It’s all in how you say it…

There’s times when I truly despair for the youth of today.  Yes, I know every generation has their own favoured expressions and way of saying things.  Just in the time I’ve been around, and just talking about expressing something as good, I’ve heard the terms

  • groovy
  • A-okay
  • awesome
  • bad
  • bad-ass
  • the shit (or da shit)
  • beast
  • the bee’s knees
  • the cat’s ass
  • boss
  • buttery
  • choice
  • classic
  • cool (or coolio, kewl)
  • cool beans
  • crack-a-lackin’
  • crazy
  • the bomb (or da bomb)
  • dope
  • mah-vah-lus (marvelous)
  • far out
  • fly (or superfly)
  • fresh
  • gnarly
  • freaky
  • gravy
  • hardcore
  • hip
  • hot (or hawt)
  • ill
  • jolly good
  • kick ass
  • killer
  • massive
  • mint
  • neat-o
  • nifty
  • off the hook (or off da hook)
  • outta sight
  • prime (or primo)
  • radical (or rad)
  • righteous
  • right on
  • peachy keen (or peachy)
  • pimp
  • rockin’
  • savage
  • raw
  • schway
  • sick
  • skippy
  • ducky
  • slammin’
  • smooth
  • smashing
  • snootchie bootches
  • solid
  • stellar
  • sweet
  • swell
  • to die for
  • unreal
  • wicked (or wicked cool, way cool)

That’s just one term…I haven’t even gone near sexy, or smart, or stupid, or good looking, or ugly, etc.

What this all leads up to, however, is knowing which words to choose when approaching someone you don’t know for the first time.  In person, that’s a little easier, because you can see how they dress, how they interact with others, things like that.  You get some clues.

Over the internet, it’s a bit different.  Yes, if you can see their Facebook page, or read their blog, or their tweets, you can still get a sense of the person.  There’s a few people I’ve recently begun interacting with online whom I’ve never met in person, but I think I already have a pretty good sense of their values, their sense of humour and their general outlook on life.

What I’m saying is, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.  Take some time if you can.

So, with all that in mind and, again at the risk of making myself sound old and curmudgeonly, I present the following exchange I had with a moron who messaged me on Facebook. All spelling and grammar is as it was originally presented to me.

Moron:

Yo husler what`s good dawg? add me

Me:

Who are you and why should I add you? Dawg.

Moron:

I want to learn more bout your books! your producing man.

Me:

Huh.

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I’m going to give you some advice. Why? Because aside from writing, this is also what I do. I’ve spent many years dealing with young adults such as yourself trying to network, or find out more about something that interests them.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You’re not doing it the right way.

First off, learn to spell and use grammar. You’ve graduated from school, so show it…especially to someone you know writes. “Hustler” has a t. Sentences start with a capital on the first letter. “About” has an a. “You’re” is what you meant to say. Finally, “add me” is a command, not a request.

Second, you’re not Eminem. As cool as you may think it sounds to throw out the “dawg’s” and the “husler’s” and all the other colloquialisms that make you sound like a “playa”…it really doesn’t. You sound like you’re fifteen. I know you’re not. When you’re addressing someone you don’t know, assume they speak and write proper English.

Finally, say what you mean, mean what you say. “Yo husler what`s good dawg?” tells me absolutely nothing. If you’re interested in my book, let me know up front, because you know I don’t know you. That saves you time and impresses me because you communicated properly up front. And don’t command someone to add you. Ask. Nicely.

Do I sound like a boring old asshole now? Maybe. But trust me when I tell you I’ve given you good advice. And I’m not pissed with you, nor do I hold anything against you. I just think you need a little more experience in dealing with those outside your social circle, so I thought I’d offer up some pointers to help you along.

So, I’ll let you decide. Do you still want me to add you? If not, you can still get information from my Vanishing Hope page, and from my blog (tobinelliott.wordpress.com).

Ball’s in your court.

Moron:

you chirpin? i am fifteen. yu callin me old, daweg? playa is spelt “player” Grammer is badd, are you guwd or ar you freshh? you deciide

Me:

Yeah, okay. We’re done here.

