Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spiders suck

I don't like bugs.It doesn't really matter what kind of bug it is, I don't like it.Possibly the only insect I do not mind is the ladybug. It seems like a harmless little winged creature.I also read somewhere it is supposed to be good luck if a ladybug lands onyou.I am sure there are many other harmless winged insects out there, but most of them are ugly, and ugly is enough of a reason for me not to like them.They could bite, sting or pinch and that too puts them on the flee-at-first-site list.There are different levels of dislike as well. Flies are merely a nuisance and when I eventually die and go to heaven one of the first things I am going to ask God is what was he thinking when he created the mosquito.Bugs like earwigs, centipedes, beetles, and those black flying ants areall on my squash-the-second-you-see-them list.I saw one humungous winged creature that I don't even know what it was,but it was ugly enough to make me want to jump out of my skin.I am sorry if this offends anyone from PETI - People for the EthicalTreatment of Insects - but I am not gonna stop squishing the littleterrors for anyone.My ultimate in bug prejudice is reserved for the spider. Big ones, littleones, fat, skinny, whatever - it if is a spider I hate it.And I will admit spiders scare the snot out of me.One day I was walking through a little field near my home to go check out acreek when for no real reason I looked down - I call it my anti-spideysense.What I saw still haunts my dreams to this day. It was an orange and blackspider roughly the size of a Chihuahua crawling up a piece of webbing thatwas stuck to my arm.I looked the beast right in its eyes, and immediately screamed like afrightened little school girl.The high-pitched girly scream, of course, is accompanied by the 'spiderdance.'That is where you jump around like an idiot while screaming 'GET IT OFF,GET IT OFF' over and over until you either calm down or pass out.I got the monster off of me, but continued doing the 'spider twitch' for afew seconds.This is the aftermath of the spider dance and involves involuntarilytwitching your arms and legs because your body refuses to accept theinformation your brain is telling you that the spider is gone.Anyone watching this must have thought I had lost my mind andwas overcome with some sort of standing seizure that would not allow me toutter anything more than a garbled squeal.Those who share my distaste for insect vermin would know exactly what isgoing on.Spiders are without a doubt my biggest phobia. I have no problem withsnakes, rodents or even politicians (to a degree), but put even a littlespider near me or some sort of large, winged insect type beast and it isscream time.A friend of mine is the rugged outdoors type who camps and hunts and eatstrees or whatever else it is he does in the woods.(Some details are better left unspoken - trust me.)He's the kind of outdoorsman who could kill a deer with a spoon and gut itwith his teeth.He is not overly fond of spiders, but his real fear is frogs. That'sright, the float in the water, eat flies and croak amphibians found injust about every place on the planet.The man is stark raving terrified of frogs. If the animal kingdom knewthis, the next time he went hunting all they would have to do is surroundhis camp with frogs and he would never come out of his trailer.We were walking next to a lake one evening when a big ol' bullfrog jumpedup and bumped his leg.Remember my comments about screaming like a little girl? Welcome to theclub my friend.He screeched and jumped about five feet straight up. I laughed so hard Inearly fell in the lake.He then did the frog dance, followed by the frog twitch, all the whileemitting a unique vocabulary style I was thankful my kids were unable tohear.He had his own laugh later that evening when we were sitting around thecampfire. I was sitting there, minding my own business when I feltsomething go down the back of my shirt.I just knew it was a Goliath tarantula that had hitched a ride to Canadain a banana crate, worked its way into the woods where I was camping,climbed up the tree directly behind me and dropped down my back.Feeling something foreign in my shirt, I jumped straight up and starteddoing the 'dance' only to discover it was no more than a piece of a tree.The good thing about being afraid of frogs the chances are slim one willever fall from a tree down your shirt or be spotted crawling across theceiling of your home.So if anyone sees me jumping around like a madman and screaming like asmall frightened child, don't worry, I'm just interacting with the insectrealm in my own scaredy-cat way.
Martial arts marshmellow

Martial arts can be a lot of fun.
They can also be a source of pain.
I spent several years training in the Korean art of tae kwon do, and a little while doing jiu jitsu.
Someone asked me once if I could kick butt if I had to.
