Month: January 2012

The Trusting and The Dumb

I was just at the mall, where I noticed either the most trusting human being on the planet, or the dumbest. This guy, who was only carrying a bag of groceries and had a free hand, walked blindly into the door at the exit of the mall. A bruise was quick to form on his forehead, and on the bridge of his nose.

I asked whether he was okay, and his words were “I thought it was an automatic door”. “I thought it would open as I approached it”.  He must have thought he was on Star Trek!!!

Sometimes I have to wonder whether we take too many things for granted these days. To some extent, technology has made us less intelligent. For instance, without remote controls we cannot change television channels. Without spell check, we cannot write a letter. Without coffee makers or the local coffee shop we do without our caffeine intake and go around cranky all day.

Our children know only computer games, and when introduced to board games (which is always my goal here at work), they act like you have introduced them to a new form of entertainment.

We cannot do without our cell phones, ipads, laptops, ereaders, etc.

Kids cannot do math without calculators, they never heard of figuring things out in their heads, and perish the thought of using a pen and paper to work out a problem.

One has to wonder what would happen if all electronics stopped working. Would we get lost in mazes like low intelligence lab mice?

Where are we as a civilization when we have evolved so much that we cannot function?

I do not have the answer, but the guy who just walked into a closed door certainly does not help the problem.

I want a kagillion dollars too

P Diddy sued for One Trillion dollars and accused of causing 9/11

This is insane. Some woman is suing rapper Diddy for One Trillion dollars and accusing the guy of causing 9/11. Apparently, he has her poker chip, which is supposed to be worth A ZILLION Dollars. I didn’t know the term “zillion’ was an actual monetary term, but leave it to a lawyer to try anyway.

The woman claims that he fathered her baby, and somehow knocked the world trade center down.

This is hilarious that this story even made the news, let alone warrants some judge of actually taking the story serious. Where are we headed when stories like this make the news?

The High School Scrabble Game

The students are engaged in a game of Scrabble today. Kids today cannot spell, so how in the hell can they play scrabble you ask? I don’t have the answer. I am suffering here. I admit I get a bit OCD when it comes to spelling words.

Words like ‘it’ and ‘in’ fill the board, while the ‘smarter’ kids make words like ‘spelt’ and ‘delt’, which are meant to be ‘spelled’ and ‘dealt’. Hell, they are arguing because one of them thinks ‘uh’ is a word because he says it all the time. I am sweating here, the words are getting worse.

One kid just made a word. ‘Zou’. The others argue that it isn’t a word. He says “the place they keep animals’. Zoo maybe? He can’t spell Zoo. This kid is an honor student. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrr!

C’mon guys, our kids are going through the entire school system without spelling skills. Taking spelling out of the school curriculum is not helping our students, it is making life more difficult for them afterwards. Can you imagine reading a novel written by a non-speller? The only one who may be able to understand it would be the kid who wrote it in the first place.

College must be incredibly difficult for a non-speller. Imagine trying to write a term paper when you can’t even spell ‘term paper’. The college drop out rate is steadily increasing, and this may be why.

These kids don’t read much. I wonder why? They cannot spell, so reading must be a real chore.

Teachers and learners claim that by removing spelling from schools, it allows kids to be more creative, but what is the good of creativity if nobody knows what the hell they are writing?

I know I may have mentioned this before, but this is serious stuff. Kids are texting, using words that they make up, and somehow they have created their own language, understood only by their peers. Again, not too handy when writing books.

Someone needs to take a stand. Kids are our future.

Read the package

Read the instructions on the packaging, my uncle Albert used to say. Sometimes people should heed their own advice.

Back a few years ago my Uncle Albert planned to insulate his basement. At the time, Styrofoam was a new thing, and Albert was the first person in our community to try the new stuff, which cost a fortune at the time.

Albert bought the thickest Styrofoam insulation he could find, and he spent the better part of a week applying the large sheets to his basement wall. He planned on leaving the stuff exposed until he could afford to cover it.

He then finished the basement, complete with the finest shag carpeting and stuccoed ceilings. He invited people over for a party, and everyone admired his work.

