Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Courtesy of Warner Brothers Entertainment

Courtesy of Warner Brothers Entertainment

I’m 31 years old. By no means do I consider that old. That is until I compared my 31 year old self to my 21 year old self.

This wasn’t an introspective glance into my soul. I didn’t sit cross legged in a room with a beaded doorway, with sounds of babbling brooks over the stereo, incense smoke drifting through the air, while I hummed rhythmically and peered into my soul.

No that wasn’t the case. Nothing that dramatic or dated.

The comparison came as I had a reunion of sorts. The type of reunion where guys get back together with their old buddies and proceed to act as if no time has passed. We seem to forget that we are 10 or 15 years older and we can longer walk through fire or drink with impunity.

I am lucky enough to have a core group of friends. About 7 guys…sometimes 6, who grew up together. Who at one time spent every day and night together. We have been separated by schools, cities, countries, women and fistfights, but somehow always came back together.

You have probably seen the movie.

It gets harder and harder. Now with wives and kids our adventures are limited to once or twice a year. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

This last adventure was a bachelor party. Which should be (or hopefully) the last one.

You probably saw that movie too.

The plan was two days of: camping, drinking, bonfires and paintball.

Or as we should have called it : sore backs, debilitating hangovers, and near death experiences.

I joked on the first night as beers were pounded and the twentieth wooden palate was thrown on the fire, and blaze kissed the sky at, at least 50 feet…”Wow…we really might die…”

The next day as I crawled out of the back of my van (where I slept) hit the ground and rolled over on my back peering up at the blue sky through one eye and blurred vision, I thought : “Wow…I am actually dying.”

Hours later as I ran through the forest with sweat dripping down my face and paintballs whizzing past my head and cracking off my back like stones I realized: “I’m dead and I am in hell.”

The festivities the second night were a tad bit more tame. Gone was the towering fire, and the beers were merely sipped by broken men sunken in their lawn chairs, heads bowed.

Looking around and seeing the equally pained expressions of a day long hangover holding us in a death grip, I thought to myself :

“This is why we have wives. And this is why our wives leave us to our own devices once or twice a year. To remind us why we need them.”

– Jason

Follow @FredThePeacock

You can also check out articles I have written at:

http://www.newsforshoppers.com/journalist/jason-mailhot/

 

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Did you ever end a day thinking, ‘gee, that’s really not how I thought today was going to go’. I had one of those days recently. One of those life altering events happened to me. You know the kind, the ones that always happen to someone else, but never to you. Not as serious as cancer or getting hit by a bus full of choir students doing there best rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. Yes, it wasn’t that bad, but it was worse than farting in a library or calling out the wrong name during sex. So what is left on the list of things that always happen to someone else…how about “being let go”…Yes, I have recently found myself unemployed, by no fault of my own mind you. Apparently I was expendable (and not the cool Stallone badass kind). Now, I have a point of contention with this, as I find myself quite pendable. Though of course, I was not consulted on the decision. You think I would have a say…nope. So after I heard the news,had a few drinks, smoked a few cigarettes (and I was doing so well….) told my wife, had a few more drinks….I sat on the edge of my bed and thought to myself…’gee, that’s really not how I thought today was going to go’.

I now find myself in an interesting position. I find myself in the long line of people who have found themselves unemployed over the last couple years. Everyday previous, I got up kissed my wife and daughter goodbye and left for work. Would you like to know what I did the day after my employment status was deemed expendable? Nothing….Or as close to it as humanly possible (turns out if you actually do nothing, you actually die). I resided myself not to think about the previous days events, and enjoy a nice, relaxing day with my family. It wasn’t easy, and in retrospect I probably failed miserably, but I did my best to let the rage and sadness go, if only for a few hours. I sat on the edge of my bed that night and thought to myself… ‘gee, today was a lot better than yesterday.’

Do you know what I did the day after my nothing day? I freaked the fuck out. I don’t have a job. You know a job…? The thing that keeps lights on, paid for the laptop that is writing this, fed the dog and daughter, (the former who could actually stand to lose a few pounds). The job that gave me somewhere to go everyday, made me responsible for something outside my family and established me as a functional member of the community. Most importantly it was the job that allowed my wife to stay home and do the much more difficult job or raising our child. All those things that were seemingly fine yesterday, are now in jeopardy, because of the job….Or lack thereof.

You know what the really funny thing is…I mean besides the thought of me walking into a dark, decrepit basement doubling as a black market hospital, carrying my own kidney in a styrofoam cooler with a six-pack on top to keep it cold…The REALLY funny thing is I didn’t even like the job to begin with. Actually I hated it. Actually I thought it was sucking out my soul through a crazy straw. But I did it for years. And I did it well. I did it for all the reasons above. It did it because it gave me the ability to take care of the things that were really important. I don’t regret that one bit, it was worth it. If circumstances were different I would still be there, because what it afforded me far outweighed what it took from me.