And that was the end of it.  By the way, though he states he is fifteen, I don’t believe him, as his Facebook page states “Class of 2011” for his high school, which means he’s more like seventeen, or he’s a liar, or he’s so stupid he just changes it for each year as he makes it through.

I don’t envy his teachers.

And trust me, I get it that, at the end he was just trying to wind me up and provoke a response.  So I obliged him by blocking him.

Now, contrast that with two requests I’ve received recently from a couple of students from the local college.

The first one was about a month ago and stated;

I’m reaching out to you because I am a journalism student at Durham College and I have an assignment where I need to conduct an interview with a person who is “newsworthy.” And I thought you would be a great interview.

I would love to interview a published writer, and I figured why not a published writer who also teachers Creative Writing? It is my dream to be a published author, and I thought I could learn a lot from an interview with you.

I was also unsure if you would reply to a message on your novella’s FaceBook page, so I thought I would find your actual account.

If you are willing to be interviewed, or even if you’re not, if you could message me back it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

The second one came this weekend and stated:

My name is <removed>. I am a second-year journalism student at Durham College. I was wondering if you were available in the next week for an in-person or over the phone interview regarding creative writing. I am specifically looking at the therapy behind art forms such as writing. I am a poet myself hoping to pursue publication upon completion of my studies.

 If you require any additional information please feel free to let me know.

 Thank you for your time and and consideration.

In both cases, I’ve done everything I can to assist them and they’ve both been nothing but pleasant and courteous the whole way through.

They’ve been a pleasure.  Now, you could argue that the last two have more experience than the first one, and I’d have to agree, but I’m guessing there’s, at most, two years separating the first guy from the other two.  You could argue the second two are in Journalism and are training for this, but the first guy also expressed an interest in “my books” so I’m guessing has a passing interest in writing as well.  You could also argue that I was a little more confrontational with the first one, but the “husler”, “dawg”, and “add me” managed to push several of my buttons, which is my point.  When you’re reaching out to someone for the first time, you want to avoid pushing certain buttons.  And I did give him a chance.  I really did.

I started out this blog by saying I despair for the youth of today, however, as I’ve worked my way through to this point, at least I can say two out of three recent interactions have been incredibly positive.

They’re the ones that restore my hope.

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What would you change?

I’m reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63 which, in case you’re living under a rock and haven’t heard, is about a guy who goes back in time and attempts to prevent the assassination of JFK.

King presents Kennedy’s assassination as a watershed moment in history, and I don’t disagree with that argument.  I’d say 9/11 would be another one.

So, my question is, if you could somehow go back and prevent anything, what would it be?

For me, there’s the big ones, JFK and 9/11 of course.

I don’t know how Stephen King has plotted it out, but for JFK, I’d point out that I saw some suspicious-looking dude go into the library with a big gun.  Oh, and you may wanna check that grassy knoll over there while you’re at it.

As for 9/11, I’d probably just call in a whack of bomb threats.  One to each of the Trade Center buildings and the specific flights as well.  Though I think it would likely just delay the event, not kill it.

I’d like to go back and fix the voting debacle of 2000 that led to George W getting into office.  Don’t know how I’d fix that one…maybe take some of his future speeches on video…no…on second thought, Americans voted him in a second time, so that wouldn’t work.

Try and save those people on the Shuttle disasters.

I’d stop the Martin Luther King assassination.

Could I do something about Korea and Vietnam?  I’d try.

I’d try and take out Hitler before he became powerful.  Maybe get him into art college and let him spout his crap to fellow students, instead of the world.

I’d go back and kick Mark David Chapman right in the balls a few minutes before John Lennon came home.  Really hard.  That one I’d truly enjoy.

I don’t know how much I could change, but there’s a few people I’d really like to have some conversations with them.  And there’s some people I’d talk to a lot less.  And others I’d have stronger conversations much sooner.

For example, I’d go back and try and talk to my father before he gave up on life.  Hell, I’d probably go back at several points in his life and ask him what the hell he was thinking.  Then again, I could do that with quite a few people.

I’d probably do the same with my sister.  Or maybe I’d just find the guy who would eventually ask her out, then marry her and, before he could cause all that damage, I’d kick him in the balls too.  Even harder than Chapman.  And I’d enjoy that one too.  Hell, if I see Brian today, I’d probably do that.

