Something Wicked This Way Comes

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Poster for the movie Dreamscape, 1984. Which people thought was made up, but was really my autobiography.

I think it is safe to say that I have an imagination. An active imagination. Active enough that quite a few teachers, over the years, went so far as to say an overactive imagination.

But I don’t like to brag.

Like anything, an overactive imagination has positives and negatives. If, for example, you have a sister who, despite her protests to the contrary, may be the spawn of Satan, an active imagination can help you get out of a tight spot.

Although, no matter how imaginative you are, you still might get blamed for something you didn’t do. Not that I’m still bitter, you understand. Just saying.

But it can get you into trouble, too. Like if, in your imagination, you are an heroic figure – buff, tanned, and filled with cool, Schwarzeneggeresque one liners – but in reality you are a pale, scrawny lad with a penchant for opening his mouth when it should remain closed. Not that these things have happened to me. Again, I’m just saying.

The other night, my imagination nearly got me killed*

One of the side effects of an overactive imagination can be dreams. Happy dreams. Dreams where you meet the love of your life and have lots and lots of … well, I was a teenager, once, so you can fill in the blank.

Unfortunately, I rarely dream like that. My dreams are more on the dark side of things. Less “Ha Ha” and “Tra la la” and more “Holy Crap! I’m about to die!”

Others might categorize them as horrible, terrible, and possibly demonic, but I’m not one to judge.

I don’t know if you remember the movie Dreamscape from the 80s. In this movie, an evil dude can go into other people’s dreams and control – or kill – them there. And he has trapped – oh no! – the president of the United States in his own dream.

If this were actually a thing, I would be the king of the world. Cause I’ve dreamed some nasty sh … er, stuff. You wouldn’t stand a chance. Trust me. In reality, all of you would kick my butt.

But in dreamland … well, in dreamland, my friend, I would be your king.

Anyway, my body doesn’t know the difference between dreamland and reality. So, if I’m fighting to save my son from being pulled into the depths of hell by a demon – a possibility, I suppose, but that would be his choice – and I happen to wake up, I am drenched in sweat. My heart is pounding. And I usually have an overpowering need to urinate.

So, the other night, I was woken up from my peaceful nighttime ritual, by … something. I had jumped out of my bed and was ready to do battle with … well, I’m not sure with what, as I can’t remember anymore. I was drenched in sweat. My heart was pounding, and I was experiencing some slight … umm … pressure.

By the way, if a person in the health care field ever says “You may experience a little pressure”, you can assume something painful is about to happen. Something very painful.

“We’re going to start your open heart surgery. You may feel a little pressure.” “We’re going to reset the bone. You may experience a little pressure.” “My fingers are small. You may experience a little pressure.”

So, I’m standing there. Beside my bed. Ready to do battle with whomever – or whatever – is out there.

And I hear a noise. No. It couldn’t be. And yet …

Yep. Someone is moving around. Stealthily. In my house.

In. My. House!

My heart kicks up to another level. My vision tunnels on the doorway to the bedroom. I can hear a pin I dropped three days ago.

More movement. Then … the sound of water running.

The audacity! Some thief has the balls to break into my home – while I’m at home! – and then takes a drink . Oh, the cheek! Oh, the presumption! Oh, the effrontery of it all!

So, while adrenaline kicks in your “fight or flight” tendencies, I was definitely tending towards fight. In a very gentle and Mennonite way, no doubt, but fight nonetheless.

I debated whether or not to go out and confront the villain head on, or wait until he made his way to the bedroom and pounce from behind the door. Before I could decide, he comes creeping down the hall towards me!

I had about a second to size him up. Thankfully, he was quite a bit smaller than I. If I’m going to confront a burglar, I prefer them to be smaller. A little smaller is good. Considerably smaller is better. Tiny with a gimp and a small cane would be best.

Although, he might use the cane on me …

As I prepared to leap – like a graceful, yet terrible, leopard on the Savanna – he totally blew my mind. He strode – like he owned the place! – over to the other side of the bed and …

He slipped in!

It was at that moment when reality showed itself. Trying to sound cool, but with a little Eastwood husk in my voice, I said “Sue?”

And Sue said “What? Did I wake you up?”

“No,” I said, clenching my … whatever it is you clench to keep from filling your boxers. “No, I just needed to go to the bathroom.”


There are positives and negatives to having an active imagination. Sometimes I’m not sure which is which. Just saying.

*It didn’t really nearly get me killed, folks. Again, I like to keep these rated PG13. ish.

Seven Life Lessons I’ve Learned While Riding A Bike


ET and Elliot about to take off. From the movie “ET”

Riding a bike is a magical experience. No, I don’t have an ET-phone-home-and-then-fly-off-while-running-from-the-cops experience, but it is pretty great nonetheless. You see, riding a bike reminds me of being about six years old.

I’m not sure what riding a bike means to a kid from the city, but to a farm kid, it boils down to one word: freedom and adventure. Which, I guess, is two words, but then, math was never my strong suit.

I’ve been spending a significant amount of time on a bike this year. Not only is it good exercise, as I get ever older and more crotchety, but it is also a fantastic way of getting around and seeing the city.

Plus it costs me exactly 0$ in gas. Which is good, because I’m currently on a fixed income.

Every time I get on a bike, I forget how much I love it. And even though I go at a slow pace, I always feel the rush of absolute freedom. Wind in my hair. Road rushing by beneath my feet.

Although rushing may be pushing it.

Riding a bike has reminded me of a lot of life lessons that I’ve learned. In case you are ever having trouble sleeping, I thought I’d pass on a few of my observations. Here goes:

1) Learning to ride is painful. I don’t know if you remember learning to ride. I do. My friend Marc brought his bike over – the coolest bike I’ve ever seen, by the way. Green. Ape hanger handlebars. Balloon tires. “Sissy” bar on the back.

At least, that’s how I remember it. 

Anyway, he came over and said it’s time to learn to ride a bike. Which is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. We went out to the end of our driveway, where it met the grid road that went by our farm.

Marc held his bike and said “Climb on”. Once I was in the seat, he yelled “I’m going to push you. Keep the handlebars straight.”

And he began to push me. Faster and faster. I think I remember the sonic boom as we broke the sound barrier.

I … was … flying!

Then Marc let go, and I fell over. He had some helpful advice for me. “You’ve got to turn the pedals, you moron. And if you start to fall over, lean that way a little.”

He always had encouraging words like that.

We tried again. Failure.

“Quit falling over, you idiot.”

We tried again. And again. And again. And then, by a miracle, I made it to the grass of our front yard before falling over. And then, a little further. And further.

And – suddenly – I was riding.

All at the cost of ripped jeans, skinned knees, and maybe more than a few tears.

But … from then on, I could ride!

I repeated this same, age old method with my own sons. I can still vividly see my son Zac, pedaling for all he was worth, crash straight into the hedge in our backyard. Coming out, all scratched up. A few tears in his eyes.

“Let’s go again.”

I don’t know what a bike means to a city kid, but to a country boy, it means freedom. The entire world was at my disposal. I could explore abandoned farm houses. I could go to my friend Marc’s place in a flash. Or to my cousin’s. Or even all the way into town.

Freedom. That’s the payoff for learning to ride a bike.

But … It comes with pain.

The first time you do anything, you suck at it. Yes you do. Your parents just never told you that you did. You sat down with a guitar. You sat down at the drums. You sat down at the piano. And you made the most horrific racket. You can’t even imagine it, but it is burned into your parent’s brains.

So, you sucked.

Common “wisdom” these days seems to say “Well, I tried it once, and now I suck. I think I’ll just keep living in my parent’s basement.”

My question to you is this; Can you ride a bike? If so, how did you learn? Did you suck at first? Did you fall off, skin your knees – or your face – and try again?

What happened to you? Society told you that if you can’t do something – perfectly – the first time out, you are a failure.

And, sadly, you believed it. And when I say you, I really mean me.

I’m not the smartest guy. I learn things, but usually only the hard way. But I do know that falling off a bike is not failure. It’s part of the process. Like a scientific experiment.

Edison didn’t have 10,000 failures before he created the light bulb. He experimented 10,000 times until he got it.

Edison was a genius. If a genius can “fail” over and over, and history still considers him to be a genius, what about you?

