Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Easy Rider

Note: I originally published this one back in August I think. I had to take it down for a while for a contest entry, but I've since re-worked it a bit and here it is. Please don't think I bike ride in the snow. I'm crazy but not a lunatic...

I recently experienced the joys of mountain biking, and my physicians tell me I should be able to leave the hospital by Tuesday.

The exertion of climbing the mountain my home rests upon I usually leave to the large, powerful engine in my automobile.

Not this past weekend however.

No – I finally took my wife’s entreaties to heart, donned my helmet, and set off on a great journey down hill. At first.

And then back up. Ah yes. Up.

As my puffy, heaving body lay collapsed and wheezing at the side of the road in an ever-expanding puddle of sweat and drool, I fondly remembered my old biking days.

I used to be quite the rider you know.

At one time in my life I used to ride up all three north shore mountains in Vancouver in one day without too much trouble, other than complete sterility and a permanent limp.

Cycling and I had started getting serious about each other back in grade 5.

For my birthday that summer I had received the ultimate – a red, stick-shift, 3-speed bike with a banana seat, tall padded backrest and chopper style handle bars. It was amazing. I swear you could hear Born To Be Wild in the background wherever I went.

Of course the stick shift wound up buried in my groin more than once, the colour was quite loud (I would say ‘gay’ but homosexuality did not exist back then of course), but what really killed this bike love affair was hormones.

I recall an older woman (in reality a grade seven, early-maturing girl with actual boobs) saying it was a ‘kid’s bike’ – thus putting the kiss of death on any coolness I thought I had.

In a small digression from my cycling theme if I may, let me point out that it was this same girl who noticed one day that the shirt I had hastily grabbed as I rushed out the door to school was in fact one of my sister’s - which had ‘darts’ in it.

Darts, it turns out, are seams used in shirts to accommodate a girl’s brassiere, or as we boys maturely called them – Over Shoulder Boulder Holders – said darts being something I had not known about until The Hallway Moment.

There in the crowded school between classes, this girl stopped, pointed at my shirt, and screeched at the top of her lungs “That’s got darts! He’s wearing a girl’s shirt!!”

I recall clutching my books to my chest for the rest of the day, which was most unmasculine. In the days before backpacks, boys were supposed to carry their books by their side, even if doing so caused sprained wrists, intense back pain or paralysis.

Well – that was cleansing after all these years. Cheaper than a shrink too. Wonderful.

Anyway, my current bike is of top notch quality, made by the Sherman Tank Company approximately 50 years ago.

Travelling downward, it is a fine steed – poised, stable, polite in mixed company.

Upward, not so much. In fact, the gears inside the shift thingy’s on the handlebars were sheared off in my frantic clicking into the lowest gear possible. Even that wasn’t low enough as I rose at glacial pace, up from the base of the hill.

Passing motorists helpfully pointed out that my legs were smoking. I gestured my thanks.

Having travelled a good thirty feet up the hill, I stopped for a much deserved water break and to survey my progress.

It was then things got a little woozy, such that I phoned my wife on my cell phone which I had conveniently strapped to my chest along with my health insurance card and a change of underwear.

She appeared a short time later – her visage shimmering in the heat my overtaxed body was throwing into the atmosphere, distorting climate change readings everywhere.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” she asked.

“Thursday” I reported, collapsing.

Actually, I walked up the hill just fine.

My purple face caused neighbours to hurry their children inside as I passed, but I was fine. Really.

A nice shower till the hot water tank ran dry, a short, six hour nap, a bowlful of ibuprofen, and I was ready to go again no problem.

Lance Armstrong? Pah.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Year's Resolved

The thing with New Year’s resolutions is you need to actually make some before you can fail to follow through with them and rack yourself with guilt for the balance of the fiscal year.

Me? I live my life according to the Latin principle of Carpe Diem, or, “Fish – 10 cents”.

Something like that.

I also try to seize the day, try new things, and generally get into mischief wherever possible.

With my wife’s permission now of course.

Prior to meeting my bride, though, I lost my mind fairly frequently and did strange things. Like entering Revenue Canada buildings voluntarily, or leaping out of aircraft.

See, I make New Years Resolutions, some more achievable than others. Apropos skydiving, I had finally run out of excuses not to by about August one time.

