Cruising to fifty, part two: Frodo and the immovable bus

This is the second part of a series of blogs about the cruise the Wife and I went on last October.You can read part one here.

A quick set up:

I turned 50 on October 6, 2012. My wife surprised me about three weeks before, during a particular low spot in my life with a piece of paper. “Happy birthday,” she said. I opened the paper and quickly scanned it.

“We’re going on a cruise?” I said, and my mind kind of shut down with happiness after that. In fact, it wasn’t until several minutes later, as I was refolding the paper, that I saw the word “Greece” and just about shit. This is the story of what happened on that trip, taken almost exclusively from the diary I kept along the way.

Have mercy
Been waitin’ on the bus all day

ZZ Top

October 6 – My birthday!

I turned fifty over the Atlantic, but didn’t notice it until a couple of hours later. Could be I was tired. Could be I was old. Either way, I’d crossed that threshold.

The flight landed twenty minutes early and for the first time, I stepped on European land. Not that I had time to think about it. I think we’re spoiled in Canada and the U.S. when we walk off the plane and straight into the terminal. In Venice, we walked down a flight of stairs, stood on the tarmac and a crazed transport driver came by and did his best to make us puke, or at least drop us all to our knees on the ten minute drive from plane to terminal. Sharp turns with no warning, rapid acceleration and rapid stops were the order of the day.

We managed to hold down our nasty airline food and, once in the airport, desperately look for a washroom. I was quite happy I was male at this time, as I was able to simply walk in, find a free urinal, and do what I needed to do, which was to pee in my first European urinal. You’re a peein’ indeed! My wife, on the other hand, lined up for a solid twenty minutes. We both survived, then got our baggage, then we assembled to wait for our transport to the ship. If I’d known exactly how exasperating it was going to be, I would have hired a taxi. Ah well, hindsight’s 20/20, right?

So the first endurance test was to wait within the terminal. We had to wait until all the Transat travelers arrived. No biggie. The plan was to hop on the bus and get delivered to our various floating holiday accomodations, the Divina, the Jade, and ours, the Splendour of the Seas.

It wasn’t a horrible wait. We’d landed by noon local time, got our luggage by 12:30, and by 1:00, a short, balding, slightly anxious, hobbit-like driver walked us from the terminal to the bus with his hand raised to shoulder height–this from a guy barely scraping 5’3″–as though that hand could be followed through all of Middle Earth to the depths of Mordor.

Ten-ish minutes later, we were at the bus and we separated our luggage out depending on which ship we were headed to. A second group showed up, all headed for the Divina. We were all told to wait outside the bus. It was about ridiculously hot outside, but one of the other passengers described the bus as being “about 900 degrees” so we figured outside was better. Twenty minutes later, our hobbit driver started up the bus and the air conditioning and loaded us on. We were left with the impression we would leave shortly and, after eight hours in a cramped seat on the plane, here we were again, stuffed into a seat with no legroom. Meanwhile, Frodo was out chatting up another bus driver and sweating profusely.

Soon, a couple more groups showed up, stowed their luggage and got on the bus. It’s probably important to note at this point that this bus could likely seat about 70 people. I mention this because that first group I mentioned? The ones going to the Divina? There were eight of them, four couples. They obviously felt a deep, abiding love for each other and very much looked forward to spending a week with each other at sea, because when they got on the bus, they each claimed a section of two seats for themselves. Yes…sixteen seats for eight people. Four couples. Or, should I say, eight ignorant assholes. The other groups that got on the bus kind of gave them all the stink eye, then moved toward the back of the bus.

Anyway, it’s now about 1:45, almost two hours since we’ve landed, when Frodo finally climbs aboard and puts it into gear. Yay! I think, prematurely. We drive out of the parking lot, down a short laneway and get out to what looks like a main thoroughfare–a total distance of maybe a quarter-mile. Frodo then says, “Sorry!” and some other stuff in Italian that we couldn’t catch, then pulled a U-turn and we headed right back to the dreaded parking lot. He parked us in the exact same spot and leapt from the bus and ran back to the terminal.