No one is good at something the first time she does it. Keep at it, work through the discomfort, and you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

2) No one learns to ride a bike on his own. I had Marc. I don’t know who Marc had. Maybe an older sibling or a parent. But, everyone needs someone to help them learn.

We live in a society where we are not allowed to ask for help. “Be a self-made-man”, they say. Or woman, but hopefully women are smarter than men in this case. You must do it on your own.

So … Much … Bullshit.

There’s no such thing. Someone gave that self-made-person her first job. Someone helped you buy your first guitar. Someone gave you advice that made all the difference in your life. Someone picked you up when you fell off.

The self-made-man is a myth. But society still tries to get you to drink the Kool-Aid.

I’ve learned this (OK, sort of learned this. I’m still an idiot when it comes to this one.) the hard way. My way is to keep pushing myself, to do it all by myself. And I’ll go way too far, to the detriment of my health – mental, physical, and spiritual.

This catches up with you. Trust me.

So go ahead. Ask for help. You’ll discover that people want to help you. They just need to be asked.

Oh, and don’t wait until you’re in your late forties to do it. Life will be much better. Again, trust me on this one.

3) It’s fun to push a big gear. If you ride bikes (and if you don’t … Hey, Kijiji is there. Pick one up. Cheap. And get out there. You’ll remember how.), you know what I mean.

“I feel the need. The need for speed!”

You shift to your highest gear, and you are flying! I can’t think of a human powered way to go any faster. Skating, maybe, but probably not. Skiing depends on gravity, so that’s cheating.

The wind is in your hair. Your legs are pumping, along with your heart and lungs. Your eyes might even be tearing up from the excessive speed. It’s hard work, but …

Freedom! What a rush.

Sometimes, in your work or personal life, you need to push a big gear.
You’ve got a big project at work. With a deadline. A looming deadline is a great motivator. It causes you to gather all of your energy, talent, and drive into getting it done.

And it means that you have to get out of your comfort zone. You might have to put in long hours. You might be working harder than you thought you could. You might miss meals.

It can be downright uncomfortable. And our society has a pretty low opinion of uncomfortable.

And you have to be vigilant. When you are pushing a big gear, there’s no time for error. Where are the vehicles? Stop lights? Signs? At high rates of speed, even an innocent patch of gravel can bring you crashing down.

But, at the same time, speed brings its own rush. The discovery that you do have what it takes. That you can work hard. And, of course, the thrill of meeting that deadline.

Freedom! What a rush.

Yep, it’s good to push a big gear, but you can only do it for so long. And then ...

4) You need to gear down. You can’t push a big gear all the time. Oh, you think you can. When you are young, healthy, and fit, everything is possible. You can work like a mad woman. Gear down? You’ll do that when you are old.

Listen to the voice that has learned the hard way. You will have to gear down. And it is better to do it on your own terms than to have your body or mind force you to do it.

Big gears are fun. Hard work, but fun. But they can only be used for a short period of time. The problem, of course, is that society doesn’t agree.

Be all you can be! You can do anything you put your mind to!

And there is some truth to that. You can work way harder than you think you can. Just look at my parents’ generation, and you’ll see just how much capacity human beings have for hard work.

I learned how to work hard, but I couldn’t hold a candle to that older generation. Not that I’d want to, because candles are hot and waxy.

But, there will come a day when you can’t push as hard as you used to. If you haven’t learned to gear down earlier, it can come as a shock. A life changing, self examining shock.

Sometimes our employers are not helpful. They see the short term effort you are capable of and expect that level on a daily basis. But … you wouldn’t ask the world’s fastest human, Usain Bolt, who ran a world record best at the equivalent of nearly 45km/h, to run a marathon at that speed. Would you?

Nor would you ask Dennis Kimetto, who blazed his way to a marathon world record of 2:02:57 to run the 100 metres. (By the way, a marathon is 42.2kms. I think you can do the math!)

You can go hard, but only for short spurts. You can go long, but at a reduced speed. You can do both, but only for very brief moments.

Sometimes you need to gear down.

When you push too hard, something suffers. Maybe it’s time with the people you love. Pushing a big gear causes you to neglect other areas of your life. Maybe it’s your health. You can’t keep pushing without your health – eventually – giving out.

My friends, learn to gear down. It doesn’t mean you are weak if you need time to recover. Pro athletes spend more time recovering and eating properly than training.

When you are on a bike, pushing a big gear gets you on your way to your destination faster. But, a small gear keeps you moving towards the destination, too.

Learn to gear up and down as you need to.

5) Quit comparing yourself to other riders. I’m not a teenager. Yes, I know that this is a shock. When I was a teenager (and twenty something, and thirty and …), I was constantly comparing myself to others. Am I faster? (That answer was always no, by the way) Am I smarter? (Modesty prevents me from answering that one) Am I stronger? Better looking?

There are moments when someone passes me while I’m riding. OK, many moments. And I’d be lying if there wasn’t an urge in me, deep down, that wants to keep up. To stand up and pedal. To push a big gear.

But, I’m learning.

You see, I’m not the healthiest bear out there. Or the youngest. And I am far from the fittest. So what would I be “proving” by challenging someone to a race? That I’m old and out of shape? That’s pretty much been established.

I can, however, push myself to be better than I was yesterday.

This was put to the test a few weeks ago. I was pedaling along, and I got passed. Not by an individual, but by a group of twenty-somethings. Women, if you must know.

Now, there are some tell-tale signs of serious riders. Number one, unless you are off road, they have a serious road bike. Like the kind that you need financing to purchase. Five of these flashed by me.

I was on Matt’s mountain bike.

Number two, they have the type of pedals where your shoes clip in.

I was wearing old sandals.

And lastly, they have the garb. Aerodynamic helmet. Some sort of eye protection. Fingerless gloves. Aerodynamic shirt. Bike shorts. And everything is man made and shape hugging. All lycra and polyester, or whatever.

I had no helmet, no eyewear, a pair of board shorts and a ratty old tank top.

And the aforementioned sandals.

Plus, they were all wearing team shirts. Like I said, serious riders.

If I would have geared up and hunkered down, I probably could have kept up with them for … who am I kidding? Not a chance. Not now, and probably not when I was a twenty something guy, either.

And, if you must know, I was pushing hard. For me. I wanted to beat my time from the previous week. MY time.

And so, I just kept on my pace, sat back, and, briefly but thoroughly, enjoyed the view. Nothing wrong with my eyesight, by the way.

Those mythical Jones’s, the ones we used to try to keep up with, are just as messed up as you. And, and this will be a shock to your ego, they could give a fiddler’s fiduciary about you. You are not even on their radar.

That’s right. The people you so want to impress haven’t given you one, single, solitary thought. Don’t get caught up comparing yourself with other people.

The only one you can do anything about is you.

6) Be aware of your surroundings. When you are sharing the road with motorized vehicles, it is a good idea to keep this in mind; in the right or in the wrong, you lose. Every time.

“But I was in the bike lane. He should have stopped for me.” Have your hand on the brake, my friend, and your head on the proverbial swivel.

An old pastor once said to me “You can be right. But you can be dead right.”

It would be great if people obeyed the traffic laws. If people in cars shared the road with bikes. If we treated others the way we would like to be treated.

My experience hasn’t proven those sentiments to be true.

So, you need to be aware of your surroundings. All of them. What’s the road like? Is it wet? Does the driver have a yield sign? If so, will he yield?

There’s not much satisfaction in being in the right, if you are on your way to the emergency room.

In life, people won’t always look out for you, either. Sadly, we are all human. And self-centred. And selfish.

People will happily take advantage of you. They’ll gossip about you and back stab you at work. They’ll figuratively – and literally – try to run you off the road.

Be aware of your surroundings and the people you surround yourself with. Or with whom, if you want to go all 10th Grade English on me.

7) Accept help. OK, this is a continuation of number 2. But hey, it’s important.

The other month, I was on one of the off-road trails by the river. And I forgot rule number 6. A tree had fallen and was laying across the trail at about head height. I ducked to get under it, but I wasn’t watching the trail, which took a steep dip at the same time.

I flew over the handlebars. Fortunately, I kept it together enough to do a Starsky and Hutch roll. My shoulder and arm were scraped up, but I was in one piece.

“Dude! That was awesome! Are you OK?”

Two dudes had witnessed my spill and were speeding over towards me.

“Take it easy, man,” said one.

I’ll check your wheels,” said the other.

“Thanks, but I’m OK,” I groaned.

