Monday, 30 April 2012

An Open Letter to the Coolest Dad in the World

Dear coolest dad in the world,
I watched a video posted to the internet, (with tears in my eyes no less) where you have somehow persuaded all of your offspring to sing Bohemian Rhapsody in four part harmony, even the little one, who scarcely can be expected to know the meaning of Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango, let alone pronounce it in song. This act of parenting has apparently earned you title of coolest dad in the world, which I am inclined to agree with.
My question to you sir, is how? How did you dodge the Bieb bullet? How come you are not whipping your hair back and forth to the strains of Willow Smith on HITZ FM? Are you some kind of Jedi, casting a mind trick on the unsuspecting young’uns?
Either way, you are doing something right that for whatever reason, I am not. I mean, I thought I was going to be cool dad, rocking out with the boy in the basement, me on guitar, him on drums. However, this dream has not yet come to fruition and I fear I am running out of time. He is at the very vulnerable age of ten, and my theory is any bad influences during these formative years could eventually lead to adult contemporary hell.
I’ve tried to bring him up right, really I have. We went to a Dave Matthews concert whilst he was in the womb, and took him to see Ben Harper and Jack Johnson when he was not yet three. There are all kinds of cool cds in the house from Miles Davis to Radiohead. I put Coldplay on his Ipod and gave him Journey’s Greatest Hits for his birthday. I even made him watch the Blues Brothers. That was all undone in one fell swoop though when some twit gave him the Mini-Pops 8 CD.        
If you have yet to hear the classic lyrical musings from Ke$ha, here is a sample…
“I'm talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryin' to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk”
You see what I am dealing with here? How can I compete with crunk crunk, which by the way, I think means either crazy drunk, or is code for let the preteen uprising begin. Or maybe boys really are just trying to touch her junk, junk. Either way, it’s an undesirable lyric to have stuck in your head at 7:30 am, when one is trying to focus on board meetings and such.
Alas, maybe the boy will turn out all right after all. I harken back to my days as a lad in fourth grade and remember my first album. It was Cruising by the Village People, followed by ABBA’s Super Trouper and a K-Tell disco compilation. Come to think of it, at that time I was as dangerously close to being lost forever as when I bought the 45 for “Turning Japanese” by the Vapours.
Enter my big sister. It was 1979, height of the disco craze and I was in grade five. We each had a gift certificate for Sam the Record Man and we worked it that if we pooled them together, we could get a double album. That record was the Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks and it probably saved my life. How else can you move on from a 45 record collection that included “Ah Shaddup You Face and “The Gambler”, but to crush it with the power of the Stones. I think fifth grade was an appropriate time to sell your soul and pledge allegiance to the prince of darkness. (This just means you had to buy at least one Black Sabbath album and possibly Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast" if you were a bit more hard-core). Blizzard of Ozz didn’t hurt either if you were going for the full metal-head thing. Those in the know switched allegiances from ABBA to ACDC in a heartbeat. Remember those black and white, ¾ length sleeved rock and roll shirts? Joey Baker distinguished himself by having enough of those to carry himself through at least 12 straight school days without having to repeat a band.
Things were mostly clear sailing for me during the next few years, except for a minor blip in ’81 when I bought the 45 of Loverboy’s  “Turn Me Loose”, and harboured an unnatural fascination for Billy Idol in ’84, but I came out the other side okay. I suppose I should have more faith in the boy. He did do me proud in the grocery store one day. We were sorting through produce and Neil Young came on the overhead music system. It was an obscure song, but he recognized the voice and without looking up, simply said, “Neil”.
That’s not the same as the having the full family orchestration of Bohemian Rhapsody, but it’s enough to give me hope. Anyway, kudos to you, Coolest Dad. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to force the boy to sit still and watch The Last Waltz with me.

