The keys to my stupidity

In case you haven’t figured it out by now from reading this blog, I can be an idiot.  Yes, I know, hard to believe a guy with a perfect brain can be an idiot, but there you go.

But why am I making this confession now?  Well, I figured I’d bashed the the Wife and the Boy enough earlier this month that I should likely pony up some of my own shortcomings.  So, there’s nothing like just admitting it and getting it out there…

I have a problem with keys.

Not a big one, mind you, but a problem nonetheless.  There’s three big incidents that come to mind.

The keys to my stupidity, part one

The first occurred way back in the 80s.  If I had to guess, I’d plunk it down around 1984.  I know I was rocking a mullet at the time (which is idiocy of a whole different nature, and one we’ll reserve for a later blog…or not).

Anyway, being reasonably young and extremely stupid, myself and three friends went out driving all around the area north of Oshawa and Whitby, seeing what dumb things we could do.  I won’t get into most of them here, but I will draw your attention to one particular slice of the evening.

It was at least 4 a.m. at this point and we were getting punchy.  We were on a gravel road somewhere (and, truth to tell, I couldn’t find this spot again…then or now…if you pointed a gun at me) and we stopped on a slight incline to a railway crossing.  Two of the guys got out for a pee, leaving myself and one other to wander aimlessly.

I happened to wander up to the tracks.  First I stood in the glare of the headlights, then I moseyed off to one side.  The guys were still peeing.  I swear, at that age, an average male can urinate for at least ten solid minutes if pressed.

Anyway, when I was in the dark off to the side, I had a thought (my first clue that this wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but of course I totally ignored that).  Wouldn’t it be funny if…?

Oh what the hell, I thought.  I’ll just do it and get a laugh.

So, I kind of trundled along the path of the train tracks into the path of the headlights, and I made a sound like a train whistle and bell.  It’s not easy to reproduce through words, but it kind of went something like, “WOOWOOOOOOOOH!  …dingdingdingding dingdingdingding DINGDINGDINGDING DINGDINGDINGDING DINGDINGDINGDING dingdingdingding dingdingdingding…”

You know, like the bell gets louder then softer again?  Yeah, well, that was me.  Two of the guys found this uproariously funny and fell about themselves.  The fourth?  Still peeing.  Missed the whole thing.  So, he zipped up and asked me to recreate it.

The problem was, the next time I did it, it sounded more like, “WOOWOOOOOOOOH!  …dingdingdingding dingdingdingding DINGDINGDINGDING DINGDINGD–OOOPH!”  The “oooph” part was when I tripped over a rock or something and went sprawling into the gravel.  This time, all three of the guys found this uproariously funny and fell about themselves.

Eventually, around 5:30 a.m., we got back in the car and continued on our mischievous ways.  It wasn’t until I got back to the Whitby Arby’s, where I worked at the time and had parked my car, that I realized I didn’t have my car keys anymore.  We searched the other car, I dug through my pockets, then one of the guys looked at me and said, “Aw dude!  Bet you lost them when you derailed your train!”

All three of the guys found this uproariously funny and fell about themselves.  I had really begun to hate them.

But there was no denying it.  That’s very likely where I lost my car keys.  And the keys to the house.  And the keys to the Arby’s store.

Try explaining that one to your mother when you’re calling her at 5:45 a.m. to come bring your extra set of car keys.  Try explaining to your boss that you lost the store keys because your freaking train derailed.

The keys to my stupidity, part two

Flash forward more than a decade.  I’m married now, I have a couple of kids.  I’m older and wiser, right?

Yeah, dream on, baby.

So at this stage of the game, say, roughly around 1998 or so, my daughter, the Girl, is in Sparks, a precursor to Girl Guides and one of the events they held, which is still something I hold as a treasured moment, was a Daddy-daughter dance.

Now, to some, this might sound like cheese, but honestly, I loved it.  There’s nothing in the world like swaying around a gymnasium floor, holding your daughter’s hands as she looks up at you like you’re the most important, smartest, and most handsome man in the world.  At that moment, no matter who you are, you are that important, smart handsome man.