One dude tried changing the gears on my bike. “They’re messed, man,” he said. Or words to that effect. “I’ll get my tools.” 

He grabbed a small bag from his bike and tinkered. Pretty soon, I was on my way.

“Thanks,” I said. And the idiot in me said “What do I owe you?”

“No worries, man. We riders gotta look out for each other.”

There are people who care about you. They will help you. But we are so damned stubborn sometimes that we won’t accept help. And by we, I mean I am so damned stubborn.

Oh, I’m fine. No, I don’t need help. No, I think my arm – and the corresponding pain in what used to be my collar bone – is just fine. Thank you very much.

Let people help. Good people abound. Find them and trust that they have your best interests at heart. They make life a lot better.

8) Keep enough juice in the tank to get home. I live at one of the highest elevations in the city of Saskatoon. Granted, that’s not saying a lot. Sort of like “Look. Here’s a flat spot. Over here is another flat spot, but it’s a little higher than the other flat spot.”

I live at the flat spot that is slightly higher than the others.

But, when you are as out-of-shape as I am, it makes a difference. So I always have to make sure I don’t go so far that I need to call home to get picked up. Because, after all, I’m a self-made man, and I don’t want the Jones’s to see me hauling my bike out of my car.

It’s easy to get so excited about whatever that we forget we need to have enough energy to get home. Because home is where the important relationships are. And if you are not budgeting your time and energy, your home life – your relationships, family, friends, etc. – is the place that suffers.

Budgeting just enough time and energy is no good, either. What good is it if you are so tired when you get home that you can’t really be with the people who are the most important to you?

This is a pretty important one. Don’t spend all of your energy at work, in the gym, in front of a console, or out doing whatever it is you enjoy. Prioritize the things that are really important.

There is an old saying that goes something like this:

 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go in a group.”

There are probably other things I’ve learned on the seat of a bike. For example, when you ride, you’ll experience pain in at least two places: your neck, and your butt. Consider those valuable training for life, as you will bump into people who will give you pains in both of those areas.

But that’s probably good for now. Life isn’t easy. Nor was it meant to be. In fact, sometimes it is downright hard. And painful.

Stay the course. Keep going. Don’t let the word “failure” creep into your vocabulary. Use “experiment” or something else instead. Don’t let society set the rules for you.

The only way to learn to ride a bike – or to do anything in life that is worthwhile doing – is to fall down, get up, cry if you need to, dust yourself off, and try again.

Oh yeah. And get out of your parents’ basement. They love you, but they’re tired of seeing you. Plus, you smell.

*By the way, you will notice that I gave you 8 musings instead of 7. Think of this as a bonus. You’re welcome. Plus, as mentioned, math was never my strong suit.

On Thieves, Tom Cruise, and Hot Pursuit

cruise running

One of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to me happened last night.

It was pretty late, and Sue and I had just finished watching some Netflix. As we were tidying up and locking doors, Sue said, “Is that a light on in the car?”

We looked out and, sure enough, the light was on. Which is odd, as the lights are supposed to go off. I was thinking I’d have to go out and turn off the light when a head pops up above the dashboard.

Now, if this had been a cartoon, we would have done a double take. I mean, seeing a head in your car – late at night – is so out-of-the-ordinary that I didn’t quite process what was going on.

So, the door closes and a tall, young looking shape ambles off down the street. And I mean ambled. Maybe strolled is a better word. Not a care in the world.

Sue, meanwhile, has her wits about her. Which is one of the reasons I married her. She opens the door and yells “Hey!” or something of that nature.

The guy continues to saunter.

Six of seven brain cells have finally begun to fire. I’m still thinking What? No. Really?, but at least I am moving out of the house to the car. I take a quick look at the car.

No damage, so we must have forgotten to lock it after unloading the groceries earlier in the day. Valuables from the glove compartment are neatly stacked on the passenger seat. And by valuables, I mean stacks of fast-food napkins that we will need “someday”.

And the parking change is gone from the console.

Sue, meanwhile, is yelling at the guy as he continues to meander down the street. By now, he’s about a half a block away.

Brain cell number seven fires, and I yell out “Hey!” Only it comes out kind of wimpy. So I yell again. “Hey!” And this time, I use my football coach voice, which I honed over many years of yelling at – I mean instructing – kids.

He glances over his shoulder. And continues to promenade down the street. In desperation to catch his attention, I bellow “Dude!”

He replies. “What?” And continues to perambulate.

“What do you think you are doing?” I ask. Which isn’t something that Schwarzenegger would say in a movie but I thought was a fair question.

“Just walking,” he says.

To be forthcoming, at this point I was incredulous. I mean here I was, in the middle of the night, having a very civilized, if yelled, conversation with a young fellow who just took a bunch of change from our car.

I decided to quicken my pace, and the chase was on.

And by chase, I mean … well, have you ever seen a Tom Cruise movie? You know how there’s the obligatory Cruise chases the bad guy on foot scene? And Tom is booking it and scenery is flying by? He dodges boxes and jumps over cars. All while not a hair moves out of place?

This was nothing like that.

In fact, this was the opposite of that. In this chase, the perp (I’ve learned cop lingo from watching Murder, She Wrote) was wandering down the street, with me marching behind him.

In all fairness, I wasn’t dressed for a chase. I was wearing a pair of shorts, an old man cardigan, ’cause it was stinking cold last night, and a pair of slippers. I dare Cruise to try and pull off that look in his next high speed pursuit.

No, this chase was a lot more … uh … OJ Simpson than Ethan Hunt. All I needed was a white Ford Bronco, and I could have made the news.

So the chase began.

I broke into a sprint. Now again, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m not fast. Even in my prime, which was a year or two ago, I wasn’t fast. Quick maybe, but not fast.

In fact, back in high school, I once scored a touchdown. Well, not to brag, I scored several touchdowns, but that’s not important. Anyway, I got back to the bench, and Coach Neher says “You were so smooth, it looked like you were barely moving.”

Which I don’t think was a compliment.

So, I broke into a sprint. Which is hard for me to do at the best of times but is really tough in slippers. I had to keep my toes flexed, or they would have fallen off. The slippers, not my toes. The toes are attached.

The dude turns his head, and I was pretty sure the chase was over. If he would have run at that point, there was no way I would have caught him. Heck, he could have simply gone from a stroll to a brisk walk, and he would have left me behind.

But, he just kept on moseying along. I saw him duck behind a transformer, so I slowed down and prepared myself for the worst. Unfortunately, all I could think about, self-defense wise, was “Keep your hips low.”

Which is good advice, if you are playing football. Or any sport, really. But maybe not so helpful in this particular situation.

I cautiously rounded the transformer, and there he was. Not menacing. Not reaching into his pocket for a weapon. Nope. Dude was lighting a little cigar.

I am not kidding. He pulls a little cigar (like an Old Port, Canada’s most popular little cigar when they used to sponsor the half-time CFL shows) out of his pocket and lights it.

Well, this was awkward. What do you say to a guy who stole loose change from your car and then you managed to hunt down after a not-so-high speed chase?

“Why did you break into my car?” I asked. Which, again, you won’t hear in a Dirty Harry movie. I thought it was appropriate.

“I didn’t,” he said. Although his eyes were up and to the right as he said it, so I didn’t believe him. Plus, we had seen him do it.

“Dude,” I said. “I saw you do it.”

And he hung his head. Yes, just like Charlie Brown.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. He was not threatening in any way, other than the fact that he was in his early to mid twenties, fit, and bigger than I was. He looked like a little boy who had just gotten caught stealing some cookies his Mom had told him not to take. Which maybe he had. Except it was change from a car.

“I shouldn’t have done that, should I?” he said.

No, you shouldn’t have. And I delivered a short, yet stern lecture. A lecture! Can you imagine that scene in a movie?

Hero: Give me the nuke!

Bad Guy: I don’t have the nuke.

Hero: I saw you take it. Besides, what are you holding behind your back?

[Bad Guy’s head slumps forward]

Bad Guy: You’re right. I shouldn’t have taken it, should I have?

Hero: No you shouldn’t have. You know, people work hard for the money to build their own nukes. You can’t just go around taking other people’s nukes. It’s not right. Why don’t you get a real job, earn your own money, and then build your own nuke? Trust me, you’ll have a greater feeling of accomplishment.

