Posts from the ‘No topic’ Category

If I Had $10,000

A funny bit of banter between a scam e-mail group and my bro-in-law who is a comedy critic. Enjoy, it made me laugh!

And Then We Will Be Very Happy

A little while back, I received the “speaking request” below. It seemed so ridiculous to me that I posted it on Facebook for a laugh. A friend did some Googling and found out that, surprise, surprise, there is a scam behind this and that at least one person has fallen for it, agreeing to send something like $1000 USD to an individual to help secure a Visa for their speaking gig. Another friend, the talented and hilarious writer Guy MacPherson, suggested I respond to the “speaking request”, engaging the scammers for the purposes of entertainment. “Who has time for that kind of nonsense?” I asked. Well, apparently Guy does. With my permission, Guy posed as my manager and wrote to Pastor Jason Joe. Below is the original email followed by Guy’s correspondence with the scammers. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SPEAKING INVITATION REQUEST

Dear Morgan,

Greetings in the…

View original post 3,141 more words

I don’t have a clue…any ideas? Fa la la la

santa

It is Christmas minus 9!

Actually, as I have done nothing in terms of getting ready for Christmas today, I suppose by the time I get busy, there will only be 8 days before Christmas. Wait, ixnay on the  Christmas Day, and I uppose I should be sorted by  Christmas Eve making it out of bounds -o that leaves 6 days!

Six whole shopping days to buy gifts for one, two, three…seven…wait, eight…nope, NINE people!  That’s it, nine people.  Nine thoughtful gifts, a couple of secondary gifts, and then a few stocking stuffers.  All in six days.

Piece of Christmas Cake. As we engineers like to say, “Where there is no pressure, there is no flow!”

batman and robin

I have often marvelled at those all-ear round Christmas shoppers…the kind of people who see things at the Shopping Mall in June, and buy them, right then and there. I am not that organised…or that attentive…and definitely not financially inclined to adopt that as my modus operandi ( I prefer the pain of all gifts at once, vice spread sensibly over the year!).  Anyways, if I bought anything immediately upon seeing it, I am sure there would be some kind of present “graveyard” in the house – the amazingly cunning hiding place that will outfox everyone, even me. Actually, I think that there is one already – full of un-given Mothers’ Day gifts, birthday gifts, all my packs of new batteries. and likely an odd sock or two that have teleported from the dryer. I am sure that you all have a spot like that where the forgotten presents lie in wait,  like the poor souls on the Island of Misfit Toys, hoping that they will find someone to love them forever and forever.

misfit1

But alas, I’m not the year-round shopper. I am a “week-before-Christmas” kind of guy – perhaps like many of my campadres.

Many of the women in my life seem to have their Yuletide Mojo going all year round…they intuitively catch the giftHoliday-Organizer vibes the rest of us are sending and find a way to translate that energy into some very thoughtful gifts. Their lists – all kept secretly in Christmas books and papers – are full of fantastic ideas that are entered when something strikes their fancy.

I can’t compete…I don’t even keep a compiled list. I have tried, but I think my attempt has been misplaced it in the “gift graveyard”.  Anyway, I don’t have the talent to make a useful list that helps me shop – it is more a catalogue of what I have bought in order to avoid embarrassing repeats (that’s pretty good in itself isn’t it?)

I am the kind of guy who listens to – wait, strike that – I’m the kind of guy who hears those oblique hints bandied about all year.  They all seem to come at me at the most inopportune times, like when I am doing nothing and enjoying it; or when I am in front of the TV, without pen or paper. Or, most often when I am apparently without interest.

And the hints seem to be as easy to decipher as those annoying and incomprehensible and strange Cryptic Crossword clues you see in the weekend papers (who does those anyway?).

If you are a man, I am sure you have had a conversation that sort of goes like this:

Significant Other: “Wow, look honey, isn’t this a nice pantlefoofler?” (Before any of you go looking for the coveted pantlefoofler, in the misguided notion it may be a gift idea,  it is a fictional item – I have used it for illustrative purposes only…but if you look hard enough, I am sure there are many similar sort of things usually featured on TV, in a magazine, a glossy flyer, or on a women’s Facebook Page)

Simple Fellow: “Huh uh, dear. It’s nice; why don’t you buy one?”  (Delivered as a no-look, casual platitude, though with great sincerity.)

Significant Other: “Noooo…I don’t knooooowwww. I’m not sure… I really, really like it. But, I am not sure I need a pantlefoofler…thoughhhhhh, it might be nice to have one.” (This is in sporting circles is known as the serve and volley, placing the ball squarely back in the “man’s” court… or depending on the severity of the impending sadness, it can be likened to a bouncy onside-kick in the late stages of a dramatic football game)

servevolley

Simple Fellow: “Okay.” (Continuing the sports analogy, the ball lands has landed squarely in court and goes out for 15-love –  or more likely, the football bounces bluntly off the linesman’s  chest as he gets blindsided by the 3 tons of defensive kick return team known as Christmas Disappointment.  In either case, the ball is uncontested and untouched by the Fellow in any constructive manner.)

Without benefit of instant replay, I am confident most men missed the sporting turning point that could make Christmas Shopping a breeze: The Fellow was provided with a veritable gold mine of information – although it was expressed in “Venusian-speak”.  In her dialect, Miz Significant Other made it painfully obvious what she wanted – in fact, I do not believe she has a more overt way to signal her desire and need for a pantlefoofler under the tree.

But for the guy, the facts and information are forgotten – relegated to the dusty drawers of the cerebral mausoleum alongside all those other wonderful gift ideas – and casual acquaintances’ first names.

And it will never see the light of day again.

Oh wait – it does.

It resurfaces on Christmas Day – usually in response to that brief look of  unhappy surprise as Significant Other unwraps the package that reveals anything but the desired pantlefoofler.  And for agirl-unhappy-with-present-de millisecond, a thought will flicker brilliantly across The Fellow’s neurons – that a pantlefoofler would have been a great Christmas gift and that somewhere, sometime, he might have known that.

Oh well, maybe next year.

I have tried to get better every year. I, like all of you, have relied on my perennial standbys…and I like to think that Mrs Fellow would be disappointed if one of those did not show up under the tree.  And I have learned the heard way about what does not make a good Christmas gifts – avoid anything from a Petrocan or Mac’s Milk or advertised with the words “minty fresh scent”.

