Archive for the ‘lifestyle’ 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/

 

Advertisements

Picture this : I am hard at work on my “husband to-do-list”, aimlessly moving things from one end of the basement to the other, blaring 90s rock in the background and somehow thinking I am making progress. I think to myself, ‘it’s a little damp down here’. My head spins around and I my eyes catch sight of the dehumidifier in the corner. I think to myself, ‘well, my wife is going to ask my anyway’…so I climb over what was once the pool table (now a home to various boxes, tools, and useless man toys). I make my way over the comic long boxes, still hoping my wife doesn’t really know how many are down here. I am in reach of the dehumidifier when I straddle a dishevelled cat post and stretch my hand past every single item we thought we needed in the moment but ultimately decided it would be best suited to be in a corner of the basement for the past seven years. Once I got past our past discretions and swung my leg over, I had both hands on the dehumidifier and smiled as if I was Indiana Jones replacing an idol with a bag of dirt. That euphoric moment quickly turned into Indy in a pit of snakes as I lifted the machine, took a step, cat ran by, tripped me and the long promised dehumidifier (which had to weigh 50 – 60lbs if I am being realistic, 80-90lbs if I am being hyperbolic). It fell. All of the weight landed directly on my big toe. That toe shattered like the hopes and dreams of all the children who have ever had hopes and dreams. Then was a long moment of disbelief followed by a long silent scream.

Have you ever broke a toe? It leads to the most magical dance, as you call upon the the spirits of the hopping, toe stubbing gods to make the pain go away. When that fails you start breathing like a overly expressive woman in labour, as if you are going to suck the broken bone through your body and spit it out your mouth and grow a new one like an earthworm without a head. Finally, when all else fails you result to little league softball triage as you walk around in circles quoting your coach in your head – “walk it off…walk it off”. Then when you realize your little league coach was an idiot, you walk upstairs and tell your wife that you are also an idiot.

I went three days without medical assistance, because, yes I am that much of a badass. In case you forgot I had a broken frickin’ toe. In this time the toe had filled with blood, nail was black and green, and my ability to put weight on that foot was seriously lacking. So I sucked up my none existent toughness and drove myself to the hospital.

Now before I talk about my hospital experience, let me note that I am in Canada. Being a Canadian I am entitled to free health care. Trust me, I know how lucky I am. When I bitch about my treatment, please forgive my ironic tone as I recount my experience. Regardless of my thoughts of my medical treatment I know am and head and hands above the majority of the world and am grateful for it and do not take it lightly. That being said, it is all I know and while it might make me a worldwide jackass, I still invoke my privileged right to bitch.

I drove to the hospital at 10pm on a weekday, thinking it would be slow. I sat down in triage and noted the sign above me that said the triage nurse will see me within ten minutes of arrival. Forty minutes later I saw the triage nurse. She concurred the blackened toe was broken and they would need to take an x-ray. I was then regulated back to the waiting room. In said room I watched children walk in with heads busted open, rednecks with missing thumbs and elderly ladies who “thought the end was near“. Now I wasn`t sure if she was just talking about her own lifespan, or perhaps she was a prophet and was doing us the kindness of letting us know that we were about to shuffle off this mortal coil. Either way, as I surveyed the room I realized my swollen, discoloured appendage was pretty far down the totem pole. I got up, limped my way out of the land of misfit toys and drove home.

I returned the next morning. Thinking that even injured people must have jobs, my wait would be shorter. I was incorrect. After thirty minutes the triage nurse said I needed x-rays. Thanks. Back to waiting room. One hour. Nurse calls my name and the name of ten other patients. We are taken to a different waiting room called the “green zone“. We were not give an explanation, but I found myself trying to remember the plot of a Matt Damon movie I may or may not have seen. One hour. Nurse calls my name. I am in am in a room! I have traded ten year old magazines for tongue depressors and gauze. One hour. Doctor comes in. He tells me I need an x-ray. Yep, thanks. I am told to wait for nurse to arrange said x-ray. Thirty Minutes. Nurse comes in and asked me to limp to x-ray. Sure. Guess what? X-ray has a waiting room! Thirty Minutes…..Alright this has dragged on long enough, I won`t test your patience as mine was….Lets just say I waited a while longer before I saw a doctor again. Guess what? Toe broken. The doctor then proceeds to drill four holes in the nail of my big toe to drain the blood. Did I mention that the slightest touch to my toe hurt like a blazing branding iron on a sunburn? Cue hyperventilating pregnant woman.