So, I finished my lecture and ended it with, and I am not making this up, “Son, I have to say I’m disappointed with your actions.”

And he was hanging his head a scuffing the ground with his shoe. “Sorry,” he said.

What would you do? It’s not like I had any plan to call the police.

“Hello, officer? Yeah, some kid took $14.72 in change from my car. No, he didn’t break in. I must have left it unlocked when I unloaded the groceries. Yes, I’d like him to do hard time for the theft of the $14.72.”

There was this sort of awkward silence. He turned to leave, and I said “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

He says “What?”

“I would like my money back.”

He puts his hand into his pocket and hauls out all the change he took. “This is all I took,” he said. “Honest.”

“Don’t do it again,” I said.

And we parted ways.

When I got back to the house, Sue had her phone in her hand, ready to call 911 if I had been attacked. Or, more likely, had a heart attack from the hot pursuit.

When I told her the rest of the story, we both laughed for a very long time.

What would you have done?

On Voting, Immigrants, And Communists


My [step]Dad was born in Russia in 1900. For you history buffs, this will let you know that his formative years were shaped by two major events: World War I (the war to end all wars) and the Russian Revolution.

Dad was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, so it was no surprise to learn that he finished school early and, by the time he was 18, was teaching school himself.

This was not good, according to the authorities. People in power were systematically killing anyone who was in a profession. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, and professors were being spirited away. Never to be seen again. Not one or two. Ultimately millions.

By tradition, Mennonites, with whom my Dad identified, are non-violent and peace loving. Not Dad, although he changed later on. He joined the Selbschutz (self defense), teamed up with the White Army, and systematically did away with as many Red Army soldiers as he possibly could.

Dad was eventually found out, and he escaped from Russia just a few hours in front of a massive manhunt. All very James Bond-ish and exciting for a young lad to hear.

This is all a long and involved way of saying that Dad hated Communists. Loved the Russian people but hated Communists.

When he made it to Canada, Dad spoke no English. His “papers” for his education were deemed useless, and he ended up working for a farmer. He taught himself to speak English without an accent (spoke with a mouth full of gravel to do it), went through teacher’s college, and became a teacher again.

This was a profession that he loved, and he taught for more than 40 years. Doubtless he touched many lives in a positive way. I know he did so for me.

Why so much info about my Dad? Well, I have discovered that my political views now are actually the same ones that I had in my youth. The same ones that Dad had a large hand in shaping.

When elections would come up, there was one hard and fast rule for Dad; governments are bad, so you should keep them as small as possible. Oh, and never vote for a communist.

This meant that, for as long as I knew him, he voted Conservative.

Liberals, he detested. This was the era of Trudeau. No, not that one. His Dad. Pierre Elliott.

To be fair, it wasn’t just my Dad who didn’t like him. I suspect that you wouldn’t have found many people west of Ontario who had any use for him. Except maybe some women. He was quite a dashing fellow (for a politician), and many women secretly thought he was pretty cool.

I never did ask my Mom what she thought of him. I liked him because he flipped off the people of Salmon Arm, BC.

Anyway, the Liberals had come up with many ways to screw the West out of any chance of being a “have” province, by taking Alberta oil revenue and Saskatchewan grain revenue and using it to fund programs that benefited the East.

I’m going from memory here, but I’m pretty sure those are the facts. Maybe they teach it differently in Ontario.

So, we did not vote Liberal.

We for sure did not vote NDP. For Dad, the NDP were Communists. Not just had more communist leanings. Nope. Actual Communists.

It didn’t help that the head of the NDP in Saskatchewan was Roy Romanow. Romanow, my Dad explained, was an English spelling of Romanov. As in Czar Romanov. As in the people who helped destroy his beloved Russia.

Not a Communist himself, but …

Well, we don’t vote for Communists. Ever. And for no reason. Verboten.

So, it was Conservative or nothing. And, as voting was your civic duty, it was Conservative.

All of this has, apparently, made a pretty solid impact on me. Without my knowing it – or maybe without really thinking about it – I have been a Conservative all of my life.

To be fair, I mostly agree with what (small “c”) conservatives believe; that governments should be small and stay out of people’s way. I am still arrogant enough that I think that I can do a better job of running my own affairs than anyone in Ottawa. Thank you very much.

The last few elections, however, have had me in a quandary. Which has made it tough, as I’m not 100% sure what a quandary is.

One problem has been the member representing my riding. While he may privately be a fine individual, I find his political leanings to be racist, fear-mongering, discriminatory, and other words that I shouldn’t use, as I like to keep these things rated at least PG-13.

As he is part of the Conservative party, this has made voting difficult. I can’t vote Liberal (they only do what’s right for Ontario), and I sure as hell can’t vote NDP. Because they are communists.

However, it is my civic duty to vote, so …


To be fair, it is not just the member in my riding that has me confused. The Conservative party is no longer conservative, at least in my eyes. Government is getting bigger, poking its nose into my business more and more. What I think of a US electioneering has become standard. Rhetoric is now all “us” vs “them”.

And somehow it is all the immigrants’ fault.

Oh, how quickly we forget that, unless you are a First Nations person, we are all immigrants. Likely you have a similar story to my Dad’s. Somewhere along the line, either by the necessity of fleeing for their lives, or a chance at a better future for their family, your ancestors came to Canada.

They often came with nothing. They often didn’t speak English. They were often professional people in “the old country”, but now could only get work as labourers.

I worked for an NGO for a number of years, and I can’t tell you how many doctors, lawyers, and judges have been cleaning toilets and emptying trash cans.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a labourer. It’s just that … ah, you know what I mean.

And as I read the rhetoric online (I don’t have TV, so at least I’m spared some of the BS. Not that it isn’t entertaining. And I’m guessing that comedians will have a ton of stuff to talk about. It’s just that I don’t need that crap in my life.), I’m struck by déja vu. 

Where have I heard this stuff before?

You know, we have to get them before they get us. Immigrants are ruining this once proud country. More government – with more power – is the only way to keep us safe. And other stuff like this.

Where have I heard it before? Oh yeah. Just south of the border, about a decade ago, from one George Bush, Jr.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the direction that our country is going. I have no interest in becoming US North.

I like the quaint ideas that Canada was built on. Ideas like welcoming immigrants as partners who can make this country better. Ideas like doing good in the world, to the point that Americans were sewing maple leafs (leaves?) on to their backpacks for better treatment abroad. Ideas like the armed forces can be used to keep the peace.

Crazy ideas like a person might need a hand up, at the beginning, but that that gesture pays off a thousand fold on the back end with hard working, loyal, and proud Canadians.

And so … who to vote for? It appears that I am actually going to have to think about it, this year. I’m not sure I agree with “my” party, anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with much that they stand for.

This only leaves a few other choices. And, unfortunately, I can’t vote Liberal, because they only do what’s best for Ontario.

And I sure as hell can’t vote NDP. Because they are Communists.


MBTY Or Why Politicians Are The Way They Are


Early in grade school, maybe around Grade 3 or so, boys discover something: someone in their class has a larger penis than they do. This isn’t a huge deal, at the time, but it sinks into the male psyche and troubles the individual.

Sometimes for the rest of his life.

Since there is nothing – physically – that you can do about this discovery, boys come up with different ways to assert the same reality … “Mine’s Bigger Than Yours” or MBTY.

“I can run faster than you.”

Translation: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.

“I can climb higher than you.”

Translation: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.

“I can multiply and divide complex numbers in my head.”

Translation: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.

Of course, in our teens and early twenties, we mature. We no longer spend most of our time running, climbing, or doing complex mathematics. We have evolved. Instead, we buy fast cars (MBTY), have drinking contests to see who pukes first (MBTY), and talk about how much we make per hour (MBTY).

As we continue to evolve, we no longer talk about going fast, puking, or what we make per hour. Instead, we talk about how big our house is, how much we paid for our fine wine, and what we make per year.

Translation: Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.

Sadly, since most people who run the world are men, this continues to be played out on the national – and even international – stage.

PM Harper just dissolved parliament*. In the first place, this is good – less BS to filter out of your daily news watching. In the second place (and if you are in second place, it means someone else’s was bigger), it means that we will be bombarded with a whole new bunch of BS. All of which is grounded in MBTY syndrome.

Or, to use the technical phrase, Grade Three Potty Syndrome, or GTPS.

You laugh. Ron, you say, there is no way that respected world leaders are really trying to compare their penis sizes with leaders from other parts of the world.

