Monday, April 29, 2013

Super heroes are super

“Do you ever use any of my suggestions in your columns?” asked a colleague of mine who, can be rather, um, how shall I put this, energetic in life.
When someone says, “Oh that guy is a real character,” they are talking about my co-worker. If you look it up in the dictionary, you will find his picture.
Always ready with a corny joke or oddball comment, it will be a sad day when he retires. But, then again, how can we miss him if he won’t go away?
His latest good-natured interference came when the Vernon Winter Carnival announced the theme for its 2014 event will be super heroes.
Upon reading the announcement, my co-worker buddy said I should write a column about it.
He then went on to tell me about his favourite super hero, what he wore, the gadgets he had and a whole bunch of other information I missed because I usually tune him out after a few seconds.
It’s a skill I’ve developed after having my desk beside his for so many years and one I have been able to apply to many other situations – most of which involve my mother in law.
But he still managed to plant a seed that kept rattling around my cranium until I finally decided to do something about it: electro-shock therapy.
Actually, I just decided that perhaps another one of my rambling rants could be born from his pestering after all.
The problem is, I have never been a big fan of super heroes.
His favourite was Batman. Me, not so much. I was never a follower of the Caped Crusader in my youth and those super-lame TV shows and movies featuring Adam West didn’t help matters. However, the recent Batman flicks have been amazing and I now consider myself a fan.
Superman was also not very high on the list. I was OK with the flying and man of steel stuff, and who wouldn't want X-ray vision? But how could all those people see Superman and then see Clark Kent and not figure out he is the same person?
If putting on a pair of glasses is the ultimate disguise, perhaps bin Laden would be alive today if he had just slapped on a pair of bi-focals when Seal Team Six came knocking.
“Freeze bin Laden or I’ll…. Oh, sorry sir, we were looking for the world’s most wanted terrorist, but he doesn’t wear glasses, so you can go.”
A pair of prescription peepers just isn’t a convincing enough disguise to keep people from figuring out who Supe really is.
I’ve always thought Iron Man is pretty cool, but then if I had billions of dollars like Tony Stark, I could afford to become a super hero, too. Obviously, Stark and Wayne took the same course on how to buy a super hero persona.
As a kid, my favourite super hero was Spiderman.
Ironic, isn’t it, that someone who is terrified of spiders should pick a giant mutant spider/human hybrid as his favourite super hero? Go figure.
Peter Parker was just an ordinary, everyday guy who gained super powers when a radioactive spider put the bite on him.
He uses his power to do good, which is exactly what anyone would do if they were virtually indestructible.
What young man wouldn’t use his super-human strength to thwart crime and spend all his time saving the city from the hoards of evil-doers?
I know I would. Problem is, I refuse to get close enough to a spider to attain those powers.
Oh well, guess I will have to keep working on becoming a billionaire super hero.
How hard can it be?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Go team go, meh, whatever

Driving to work the other day I saw some school students engaged in a grueling game of kickball.
Kickball is played on a baseball diamond where a large, red inflatable rubber ball is rolled from the pitcher's mound to home plate and the person kicks the ball and runs the bases like they do in real baseball.
The ball is about the size of a basketball and even Stevie Wonder could see it coming. I am not sure who invented this game or why, but I have been part of this competition in my school days so I understand the pressure these youngsters face.
If you kick at the ball and miss everyone – including the janitor – will laugh at you.
It is meant to be a fun game designed to get kids some fresh air and physical activity and for the most part it succeeds in this quest.
But because this game was a competition – even a fun one – there were a few people in my school who took it far too seriously and acted like it was the biggest game of their lives.
I call these people idiots. The high school I went to was bristling with jocks who used to go around pumping each other up for the big game – which was just about any game these lunkheads were playing.
Personally I was geared more toward the fun aspect of sports rather than a rip-out-their-spleens-and-stomp-their-entrails kind of player.
Because the school was brimming with meatheads, er, I mean youth with athletic ability and prowess, those with less-than skills were pariahs who were to be shunned and ignored at all times – even if you had known each other since Grade 1.
In my high school, if you were not a jock, you were nothing. I was a quasi-jock, trapped in a no-man's land between an athlete and a dork (well, a dork by their standards anyway.)
I was a decent hockey player and I did alright at pretty much any sport I tried, but that was not good enough in the land of super jocks.
You had to breath fire and poop lava. You had to show no mercy for your weakling opponents as you crushed them without mercy – and that was just for kickball.
For real sports like football and basketball – the two mainstays of my school – you had to get fired up to the point where your entire existence was based on how well you did on the plane of competition.
If you weren't out there to win, to destroy and to decimate your opposition then get off the field.
OK, see ya later.
I was alright with not being an elite athlete. I was tall and somewhat athletic, but I really couldn't stand being around the jocks.
They treated non-jocks like crap, they were all very high on themselves and they always had to travel in two buses – one for the players and one for their egos.
Both of our gym teachers were also the coaches who tried to replace their team's success for their own failed athletic careers.
They were borderline psychotic when it came to sports and unless you were one of their jocks, you were nothing.
Not one of my school's super jocks took their careers beyond a college level. No one turned pro, no one made a name for themselves in their chosen sport.
Many of them ended their careers with injuries and a sub-standard education because they spent more time on the field that in the classroom.
I did not socialize with them in high school – I don't speak dumbass – and I certainly have not sought them out since.
But as I look at life now with my beautiful wife and three amazing kids, the old high school athletic glory seems pointless, proving I was right not to give a fat rat's butt back then, much like I do now.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fear ye not - except spiders, and the dentist and....