Several minutes later, sweating worse now, he showed back up with more people and luggage.  He’d stow their luggage, direct them on the bus, grab a little fanny pack from the driver’s cockpit, say something about dropping off tickets, then scoot back to the terminal. Ten minutes later, he’d show up again.

With more travelers and luggage. Which would start the whole cycle all over again. Stow, direct, fanny pack, tickets, scoot, ten minutes.

Every time he came back, there was a feeling of anticipation, of woo-hoo, we’re on our way! Each time we saw more travelers, that feeling would deflate again. This went on for five full trips to and from the terminal for Frodo. By now, it was just getting old.

A solid hour after he’d left the parking lot, then returned, somewhere around 3:00, we’ve now been in Venice a total of three hours and seen nothing but an airport, a parking lot, a bus and a tantalizing glimpse of what lay beyond. We finally left the parking lot again, the bus packed to the gills and the ignorant assholes finally having to give up their individual sections and sit with each other.

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Our first real glimpse of Venice from the bus.

On the way into Venice

On the way into Venice

Our first glimpse of our ship

Our first glimpse of our ship

Fifteen minutes later, we were at our boat. We’d waited almost two and a half hours for a fifteen minute trip. Goddamn.

Anyway, the Royal Caribbean staff were all young, attractive and friendly and we were welcomed with big smiles. From their welcome, we then walked down a long, covered gangway and then…then we were on our ship. And it was beautiful.

The ship from the gangway

We found our way to our room and it actually had a birthday greeting right on the door. Karen let me open the door and I found the room decorated with birthday s

tuff. Holy crap! In all the fuss with Frodo, I’d forgotten it was still actually my birthday.

By now, it was about 3:30 local time, or about 9:30 am by what my internal clock was telling me. We’d been up for about 28 straight hours. We were tired and hungry.

We headed down to the solarium–a beautiful area, by the way–and had an excellent carved roast beef sandwich and it was nice to just sit in a comfortable chair with legroom  and look out at Venice sprawled in front of us.


At 4:30 (29 hours and counting), everyone had to attend muster–gathering beneath our designated lifeboat (ours was #10) and were taught, in English, Italian, German and Spanish, how to put on a lifejacket. It was interestingly refreshing to not get the instructions in French, as we would have in Canada.

We took a couple of pictures then went back to the cabin for a nap. Okay, I went back for a nap.

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I’d just laid down when Karen dragged me back out–twice–to look at interesting things. The launch of the ship out of port and Venice sliding by.

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I should say, it’s always been a dream of mine to go to Venice. And here it was. I wanted to enjoy it. I truly did. But 30 hours awake and 4500 miles of travel by plane, bus and ship had done their work. I fell on the bed and died.

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I woke up at 6:30. Karen had been too excited to sleep, so she’d taken pictures and unpacked. I’d slept through it all.

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It was time for dinner, so I clambered into the teeny, tiny shower and scrubbed off the exhaustion of the past day and a half, got dressed and we headed down for dinner. I had an excellent dinner of pork medallions, mashed potatoes and mushrooms in a ragout sauce with a Caesar salad. Dessert was Strawberry Povlova…which was crazy good.

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We took a brief walk around the ship, then came back to the cabin and we both fell down in exhaustion.

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And that’s how I turned fifty years old. A little rough in spots, but overall, it turned out fantastic. Story of my life!

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 124-2Tomorrow was going to be a better day.

See part three here.


Lunching on dogs and foot-in-mouth

Many, many years ago, I worked for Arby’s, the fast food place.  Long story short, my post-secondary education plans fell through and I needed a job until I figured out what the hell came next.  I never realized it would lead to me saying the stupidest thing at the most inappropriate time ever.

And believe me, I’ve said some stupid things.