But like all of you, I don’t want to just do well – I always hope to knock it out of the park!

And so armed with a few cryptic yellow post-it notes (C’mon, do you think that after about 40 Christmas Gift-Buying Campaigns that I haven’t at least learned how to try to defend against the “serve and volley”?), I will head off for two or three days of intense shopping – with a well laid out plan and efficient route. It has always stood me in good stead before

Shepherd Neame Christmas AleAnd if that fails, Christmas Shopping 2013 will be completed with a Boys’ shopping excursion on the High Street – interspersing pints of Christmas Cheer with each Christmas purchases.  A few well-timed Yuletide Ales always seem to provide all the inspiration – and financial abandon –  needed to cover Tannenbaum’s skirt with some holly, jolly gifts. It is the Hail Mary of shopping tactics, but has saved the day more than once!

That is all the advice I can give, save two last bits: save the gift receipts, and Shoppers Drug Mart is open until 1800 hrs on Christmas Eve! Oh yes, and don’t forget the gift bags – much easier than wrapping!

Good luck, mateys, and have a Happy Christmas.  Hope everyone around your tree shares your joy…Tree-Decorated-for-Christmas-with-Presents_wm

Later,

ASF

ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles – Act Two: What the f*ck am I doing here?

Stack 'em up! Roll'em out...

Stack ’em up! Roll’em out…

Fade into a crowded, burgundy coloured hallway – smelling of hand sanitizer and ventilated by a cold breeze entering from the frequently opening automatic doors – harshly lit by many fluorescent lights, and dotted with computer monitors, hospital stretchers, and paramedics in uniforms of various colors and hues, and nurses and doctors in trendy scrubs with paramilitary cargo pockets…

I lay on a stretcher in the full Emergency ward, parallel parked in the high traffic hallway stretching from the ambulance entrance to the Nurse’s Station.  As I was witness to the multitude of people who frequent the Emerg (note the use of hospital savvy jargon), I couldn’t help but remark how lucky I was – save for the fact I was possibly having a heart attack.

My lovely wife and I sat in that hallway, in single file, her at my head, because there was no room for her to sit beside me in the crazy corridor. We were together – yet slightly apart – and silently thought about what was happening. Though we shared occasional encouragements, and commented on the goings on in the ward, we were both worried. I was here because I thought maybe I had suffered a heart attack, but really I was hoping that they would tell us I was a fool – that it was massive noon-hour meat loaf or a not quite “best before” sandwich.

And about 20 minutes later, the doctor came to me with the results of my first blood test.

“All is good, young lad! Your numbers are great, and there is no sign of troponin – our first indicator of a heart attack.”

No issues whatsoever...

No issues whatsoever…

We were so relieved.

But soon my relief was replaced by a temporal resignation, and an internal voice saying “I told you so, you pussy!” as the Doctor told me to dig in and get comfortable. Cardiac protocol dictated a second blood test at about 6 hours after the first incident. Ugggh. I was stretcher bound until at least 1230am, the first time that they could draw more blood accurately.

Ouch! I pondered my kitchen stupor decision – but the die was cast. I was, as the pig says, committed.

So I got comfortable, asked for a blanket, and with a mind more at ease, I started looking around to occupy my time between the occasional social media creeping.

An Emergency room is a fascinating documentary when you are waiting – especially on a weekend evening. Since it wasn’t after school, there wasn’t the stressed line of parents waiting for the docs to pronounce on Johnny’s concussion or stretched knee ligaments after rugby practice.

Nope, it was the Friday Night Club: an airlifted and unconscious car crash victim on a backboard and neck stabiliser; the obscenity hurling drunkard who wanted to beat up everything – not just everyone – in his path, but thankfully was restrained; the possible drug addict who looked as if she had crashed hard; and sadly, the poor young university student who appeared to be the victim of a drug-laced drink – or 10 margaritas. She and her friends shared a convoluted story about how she met a guy over the internet and had joined him for drinks. Her case, among all of them, disturbed me most; she was catatonic. I honestly have no idea what happened to her and neither did one of the Kingston’s Thin Blue Line who was trying to piece together the puzzle that was her evening. As I looked at her, not even knowing the ground truth but fabricating one of my own, I felt shame as a man, and I felt anger as a parent. As I looked at my fellow citizens in angst and those charged with taking care of them, it was amazing how thick the air was with a tension and turmoil. If I had to describe the atmosphere as a colour, I would call it a mist of reddish-black.

I asked myself again, “What the f*ck am I doing here?”

And time ticked on…slowly. And my mind explored unconsidered thoughts and memories.

I remember reading newspaper stories of the elderly who die unattended in the hallways of the Emergency room. I never understood it, but I get it now. As I lay there, the staff moved to and fro dealing with this and that – every “that” more urgent than the previous one. They were busy. And when it was my turn to be looked at – to give blood, or have an ECG, or have vitals taken – the staff were friendly, responsive and professional. But then their attention diverted to the next priority and I became part of the landscape – a part of the furniture. And though it is tragic, and inexcusable, I could see that if something went amiss, like a misplaced file or misdirected lab result, that people could sit and wait and wait and slip through the cracks if they were unable to speak for themselves or cast nasty looks.  As the administrators and clerks and porters and cleaning staff and medics who had nothing to do with my case management went by their business, there was no salutation or warm comment, not even a sideways glance. It was as if a kind moment would divert them from their quest, would implicate them in some longer interaction that was just not helpful to their work day.  No water, no food, no nothing for six hours.

I fortunately, was ok. I had my wife with me, and I was fine – the first blood test said so!

But if I was a lonely, scared, and sick or injured person, it would be absolutely terrifying and an unbelievably shitty way to pass time.

And time continued to march on. Thank goodness for my smart phone and the hospital’s free WiFi. The hours whittled away as I Stumbled-Upon and Tweeted and had virtual conversations on Facebook.  I was convinced that I was wasting my time, the staff’s time and holding up someone who was really ill from getting looked at because I was a priority over the laceration or contusion.  In fact, we were so optimistic that my wife, feeling tired and not so well herself, went home to look after the dog.  Whether it was the nitroglycerine sprays, the baby aspirin, or just time, my chest stopped feeling funny and I moved to the dodgy tummy and gas stage. I’ll spare you the descriptions – but if it was a colour, think greenish-brown!