An online dictionary describes fear as 'to be afraid and apprehensive.'
There are many things in this world that are scary. Topping the list is my mother-in-law, just kidding, no really, I mean it.
The thing I am most afraid of has to be spiders. Big ones, small ones, fat, skinny, ugly (like there are cute ones) it doesn't matter, if it is a spider it scares me.
I grew up in the sticks and there was always an assortment of creepy crawlies creeping and crawling around, but the spider reigned supreme on the scare-o-meter.
Especially the black widow. Even people who are not afraid of spiders are cautious of the black terror, but I do not reserve my fear to just one breed of arachnid, I hate them all and they all scare me.
I had a huge spider, roughly the size of a Chihuahua, climb on my hand once as I walked through a field and I jumped 82 feet straight up and did the spider dance all the way to the ground.
That is where you twist and gyrate like a lunatic while screaming in a high-pitched tone "GET IT OFF. GET IT OFF," before passing out and whimpering like a lost puppy.
But fear is not limited to eight-legged nightmares. I am also terrified of going to the dentist. Actually it is not the going part that scares me; it is the being there that reduces me to a small child who just saw a monster in his closet.
When I was a young lad I had a rough dentist and I soon developed an almost spider-like fear of 'the chair of doom.'
To this day I cannot walk into a dentist office without a twinge of terror run through my body. I am all grown up now so I no longer run and hide behind a potted plant. Besides there are no plants in my dentist's office large enough to hide me (I know, I've tried.)
So like a brave boy, I march into the office, sit in the chair of doom and start praying.
The funny part is the visits really aren't all that bad. Sure they still use power tools in my mouth, but it is not painful like it was when I was a child, and really is not a bad experience. But, those childhood memories leak from the subconscious of my brain every time I go, triggering a reaction of terror.
There is one more area that generates a tremendous amount of fear and trepidation - my mother in law. No, wait, I mean speaking in public.
I read that many people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of being naked in public. Believe me folks, if I was naked in public it would be everyone else who would be afraid, very, very afraid, not to mention repulsed, very, very repulsed.
But I had a chance to tackle that fear (not the naked one, the other one) head on when I was asked to speak at a breakfast meeting of a local Rotary club. They wanted me to talk about my columns which I figured would be easy, until I realized I would probably have to be funny.
Gulp. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and try to be funny, but it is a whole new game to try and be funny in front of real people.
So with trembling hands (and fully clad) I made my way to where the breakfast was being held, met the gentleman who invited me to speak and took a seat, thinking I would have a few minutes to get quash those last-minute butterflies that were turning into condors.
No such luck. I barely sat down when I was introduced and given the podium.
Gulp. I launched into a semi-practiced spiel when after a few minutes I realized I felt quite at ease. Part of it was preparation and part of it was how welcoming and downright nice everyone in the club was. By the time I was done I actually had fun.
Thanks Rotary for helping me deal with a life-long fear, now is there anything you can do about spiders...

Monday, April 8, 2013

I survived another spring break

Well, I survived another spring break.
No, I was not partying so hard I almost coughed up a kidney (like the good old days), my spring break was busy, but not nearly as much fun and barfing up body parts.
My spring break was filled with the laughter of young ones as they enjoyed carefree days away from the confines of school walls.
Sounds nice, except the ‘young ones’ I am referring too were a herd of 16- to 17-year-old boys.
There was anywhere from three to nine of them in my humble home at any given point in time. They were here for eight days, that’s more than a week of having a swarm of teens rampaging through my abode.
My wife worked for five of those days. I have never seen her so happy to go to work in my life. She would say fare-thee-well and then skip down the driveway to the car, humming a little tune while I looked mournfully out the window in anticipation of another day of semi-controlled chaos.
Aside from the constant noise of the TV, Xbox, computer and whatever else they had going on was the ever-increasing volume of their voices.
It would seem when young men get together they tend to get rather loud. They don’t mean to, but with that many people all talking at once, the volume has to increase so they can be heard.
Of course after a while the volume raises to a point where people in a different hemisphere can hear them.
They also move in a pack. When one decides to assault the food stocks, the others joined, to create a feeding frenzy that would be right at home on a National Geographic special.
Crews could set up hidden cameras and add commentary about the food lust of the young human male, especially when a fresh kill of lasagna has been spotted.
I have seen those documentaries where lions take down a zebra and they all feast on the beast by tearing it to shreds. Child’s play compared to a pack of hungry teens. Even Murphy the Wonder Dog stayed out of the dining room for fear of being swept up in the feeding frenzy furor.
They would eat just about everything in the pantry except the dust, and I am pretty sure if I put some pepper on it, they would have eaten that as well.
There are no drugs or booze allowed, and foul language will not be tolerated - period. These young men honour that, which shows respect for my home.
I like that.
But I must admit I do find it stressful to be ‘the house’ where everyone gathers.
Teenagers don’t mean to be slobs, it just comes naturally, but they do clean up when I remind them – sort of.
I have given this speech more than once: “Gentlemen, take a close look at me. Do you see the words maid or servant written anywhere on my clothes? No you do not, so that means you have to clean up after yourself.”
Most of the time they do, but occasionally dishes are forgotten and wet towels from a shower frequently end up in a ball behind the bathroom door.
It is also not cheap being ‘the house’ where everyone gathers and hangs out and eats and eats and eats and…
So being ‘the house’ is loud, stressful, frustrating, expensive and at times downright annoying.
But what else can I do? It provides a safe place to hangout, a place away from the temptations of the street and they are all very comfortable and relaxed while in my home (even if I’m not.) So as they file through the front door I smile, offer them something to eat and brace myself for the onslaught of activity that comes with hosting the herd.
The bright side of having nine or so teens running around my house is when there is the usually two or three, it is easy to handle. Almost like a stay-at-home vacation.
Spring break is over for another year so the herd has gone back to their respective homes and schools. The house is quiet, there are actually leftovers in the fridge and the milk jug is not empty – for now anyway.