I said sure, as long as I was fighting a one-armed, blind dwarf who was at least 60 years old.
Other than that I don’t know how well I would do.
I did martial arts for the exercise and it was an excuse to get out of the house a couple nights a week.
I was hardly a hard-core scrapper and there were a few guys in my club who could smack the ugly off my face without breaking a sweat.
The problem is I am allergic to getting hit. I break out in pain and I don’t like that.
With that in mind, I made sure everyone knew the single most important rule of martial arts: Don’t hurt the old guy.
If they remember just one thing, I hoped that was it.
I was the oldest guy in the club. The rest were young bucks eager to prove themselves. I was neither young nor a buck and was happy just to walk away from a sparring session under my own power.
I became good at blocking kicks and punches because after a couple minutes of sparring I was out of gas, and the only offence I could mount was threatening to tell their moms that they were not playing nice.
But I can say I have a background in martial arts. I like to say that because it sounds cool, but realistically it’s like saying Elvis had a background in marathon running.
It is more accurate to say I have an interest in martial arts, particularly mixed martial arts.
Mixed martial arts are a hybrid of the genre. It is a combination of striking and grappling skills. Professional fighters bring the sport to a whole new level.
The pros have some of the coolest names like Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell, or Tim ‘The Maniac’ Silvia.
My name would be Darren ‘Can’t We Just Talk This Over’ Handschuh.
Not too intimidating I must admit.
Watching these guys is living vicariously, because if I were in the ring, it would be the shortest fight in history.
The referee would look at me and my opponent and ask if we were ready.
He would then step back and yell, “Fight.”
We would walk toward each other and as we reach out to touch gloves in a show of respect, I would hit the ground and start tapping.
In martial arts, tapping your hand on the ground or your opponent is a way of acknowledging there is no way you can win the fight.
So, I would be tapping my opponent, myself, the floor, the referee, the fat guy in front row with all the tattoos – it would be a regular tapping extravaganza.
I would be tapping so hard I would have to wrap my arm for a week because of the exertion.
If I used both hands to tap, I could fly around the room like a middle-aged, out-of-shape bird.
I prefer to watch the sport rather than become an active participant.
I sit in the audience and think, “Man I could beat the guy. Well, maybe if he wasn’t looking and I was in my car, I could run over him from behind.”
Other than that, the chances of a victorious outcome are pretty slim.
House on haunted hill

Now, I’m not saying the ghost of Elvis was tramping through my attic, or that the spirit of the King of rock ‘n’ roll was doing some light reading when I wasn’t looking, but some strange things did happen in an old house I was living in.
The house in question was a run down, 1940s era home that had been a rental property for years.
At one point it was a nice place, with detailed landscaping and a great view of the city, but years of neglect reduced it to a shamble of a building that my wife and I called The Addams Family home.
Every time we would drive into the yard one, or both, of us would start singing the theme song to the popular TV show and subsequent movie series that featured people even stranger than my in-laws.
The house itself was kind of frightening with dead trees lining the driveway, peeling paint, creaking doors and a half collapsed outbuilding in the weed-infested backyard.
But the scariest part of the house was what we had dubbed The Hell Room.
The Hell Room was one of two rooms in the attic that had been converted into living quarters. One of the rooms was quite nice and we put a spare bed, night table and bookcase in it.
The Hell Room, however, was not so nice. The window had a hole in it so when the wind blew there was an eerie howling sound and it was always full of flies and wasps.
On any given day dozens of the flying rodents could be seen crawling on the walls or buzzing around the room like drunken airline pilots.
I taped up the window, but the winged vermin continued to reside in the room.
I suspected it had a hole to the outside, but I could not find it.
I even looked behind the peeling, 1970s red and white wallpaper – which was actually rather frightening on its own – but could not find where the bugs were getting in.
So, I reached an executive decision and decided to ignore the room altogether.
Because the door had no latch on it, I dug deep into my skills as a home repairman and stacked a pile of old encyclopedias in front of it to keep it closed – Bob Villa eat your heart out.
Feeling the warm glow from the satisfaction of a job well done, I forgot about the pesky door and life carried on.
However the next day I had to get something from the nice room and noticed the encyclopedias had all been moved to the side, allowing the door to open.
