Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Self-Loathing on Tuesday

My grasp of French is pretty weak, limited mostly to food and drink items and the names of hockey players. Give me a poutine, a Laurentide and Guy Carbeneau to go si’l vous plait.
Because of this deficiency, I was unaware that the term Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday. Down in N’awlins, the whole carnival is named after the last day of feasting and fatty foods before you are supposed to stop your gluttony for Ash Wednesday. Now all this takes place in February sometime, but I’m proposing that we get it moved up to the first Tuesday after Christmas. I know the Catholics may have something to say about this, but once I get the Pope on board, everything should be fine.
Think about it. It starts with somebody bringing in a tray of sweets to the office on December first. Then it’s the secret Santa exchange, where you acquire enough shortbread and chocolate to choke a horse. Then it’s out to boozy lunches because hey...air traffic control ain’t rocket science right? Then it’s a series of neighbours dropping in and regifting you the crap chocolates that their boss gave them.
Then out come the big guns – the dinner parties. Each one is usually 2000 calories in food and 10 000 in alcohol. It starts with the office party and an assortment of pre- holiday dinners with friends. Depending on your family, you could have Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas day dinner, Christmas breakfast (which with my family means scotch and oysters at 8am), Boxing Day leftover dinner, and the New Year’s buffet extravaganza.
I haven’t even mentioned the stocking stuffer loot that is lying around in every room taunting you. Don’t tell me you don’t have a hunk of the foot long Toblerone jammed in your mouth as you are reading this. You know where the after eights are stashed and the Terry’s chocolate orange that you stole from you daughter lies half eaten in your night table. Baileys for breakfast? No problem…it’s the holidays. I’ll kick tomorrow. Yesterday I crushed a litre of eggnog before lunch, sitting around all cozied up with the new Keith Richards biography. I think I may have eaten a tin of something that was sitting beside me, because it’s empty, and I’m sure it didn’t used to be when I sat down.
Now I don’t know what the Hell (sorry… heck) the Catholics are doing in February that can compare to the sheer reckless abandon with which we attack the December holiday season. Personally, I’ve pretty much cleaned up by then and I am trying to fly right. Face it, calling it a New Year’s resolution doesn’t pack as much of a punch as Fat Tuesday.
  As in, “How is your Fat Tuesday resolution coming Howard, you fat bastard?”
I’m an infidel at heart. Every year on the winter solstice I burn a 12 foot wooden phoenix in my backyard, but if I get this Fat Tuesday thing rolling in December, I may switch over. Anyone have a celly number for the Pope so I can text him?

Monday, 26 December 2011

Back in the day rant

Things were bad back in the olden days when you couldn’t figure out the lyrics to a song. If there were no liner notes in the album or cassette, you had to resort to various creative methods to get the words. If you were lucky enough to own the music, you could rewind and play, or drop the needle and play repeatedly until you figured it out. Sometimes this worked, like the time when I finally nailed “one eye is taken for an eye” from C.C.R.’s Bad Moon Rising. Much of the time though, this just lead to scratched records and dead batteries. (Enter the six sided Bic pen for rewinding)
In the case of a serious offender like Springsteen’s  “Blinded by the Light”, everyone would claim to know the lyrics but few actually did. Cut loose from the juice my mother running in the night? What? If you had a friend in a band that covered the song you could ask them but chances are, they were just faking it anyway.
“Oh yeah, I just kinda slur my way through that part.” Great.
 I can remember huddling around a tape recorder with some friends, rewinding Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” trying to get the second verse. By the way, its:
 It's been a long time since the book of love
I can't count the tears of a life with no love
And don’t tell me you knew the second line either. You just mumbled that bit like we all did. My sister thought the Eagles were saying “Fly’s in the Vaseline” instead of “Life in the Fast Lane” until about sixth grade. My other favourite is “Dirty Jeans…God they’re cheap!”
Don’t even get me started on “Je Sans Frontiers” by Peter Gabriel. “She’s so pop-u-lar” was an accepted version for an entire summer at sailing camp, until someone from French immersion class corrected us.
And yes, some of us experienced having to change the channel by actually going to the television or having to walk seven miles to school in a blizzard every day because we didn’t have technology…and I guess buses weren’t invented in the fifties either according to my mother. However, you really knew your stuff when you had an album that you could play all the way through, reading along with the words in the liner notes. Or how about the friend who had a cassette stuck the car on auto reverse? That was a good way to appreciate an album.
“Hey Jimmy…is Frampton Comes Alive still stuck in your car?”
“Okay, we’ll ride with Bill.”
There was none of this skipping ahead or scrolling through an entire bands back catalogue in 2 seconds. Revved up like a deuce, my friends…Revved up like a deuce.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Better Man