Your homework if you choose to accept it…the coolest dad in action.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Stuff I Hate - part 1

If you thought I said stuff I ate you are about to be sorely disappointed. You may also be a poor reader.  I am not hateful by nature, but when the green kitchen compost bin is packed to the gills with the decomposing cast-offs from last week’s dinner, my limits of goodwill are tested. (I guess that is a little bit about stuff I ate, but that’s not the point.) The point is that the little green bin inside must be dumped into the big green bin outside, where the fresh compost will have a chance to mingle with more rancid compost that lies in wait to go to the curb. In the process of decanting one bin to another, the ungodly smell that has lain trapped below the leaking bag is usually exposed. The stench itself is the part I hate. I guess the designers of the biodegradable plastic bag were dealing with too many other issues at the lab that day.
 “Hey Eric. I put the new biodegradable bag through a test and it started to leak after two days.”
 “Hmm… that’s gonna be a problem. The stink will soak right into the bin”
 “Yeah. (pause) You know that new girl over in the food wrap department?
“Yeah Lydia.”(raises eyebrows suggestively)
“Booyah!!! (high fives Eric) Beers after work today?”
“Hell yes!”
And God help you if get any of the stink juice on you. Rotting compost slime gives the phrase “like stink on a monkey” a run for its money. It’s just not as eloquent to say “like stink on a regular standup dude, who was just trying to do his bit for the environment.” Last time I made contact, my hands reeked, the garage reeked, and the vapors followed me back through the mud room into the house, clinging like skunk spray. Remember those wavy stink lines that followed Pepe LePew? Yeah…they exist in real life.  One day - late for work of course -I tried to lift the bag out instead of dumping it, and it split open and sprayed guck everywhere. I had to change my clothes and I could still smell it all day.
If you are unfamiliar with the weight of rotting vegetables, the density is roughly equivalent to that of a bowling ball that has been deep fried in lead. It gets heavy at our house because the unwritten rule is that the big bin doesn’t have to go to the curb until it has reached critical mass, which is coincidently the point where a ten year old is almost unable to lift it. Sometimes I feel so sorry for the little bugger that I want to carry it out to the curb for him. Almost.
Anyway, the little green bin is housed under the sink beside the hot water pipe (which, oddly enough, gives off heat)and above a furnace vent in the kick plate. I’m no science guy, but I’m pretty sure that the rate of stink production is relative to the hotness of the surrounding area.  So the answer to my problems is to carry the vegetable trimmings directly to the garage, thus avoiding the under the sink incubator. Bollocks to that I say…it would mess up my whole system.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Courage (for my friend moe)

A year ago tomorrow, an old friend passed away from cancer. We had lost touch over the last several years, our interactions reduced to chance meetings in the grocery store that never allowed a proper reconnect. When I found out he had cancer I was pretty sure that I could turn my head and simply wait it out, then watch for his obituary in the paper. Maybe attend the funeral, but not likely.
Then I started to think about how a man my age, just 41, would feel when doctors declared there was nothing left for them to do. What would I want of my friends and family? What would I want from my long lost friends who I only passed by with a nod and a “we should get together” in the lineup at the bank every six months. At first I fell into the easy trap that says, “I wouldn’t know what to say to him,” which sounded like a plausible excuse at the time.
I’m thinking to myself, I don’t even really know the guy anymore, we haven’t hung out in like, 10 years and besides, he probably doesn’t want to talk about it anyway. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that that was a pretty cowardly way to go. I wasn’t the one fighting for life and having to wrap up my affairs with the bank and the funeral home and say goodbye to the extended family.  All I had to do was hideout and pretend everything was okay. My end of things was a breeze all things considered.
Then, by chance, I read about a terminally ill man who wanted to have his funeral before he died so that people could say all the nice things they would say at the funeral, but to his face. What a great idea. Why waste all the good sentiments after the fact, when it could all be said in person. I took this to heart and decided that I would at least try and contact my friend by email and say what was on my mind.
I decided to take the blunt approach, because I couldn’t really see any other way around it. I told him that I had heard that he was terminally ill and I was upset and saddened to hear it. Then I said I always looked back fondly on the time we had spent together and that I admired him for his bravery in the fight. Years earlier, he had been instrumental in finding employment for another good friend of mine, pretty much as a favour to me, and I reminded him of that and said I was always grateful that he had helped out on my word.
He wrote my back quite soon after, and the first line of his email made me realize I had made the right choice.
Hello Ian

Thanks so much for reaching out.

I have done the same to many many people and have been overwhelmed by the response. I am now getting the second wave of friends just like you reaching out to say hello and i am very pleased that you did.