The circumstances aren’t different. My life has changed, and all elements affected due to the decision of someone I probably have never met.Now what? Another job, that’s the easy answer. Work my way back up. The problem is I tend to take jobs I can do well, but don’t necessarily want to do. That’s life I suppose. I am sure the majority doesn’t get to do what they really want. And I am sure a great number of people do jobs they hate, simply because it is necessary. My problem is that I don’t really know what I want and my fear is there isn’t something I really want. I feel that my professional life will be filled with jobs of necessity rather than personal gratification. That being said, I like to believe that a capable, driven person with reasonable goals can achieve them through will and tenacity. Coming up with the goal is the hard part…Ok maybe the ‘reasonable’ goal is the hard part. I am guessing that a world revered cat burglar with a high moral code, quick wit and a dashing smile is unreasonable? Do you have a better suggestion? I would settle if someone would pay me to do this, but that doesn’t seem to be happening either…Unless you are reading this and you want to pay me to write self indulging, occasional funny, often repetitive dribble…In that case, may I ask, how do you take your coffee?

Maybe I should get used to that question.

I don’t really know where I am going. Remember back in school when they asked you what you wanted to do? Teacher, doctor, lawyer, lion tamer….none of them really seem to fit. I’m 31, I got some time to figure it out…Worst case scenario we can learn to read by candle light…And kids don’t need to eat everyday right? God knows the dog could skip a meal.

 

Thanks for the therapy….the cheque might bounce though.

 

 – Jason

Follow @FredThePeacock 

 

In a few days I will be 31 years old….Just typing that caused me to pause for a moment. I remember when I was young and ignorant of anything outside my bubble, and such an age seemed too far off to be considered. I remember when I was a little older, but far more reckless and such an age seemed like a distant possibility. Now, that age seems pretty young, and anyone reading this over that age would balk at 31 being old.

Though it does beg the question, at what age are we supposed to ‘grow up’? Or is growing up even relevant anymore? I am not sure I even know what it means. Does being over 30 mean that I have to stop playing video games, watching professional wrestling, or reading comic books? Maybe it is a generational thing, but some would say those are not the activities of a grown up. Let’s say for a minute I agree with that, what if I said that I had a wife, a daughter, a successful career and a mortgage…Does that make me a grown up? Having to ‘grow up’ seems like such an arbitrary idea in my white, Canadian, middle-class life, however, I suppose for some it is in actuality a harsh reality.

For our purposes let’s define growing up as: less opportunity for carefree activities and more responsibilities and commitments to others and your community. For some, responsibilities beyond yourself come much earlier than others; for some those responsibilities never come. Therefore, the idea of growing up has nothing to do with age, but is more a matter of circumstance. Age is irrelevant (phew…I feel better already, isn’t self justification grand?).

The idea of certain hobbies associated with supposed grownups is absurd. The idea the one person’s hobby is childish, while another’s is looked upon with prestige is prejudicial and nonsensical.  Have you ever watched or played Grand Theft Auto? How about cribbage? Have you ever watched or played that? The two are polar opposite of gaming experiences. Is one more relevant to adulthood than the other? They shouldn’t be. The idea that someone interests are infantile is an old school mentality associated more with the farm boy being told to put down the wooden train and pick up a shovel.

Fortunately, this old school mentality towards age biased hobbies has evolved. This was never more evident to me as when I visited by 65 year old parents, and while attempting to engage them in conversation I was only responded to with one word answers as they were too busy playing Fruit Ninja and Candy Crush on their Ipads. It was then I understood what they felt like fifteen years earlier.

Speaking of parents, mine are currently retired. They spend most of their days relaxing in the sun, golfing, reading and never having to look at their watch before deciding if they want a cocktail. That is about as carefree as it gets. Based on our previous definition, I guess my parents aren’t grown up anymore.

I will say again, age is irrelevant. This has never been more apparent to me, then in my relationship with my wife, who is  (ooohhh, she is going to be mad….) older than me. How much older?……..Come on now, I’m not a complete idiot! Plus, it is irrelevant right? The point is, it has never once affected our relationship. If it wasn’t for the occasional playful barb thrown at each other, it would never even be brought up.

I will most likely be reading comic books and playing video games long after my own daughter goes on to be, whatever it is she may be. And that is okay. And turning 31, should not be a reason to pause and reflect, as it doesn’t really change anything or matter for any intrinsic purpose. I am still responsible for myself, others, and my role in the community. I am responsible for these things not because that is what is expected of me due to an age marker, I take responsibility for them, because I care about them. I didn’t get married or have a daughter because it was time to do so; I did so because I wanted to.

Age does not determine or justify my actions. My actions are dictated by simple needs and wants. Sometimes when the work day is long done, and the wife and daughter are sleeping sweetly and soundly upstairs; George the golden retriever has taken over security detail for the night, albeit dozing at his post as he snores at the foot of the bed. The cats are on the prowl; and the moonlight shimmers into the living room. I sneak, ever so stealthily down the stairs and tip toe into the living room. I make no wasted movements, and all effort is focused on being as quiet as a mouse as not to disturb a soul. I take one last looked around and breath in the silence of the night. Then when I am sure the coast is clear, I click on the PS3 and play Grand Theft Auto and eat Cheetos until four o’clock in the morning. You see, life isn’t about growing up, it is about balance.

Thanks for indulging me. 

Jason

For more nonsenseical ramblings check out : @FredThePeack on Twitter.

