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Who cares if it fits??

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Let this column ring with the joys of Christmas shopping.

I’m one of those Christmas shoppers who can be best described as a non-shopper. I hate it!

 I’m not even a last minute shopper, I’m more of a last three or four days kind of guy. Plenty of time. I postpone the dreaded ‘shop’ not because of a lack of good gift ideas, but most often it’s the lack of good Christmas cash.

To ease the burden of Christmas shopping I follow a strict routine, first getting some Christmasy gift idea in mind. Then check it out on the net, then contact the store. I always get the clerk’s name and I always try to get the item set aside. I always thank the clerk profusely for his efforts and as I hang up I always think if I get out there and my gift is nowhere to be found I’ll have the name of a certain sales clerk to rake over the coals. I think they call it ‘customer satisfaction.’

 I do kind of have this niggly admiration-teetering-on-hatred for those folks who spot that perfect Christmas gift in July and buy it then and there. They show tremendous practicality and common sense, but I’m far more familiar  and amused, by the guy spotting the perfect gift in July who says something clever like, “Leave it, I’ll pick it up later.” Later being now and the perfect gift isn’t there. Let’s pretend he finds a sales clerk.

“Oh, that item was part of our summer stock, sir. We won’t get any more of those things in until June. What about a rubberized car floor mat?”

 And I hate that wad of receipts I’m forced to tote about for the next six weeks while the treasured gift recipients decide whether it’s too tight or too small or the wrong colour for their eyes. These scraps of paper are so ripped, smudged, creased, torn, that finding  the Holy Grail would be easier than locating  the right receipt.

 I think it’s nice when the Christmas shopping junket with family and friends begins with: “Is this the closest parking spot you could get?”

 And it’s great to stand beside someone asking: “Will you get anymore of those things in before Christmas?” I catch the fatigue, frustration and disappointment in his voice as I glide off with the last one that I so wisely had set aside.

 And often the festive outing culminates with these words: “I don’t care if it’s what he wants! Let’s just get the damn thing and get out of here.”

Why am I not an on-line shopper? The descriptive abilities of my talking computer are limited, so I like to feel the gift. And now I’m ready, gifts in mind and plastic in pocket and after all is said and done could there be any better ending to the Christmas shopping ordeal than those magical words : “Would you like it giftwrapped?”

Sink or Swim

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Regardless of age, taking on something new in life begins with the desire to do so. Then, get up off your heinie and go do it!

 Anybody can swim. Right?

 I’ve always liked mucking about in water and I can sort of swim. ‘Sort of’ meaning I never mastered the art of breathing. Breathing: kind of an important function. I can hold my breath for an eternity, but eventually I have to crack the surface to grab some air.

I wanted to change this. I wanted to learn how to swim-breathe properly.

I wondered if gill implants were an option or one of those porpoise blowhole things.  I needed help. Professional help.

 I turned to family and friends, to strangers on the street and to them I wailed, “Who can teach me to swim?”

“I could teach you,” said Tom, gym buddy-friend- Aquatic Club Head Coach.

 Secretly, I wondered if this guy was any good.

 I was feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious  that first lesson parading out onto the pool deck. Questions splashed through my mind. Was I wearing the right kind of designer swimsuit? How was my hair? Was my stomach flat enough? (Let’s just forget about firm enough.) Serious concerns. And I hoped my first lesson wasn’t going to see me wearing a pair of pink water wings and blowing bubbles in the shallow end with a cluster of five-year old kids.

 Tom began with, “Let’s just do some simple floating.”

 Float? Simple? Who could possibly flunk floating? My Scottish Mum could float. But all women seem to have the body assemblage that encourages floating. The Scottish guys I know (I include myself), our body shape does not compliment the act of floating . . . or swimming. Where’s our incentive to accomplish either? Even in July the water temperatures surrounding Scotland range from chilly to frosty. And if you are stupid enough to take the frigid plunge, the whole time you are frolicking you have to be aware that at any second the jaws of Nessie might close upon you. But what we Scottish men can do well, is sink.

I sink very, very well. Tom thinks it’s just a natural gift. In a race to the bottom I would have beaten the Titanic.