I’d have a long talk with my step-father a few days before Christmas 1980 about the massive mistake he was going to make on Christmas day.  I’d try and fix that whole thing.  Maybe my mom’s marriage wouldn’t have gone so spectacularly off the rails in the span of a few hours.

There’s likely a few more things that I’m just too tired to think of, but there’s one more that I’d do.  This one would, pardon the pun, take some time, but it would be worth it.

I’d write up a list of people and timeframes.  I’d hand-write it so it would be recognizable as me.  And I’d document who to listen to, who to stay away from, and why.  Who to trust, who not to, and why.  But mostly, I’d explain to the skinny, shy, lonely, insecure kid that things would work out.  That, as shitty as life sometimes got, as hard as many situations seemed to be to deal with, as cruel as some people could be, that it would be okay.  I’d explain to that kid that things would get better and that, even though he would always take the long way around to finding his path, and would second-guess himself a lot along the way, that things would work out.  That life, while not perfect, would be pretty damn good.

And then I’d go give that written document to myself when I was about seven years old.

And one last thing…I’d tell him  to never play baseball with Jimmy Baldwin on a Sunday.  Especially when he was ten years old.

That’s gonna save him a whole lotta dentist trips.

Nocturnal Admissions (…or, I’m only sleeping, part 2)

Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog may be familiar with my nighttime adventures.  If not, check out this one.

Well, it happened again.  To be fair, it wasn’t the Wife this time.  In fact, hell, she was of no help whatsoever.  But we’ll get to that.

Again, I’ll ask you to indulge me and picture the scene.  It’s 5:30 am, everyone is sleeping soundly, all is quiet.

And then, I’m pulled from sleep by…sounds.  A skittering.  Thumping.  Noises that sound like shhhhhhk shhhhhhk shhhhhhk shhhhhhk along with pounding that slides from one side of the house to the other like those old stereo test tracks where the sound moves back and forth, back and forth.

And over all of this cacaphony, a hissing, flapping noise, as though from a crazed, spitting bird.  Though, with the other sounds added in, the bird I pictured was more Pterodactyl than anything.

You have to remember, all of the above sensory input was fed to my sleep-sodden mind in the span of perhaps two or three seconds.  I’m not even close to theorizing what the hell it is at this point, though if I’d been forced to guess, I would have likely gone with a monkey and a snake fighting over a bird.

So, I pulled back the covers and got one leg to the floor when I realized that monster ball of sound was getting louder.  The hissing skittering thumping shhhhhhking was coming up the stairs.

Fast.

Like, supersonic fast.

I didn’t have much more than maybe another second before some creature spawned from hell exploded into the room and, from the door, launched itself into the air, rocketing completely over the bed, looking for all the world like the cover of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell album.

He completely gapped the bed and landed on the far side.  The Wife’s side.

Well, okay, that’s not bad.  If some Satanspawn is going to start feeding, at least he’ll start with the Wife and I have a head start down the stairs.  It’s like that old chestnut about you and a friend getting attacked by a bear.  You don’t have to run fast, just faster than your friend.

Or, in this case, faster than, you know…my wife.

So, with that false sense of security tucked in my back pocket, I finished getting out of bed and crept around to the far side of the bed.  And I finally looked upon my nemesis.

Noots.

Noots (a.k.a. "The Cat Out Of Hell") is the one on the right

My stupid cat.  But not just going on one of his usual nightly tears.  No, no.  This time he’d done it up right.

Earlier in the evening, I’d picked up some groceries and had forgotten to take in a shopping bag with me, so I’d had to purchase one.  When I got home, I’d put the groceries away.

Apparently I didn’t dispose of the bag adequately.

Because now the damn thing was wrapped around my stupid cat.  The little holes they have as handles?  Yeah, okay, somehow, he’d manage to worm his way into that hole and it had worked it’s way down to just in front of his rear legs.

So, for all intents and purposes, my cat was screaming around the house with a plastic tutu on.

No, this isn't Noots in a tutu. I'm evil, but I'm not cruel.

I was able to trap him by the bed and get the bag off him and, in true cat fashion, as soon as it was off, he got up, looked at me, looked at the bag, and walked away like, yeah, kicked that bitch’s ass, didn’t I?