The books were still stacked neatly, but they were no longer in front of the door.
I closed the door, reinserted my handy keep-the-door-closed invention and went downstairs where I asked my wife why she moved the books.
She said she didn’t touch them.
OK, if she didn’t move them and I didn’t move them who did? I checked on the books a couple of days later and, sure enough, they had been moved.
Feeling not unlike Van Helsing, I slowly moved toward the door, slammed it shut and re-stacked the books before retreating downstairs faster than a child who thought the boogeyman was after him.
Hey, for all I know he could have been.
This time the books remained there for several weeks, but one day they were shoved off to the side yet again.
This was not the only bizarre event to happen in the house.
One evening I was watching TV in the living room, which was directly below the Hell Room, when I heard the floor upstairs creak from one end to the other – as if someone was walking across the room.
No, I was not watching TV with a Mr. Jack Daniels so we can rule his influence out as a possible cause.
My wife was at work, so I assumed it was one of our dogs. However, one dog was sleeping next to the fireplace and the other was at the foot of the couch.
All those little hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I looked at the ceiling from where the noise had come.
I considered my options. I could go charging upstairs to see if the books were moved and maybe get a glimpse of the phantom roaming our rental or I could stick my head in the sand, and chalk it up to an overactive imagination.
Sand one - bravery zero.
When my wife came home I told her about the creaking and she said she had heard it also on different occasions.
So was it a spook haunting my humble home, or was it just the house settling causing the floor to creak?
If it was the house settling, how did the books get moved? I don’t know.
We lived in that house for 15 months and I am often tempted to knock on the door and ask if the current tenants have had any strange happenings.
Who knows maybe the ghost of the King decided to set up residence in Vernon and I was just lucky enough to share a house with him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tales from the Crib

I feel obligated to provide a warning to all who read these words. This column contains images that are not conducive to eating breakfast. It is a tale of unspeakable horror and scenes so vile only the bravest of souls should dare read Tales from the Crib.
The day started out like most other days, except this day my son, Junior, had the flu. Now a flu is not fun for anyone, but for a two-year-old boy it brings with it a whole set of problems adults don’t deal with, such as a child’s ability – or should I say willingness - to throw up no matter where they are.
Hearing Junior was awake I entered his room and stopped cold when I saw what my young son had accomplished. I also instantly realized giving grape juice to a two year old with the flu is not the smartest move.
Standing in his crib with a big smile on his face was my son. The front of his sleeper was purple, the crib was purple the floor and even the wall was purple, but what really impressed me was he got some on the ceiling.
That is regurgitation of Herculean proportions. I had never seen a kid hose down a room with such efficiency.
His older brother had done his fair share of spewing, but I was in awe of the master.
I felt a brief twinge of fatherly pride, however it was quickly eclipsed by a sense of ‘Oh the humanity.’
Junior was not upset in the least by the situation, but I was left wondering how I could get my hands on a haz-mat suit. My wife poked her head in the door and then took off faster than a gazelle on steroids mumbling something about how she gave birth, so the least I could do was clean up the mess.
Now, just how long does the ‘I gave birth’ excuse work? When I’m 90 and the dog makes a mess on the floor, will she mumble through her false teeth something about giving birth before wacking over the head with her cane and telling me to clean it up?
But, back to the task at hand. The first thing I had to do was get Junior out of the crib, which would normally be an easy task, but the blonde, blue eyed Creature from the Purple Lagoon standing before me made it a scary proposition.
At first, I tried using ‘The Force’ to lift him out and float him to the bathtub, but it didn’t work.
It was obvious I was going to have to pick the little guy up and carry him to the bathroom. It is amazing how fast one can run while carrying a small child by two fingers at arms length.
Jr., meanwhile, was having a great time and giggled all the way as I tore down the hallway with the determination of a weight watchers class which had just spotted a pizza.
I placed him in the tub, got him out of his sleeper and cranked up the water. I took the sleeper to the wash machine and set it on puree before heading back upstairs to deal with the crib, wall and ceiling.
Surveying the room I wondered how so much goop could come out of such a tiny person. As I scrubbed I realized I had not even had breakfast yet and I began to think about how good some eggs would be right about now.
