just a guy who is too lazy to go to the Barber.  It is such a popular style that it comes with several variations including…

  • The beaded El Divin Codino (the divine ponytail…)  worn by Roberto Baggio – famous for missing the entire 192 square feet of goal in the penatly shoot-out.to hand Brazil the 1994 FIFA World Cup
  • The Steven Segalan old guy just trying to look hip. Give it up Grandpa
  • The Beckham…which I also call the School Girl…actually, when you search for Beckham hairstyles you will find he has been a veritable coiffure chameleon…how posh!

The Page-boyOkay this one is plain creepy. Famous page-boys were  John Paul Jones circa 1970 (before he joined TCV and just looked stylin’), Damien from The Omen, Velma Dinkley (who is not a man, but had a great page-boy), and lastly, sported with creepy creepiness by Anton Chighur – the relentless “Unstoppable Evil” from No Country for Old Men…Damien, Anton, Scooby’s girl-bud….brrrrrrr. Shivers, man, shivers.  

Now, before I discuss the last few styles…let’s share just a few word about male pattern baldness.  Some will look at us follicly-challenged and say, “Poor bastards…lost their hair already – they’re just not complete men.” They will try to sell us Rogaine and Propecia and toupees and a million other hair remedies.  But really, early hair loss is not a symptom of losing manhood – it actually means too much dihydrotestosterone (DHT)…(and if you were wondering  DHT has about three times greater affinity for androgen receptors than testosterone and has 15-30 times greater affinity than adrenal androgens.  During preganancy,  it has an essential role forming the male external genitalia…it’s simple, more DHT, less hair but bigger man-bits!)  So take that, those of you with full heads of hair are just slightly lower on the male hormone scale than us baldies.  Public service announcement over…

But sadly, there are those that just can’t accept that their follicles are under siege (and losing) and will go to all the lengths of a complex military operation to avoid it – camouflage, deception, denial.  They deploy a series of tactics to hold off the inevitable, including:

The Perruque aka the wig, the toupee, the hairpiece, the rug, the squirrel, carpet… 

The Comb-Over.  Yes!  You were probably waiting for this one…the King of the Denial styles.  Sort of like the ammoniated beef of haircuts…not quite a lie, but as close as you can get to lying without crossing the line.  The Comb-Over screams, “I cannot be a man without my hair!” 

The category has one Überlord – The Trump. Check out the complexity of his C-O: four distinct grooming phases, four distinct growing regions. Would love to see it exiting the pool….it would be awesome to behold and probably look like “Cousin Itt”.

 

These fellas can justify their grooming choice however they wish, but the Comb-Over says only one thing to me… “Mock me – please. I am insecure.”.  Give it up Comb-Over Man…nature has given you lemons – drink the lemonade.

So that leads me to the best haircut to adopt.  Without a doubt it is the Wilstassier (pronounced will-stah’-see- yay).  The WHAT – you ask? 

It is the Zero on the Wahl …the no mess, no fuss, no sh*t haircut…sported by the one man one who brought down Hans Gruber at the Nakatomi Plaza…worn with pride by the Cockney who took on the Mob and brought pikey Brad Pitt into the bare knuckle boxing ring…and the same “ ’do” that led the Oilers and the Rangers to Stanley Cup nirvana. Yes, the Willis-Statham-Messier.  You just do not mess with these guys…or their haircut.  Look around, they made male pattern baldness cool!

And that is how a man should be…straight up.  No gel, no dye, no primping, no hair appliances, no stylist, no beads, no jheri curl…just clean, smooth, bald beauty – Yul Brenner style – self-administered by the Mach III or the Braun.   That is the way real men do it – just before they eat their Quiche.  So go on lads, shave it down to the wood…liberate yourself. Be free.  No one mocks The Wilstassier…at least not to your face…

Later,

ASF