<Ahem>  Excuse me, something in my eye.  Dust or something…

Anyway, after the dance was over, the Wife, who was a leader for the group, had to clean up.  I helped, as did a couple of the other fathers, then, as is normal with the Wife, everything was done, everyone was ready to go…and she stood talking to one of the mothers or fellow leaders or whatever.  My point is, she wasn’t making any leaving noises.

I got bored.  Not a good thing to let happen to me.  I looked around.  I was in a large gymnasium.  I had nothing to occupy me except…my keys.

I pulled out my massive sprawl of keys, and I tossed them up a couple of feet.  Caught them.  Tossed them higher.  Caught them.  Higher still.  Caught them.

This went on for many minutes.  Eventually, I was tossing them with the intent to just get them to scrape the ceiling.  Just a little scrape.  It’s actually quite challenging and more than a little fun, let me tell you.

The other thing it does is draw the Wife’s attention.  She got annoyed.  I kept doing it, figuring, the more I annoy her, the sooner she’s going to wrap up her damn conversation and we can get the hell outta Dodge.

Then she says, “Tobin!  Stop it!  You’re going to get the keys caught in the rafters!”

I looked up at these support rafters, evenly spaced about five feet apart a good thirty feet above me.  “Holy crap,” I say.  “How in the hell do you figure I’m gonna do that?  There’s no way that’s g–”

The keys got caught in the damn rafter.

Have you ever seen that scene in the movie Porky’s?  The “Why do they call her Lassie?” scene?  The one where some guy is getting it on with a very young, pre-Sex in the City Kim Cattrall  in an area just off the gym, and there’s a teacher in the gym laughing so hard that he ends up hiding behind one of the mats hung off the wall?

When I hooked my keys over that rafter, one of the other fathers recreated the laughing coach to a T.

Took us a good twenty minutes and a very long pole to get it down.  At least I wasn’t bored anymore.  Kinda upped the ante on the whole “the Wife is annoyed” part though.

The keys to my stupidity, part three

And then, not long after that, it’s winter.  I had bought a second hand snowblower off a guy the summer before, had test fired the thing a couple of times, but never got to really take it out for a test drive.  So when we finally got a big dump of snow, I was so ready.

I got all geared up Nanook of the North style, grabbed the keys, backed the cars out of the driveway, got the snowblower out of the shed, lined it up, and cranked on the pull cord.

Sputter and die.

No biggie, thing’s been sitting for months.  It’d almost be a miracle if it fired up on the first try, wouldn’t it?  Crank again.  Sputter and die.

Okay, I’ll save you the agony.  Twenty minutes later, I’ve stripped the Nanook coat off, the gloves are off, I’m sweating like a pig, and my driveway still has as much snow on it as it did twenty minutes earlier.

By this point, my two neighbours across the road are three-quarters done shoveling theirs.  I could only imagine their secret, insidious snickers of derision.  I pressed on.

Twenty minutes after that, I gave up.  Screw the snowblower!  Shoveling is respectful, manly work!  Snowblowers?  Bah!

So, I got the shovel and cleared my entire driveway.  Probably took me twenty minutes.  Casting an evil glance toward the red mechanical beast, I then looked back on my handiwork with pride.  That driveway was clean!

I walked back down to the first car, opened the door, fished for my keys.

No keys.

Check the ignition.

No keys.

Check the other car’s ignition.  Same deal.  Check my coat pockets, pants pockets, even the ring inside the door.

No keys.

Then I think back to all the full-body swaying I was doing as I cranked on that damned snowblower.  Then I pictured the keys flying from a pocket.

And into the two feet of snow.

That I then shoveled more snow on top of.

My neighbours, having just finished their own driveways and now chatting across the street, stared in disbelief as they watched me come out from my shed with a garden rake and start raking the snow back onto my freshly shovelled driveway, each pull punctuated with some seriously manic swearing.

Eventually, the entire top end of my driveway was filled yet again with pre-shovelled snow.

The keys were nowhere to be found.

So, maybe I lost them at some point when I was shovelling?

