Monday, July 29, 2013

Look out fish, here we come

Father-and-son fishing trips have been taking place for as long as there have been fathers,  sons and fish.
From the first time Ugghe Jr. was old enough to accompany Ugghe Sr. on a prehistoric fishing expedition, men have bonded over the killing of gilled animals.
Of course, in the Ugghe's days the fish were just as likely to catch them, but obviously enough dino-angles survived to ensure fishing became a beloved pastime for many.
Through the centuries, fishing trips helped foster the father-son dynamic, whether fish were actually caught or not.
I too am a member of the father-son fish assassination squad. My dad and I have hauled in our fair share of finned critters, all of which were cooked for the family.
Like my father before me, I never understood the point of taking a creature's life just for the thrill of it. If there was no practical reason to kill it - don't. It's that simple.
If you are going to kill something, at least let its death have some meaning.
I could go on a rambling diatribe about trophy hunters who kill defenseless animals for 'sport' so they can mount their heads and hides on the wall or floor.
I am not too sure how sporting it is to use a high-powered rifle with a scope to shoot a bear while he is, you know, taking care of business in the woods.
I am not opposed to hunting – one of my closest friends is an avid hunter and he eats everything he kills.
Well, almost everything. He is terrified of frogs and when he sees one he will either scream like a small frightened school girl or use that high-powered rifle to send Kermit's cousin to frog Valhalla.
But when he is not cowering at the sight of a web-footed monster, he is hunting deer that he turns into sausage, steaks, deer burgers and a variety of tasty treats. Some people still think that is cruel, but look at it this way: one deer killed is a cow saved. That should balance out karma for my happy hunting friends out there.
Anyway, Dad loved fishing since he was a little boy, so every couple of weeks we would head out, fishing pole in hand, to catch our limit.
We would pile into a small aluminum boat and troll the water looking for rainbow trout.
But, that was not the only kind of fishing we did. Dad was a big fan of river fishing. Not a slow-moving river where you lounge on the shoreline waiting for a bite. Where's the fun in that?
No, my dad would take me to one of the most dangerous stretches of water within 100 miles of our home.
The water was fast, there was a vicious undercurrent and to quote my dad, “You better be careful. If you fall in, you're not coming out.”
Sobering words for a young lad, but I was up for the challenge.
“Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes. They are all over the place around here.”
Hmmm, I wonder if dad had some sort of life insurance policy on me. 
We would hike several miles up river and fish our way down, hitting back eddies filled with fish.
I ran a  heavy line while fishing the river because I was determined to catch a steelhead – the biggest fish in those waters.
I pulled some very nice trout out of that river, but the massive steelhead eluded me.
I quickly loved river fishing as much as my dad, and the thrill of casting a line into the raging waters was like a drug. As time marched on, we did more river fishing and less boat fishing.
It's been years since dad and I fished. He can no longer walk on the rocks and life just keeps us too busy to find the time.
I have his fishing pole mounted on the wall of my Man Cave (aka garage) and every time I look at it I am reminded of those wonderful, albeit occasionally dangerous, days.
How I miss them.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Remote control monopoly, it's a guy thing

My wife is one of the smartest people I know.
She has been a registered nurse for more than 25 years (which is amazing considering she still tells everyone she is 29).
A few years ago, she went back to university part time to obtain her Bachelors of Science in Nursing, graduating with distinction. And she did it while working part time and helping to keep our three kids from harm.
I am very impressed, and very proud of her.
She has calmly dealt with serious medical situations, helped people decifer doctor-speak, explained their medications to them and literally had people's lives in her hands.
But she still can't figure out the remote.
The remote for the TV and DVR are combined, so it has slightly fewer buttons than the space shuttle and can be a little confusing. But if a meatball like me can figure out out, why can't my much-smarter wife?
I find it amusing when she tries to find a show we recorded and ends up hacking into a secret Russian spy channel or something.
Inevitably, she calls yours truly (or one of the kids) to help guide her through the labryth of buttons adorning the remote control. We find what she wants to watch and everything is fine, until she tries to fast forward and hits the wrong button, launching her into another diatribe about the 'stupid remote.'
I don't get it. She really is very smart, but even with the cranial capacity to be a doctor if she had chosen to be, that little black gizmo with all the grey buttons has her beat.
More often than not, if she is watching TV and I walk into the room, she will hand me the remote. I don't ask for it, but she will give it to me anyway.
I must admit, once that cold piece of plastic is in my hands all seems right in the universe. I did not create the system, nor did I foster it in anyway, but for some reason that is how our society works: the woman runs the home, looks after the kids, handles teenage emotional emergencies and the man is in charge of vehicle repairs, yardwork and the remote control.
It is the same with many of my friends: He looks after the remote while she looks after everything else.
I must admit, as a man, it is a pretty good deal.
But the dominance of the remote is limited to your own home. You see, there is an unspoken remote-control etiquette between members of the male species.
When I am visiting a friend, I would never even consider taking control of the remote. That would be akin to hitting on the guy's wife – you just don't do it.
A man's home is his castle and a man's remote is his remote.
On rare occasions you may use another man's remote control. Like if he is out of the room for an extended period of time and the volume is too low, or if the the show you are watching is terrible, or if he died in a tragic lawndart accident, then you may grab the remote.
But the second he returns, the remote is his, handed over with no ceremony, but with silent acknowledgment this is his home and his remote. Both must recieve equal respect.
He will accept the remote and forgive any transgressions grabbing it may have caused in the first place.
He is then free to change the channel, adjust the volume or any combination thereof, because it is his remote and by extension, his TV.
The visiting male knows this and relinquishes complete control of the piece of plastic-encased electronics to the male of the house.
It's a guy thing, but I am a guy and that's what we do. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Scumbags aren't the only jerks out there