That would be crazy.

Exhibit A. George W Bush.

Poor George. His daddy had already proven to the world that his was bigger (remember Gulf War 1: The Televised One). Now poor George II had to prove the same.

“George,” some advisor said, “Why not declare a War on Terror?”

“Is that even a thing?” asked George W.

“As far as you know,” said the advisor.

Let the measuring begin.

Exhibit B. Adolf Hitler.

Adolf was jolted from his sleep by a terrible thought. “Oh, no! I just remembered. In Grade 3, I happened to see Hans Zimmer’s penis in the north hall bathroom. It was bigger than mine.”

He jumped out of bed and invaded Poland.

Exhibit C. Not that we need it. Julius Caesar.

“Brutus,” Julius said. “They’ve said if I bring the army back over the Rubicon, I’m a traitor to the cause.”

“Who said so?” asked Brutus.

“Gaius Flavius.”

“Weren’t you in his Grade 3 class?”

Terrible thoughts of inadequacy leap into Julius’s mind. Stupid Gaius!

“Let’s go home, boys.”

Even here in good old, mild-mannered, Clark-Kent-style Canada, we are not immune to GTPS. Take our parliament, for example.

I understand that an election has been called. For the next 37 and one half months, we will be bombarded with rhetoric of all types. None of it remotely helpful or uplifting. In fact, the best we can hope for is that it will be entertaining.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the election brings out the absolute worst in people. After all, they’ve been practicing for the last 4 years.

Conservative: Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker. (Don’t you just hear Oh, Oh, Oh Mr Kotter!” Yes, Horeshack?”) The honourable member (interesting, too, that they use the word member to refer to each other. But I digress.) is a jackass.”

Liberal (leaping to his feet): Mr Kotter. I mean Mr Speaker. I’m afraid that, due to a lack of intelligence, and – likely – penis size, the honourable member of the majority is, in fact, the jackass.

NDP (not wanting to be left out): Mr Speaker. I think I can respectfully say that the members are both jackasses. And, since I really, really want to be part of this elite group, I will just say that it takes one to know one.”

Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.

So, they’ve got 4 years of ammunition saved up. And they are not afraid to use it. Even if it isn’t true. Or is fear mongering. Or panders to certain groups. Or attacks the most defenseless in our society. Or … well, you get the picture.

What I’d like to see is this: throw Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair into the cage and have a good, old-fashioned, no-holds-barred, Stampede-Wrestling-style cage match. Whoever survives is able to say that his is the biggest and, therefore, is best suited to rule Canada for the next four years.

Hey, makes as much sense as what happens now.

You know that Trudeau wouldn’t stand a chance. Sure, he’s the youngest, fittest, and possibly the strongest, but he wouldn’t last more than a few seconds.

Trudeau: “Hey Harper. I sure like how you handle yourself. Oh, and Mulcair, you sure look good in those tights.”

Then Harper would kick him between the legs and Mulcair would rabbit punch him, and he’d be out.

Harper and Mulcair would be a great fight. I think Mulcair is physically stronger, so you would think that he would be the winner. Don’t count Harper out, though. Just when you think Mulcair is winning, JR Foley – I mean Peter MacKay – would distract the referee. Then, from out of nowhere, the recently disgraced Mike Duffy would pick the lock, climb to the top rope, and finish Mulcair with a flying elbow smash.

When the referee turns back, all he’d see was Harper covering Mulcair for the count and a couple of stray expense forms on the canvas.

That, my friends, would be a great election.

Personally, I’m pulling for May of the Green Party. I took a quick read of the Green platform, but really … who cares? Why ruin your election entertainment with pesky facts? The candidates won’t, I assure you.

Nope, I just think it would be a nice change of pace to have a woman in charge. Yes, technically we had a female PM, but … Anyway, imagine the refreshing ways of thinking that could ensue.

Why? Presumably, as a woman, she would not be afflicted with the crippling GTPS. Better know as Mine’s Bigger Than Yours. Because she, without being too graphic, doesn’t have one, and so is free from comparison.

Imagine what she could do!

“PM. We’d like to have a made-in-Canada War on Terror.”


“Well, there are a lot of BS reasons, but mostly it’s to show the world that Canada’s is just as big – or bigger – than any other country’s. Plus we’d be able to buy some really cool, really shiny jets.”

“Are these jets on sale or something?

“No. Things are never on sale for governments.”

“Sounds stupid. Denied. What else you got?”

“Umm … Some of our wealthy friends think that they should be taxed less than what low income earners are taxed.”

“Why would we do that?”

“Well, it’s just that we like those rich guys to think we are righteous dudes. Besides, they all have big ones, and we are envious and want them to send us money. So we can get girls.”

“That’s just as stupid as the last one. How does it make sense that the people most able to afford the taxes wouldn’t be taxed as much as those least able to? Denied!”

And I imagine she has a big rubber stamp that says DENIED, and she slams it down on each idea. That would be sweet. That, my friends, would be good television.

Advisor nervously dabs at his forehead with a handkerchief. Which normally he wouldn’t be caught dead with, but he saw a pro athalete with one and figured the ladies liked them.

“Um … Ah … We’d like to create a completely new, kick-ass international force that would be just like the RCMP, CSIS, the border people, Coast Guard, and Foreign Affairs all combined. And they’d have cool, James Bond-like gadgets and have an ordinary name but that looks cool as initials and …”

May, cutting him off. “We already have those organizations in place. Get them to cooperate with each other and let’s move on.”

Advisor is aghast. “But, they don’t cooperate.”

“Well, then, put some women in charge.”

“But … that force would be really cool.”

“And what would it cost?”

“Just a couple of hundred million a year, or so. Plus it would make Canada look truly bad ass.”

“Meanwhile, there are kids starving on our very own streets. In Canada! Denied. Oh, and get out.”

DENIED! On the grounds that penis size is irrelevant.

Well, it’s too much to hope for. No doubt, we’ll have good old Harper for another four years. Not that he’s any better, or worse, than any other. It’s just that he’s so … well … boring.

Oh for the days of Jean Chretien. “Well, if you come at me in a crowd, I ‘ave to take you out.” Or, and this was my all time favourite: “A proof is a proof is a proof. Once it has been proven, it is a proof.”

Who can argue with that?

True, I couldn’t understand a word he said, but there was a guy who could give a fiddler’s fiduciary about what anyone thought of him. Politically correct? I think not.

Or even, gulp, Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau was crap for the country, but his line “Just watch me” had more MBTY attitude than anyone. Plus, he flipped off the people of Salmon Arm. That will never happen in this election.

If it does, I’m voting for the person who does it. And it doesn’t have to be Salmon Arm. Just some in-general flipping off will suffice.

Actually, and this was before my time, Lester B Pearson was the guy we need more politicians to be like. Lester said “Hey, if we, along with the UN, use our soldiers to keep the peace, instead of making war, we can do some good and stabilize the Suez Crisis (also before my time).

“But Lester, it will make us look weak if we cooperate with the other countries. Plus, making war is a lot cooler than making peace.”

“Screw it. It’s the right thing to do.”

One Nobel Peace Prize later, Canada has a solid, global reputation of fairness and general help-outive-iness.

So, for my comedian friends (paid and otherwise) out there, enjoy the next 37 and one half months. They will be a gold mine of material. For you political junkies, enjoy as well. As for me, I’ll continue to stay unplugged from the political maelstrom, and I’ll be the better for it.

I’m not sure what that says about my penis size, but I’m not in Grade 3 anymore.

*By the way, notice that parliament is not running the country for the next while. Uh oh. I guess that’s the end of Canada as we know it. How will we survive?

And The Lights Went Out All Over The World!



Cylon, from Battlestar Galactica at

I am a fan of technology. I think smartphones are cool, although I don’t like them when they interrupt conversations. Computers can do amazing things, and the internet, in spite of being created by the military to host porn, has democratized information. So, all in all, I’m a fan of technology.

However … there are places that technology should not be. Places where, thank you very much, good old plain, analog solutions are best.

Take the restroom, for example.

The word “restroom”, by the way, must be one of the best euphemisms ever created. I don’t know about you, but I have never rested in a restroom. Done my business? Yes. Washed up? Yes. Seen amazing feats of boyish prowess performed? Yes.

Rested? No.