Arby’s was going to be a quick thing, but somehow it didn’t work out that way and they kept promoting me.  One of the promotions was to Second Assistant Manager, which meant at the time (and I can’t speak for them now, as it’s been thirty years) that I got the shit shifts and the crappy jobs.  Oh, and the pay was spectacularly bad, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Anyway, I was about a year in and they decided to send me for a week of Management Training down in Atlanta, where the head offices were.  The training was a joke, but Atlanta was cool.  Of course, at the time, I was maybe twenty or so, very insecure and feeling highly intimidated by the older guys, and it really seemed to be all guys, in the training with me.

Anyway, I did my best to try and fit in, though I never really felt like I did.  My roommate was an older, married guy, and we had nothing in common, so that was a bust, and, because we were from the first Arby’s stores in Canada, everyone else in the training was American, so it was a little harder for a sheltered geek like me to talk to them as well.

But on the first day of training, as we were learning all about fast food management, someone brought up The Varsity, which was, by all accounts, an unbelievable fast food establishment.  I watched as guys from around perked up and paid attention.  Was I the only guy that hadn’t heard of this place?

It’s important to remember that there was no Google back then to quickly check anything out on.

They promised to take us at some point through the week, and on the Thursday, they made good.  At lunch, we loaded up a few cars and drove the short distance to The Varsity.  Now, bear in mind this is all me running from thirty-year-old memories, so I may bugger up some of the facts.  From what I remember, The Varsity was across from Varsity Stadium, hence the name.

There was so much that made this place impressive, starting with the sheer size of it.  It had its own helicopter landing pad (that they called the Lunch Pad).  I think they went through something like a ton or two of onions every day.

What did they sell?  From what I remember, burgers and dogs, but I might be wrong on the burgers.  Personally, I ordered two chili dogs, a Coke and fries.

Now here’s one of the other impressive things… When you talk fast food, I can still expect to go through a McD’s drive-thru and expect to be parked and the food come out to me.  I can go through a Tim Horton’s drive-thru and expect a line of ten to fifteen cars ahead of me and a five to ten minute wait.

The Varsity averaged seven second service.  Nope, not kidding.  Seven seconds.

I will say they had a separate line for women and children simply because those two groups are slower.  And no, I’m not going to apologize for that one.  Where I’ll slap a five dollar bill down for an 87-cent charge, I’ve watched my wife dig for what felt like fifteen minutes to dredge up the change in her purse, only to come up short, then slap a five dollar bill down for an 87-cent charge.  So, nyah.

Anyway, another thing that’s totally different from your average McD’s or Arby’s or Burger King or whatever…the guy that took my order and how he was positioned.  He was a large, intimidating man behind a counter that–I kid you not–was level with my neck, so he was way above me, like a judge in a courtroom.  And he was making this very strange noise over and over.  It sounded like “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah, whoodnyaaaah, whoodnyaaaah…”  I found out later he was actually saying, “Whaddya haaaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave…”

Anyway, I also got a good lesson in proper ordering etiquette when a guy a few spots ahead of me in line had the sheer audacity to walk up.  The dude is doing his “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah” thing, and the customer says, “I’ll…have…uuuuuuummmm…”

At which point, counter dude stops, leans way over the counter so he’s nose to nose with the customer and, harshly and loudly says, “I SAID, WHADDYA HAVE?”

Ah, okay, that makes sense now.  “Whoodnyaaaaah, whoodnyaaaah…”  is actually, “Whaddya haaaave, whaddya haaave, whaddya haaave…”  But back to the customer.

The customer, taken aback, stutters and sputters, but doesn’t get an order out.  “BACK OF THE LINE!” counter dude yells, and points his arm at the back of the line that must have a hundred guys in it.  The customer meekly and dutifully heads back.  In five minutes, he’ll have another chance.

When I go up, I have my money out and my order memorized.  Counter dude ain’t gonna rip me a new one.  I order my chili dogs, fries and Coke, give him the money (which he scoops into a hole in the counter) and he fairly throws my change at me as the food is set in front of me.  If it took five seconds from start to finish, I’d be shocked.