Then, suddenly it seemed, 1245am arrived and the clinician took my blood, all the while asking me if I knew her friend Sanjay, who was Indian, but born in the UK. Sadly I didn’t, and strangely enough, she found that surprising. She was sure that Kingston was not

I'm here, I'm here....

I’m here, I’m here….

that big a town after all, you see.   And 45 minutes later, the hip looking senior medico – looking all young Bob Dylan-ish in his green scrubs and Levis – came to see me with file in hand, as if all of sudden I had pulled a Walt Disneyesque sleight of hand, and changed from a chest of drawers to a human being.

White dove and seas, man...

White dove and seas, man…

“Dr. Bob” looked a little surprised – and secretly I was hoping it was because he couldn’t believe someone would waste 8 hours of their Friday night for nothing. I was already dreaming of a nice hot shower and my comfy duvet, snuggled up to my wife.

But that wasn’t to be.

“Uh…mmm…wow. I would never have guessed it from your history, your activity level and your age, but…uh…the numbers for troponin in your 1245am sample seem to show you have had a ‘coronary event’…crazy, man.” (“Man” thrown in for literary effect…)

A coronary event – what the hell is that?! I don’t recall reading anything about that when they were talking cholesterol or blood pressure. Is it like the Farm Team version of a heart attack?  And if I heard it right – because I was a bit stunned – he explained it could be coronary arterial spasm (rare in men but possible), or angina, or a heart attack. He wasn’t ready to pronounce judgement as it wasn’t his specialty – I guess the answer was blowin’ in the wind.

The on duty cardiologist intern would check the data.

I remained stoic and calm and cheerful on the outside; but inside, I was a raging torrent of confusion. WTF? Seriously? A coronary event? My ticker was busted?

I guess it's something to do with your heart...

I guess it’s something to do with your heart…

So with that premium upgrade in patient status, I moved from “hallway hanger-on” to a full-blown patient of the emergency ward. I was moved from street parking and backed into my very own private parking spot. The curtain was drawn and I was left to ponder what just happened.

Being alone with such news is a freaky-deaky. Not for the last time over the next few hours, I asked myself again, “How the f*ck did I get here?”

Now, I know that I came to Emergency  because I thought I as having a heart attack, but what I really wanted was someone in green scrubs to pat my wrist and say, “There, there, Sir, the voices are just in your head. You’re fine…just lay off the fatty food and keep running.”   When it came to my read of my symptoms during the run, there was absolutely no joy in being right. It wasn’t as if I had just won a bet by looking up something on Google; I had just had a bloody heart attack!

Twenty five minutes is a long time to ponder such news. I dug deep and kept busy. As my phone was on its last 4% of power (ASF’s Top Tip: Free advice…if going to Emergency, grab your phone charger. You’ll probably need it),I did a quick assessment of who would need to know at 0330am that my heart was telling me I was an idiot.  And so followed a quick round of texts to my wife and e-mails to my bosses giving them the news – the first was necessary and needed; the second was because that is what we do in the Army. But, unfortunately I had to inform them that they would have limited opportunity to contact me on my phone because it was dying. In a burst of coherence, I changed “dying” to “running out of juice” –  dying may not be a good word to use when telling people you have had a heart attack.

And so at 0430am I was wheeled to the Cardiac Ward, pumped full of blood thinners and anti-coagulants, anti-clotting agents, aspirin, and beta-blockers and left in the quiet dark to ponder my fate.  It was late and I had been up for over 22 hours but I knew that there was not much sleep coming.

Again and perhaps for the final time of the day, I asked myself,  “What the f*ck am I doing here?” I did not have many answers.

End of Act Two…

Later

ASF

Cats and Dog Under the Same Roof…What was I thinking?

There are two cats and a dog in our house.  I have no clue how that happened.

As a young kid, pets were never really part of our household. Well I mean the kind of pet that can really make a kid all cuddly and warm. Sure, we had gerbils…those little sawdust smelling animals that stayed in their cage and occasionally roamed the house in the little clear plastic ball (imitating John Travolta in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble). And there was a long line of rapidly expiring Tetras – those electric blue and orange fish that lived in the hexagonal mini-tanks. How I enjoyed holding a mirror to the tank and watching Flipper puff and preen to defend his massive 625 cubic centimeters of territory (for the spatially challenged, that’s smaller than a pint glass). Oh, and a budgie or two that I believe we had – but can’t really remember specifically. And all our pets had those cute, highly imaginative kid pet names…Goldie the Fish or Tweety the Bird or Gerry the Gerbil.  Sadly, all of them were relatively short-lived and, save the birds, had prompt burials at sea in the downstairs powder room.

Whaddya mean, only a nickel?

Whaddya mean, only a nickel?

I must admit, there was brief foray into the world of cuteness. My Uncle once saved a petrified wild bunny rabbit from a few neighbourhood dogs and brought it into our house.  And for a full weekend, we were in bliss – though Mr Fluffy did not want to play with us, He spent the weekend tantalisingly close enough to pet, hiding under the derelict basement hot water tank as we tried to coax him out with carrots and celery. But after 48 hours, my Dad had enough of the random chewing and the raisins all over the floor, and looked for ways to get rid of him. Eventually my friend Dominic, from a fine Greek family down the street, offered to take Mr Fluffy for the princely sum of a nickel. I guess that was the going price for black market bunnies in 1974.

The next day I asked Dominic how Mr Fluffy was doing. “He was delicious”, was the shocking reply.

Tears ensued.

And that was pretty much it for the pets for a while. Until I grew up. Then we had cats. Cats were simple. Fill their dishes, scoop their poop, enjoy their disdain. And the cats filled that gap of sort of having a pet and not having a pet.  You only interact with them when they want something.

And through attrition, we went from cats plural to cat singular. We are sad to tell you of the demise of “Butch Cassidy”, followed by “ von Bismarck”, and a longer survivor  “The Sundance Kid” (Sunny for short).  But evidently, cats are only cats and even to the very day that she passed away, Sunny did not fill the void completely; apparently my children fashioned themselves as dog people, not cat people. Even diversions like the aforementioned Tetras did not sway them from their goal – owning a dog.

