Same Old Lang Syne

Same Old Lang Syne

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve

I’ve had a car since I was 16 so I usually end up being the designated driver. Nothing deters the desire to get drunk more than being sober in a room full of them.  You can sense the desperation of some people. The occasion is already a forced night of fun but then we add the pressure of resolutions. Next year will be different. We will finally quit smoking/lose weight/learn to crochet. We set ourselves up for failure time and time again.

It’s also a time for reflection and for many, 2016 seemed be an extra ugly year. We lost a lot of celebrities and musicians and people are still reeling over the US election. I admit, that last one was a doozy. Like many others, I couldn’t sleep that night and even the next morning on the subway it felt like everyone was in a mass daze. This is in Canada so I can only imagine what it was like south of the border. It threw off my equilibrium, even more so than the passing of my mother earlier this year.( In fact, doctor, I was more moved by the deaths of Bowie and Prince than of my own mother. I see our time is up but perhaps next week we can discuss why I mourned the loss of her years before her death)

So did more famous people die this year than normal? I don’t think so. I think that social media just makes it seem that way. Pick any random year. Let’s say 2003. Bob Hope died that year. So did Johnny Cash and Katherine Hepburn. Robert Palmer was only 54 when he passed. Also gone too soon was Maurice Gibb and John Ritter. Mr Rogers was also in 2003. Barry White, Nina Simone, Charles Bronson. The difference is the B & C level celebrities that didn’t get reported that year. It wasn’t the type of news that made it to the media. Today, on 2 different TV stations and radio, I found out that the inventor of the red Solo Cup died.  In an attempt to fill a 24 hour news cycle, this is the sort of thing that will get overexposed.

2016 is no different than any other year. Years ago, when our son was probably in grade 2 or 3 we asked him how his day had been and he said it had been bad. After a bit of discussion revealing that some positive things had happened too, it was decided that it was better to look at a bad day as a good day where a bad thing happened. It’s an outlook he has embraced ever since. We all need to paint with not so broad a brush.

The coming year will bring heartbreak and happiness. It will suck and it will rock. There will be death and there will be life. Just like every other year.

My wish for you in 2017 is simple. I hope your year is filled with more want to’s than have to’s and that when life inevitably throws crap your way that you have the perseverance to make it through

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A Change Is Gonna Come

A Change Is Gonna Come

Warning, this post contains words that some people may find offence. Actually, I hope there are words everyone finds offensive. I’m not talking about the ones my wife uses when someone cuts her off. I’m talking about the really bad ones.

 

I started this post when I saw someone picking up after their dog and it made me realize that when I was a kid that was something I never saw. Owners just let their dogs crap on anyone’s lawn and off they went. Nowadays there is a social stigma to doing that. Which isn’t to say it still doesn’t happen but it’s much more rare. The thing that has changed it is time. What was once acceptable isn’t so much anymore.  This got me thinking about some of the things that were socially acceptable only 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

When I was little, Brazil nuts were called nigger toes. And when you eenie meeny miny mo’d, it wasn’t a tiger you were catching by the toe. I look back now and I’m horrified that I would casually use that word. I didn’t do it out of hate, I did it out of ignorance. The same with faggot. I should have known better. I figure skated for many years and as a result was called a fag many times. I would defend myself as if it was something horrible to disassociate from. Yet, I would also tell jokes that used the word as a punchline. Again, ignorance. I guess I got some of it from my dad. I consider him an Archie Bunker racist. He thought he was being open-minded by saying things like “There’s this guy at work, he’s Italian but he’s a really hard worker”. When we got new neighbours he said “They’re black but they’re really nice!”. Regardless, I grew up believing stereotypes and using improper words, all the while thinking I was open minded and not behaving in a racist or inappropriate manner. What changed was that as I got older, I spent more time with people of different cultures and became aware of gay people in my life. My kindergarten class photo is whiter than Wonder Bread. In contrast, our kids class photos looked like daycare at the UN. I don’t remember when I stopped using the N word or other derogatory terms. It just happened. Over time the behaviour just became unacceptable.

That is as far as that post got. I wasn’t sure what to write next so I just parked it in my draft folder. That was until the US election results.