The next week, Albert felt that the white walls were too much, plus he didn’t like the way small beads of the insulation ended up in his shag carpet, but he couldn’t afford to buy the paneling he wanted to finish the walls. That night, he came up with a great idea. He planned to paint the insulation with a nice oil paint. Albert spent all night painting the walls, and when he finished, he went to bed.

The next morning, Albert and his family were greeted by a sickly smell that gave everyone terrible headaches. I remember mom and dad going up to their house in a rescue attempt as the family needed hospital attention. When they returned home, Albert was in for a surprise. Upon entering his basement, he found that the fumes came from the basement, and the effect of paint coming into contact with Styrofoam. The walls were covered with a black, oily residue that ran into the edges of the shag carpeting. The entire basement was ruined, and every bit of the insulation dissolved. He should have read the instructions on the packaging.

My American Uncle

Living in Canada, there are things you just can’t find here. When I was a kid, we thought we had it made. My Uncle Bill, known as “Gee Whilikers” by all who knew him, used to bring us things from his home in the states.

I remember once, Uncle Bill brought over this giant aquarium, and filled it with thousands of dollars worth of tropical fish. He spent years filling the tank with fish of every variety.

I used to hang with his son David. and on one occasion, we thought that we would help David’s dad out with his fish tank. We went to the local creek and using a net, we caught a dozen or so brook trout. David was excited to show is dad all the fish, but his dad was gone on the road, so we dumped the entire lot of fish into the tank with the tropical fish.

We certainly did not know that trout were damn cannibals, and we were surprised to find that the trout ate every last one of the tropical fish. At first, we laughed, saying that those dumb tropical fish were wimps alongside Newfoundland trout, but we got concerned when the only fish remaining in the tank were the dozen trout we caught in the creek.

Uncle Bill was not impressed.

My Aunt Ann met Uncle Bill back in the late fifties, while the United States Air Force had an army base here in town. Bill liked the place so much that he decided to make his home here.  He used to cuss lots, I guess that came from years of serving in the army, and since my Aunt Ann was a religious woman, she tried to get him to refrain from cussing so much. He decided that every time he chose to swear, he would say ‘Gee Whilikers’ instead. He said the phrase so often that now, years after his death, people still refer to him as ‘Gee Whilikers’.

Uncle Bill was a truck driver, and a heavy chain smoker, and despite doctors pleading for him to quit, he chose to smoke and ignore the warnings. By the time he turned 65 and retired,  he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died shortly afterwards. This was sad for the family, as my Aunt Ann waited all her life to have her husband (and father of her four children) home with her. Life as a truck driver’s wife couldn’t have been easy, as she virtually raised her children on her own.

Last year, as we moved from one end of the island to the other (an eight hour drive), we hired out a moving company to move our furniture. Upon hearing where we were from, the truck driver asked whether I knew Gee Whilikers. He said that he used to work with Bill when he first started in the business, and he remembers a kind man who was a total professional in the business, and who said “Gee Whilikers” every five seconds. Funny how people remember the strangest things.

Things that taste like something else

I just finished Jello’s newest sensation, pudding that tastes like ice cream sandwiches. Well, it was supposed to taste like an ice cream sandwich. I actually tasted like chocolate pudding.  They have other flavors as well, like Banana Cream Pie, which tastes exactly like banana pudding, and lemon meringue pie, which tastes suspiciously like lemon pudding.

I had a similar experience once, with the Jones cola brand. I seen the dumbest flavor of pop and of course I had to try it. My uncle brought over a special limited edition cola pack that featured Turkey and gravy pop.

Anyone who wants to drink Turkey gravy pop needs some help. I did try it, and for me, the experience was nothing like mom’s home made turkey dinner. Not only that, there is just something wrong with drinking what you should be eating.  What’s next? Baked Root Beer?

I admit it. I bought the gum. Juicy Fruit apple pie gum. The thought of a gum that would take away cravings for home made apple pie seemed like a great idea to some ad executive, and to me as well. Maybe chewing the gum would help me lose the weight I gained Christmas. Ya, that’s it, chew gum rather than eat. Didn’t work! The gum tasted nothing like apple pie and more like that terrible taste I get in the back of my throat whenever someone has those Glade Plug-Ins in their homes.