But we, The Parents, weren’t buying into the Great Canine Dream and remained resolute. Funny enough, in a bizarre cruel kind of way, we did keep the Dream alive – not wanting to dash my daughter’s hopes so absolutely. Every year my daughter’s hopes were rekindled by yet another copy of the AnnualGuide Dog Guide nestled into her Christmas stocking – as if Santa was still toying with the idea of a dog. Finally one Christmas, a peeved 11 year-old opened her stocking and cried, “Oh Santa, why do you tease me so?!”  The Guides stopped after that.

And then in 2005, she finally got her dog. A cute chocolate miniature poodle.  And after a nerve-wracking week where the children learned that it is not all hugs and playfulness, that there is feeding, and poo and pee to be managed, there is whining and whingeing (from the dog, too) the relationship hit a steady state. Balance was restored in the world.

And here I am 8 years later – divorced, and happily remarried, with the two kids now enrolled in university. And for the first time in its young life, the original dog’s only constant companion will be my ex-wife. Which works well – they both love each other very much.

But do not fret.  As I already gave away, I am not pet-less.

In 2008, my wife and I made the common error of walking into the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). We weren’t sure we wanted a pet. We were there just to look. Because that’s what everybody does when they walk in to the shelter.

Look.

Just look.

Right?

Nope. Unless you are the most heartless, unfeeling, curmudgeonly person that ever existed,  you can’t help but be sucked into the vortex of furry, tail-wagging Littlest Hobos, or head-rubbing, big-eyed Mr Bigglesworths.  And they all look at you with eager anticipation and longing that melts your heart and you rationalise how you can adjust your lifestyle to accommodate the cat or dog or bunny or turtle (wait, nix the turtle) before it meets The Executioner.

Dirty double dog dare you not to adopt them...

Dirty double dog dare you not to adopt them…

And so five years ago, after our “just looking” session, we eventually walked away from the SPCA having filled out the intrusive and detailed application to adopt a cute male grey tabby. That is how we ended up with Pink Floyd, and a few months later, a two year-old female calico (or tortoiseshell in the UK) named Stella Artois.

How did I ever become a cat owner? I mean cats are so aloof. While Floyd has the soul of a dog – he is an attention seeker and loves to be with people – he still comes to you on his schedule and prefers at times to just sit alone in the sunshine, licking his male bits. And Stella, well she is a cat through and through. She only comes to you when she needs something; which is really only feeding time.  It is like having permanent teenage children.

Really, my self-image pegs me as a dog person. I mean I saw myself with a majestic Rhodesian Ridgeback or a Cane Corso or a Siberian Husky; I saw myself going for runs with De Villiers or Magnus or Tretiak.

But then, I thought about the other side of dog ownership – the massive poos, the huge plates of dog food, the shedding hair, the smell, the drool, the big vet bills that come with big dogs –  and I realised that I am a dog person on paper only.funny-dog-muscular-guy

Maybe I was thinking too big…some of the mightiest, toughest, meanest men I know have been unafraid to take their cock-a-poos or King Charleses for walks. Maybe, but I was not ready to be that fearless. My doggy doubt was raising its muzzle.

There have been many comparisons between dogs and cat people. Some funny, some unkind. I mean who could love a cat? Then again who wants to be burdened by a dog?  Kitty litter versus poo bags; catnip mice versus dog walks; cat entwined in feet on the stairs versus staring, drooling dog when you are eating; scratched furniture versus chewed shoe.  Who can decide on Felix or Max?

Not me. So I guess maybe I am a bit of both types of crazy.

Maybe I like the guilt-free living of a cat – guilt-free weekends away with the need for only bowls of water and cat chow. Oh and the occasional pat and rub.  But they are so stand-offish. So on the flip-side,maybe I like that a dog needs me completely to make it feel wanted and loved – which I guess makes me feel the same.

So that leads me to the next part of this long story.

After a couple of frustrating months of job hunting, my wife found a job at the Humane Society – the SPCA’s sibling. It was like a double-edged sword. Money…good; abandoned and forlorn animals…bad. It was clear that she would be constantly bombarded by cute puppies and kittens and bunnies. In fact, in a deranged psychological operations kind-of-way, the Society lets the little critters run free in the Reception area to guilt the visitors into adopting. We talked about the steely disposition she needed to develop in order to work there…a dispassionate, business-like demeanour to make sure our house did not end up as Dr. Doolittle’s residence or Noah’s Ark. She agreed and off she went to make life better for the furry and feathered and scaled.

And she did well…a whole three weeks until I received the dreaded text.

“There is the cutest shih tzu here…You should come see her…”

The alarm bells went off – the first wave had climbed the parapet wall.

Then the coup de grâce, the death-blow…

“They asked me if we could foster her for a bit until they have room…It doesn’t mean we have to keep her”

Game, set, match.

Chttp://www.posters.ws/images/345490/game_set_match.jpg:

It was over before it had begun. I knew that unless the dog was from Baskerville, it was inevitable – like I said, how does anyone visit the pound and come away empty-handed. I rounded the logic wagons…cost, lifestyle, vet bills, impact on our cats and readied the reliable and solid “there-is-no-way-we-can-keep-her” defence.

Then I met her. A pretty little Shih Tzu-Pekingese cross, with a tiny under-bite and a pleasing demeanour: energetic, but not dominant, and a cutie. I liked her. But the real test was yet to come – the cats.

Now I wish I could say that Floyd and Stella welcomed her with open paws and started grooming her like she was a long-lost sibling; that they rolled about play-fighting and frolicking and sharing toys. But I can’t. The cats are pissed – one of them even overnight-expressed a nice log cabin on our living room rug. No love there. Not for the dog, not for us.  I was disarmed. I needed to figure this out, so I looked for advice from the most authoritative source I know.

Google.  Dear Google, How do you keep your cats from shitting on the carpet when you bring a new dog into the house?

A quick check of the web and the consensus from The Authority was that unless they have already drawn major blood, chances are they will co-exist and figure out the rules

The Uneasy Truce

The Uneasy Truce

themselves. Sort of like marriage, I guess …

Anyways, with the hook set, and calls coming into the Humane Society about adopting a small dog, it was only a matter of time before I was reeled in.  Just to feel in charge, I created an analytical checklist of pros versus cons – really only a subjective list of wishy-washy feel-goods versus cold hard facts like money and lifestyle (overall, not a very helpful exercise – it was like comparing freshly baked cookies to toilet plungers). There was only one conclusion: I’m not sure. But all I know is that I am committed, and my wife is smitten.

Like I said …Game, Set, Match.