He told me about a celebration he was having soon at a local pub and that I should drop on by. I did drop by, and I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last time I would see him. We didn’t chat all that much, because there was a bunch of people there all wanting to wish him well and to be truthful, I don’t actually recall much of our conversation and I am okay with that. What I would not have been okay with is if I had gone with my first instinct and stuck my head in the sand, coming up for air when the coast was clear. I knew that he was appreciative of the effort (however small) on my part to contact him in the first place and I suppose that made me feel like I had done right. Sometimes you have to say the things that need to be said or you will end up regretting it forever. Sometimes you have to say things to a friend who is dying.
“What do you want me to do,
to do for you
to see you through?”
Robert Hunter – Box of Rain

Monday, 9 April 2012

Tech Support

Tech Support
T.S.: Hello, this is Tech Support speaking. My name is Vikram, how may I help you?
Me: Hello Vikram. Wow, I‘ve reached India?
T.S.: Yes sir. What is being your trouble today sir?
Me: My trouble is being some problems with my password.
T.S.: Okay, can I have your name please sir?
Me: It’s Ian McEwen
T.S.: Okay Mr. MacQueen, can I have your account number please?
Me.: It’s actually McEwen…like Mick as in Jagger, then Ewe, as in female sheep, plus the letter n.   Mick-ewe-n
T.S.: So sorry, okay Mr. McEwen, can I have your account number please?
Me: Account is 57852201
T.S.: Okay sir, just a moment while I’m pulling you up on the computer.  And also sir can I interest ya’ll in purchasing our gold upgrade package for just 29.99 per month?
Me: No you can’t interest me and did you just say ya’ll?
T.S.: Of course not sir, that is not the Queen’s English.
Me: Vikram?
T.S.: Sir?
Me: You are losing your accent. Where are you from?
T.S.: Virginia sir. It’s actually Randy.
Me: Okay Randy, dare I ask why you are posing as Vikram?
T.S.: I just like to practice my accents. It’s kind of a boring job. Perhaps monsieur would like to compleete zee call wiz a French person?
Me: No really its fine. I just want to get my password fixed.
T.S.: No problem. And what is the name on the account sir?
ME: It’s under my wife’s name, Colleen, but I am in there as an account holder. Last time I called in I was added to the account. It was a nightmare. It took like two hours… please tell me I’m in there.
T.S.: Sorry sir, I am not seeing you on the account here.
Me: No no… I’m there…I-A-N…just look at the records of the last call.
T.S.: Right, okay, I was looking under E, but I see you spell it I-A-N. And can I ask you a few security questions first?
Me: Go ahead.
T.S.: So what is the name that your mother had before she married your father?
Me: You mean my mother’s maiden name?
T.S.: Yes sir. Her maiden name.
Me: It was Andersen.
T.S.: I’m sorry sir but that is incorrect.
Me: No, it’s not incorrect. That was her name before she got married. Andersen. Maybe you’re misreading it.
T.S.: No sir, it is definitely not Andersen.
Me: Is it A-N-D-E-R-S-E-N?
T.S: What was that last letter?
Me: N?
T.S.: Yes sorry, it is correct then. And sir, can I ask your postal address?
Me: It’s 2382 Lakeshore Rd.
T.S.: Okay that’s not good…I’ve got you down at another address.
Me: No… that’s the old address. We haven’t lived there for seven years. I asked them to take that off the records last time I called.
T.S.: Okay sir, I will remove that address for you now.
Me: Now, you say that you are doing it, but did you really remove the address?
T.S.: No. But I will be making a note sir for this to be done in the future.
Me: When? When will it be done?
T.S.: Because of the recent strike, we are approximately 7000 jobs behind sir. It may take a few months.
Me: Can you just do it now? Just press delete?
T.S.: No sir, we have to follow protocol and do the jobs in order that they come in.
Me: But you could do it now? You could just delete it?
T.S.: Yes
Me: But you won’t?
T.S.: I’m sorry sir.
Me: Okay whatever. Can you help me with my password or not?
T.S.: Of course sir.  Do you have the account open in front of you now?
Me: No. I can’t get in remember? My password doesn’t work.
T.S.: Right, okay. Um…I’ll need to talk to my manager. Can I put you on hold?
Me: Fine.
T.S.: Okay sir, we can re-set your password and email it to you. However…
Me: Let me guess.  You still have an old email on file and you don’t know which one to use?
T.S.: No sir, we don’t have any email on file for you whatsoever.
Me: Well you do, because you’ve been emailing me bills for the last five years.
T.S.: Wait…there it is…I found it. Vee are very sorry for zah mix up.
Me: What was that? French again?
T.S.: That was German sir.
Me: That was terrible.
T.S.: I’ve just starting working on it. Is there anything else I can help you with today sir?
Me: How about I check my email now before I hang up, to make sure the password is there.
T.S.: Oh it won’t be there yet sir. It will take approximately 3 to 5 days. Or possibly up to five weeks.
Me: Are you kidding me?
T.S.: Just kidding sir, it will only be 3 to 5 days.
Me: Can you do it right now?
T.S.: I’m not allowed to bump you up the cue sir.
Me: Come on Vikram. I’ll let you talk German to me.
T.S.: Its Henrick when I do German sir, and I still can’t.
Me: Okay you win. I’ll check my email in 3 to 5 days.
T.S.: Thank you for calling sir and have a great day.
Me: Auf wiedersehen Henrick.
T.S.: The answer is still no sir.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