This was about 80 pounds ago I guess. At standard conversion rates, and adjusting for inflation (mine), that makes it about 1993.

Now, it takes a fair amount of courage to commit to these things let me tell you. The skydiving instructor had to pry my fingers from the side of the door, and I left large, bloody scratch marks down the side of the plane, and people on the ground actually heard me screaming until the parachute opened. But apart from that I was pretty brave.

The point, and I think I have one in here somewhere, is that you have to live your life to the fullest, win one for the Gipper, eat that ice cream, step in front of that train, kiss that rather attractive flight attendant, and eat that entire layer of chocolates!

I have! Well, eaten the ice cream anyway. And the chocolates. OK and the flight attendant thing was long ago but the 6 months’ probation was worth it, and being banned from all Air Canada flights is not necessarily a bad thing.

Now, jumping out of a still-functioning aircraft may seem heroic, but truth be told, shrieking like a girl and blubbering all the way home has left deep emotional scars in me. And that was just my instructor – I was in even worse shape.

So conquer your fear. THAT’S what I meant to talk about! Overcoming your fear!

Why?! Because there are talk show producers waiting to book you onto television! Because there are self-help people out there who need to sell you on-line courses and books and they need to speak at your next convention!

Trust me – if you ever want to become a truly successful, lazy, fat slob you have got to go white water rafting, or bungie jumping, or become an astronaut or Prime Minister. You know – dumb stuff that will make the 6 o’clock news if you fail.

Then you marry a wonderful cook, buy that life insurance, have kids, throw your back out, and lay on the couch eating bon bons, watching videos of crazy people doing crazy stunts like you used to.

Believe me – it is a wonderful life, better than that nauseating movie of the same name they keep showing before Christmas.

I think what I’m trying to say here is – make that New Year’s resolution.

Think of all the starving fitness equipment salespeople out there. They have to eat too you know. Don’t worry – they’ll buy it back for fifty cents on the dollar in a couple of months and you can say you twisted your ankle or something.

You’ve got to make the effort though!

So get on with it. Quit smoking, lose weight, get fit, kiss strangers, and jump out of airplanes.

In that order would be good too. That way you can’t be charged for the kissing part if you immediately vacate the airplane.


Happy New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Observations

I was chatting with the guy who drives the Children’s Tylenol tanker truck the other day (we always top up our tanks this time of year) and we got to talking about what we got our kids for Christmas.

Turns out his son got an Air Boss flying plane you can recharge in 10 seconds! Man that’s so cool. And it flys for like, a minute at a time! And it’s remote control! Awesome! My son got one with ducted fans that looks like an SR-71 Spy Plane. Holy cow does it fly! It’s up on the roof right now resting but when the snow melts…

They’re for the, uh, children.


Hey – we’re 6 and up so we qualify.

- - -

In my house I was in charge of the stockings. When my wife told me this, I initially thought it had something to do with the sheer black ones I wear with my little French maid outfit.



This column of observational humour is not going as I had hoped.


Actually one thing I can write with passion about is packaging.

This goes against all of the morals I usually hold dear, but I would really enjoy slowly torturing the person who thought that attaching toys to their packaging with 16 pieces of wire and several steel cables would somehow benefit consumers.

I submit that any benefit that accrues from such a scheme is more than outweighed by the cost of returns of damaged goods that were shot, stomped, cursed at and otherwise mutilated by frustrated fathers who couldn’t figure out how to get the damn dolls out of their packaging and there is a hidden wire somewhere and more tape and I can’t take it any more I need more eggnog aaarrrggghhhh!!

Would you excuse me just a moment? I think I need some more medication. Thank you.

- - -

(Several medications later)

- - -

Now where was I? Ah yes. A fantasy...

I would greatly enjoy the packager torture sessions (noted above), which would last precisely as long as it takes to disentangle the precious toy from its confines of depleted uranium wire and titanium screws buried deep within its hardened concrete-like confines. Disembowelment would not be unreasonable. With a blunt object like a spoon perhaps.

And then it’s off to church!

- - -

I am on the injury reserve list…I threw out my shoulder pitching during a full contact Wii baseball session. My whole arm hiirts. Wii are not amuused.

I have also discovered that I cannot hit big league pitching. My dreams are daashed yet agaiin.

- - -

The kids and I were occupying ourselves in the van while mom got groceries.