Last night’s US  election results were a surprise but I guess they shouldn’t have been.  I get it. People’s lives may not be what they had hoped for and they need to put the blame somewhere. Add to that a wave of misinformation that is at times impossible to know what is and isn’t truth. I’m also a little suspicious that the trend of home schooling could also be a factor. However, my point of view is skewed. I live in Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world but I do see how things differ when I travel to other less diverse places. Smaller towns and communities where immigration hasn’t been as prevalent. Places where the march of time has moved a little slower.  The election didn’t change anybody’s mind. It just allowed some people with olde timey beliefs to feel free to speak openly. It’s going to take a while for change but there is hope. If you only count the votes from last night for people ages 18-25, the Democrats would have won 504 to 23. As one candidate would say, that’s huuuuge.There is a wave of change coming. I’m not sure I’ll see it in my lifetime but then again I saw the first black president and I was born the year the Voting Rights Act was signed, removing the obstacles that prevented many minorities from even voting.  With the overwhelming uncertainty of last night’s result, it’s a small beam of light I choose to stand under.

As a great philosopher once said “I believe the children are our future, teach then well and let them lead the way”. We just need to do our part to teach them well.

The Way Young Lovers Do

The Way Young Lovers Do

I was friends with Diane before we started dating. She had started going out with a friend who it turned out wasn’t much of a friend. He was in a band and offered the cool factor that I was unable to match. Even after that short lived detour, it still took almost a year before I exited the friend zone. I got a call from Diane’s mom, Julie. Would I be able to gather a bunch of friends so they could throw Diane a surprise Sweet Sixteen party? Not only could I do that but I saw this as an opportunity to make my move. Diane still didn’t see me as date material but I somehow finagled an invitation to go over to her house on a Friday night to watch a couple of rented horror movies on the family Betamax machine. I would pick her up from her bakery job and when we got to her house, SURPRISE!  I went over earlier while she was still at work to drop off a crate of albums. This would be the first time I would meet my future in laws. Moms generally liked me more than their daughters so I wasn’t too nervous at first. Julie answered the door and directed me to where I could drop the records. When I came back upstairs, Ted was standing at the front door.  He was a tall, thin man with dark rimmed glasses and a sweep of greying hair across his forehead. I remember thinking he reminded me of David Byrne from the Talking Heads. I extended my hand and he shook it, looking me straight in the eye. I was immediately spooked, like he could see into my soul. I can’t confirm what words were exchanged but I do know I left rather quickly with slight tinge of fear.

The party went well but I would have preferred to have had an actual date with Diane so I mustered up the courage to ask her. I found out years later that she agreed mostly out of guilt as I had helped put the party together. I offered some cheeseball theory that since first dates were awkward, we should skip the first two and start with the third. Looking back I can see why I maybe wasn’t a chick magnet. Anyway, she agreed and I went about planning the perfect 80’s date. I picked up Pyromania by Def Leppard on cassette. We would drive to the theatre in my mom’s Cutlass and it had the finest 8 track player that you could use a cassette converter in but you had to jam a pencil in the side to make it work right. Classy. The movie we would see was Flashdance and we would end the night drinking coffee in a Scarborough strip mall. It must have been the potent mix of “Rock of Ages”, Jennifer Beals and my mullet but two day later she agreed to “see me on a more regular basis” (My cool alternative to going steady).

Now flash forward forward a bit. Diane and I have been dating for a little while but I hadn’t really started hanging around her house. Her sister, Nancy, is still living at home but was engaged and would be leaving soon. It was at this time I got an invitation to her fiancé Ian’s stag. I really didn’t know Ian or any of his friends but it’s something I needed to do. I figured I’d go, have one beer and then take off. What I didn’t count on was that Diane’s dad would also be there and the evening went like this:

I get to the house and go downstairs. Some guys have already arrived and I clearly don’t know anyone. I position myself off to the side wondering how long before I can leave. Just then, Ted arrives. It seems that he may also not know that many people. He spots me from across the room and comes over. Someone offers us a beer and I try to make small talk. He is still tall and is still making me very nervous. I’m nursing my beer and planning my exit when one of the guys walks over to near where we are standing and proceeds to put a VHS tape into a player and turns on the TV that is turned in our direction. I can feel a chill going through my body. I’m standing beside the father of my teenage girlfriend and we are about to watch a porn.