 

 

I like to think I am a smart guy…I think therefore I am right, so I guess I am a smart guy, good for me. As a person of reasonable intellect I believe that I have the capabilities to understand most things in the world. Do I know how nuclear fusion works? Absolutely not…However, I like to think with enough time and research I could have a general understanding, enough so that I could carry on a dialogue about the subject if the need ever arises. Since this need will probably never arrive, I have no plans to even Google nuclear fusion, but I could. There is a wealth of knowledge out there. I used to have to go to the library and dig up old texts or look through the archaic encyclopedias kept in my parent’s basement. Now, with a few clicks on my phone I can learn about anything I want (a large part of me prefers the old way, but I will save that for another day). Equipped with a brain and a wealth of knowledge at tips of my finger no subject is beyond comprehension right? I am not saying after a quick Wikipedia search I would be able to split atoms, but I would have the gist of it, so if say my daughter ever asks me: “what is nuclear fusion Daddy?” First I will think, shouldn’t you be watching the Smurfs? But after that I will realize that I don’t have to completely bullshit my answer, because I can easily use my brain and finger tips to find an adequate answer.

I ask again, is any subject beyond comprehension? Yes. There is one subject, try as I may that I will never understand. No matter how much I read or how hard I work my brain I cannot begin to understand the gay marriage debate. Mainly, I don’t understand why there is a debate. I say this completely dismissively, it is pointless and a non-issue. I don’t mean that people’s basic rights are a non-issue, I mean the fact that we feel the need to debate a person’s right to get married is pathetic.

If you watch the news or use any kind of social media you know this is coming out of the ongoing Supreme Court of USA investigation into Proposition 8, which deals with same sex marriage. I am not a political person, and I have no desire to get into a political debate. Frankly, they bore me. I do not know a ton about American politics (I am Canadian), but I know the broad strokes (again I could learn more, if I found it to be necessary. At this time, I do not). In my mind this transcends politics and is a human rights issue. I don’t really get involved a lot. My writings are usually just humourous stories, incoherent ramblings or just simply a way to blow off steam. This issue and debate perplexes me so much that I wanted to share my own thoughts. Not that I have any great insight, trust me, I don’t. Writing has always been my best form of communication and allows me expression my thoughts, ideals and my personal favorite and very appropriate in this case, the stupidity and hypocrisy of others.

In Canada same sex marriage has been legalized since 2005. I do not make this as a statement of intellectual superiority. It is just a statement to put my writing in context. Like my general confusion on the topic I have no idea why it wasn’t legal until 2005 and why we are only the fourth country in the world to make it so. What right does any government have to regulate who can marry? I suppose in the right that marriage is a legally binding contract regulated by the government. This begs the question, why would anyone let the government decide the fate of their relationship? I would suggest, and hope that the majority do not. Marriage is not a necessity for a successful relationship by any means. Many couples are perfectly happy not to get married. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a choice. The point is that how can a government not open an institution as revered as marriage to their entire public. Dismissing a large portion of that public based on a lifestyle choice is obviously prejudicial. Canadian Prime Minister (who is famous for much more than being cuckolded by Mick Jagger) said this in the 1960s regarding the decriminalization of homosexuality:

“Obviously, the state’s responsibility should be to legislate rules for a well-ordered society. It has no right or duty to creep into the bedrooms of the nation.”

This statement makes clear what the state’s role should be. Obviously the issue reaches far beyond the bedroom. It makes the case that a person’s lifestyle choices have no baring or relevance concerning government decision making. The fact that this is a case that had to go to the highest court in the land makes me sad and if I was of a more political nature I would be more inclined to heavily question the productivity of a government that spends so much time and money on a debate where the obvious answer seems so painfully clear that you wonder about the legitimacy of common sense or basic human decency.

The religious argument….First let me say that I no way intend to offend anyone’s religious or spiritual beliefs. I recognize that the people who oppose same sex marriage from a religious stand point are a relatively small group and that they do not represent the whole. This segment is directed at the smaller majority who promote their beliefs with the agenda to belittle others. I apologize for any innocents that are hurt in the crossfire.

The Bible is pretty heavy. Literally. It must get easier standing on your pulpit as the Bible gets lighter when you tear out the unnecessary ones that may contradict your point. These opposers love to cherry-pick from the bible to prove their point. There are no bigger hypocrites in human existence that I can recall. The Bible at its best can be a spiritual guidebook, teachings to uplift people in their time of need. At its worst it is a vicious battleaxe stained will blood and bad intentions. Using the bible to demean others and classify them as anything less than equal is hateful and oxymoronic. The bible is not a literal text, but then again, metaphor might be too big of a word for some from this flock. That being said, you may not support gay marriage, and I have made it clear that I do not understand that, but I do understand that, that is your belief. Does someone else having a different belief make yours any less true? If you answer yes to that, than it is not a belief you have, but a badly placed idea. People believe in different things, always have, and always will. The necessity of some to tear down another’s belief to prove theirs’ true is also lost on me. Believe what you want. I don’t have to like it and you don’t have to like it if your male neighbours (***Gay Stereotype Alert***) look too much like Bowie and play Madonna all day. You can just smile and wave and know that their beliefs are in no way a threat to yours.

Some will say that I am going to hell for my beliefs. Well, Heaven and Hell are states of mind and matters of perspective. At the end of the day, I would prefer to go with the more accepting bunch.

“Same-sex marriage isn’t natural….” I love that one…. What is natural? Pretty sure I wasn’t meant to fly, eat ice cream or live past 35 either. Natural is subjective and ever changing. Open your eyes and ears, adjust, evolve and move on. End of point.

I don’t understand…Did I say that already? Gay marriage is the most illogical debate I have ever heard. The only possible opposition to gay marriage I could understand is if it was coming from a gay person who was terrified of commitment. Not gay? Then you have no right to oppose.