I’m a bit of a connoisseur of restrooms. This is not because of some morbid fascination I have with human processes. No – and this is probably too much information – I just happen to spend quite a bit of time in restrooms.

On a regular basis, I get some special sauce dripped into my veins. (And no, this part has nothing to do with restrooms … although I understand your confusion.) This is done, appropriately in my case, in the bowels of an old building. An old, and until recently, analog building. Not too long ago, though, the twentieth century reared its head.

We got the internet.

Now, I didn’t do a cartwheel or anything – which, by the way, is tough to do when you have an IV in your arm and you are attached to a pole – but that was nice. Cell reception down in the bowels of huge, old, concrete buildings is never very good, so the interweb helps while away the hours while Dr Oz is playing on TV.

Nature often calls during these times, and, when nature calls, I always choose to respond.

I walked into the restroom, and I immediately knew something was different. The light, whose switch until recently had a sign on it saying “Please turn off lights when leaving”, came on. Automatically! Is this some sort of witchcraft? I hesitantly made my way in and settled myself in my favourite stall. Which is actually the only stall, but why split hairs.

So, there I was. Resting and minding my own business. And the lights went out.

Now, I’m not afraid of the dark. As a kid, I was, and so I forced myself out into the dark to confront my fears. I guess I must have been successful, because the dark doesn’t scare me. Much.

The dark, however, makes certain, restful movements more difficult. Not the movements themselves; more like the clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Ron.

I figured – and here is where my technological savvy was most helpful – that the light was motion activated. So, I thought, if I just make some motion, the light will come back on.

It’s sound reasoning like that that has gotten me to this life of luxury that I enjoy  today.

So, I shifted on my restful perch. Nothing. I wiggled around and moved my legs. Nothing.

I reached my arms into the air and sang “YMCA”. Which is tough to do when you are in a small stall with your IV pole crammed in with you.


I carefully stood up and stretched an arm heavenward. Success! The lights were back on. Hurray for technology!

I finished resting and proceeded to reach for the flush mechanism.

Hmmm. Where the heck is it? And what is this blinking red light? Are the Cylons taking over the earth, starting with restrooms?

Again, my vast, technological prowess took over. Perhaps the toilet operates on the same principle as the lights?

I waved my hand in front of the blinking light. Nothing. I tried sitting down and standing back up. Nothing. I even thought I’d try lifting a hand heavenward. Hey, it worked for the lights.


There must be a button or lever or something for cases like this. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find anything.

Shit. Literally and figuratively. You see, I can’t not flush a toilet after I’ve used it. People coming after me don’t need to see the surface of Mars in the toilet bowl. Although, one time, there was a pretty cool statue of Michelangelo’s David.

So I frantically searched for some way to flush the stinking toilet. By now, I’m on my hands and knees, with an IV pole riding my butt. As I grope around the toilet, somehow – and I’m pretty sure there was some divine intervention – the toilet flushed.

And the lights went off. But the lights I could fix, so I figured my ordeal was nearly over.

I just needed to wash my hands.

Until recently, I was able to wash my hands using a simple tap mechanism: I turned the handle and water came out of the tap.

There were no handles.

However, the same spawn of Baltar appeared to be controlling the water flow, so I moved my hand in front of the blinking light.


I tried waving my hand in front of it. Nothing. By now, my frustration level was mounting, and if the nurse had taken my blood pressure, it may have been slightly elevated.

As I tried to calm myself, a voice spoke in the back of my mind. “Ronald-san. Paint the fence.”

When Mr Miyagi tells you to paint the fence, you paint the fence.

I moved my hands up and down, to no avail. “Ronald-san. Try side to side.”

I tried side to side. Then I tried “Sand the floor”.


Out of frustration, I gave the sink the finger.

Out came the water.

I quickly put my hand under the flow, but it turned off; however, I was able to restart it by continuously keeping my driving finger extended.

Success! I nearly cried with relief.

Now, the only issue was to dry my hands. Until recently, I had been able to pull a paper towel out of a slot and dry my hands. Apparently this was too difficult a task to manage. Now the helpful Cylon was suggesting that I wave my hand to receive a piece of paper towel.

I placed myself directly in front of the towel dispenser, drew myself up to “attention”, and threw the machine a smart, crisp, one finger salute.

The lights went out just as the dispenser dispensed some paper towel.

We Don’t Climb Trees


I try to mind my own business – which is hard, because it seems there are so many people who could benefit from my wisdom. But …

There are times when I have to stand up and be counted. Have my voice heard. Rail against the injustice. Even if it’s done on an obscure blog that only 7 people have ever read. And one of those is my Mom, so I’m not sure Google counts that as a view or not.

I was at the dentist’s office the other day. Wait. Wait! It’s not another “Dentist Story”. Really. The setting was the dentist’s office. That’s all. Honest.

In the “stall” next to me, a very young brother and sister were getting their teeth checked for the first time. The dentist was counting their teeth, giving them rides up and down on the chair, and generally making a trip to the dentist appear to be like a trip to the fair. If they still had fairs.

Now the fact that I never had fun at the dentist is not where the injustice in this story happens. If you can believe it, this is not about me. Well, I’m sure it is. Maybe it’s not overtly about me.

From what I gathered – I was staring at the ceiling with a drill, some sort of pick, and I think a small basketball in my mouth, so my attention wasn’t focused on the outside world – the sister was in the chair, and the little boy, who was maybe 3 (get them young!), was looking out the window.

“Daddy! Look at the trees! Let’s go climb them!”

As much as I could, with the dentist’s hand – and possibly her foot – in my mouth, I smiled. You see, I loved climbing when I was young. Trees. Barns. Monkey bars at school. My Mom was convinced that I was part chimpanzee, at least on my Dad’s side.

Who am I kidding? I still like to climb stuff.

There is something about climbing. It unites your body, mind, and spirit in a way that few things do. Yes, your body is the vehicle for the climb, but your mind must be active. You need to plan your route, look for appropriate hand and footholds, and, if climbing trees, be on the lookout for a dead branch that won’t hold your weight.

But your spirit … Oh, my friends, what does a climb do for your spirit! Upon reaching the top, you are swept into a feeling of ecstasy and wonder. At the very least, a job well done. Mission accomplished. Fear and danger overcome.

At best, a sense of wonder, excitement, and the knowledge that you are one with the world. Yes, I was a tree hugger before it was cool.

And so I was excited for the little boy. I pictured myself helping my sons into trees when they were young –  and smaller than I. The excitement on their faces. The lure of adventure. These were the things I imagined for this little guy.

Then his father said these 4 (or possibly 5, depending on how you count contractions) words that no father, mother, or grandparent should ever say:

“We don’t climb trees.”

You don’t climb trees? What the hell? Pardon my French, but this is outrageous. You don’t climb trees? This is not an OK thing to say. Not only is climbing a tree a religious experience, it is one of the true joys of life. You don’t climb trees?

The father continued on. “Climbing trees is dangerous. You will get hurt if you climb a tree. You could fall out of the tree and get really hurt. We don’t climb trees.”

I didn’t know what to say. Well, I couldn’t say anything, as there were potholes being filled in my oral pathway, but my flabber was so gasted that I was speechless.

I’m not saying the father was wrong in his assessment of tree climbing. Yes, if you climb enough, you will get hurt. Skinned knees and hands. A branch in the eye. Momma birds will attack you if you come close to her nest.

And yes, you will fall.

But you have to weigh the pros out as well. You need to remember the feeling of accomplishment that you get. How you overcame adversity. How you experienced pain and kept on going. How, in spite of wearing old, brown, suede, worn-smooth Converse runners, you made it from point A to point B. And lived to tell the story.

These things are not only required, but they are our birthright. Better a broken body than a broken spirit. Or worse, a spirit that lives in fear.

What did that little guy learn that day? Not only can’t he climb trees now, but he won’t be climbing anything in the future, either. Plus, the world just became a little scarier. Now even the trees are out to get him.

Society is obsessed with safety.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in an era when it was OK – expected even – to get hurt. To try new, and often dumb, things. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, but I did learn them.

I tried to give those same experiences to my sons. I remember putting them both into our big willow tree for the first time. The nervousness in their eyes. Fear even. The few tentative handholds. The confidence in their ability to go higher. The shining eyes after they made it to the top and experienced the thrill of accomplishment.

These are experiences that have become a part of who they are. Was I worried about them when they were high enough to break something on the way down? Damn right, I was. Was the risk worth the reward? Absolutely.