Three days and six hours later I have a diagnosed broken toe that is still as ugly as a toothless hooker on a Sunday morning, and a limp to rival Terry Fox (Yah! Canadian pop culture reference!). One thing has changed. Painkillers. I now had them. And then I had beer. And then……Wait…What was I talking about?

Follow – @FredThePeacock

Image

 

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 

 

Have you ever dared go back and read what you wrote, oh so many years ago? Ever dust of that journal, try and stick the old faithful 2.5 inch disk into the nonexistent drive, or crack open that old school exercise booklet? You are cringing aren’t you? I can feel the gut punch and the always descriptive groan. But…there is a but…If there wasn’t this would be a fairly short, pointless and downright mean post. If you have the courage to grab that bankers box down off the top shelf in the closet, the one hidden by old sweaters, Anne Rice paperbacks and that hat you bought that was in style long enough for you to drive home from the store. Bring that that box down, and breathe in. You know what that is you are breathing? Dust mites…and humility. One of those can be a very good thing.

Humility is that precious little gift that keeps us all from being ignorant little pricks and pretentious little snobs. It is a vital component in what makes up a decent human being. It is what lets us know that at one point we all… sucked. It is important for our overall growth and definition of our character that we as people sucked at one point in our life, and recognize that we will most likely suck again. Oh, and if you are that person reading this now saying “Nope, not me”. Well…then you are in that point right now. Of course I am talking about writing, since that is what I know and what I have been doing in one form or another for twenty five years. However, you can apply this to anything. A good friend of mine is a very successful competitive runner, guess what? He used to fall down…a lot. It is important, and it gives us perspective to know that everyone was terrible at some point. Accepting that is what makes us better, and lets us grow.

Do you want to know what was in my metaphorical “box on the shelf”? There were some real gems. The first few are illegible. Not because I had such terrible penmanship, but because they are literally just squiggly lines…As I recall, we kept a daily journal in grade one. Our teacher had instructed us that if we didn’t know a word, just put a squiggly line. When we were done we would go over it with her and she would help us with the words we didn’t know. Of course when I walked up with all squiggly lines, and the teacher asks me, “Well, what do they mean?”…My obvious answer is… “I dunno, they just look like a bunch of squiggly lines…” Lesson learned: Don’t depend on the memory / attention span of a five year old.

Let’s skip a few years down the road, to my fondness writing memory…Not my best, but my fondness. In grade five or six (can’t remember…damn glue addiction) I had a teacher who would give me exercise booklets, the ones with the dotted lines between the two solid lines, for students to practices cursive (do they still do that? I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid write cursive? I guess they can just choose whatever font they want on their macbook…). He would give me these books, because he knew I liked to write stories. I remember this time with a smile on my face. When I wrote in those silly little books, I didn’t write for attention, praise, money, or to argue a point…I did it simply to entertain myself. I wasn’t concerned about being original. I just wanted more stories from my favorite characters. When I ran out of things to read, and still wanted more Garfield or Carmen Sandiego, I would just write my own stories about them. It made perfect sense. I didn’t occur to me that for most people the story ended when they put down the book. I saw no reason for endings….I wrote long nonsensical stories starring my favorite characters and filled countless exercise books. I think it may be part of the reason I did well in school at that age. I knew if I did a good job, and got my work done early I would be awarded with more books to write in. Again, reading these stories today, they make no sense. But they are pure and came from the heart and head of a kid who just liked to tell stories.