I head off to where my fellow trainees are sitting and we eat.  The food is nothing to write home about, but it’s really all about the experience.  And really, it’s a cool experience.

Now, this is where it gets interesting.

We eat.  I pound back two chili dogs.  Mash some fries down on top of it and drown it all in Coke.  We sit for a while as this stuff brews in my gut.  Then we clamber back into the cars and head back to the office.

As we enter the building, I notice two stunning young women heading toward the elevators as well.

I’m going to take a moment to remind everyone that, at this point, I’m twenty, and I’m essentially a walking erection, as most males at that age are.

So, yes, I notice the ladies.

We all get into the elevator.  Maybe five guys, and the two women. Someone presses our floor.  One of the women press a floor below ours.  I’m staring at the short skirts and the long legs and the hair and the entire package.  Once again, I’m twenty, folks.

Then, we reach the women’s floor.  The elevator kind of bounces a bit and all that brewing stuff rolls over and threatens a quick, gassy exit.  But I’m young and I’ve got control.  I clench and hold it in, but the effort diverts my attention momentarily.

I rub my belly and say, “Oh man, there go those two dogs!”

Just as…

The two women…

Leave the elevator.

One of the guys sputters out a braying laugh.  I look at him, then follow his gaze out the elevator doors to the two women, now turned, are giving me the nastiest hairy eyeball ever sent from one gender to another.

I throw my hands up, perhaps as a gesture of placation, perhaps as a ward to the hairy eyeballs.  And I say, “No!  No!  That’s not….”

The elevator doors, deaf to my plaintive cries, close before I can get out the explanation.

The last image I have of the two women?  One is flipping me the bird, the other is doing the full palm in elbow, forearm flipped up.

And inside the elevator, two of the guys have slid to the floor, faces red, bellies clutched, tears squirting from eyes, laughing themselves silly.

All because of two chili dogs.

Damn you, Varsity.

The whole world’s goin’ crazy

Yet another rant on the assholes that I’ve been unsuccessful in kicking off my planet.

Have you ever seen one of those potato guns?  They’re big, homemade contraptions that you can load up a potato as the projectile and get some ridiculous distance and damage with them.  Not far from where I live, there’s a place call Pingle’s Farm and they went one step better, vastly increasing the caliber of the barrel so they could stuff pumpkins and other assorted gourds into and blow them across a full acreage of farmland.

My goal is to go one better and increase the barrel size to fit at least one, but, for efficiency’s sake, preferably four or five humans.  The goal would be to accelerate them to escape velocity and fire their asses into deep space where they can’t be heard anymore.

Because we all know, in space, no one can hear you scream.  Or fart.  Or spout bullshit.

Let’s load up the first one, shall we?

Message of tolerance

Meet Jessica Ahlquist, a sixteen-year-old atheist.  I’m going to state right up front that I’m not the most religious person on the planet, nor am I against atheists.  I believe everyone has the right to choose their own religion.  I also believe in the right of free speech.

Apparently Ahlquist disagrees with me.  There’s a banner in her high school that reads

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best. To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School.

This is a banner that’s hung there for 49 years.  But now Ahlquist has decided, it needs to come down.  It’s not right to read that.  In her own words, that it’s “almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good.”

Apparently a judge agrees with her, ruling the banner is “unconstitutional.”  Fantastic.  So now we have sixteen-year-olds deciding what’s good and what’s not for the entire school and judges backing them up.  Thanks, Jessica, thank God…oops, thank Nobody…(don’t take me to court, Jessica) that you came along to save those poor kids who shouldn’t be reading that horrible, awful message that’s destroyed 49 years’ worth of students that came before you.  Oh yeah, and you’re getting $40000 out of it (so far) too.

I get a kick out John Figdor from Harvard University who appears in the video and says, “We’re very proud of the message she’s making, which is a message of tolerance. [emphasis mine]”

This is a message of tolerance?  “I don’t believe in God, so I can’t tolerate the “Our Heavenly Father” and the “Amen” in the banner?  How about not looking at it?