If every gay person in the world was given the right to get married, my life would not change one bit. This issue, regardless of outcome has no effect on my life. That being said, I ask the people who oppose this how a gay person getting married would have any effect on your life? No, not why it is against your beliefs….Not because a small part of a large books alludes that it may be wrong…Not because it is not in accordance the governing body of your nation….How would it change your life?

It is not a rhetorical question. There is an answer, and if you stuck allow me to assist.

It wouldn’t change your life one little bit.

Can we move on now?

-Jason
@gskewedview

Sometimes I think I should turn off the TV and do something more productive….I know I need to clean the basement… Haven’t really had clean clothes in a couple of days…What is that smell??… The dog looks like he wants something not sure what, but damn it is cute when he carries around that food dish…Why does my work keep calling?? I think I was there on….Oh my leg is bleeding, a lot. Is that my femur?? Probably should try and stop the…Oh wait TMZ is on, better turn it up, that baby crying is getting pretty loud.

Yeah I know what you are thinking….TV really is awesome. Alright…I admit it, watching TV may occasionally get in the way of other supposed important tasks, like the ability to say to entire word…Television. It takes a long time to say four syllables (Wait…four?? Let me clap that out – TEL (clap) – E (clap) – VI (clap) – SION (clap)….Yup four. Thank God for whoever came up with that infallible form of grammatical measuring). I don’t have time to say television, that Cheers episode I have seen over thirty time where Gary from Gary’s Ole Towne Tavern encases the bar (and Woody) in cinder blocks, is on in a few minutes. Sometimes I really don’t know how I get anything done. Some may say that TV is detrimental to your lifestyle. Those are the people who can’t afford cable…I am sad for those poor souls…Why is there no charity for this underprivileged group?? I should start that, we could have a fundraise…..Hey look! Criminal Minds marathon, awesome…Wait what was I talking about?? Right, TV equals awesome…Not just for its aesthetically pleasing pictures or nurturing sounds, but also how it has helped me become a better person.

Being an avid TV watcher I am much more efficient than the average ‘Joe Bookreader’ (You are not better than me Joe….For one I have never got a paper cut from watching TV….Haha…TV -1 Books – 0). TV has conditioned me to get the other essential life sustaining tasks done in a much shorter time span. The average commercial is 30 seconds long and there are usually 5 per commercial break. Which means that every 8 minutes or so I have 2 and a half minutes to get done the essentials. That is all the time in the world…Throw pizza pockets in microwave, go to bathroom, get Mountain Dew from fridge, grab aforementioned pockets and head back to couch just in time to see how Sam and Dean get themselves out of this one. 8 minutes later, I now have an open slot to ask my wife about her day…8 minutes after that I finally figured out why the dog has been carrying around that food dish…

Speaking of the dog…TV must be a very curious thing for him. Occasionally he will notice the TV if another dog is on, and he will sit down and look at the screen with a tilted quizzical stare. Or if George Clooney is on TV, then his fur will go up, and his teeth will come out and growls will sound out of his throat. My dog hates George Clooney. I am not sure why, but it might have something to do with the fact my dog used to date Stacy Kielber…wait…What!? Oh what is that??? Saved By the Bell reruns….awesome. Anyway….Often the dog just stares at me. He looks at me like I look at Paris Hilton. As if he is thinking “Is there nothing else….anything else you could be doing right now than staring at the bright, loud, magical box for hours on end.” But I don’t put a lot of stock in my dog’s idea of time management. On our last walk he investigated a rock for 20 minutes.

TV has just been a huge part of my life since I was little. The lessons I learned as a child from those shows have carried me through high school, university and my day to day adult life. So many valuable lessons….How could I have gotten through High School physics without the lessons I learned in Looney Tunes?? Thank you Wile E! The Muppets taught me that any obstacle you face can quickly work itself out by the time you are done signing your song. The Smurfs taught me about intolerance and racism. Gargamel was the ‘White Man’ keeping the blue man down. That wasn’t cool. Because of that show I always thought of blue people as equals. Transformers gave me a greater respect for vehicles. I was always nice to cars and trucks out of fear that they would come to life as robots and kick my ass for missing an oil change. Sesame Street opened my eyes to be able to see the day to day annoyances of people who live in garbage cans. I can now empathize with these individuals. To this day there is always a spot on my curb open for them. I could go and on about the invaluable life lessons I have learned. I would not have become a well adjusted adult if not for these and many other educational programs.

This is my love letter to TV. I went to Hallmark to buy my TV a card, but there was no such card. Our relationship is too deep, beautiful and complicated for even the wise words of Hallmark. But in every great relationship there is a dark side, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to not point out the negative aspects of TV. There are bad shows on TV that hurt me deep down in my soul. I call these programs: “The Wife’s Shows.”

I wish I could give you more of a warning so you could avoid such debacles, but I can’t out of fear. Fear my wife will read this and take the TV away. Even typing that last sentence created enough separation anxiety for me to shutter. No, I can say no more on this topic. Just know that sometimes you have endure the dark times. Love will endure.

I will admit that TV has had other effects on me. It has, to a degree, desensitized me to reality. I don’t see this so much as a bad thing, more of a mildly amusing side effect. For example, I have found myself angered by the last few season of Survivor…I get mad because they give the people food. I know somewhere deep down that it is wrong to feel anger when starving people are given food, but I feel anger nonetheless. It’s Survivor! How dare you give them rice! Make them eat bugs and chase boars with sharpen sticks…I want to see the camera cut away to the disgusted vegan’s face when they have to slaughter their pet chicken….