Nowadays, everything is safe. Playgrounds have thick padding, and all the “dangerous” items have been removed. Helmets are required for everything. Trampolines are a thing of the past. Safety labels assume that you are brain dead. “Hoisting this 500 pound refrigerator on your back may cause injury.” Really. I’m amazed we don’t have airbags on bicycles.

But safety is like a unicorn: a nice idea, I guess, but it doesn’t exist. It’s a myth.

A friend of mine, who carefully and faithfully saved his beans over a lifetime of work, had about half of his net worth wiped out by the recent “market correction”. It’ll come back, but his retirement has been compromised.

I’m not saying don’t save for the future. You should. It is not only prudent, but it is also wise. Just don’t think that it makes you “safe”. Things happen.

I’m not a political guy. I don’t follow the news. But even I heard about Bill C-51. I don’t even pretend to know the ins and outs of it, but I suspect it was passed to protect our safety.

I think I mentioned that I think safety is a dragon: it flies, is scaly, has that cool ability to shoot fire, but, ultimately, doesn’t exist.

So we give up a few more rights and freedoms to be kept safe. I can now be held for something like 7 days if CSIS decides that I’m an unsavoury character.

All in the hopes of keeping me safe. All because we live lives of fear because we aren’t allowed to climb trees anymore.

How about that? Worldwide attempts to combat terrorists all comes back to not letting little boys (and I only use boys as an example. I also hope that girls are climbing trees and doing dumb stuff, too. Why should boys get all the fun?) climb trees.

What a funny world we live in.

And so … take some risks. Maybe you’re past the stage where you are climbing stuff. Although, really, are you? Or are you just afraid of what people would say if they saw you at the top of the tree in your front yard?

Anyway, find out where you can be a bit “unsafe”. Push through your fear. You might just discover that the pain was worth it. Required, even. A difficult path makes the destination that much sweeter.

After all, you wouldn’t stop having sex just because it might be messy and just a bit awkward.

So, the next time we meet, go ahead and say what you want about me. Pie in the sky. Not grounded in reality. Pollyanna. Idiot. Fool. I’m a peace loving Mennonite, so I’ll take it in stride.

But, if you say “We don’t climb trees”, and I don’t have a mouth full of dental instruments, I might just have to punch you in the mouth.

Is It Still Safe?




Szell (Laurence Olivier) performs dental torture on Babe (Dustin Hoffman) to determine if it is safe. From the movie Marathon Man.

I may have mentioned that visiting the dentist is not my favourite thing to do. In fact, I can think of quite a few things that I’d rather do; pay a parking ticket, receive a quick kick to the shins, or clean dog poo off my lawn. [And this in spite of the fact that I don’t own a dog. Clean up after your own pets, people!]

Still, it’s not the worst thing that can happen.

I’ve had a series of interesting experiences with dentists. One of the earliest I can remember was when I was about … hmmm … I guess I can’t remember. Early on, anyway.

My dentist, who was about 6′ 6″ tall and about 400-500 lbs*, came in to have a look. “Mmmm. Uh huh. Oh.” And on and on like that. Finally, after spending about 7 hours in the chair (me, not him), he says “We are going to need to do an extraction.”

This, by the way, was back in the day when they still did extractions.

I said “Sure. But what – exactly – is an extraction?” Except that it came out more like “Saaah. Baa whaaa – aaaaly – ss aaa traaactor”, because he had most of his fist in my mouth.

I learned what an extraction was. And I didn’t like it.

So, my early emotional and physical scarring may have something to do with the fact that I now view dentists with some skepticism. That and the fact that I think they’ve got a bit of a scam going.

And by a bit of a scam, I mean a scam. Come on – $150+ to get your teeth cleaned? Yes, I know that your Water Pic is really fancy, but still.

Anyway, there was a period in my earlier life where my teeth required a lot of TLC. I’m not sure why. Maybe genetics. Maybe diet. Who knows. I can’t think of any behaviour that I was regularly partaking in that would cause dental problems. Risk of blindness, sure. But not dental problems.

Anyway, my more recent dental escapades have been chronicled elsewhere. Suffice to say that not all things have gone well.

A couple of months ago, an old filling was loose. And by old, I actually mean less than a year old. More accurately, I could have said a new filling was loose.

Apparently something hadn’t been sealed properly, and decay had set in under the filling. And the decay irritated the root. Which became infected. Or impacted. Or abscessed.  Whatever you call it, it hurt.

I decided to find a new dentist.

I made an emergency appointment with a dentist at a nearby clinic. When I was introduced, I was not thrilled. You see, she was young, intelligent, and attractive.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have nothing against young, intelligent, and attractive women. Or old, intelligent, attractive women. In fact, you could say I have a “thing” for intelligent, attractive women.

So much so that I married one.

Anyway, my previous experiences with attractive dentists have not gone well, and this one didn’t start off any better. “Mr Schellenberg, you seem to have some issues going on in here.”

I would have said “No sh*t, Sherlock”, but her hand was in my mouth.

She then proceeded to lecture me on dental hygiene, the dangers of not having regular dental checkups, and the sorry state of Canada’s foreign policy.

Now, I don’t now – nor have I ever – enjoy being lectured. In fact, because of my past dental escapades, I am pretty good in the oral hygiene department. I brush regularly, use a dentist approved toothpaste, and floss bi-annually. Or bi-ennially. I always get those two mixed up. I also have my teeth checked daily by a professional.

I may have gotten something mixed up, there.

My righteous indignation, which I righteously keep just below the surface, righteously bubbled up. I was about to explain how my hygiene – oral and otherwise – was pretty good, that I do have regular checkups, and that Canada’s foreign policies have been in the crapper since the days of Lester B Pearson.

I got control of myself, however, and kept my mouth shut. Or, in this case, open.

“You are going to need either a root canal or an extraction. I would strongly recommend a root canal, as there is hardly any money in extractions.” She may have worded that differently, but that’s what I heard.

Refer to my previous post for my thoughts on root canals.

“I can’t help you today, but, if you can come in early on Monday morning (this was Friday), I’ll come in early and help you out.” As they had squeezed me in in an emergency situation, I thought this was a pretty good deal. She gave me a prescription for penicillin and sent me on my way.

Monday morning came, and, as I hadn’t slept much anyway, I was at the dentist’s office early. “So, what have we decided?” she asked. I’m not sure what we decided, but I had decided on an extraction.

“OK,” she said. Cheerfully. “Let’s get to it.”

She hauled out a needle, jabbed it into my gums – and down into the bottom of my jaw, I think – and let it “freeze” for a bit.

“Feeling numb?” she asked.

I assumed she was talking about my mouth. “No,” I replied. In fact, I didn’t feel any numbness, tingling, or even shortness of breath.

“Hmmm. You must be resistant to the medication.” This is not surprising, as I have had, at one time or another, nearly every medication known to humanity shot into my veins.

For medical reasons only, of course.

She gave me another shot. Nothing. Cheerfully, she got out Big Bertha (my term, not hers) and had another go. This was a much larger needle, with a trigger on it. Like a trigger on a gun. Or, in this case, a cannon.

Thankfully, at least my gums were numb, because I could feel that the needle was so large it was punching holes into my gums. And maybe even into the ozone layer. Although I’m not a scientist, so don’t quote me on that.

A few minutes later, I couldn’t feel a thing. In any part of my body, actually.

And so the ordeal began. And by ordeal, I mean about 15-20 minutes. A little wiggling here, a little cranking there, and finally some pulling and … out it came.

This in sharp contrast to the last tooth I had had extracted. Which took two dentists – one being a cute blonde and the other being a good looking man with forearms the size of Popeye’s – over an hour to extract.

With plenty of “pressure” for yours truly.

It is rare, in this new dawning of the Age of Aquarius, to meet someone who truly loves her work. My new dentist is such a person. As she was trying to get the last root out, she was laughing delightedly. So was the assistant.

“Ron (it was Ron, now, not Mr Schellenberg), you’d be laughing too, if you could see how this root keeps dancing out of the way.” I took her word for it.

It was as painless a procedure as I could expect. Since then, I have had more work done, and all has gone well. In spite of the fact that this is all to fix fillings that were done in very recent memory.

By a dental office which shall remain nameless.