Hopefully Jessica won’t notice the churches strewn through the town and decide that removal of the crosses is for our own good too.  You know, spreading her message of tolerance.

***UPDATE: It’s been (quite rightly) pointed out to me by a couple of people (thanks Gavy and Lisa) that my focus was off on this one.  They were right.  This isn’t about Free Speech.  What pisses me off is the fact that this went to court, that a kid’s profiting from it, when it could have been solved by pulling four words off. and changing it so it reads like a Mission Statement (it only takes the removal of two words and adding three):

We strive each day for the desire to do our best. To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School.

And here’s the thing…two people didn’t agree with me.  But we all approached it rationally and calmly and made our points.  No judges, no lawyers, no demonstrations.  I was corrected and I learned from it.

What did this sixteen-year-old learn?  What did her classmates learn?

Pedophile preacher can stay, kids get the boot

Sticking with the religion theme for a bit here, meet Darrell Gilyard of the Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.  Darrell’s the new pastor at the church.  Fantastic, right?

Well, Darrell’s got a bit of a history.  Turns out, between spreading the Word, Darrell tends to ignore his own preaching.  In 2009, he plead guilty to lewd conduct and lewd molestation of two underage girls.   Apparently when he was the pastor of another Baptist church, he molested a 15-year-old girl and sent a lewd text message to another.  Just the kind of guy you want acting as your morale and ethical leader, right?

Under the conditions of his plea agreement, Gilyard cannot have “unsupervised contact with children under 18 years old.”  Hmmm, that kind of poses a problem, considering the line of work he’s in.  So, what did the church decide?  He got out of prison last Dec 28 and was back to preaching by January.  And the church banned children from the services.

Well, yeah.  Makes total sense to me.  Give the dude with the short eyes the break and screw over the kids.  Because, you know, once you do some time in jail, those tendencies just fall away.  You never want to do them again.  Oh, wait, maybe you do, because they don’t want him near anyone under the age of 18.

And I can see this occurring everywhere.  You know, if you have, say, a teacher that is convicted of lewd conduct and lewd molestation of underaged boys or girls, you can still bring him back to teach.  Just ban the kids from attending his classes, right?

And before anyone busts me about hating on the Baptists…I don’t.  I hate on morons, whatever the race, colour, religion or sexual orientation, okay?

PayPal looks out for you…doesn’t that make you feel better?

Oh those wacky guys at PayPal with their crazy policies, huh?  On Saturday February 18, PayPal brought down the moral hammer on indie book publishers and distributors, threatening them with immediate deactivation of their accounts if they did not remove books containing certain sexual themes.  What themes?  Sexual fantasies that PayPal does not approve of, that’s what themes.

Let’s get specific, cuz sexual fantasies cover a wide range, don’t they?

Now granted, shit like child porn?  Yeah, you know what, let’s stay away from that crap, and PayPal includes a bunch of subjects that many would consider offensive or disturbing in real life.  Not sure where you come down on BDSM (Bondage, Submission, Sadism and Masochism).  It ain’t my cup of tea, but that’s just me.  Most of it is not illegal in North America.  Again, not judging here.  I mean, we have areas in North America where what two homosexuals would do when engaging in sex would be considered illegal.  So it’s a big stupid mess, but that’s not my point.  Here’s what is.

One of the things PayPal included was non-human fantasy creatures.  That means PayPal is demanding the removal of paranormal romance stories that include shape-shifters – if the shape-shifters were to have sex in their non-human forms.

Huh.  First of all, what happened to Free Speech?

Second, does that mean we have to recall all those Twilight books?  Yes, when Edward and Bella get it on, technically he’s in human form.  But technically, he’s also dead.  So that’s necrophilia, right?  That’s illegal.

Okay, so maybe there is and upside to this.

I’m kidding.  Seriously, what’s with everyone trying to spy on us and tell us what we can and cannot do in our own homes lately?