Public transportation. At its best it can move large volumes of people very quickly and cheaply. At its worst, it’s a dangerous mecca for unsavory types of all description, notorious for attracting the hobbled, the poor and the mentally ill. No problem for me of course. I, as a simple white boy from the countryside had once ridden the New York City subway by myself nearly as far north as Harlem. And this was before they started putting all the panhandlers in jail. To this day, I can’t disassociate the smell of urine from the NYC subway system.
In the olden days, when my travelling still involved youth hostels and public transportation, I was staying in San Diego for a week or two. My friend and I took a bus to mission beach (one time home of Eddie Vedder) to take in some of the sights. I’m not an expert on the neighbourhoods of San Diego, but I know that this particular bus wasn’t making any stops at the Ralph Lauren store. We did however, pass lots of malt liquor outlets, gun stores and thrift shops.
On the way home the bus was considerably more packed, putting us in close proximity with…well… people who ride the bus through dodgy neighbourhoods.
Sitting across from us was a very large black gentleman whom you would recognize. He appears in some incarnation on any public transportation you have ever been on. You know…the guy who wears army fatigues and two overcoats in July, talking to himself about aliens or the government or how he is married to Jennifer Anniston. His was clutching about six plastic shopping bags full to varying degrees with what I am assuming were most of his belongings. He also had a very large walking stick which functioned as a cane and likely doubled as his defense against those attempting to take his treasures. He was wearing a wool cap, despite the 75 degree temperature and his full beard was specked with bits of fluff, dried grass and other organic matter. I suspect he spent the day sleeping in a park somewhere, with his face pressed to the turf. He wasn’t in a full rant, but his deep voiced mumblings were enough to keep the seat next to him empty. This was the guy you did not want to make eye contact with, lest he should turn his attention to you and try to draw you into his world.  Most people were successfully ignoring him, so he may have been a permanent fixture on this route, known to the locals as Crazy Jim or whatever they called him. Just someone to be endured until your stop.
I was busy judging him when the bus stopped and picked up an even sorrier looking specimen. White, skinny and very disheveled, this guy looked like he had just woken up in the ditch. He didn’t have the veteran homeless look about him, but more that of the abandoned dog who has just taken a beating.
He had a few coins in his hand, but apparently it wasn’t enough, because the bus wasn’t moving. The driver wasn’t prepared to go anywhere until this guy coughed up the full fare. He was wobbling a bit as he dug through his pockets and made a show of patting himself down for any more cash. It became obvious very quickly that he didn’t have any more money, or if he did, he was not capable of finding it. As the moment stretched longer, and became more awkward, you could tell people were waiting for him to get off the bus. I remember thinking, why doesn’t the driver just take what he has and let him on? It’s probable that this guy’s only mission in life at this moment was  to get from A to B on this bus, but that wasn’t going to happen today because he couldn’t afford it. He wasn’t really prepared to give up because he still wasn’t making a move to get off the bus. The bus driver was getting a bit annoyed and you could tell he was ready to give this guy a shove out the door.
The big black guy across the way was still mumbling, partly to himself and partly to all and didn’t appear to even be aware of the standoff at the front of the bus. Then that deep voice became more coherent for a moment and said, “I got it…I got your fare.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out some coins.
“I got that. I’ll get your fare.” He repeated a few times.
He raised himself from the seat, walked to the front and dropped them in the slot. The skinny guy acknowledged with a nod and took a seat right behind the driver.
 I don’t remember the rest of the ride home, but I will never forget what that guy did. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa or volunteer for World Vision. You can be a broke homeless man and still be a better man than I am.  Even after twenty years, I still wonder why I didn’t get up and pay for the guys fare myself.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A few of my favorite things

I’m only going by that song, but Julie Andrews and I have very little in common.
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Okay…first off, roses are overrated with or without any type of precipitation.
Whiskers on kittens? Kind of cute I guess, but I’d have to choose new puppy smell over kitten whiskers.
Bright copper kettles. What the hell? Not even in my top 500 favorite things.

I can appreciate warm woolen mittens for about five minutes until they start building up those golf ball sized clumps of snow. The balls of snow melt, the mitts get wet, and your hands freeze solid. Warm woolen mittens may have their place in a Gap commercial but they ain’t suitable for North of the 49th.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings? Bomb threat…obviously.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels? Seriously…even on their own, those things are a bit creepy. You put them together and it sounds like some weird sacrificial Nazi feast.

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodle. Annoying, annoying and again with the crappy German food.

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings? Umm, I guess wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings can’t be blamed for trying to get to Florida, but with such wonders available such as single malt scotch, smoked salmon and Gibson guitars, I don’t see how this could be one of anyone’s favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes? Not an option for a high school teacher.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eye lashes? That’s just annoying.

Silver white winters that melt into spring? Wait a minute….do we have common ground here Julie? I like the melty time of year too!  
If I ever meet her, I’m going to bring this up, just to break the ice. She’s still alive right?