So pending the results of the personality testing, criminal record check, vet check, credit check, household inspection, pet compatibility testing, canine CPR class etcetera {kidding)  – we now wait to officially become owners of a five year-old Shih Tzu – rebranded as ours with the name Lola.

I am hoping that this now completes the animal adoption run – I feel I should buy a set of  those electro-static decals for the back of my car. Nah…can’t do it.

Anyhow, I’m heading out the door now – the dog’s nature calls. Can’t forget my little plastic bag…

Later,

ASF

Have fun Daddios! It’s your day!

2011 - Northwood UK

2011 – Northwood UK

Last year I wrote about my Dad and tried to explain how much he meant to me and what a great example he set for his children. A year later, nothing has changed; he may be a bit greyer, and slower, and definitely more obstinate about using his hearing aids, but he is still the same good-natured fellow he has been for years.  He and Mom are off on a wee English holiday, so I have been spared the need to write him a card, or buy him lunch.  Too bad, because treating him to a meal is an easy choice – he’s a frugal, simple kind of guy (so I come by it naturally – the simple part, not the frugal bit), so I know Swiss Chalet would have cut it.  I wonder at what age I’ll start craving the Chalet Chicken and dipping sauce.

On the way to Boston - 2008

On the way to Boston – 2008

And my kids are away this weekend.  My eldest is in Ottawa with friends, and my youngest fighting with the stomach virus that is making the rounds – at our house at least.  He is at his mom’s, because sometimes, no matter how good your dad is,  you just need your mommy no matter how old you are. And my lovely wife is now dealing with that stomach flu…it should pass soon I believe – And hopefully not to me…

And it is raining…so there is no golf – if I was so inclined. Balancing the yin is the yang of not having to do any gardening or mowing. More importantly, there is no sitting on a sunny patio sipping a Hoegardens or Heffe-Weizen, which is more of what I would be inclined to do.

So instead of being fêted, or fête-ing, I have a day to introspect and to reminisce. I am doing the next best thing to being with my loved ones – I am writing a few things down.

Last year was about my Dad.  This year I am all about being Dad.  I am at that age  where more of my friends are fathers than not – some even crossing over to the “belt and suspenders” land of being “Grampies”. All of them are fantastic at it – of that I have no doubt, because taking care of the emotional and physical well-being of our kids just comes naturally to all the men I care to associate with.   Each of us, though belonging to the same brotherhood, is slightly different – with different wiring and motivations and desired results. And as a result, there are different types of dads…all of them leaving an indelible fingerprint on their children – both genetically and personally.  But in the end, we are all united with one common purpose: to do right for our children.

scan0008 (2)I look at my two grown monkeys and I think back to the wonderful, wonderful times we had together when they were little. And I admit as they got older, and as so eloquently put in the TV program Modern Families… in adolescence it was is as if they are in a spaceship orbiting the moon. Between the ages of 15-19 they are on the dark side of the moon: no communications, no understanding – just blackness.  Then at about 19, they emerge and all is light and comprehension – they are back! As I approach my 50s, I must say that we are mostly in around the dark apogee and “We’re back” (no, not like Poltergeist). And I like it.

I think back to the memories of being a new father. I remember when my ex-wife wanted to have children. I was not ready. I was still all about parties and beers and trips and free time. I was not about diapers and strollers and high chairs. I could barely take care of myself on a Friday night; how would I care for a child?  I knew nothing about teething or colic or diaper cream or burping a child. What if I broke It when I was changing a diaper? Or burned It when I was bathing It?  I don’t remember thinking of a child as he or she – the future offspring was still an It.  And after learning I was going to be a dad, I enjoyed my period of having a dedicated designated driver full-time, and I did all I could to enjoy my dad-free years. (Luckily I did not use up all my fun credits, saving a chunk for now!).

And then, 15 October 1992 happened.

I remember holding my first-born in my arms immediately after she was born during an emergency caesarean section – she was Alex 1994barely as long as my forearm.  All delicate and tiny…perfect little fingers that clutched my pinky, with fragile looking toenails on curved up miniature feet.  She was perfect…and loud!  I weighed her, I swaddled her, and I gave my baby girl her first bit of water as her mother recovered in post-op. And for the next three years, she was the centre of my universe. I quit smoking to protect her, I watched Barney for her and sang the cult-like ‘I love you’ song, I took her to see the Sesame Street Live Show at Calgary’s Saddledome, and I played My Little Ponies – what more could I do!  She was my girl. The first child, the first grandchild – surrounded by so many who were generous and thoughtful and proud.

And three years later, she was joined by her brother. A bruiser of a fellow who through the vagaries of modern science, arrived perfectly on time as the Obs/Gyn and I consulted our diaries to arrive at a mutually agreeable time for an induced birth! (I had to respect Weekly Officers’ Coffee for the raisin toast, and then attend Happy Hour later in the day!) He was perfect too, but not in a dainty, fragile way. He arrived with the powerful scan0011 (2)and awe-inspiring aura of a rugby number 8…promises of strength and power framed by smart-looking eyes and a beautiful toothless grin that could win over even the flintiest heart..  And all of a sudden, in the space of a few minutes, the universe had two centres. He was the one I could rough and tumble with, the one who squealed with delight as I held him by the legs and twirled him upside down, the one who sat on my shoulders like a jockey and pleaded me to bounce up and down – the one who eventually shared my insatiable love for meat and BBQ. He was my boy, and though for many years he looked like Odd Job, the bowler-hatted Bond villain, he grew up into a fine young man who possesses a level compassion, care, respect and joie de vivre that I hope I have demonstrated

What merriment it was to be a father. I enjoyed the playtimes and the bath times and the story times. I loved making them dinner, and cajoling them to eat a little. I loved the laughter and the faces and the giggles. I loved the toys – my second child hood, playing with blocks and Lego and little dolls.  I loved the smell of baby shampoo and talcum powder. And how a young toddler wakes up after a nap with hair all tousled and unkempt, with breath as fresh as meadow – happy to see you as you lift them out of bed. I loved being the centre of their universe. It put everything into remarkable perspective.