My wife and I are part of a community watch program where we snoop, I mean, keep an eye on each other's homes in case any nefarious culprits are lurking about.
In other words, we keep watch for bad guys doing bad things to our good homes.
I live in a fairly low-crime area so there really isn't a whole lot to watch out for. Sure we have been victims of crime – my son had his bike stolen so whenever I see someone of less-than-stellar reputation riding a bike like his that was painted with a can of spray paint, I am somewhat suspicious of where he got it.
I can't prove it, but I can run him over with my car when he (and nobody else) is looking. I am kidding of course. I would never risk damaging my car.
Speaking of cars, I have had a vehicle broken in to 14 times in the past 30 years or so. One van we owned was a particular favourite of the scumbags, er, um, I, wait that's exactly what I mean.
The big green van, which our kids dubbed The Hulk-mobile, was broken into at least four times.
The first time was when we were hiking and they caused $600 damage by twisting the locks off of two doors.
Next time, just break the window like everyone else, OK. It makes life a lot cheaper for the victim (that would be me) as all I would have to pay was a deductible for a new window instead of getting body work done.
That robbery was probably the most successful one by the scumbags. They took numerous CDs –  the joke is on them because it was mostly 'old people music' – and my wallet.
Losing the wallet hurt. It was not so much the cash (what cash) but I had to run around and replace all of my identification such as a driver's license (for $75), my SIN and whatever else I had in there. They also took a cherished sentimental item - my Eddie Van Halen guitar pick that I had carried with me for years.
I didn't really get it from the guitar maestro, but rather I found it on the floor of one of those little rooms where the ATMs are help captive. However, after a few adult recreational beverages at a local watering hole, the pick became widely known as one used by Eddie himself and a legend was born. People asked me about that pick for years.
Anyway, I left the wallet tucked away in the bottom of a centre consol because I feared evil doers were lurking about. And I was right.
I called the police to file a report for insurance purposes and was greeted by the snottiest public servant I have ever encountered .
Me: “Hello, yes, I would like to report someone broke into my van and stole my wallet.”
Snotty public servant: “Oh, gee, really. Let me guess – you left it sitting on top of the dash in plain view.”
I explained the situation and her attitude changed immediately. She should not have had an attitude in the first place.
But my dealing with snotty people was far from over.
A few days later, someone found my bank card and dropped it off at the den of theives, er, I mean the banking institute.
A lady from the bank called me and launched into a rambling diatribe about how I should be more careful with my card before informing me the card has already been destroyed and I have to come down for a new one.
I asked where the card was found.
“In front of your house.”
What! The scumbags were at my house. This sent alarms bells ringing and tempers raging. I told her the card had been stolen and was upset these pukes came to my house.
Like her friend at the police station, her attitude changed immediately and she admitted she did not actually know where the card was found.
Then why did you say it was in front of my house?
I guess people who break into cars aren't the only jerks out there.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The secret life of vent cleaners - who knew?