And speaking of spying on us…

Happiness is not a plastic gun

Meet Jessie Sansone, the poor bastard.  Jessie, unlike everyone else above, didn’t do anything wrong.  But just because he’s got a plastic dart gun in the house and a four-year-old daughter with some creativity, he went through hell.

His daughter drew a picture in school of her father with a gun and she told a teacher he was fighting the “monsters and bad guys.”  She’s four, folks.  Kids do that kind of thing.  This apparently “triggered fears that the family home contained a weapon that was a threat to the children.”

Let’s remember a couple of things here.  This is in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.  It’s perfectly legal to own a gun here.  Let’s also remember that the picture did not show the gun pointed at kids.  The girl did not in any way indicate that her father was threatening her or anyone else in her family.  Only bad guys and monsters.

So, the girl’s teacher at Forest Hill Public School was “concerned” by the drawing and called Family and Children’s Services, who assessed the case and called police. No one called the home.  No one talked to Jessie.  Instead, he went to pick up his kid from school and was met by three cops.  After being interviewed by police at the school, Sansone was handcuffed and taken to the police station in a cruiser, where he was strip-searched (because he might have hidden a gun up his ass before picking his daughter up) and held while the rest of his family was dragged to the station for questioning.

They also searched his house.  Without a warrant.  Then, then found the gun.  This one:

Pretty dangerous, huh?

God knows what they would have done to my mother when, in the span of two weeks when I was about six or seven, I draped a perfectly knotted hangman’s noose off our third floor balcony and, as a school project, built both a hangman’s platform with noose and trapdoor made out of twine and popsicle sticks, as well as a working guillotine with a razor blade as the cutting device and an stolen thimble as the basket for the head to fall into.

Has all sense become lost to us as a society?

I got shenked by Nate

Apparently I’ve been Shenked by Nate.  That is, Nate Shenk over at ShenkItUp who’s tagline is “Wanna get shenked?”.  He got nailed, so he’s passed this along like some sexually transmitted disease to me.  A real sick internet “hashtag you’re it!” sorta thing.

So…here’s apparently what I must do to get myself out of this mess…

  • I must post 11 things about myself.
  • Answer the questions asked by the tagger (Nate).
  • I must tag 11 other bloggers to continue the game.
  • Create 11 new questions for the bloggers I then tag to answer.
  • Inform each blogger that I have tagged them.
  • Post the rules for the tagged bloggers to follow.

Let’s see what damage I can do here, all right?