I’m not passing any judgements, just yet. I figure I’ll have to give it a year, and see how it goes. My insurance is already burned through, and there’s still some more to do, but … so far so good.

I don’t know why people want to be dentists. Sure, I guess the money is good. And by guess, I mean the money is good. But you have to look at some disgusting stuff, smell bad breath all day, and use devices that have been banned as instruments of torture since medieval times.

And you have to be bathed in that ugly, yellow light. Let’s face it, that’s not the most flattering shade. Plus, it can’t be great at a cocktail party. [Do they still have cocktail parties? If so, do you just stand around and drink cocktails?]

“And what do you do?” the lecherous older man asks the young, intelligent, and attractive woman.

“I’m a dentist,” she says. “How often do you floss?”

“Oh. Um. Yes. Well. I say, isn’t that Lester B Pearson over there?” (The sound of footsteps running.)

Still, I’m glad there are people who do it. It would just be nice if they were all … you know … good at what they did. Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic about my new relationship … with a young, intelligent, and attractive young woman.

Just don’t let my wife find out.


*I mention his size simply to give you a visual of how imposing he was. And by imposing, I mean scary. Which, if you are a dentist, is probably a good thing. “And here, Mr Schellenberg, is the bill.” I gasp and fall to floor in the fetal position. The dentist looms over me. “If you know what’s good for yous, yous’ll keep your trap shut and fork over the loot.”

Because, for some reason, my dentist now works for the New York mafia.

Hawaii: Young Turk, Old Dude, and Rugged Survivor

We’ve been on the Big Island now for nearly a week, and it is definitely different from either Oahu or Maui.

Oahu reminds me of a young, single man who got a good job and has lots of disposable income. He’s looking for a good time – lots of night life, hot women, and a flashy lifestyle. He works hard and parties even harder.

Maui is like an older dude with a grayish goatee. Although he also likes a good time, his pace is more laid back, and his tastes are somewhat different. He takes walks on the beach, watches the occasional sunset, and likes to wind things up (or down) at an earlier hour.

He may also smoke a fair bit of weed, but I’m not one to judge.

Hawaii … well, I haven’t quite figured him out, yet. First off, he is rugged. There are very few sandy beaches here. What there are, though, are lots of very interesting places where you can, if you’re not careful, invite a quick trip to a medical facility.

For example, we were at a tidal pool area a few days ago. Imagine a coast made up of lava rock – the stuff you might have had in your barbeque a few years back. Black, hard and sharp. With pools of water filled with marine life.

Really cool, but a bit hazardous. I hadn’t worn the proper foot wear, and I ended up cutting a good chunk out of my foot.

Then I fell over and cut my hand. I said “Oh dear. I should have been more careful.” Or words to that effect.

Neither of these things are life threatening and, aside from gimping around for a couple of days, I’m fine. I don’t recall ever getting “injured” on the other islands, though.

There is also an active volcano flowing lava about 30 minutes from here. It might be just me, but I think that anyone who lives near an active volcano is tough as nails and possesses a large pair of kahunas. Or the female equivalent.

So rugged is a good word.

Friendly is another good word. We were out walking the other day, and a guy stopped to ask if we needed a ride. When we said we were just walking, he looked at us and, I’m sure, said something like “White people.”

He waved and drove on.

There are hitch hikers everywhere, and they are always getting picked up. We decided to get into the island way and picked up a hitch hiker ourselves.

He was a very friendly guy named Tom. Tom is a university student, and it was fairly apparent that he was enjoying his island lifestyle. He may have even received a baggy of “supplies” from his older cousin on Maui, but I’m not one to judge.

He rode with us for a few miles and then jumped out, shook our hands, and wandered down a side road. And we lived to tell the tale.

We also visited a black sand beach. This is really a misnomer. It was a beach, and it was black, but “sand” is not that accurate. It’s actually lava (OK, the whole island is made of lava, as are they all) that has been broken down into fairly fine gravel.

The cool part was that this beach was a resting place for large sea turtles – like the kind you saw on “Finding Nemo”, except these didn’t talk. Nor have any of the fish we’ve seen. There were about a dozen turtles, just hanging out.

Cool beans.

On our way from the volcano to this beach, we passed a desert and a rain forest. In about 30 minutes. Also cool beans.

We are on the wet side of the island, and it has rained every night. The days, except for this one, have been hot, so I have no complaints. Except for the heat.

Anyway, I’ve taken about 2 pictures, and I don’t have plans to post them, as I’m feeling lazy. They are both awesome, so you can let the anticipation build.



Acceptance vs Agreement

“I accept that. “
Chuckie Marstein, Sons of Anarchy

I often learn lessons the hard way. This is not because I’m a particularly bad person. Or that I don’t get things. Or that I don’t have a lot of lessons to learn.

It’s mostly that I’m not that bright.  Plus, as Sue points out, I’m a man.*

I bang my head against a wall for a long time. Then I find a way around, over, under or through it. Then, when I meet another wall, I immediately start to bang my head against it. Again.

As I said, not that bright.

The last couple of years have been tough for me. My health has been less than perfect. I’ve been off work more than I’ve been on. My mind has been struggling – too small to be wandering off by itself. And my spirit has taken a bit of a beating.

All in all, some tough times.

I’ve recently discovered that part of my issue, aside from the aforementioned brightness problem, is that I may have a problem accepting reality.

I’ve dealt with Crohn’s disease for about thirty years. Through a combination of medication, force of will (or what Sue calls “stubbornness”), and a blatant disregard for reality, I have managed to have a very good, sort of normal life.

I’ve learned all sorts of coping mechanisms – breathing into the pain is one of my favorites – and I can put on a pretty good show of being normal (ha!), looking healthy (double ha!), and being competent (is there such a thing as a triple ha?)

I have always believed that I can create my own reality. If only I put my mind/will/spirit into things, I come out normal. If not normal, then at least the appearance of normal.

Why have I worked so hard at appearing normal? A part of me is afraid that if I accept the fact that I’m sick (which I am), that fact will somehow define me.

And if there is one definition that I don’t want, it’s to be “the sick guy”.

And because I have trouble accepting this reality, I do dumb things. Like I don’t ask for help if I need it. Or request time off when necessary. Or admit that I need long naps to get through the day.

And … sometimes … I don’t go to the doctor when I should. Although I’m getting much better at this last one.

The problem isn’t that I have done these things. Everyone – I think – has done something dumb in the past. No, it’s not the dumb things I’ve done that annoy me.

It’s the fact that I keep doing them. Over and over. Like a bad habit.

I’ve been thinking about this. A lot. Hey … I’ve got the time. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been mistaking acceptance with agreement.

You see, I thought that if I accepted a particular reality – in this case, that I have a physical problem – that meant that I agreed with that state. You know, that I thought being sick was OK.

I’ve been rethinking this, and I’ve come to the following conclusion: Acceptance isn’t the same thing as agreement. Acceptance, I think, is saying “Hey, this is where I am currently at”. It’s not a judgement call. Just a statement of reality.

It’s a bit like my bank account. If I look at it and see a negative balance, I can either choose to accept that this is a reality, or I can pretend that it isn’t. Saying that I have a negative balance doesn’t mean that I like it. It’s just the reality.

What I do about it is what makes the difference. If I simply say “Well, that’s what the old overdraft is for”, and keep on spending, I’m going to see the same result next month. You know, banging my head against a wall.

If the reality makes me say “Oh. I guess I’m spending more than I make”, and change my spending habits, I’m going to have a different result next month.

If I accept that I have made some poor choices, health-wise, in the past, this lets me make some changes. For example, if I realize that I wait too long to go to see my doctor, I can now try to make better decisions.

Besides, I’m sure my doctor would like to take a trip someplace warm, too. Gotta keep him in business.

Acceptance also comes before forgiveness. It’s pretty easy for me to beat myself up about poor choices I’ve made in the past. I am pretty good at forgiving others. I’m really awful at forgiving myself.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that I agree with all the choices I’ve made in the past. It just means that I acknowledge that I have some unhelpful habits and beliefs that have kept me from asking for the help I’ve needed. And that I can change these things.

Soooo … I’m working at accepting things. Physical realities. Economic realities. Vocational realities. And, having accepted things about myself, and maybe throwing in some forgiveness along the way, maybe I can work at changing the habits and beliefs that have brought me here.

One can always hope.

*I’m not sure I can do much about either of these things. Maybe I just need to accept that.