I also tend to immerse myself in my favorite shows. I often think that I am one of the gang. This might have gone too far recently. My wife and I have just discovered Criminal Minds….which is awesome by the way. It is the kind of show the gives the people on Law and Order nightmares. We have spend the last couple months getting caught up on the DVDs. One night we were taking a break from it and were watching the news. A story came on about a rash of killings across the country. I immediately got up, turned to my wife and said, “wheels up in thirty” and left the room. I spend the next half hour sitting in my car looking at an empty file folder until there was a knock on the glass. I looked to see my wife standing there holding something. I rolled down the window.

“What’s that?” I said.

“Your pants. Remember those?” She said.

“Honey…..I think I have a problem.”

“I think so too dear.” She replied and passed the pants through the window.

“Will you take me to get some help?” I asked as I clung to my pants.

“Yes of course. But The Bachelor is on in a few minutes…….I will take you after that…..”

“………………I think I will go clean the basement now….”

-Jason
Follow – @gskewedview

Everyone thinks their family is crazy right? Right???? Ok, good.

I am not as close with all of my family as I once was. I guess that happens as you get older and start your own family. There are still the weddings and funerals (both involving large quantities of alcohol and bad singing). I remember as a child the extended family getting together just for the sake of getting together (Or for the Family Olympics….more on that later). It doesn’t happen anymore, which makes me sad. There are certain people who hold a large extended family together; the matriarchs, patriarchs or the crazy, fun-loving, charismatic uncle that rallies the group together. But, once those family leaders pass on, something much more profound than the individual is lost. I have found myself reflecting lately on the way I grew up and the thirty or so lunatics that helped raise me. In one sense I smile with fondness. In another I am sad, because I can’t help but wonder if my daughter will miss out not having some of the craziness around that I did. The family leader and cheerleaders seem to be gone now, and I don’t see anyone picking up that torch to carry it on. I know I am not that guy. I will be the one behind that guy or girl diving into the pool for golf balls, or sitting next to them for the watermelon eating competition. But I am not the one to bring them together. I am the chronicler. It is as pleasantly nostalgic of a role as it is sadly reminiscent.

I could shuffle a deck of cards and pour a perfect beer before I could walk (now that is a joke, with a small amount of truth to it, so go easy on the ones who raised me, they did a good job). My parents encouraged every bit of my childhood. I was let free to run, play and imagine. In summer I was set free to my own devices (helicopter parents had yet to exist). The only rules were, I had to be home for three meals a day and in before dark. Other than that, they trusted that the basic values and teachings that had instilled in me would let me make reasonable safe decisions (plywood bike ramps are completely safe, as are rope swings) and enable me to always make it home. They let me be a child. I was allowed to fall, to scrap up my knees and elbows, and occasionally need stitches. I would get bandaged up and go right back out and run till the bandages fell off. Kids are not allowed to be kids as much as they should be. That is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave my siblings and me. They let us be kids.

While my parents encouraged me to be a kid, they also allowed me to be a part of their world. Every once and awhile they would peel the curtain back and allow me a glimpse of the adult world. I learned very early on that the adult world and the kid world were not that different. The only real difference is that in the adult world no one is telling them when to go to bed (expect for the wives on occasion). My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles would sit around an extended kitchen table for hours, drinking and playing cards. They laughed and screamed and banged on the table just like us kids did…..Wait….Dad is leaning back in the chair and Mom just yelled at him for it…..Just like me!! They were just a bunch of big kids playing….

My parents didn’t make me go to my room, or go watch cartoons. They didn’t force me to go down to the basement to play with my cousins. They let me stay and watch, and see my parents as more than parents, but as people who wanted to have fun just as much as I did. My role was not just designated to observer either. I had a job. I got people drinks when they need a refill, or acted as an advisor if someone had a really good hand. They would flash me there cards with a wink and I would nod approvingly. I would make my rounds around the table offering shoulder massages to the weary gamblers. I charged a $1/min…I think my price was fair. Between the massages, the tips from drinks and the money I collected from under the table (my mother would tell me years later that they dropped the money on purpose) I usually had a ziplock bag full of change at the end of the night. After some long weekends I had collected close to $100….That is a lot of comic books.

These family gathering did not just revolve around cards, although that is how every night finished. It started with car rallies (which were extravagant scavenger hunts all around town). I watched grown adults pack into cars in teams all wearing ridiculous costumes, ranging from cowboys, to clowns to Elvis and Dolly impersonators. It was sight. After the car rally there would be all sorts of games around the house: food eating competition, mini boat races, tug-o-war, make shift golf course tournaments. It went on and on. At some point a trophy was even made to be awarded to the winning family (last I saw it, it was in my parents basement). These would happen every summer for a number of years. They got crazier and crazier each time. I remember one uncle letting all the air out of the other team’s car tires. Somebody soaked one side of the field the night before the tug-o-war. Unfinished watermelons were tossed over a nearby fence when no one was looking. Of course I was not innocent in these affairs. At one event one of my uncles paid me to get a hold of the other team’s boat and weigh it down with quarters before the race. We were caught, and my uncle was disqualified. His punishment?? He had to lick beer off my grandmother’s foot (no one told my grandmother about this until it happened…she was not pleased). Another year I was elected the role of judge to determine the winner, several family member approached me with bribes….I took them all.