What Happens in Buffalo

Me: Okay well I’m off to Buffalo for the lacrosse game.
Wife: That’s a small bag…do you have everything?
Me: You know me, I travel light. I’m like a hobo, just ridin’ the rails to wherever, not a care in the world.
Wife: Hobo’s didn’t need passports. Do you have your passport?
Me: Of course I have my passport.  I got it out of the thing…place, where we always keep them. The shelfy, cabinet area… drawer.
Wife: You mean the filing cabinet.
Me: That’s what I said. Filing cabinet, filing drawer. A filing cabinet is just a metal box holding up a bunch of drawers. I’ll go get it now.
Wife: Do you have Advil?
Me: Don’t need it. Not going to drink.
Wife: Funny. I’ll get it for you. What about a dress shirt and tie and maybe some extra underwear?
Me: I’m only going to be gone 18 hours. Why in God’s name would I need extra underwear?
Wife: Gross. Okay never mind. Take an extra pair of socks though and I'm asking you nicely, don’t lose your shoes.
Me: I’m a grown man, I can take care of myself.
Wife: Oh yeah? Remember when you went to the Bluegrass festival and came home in bare feet? Your feet were all cut up and you had that weird foot fungus. And let us recap what happened to your sandals.
Me: I gave them to that dude with the dreadlocks.
Wife: In return for?
Me: Two bluegrass bumper stickers and a grilled cheese. And a banjo pick.
Wife: Exactly…you don’t even have a banjo.
Me: Touché.
Wife: What about deodorant?
Me: I’m going with a bunch of guys. They don’t care if I stink.
Wife: How about I just throw it in with your toothbrush, just in case you meet some civilized people.
Me: Can you throw my toothbrush in with my toothbrush? It might not be packed.
Wife: Pathetic really. What about bail money for Ernie, or is he going to behave himself this time?
Me: Good point, but I’m way ahead of you. Ernie isn’t coming because he’s not allowed  to cross the border until he clears up that little misunderstanding over the pellet gun and the case of vodka.
18 hours later
Me: I’m back!
Wife: How was it? I see you still have both shoes on.
Me: It was great! And guess what? There was a vintner’s conference at our hotel and after the game we had like, 400 samples of red wine.
Wife: Lucky boys.
Me: Yeah, and get this, we actually had to dress up to get in because I guess they wanted to keep the riff-raff lacrosse fans from crashing.
Wife: You don’t say?
Me: We fooled them pretty good. Except when Chuck grabbed a $75 dollar bottle of merlot and tried to chug it. We were asked to leave after that.
Wife: I’m shocked at the injustice. But hey…free wine right?
 Me: Well it wasn’t all roses. I had a smasher of a headache and had to pound a bunch of Advil this morning. And my teeth were red wine stained bad.  Oh, and my tie is stained too.
Wife: Hey, a wine conference can be a tough thing.
Me: You’re telling me.
Wife: Tell me again why Chuck has to chug everything?
Me: It’s just his thing. Anyway…it’s a good thing I thought to pack that extra stuff, because I pretty much needed it all. I was like a professional travelling salesman.
Wife: You are a clever one. So what happened to the freewheeling hobo, riding the rails to anywhere?
Me: I’m just going to be a more slightly more organized hobo.
Wife: A hobo with a personal assistant.
Me: You’re hired.
Wife: As the boss of this corporation, I am going to pretend I didn’t hear that last bit. Now go unpack your bag and I might try and get the wine stain out of your tie for you.
Me: Okay thanks. Then I have to call Chuck because, well, long story short, he swallowed all of our  wedding rings and, you know I have to get that back.
Wife: So the five of you idiots let Chuck swallow your wedding rings? What, for safe keeping? Actually never mind, I don’t need to know any more.
Me: Yeah…you don’t want to know.