Meanwhile, the Wife and the Boy?  Yeah, they both slept through the whole damn show.  Nice to know the Devil himself could show up in our room riding a Harley from Hell and they’d sleep through it.  Makes me feel safe.  Secure.

I will eat your soul...with cheese and bacon.

I can only guess that this is also the reason my other cat has refused to even consider coming up to the main floor all day, instead preferring to sit on the edge of my desk and keep a constant, expectant watch on the stairs.

As though perhaps some crazed, tutu-wearing cat out of hell may come shredding down the stairs to take his little kitty soul down to hell.

Really, can you blame him?

LOL, LMAO, ROTFLMAO

“Ooo, you make me live, you’re the best friend that I ever had.”  Queen

I think everyone has a best friend.  And no, not this bullshit BFF crap where “forever” is until the first disagreement.  I mean a real, solid, honest to God best friend.

I met mine just over fifteen years ago at, of all places, a Lamaze class.

The Wife was pregnant with our second child, who would become The Boy.  We’d already done the whole damn Lamaze class thing the first time around and, aside from the dubious honour of wearing a damn sympathy belly and talking about your uterus falling out, I really didn’t get a hell of a lot from it the first time around.

Very little Return on Investment as my business colleagues would say.

So when the Wife wanted to go back for a second round, I really didn’t see the need.  In fact, with the first child–The Girl–having taken 36 long, arduous hours to finally make her way into the world, I wondered if this time around some sort of classes to speed up the whole procedure might be in order.  I asked for LeMans classes instead of Lamaze.

Yeah, that didn’t go over well.  So we paid our money and booked the next class, to be in August.

For some reason, I couldn’t actually make the first class, so the Wife went with her sister.  Now, many say they look alike, but I’ve never really seen it.  And I think the fact that the prevailing theory after the first Lamaze class was that they were two lesbians having a child bore me out.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So I think it really buggered everyone up when I showed up for the second class.  Or it just added to the whole damn story.  Was I the sperm donor?  Who knew?

Anyway, being all New Agey, we got to sit on the floor.  Yay.  As it happened, the Wife was to my left.  To my right was a pleasant guy, Ryan and his very pregnant wife, Lisa.

And, as it was a Lamaze class, and as it was the second time I was attending said class in three years…I was bored.  And trying desperately to not piss off a wife that currently outweighed me.

So I figured I’d make nice with the dude beside me.  So we started talking and the first thing that caught my attention was…well, I’ve give you the dialogue.

“So, you have any other kids?” I say.

“Yeah, we have a son, he’s just over three,” Ryan say.

“Oh yeah?  Our daughter’s about the same age.”

“Yeah, well, Logan’s driving us nuts right now.”

“Why’s that?”

“We already bought his Halloween costume and he won’t take the thing off.”

“Really?” I say, laughing at the fact that a three-year-old is calling the shots and also that they’ve already bought the damn costume and it isn’t even friggin’ September yet.  These are the types that have their Christmas tree up right after Halloween, I think.  Crazy saps.  “So, what costume did you buy him?” I ask.

“It’s a Wolverine costume,” Ryan says.  Now, two things struck me immediately.  One was, Wolverine wasn’t anywhere near as popular back in 1996 as he is now, nor was he as well known.  The first X-Men movie was still four years away.  So I was impressed that his three-year-old had such discriminating taste.  And then there was the second thing that hit me.

“Wait, you said his name is Logan?” I say.

“Yeah,” Ryan says.

“That’s kinda cool!  Did you know Wolverine’s name is actually Logan?”

And without blinking, Ryan answers, “I know.  That’s who he’s named after.”  Then he smiles a little wider.

It was love.

Okay, if I’m honest, it was more jealousy.  How come Ryan got to name a kid after a cool comic book superhero and I didn’t?  Not fair!

But honestly, we ended up talking comics most of the class.  And his wife Lisa tended to either laugh at something Ryan said, or give Karen a long-suffering look when we were deep into comicbookdom.

But Ryan’s humour and Lisa’s sparkling laugh and sunny personality did their work.  As the Wife and I walked back to our car we both agreed we really liked them a lot, and we’d really only known them for an hour or so.