 Swimming in a straight line is proving to be my major challenge. I know the idea is swim from here to there and come back. Pretty simple. I start from here and then veer off into some sort of scenic route, often ripping my knuckles open against the metal bulkhead or entangling myself in the buoy lines. Lifeguards have had to cut me free twice. Tom thinks it’s a blind thing. I think I need a swimsuit with GPS.

 I don’t see swimming the English Channel anytime soon, but with Tom’s guidance, I’ll doggedly keep kicking, improving my swim stroke and most importantly, I’ll keep breathing.

I’ll just keep on breathing.


Monday, October 24th, 2011

In the year 1 million B.C. we observe Gronk scouring around in the dense underbrush. (I chose this year because of a movie poster of a cave girl babe, Raquel Welch. She starred in a movie from 1966, called 1 Million Years B.C. Raquel’s photograph still haunts my mind and heart . . . and sometimes even my loins.)

So, there is poor Gronk  schnuffling around, dodging dinosaurs and pools of quick sand when he stumbles upon his, up until then unknown, neighbour Ospa. Gronk discovers that Ospa lives in a relatively safe, dry shelter-like thing we’ll call a ‘cave.’ Gronk like cave. Ospa like cave too. Gronk want cave. Ospa grunts, “Ooga, ooga!” (Loose translation: Is my cave, Gronk.)

Gronk somewhat lacking in the social graces and being considerably bigger than Ospa, he bonks Ospa on the head with a rock and tosses him aside and takes over Ospa’s cave, renaming it Gronk’s Hide-Away.

 And with Gronk’s bonk of Ospa, bullying is born.

I’m bothered by news stories regarding bullying. How is it we can tease, torment, harass someone to the point that taking his or her own life seems like a good solution? Sometimes, for some, it seems like the only option.

What’s wrong with us? Are some of us born with a bullying gene? Has science not developed an anti-bullying serum? Are there no additional funds for the creation of an anti-bullying drug?

I confess I was a bully. Not a beat ‘em up, knock ’em down bully, but one of those lippy, mouthy kind. I once teased a person to the point that he suddenly burst into tears and yelled at me, I hate you! I hate you!

 Well, I can take a hint. I never sat on Santa’s lap again.

 I teased because I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be popular and poking fun at others proved an easy thing to do.

 Stand-up comedy has taught me to know when to jump in and make a joke, but it has also shown me when to back off and move along.

 Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. What a load of crap. I know that a well-placed verbal shot can be as hurtful to someone as a blow to the head.

 Don’t talk about putting an end to bullying, not when we cheer and applaud the heavyweight paluka on our favourite hockey team for his participation in a vicious bloody scrap. And these enforcers,  these bullies, are rewarded with millions of dollars for their Gronk-like actions.
Bullying has been with us since before we took our first upright steps. As a species we’re not that far removed from the animal kingdom. Creatures big and small stake out their territory, maintain their herds, defend, attack and kill any bullies that try to take over.

Flip to any period of history when empires were the rage and discover bullying at its worst. Did you think the Roman Empire came about because the folks of neighbouring countries thought, Geez those Romans are swell folks. We should have them over for some of your potato salad and grilled goat.

 And now, technology allows us to cyber bully, sending our stings from relative obscurity. But the hurt inflicted is as disgusting and lethal as ever.

Imagine a modern day version of David and Goliath, David’s slingshot not required. He the smarter, the wittier of the two repeatedly tweets Goliath. Goading Goliath, crushing him.

 And another thing Goliath, Your breath stinks too.

 Oh, Gronk, look what you’ve started. And, Ospa, if only your cave had not been so swank. And Raquel. . . . Raquel, I think I feel the stirrings of a haunting coming on.

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I’ve got myself all Spic and Span to go do a gig,  Cath is giving me the final inspection, when she blurts: “Oh my God! Your eyebrows.”

 What’s up with hair?

  I mean, I get the hair on our heads thing. I get hair for beards and moustaches, armpit and leg hairs and even those hairs that adorn our seldom mentioned nether regions. (‘nether’: from the Latin meaning: the naughty bits.)

 Those all seem like pretty normal, everyday hairs.

 We as an evolving species have learned to walk upright, developed languages, learned how to swing a golf club and learned how to swear. (Those last two achievements may be connected.) We have done all these wondrous things and more, yet we still have to deal with a myriad of unsightly hairs. Topping my list are those nasty nose hairs and those tufts sprouting from our ear holes and those repugnant hairs back there that remind us of the days we once roamed about with tails.