11 things about myself

  1. When I was little, I tended to plug up toilets with alarming regularity (pardon the pun).  Apparently that’s one gene I’ve managed to pass along to the Boy, which you can read about starting here.  Anyway, my mother tells the story of our family going out to a nice restaurant.  Luckily, we’d eaten before I asked to go to the washroom.  But my mother looked on in horror as I came back out of the restaurant, a seeping trail of water from the overflowing toilet flowing along behind me.  Apparently she paid the bill and got us out of there.  Pronto.
  2. When I was about four, we owned a gas station/restaurant.  One night, my black Lab, Dino (named after Dean Martin), was inside the gas station customer area and I was standing just outside.  Dino jumped up, both paws on the window of the aluminum door that separated us.  He wanted out, but me, being four, decided to play a game with him.  I tapped at the glass and he went back to standing, staring at me.  Then he jumped up again.  So I hit the window again.  Down he went again.  We continued to do this, with one slight difference each time.  Every time I hit the glass, I hit it a bit harder.  Until I put my entire right forearm through the glass.  45 years later, I still have the scar that runs from where my thumb meets my wrist then runs in a slow arc back to the middle of my forearm.  I probably should have gone to the hospital for stitches.  I don’t remember a hospital at all (though I’m sure I went there eventually).
  3. I was Tobin Higgins until I was legally adopted by my step-father around 1972, at which point I became Tobin Elliott.  And I gotta say, Tobin Higgins sounds freakishly foreign to me now.
  4. When I was ten, as I was bending down to pick up a baseball, my best friend, Jimmy Baldwin–completely unaware of what I was doing–was attempting to hit that same ball with a bat as hard as he could, golf style.  He did hit the ball, but the follow-through landed the bat straight into the space just below my nose, breaking one front tooth in half and pushing the other one backwards 90 degrees.  The lower part of the broken tooth tore a new hole through my lower lip, giving me a permanent Harrison Ford scar (really, they’re damn near identical).  It also sent cracks up the front of my skull.  The good news is, I lived.  Jimmy felt horrible, but I never held it against him.  Stupid accident.
  5. I have a sister I haven’t really talked to in 29 years, and a brother I haven’t really talked to (except for a massive blowout about a year ago) in 15 years.  I essentially consider myself an only child.
  6. I was the very horribly bad lead singer in a band called Chunka Fudge (from the 1984 Oh Henry chocolate bar commercial).  I think we practiced twice and played once.  And then we were done.  Trust me, the world is better without Chunka Fudge.
  7. I used to carry a bent fork in my jean jacket pocket.  Not really sure why…I remember I found it outside a restaurant and picked it up (can’t remember what the hell I was going to do with it), but I ended up taking it home, discovering it in a pocket, washing it, then folding it over where the business end met the handle, then tucking into my jean jacket pocket and buttoning down the top flap again.  All that was visible was the four tines.  Though I got a lot of questioning glances and a couple of “why?” questions, no one ever seemed concerned over it.  I wore that fork in the jacket for a solid five years.  I don’t know where it is now.  And no, I still don’t know why I did it.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.
  8. I’ve never really drank alcohol.  I think my sum total imbibing amounted to half a beer once.  There was a period when I was 17 or 18 that I kind of got bugged about it, so one weekend when we were camping, I finally relented, said, “Okay, gimme a beer.”  Everyone was excited.  I popped the cap, held the bottle by the neck and said, “Okay, you all ready?”  They agreed they were, smiles all around.  I turned the bottle 180 degrees and they watched the precious liquid spill into the thirsty dirt.  They never offered again.  When I left town for school, I would attend parties, and, just to stave off the explanations and hassle, I would just go into the kitchen, grab an empty bottle, pour some water in it, then walk around with it.  No one ever bugged me.
  9. I’ve never smoked or done drugs.  The closest was keeping a lit Colt cigarillo in my mouth to light firecrackers during a firecracker war.  But, like Bill Clinton, I never inhaled.
  10. Up until I moved away from Oshawa and to the small town of Barry’s Bay, ON, between grades 10 and 11, I was pathologically shy.  I typically had one friend and I was the guy that everyone picked on in school.  That all changed in Grade 11.
  11. Apparently I can do anything.  When I was about 20, I was horribly undecided about what I wanted to do with my life.  A wonderfully helpful woman at the Unemployment Office (now, in our politically correct times, is called the Employment Office) offered to run me through a battery of tests that would test my skills in language, math, comprehension, pattern recognition, manual dexterity and the like.  It took a full day, but, she assured me, it would help me narrow the field and determine what I was good at.  I don’t think I’ve seen the look before or since, but she looked chagrined when I came in for the results.  Turns out I was above average in all areas.  It didn’t eliminate anything.  I remember her saying, “Tobin, you could literally be a garbage man or a brain surgeon and everything in between.”  Fast forward twenty years to 2002 and I went through a different battery of tests for the company I work for, but they measured virtually all the same things except for manual dexterity.  Apparently I again scored in the top third percentile.  My director looked at me as said, “You are capable of doing anything you want.”  So why is it I still can’t I figure out what I want to be when I grow up?

Nate’s questions

1. What is your best response to people who criticize your writing?

“Nobody forced you to read it.”

2. What country (other than America) would you like to live in?

Well, I don’t live in America, I live in Canada, which really can’t be beat.  But if I could choose one other place?  Venice has captured my attention in recent years, though I’ve never been.  I’m gonna say Venice.