And as they got older, I was still important. A father was the one to help them with school work, to take them places, to play in the

Disneyland Paris - 2010

Disneyland Paris – 2010

backyard with them, to watch movies and be a role model. To teach them respect for things and the importance of hard work and taking care of others. To show them how to throw a ball and Rollerblade and ride a bike and fly a kite; how to dog paddle or make shampoo faux mohawks and how to make the loudest armpit farts, or to burp the alphabet; to offer a finger to pull or to tickle them to point of exhaustion; to carry them when they could walk no longer, and most of all I loved executing that magic trick where they fell asleep watching a movie on the couch in the family room, and awoke the next morning all snuggly in their beds.

I can remember all the Disney movies from the 90s, using the VHSs as babysitters as I tried to catch a few more Saturday morning ZZZs on the sofa. I remember my complete joy when my children were capable of fixing themselves a bowl of cold cereal and turning on the Saturday cartoons while I slept in. And I remember being a complete wreck that the kids started venturing out on their own for movies and parties on their own – coming home long after I had fallen asleep.

And from that vantage point, I look at them now. The eldest living on her own, soon to be completing that last lap of the racecourse called University and the youngest, ready to fly on his own as he enters University next year.  The calls will be fewer, related to favours or cash or meals or laundry. Parents replaced by that inevitable gang of reprobates  that will form the foundation of that circle they will call the “friends for life”.  Time with Dad replaced by weekend cottage get-aways and concert festival weekends and road trips.  The Circle of Life continues.

18573_259561833242_739873242_4300787_4589736_nAnd as I spend more time with my children who will continue to morph from wards to friends, I want them to know that I love them, that I am proud of them, and that I will be there for them no matter what happens; that with all the things that I have done in my life, the good ones and the crazy ones, the one that makes me happiest was being their father. I can’t believe that I ever doubted I could be one. It is so natural and so awesome.

And to sum up, I hope that when Thing One and Thing Two join me for supper later this week that one of them brings me a Popsicle stick planter or a papier-mâché objet of some sort – I liked those…

Happy Fathers’ Day fellas…Enjoy the day and all it brings. You deserve it.

Later

ASF

I love my Mom!

Me and Momma

Hello!  It has been a long while since I have written. Life got busy. New responsibilities at work, great summer-like weather, the National Hockey league Playoffs (Go Leafs!). If you have survived the bleak Canadian winter, you get it.  Sitting in front of a computer has not been priority number one (unless it was Facebook or Twitter or StumbleUpon!)

And now it is mid-May.  Green grass springing, flowers blooming, leaves budding. And with May comes  Mothers’ Day.

Yes, it’s Mother’s Day – North American style! Not the soft namby-pamby Mothering Sunday they celebrate in the land of tea and crumpets and binge drinking.  Here, in the civilised world of 110v-60Hz it is all about cards and flowers and brunches and stuff.  Gifts and poems and offerings. A sort of husband &child  “confession”- cum- “recanting” for a year’s worth of taking Mom for granted.

ST-SHALES29

Meet Jane Jetson...

Meet Jane Jetson

Sunday will see Moms of all sizes and shapes and colours and creeds being celebrated by their progeny and

C'mon get happy!

C’mon get happy!

significant others.  Moms like Jane Jetson or Betty Rubble or Wilma Flintstone; or Morticia Adams and Lily Munster; or like June Cleaver, or Claire Huxtable; or Carol Brady and Shirley Patridge, Peg Bundy or Roseanne Connor. All types of examples and stereotypes of Moms out there.

And then there is my most favourite mom of all – my Mom!  Now I know that almost everyone will say that their Mom is the best. And they are probably right…but since it is my blog and my story – mine wins!

My mom, born in India, emigrated to England as a teen in the 50s.  Laughing in her cute mom-type giggles, she has told us stories of her first winter in London and her first snowfall – running around outside with a box to catch the “sugar” that was falling from the sky. She was a grocery

1960s...before motherhood!

1960s…before motherhood!

clerk in the family business and I think I used to watch her work – counting out shillings and bobs and half-guineas as she easily made change for the crazy 240 pence Pound Sterling. She married my Father at a young age in 1963 – in one of those arranged marriages that we all think are medieval because they never work and restrict freedom of choice.  Foolish us!  Mom and Dad have been married for 50 years…I didn’t even make it to half that.

Mom and Dad London

I remember leaving the UK when I was little. My mother got all of us dressed in our best – suits, overcoats, dresses – all 1971 chic, as she bundled a 6 year-old, a 4 year-old and 3 year-old into an airplane for the Trans-Atlantic trip to join my father in Toronto. She left everything that made her feel safe – her friends, her town, her home, and her family – to make a new life in a place she only knew through postcards. Though I am sure she dreaded it, she shared the same adventure and optimism that generations and generations of immigrants showed as they left their homes to make a go of it in Canada.  This could only be good for her family.

Moving to Canada was not all easy …occasionally she tells us about moving into our downtown Toronto duplex at Coxwell and Danforth.  A

The Mann tradition of the Birthday Hat...2012

The Mann tradition of the Birthday Hat…2011

house that did not have a stick of furniture, save a few stacking stools and an old coffee table, and then the very next day promptly walking several kilometers to buy  dishes and cutlery at Kresge’s.  And then she marched Dad to Eaton’s Downtown to buy beds and a couch. You see,  Dad had been a bachelor for almost 3 years – all he needed was a can of soup, a can opener, a saucepan and a spoon. If you are a guy, you know what I mean – who needs a plate or a table when you have a kitchen sink?  Eventually we splurged and bought a 13” black & white TV and some chairs – followed by drapes and a kitchen table and a few pictures. She took that bachelor pad and made it into a family home.

And when money was tight, she joined the work force. I remember her first job at Kensington Market. She worked as a clerk in a butcher shop…I call it her “chicken plucking days”. Mom never plucked a chicken but she giggles along with our inside joke. Every time we would come to collect her, she always brought us a little treat from the House of 1000 Cheeses – our favorite place to look at wheels of  Wensleydale and Stilton and Gruyère , all the while giggling while we held our noses.

With some gentle nudging from my Dad, she eventually finished her GED, graduating from High School, while she worked and took care of the kids. And then she applied at Sears to be a data processor for their catalogue department – a job she was woefully under qualified for – but won anyway. For the next 15 years, she did that job, eventually ending a 35 year career with Sears as an assistant buyer for the Bed and Bath Department.