Yes, in the end, I raked all of the snow that I’d shovelled off the driveway back on the driveway.  There was a three-foot wide path to either side of the driveway that had been cleared of snow.

Still no keys.

That’s when I gave up, took the Wife’s keys, hopped in the car, drove down to Stan’s Rentals and faced the guy behind the desk as I sheepishly asked to rent a metal detector.

The damn thing about it?  I was the third guy that day that had rented it, and when I got it back to him twenty minutes and ten or so dollars later, he’d had two more calls.

So yeah, I’m an idiot when it comes to keys.

But there’s at least four other guys out there that seem to be just as friggin’ stupid.

Write on!

I’m exactly 29 days in on my resolution to follow Cara Michaels’ #WIP500 project.  You can read all about it here, but in nutshell, she’s created an alternative to NaNoWriMo’s one-month novel writing marathon by spreading the goal out to the entire year while also lowering the daily word count significantly.

In NaNoWriMo, you have to average 1667 words per day to hit the target of 50K words in one month.  50K words is a significant chunk of one novel, roughly somewhere between one-half to two-thirds of the total word count of about 75-100K words.

And I totally applaud the reasoning behind NaNoWriMo.  I really do.  I wrote about it here and I still agree with everything I said.

Problem is, it’s only thirty days, and it’s only a month before the craziness that is Christmas.  I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s usually a busy time at work, my thoughts are straying to what to buy loved ones for Christmas, and all the daily crap that comes along.  And if you miss even one or two days, suddenly you’re now looking at 1700-1800 words per day.

I know everyone writes at different rates.  For example, Pat Flewwelling over at Nine Day Wonder thinks nothing of pounding out a 300-350 page manuscript over the three-ish days of the Muskoka Novel Marathon.  She consistently wins the “Most Prolific Author” award.  And the thing that pisses me off is, the stuff is good.

In fact, Pat and I were chatting the other day and, when she includes her blogs in her word count, she’s averaging a reasonably Stephen King-like rate of just shy of 5000 words per day.

5000 words.  Every.  Damn.  Day.

Again, for the initiated, that’s 20 manuscript pages every day.  It means she’s essentially creating enough words for a novel every twenty days, or, at a steady pace, just over 18 novels a year.

Obviously, NaNoWriMo is not a problem for Prolific Pat.  But it is for me.

Which is why I gravitated toward the #WIP500 idea.  All you are asked to do is 500 words each day.  That’s about two pages, double-spaced.  That takes me 20 minutes, on average.

So, I hear you say, if 500 words only takes you 20 minutes, then NaNoWriMo’s 1667 words should take you just over an hour a day, right?

In theory, yes.  In reality, what I’ve learned from this whole exercise is that much over a thousand words and I slow down considerably.  How do I know this?  Because, for the first twenty days of this year, I aimed for the 500 words and, with the exception of one day, hit it easily.

Starting just over a week ago, I started a different project, a novella called Soft Kiss, Hard Death.

Let me take a minor detour here for a second to talk about Soft Kiss.  Early in January, Ed Kurtz, a fellow horror author and a man with a sense of humour as dark as my own, reached out with an intriguing prospect.  He’d written a novella called Catch My Killer! which is positioned as the first in a proposed series of six Sam Truman Mysteries novellas under Kurtz’s own Abattoir Press imprint.  He explained that Sam’s a PI working in an unidentified New York-style setting in 1960.  And he just happens to get twisted up in some supernatural shit.  Then he asked me if I’d be interested in taking Sam on an adventure of my own.

Would I?  Would I?  Hell yes!

I had a plot kicking around that I’d started to write a couple of years back under the name Out that I just didn’t know where to take.  When Ed told me about Sam Truman, I immediately saw the possibilities.  I quickly wrote a synopsis, shot it off to Ed, and Ed gave me the thumb’s up.

The plan as I understand it, is for Abattoir Press to release an ebook version of each of the six stories a couple of months apart through 2012, then collect the stories in two hard copy versions (mysteries 1-3 in one volume, 4-6 in the second) next year.