3. Do you think rap music should be considered music?

Sorry, “rap music” is an oxymoron for me.  Just ain’t my style, but neither is country, or whatever that shit that Celine Dion sings.

4. What TV show do you watch that you’re embarrassed to admit to?

I’m really not embarrassed to admit I watch anything, to be honest.  I don’t know…maybe something from my deep dark past?  Like…The StarLost?  The show that even Harlan Ellison removed his name from?

5. Would you rather be trapped on an island with Oprah, or Nancy Pelosi?

I’d take anyone over Oprah.

6. Do you believe that the world will end on December 21st? If so, what do you plan to do on December 20th?

No, I don’t.  But if I knew it would, I’d be buying up a whole lotta shit on that “don’t pay for one full year!” deal.

7. Most embarrassing moment that you’re no longer embarrassed about?

Wow…it’s pretty damn hard to embarrass me.  Maybe the time I got conned into walking around at a pool party interviewing the guests (I was maybe 22) while somebody videoed it.  As I started talking to a very pretty girl, someone finally sprung the trap…they yanked my bathing trunks down to my ankles.  On video.  What did I do?  Continued to ask her questions which she simply couldn’t answer.  When she walked away, then I pulled up the shorts.

8. Do you believe that the government should legalize marijuana? (hehe you don’t have to answer, I just wanted to mix things up a bit). If you don’t want to answer that, do you believe that the legal drinking age should go back to being 18? Or 16, like it is in Germany?

Yes to legalizing marijuana.  Legal drinking age?  How about some smarter rules around it, demystify it so it’s not such a gigantic act of rebellion?  We’ve let our kids drink in the house since they were fifteen.  The result?  The Boy couldn’t care less about it, and the Girl rarely drinks, and only in moderation.

9. What would be the first thing you purchased after winning $300 mil in the lotto?

A huge round the world trip for my family.  But I’d also have a little something waiting for me when I got back.  A 1963 split-window Corvette.

10. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Lady Gaga?

That she puts the “gag” in Gaga.

11. How many siblings do you have? Would you of liked more, or less?

Answered above.  One brother, one sister.  I would have liked one of each with a lot more intelligence.

11 bloggers tagged to continue the game

The bloggers tagged who are now under sworn oath to do what I just did are as follows:

Pat from Nine Day Wonder

Noelle from Bound by the Word

Elizabeth from The Garden Gate (I got you before you got me…nyaah!)

Michael from Michael Lorenson (Mike, I’m doing you a favour by giving you daily blog material!)

Ruth from Ruth Ellen Parlour

Deepam from Deepam Wadds

William from Random Musings in Time

Jessa from The Terrible Secret of Space

Kevin from Kevin Craig

Notwriter from The Not Writer

UD from The Ongoing Adventures of the Undisciplined Writer (just cuz I haven’t seen a post from them in a loooooong time…proving she lives up to her title!)

Having said that, I know many bloggers hate these things…feel free to ignore if it will lead to panic attacks, stress, grey hairs, earthquakes, floods, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lowered sex-drive, baldness, or the beating of baby seals.

The 11 Questions for the Tagged Bloggers

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. What country (other than your current one) would you like to live in?
  3. Who’s the best band/artist in the world?
  4. If you could have a conversation with any three people, living or dead, who would you choose?
  5. In the course of your day, you hear a message from God (or your deity of choice) telling you to leave your job, family, and life and live as a fisherman (or woman) on the Nile.  There’s no doubt in your mind it’s truly God speaking to you.  Do you go?
  6. You have one week to live.  What do you do in the seven days left to you?
  7. Your deity of choice (and if you’re an athiest, just go with me here) is holding a Celestial Interview.  You’re allowed only one question to Him/Her.  What would it be?
  8. Has the Earth been visited by aliens?  Why or why not?
  9. You can have any occupation in the world.  What would it be?
  10. What’s the difference between an orange?
  11. Define the universe and give three examples.
    (okay, those last two are just me having fun, but go ahead and answer if you’ve got the cojones)