When I was older I was given more responsibility. One of the first adult games I was allowed to play was a beer chugging competition, where you had to chug a beer out of a baby’s bottle. If you have never tried this, you have no idea how hard it is, and you may well be a higher class of citizen (What do you mean?? Your wine doesn’t come out of a box??). This was also the year I was designated “keg boy”. My job?? Running back and forth to the garage with pitchers of beer from the keg. This is when I learned the rule…. ‘One for you, one for me”. I may have gotten a little drunk that year. I remember the look of my father when he realized. His eyebrows lowered and he asked “how many?” “Only two” I replied…..To this day that is still my answer whenever anyone asks me how much I have had to drink…… “Only two…..”

I would like to take a minute to address underage drinking. Is it wrong?? Probably. Is it going to happen? Yup. I was lucky in the sense that my first experiences with alcohol were in a safe environment. When I did turn of age, I didn’t run out to the first bar and drink until I passed out. I was educated by then. I knew what alcohol did to me, and was able to control myself (somewhat) more so than the person who grew up in a house where alcohol was taboo and indulged the first chance they got.

These are among the best memories I have as a child. My family may have been slightly crazy and a tad dysfunctional, but they were mine and they were good. All the family members that participated in the aforementioned shenanigans were all responsible, well adjusted members of society with families of their own. However, when they all got together all bets were off. Let the craziness begin! The one thing they all had one thing in common: they never lost that amazing spark for life that too many people do as they become older.

One of my favorite memories is watching as my 79 year old grandfather who had been confined to a wheelchair for the latter part of his life ask my father and uncles to help him out of his chair and in to the hot tub so that he could join the party.

As a mentioned at the start of this rant about my family, we don’t do these gatherings any more. And haven’t for almost fifteen years. We have lost the elders and an uncle who had more energy for life than any adult or child I have met before or since. My parents have gotten older, and can only break out the crazy once and a while. The extended family is separated across the country and all are now growing new extended families and I have to come to terms with the fact that things are different now.

I will always have the memories and the lessons I learned. The most important being: Sometimes kids need to act a bit more like adults, but more often adults need to act A LOT more like kids.

Crazy is sleeping now. As I look at my young daughter and think of all my nieces and nephews, I smile. I know in my heart that a new crazy is rising.

Thanks for reading,

Jay

Follow – @gskewedview

I have that fantastic urge to write something. Yet, I have no idea what I want to write about. Zilch….. What an odd word…Zilch..Hmmm. What is the etymology of the world ‘zilch’? Let’s find out together…..Here I come Google…..

zilch (n.)
“nothing,” 1966, from earlier sense of “meaningless speech” (1960), originally Mr. Zilch (1931), comic character in the magazine “Ballyhoo.” Perhaps from U.S. college slang (early 1900s) Joe Zilsch “an insignificant person.” Probably a nonsense syllable, but Zilch is an actual German surname of Slavic origin.

You know what? I am no better for having known that. I am zilch better than I was 1 minute ago.

I believe the previous few sentences may be among the worst things I have ever written. That is including the stapled together pieces of construction paper that held my first novels….The Adventures of Mr.Bear….They were classics. Check them out on Amazon…..Nevermind I just checked, must be sold out. Printing and binding construction paper with staples is hard, hard labour.

This is sad….I really have nothing to say. You would think I would stop now, but you are not so lucky dear reader….It does beg a question though…I know why I am still writing, but why are you still reading?? You must have something better to do…Perhaps refinishing that old bed side table you keep telling everyone in your family not to throw out, because you are “getting to it”. (Even though you know it looks worse the more work you put into it, but damn it! You said you would finish it, and finish it you shall!) Or watching a Degrassi Junior High marathon (Because you are holding out hope that this time Shane won’t take the acid and do a swan dive off the bridge)….Oh I know, you could read some of those books on your shelf you have been telling people you read back in college. (The Wikipedia ending of The Grapes of Wrath is waaaaayyy better). Wait…I got it…Have you had a good cry recently? Maybe it is time you realize that you have three fingers pointing back at you. It might just be time for some you time. Light some candles, put on the best of Sade CD, light some incense and get down on your knees in the middle of the living room and wait for the water to start flowing……It is ok, let it all out. Sob to your heart’s content. Those really deep hard ones that hurt your chest, that’s what you want. Don’t forget to breath. Oh wait…Shit! Someone is home. Yah you really shouldn’t have done that. You really should have checked first. How am I supposed to know if someone is home at your house?? Oh now they think you are crazy. You managed to survive the time you stabbed them in the thigh with a fork…But this is too much. They are gone. They will be back for their stuff later. You say you will be out, but you won’t be will you. Nope, you will scare the shit out of them when they come in and find you sitting in the dark, smoking a cigarette at the kitchen table, drinking straight vodka and methodically tapping the fork on the table.

See?? There is a plethora of fun-filled productive activities you could be doing rather than reading this…

Ok, so now that you are sad, alone and watched your fill of poorly produced yet effective Canadian melodrama, I can tell you why I am still writing when obviously I have nothing to say. I am writing because it is the only known cure to writer’s block. You want to write something, but don’t know what? Don’t over think it. Just write…It doesn’t matter if it is dogshit. It doesn’t matter if it is nonsensical dribble (see paragraph above). The sheer act of writing will help you get over that seemingly impassable mound. You will most likely throw out every word you wrote (or you will publish it online). But maybe, just maybe there is an idea, one line, even a perfectly worded phrase that somehow escaped the rest of the literary bile that spattered over your page. It is now your job to cut the fat. Clean off those few precious words and run with them. It might lead to something great….Or nothing at all. But maybe you will take even more from the next piece. Just keep going. You will never, ever write anything worthwhile by sitting around trying to think up something to write. In the most ideal of circumstances it just comes to you…In the worst of times you have to work for it. Which means you have to write, and really is that not the whole point anyway??