Rolling the strings

First of all, I must warn you, I am not a guitar player. Fact is, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, so this post is not one to brag about my guitar playing prowess.

That being said, I admit there is nothing I enjoy more than watching a good guitar player do what he or she does best, and that is take that stringed instrument, the one in which I have tried to play countless times, and make that bugger sing.

My Dad used to play when he was younger, and still had good dexterity with his fingers, but numerous injuries to his hands has caused his fingers to stiffen up too much to hit the chords, so he won’t even venture near a guitar those days.

My dad taught himself to play from listening to Johnny Cash tunes. He used to really enjoy listening to the many Smiley Bates records (youtube the guy, he was talented!) and I remember hearing him picking his flattop guitar out on the front step while us kids sat in the front yard playing our kid games. we used to make our own guitars, out of an empty tissue box with ‘lastic bands stretched across the opening.

My fascination with the guitar went beyond trying to play them (I gave up on that a long time ago), so I ended up collecting recordings of the greatest pickers in our time. I had every Chet album I could find, a few Roy Clarks, and when I got older, I moved on to Jeff Healey, John Lee Hooker, an Bo Didley, and one day, I got really lucky and found a box set of early Clapton tunes that I still play (converted to .mp3 of course, hard to play records on my ipod!)

A few years ago, a few friends of mine asked me along to a party they were attending. I was never that much of a party guy, but when I heard one of my friends say that they invited a guitar player, I began to show some interest. My friend Paul said that he met this guy while he visited the local unemployment center. He said the guy showed up to look for work with tattered clothing, his hair a mess, and reeking alcohol. He also said that the guy brought along his guitar when he was looking for work, and despite the fact that he did not get a job that day, he treated everyone to over two hours of the best picking anyone had ever heard.

I now wanted to go to the party, just so I could see (and hear) what my friends were talking about. When I got to the party, I noticed the guy right away. My friend Paul got up in front of everyone to introduce his guest of honor, a guy known only as Raymond. At first glance, I knew I had seen this guy somewhere before, and it hit me where. While walking in downtown St. John’s a few years back, we happened along this bum, sitting in front of a bar, playing his heart out on an old guitar, while his guitar case lay in front of him filled with pennies, nickles and dimes. I remember mentioning to my friend that this guy should be playing in front of an audience, not bumming for small change, and I remember my friend’s reply. “He is just an old bum with a guitar. Don’t look at him, he might be dangerous.”

I still don’t think the guy is dangerous, but I grew curious when he began playing for everyone. As he played tunes like Walking Blues and a few tunes I had never heard, people bought him drinks, which he threw back like he was putting out a fire. He then went into a fury picking out old country tunes, some of which challenged even Chet’s best work, mixing in blues, country, and the best rock licks, and in no time at all, the party was rocking.

Later, when he had taken a break outside, I approached him, curious to where he learned to play like that. While he drew back on his cigarette, he began explaining to me a story that will stay with me forever.

Raymond said that back in his teens, he was considered a prodigy. His teachers urged him to go further than the small cove he lived in, but coming from an abusive home, he feared anything other than the life he lived. Despite being so talented,  the abuse he received at home destroyed any confidence he may have had. Since both his parents drank, he too was inflicted with an alcoholic habit, and he started drinking while he attended elementary school, at the age of fourteen.

Raymond told me of one teacher, Mr Cummings, who tried to take him away from all his troubles by teaching him the work of the masters. Mr Cummings was the music teacher at Raymond’s high school, and quite the guitar player himself. During lunch, Mr Cummings and Raymond used to practice guitar together, and as one taught the other, there grew a trusting relationship.

Raymond told me of the times that he and Mr. Cummings spent together, and how they both planned to start a guitar duo, and not only travel the province, but maybe even the world. He went on to say that he really trusted Mr. Cummings, the only person who ever treated him good. He said that he loved playing so much that picking replaced drinking. Raymond began to cry when he continued his story.