I love getting feedback from readers.
Good, bad or anywhere in between it is just nice to know they are actually paying attention to what I am spewing forth on this page.
Most of the time, the emails are positive and rant and rave about how funny I am, how talented I am, how charming I am and what good dental hygiene I have. These people are awesome and obviously very wise.
Occasionally, I get an email ranting and raving about what an idiot I am (I didn't even know my mother-in-law could use email.)
One reader has sent me several emails proclaiming I am reducing the English language and the art of journalism to that of a single-celled organism with barely enough brain power to eat and make doo-doo.
The thing is, he has sent me more than one email which means he still reads my stuff. Score one for the microbe crowd.
People will write and tell me stories of similar events they went through, are going through, are hoping to go through or never want to go through.
I read every single email and try to respond to every one as well.
But for the first time in a long time, one reader sent me an email with a suggestion for a column.
It is not always easy to come up with a column based on a reader's suggestion, but this particular email involved sex, drugs, and vent cleaning so how could I resist.
Melissa M. works for a company that conducts air-quality testing, cleans out vents, heating ducts and what not, and she sent me a list of a few of the interesting items they found while doing their jobs.
I must admit, I never saw the duct-cleaning experience as being all that exciting, but her email proved me wrong.
In one case, a pound of marijuana was found in a vent in a teen's bedroom.
"Um, er, ah. I was holding that for a friend. Yeah, that's right. I was holding it for a friend."
In another case the cleaning crew found some vintage porno magazines.
"Um, er, ah. I was holding that for a friend. Yeah, that's right. I was holding it for a friend."
Melissa said the crew has uncovered more than $10,000 in cash, old coin collections, old beer bottles and in one particularly strange case, a pink wig and fur-lined handcuffs were discovered.
"Um, er, ah. I was holding that for a friend. Yeah, that's right. I was holding it for a friend."
They have also stumbled across old comic books, which can be a real find.
A gentleman in the United States recently found a first-edition Superman comic that he hoped would net him a few hundred bucks.
It went on the auction block and sold for $160,000. Yikes, that will help cover the cost of the renos he was doing that lead to the discovery.
Mummified rodents have also been found entombed within the duct systems of a home. (And I thought that nasty smell was an old sock I left under the bed.)
Melissa said toys and food dropped down vents by children are the most common finds, but once they located a live pet hamster (who was reading old porno mags while smoking pot no doubt.)
Anyway, it would seem there is a lot more to duct cleaning than meets the eye. I guess you just never know what you are going to find in the recesses of someone's home where they don't expect anyone to be looking.
Mind you, Melissa was not exactly looking for such unique items, finding them is just part of the job.
At least they will have plenty to talk about during their lunch breaks.
All of the items found are given to the current owners of the home - whether they want them or not.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Parents are so hard to raise these days

As I make my way through the first decade of F-years, there is a noticeable shift in my relationship with my parents.
As a young lad, it was always Mom and Dad 'laying down the law' as to how things were done.
Ma and Pa were not afraid of being the 'bad guy' by not letting me do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
I was annoyed at the time, but looking back I can see how much they cared and they knew it was more important to be my parent than my buddy.
They were the ones with all the knowledge and I was just a babe in the woods, trying to make his way through this thing called life.
Mom and Dad knew a lot about life and it is unfortunate I was such a block-headed teen and didn't listen.
It would have saved me a lot of grief, stress and money. But I was young and far too 'smart' to listen to 'old people.'
As the years tick by, I look back and realize I was too dumb to know I was dumb. The less people know, the more they think they know because they don't know there are things they don't know.
Phew, I had to read that last line a couple times myself, but I think it makes sense.
However, the older you get, the wiser you become and as I edge up on 50 I am getting quite wise – not that my kids listen to my advice, and yes, I do appreciate the irony of it. 
I guess that is why it is called the circle of life, because humans keep going around and around, with each generation forging their own path and thinking it is the first time it has ever been done.
However, teens are not the only ones who can be challenging.
My mom and dad are both in their late 70s and they carry with them the knowledge only seven decades on this planet can provide, but they are also stubborn.
They are 'set in their ways' as the saying goes and trying to change their ways is like trying to alter the direction of a cruise ship using a spoon as a rudder.
I have accepted Dad will never figure out how the DVD player works and a computer is like a alien species to him.
I get that. There was no technology even remotely comparible to what we have today when they were young so I don't expect them to be surfing the web or jumping on to Facebook, but there are other aspects of life where they drive me bonkers.
My mom is overly cautious of new methods of medical care.
And this is one of the areas our roles are changing. My knowledge of better health care has surpassed hers, making me the authority figure and her the 'stubborn teen.'
My mother has arthritis in her back and is in pain. My wife, who is a nurse, and I have tried to explain to her pain relief is available, but she is worried about become a "grandma junkie." 
No matter how many times we explain that she will not, she still refuses to take the pain medication.
It is hard to accept some of the choices my mom is making. It is kind of like how Mom and Dad felt with some of the decisions of my youth that they did not approve or understand. But at the end of the day, all I can do is my best to support her, even if the choices she is making, in my opinion, are not the best ones.
Parents, they are getting harder and harder to raise these days.