It is from those heartfelt tells that I stumble across a journal from my university days when I flip to a page containing a drunken manifesto on the beauty and purity of masturbation. Here is the stage where the cringing really starts. Not that it was that bad, but that I thought it was that good. I still remember finishing it and gleefully running out of my dorm room and down the hall. I burst into the room two girls who had known me for a total of two weeks, proclaiming: “You gotta read this!” Their looks should have told me all I would ever need to know. This was me at my pretentious, narcissistic best. University was a great time for writing in theory. I was surrounded by other artistic people trying desperately to find their place. Looking back now, we were all trying too hard. It was here that I entered my “pained artist” stage. Everything was so self-loathing and filled with anguish. It was the self-indulgent bullshit every twenty year old writes, because they have a profound understanding of the world, that the rest of us couldn’t begin to fathom. This is the stage I like the least. I tried too hard to be something I wasn’t, because I didn’t know how to be who I really wanted. I didn’t realize then that I just had to wait.

Then came the drunken writing phase. Like the grade one phase, all works from this period are completely illegible.

Once I realized I could write without booze, I spend about seven years trying to figure out if it was possible to be happy and still write. For the most part it was hard. With considerable effort some good things came out. Eventually I produced something of substance; something I was pleased with (well, almost pleased with). I did this (mostly) sober, but definitely happy. But….there is that but again….It felt like work. I guess it was…I was doing it more because of something I wanted, and less because I actually wanted to do it. At this point, it seemed that I wanted to be a writer more than I actually wanted to write. This “forced” work began to bleed through on the page and I needed a change if I was going to move forward. I looked to the past, because… well, you can’t see the future. For me, lifting the lid of the “box” and dredging through utter embarrassment was insightful. I saw the kid who wrote with a pencil just for the sake of moving it on the page, who just a few years later, was making up stories simply to entertain himself. I want to write like that kid again.

Sometimes I lay awake at night, reliving those painful memories of bad decisions or the awkward moments that always accompany youth. What I take away from those moments now is not the pain, but the intentions; the intentions were always pure and natural.

Dig through your past, you’ll find some cringe worthy things, that I do not doubt. If you look a little deeper at the things you have hidden in the shadows, you might just see something else; something you have been missing. We all sucked…And are better for it.

Think of a picture of yourself you hate from your childhood. A picture you would hide away in a closet or bury in a box. You were ashamed of for how awkward you were. It was always that picture that your parents showed off as your face turned red with rage and you wondered why that we do something as horrible as display that picture. I’ll tell you why, because of what they saw in it. All of the best parts of you now, the things that define and inspire you, were already there in that picture. Take another look.

Thanks for indulging me yet again.

Jason.

Follow – @FredThePeacock

Courtesy of Escobar Studios

Courtesy of Escobar Studios

Television has become the monster in my house that I am afraid to confront. The second I click ‘power’ the blue glow fills the otherwise dark room, because, of course I turned the TV on before the lights…Because who needs lights when you got TV? I know as I sit in the shadows in awe of its grandeur and presence, something that once was simple and intoxicating, is now daunting and complicated. The sheer volume of choices that bombard me as I scroll through the screen, triggers the impulse to pull my knees up to my chest and rock back and forth, humming to myself until the madness ends. I remember being a little boy and grabbing my bowl of fruit loops plopping down in front of the TV, clicking on the cartoon channel watching The Mighty Hercules (“Hey Herc, Hey Herc…..”) and giggling to myself as milked dribbled down my chin. Now, two and a half decades later, I am stilling grabbing my bowl of fruit loops (don’t judge) but, by the time I have found something to watch they have disintegrated into a soggy bowl of rainbow sludge. We have over 700 channels at my house. Do we want them all? No we don’t. Do we need them all? Absolutely.

Why do we need them? Because it is a drug, and we are addicted. We have always been addicted, and now everyone wants to cash in on that. It wasn’t enough that Oprah got her own (pun intended) channel, she is a brand onto herself. We will give that to her. But, Robert Rodriguez has his own channel now. Yep the filmmaker who brought us the Spy Kids and From Dusk till Dawn franchises. Do you know what the flagship show Rodriguez’s network El Ray is? It is From Dusk till Dawn the series. After one mildly successful cult hit with Tarantino, the Dusk franchise produced two direct-to-video sequels that I am sure Danny Trejo couldn’t even sit through. Apparently, these blood soaked, sex infused classics warranted a TV show. Now do you think I am going to watch this questionably produced show?… Absolutely, it looks fantastic! The point is, anything can be a show now, and anything is a show now…Look at reality TV. Would you have believed someone if they told you ten years ago that one of the most successful shows in the world would involve watching rednecks make duck calls? Yes you would? Okay, then you are a liar. Here is a bucket of water to put out your pants.