“Mr Cummings and I were booked at a hotel in St. John’s. We were supposed to play for an audience of over 500 people during a spring concert in the city. We were in the hotel practicing when it happened. Mr Cummings got real close to me. Real close.”

By now, the picker sucked what was left of his cigarette butt and began drinking his booze straight from the bottle.  As he went on with his story, I guessed where it was going, and tried to stop him from continuing.

“He got real close to me”, he said.  “The only person who did not hit me, call me stupid, abuse me, the only person I could ever trust. The person who taught me so much on this guitar, and he hurt me worse than anybody ever hurt me before” He cried. He was in tears now, and I wanted him to stop, but I don’t think he could stop. I wondered whether I was the only person who had spoken to him and wanted to listen to him.

Raymond went on to explain how Mr. Cummings wanted more than just a guitar partner, and how he tried to take advantage of one so young, so talented, and so vulnerable.

“He touched me in places he shouldn’t have, where nobody should have, and I let him. I let him because before this, abuse was how I lived. My father abused me this same way. And I let him too. I must be evil. I ran, ran home, but when I got there I was not allowed in. I had nobody. I had nowhere to go. I ended up living next to any warm door I could find, and my guitar, this damn guitar was all that I had left!”

By now, he was in tears, I was in tears, and all I wanted to do was help him. “Go away!” He shouted! And he went back to the room where everyone was waiting his return. He played a few more tunes, most of them sad, but spectacular all the same, and when the party ended there was nobody left, not the guests, not his new fans, and not Raymond.

I never heard from Raymond again. Nobody did. My friends who enjoyed his music said that they walked the streets of the city, listening for the picking, listening for the music, but there was none. The streets had gone dead.

I visited the places where he slept, asking store owners whether they knew where he was, who he was, and the replies were all the same. “That drunk with the guitar? I can’t remember him, there are so many, who the hell really cares anyway?”

When I see people living on streets, in doorways, drunk, stoned, and begging for a few cents, I give what I can. I know they will probably spend the money on booze or drugs, but what if they do? Hell, its only pocket change anyway. I think of why they are there, who put them there, and if they will ever leave the streets. And I think of Raymond, and all his talent, and that guitar that played the most beautiful tunes I ever heard.

Feeding the TV Show addiction: Alcatraz

Alcatraz meets Lost: an adventure into confusion, Part II

Its all there, adventure, action, questions, that spooky music, and Hurley. Well, this time he isn’t Hurley or Hugo, or ‘Stay Puff’, he is Diego, who the star of the show Rebecca Madison, (played by Sarah Jones, last seen on Justified, my favorite TV show in the last few years) claims is one smart dude. He is so smart that she asks him to be her partner (more on that later) in a new division of the FBI.

The premise of the show is that when, in 1963 and the infamous prison Alcatraz was closed, its prisoners were not transferred as the rest of the world thought, they disappeared. Now they are coming back, one by one, to continue their murderous ways.

The leader of a group set out to capture the prisoners (and who may actually be responsible for their disappearance, or at least know something about how they disappeared), played by Sam Neill, is hell bent on recapturing them alive and then torturing them to find out where the rest of them are.

Seeing how this one (like Lost) was made by one J.J. Abrams, nothing is as it seems and it looks like we are in for a hell of a ride…that is of course, if Fox manages to keep this one on the air long enough for the story to end.

For the last few years I feel let down by the networks. First I get into FlashForward, which starred a few Losties. Just when the story begins to make sense, they create some dumb ending and it is gone, with thousands of questions left in the wild.

pissed by this, I vow to never be sucked into another series,  and then I am teased by The Event. Same thing, just as it is revealed what ‘the event’ is, the series is cancelled.

V. I used to love the old series, and despite what I may have said earlier, this show did indeed catch my interest for a short while, two seasons almost, and then Boom, a great episode that led to THE END.

Now I am watching Alcatraz, but not without keeping my guard up and not getting interested or intertwined in the story….I wonder where the prisoners are staying while they are awaiting their turn to return? Damn, I may be hooked again. I will let you know after next week’s episode, if it lasts that long.

Thought for the day: Thursdays should be renamed Worstdays

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrr

Okay, now that that is off my chest, I can relax.