We made an amazing discovery!

By careful placement of the ammo (a stuffy), you can use the passenger seat as a catapult! Place stuffy on headrest in full recline, have passenger lean out window while holding trigger (release handle), then fire when ready! We achieved world record distances – some as far as the windshield.

My wife was so proud when she got back.

- - -

I enjoyed standing in line with a bunch of husbands at the neighbourhood grocery on Christmas Eve.

4 o’clock.

We all wore the look of relief only a husband can feel upon actually finding the vital ingredient that was needed by spouses who thought they had enough of something but didn’t.

I was Nutmeg Man, the guy behind me was Whipping Cream Guy, and the guy behind him was Crouton and Cranberry Jelly Guy.

We’re not quite what Marvel Comics had in mind perhaps, but we knew we were heroes nonetheless. Capes please.

- - -

I still say the greatest gift a man can receive is the feeling of when a small (or large) hand slips into his. Unasked for.

Just because he’s Dad.

I got a lot of wonderful gifts this year. Thanks.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Seasonal Joy

“Honey – Tom at the paper wants me to write a seasonal column.”

“Why don’t you?”

“I don’t know. They get so cliché don’t they? Shopping malls and stress. I just can’t think of anything original.”

“Why don’t you write about our Christmas tree falling over and how your eyes bulged out as it tipped towards you on the couch?”

“That’s OK I guess – although I think it happens to everybody doesn’t it? Should I mention that it scared the dog so bad we haven’t seen her for a week?”

“Ummm – maybe not. Have you called the SPCA yet today?”

“Not yet. Boy, she sure moved fast didn’t she?”

“Well, you might get a move on too if you had a million needles landing on your butt. Don’t forget to fix the dog-shaped dent in the drywall there.”

“Can I mention that I said we should tie the tree off at the top and you said no, don’t worry about it?”

“Don’t even go there buster.”

“Well OK – that is sort of amusing though. What else could I write about that is seasonal?”

“Can’t you write about making a lumpy skating rink in the back yard?”

“There is nothing funny about a man’s boots being securely frozen into the ice. It is also not nice to laugh at your own husband as he walks through freezing slush in his stocking feet to get back into the house. My toes are still cold. I feel like an Antarctic explorer who loses all his toes after they turn black. I think I have gangrene.”

“Well, then tell them about how the dog contributed to the flooding process.”

“There is nothing funny about a yellow centre ice circle.”

“Well then how about how you stepped on the hose sprayer thing as you were wrestling the hose inside the basement and freezing water shot up your nose and all over the walls? The kids thought that was priceless.”

“You are all disloyal and will one day regret all these terrible things that happen to me and that you laugh at.”

“Can’t help it – you’re a funny guy”

“Schadenfreude is not a sense of humour – it is cruelly laughing at others misfortune.”

“Well then you are a fountain of Schadenwhateveryoucalledit. The kids think you’re the best clown there is.”

“I don’t want to be a clown – it just happens.”

“Here’s something safe you could write about dear. Every morning you clomp outside in your bathrobe to get the paper in the driveway and, when it has rolled under the car, you spread your legs FAR apart and squat down to try and reach it. The neighbours are starting to complain.”

“About what?”

“The view of your shortcomings on display as your robe falls open and you give them a full Monty as you squat to get the paper.”

“I had no idea.”

“Precisely. They tell me they are running out of eye bleach and that the visual is making them nauseous.”

“Well, what are they doing up so early anyway? Don’t they have anything better to do than peer out their front windows that early in the morning?”

“Apparently, the early morning light is best for photographing your boots stuck in the middle of the ice. The dawn shadows make for great composition.”

“I thought I asked you to cut the tops off those darn things so I could flood over them and people wouldn’t know what a ditz I am? I’ve never made a rink before and I really have no idea what I’m doing. People should give me a break.”

“Never mind dear. Just say Merry Christmas somehow and that should cover it.”

“Well that seems rather tame.”

“Tame is good for you dear.”

“When I finish writing I’m going to start assembling the kid’s toys.”

“Will power tools be involved?”

“Not yet.”

“I’ll set up the video camera anyway. If we don’t get rich from your writing, at least we can win some prize money on that show about home videos.”

“Thanks for your support. I still have no idea what to write about. Goodnight dear. Merry Christmas.”