Reality TV is a massive topic, which I have a lot to say on. However, I will leave it for a future post and instead concentrate on the bigger problem. The problem is not the choices. The problem is that you no longer need to choose. The viewer has been given the ultimate power, and with the latest technology you can now watch everything. With DVRs, Tivo, timeshifting channels, Netflix, Apple TV, you can literally watch every show on TV and you can watch them when you want. I have a four month backlog on my DVR right now. I just finished watching the show Hostages…The finale aired months ago. That is the freedom technology has given us. We were already addicted, now we are hopeless. The implementation of DVRs to a TV viewers life is the equivalent of a stoner using their first bong or Rob Ford discovering a crack pipe (leave me alone, it’s topical!) The delivery method of a DVR is like a needle to your arm, injecting you with the brutality of Game of Thrones and the absurdity of the Kardashians.

The biggest stressor currently in my life, is not money, or my job, or my child’s future. It is when that status bar on my DVR turns red letting me know I have gone over 90%. That is when the sweating starts…When I sit down with my elbows on my knees and run my hands through where my hair used to be and prepare to make the tough choices. I have to decide what to let go. First I look to the kid shows. I can justify to myself that my daughter should not be watching TV, it is bad for her. She should be playing with stuff in the corner, while daddy watches his stories. If there is not enough there, I turn to the wife’s shows…What can I convince her has “magically” disappeared? (“No, I swear it was there earlier…the box must have screwed up again….”). When all else fails, I have to look to my own shows and decide what I can live without…When I recover from the crying and wailing most often associated with losing a loved one, I decide that instead of erasing, I will just fast-forward through a couple shows to get rid of them quicker….What is the best way to experience the classics of today?…At 30 times their normal speed…That is what it has come to.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my DVR. Do I watch more shows than I need to? Yep. Are there better uses of my time? Definitely. Do I care? Nope. When I am eventually able to pull myself away from the television to do this like; go to work, raise a child, have a meaningful, romantic relationship with my wife; I find it funny that a device made to simplify our lives has complicated it so much. At the end of the day, when it is just my wife and I and we decide to unwind in front of the TV that has over 700 channels and the DVR that has hundreds of hours of TV recorded, the same questions gets asked: “What do you want to watch?”, “I don’t know what do you want to watch?”.  This back and forth repertoire will continue for a few minutes until one of us will cave and pick something that they don’t want to watch, because they think the other one wants to watch it, even though they actually wanted to watch the same show the first person wanted to watch. We will then watch about fifteen minutes of said show that neither of us wanted to watch, and then give up, pause it and go to bed. We will eventually get back to that show in about four months.

Oh TV, I have never hated something I love so much.

 

Cheers,

 

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

Two more sleeps till St. Patrick’s Day!

There was a time in my life when that would have been exciting…Unfortunately there comes a time in everyone’s life that pre-drinking before the bar opens at 11 O’clock in the morning becomes a thing of the past. Well maybe not everyone’s life…But those of us with a “shit to do list” have to postpone those cocktails to at least the respectable hour of noon.

As far as I can tell I have no Irish in me. I have searched extensively, and by extensively I mean I did a five minute google search and I called my Mom….

Google : Nada.

Mom: “I think someone might have slept with an Irish person once…” Thanks Mom.

So to conclude: no Irish in me. Other than the fact that at this point in human history ancestry lines are so blurred we are all pretty much the product of one big swinger, swapping orgy. Sadly, I have nothing to celebrate come Sunday…Luckily the Irish are an accepting bunch, and as long as you are willing to drink and sing and raise fists in defense of all things green, then they pretty much let you partake in their day of debauchery.