What a day I had so far today (and it is only 9:30 a.m.)

  1. little feller (my son) spills what is left of the milk, so no cereal.
  2. dog vomits on the floor and I walk in it, with clean socks
  3. I attempt to make omelet, but last egg rolls off the counter and breaks on floor
  4. dog eats egg
  5. dog gets sick again
  6. little feller forgets his lunch, I run out to bring it to him on his way to the school bus
  7. ice everywhere, I slip and fall on my ass
  8. garbage day, I forget the trash
  9. late for work, I am now behind school bus
  10. school bus turns off main road, I am behind a slow pick up truck
  11. I complain that truck is going too slow, I pass it in the only place available to pass
  12. I get behind farmer on tractor (on highway where speed limit is 80 kmh) towing a load of hay on a trailer that takes up one and a half lanes on a two lane highway
  13. I forgot to bring lunch I packed last night
  14. I forgot to bring thermos with tea (caffeine fix for the day)
  15. I have confrontation with student
  16. I realize that I didn’t forget trash, I forgot trash in my trunk

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRR

Can’t wait to see what the afternoon brings

Don’t steal apples and watch out for the train

It happened while we were out camping at a popular fishing spot. I was twelve years old, and my family decided to go camping for the weekend. My dad decided that he was fed up with the neighbors crap, and that we should get away, so we headed for Codroy Pond, a beautiful spot on the west coast of the island. We also brought along my friend Ricky.

When we got to our destination, we were surprised to find that half the community had the same idea we had, and we ended up camping next to our neighbors that dad had left home to avoid.  We set up camp and in no time, Ricky and I began to explore the surrounding areas of the camp site.

While we were walking, we came across a railway track. Back then, the Canadian National Railway was still active, so it was nothing out of the ordinary to see a train buzz by at any given time.  We followed the tracks until we came to a little farmhouse surrounded by the ripest apple trees we ever seen.

Being twelve years old, I got hungry fast, and with the sight of delicious red ripe apples hanging from branches as far as the eye could see, it was inevitable that eventually, we would be in the trees, eating away. Well at least that was our plan.

The biggest apples were in the highest limbs (isn’t that always the case?) so me and Ricky climbed as high into the apple tree as we could, but not before the ass of my pants got tangled in a pointed limb. I paid no attention to the tangle as I managed to grab the biggest apple in the tree and toss it to Ricky, who was still trying to get up the tree (he wasn’t the best tree climber for sure, but I was!).

When I got my hands on yet another apple, this one slightly smaller than the last, we heard someone yelling and cussing loudly, from a distance.  I attempted to get down from the tree, forgetting about the limb that was tangled around the ass of my pants, and finding that I couldn’t move. As much as I twisted, I could not get free, so I stuffed whatever apples I could find into the pockets of my jeans, grabbed the limb, and began pulling in an effort to break free. Just then, the old farmer pulled out what looked like a shotgun, and began firing towards us.

I was terrified, and Ricky, like the trusted friend he was, took off and left me for dead. By the time the old farmer had got close to the tree, he aimed the gun up the tree, towards my ass, and shot at me. I thought this was it. The end of my apple stealing days. The end of my everything. Then I felt it. At first, it was painful, and then it went numb. And then the branch broke and I landed right on the nutcase with the shotgun. As sore as my ass was, I ran like hell for the railway tracks. He continued shooting at me, mainly at my aching ass, with what I later discovered was a gun filled with coarse salt.

I passed Ricky, my trusty ex friend who left me to deal with the nut case with the salt gun, and continued running until I reached the campsite where my parents were getting supper ready. When I arrived, mom and dad were so worried, and not until I managed to remove my hole ridden pants did I discover that the salt did not penetrate the seat of my pants, but they left large welts on my sore cheeks.

Ricky arrived later, and stuttered that I I I p p p p p asssed him l l l l like a f f f f reight train out of control.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned that if you ever feel like stealing apples from a strangers tree, you should wear thick pants. I also learned that stealing is wrong, and if I want apples, I should ask mom and dad to buy them for me. Ricky learned that I could run faster than him when some nut case is shooting salt towards my ass. This was a day for lessons.