The scene opens with a man going up the stairs of a house with a For Sale sign on the lawn. A shapely young real estate agent  opens the door and she proceeds to show him around the house.

I don’t know what to do. The room has filled up and there is no where to move to.

Her sales technique seems to include fellatio.

I can’t tell what Ted’s reaction is. Run. I should jut run.

The couple has moved to the kitchen. I hope when they are done what they are doing they use a good anitbacterial cleaner.

I’m not sure I can stand here much longer. I’m starting to feel nauseous.

They moved from the kitchen to the stairs and look like they are wrapping it up in the living room.

The clip ends and we are standing there. Silent. I can’t believe what just happened but it looks like it’s over and I can make my way out.

“Well?

I turn and I see Ted staring down at me. He has a very somber look on his face and I dread the conversation we are about to have.

“Well what?” I nervously reply.

“Well?” he asks again, with the slightest of smiles, “Do you think he’s gonna buy the house?”

Eventually, not only would Ted become my father-in-law, but we became very good friends. We never watched porn together again but we did make beer, watch Japanese movies and eat sushi. I can only hope to leave a legacy such as he has left for his children and grandchildren. And looking back, I also realize he looked nothing like David Byrne.

 

I Hear You Knockin’

I Hear You Knockin’

This past weekend we were invited for dinner with Diane’s two sisters and their husbands. Because it was to be an hour from our place, the offer was extended to stay over. I know a lot of people are comfortable with that but we aren’t. Never have been. For the most part I think it’s because we like to wake up in our own bed. It’s a great bed. We splurged on a king when we couldn’t afford it and it’s one purchase we never regretted (unlike the exercise bike that is free to anyone who wants to pick it up). I think we also prefer our own place because staying at someone else’s usually means drinking and I really don’t want to be somewhere else after a night of debauchery. Having said that, we did try it. Once. Years ago. And perhaps it also influenced our position on the subject.

Diane had a friend in college. This friend, I’ll call her Mary (because I’m too lazy right now to go upstairs and ask Diane for the real name). Mary lived with her boyfriend Bob (Also not his name,see previous bracket). Mary kept inviting Diane and I over for a night of drinking and cards. They had a guest room we could stay in. It would be fun, they promised. We finally caved and agreed to an evening of high spirits.

The night came and was a bit of a dud. With me accustomed to being designated driver and Diane a notoriously light weight when it comes to imbibing, it seems we were not the good time partiers that Jane and Percy (or whatever their names were) thought we would be. Eventually the festivities came to an end and we were shown to the guest room. There, in the corner of the room, was the tiniest bed I’ve ever seen.

We brushed our teeth, said goodnight and tried to Tetris ourselves onto the postage stamp mattress. We were so afraid that our hosts would be able to hear our constant shifting that we finally chose the least uncomfortable position and just lay there motionless. We were silently trying to think of reasons why we might have to leave when it happened.

So clear, so  vivid. It was as if there was no wall between us at all. Margie and Chip (probably still not right) started to make love. Only it wasn’t sweet whispery love. It was drunk, sweaty, floppy sex.  Diane turned to me and in the dull light of the room gave me a “What the hell?” look.

The noises increased, like they were dubbing some foreign porn movie with badly synced sound effects. Diane and I were now trying to contain the fit of giggles that had come over us. Grunting, moaning. One can only assume that the copious amounts of alcohol that Pete had consumed may had been acting as a buffer to his ability to complete the task. I say this because the things we heard that night sounded more like someone being encouraged during the last mile of a marathon. It was then that the phrase was spoken. A phrase that to this day will still bring a smile to our faces. As we lay there, wondering how much longer we would be subjected to this….

“Go for it big fella!!!”

As loud and pronounced as if by megaphone.

We gripped each other tight and tried to stifle our laughter. It was gross and glorious all in one.

However, this burst of enthusiasm seemed to do the trick and there was now a silence, followed by footsteps in the hall leading to the bathroom. Diane and I just stared at each other. This was one of the best/worst moments we had experienced.