In order to prepare for the day of artificially coloured beers, bad decisions and broken noses, I would like to review some St. Patrick’s Day highlights and the lessons I have learned from this historic day. Gather around the keg kiddies….It is story time…

One memory comes from my freshman year in University. In my first year of school I had 11 hours of class a week. Conversely, bars were open 105 hours per week. To make it clear, I did a lot of drinking that year. St. Patrick’s Day was no different. There were a total of 12 bars on campus. My “homebase” was conveniently located in the basement of my residence building. I lived on the second floor. I don’t ever recall walking down the two flights of stairs to the bar, since it was too much fun to get in the elevator and hit “B” – for Bar. Even though it was always a short trip home, some nights I ended up sleeping on the couch in the bar. On some occasions I was fortunate enough to have the opening bartender the next day bring me a coffee and quietly turn on the big screen, keeping the volume low as to not wake me up.

The reason this year sticks out as a St. Patty’s Day memory is the small pub was packed with about hundred or so students and as far as I could tell the only Irish one was the bouncer. He also proceeded to get more drunk than every patron in the establishment. As the night progressed he got more and more agitated and believed in his heart and booze fueled soul that everyone in the bar was anti-Irish. It is a very dangerous situation when the bar bouncer is picking fights with unprovoking drunk students, although it is amusing. He proceed to go around the bar asking each parton what the heritage was. Each answer was not Irish, hence it was meant with a distained glare and quick “fuck you.” When he got to me I mentioned in a drunken slur that I had some French in me. Now this is taking place during the “Freedom Fries” craze in the States. And even though this is taking place in Canada, he proceeded to berate my French heritage with such intensity you would have thought I was an IRA bomber who just blew up a school bus carrying his children. Of course my reaction was to laugh. Now, laughing at a sober barroom bouncer is not a smart idea. Laughing at a drunk, Irish barroom bouncer on St. Patrick’s Day is suicidal. But hey, I have always been a vertical cutting kind of guy. Luckily for my sake the owner (who if memory serves me correctly had some kind of connection to the Japanese Yakusa, as an interesting side note) stepped in and defused the situation. The bouncer bought me a green pint and we cheersed and all was well. Ahhh, that magic of St. Patrick’s Day. The next night there was a heavy line to get into the pub, and I was unusually late to the party. The same bouncer (who looked like he had been hit with a Mack truck that was hauling a load of Mack trucks) pulled me out of line and profusely apologized for the situation the previous night. I quickly shook his hand and there were no hard feelings as he let me skip right into the bar without waiting. I found out later that he was tasked with tracking down everyone he insulted the night before as penance and to save his job. Last I heard he is still tracking down a few wayward drunks before the contract hit from the Yakuza is lifted.

LESSON LEARNED : Irish people hate French People. Japanese people hate Irish people. Vis-a-vis French people love Japanese People.

That same year the bar ran out of green food colouring and someone decided that you just can’t have plain golden beer…So purple food dye was substituted. Because hey, who will know?

Another memory finds us looking in on me one year later. This time I decided to stay home and throw my own party. While I have thrown a few parties over the years they never consisted of more than a keg or two of beer and a solitary bowl of stale chips. I never saw the need for more. However, St. Patrick’s Day is a little different. You are asking 20-30 people in this case to avoid the inevitable good time of making the rounds of the local bars and swaying arm and arm with strangers singing a poor man’s version of O’ Danny Boy. You are asking your friends to take a risk on you. That can be stressful. You want relives stress? Alcohol. So that is what I did. The party was set to start at 8pm. At 10 am I was ready and pacing around the house. The anxiety was killing me. I decided a beer at 10 O’Clock in the morning was a good way to chill out. Well I couldn’t then and still can’t now, have just one. I continued throughout the afternoon until (in all seriousness) there was a cluster of 38 empty beers bottles surrounding the couch I now slept on. The party was awesome. Occasionally I will hear a friend bring it up as one of the great parties of the last decade. I never saw one guest. I was left on the couch as the party happened on and around me. Good times….