Now, having said all that, Ed’s only read the really rough first draft prologue and hasn’t seen the rest yet, and for all I know, he’ll read it and wish to hell he’d reached out to someone with some talent instead of a dude with questionable talent, loose morals and a fascination for scatological stories.  But for now, he still thinks I may have some talent, so please, no one tell the man differently, okay?  In the meantime, you can watch for more news here.

Anyway, I promised him a first draft in March and I’d like to get it all written and debugged before then.  So, because of the deadline, I upped my daily target to 1000, just for the duration of this project, which should be complete no later than mid-February.

So, for the last nine days, I’ve been punching out 1000 words a day on average.  And I’m finding it harder to get done.  Obviously it takes me longer than the twenty minutes.  I find myself checking the word count more often and groaning if I’ve only managed 700-800 words.

I never did that with the 500.  I found I could do the sprint, then get up and walk away with a lot more still in the tank.

I also don’t do that when writing blogs.  But blogs are a whole different animal.  I’ll really think through anything I write for fiction.  I’ll check it over and rewrite it multiple times.  But blogs?  I sit down with a basic idea and just start typing.  Blogs shape themselves and anything you read from me in a blog is first draft.  I write it, add the pictures, add the tags and publish, bing bang boom.

I wish writing fiction was half as easy.

So, this is just my way of sending a big thank you to Cara Michaels first of all.  Without her, I guarantee I’d be struggling to get some words down everyday.  Without her, I wouldn’t have made it well past 20K words in less than a month.

By the way, just so you know how important this is to me, I didn’t write 10K words last year, the entire year.  And no, I’m not counting blogs I wrote last year, and I don’t count my blogs in my daily word count this year either.

If you’re interested in participating, you can join up at any time throughout the year.  All Cara asks is that you update on her site at least once a week or she’ll “drop you from the list like yesterday’s news”.  And she’ll start your count from the date you started.

I think the other thing that helped me was making myself accountable, which is why, for the full month of January, I posted daily updates on Facebook, Twitter and on another page of this blog.

I’m guessing most of my FaceTweet friends don’t really give a shit how much I’ve written, so going forward, I will continue to update Cara’s site and my Daily Word Count page every day.  But for FB and Twitter, I’ll likely do more of a end-of-the-month summary.

But the cool thing is, I’ll definitely keep writing.

Be careful what you encourage

At the risk of becoming thematically linked to all things ass-related, as I did in three parts, starting here, continuing here, finishing here.  I’m going to write about one more ass-related thing here.  Once more into the breach.

When I first hooked up with the Wife…back when she was still classified as the Girlfriend, she had this odd quirk.  Now, I’ve heard a lot of guys weigh in on this and there’s quite a few that this wouldn’t have bothered, and I’m not saying it bothered me, I just found it a little…weird.

Initially, it was the fact that she locked the bathroom door whenever she went in to do her business.  Yeah, okay, that’s fine.  I’m not a big fan of sharing my bodily functions with others… and yeah, that includes public restrooms.

But there was a point where the the Girlfriend became the Fiance, and then, the Wife.

And through all of that, not once had she ever farted in front of me. Not. Once.

In fact, this lasted a long time.  Like, years.

There came a night when we were both reading in bed.  The Wife got up to get herself a drink.  Now, at this point, I was working a lot of evenings, so she was used to me not being around.  And maybe it was partly because of that, and maybe it was partly due to me quietly reading.  Whatever the reason, as I lay there, I heard an absolutely unmistakeable sound rip out of the kitchen.  She’d finally broken through the barrier.  She’d finally shredded the sound barrier.  In a big way.

Her ass had betrayed her for the first time.

Though I said nothing, in my mind, Gotcha! swirled round and round.

What made it even funnier was that, for someone that was going for a quick drink of water, she didn’t come back to the bedroom for a solid twenty minutes.  I pictured her, standing in the kitchen, silently shaking with nervous giggles, panicking and desperately trying to come up with anything else that could be mistaken for a fart noise.