I am convinced only a parent could think about what to have for breakfast while cleaning up 37 gallons of kid barf.
Eventually I got the room cleaned up – there is still a stain on the carpet as a sort of memorial to the event – and got Junior dressed and downstairs, thus ending the vomit incident.
If you’ll recall this adventure in parenthood started because Junior had the flu and with it came diarrhea, or as we call it ‘the scoots’ because you are always scooting to the bathroom.
That was also the day I learned a diaper can only hold so much recycled food matter before it escapes the elastic confines of the undergarment by any means possible.
But the story of the overflowing diaper and the family dog who gave its best effort to help clean up the child will have to be told a different day.
After all this is a family publication and even we have limits.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pioneer prowess

By Darren Handschuh

I admit it. I would have made a lousy pioneer.
I am just not a settle-the-new-world kind of guy.
I enjoy camping and living among nature, but my version of roughing it is not showering for a couple of days and flicking a bug off my plate before I eat.
When I camp, it is in a trailer with a cushioned bed, stove, bathroom and most important of all, a furnace to keep me toasty warm at night.
I recently visited a historic ranch and heard tales of pioneers that confirmed I am not the gold-rush type.
Some of these hardy souls would spend weeks, even months walking to the gold fields of B.C. in the hopes of striking it rich.
My first thought was, "What kind of bathroom facilities were there along the gold trail?"
Even before the question finished forming in my cranium, I knew the answer involved sticks, leaves and probably a rash of some sort.
Sounds like a good time to me.
I pity the uneducated prospector who grabbed a handful of poison ivy after a trip to the bush to take care of some personal business.
I would imagine word about that particular plant and the need to avoid it would have spread like wildfire.
Who would be providing this information? The guy who had been walking funny for the past three days, that's who.
Having lived on the land for generations already, I would imagine the local aboriginals already knew to avoid the plant.
Maybe it was a local native who suggested to the fat, white guy with the beard the ivy was perfect for personal use and then ran home to tell the rest of his village what he had done.
"You will not believe what I just got some white guy to do. You know that plant that makes you itch really bad, well."
They of course would break out in roaring laughter every time they saw a cowboy doing the poison ivy shuffle.
"Hey white guys, you know what else is a good idea - sleeping with food in your tent. Bears hate that and will avoid you like the plague."
Then there was the bathing issue. Many of those intrepid pioneers would bathe once a
year whether they needed it or not.
That's why so few of them were actually eaten by bears. The bear would take one taste, hunch up and spew his breakfast before swearing off those smelly white things in favour of berries and grubs. You know it's bad when bug larvae is the most delectable meal in the woods.
It was not an easy thing to lather up in those days and the last thing someone wanted to do was dive into an ice cold lake or stream.
It was much easier to just smell bad and besides there were no ladies to impress anyway so what's the point?
"Frank you smell absolutely delightful today, what have you done?"
"Well Bob, I took a quick bath in that crick over thar and then used the aloe vera plant to keep me smelling like a fresh spring rain. It also helps keep my skin soft
and supple."
Somehow I doubt that conversation was every uttered among the tough-as-nails customers of the old days.
Of course the natives were kicking back and lounging in local hot springs.
"Do you think we should tell the white guys about this?"
"Naw, it's way more fun to watch them the way they are."
"Good point."
So, pioneers searching for gold were a smelly lot with poor hygiene - using your finger for a toothbrush does not count as cleaning - who would spend months on end living with other men.
Is gold really that important? I would much rather have found a job somewhere in the city and slowly squirreled some money away for retirement.
Who needs to settle a new land anyway? Look at all the land we have now, going out and claiming more would just be plain greedy.
But the lure of gold was too strong for many and they left the comfort of the city and plunged head first into the challenges only Mother Nature could provide.
And after a while I am sure even Mother Nature plugged her nose when ever an intrepid gold seeker went by.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hello world, how the hell are ya? My name is Darren Handschuh and I am a professional journalist who was dropped on his head as a child (by accident, I hope). This has generated some cranial disharmony and has given me a rather odd outlook on life. I have been writing a humour column, called Homework for a couple of years now and I am going to start posting them on this blog. Stay tuned for some funny stuff.
Thanks for reading