LESSON LEARNED: Stop at 37

Our next and final drunken green memory takes place several years later and across the country in Banff, Alberta. The highlight of this story comes at the end of the night after the festivities are over and your weary storyteller makes the long walk home only to discover that he too is not immune to the St. Patrick’s Day drunken fistacuffing stereotype. As I stumbled along the long and winding trail (under normal circumstances it is actually a short, straight paved road) I finally came upon my place of residence. I stopped in the parking lot to have smoke before going inside. It is then I notice my soon to be opponent. A full grown male Elk was standing in the parking lot (not uncommon at all for Banff). If you are unfamiliar with elk, google them. They are bigger than a deer, smaller than a moose and are as dangerous as Jason Voorhees when angered. At first I stared in wonder. Wonder gave way to concern as the Elk neared my car. I cautioned the Elk to not take another step in that direction. Again if you are unfamiliar with Canadian Elk you probably don’t know that they can perfectly communicate with drunk assholes (you can google that too). The Elk ignored my warning and walked directly to my car and stood beside it. Now I was pissed (for no logical reason). I yelled expletives at the animal. He responded by (no word of a lie) looking straight at me and then peeing on my car. Yes, an Elk pissed on my car which I can only assume was out of spite. Those of you who do not think our furry friends are capable of spite, well you’d be wrong. Every wonder why your car is the only one in the parking lot covered in bird shit? Or why those raccoons will spend all night vigilantly placing your garbage all over your deck and yard? Sometimes animals turn around with middle fingers in the air in defiance of years of aerosol cans, clear-cutting and dumping. Back to the Elk; he peed on my car. I took a few steps closer, pointed and berated the creature for unacceptable urination. Can you see where I went wrong here? The Elk charged me. In what I lacked in drunken agility I made up for in luck as I dove over the hood of another car and quickly made my way to the rear. I laid on the ground panting and slowing got up to my knees and peered over the trunk to see the Elk glaring at me through the car. He stomped his hoof and I made a girlie scream and made the 30 foot dash to the front door of my building. I looked back at the Elk through the glass doors. He stared back for a moment than turned and walked off into the moonlight, head held high. Conclusions I later drew from this were, either I hurt the Elk’s feelings or that it was one of those rare Irish elks and he must have smelt the French in me. I capitalized the ‘E’ in elk in this last paragraph because that night, that Elk earned my respect.

LESSON LEARNED: Carry shotgun

Those were just a few of many St. Patrick’s Day memories. Were they the best ones. I don’t know…They were the only ones I could remember….And they serve as proof that valuable life lessons can only be learned through drunken irresponsible behaviour.

To all my Irish friends, happy St. Patrick’s Day! To everyone else, happy fake Irish day!

Cheers,
Jason
Follow – @gskewedview

I am all for community and day to day pleasantries and all around niceties that go along with being good to your fellow human…But do we really have to talk to each other?

On the surface I am a people person. I am very social at gatherings or events. However deep down I am not sure I am that fond of people. As a whole they annoy me. I like my family well enough and my friends I have acquired over the years are pretty good too (actually some of the friends I think by now are only friends by default because I have known them so long, and am too lazy to make new friends. Because really, I can only have so many friends, and probably stopped making news ones years ago.) It is the day to day menial conversations with strangers that are starting to bug me. Why are people so afraid of silence? Can two people not stand in close proximity to one another and ignore the other’s existence? What is wrong with that?

How many times a day does a random stranger strike up a conversation with you about the weather? It is 11am as of this writing and 4 random people have made comments to me about the weather (This is made more irritating by the fact that I am in Canada and it is March, which is by far the most unpredictable month of the year. So unpredictable that science has yielded the month of March to be fought over by lions and lambs). Obviously I never start these asinine conversations, but I have to wonder about the other person who instigates them. Are they like me and are also going to have the same conversation sixteen times today? Are these just the people that are afraid of silence because maybe they were locked in the closet as a child if they spilled their fruit loops or forgot the words to a Hail Mary? Or maybe they actually have something to get off their chest, and I am an acceptable receptacle for venting. If the former is the case then they have obviously yet to learn how to efficiently segue from their spiel on the weather to their true confession and should probably invest some time in coming up with a new introductory topic.