As for me…Well I am off to explore the literary wonders of love scorned, fork wielding serial killers.

Check ya Later,
Jason – @gskewedview

I am turning 30 soon. I have no anxiety about that. What I do have anxiety about is the 30th birthday party my wife is planning on throwing…At least she knows me well enough to not make it a surprise, because surprises are terrible. Everyone hates them…No you say??? You love surprises….No you don’t…You know why you don’t?? I will tell you why. Pearl Harbor and the appearance of Janet Jackson’s nipple at Superbowl XXXVIII. See, I told you that you hate surprises….

My last birthday party was when I was 7 years old and it was held at McDonalds with all of my friends or maybe it was just every boy that happened to be in my class that year. For the most part that is how friendship works when you are a kid… So your best friend in grade 3 is not in your class in grade 4..?? You are dead to me…..So long buddy…maybe we will be bestest friends in grade 5.

McDonalds in 1990 was a magical place…..Looking for sarcasm??? None here. It is true, nothing was cooler than a McDonalds birthday party. You got the whole playroom to yourself. The playroom at that time was equipment with sharp, metal edged, death trapish rides that equate to childhood bliss. There was a button on the wall that started and stopped the merry-go-round that was conveniently out of a child’s reach. So if you were the child riding said merry-go-round you were stuck on it until you puked up your happy meal (toy and all) or you had been previously trained on how to dismount off of a moving wheel of death and were able to execute a perfect jump and shoulder roll landing yourself safely in the discarded old shoes in the corner. To top it all off, if you were the lucky birthday boy or girl (and had survived your romp with death) you were treated to a full tour of the McDonald’s kitchen operations and in the final leg of the tour were allowed to create your own sundae any which way you wished (extra pickles and sprinkles please!!). I have no idea if McDonalds still does this, but they should, because it was awesome. Another awesome thing about McDonalds in the earlier 90s was pizza. Anyone who wasn’t there is laughing right now; anyone who was there needs no explanation. The best pizza I have ever had in my life was in a little pizzeria on the beach in the Bahamas that made personal sized wood fired pizza….The second best was McDonalds in 1991. If you never got to experience this joy go to the Twin Pines Mall in Hill Valley. Hide in the bushes and wait for Marty to get out of the Delorean to check Doc’s vital signs. Sneak in the driver’s seat, set the clock according and put the pedal to the floor. When the flux capacitor starts glowing and you hit 88 miles an hour you my friend are moments away from personal sized pizza heaven.

That McDonalds party was my last birthday party. Because really, how could I top that?? Now that I am turning 30 my wife insists that I have a party with all my family and friends to celebrate the occasion. Celebrating a birthday always seemed odd to me. Have you really accomplished anything? Celebrate getting married, having a child, getting a promotion or watching a whole season of 24 in one day. Yes, these are things to celebrate! But a birthday…?? Maybe if I lived it a country with a fairly low life expectancy, then I could see celebrating a birthday (Yah!! I kicked famines ass and survived another year!!) I live a fairly low-risk lifestyle; it really isn’t too hard for me to make it another year. However maybe I am looking at this the wrong way…Maybe I shouldn’t be celebrating making it another year, but a celebration of surviving the last decade. I made it through my 20s and am a fairly well adjusted adult now with a wife, kid and mortgage. As my 20s come to a close maybe I should reflect a bit and decide if 30 is really worth celebrating.

I learned a lot in the last decade. I went to University in Toronto, studying English lit. I probably spend several more hours in barrooms then I ever did in a lecture hall. I guess you have to ask the question was spending tens of thousands of dollars on an education spent in a pub worth it. Yes. Absolutely. I spent many a day drinking away the hours in a campus bar with complete strangers of all different ethnicities, religions and creeds. I debated politics, gender issues, religion, literature sometimes jokingly and others in a much more heated fashion. And I am better for all of it. The truth is high school sucks for most people. Even the people who enjoyed it are still as pigeon holed in to stereotypes ‘Breakfast Club’ style as everyone else is. It isn’t until we go away and enter the pre-real world of college/university that we can look back and realize the all the bullshit of the last 4-5 years doesn’t matter. This is the time in your life when you can be who you really want to be. I experienced a lot of different things in this time, good and bad. Those first few years away from home shaped me and built the foundation of who I am today. I still look back on those days fondly….The ones I can remember that is. (Still not sure why I woke up in my dorm room bed one morning cuddling with a paper towel dispenser from a girls washroom……One day I will discover the truth…) When my daughter comes of age and starts to consider post-secondary options, I will strongly advise her to stay away from local schools. As hard as it would be to let her go, I know that moving away from home will make her a better, stronger person. I just hope to God that she doesn’t experience some of things I did…..But I want her to discover the best the world has to offer and a lot of the best things you need to find on your own.