Man, did she sacrifice a lot in that first Sears job!  Because we were young and she had a house to manage, she worked nights for a decade and half with a punishing schedule…she would come home from work at 7 am, make our breakfast and send us off to school, then sleep for 3 hours until noon. The she made our tomato soup and cheese sandwiches and hot chai, while we watched the Flintstones before heading back to school. Her afternoons were full of housekeeping and ironing and laundry and cooking dinner and watching Another World – the trials and tribulation of Rachel and Mack Corrie – until we came home from school. And then after supper, she would catch a 3 hour nap before heading to work at 1030 pm. Only six hours of broken sleep a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 15 years.  I think I am tough, but she was tougher!

And the Mom stories from our youth…

Like our very first Christmas tree – which we cut down ourselves.  Mom, like us, thought we were simply going to a local lot to pick one up. Nope.  Dad figured out after  few stops that going to a Tree farm could save a few bucks! So Mom trudged uncomplainingly for a kilometer or so, through two feet of snow – in her pumps –  because she knew it was important to us. By the way, it was a great Christmas Tree.

1973 Ontario

I remember back in April 1972, when Mom dropped me off at High Park to do the “Walk for the Animals” walkathon in support of the planned Metro Toronto Zoo. Suddenly it dawned on her that I would be all alone on the walk as we could not find any of my friends. So as we pondered what to do, and as she looked at my eager face, she decided to join me on the 13 mile trek though totally unprepared. And I remember stopping at a Chinese grocery after a few kilometres, so Mom could buy a pair of flip-flops because her strappy shoes were giving her blisters.  That was one of my best days with Mom ever.

And I remember Mom the Adventurer, tumbling down an embankment at Niagara Falls and badly spraining her ankle – again because we had to park in the free spaces instead of paying to park for a spot closer to the Falls.  I am sure she suffered all day – through the Falls, and the Maid of the Mist, and the Marine Land & Game Farm – because she did not want to ruin our fun. When we returned to Toronto 12 hours later, she went to Emergency and got it x-rayed.  She hobbled for a few weeks after that

I also remember the time she couldn’t find the second package of discounted Scheider’s sandwich meat after one of our weekly treks to Knob Hill Farms. Dismayed that maybe we had lost it, she ventured out on our icy and rickety back porch on the way to check the trunk of our red 1972 Ford Maverick Coupe. Unfortunately she slipped on the icy steps – perhaps due to my poor shovelling skills –  I recall her casual calls for Dad’ s help – all the while her flashlight shooting up into the snowy night sky like a searchlight at a Hollywood opening.  Happily, upon finding that $1.99 package of lunchtime joy, she was fine.

I have remembered Mothers' Day on occasion...

I have remembered Mothers’ Day on occasion…

All the things she did for us. She fed us, bathed us, clothed us. She tucked us in, she comforted us and she occasionally scolded us. And mostly I remember how she played with us. Mom was  sporty – playing soccer or tag or baseball or spud, or king’s corner.  And her competitive streak at Monopoly or Life or Carom Board was scary! It was all fantastic.

Whatever she did, Mom found  gave it her all. And I remembered how much she cared…and the sadness I felt as I walked up the aircraft stairs as I made my first foray away from home in 1983 to join the Army. I remember how we were all so brave…her to let me go, and me to go away. 30 years later, I know that I am still her child – and I will be forever, no matter how old I get.

And it is only when I was older, dealing with two growing kids, that I realised how much effort it takes to give the support she has always given me, and the sacrifices she made to take care of her family. Even as I went through many  challenges and issues – as a kid and as a grown-up –  she has been someone to lean on. Knowing, to quote The Gambler, “… when to hold’em and when to fold’em.”  Mom has always been there, and I know that she will continue to be there.

Three Generations...2010 (just missing my Sister :( )

Three Generations…2010 (just missing my Sister 😦 )

I love my Mom. She makes me happy and she makes me feel safe. And it is ludicrous to think that I can repay all she has done for me in one day. But, I will try to do that. And I will try to be as good a person and she is – which will be difficult. After all, she is a mother – they are all just so good at it!

To my Mom – and all the moms out there…Happy Mothers’ Day. You all rock!

Later,

ASF

The 1980s: They’re baaaaack…

Gadzooks...are they back for real?

Gadzooks…are they back for real?

Forgive me as I meander…I’ll get there in the end.  Enjoy the ride.

I am a man. Therefore, I do not like shopping.  Simply put, I shop like a man. I want, I research, I go, I buy, I leave, I enjoy.  The joy is in the capture and use, not the hunt. So, like many of my ilk, shopping is not a major pre-occupation.

But, while I may not wish to shop – occasionally I don’t mind gawking.

Centre of the Universe

Just recently, I had a great weekend in Toronto and – as everyone knows – Toronto is the hub of the Canadian Universe; good ol’ Tee-Oh feels as if it is closer to New York and Paris than Winnipeg or Saskatoon.  As a result, the shops are usually full of the latest and greatest wares.  So it was with this in mind that I walked through the Eaton Centre and down Queen St West, fully bedazzled by what the New Fashionistas think is à la mode and hip.

I’ll get back to that in a moment…

Now I have already blogged about my unfortunate fashions worn on the merciless runways of the downtown Toronto public school…plaid “floods” and buttoned up shirts covered by a sweater vest. That was the height of Honest Ed’s haute couture.  But as time marched on, and I wrested control of my fashion dollar from my parents, all my hard earned cash was spent on Adidas sweatshirts and Levis – the staples of my wardrobe until I joined the Army.

Bargains for the fashionable!

Bargains for the fashionable!

But upon entering the Service, the culture and tradition of the pre-millenium Army laid waste to my faithful dungaree (cue Last Post now…).  In the eyes and esprit of the The Old Guard, any denim – Levis, Lee or Wrangler – was the Devil’s Cloth. Upstanding young men with good morals and high standing did not wear denim unless they wished to bring down the Institution like a house of cards.  And so, my faithful Strauss’s went into Rubbermaid hibernation. Dockers – pleated of course –  became my new fashion staple and they went well with the dependable, safe and ultra-conservative golf shirt. (Interestingly, Dockers were our small scale rebellion against The Man, as they were still made by Levis Strauss and Co.)  My sartorial efforts all aligned with Officer Mess chic.  Khaki plants and chambray blue was the after-hours “uniform”…forget those heretical pinks and oranges…they were much too flashy for the staid and stuffy Mess!