I am not sure when a smile and nod stopped being enough to satisfy our urge to connect with our fellow humans. I can understand hundreds of years ago when people travelled on horseback or in wagons, you might not see another soul for days on end, and upon encountering one you might be more inclined to stop and visit and discuss the weather or other crucial topics of the day. In this much more solitary time I can more easily grasp the need for human connection. If only to feel out the other party to see if you are in danger of being raped and pillaged or to see if there is a chance to take part in some raping or pillaging yourself. Nowadays we are surrounded by people constantly, can’t we just all just get our coffee in peace?

The other day I was standing in line for coffee. The gentleman behind me starting talking, it took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. I was in the middle of reading a text. I wasn’t even fake playing with my phone to ignore people (Don’t deny it, you do it to. It is the best use of a cell phone). The man made a comment to me about another younger man and how he disapproved of his wardrobe. I thought said man’s wardrobe was a little ridiculous myself. Has your waist moved down to your knees? Even rappers don’t wear baggy pants pulled down passed the point of rational thought anymore. Probably because they saw hundreds of young white boys doing it and realized – “Shit, they are on to us. Let’s start wearing suits, that will really fuck them up”.

While I may have agreed with the man standing in line with me, I didn’t understand his reasoning. Was he starting his own clothing judgment committee and enlisted me as judge number two? Don’t I need need to sign some kind of work agreement for such a position? Or at the very least give verbal consent? Why would he assume that I would share his beliefs? I should have turned around and said:

“Well sir, that happens to be my mentally challenged brother, and we are letting him dress himself to increase his confidence and self worth. I do not appreciate or condone your ignorance or intolerance.”

Instead I responded same as I had a minute earlier to the woman asking my opinion of the weather : “Yep.” That is just easier, and I could go back to finish reading my text.

I quit smoking almost a year ago. (Hold for applause…..) The greatest benefit of this is that I have cut down on the amount of people I have to talk to. Whenever you go out for a smoke, there are other smokers who assume because you also smoke all of your values and beliefs are completely in line with theirs. It is like these are secret meetings smokers hold where they get together and trash the rest of the world. After spending a five minute smoke break with a stranger I would be qualified to write a biography of them and their storied family history. This is not why I smoked, but quitting and avoiding these meetings has been a far greater benefit than warding off cancer, re-growing taste buds or not having to endure angry glares by joggers.

Something has to change. I need to stop indulges these people. I am going to do one of two things the next time someone decides to wreck a perfectly good silence. Either I am just not going to play anymore. I won’t fake play with my phone, or pretend I am a deaf mute. I will just stare at them until they feel uncomfortable and walk away.

Or two, I am going to play. And I am going to win. You want to talk? Ok, we are going to talk. I am going to start carrying around folding chairs strapped to my back, so when someone wants to start up a dialogue I can throw down those chairs. We can sit down and have a nice long discussion. We are not going to talk about the weather. We are going to talk about how it was a travesty that Michael Biehn was killed off even before Alien 3 began; Or where to find the second warp whistle in Super Mario 3. I would like to hear their opinion on what is killing my grass on the north-eastern part of my lawn. I will go on at great lengths about the injustice that was done upon me when I lost out on the English award in my final year of high school to the foreign exchange student from Bangladesh.

Eventually, word should get out about me. They will whisper in the shadows about my legend. School children will tell tales of my existence to frighten their classmates. Campers roasting marshmallows will debate my existence. I will be referred to at dinner parties and town hall meetings as the ‘Folding Chair Conversationalist’. People will be instructed to avoid me at all costs for their own safety and sanity. They will run, not walk across the street dodging traffic and certain death just to avoid that fateful meeting with me.

As I walk down the streets, chairs criss-crossed on my back the crowds will part for me. People will look down, try and find something, anything to read, fake sign language with their friends or desperately grasp for the their phone, anything to avoid eye contact. I will think to myself ‘mission accomplished’ as I enjoy the sweet sounds of silence.

Thanks of indulging me.

– Jason
Follow @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