Eventually, she did come back to the room.  I pretended nothing happened, didn’t even look up from my book when she entered the room.  But the Wife, man!  What a poker face she had!  She walked in, stopped beside me, and in a high-pitched I’m-trying-desperately-to-act-normal-but-I’m-in-total-fart-panic-mode voice, squeaked, “WHAT?  WHAT?”  As though I’d said something.

I said nothing.

The next day, though, I got my revenge.  I worked in the Oshawa Centre mall back then, selling cameras and other photography equipment.  On my break, I went to the greeting card store and bought a really large card that originally said something like, “Congratulations on your new job!”  I then crossed out “job” and wrote “fart” in.  Then I changed the verse inside so it spoke more eloquently to her gassy emanations.  I got the eight or so employees in the store to sign it, amid much laughter.  Then my boss, with a mad twinkle in his eye, encouraged me to take some time out of my busy workday and go visit as many of the stores in the mall that I could, and collect as many signatures as I could.

I’m guessing there was likely over a hundred signatures on that card by the time I was done with it.  Needless to say, when I presented her with the card, I thought she was going to kick my ass.

Funny enough, she didn’t seem to want to go to the mall much after that…

But the problem with that entire fracturing of the flatulence border meant that all bets were off.  From then on, she lived by the phrase “wherever you may be let your wind blow free.”

Which, again, is no big deal.  Yes, there’s been some times where I think I was lucky to make it out of the car or room alive, nose hairs singed and eyes watering, but overall, what the hell, I did it, why can’t she, right?  So I didn’t discourage it.  Hell, I’ll admit it…in our house, it was never discouraged.

Gotta say, even with our best friends, it’s not discouraged.  I remember a New Year’s Eve when one of our friends was pretty much experiencing explosive decompression out of her ass most of the night and her husband, with evident pride in his voice, just kept saying, “Yep!  That’s my girl!”

Now, this all happened over eighteen years ago.  So you might say the Wife’s become quite comfortable with dropping a rose now.  Sometimes, a little too comfortable.

A few years back, we drove down to Florida.  At one point, needing food and bathrooms, we stopped at a Wendy’s at the side of the highway.  I can’t remember the particular city or state we were in, but I’m going to apologize to all Americans for what happened next.  I fear it may have been the lynchpin in the downfall of the U.S. economy and possibly the reason why George W. was re-elected for a second term in office.

I got out of the car, the kids piled out and, as usual, I stood waiting for the Wife to finally get her shoes on, grab her purse and do the 341 other things she feels are necessary prior to exiting a vehicle.  Finally, she got out and I locked the car and turned toward the restaurant.  And it was then, in broad daylight, mid-afternoon, in a very public parking lot, that she actually stopped, raised a leg slightly and flamboyantly heaved a load of gas that partially melted the tarmac.  The sound was that of stressed jet.

And it was only when she completed this unholy act that she realized exactly where the hell she was.  As the kids and I pretty much fell down onto the softened pavement, she yelped, “OH MY GOD!” and ran for the restaurant.  She’d completely zoned out to where she was.

And seizing that split second of inattention, her ass had betrayed her a second time.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we were up at Carleton University with the Girl.  We’d been up for the entire weekend and were stopping at the bookstore prior to heading back home.  It was unbelievably cold and maybe that, in part, contributed to the tragedy that occurred.

We went into the bookstore, walked around, got the stuff we were looking for, paid for it, and headed back out.  The Wife and I split off and headed to our respective sides of the car, where I opened my door.  Then I heard the most incredible sound.

It can only be described as a cross between a horrendous ripping noise, and the bleating of a Canada Goose being beaten to within an inch of its life.

Then the Wife cranked open her side, jumped in and, ducking as low as she could, yelled, “Get in!  DRIVE!  JUST DRIVE!”

Blame it on forgetfulness, blame it on the switch from warmth to insane cold sending her butt into paryoxic spasms.  Blame it on anything you want, she had been betrayed yet again by the diabolical beast that is her sphincter.

While I’ve never bought into the gloom and doom end of the world scenarios, as I write this, I fear those damn Mayans may have foreseen the power of the Wife’s butt trumpet and the world’s inability to resist it past Dec 21.

The lesson here?  Be careful what you encourage.