We continued to talk over the successive classes, then made plans to catch a movie.  Ryan picked it and it wasn’t really until later we found out that, of the four of us, he was the only one that had really wanted to see Private Parts, Howard Stern’s autobiographical movie.  But we all ended up enjoying it, and we had a great time.

Over the years, we got closer and closer.  The running joke now is that either of us can apply the line from that lame-ass Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire.  No, not the “show me the money” line.  The other one.  “You complete me.”

And, funny as it is, sarcastic as it is, in a way, it’s sort of true.

The last couple of weeks for both our household and Ryan and Lisa’s has been tense.  One of those times when your normally fantastic kids aren’t quite so fantastic and the disappointment and strain takes you to your knees.  At least it did in our case, I can’t speak for Ryan and Lisa.  But I do know we were both craving an “adult night”.

Last night we had it.  We went out for dinner and, though we had to wait a bit, we had fun chatting and catching up.  Dinner was good, but I have to admit if we’d called it after dinner, I could have easily gone home and straight to bed.  I was bone tired and it wasn’t from a lot of work or anything.  Just…life getting in the way of living.

Instead, we went back to their house and pulled out a deck of cards and played two rounds of Euchre.  Just two rounds.  And somewhere around the middle of the second round, the magic happened.

I don’t know what it is about the four of us when we get together.  I don’t think I’m bad with the humour, but Ryan is a frigging Jedi Knight when it comes to funny.  He’s a black belt.

And it’s not like we’re all sitting there waiting for Ryan to come out with something funny.  Because that’s not funny.  That’s stress.  It’s not like that.  It’s just the four of us talking and joking and singing to bad 80s songs and complaining about our kids and complimenting our kids and…well, just easy conversation that comes from hanging out with people you are completely comfortable with.

And somehow, somewhere during that, damn near every time without fail, something is said that just…shuts. Us. Down.

It’s nothing I could ever do justice in writing out here.  If I did, you as the reader would likely be left scratching your head wondering, what’s so damn funny about that?

And the answer would be, likely not much.  Maybe it’s the line.  Maybe it’s the way it’s delivered.  Maybe it’s the look that accompanies it.  Maybe it’s the unexpectedness of it.  Maybe it’s the build-up of all the slightly less funny stuff before it that prepped us.  Maybe it’s a combination of all of that.  Who knows.

But when Ryan took an unexpected trick last night, picked up the cards and looked at us with a self-satisfied expression, pulled a slightly Hispanic accent, cocked his head at just the right angle, held the cards just right, and said, “mmmMMMMmmmm, tastes goooOOoood!” then stuck his tongue out as though to sensuously lick those cards, that was it.

I.

Was.

Done.

And as much as the above description doesn’t do the actual event any justice (this is the what’s so damn funny about that part), the next description will absolutely fall short as well.  But I’ll give it a go in hopes of a partial understanding.

When Ryan gets me, I typically laugh loud.  Then, as I scale up, I go silent.  Mouth open, one eye closed, the other squirting tears, chest spasming.  It ain’t pretty.  But that’s me laughing my ass off.

Then there’s the Wife.  Snort……………..snort………….snort………..snort……….. Which eventually moves over to “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Ryan gets this high-pitched giggle that sets me off into additional paroxysms of laughter.

And Lisa has this hooting laugh that sails above everyone else’s.  Until she starts saying, “Oh my belly, oh my belly!” that Ryan mistakes for “Oh my golly, oh my golly!”

Again, I know this won’t mean anywhere near as much to anyone outside the four of us, but believe me when I say we’ve come to absolutely cherish these times.  It’s gotten to the point where we’ll say we need a “Ryan & Lisa night” and they say they need a “Tobin & Karen night”.

And last night, I think the four of us needed a good, solid laugh.  And we got it.

Don Henley has a song called Everything is Different Now.  And in the song he says something about dropping to his knees and asking heaven to send him someone to love.  The line that comes after that is

Heaven shot back, ‘You get the love that you allow.’  And everything is different now.

I don’t know if Ryan and Lisa know it, but they’ve probably saved my life more than once just by being the people they are. Just by bringing so much fun, support and laughter into our lives.

I’m so glad we have their friendship.  I’m so glad this is the love that we’ve allowed.

I’m so glad the Wife talked me into that damn Lamaze class.