After finishing school, I went even farther away. I got a loan, bought a car and drove across Canada. I had no job lined up and no real plans. I had just finished spending the majority of my life in a class room and needed to live a life of no restrictions for a while. I will save the stories of this road-trip for another time, but I would advise anyone to take such a trip. No matter what country you live in, you should discover it. Before you think of travelling abroad, travel your own country first. Take a friend if you can stand being in a car with another human for hours on end. If you can’t, do it alone. I spend 50 plus hours alone in my car, I went a little crazy, but it was fun and it forced me to meet new people in places I stopped. I know we are all well conditioned from a very young age that strangers are dangerous and are akin to the monsters in your closet. However if you allow yourself, you can meet some interesting characters and have some pretty cool adventures. Trust your gut. It is the best tool you will ever have. If someone doesn’t feel right, even if you can’t put your finger on it, avoid them. That said if you feel the urge to sit and have a pint with the old guy at the end of the bar that everyone else is avoiding, go for it. I bet you he has some stories that will blow your mind.

The best place I lived during my travels was Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies. To this day I still believe it is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It is an experience. If you can visit, you should. Be warned though the place does have somewhat of a Hotel California affect. I spent a year there and never got used to the fact that on any given day elk would be walking down the main drag side by side with people. It is unreal. However, it is also the place that I learned that you can have too much of a good thing, and your body can only handle so much of a ‘good time’. Up till that point I had been following the life plan of greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin (especially the Southern Comfort part) and Kurt Cobain (minus Courtney Love and a shotgun). Then I realized that 27 was only a few years away, and the aforementioned had a few problems in their 27th year. It was time to move on.

I came back home. It was time, and everyone has to come back at some point. I never planned on staying. Just a short visit, then off to the next adventure…that was the plan. What I did not know at the time is the next adventure would keep me there, and that adventure would continue to this day. I met my yet-to-be wife. Everything changed. I found myself wanting to stick around. We had a very, very long courtship….But when things started, they happened fast. It was only a week between our first kiss and moving in together. This would be the most important lesson I would get out of my twenties. If something feels right, don’t wait. Leap. Life is too short, and chances for life changing events are gone in a second. When your window opens you have to jump through, no matter what anyone says. My wife and I both jumped through that window without a tinge of hesitation or regret. We have been together for five years, have a newborn daughter and our adventure changes every day.

Rereading that last paragraph I think that maybe I shouldn’t give my wife such a hard time for wanting to throw me a birthday party. I guess I do have a reason to celebrate. I am not sure if the things I accomplished in my twenties are what I set out to do. I do know that I am proud of what I did accomplish.

In closing, I should say that it is good to have plans and goals. Just don’t set them in stone or be so focused on them you are closed minded to everything else. Sometimes the greatest things are the most unexpected. If I am walking towards a door and on the way another door is open, I am probably going to go through it, because who knows…something great could be inside like your soul mate, or even better…McDonalds’ pizza!

Later,

Jason – @gskewedview
P.S. I apologize for the majority of this not being funny….It was not my intention to get all serious on your ass….Cest la vie.

As I make my first venture into the world of online writing, I had to take a second and remember what my Mother once told me about first impressions. Then I remember that my Mother was the same person to send me to my first day of kindergarten wearing a blue,red and green McDonald’s track suit with a yellow collar and cuffs. (There were pictures but I assure you that they are all collected, shredded and burned. So if you are ever in my parent’s basement and are in the photo cabinet there is no need to open the box of pictures labelled “1987”. Don’t do it.)

This is new to me, I can’t quite tell you yet what it will be about, hopefully it will just figure itself out. As for why I am doing this. The short answer would be for my wife’s sanity. Too often she is forced to listen to me rant and rave about things that annoy me, things that blow my mind or just that I am bored and want to talk so I will go on at lengths about things that I am indifferent about. I write this in part as a secondary outlet for my inconsistent, incoherent ramblings.

If you have got this far you are either somewhat interested, as bored as I am or you ARE actually my wife and I am making you read this! Nonetheless, I feel I owe you the courtesy of telling you a little about me.

I could begin by telling you about my aforementioned wife, but I won’t. Because I am afraid of her. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and we have a wonderful, happy and fulfilling relationship. However, I do hold the natural fear that anyone who sleeps next to a person should have. Any man who watched a news story in 1993 about a scissor happy wife should share this fear. That is unless you have some deep dark desire to star in the kind of porn movies that even disgust Ron Jeremy.

I could tell you about my new 3 week old daughter. I will refrain from that now as well, except to tell you that she is beautiful and perfect (except between the hours of 9pm and 11pm). I am just not ready to share her yet.

I could tell you about some of my past adventures including parking lot brawl with an Elk in rut in Banff, Alberta. Or I could relate to you the horror of being stranded in Wawa, Ontario (no offense Wawaians). At some point I am sure I will share the dangers of drunk hitchhiking in Toronto, but today is not that day.

Nor today will I share my interests with you, or my world views. I won’t tell you about books I like. I will not rant about how (even though I appreciate the forum of online writing) I would much rather write this by hand on a yellow legal pad and pin it to the bulletin board on the street in between battle of the bands posters.

Instead of all of those things, I believe the best way to get a glimpse into my soul is by my recommendation that you stop reading now go find a VHS copy of Point Break (then find a VCR) and watch it. Because Point Break is awesome.

Yep, Point Break about sums it up. And if you don’t understand that, then you will never understand me. And that is fine for both of us.

If you found this even mild amusing, please check back for more, because I have a lot more to say that you undoubtably won’t care about.

Till next time.

Jason.