 Even the hairs you thought you knew. I never once gave my eyebrows a second thought. They were just there. They did what eyebrows were supposed to do, assist the face in providing looks of surprise, terror, concern, joy, glee. Pretty standard eyebrow work.  For forty years they’re doing their job with no problems and then one day, whammo! These docile hairs go berserk, launching outwards in all directions. And these hairs never seem to get noticed until they’re way, way past their best before date.

 And what tortures we will endure to rid ourselves of them, shavers, scissors, creams, plucking, lasers, electrolysis and the ever popular Brazilian hot wax.

 Maybe it’s the fact that you gals deal with that child birth stuff that hardens you to better cope with the pain/pleasure of hot waxing. I know none of my buddies would be jumping to the front of that queue.

 It is much tougher for you gals. Guys seem to still have some sort of animal pride in their male hairy abilitiness. I remember how happy I was when I discovered my first chest hair. How lonely it looked adorning my massive chest. (Massive can be open to interpretation.) Even to this day I regret showing it off to Susie in grade ten science class. But that was then, this is now, because I don’t recall getting the same sense of pride when I snipped my first nostril hair. How icky are they. You imagine. Hey, Susie, catch a glimpse of this puppy!

 Hair. Stupid hair. For decades fashion has dictated to you gals that clean, smooth hairless arms and legs are the ultimate goal. The only goal! And who’s to blame? Barbie. If that uppity little ‘B’ had been a true blue, hard core authentic western doll, she’d have been much, much hairier. Barbie would have been less focused on gassing up her Vett and have spent more time promoting her Barbie’s Hair Be-Gone line of products.

 Yeah, Barbie’s to blame for all our sleepless nights.

 Long beautiful hair. Come on, sing it with me. Shining, gleaming. Hair momma, hair poppa.

Friday, August 19th, 2011

We start today’s column with a quiz. When blind people read Braille, they read it with their             ?

 Send your answers to the Prime Minister’s office and you may win yourself a free RCMP probe. For those of you who guessed fingers, congratulations. Oddly enough that is also how I barbecue –  with my fingers. These handy little digits can not only distinguish the difference between the Braille letters ‘D’ and ‘Z’, but they can also flip chops, wrestle a ribeye and locate wayward weenies that have wandered off the grill. (You’re familiar with the 5 second rule? Something hits the ground, it’s still edible if it’s rescued in 5 seconds or less. They’ve expanded that window of rescue for blind barbecuers to ten minutes.)

 I’ve tried using the traditional tongs and spatulas to flip junk, but they offer me no feeling. Despite the scorching flames, my hands-on approach works best.

 Oh I wanted to be that swashbuckling barbecuer flashing tongs, wielding spatulas and spearing slabs of meat with that long forky thing. Practice, practice, practice, I thought. So, for one entire day I used tongs for everything. Tongs to tie my shoes, to brush my teeth, to wipe my  . . . You get the idea.

Then one evening in our kitchen I put on a pair of oven mitts to remove a pan from the stove and like a smack upside the head, I thought, “I wonder if these mitts would work outside?” Searing heat the common denominator. I figured indoors or outdoors ain’t going to matter to the mitts. Good old fashioned oven mitts, they’re functional, I can grip any piece of meat over the flames and bend it, twist it to my heart’s content and walk away without a singe. Plus oven mitts are always in style and they go with any outfit. And comfy? I’ve often gone to bed forgetting I’ve got them on.  Catherine says it’s like going to bed with Chef Boyardee.

 Unfortunately after flipping mucky ribs covered in sauce I’m pretty well obligated to pitch the mitts into the trash. It’s not like I can toss these things into the wash with the little lady’s unmentionables. (Cath and I learned that lesson real quick.)

 The ancient art of blind barbecuing goes way, way back to the time of the Hagersville tire fire. Sure, they blamed it on the tires, but in truth it’s a fine example of how quickly a blind barbecue can go, ummm . . . sour?

 I do find it tricky trying to co-ordinate the grilling of the well-done steak along with the medium rare and so I barbecue best for a maximum of one people. Me! Two or more folks and barbecuing becomes some sort of 3D puzzle. Have I turned this chop? Or this one? Or this one? Seventeen minutes on the grill and I’ve flipped the same chop 27 times.