The next morning, Fred and Wilma made us a lovely breakfast, completely oblivious of the over sharing that had taken place the night before.  Diane tested the situation by uttering the awesome phrase when I excused myself for reaching across her for the orange juice. Betty and Veronica didn’t even flinch.

So it’s mostly because we love our bed and partly because we don’t want to hear your coitus that we generally choose not to stay over. But we will admit, that one special night about 25 years ago gave us the phrase that we still like to trot out from time to time.

“Do you mind if I have that last slice of pizza?”

“Go for it big fella”

More Than This

I come upstairs from watching one of my ‘man cave’ shows like Game of Thrones or Cupcake Wars. 

“That was a pretty great penultimate episode”, I declared. 

Diane looked up from a lap full of crochet wool. “That’s a really fun word. Penultimate.”

” I know, right? It’s one of the best”

“Who do you think invented that word”, she quizzed.” I mean, imagine if that’s your job. Just inventing words. Do you think the person who came up with that one I nvented lots of words?”. She paused . “Maybe they just came up with ‘penultimate’ and that was their one big contribution.”

“No”, I replied,” I’m pretty sure they came up with just one more after that”

Dweller On The Threshold

Dweller On The Threshold

The last month or so has been weird as we prepare our daughter for university. Our son is in his last year but hasn’t lived at home for some time. That means that once we drop his sister off, for the first time in over 22 years, we will be empty nesters. It’s surprising considering we are still so, ahem, young. It’s a stage in life that I’m both looking forward to and saddened by at the same time. I have to point out here that our kids are pretty awesome. If they were assholes I’d be all ‘Adios kid, see ya at Christmas!’ But they aren’t, which makes this very tough. I try to console myself by trying to focus on the things I won’t miss. Making lunches is a big one. No more “Did I tell you I need a white shirt for school tomorrow” or “Do you know where we keep our plywood, I need to build an accurate scale model of a medieval castle and brew enough non-alcoholic mead from scratch for 30 kids. Tonight”. But as excited as we are for the people these ‘kids’ are becoming, there’s a melancholy that I can’t shake. It’s these kinds of milestones that force you to realize that your life is now on a very steep hill that you are descending, legs flailing from momentum, just trying to stay upright. Gone are the summers that lasted a lifetime when you were little. Now, when December comes around,  I find myself saying things like “Didn’t we just take the Christmas tree down?”.  We know that the house is about to get much quieter so we’re starting to make lists of things we would like to do come September. Drink more wine is on the list twice. We also plan on discovering ‘us’ again. It’s been over 2 decades since we’ve done anything as a couple. The odd dinner out doesn’t count. I’m talking about a vacation that doesn’t revolve around school breaks. I’m talking about taking a class together. We love our kids more than anything and have sacrificed so much for them. I say that without begrudging a moment of it. What I am saying is that like anything, it’s so much sweeter when you earn it. And we’ve earned it.  We miss our kids whenever they’re not around and cherish every single moment when they are so we’re trying to not feel guilty about looking forward to this next phase. So as much as we didn’t mind sitting in a Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot at midnight on New Years Eve waiting to pick up our daughter from work, I can say that there are some things that I’ll miss less than others.

So this Labour Day Monday, I expect that the two of us will be emotional wrecks as we try to balance the pride of raising incredible kids with the reality that the house will never be quite the same again.

However, we have a Downton Abbey board game from Christmas that we haven’t even opened yet and a nice bottle of red to console us.

 

Blah Blah Blah

Blah Blah Blah

I’m over it. Summer that is. Toronto has been extra hot and unforgivably dry for the past couple of months, creating a lethargy that has extended to most parts of my life. The soul sucking humidity and hay coloured lawns have taken their toll.  I think about writing and I’m distracted by a cool sofa and a gigantic Netflix queue.  Trust me, I’ve tried to write. My essay on guilty pleasures so far only includes two items; the smell of skunks and Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus. In another draft where I talk about books, I realize that I have been on the same novel for over a month because every time I go to read I end up falling asleep. Truth is, I think I’m mostly preoccupied with seeing our daughter off to university in a few weeks. I’m resolved that  until that happens I have lost my ability to focus on much else. The prospect of being empty nesters is both daunting and exciting.

Today has finally brought some cleansing rain and soon I’ll be bitching about having to cut the grass again….