And as the months and years went on,  I watched the fashion world morph and shift. But as the world outside the gates of the Army Base evolved,harem pants the military suffered fashion inertia due to the slow-paced materiel acquisition process. So in the 1980s, during the height of the Payolas and the Talking Heads and Adam Ant, we “poor” Army blokes wore ties that had the girth of aircraft carriers, while our contemporaries wore skinny leather ties with piano keys on them. During Post-rugby match beer ups, we sported bell-bottom grey flannel trousers with crested blue blazers while the opposing XV donned fashionable pleated pants or “Hammertimes” with Club Monaco sweatshirts!  Big glasses were vogue and shoulder pads were in. The other team all looked like they came out of Miami Vice; we looked like short-haired Donny Osmonds in a suit.

Officer Mess CasualAnd predictably, not much changed in the 90s. The majority of Teenage Spirit wore Cobain-esque greasy bangs and red & black plaid flannel shirts – acting all tragically hip; it was a time when torn jeans and high top runners ruled. And still we, the “Boys from the Institute”, went about in our Officer Mess Casual Dress, unencumbered by the ritual of shopping for clothes – unencumbered by the fashion police…avoiding the rat race of keeping up with GQ and Esquire. It was quite liberating, actually. The Service gave us an excuse to be fashion-imbeciles!

But times changed.  The Army eventualluy got hip! We even received skinny ties and straight-legged trousers with pleats.  Unfortunately though, this was in the  2000s and everyone had reverted back to wide ties and flares!

As for me…in the intervening years, I developed made my own style, favoring denim and french cuffs and the occasionally daring flash of lavender or pink in my socks or trousers or pocket square.  I am not a fashion maven, but I suppose I have taken what I believe is a little 60s and 70s and 90s (but definitley not much 80s).

I have come to the conclusion that there is only a limited range of styles that the stylists recycle …just like the rash of movie remakes of our 70s and 80s favorites.  Creativity is limited and so things just come back over and over…

Some is good…for example I was too young for the first Mini-skirt invasion…I was only 5.  But I did enjoy its renaissance when I was older.  And I think that some of the 60s and 70s resurgence, the Mad Men suits, the tie-dye, the Adidas Gazelles, the broad tie, and Ray Ban Aviators are all pretty happeningl, too.  It was a return to a retro-cool time: Sean Connery as 007, martinis, cuff links, pocket squares and handkerchiefs…

And I wish it would stay like that  – cool.  And this is where I revert back to the subject line – sadly it hasn’t stayed cool. Some is bad…

Just this past weekend, while window shopping in the Centre of the Universe, I noticed that I was becoming slightly perplexed and anxious. There were shoulder pads and off the shoulder  t-shirts that sported slognas that were the 2013 incarnation of  “Frankie says…”. The predomonant colour is now NEON – green and orange and yellow – shaded and hues that looked more at home on a highway construction site than a storefront. And dotted amongst them there were all sorts of pastels and patterns and canvas shoes and cotton blazers…

fingerless-gloves

The 80s are back…and it won’t be long until headbands are back and leg warmers cover Lululemon gear.   Soon modern-day Olivia Newton Johns or Madonnas or Don Johnsons will be parading through the streets reminding us of all those things that were not so cool…Cliff Huxtable sweaters, acid- or stone-washed jeans, mullets, fingerless gloves, stirrup pants and eyeglasses that covered your whole face…Yikes.

leg-warmers

I am a tad afraid of what the Voguists will reintroduce next…and I am more than a little dismayed that the fashion graveyard lasts for only 30 years.  Thankfully the Army did not allowedFlockOfSeagulls2 me to go all Flock of Seagulls the first time around. And happily, I am far too old and un-hip to be expected to do it this time around (though the Hammertime pants would be handy at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet).

Optimistically, once we make it through this New Wave, I will be 80+ years old the next time the 1980s fashion rolls around. I think I’ll be safe then too, unless they come up with something pastel and funky in incontinence pants…

Gag me with a spoon,

Later,

ASF

Steubenville Big Red – What a disgrace.

Copyright Paul Laud

Copyright Paul Laud

In the wake of the Steubenville rape case, all I can say is that the whole episode makes me angry, and sad.

I often marvel at how the United States idolises its athletes -at all levels: professional, semi-professional, university, high school, junior high….

I am amazed that High School football or basketball or baseball, à la Friday Night Lights, can draw crowds of tens of thousands of screaming fans who will push and glamorize high school jocks. These teams, and their players, will directly affect the pride and honour felt by their home town. Their success becomes a local status symbol – perhaps compensating for the sad little Rust Belt existence.

The athletes are big fish in small ponds, enjoying majestic privilege; they seem to operate above the law.

Big fish that seem to forget the basic tenets of human decency.

I am outraged that these young MEN did not realise that what they did was wrong. I am even more outraged that no one who participated, witnessed, discovered or heard about the event did anything to deal with it. I am absolutely disgusted that those in power might have even covered it up. That they threw up weak smoke screens to blame the victim, to mitigate the actions, or to excuse the guilty.

When did jocks and those who coach and manage them so completely, rule everything so completely?

And how, in the name of all things decent, did they ever believe that a fellow human being could be violated and degraded so completely? It isThe Accused all over again. It is Sandusky and Penn State all over again.

How could such a mentality take seed, and grow? Excuse my language, but, how could anyone – the two people, their team mates, the football team, their parents, their mentors, their coaches, their school, their friends, their supporters – fuck this up so badly? It is cowardly and misaligned.

Thousands of fans cheering for small town athletes – jocks who will likely spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture their four years of glory – are to blame. The cheering throngs only elevate these young men to mythical proportions.

And it is wrong. They are not gods; they are poorly formed shells of men.

And those who are responsible for the education and formation of these young men must remind them always that they are humans. And as humans, they must be taught that nothing is more important than human decency. Not even football.

Steubenville seems to have forgotten that.

For more on the topic and human decency, have a look at the following blog from The Belle Jar:

I Am Not Your Wife, Sister or Daughter. I Am A Person. | The Belle Jar.

Rage Against the Minivan: Let’s bring the holidays down a notch

Rage Against the Minivan: Let’s bring the holidays down a notch.

I agree! But then I can be a bit of a holiday curmudgeon…

Reclining airplane seats are a terrible idea and should be banned. – Slate Magazine

I agree…I am happy upright. Share the pain…

Reclining airplane seats are a terrible idea and should be banned. – Slate Magazine.