 And you can forget this gently pressing your index finger into the grilling steak to check how well done it is. In blind barbecuing, we just wait till the fire trucks arrive.

 “Hon! Apparently the steak’s done.”

I Don’t Get It.

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

What’s the deal with rubber bands. I mean who makes these things? Goodyear? Or are they leftovers from condoms gone wrong.

Does anybody actually sell rubber bands? I mean you get them for free all the time. Two bands encase our asperagus and whatever meat we buy at the market, wrapped in brown paper and a rubber band around it.

 We have a small bowl on a shelf in our kitchen that is choked with rubber bands. We’re never going to use as many as we’ve accumulated. I almost feel kind of sorry for those bands stuck at the bottom of that bowl.

 I need uses for our rubber bands. And with zip lock plastic bagies for cheese and leftovers and stuff like that we don’t even use our stack of bands to seal things. I’m always finding I’ve got a rubber band around my wrist or fore arm and I only become aware of that after my hand has gone numb.

 Can you turn old rubber bands in like empty beer bottles? Make a little cash off them. I feel so stupid with this pile of bands. And we just keep adding to it. I don’t imagine they’re too biodegradable. If I could make a tire for our car or a rubber raft for the beach. Something!

 Anyhow, I don’t mean to burden you. This is my dilemma. I’ll just go on collecting, piling, stacking rubber bands till that rubber band market picks up. But, if there is a global rubber band shortage, I’ll be able to save the day.

Are they called rubber bands? Or elastic bands? Or are they rubber bands with a lot of elasticity?

 You ponder. I don’t have time.

Shaken not Stirred

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

“Oh God. Please God, if there is a God. Please.”

An hour of effort, of frustration and determination and even with all of my cautious, methodical planning, I’d forgotten to remove the shaker’s cap. My delicious martini did not lay in my glass, but instead I’d just tossed it down the drain.

I haven’t ventured to make another martini since. Opening a beer has proved easier, less time consuming and just as rewarding.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Big Deal.

My wife and I are pretty excited. We just bought a piece of heaven. Water front property in Manitoba. . . . Well, it’s water front today.

They’ve designed a golf ball that will eliminate up to seventy percent of your hook or slice. Well call me a skeptic, but I’ve dumped loads of dosh on golfer’s junk , tees, shoes, gloves and an assortment of clubs and they all guaranteed to make my ball go further and straighter. And they do. My balls go much further into the rough than ever before. So, you could spend your money on these gimmicky golf balls or you might consider dropping a few bucks on a lesson.

 Speaking of lessons, I’ve never understood why golf pros give you that first lesson on a nice flat, open stretch of grass. Because for the next few years the only time you’ll see that lovely stretch of fairway is when you’re crossing it to look for your ball in the rough.

 Golf: I’m as accurate at playing golf as I am in archery. Except in archery I’m not obligated to yell “fore

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand Words?

 The masses clamour for photographic evidence that Osama bin Laden is absolutely, positively, 100 percent dead and gone. Of course if they release a photo of bin Laden’s brains splattered all over the place , someone will be shouting its a fake. This has been photo shopped.

 Fake: like those who believe that the whole man on the moon in 1969 was fake too. Neil Armstrong wasn’t on the moon. He was on a Hollywood sound stage and there maybe some truth to that because if you look to the far left of the screen you catch a glimpse of Sam, (the butcher)from the Brady Bunch checking out Alice’s rump roast.

 Fake a photo of bin Laden’s demise. Surely not. I suppose next you’ll be trying to convince me that centre folds are air brushed.

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Everybody Needs A Hobby.

 Just returned from the second annual Blind Hunters Seal Pup Harvest. What a disaster. Thirty-five blind hunters stuck out on an ice flow, just wailing away for all we’re worth. Our white canes outfitted with legal size seal pup clubs. The accessorization of the canes didn’t stop with the club, they also added a cork screw and bottle opener. After three days of floating and freezing we came home with two fir trees, a Pekinese and a Volkswagen beetle. Turns out we weren’t anywhere near the ice, just a mall parking lot outside St. John’s.

Deep sea fishing next month.