Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sometimes, nothing is a good thing

A reader recently sent me an email telling me I am the greatest writer in the history of writing and my columns are the best thing to come out of the English language - ever.
OK, maybe he did not say all of that, or any of that actually, but he did say he enjoys my columns and after commenting on one particular piece about men and women communicating, he included a link to a YouTube video featuring a funny man named Mark Gungor.
Gungor is part marriage counsellor, part stand-up comedian and this particular link was to a presentation he did on the 'nothing box.'
Yes ladies, men really do have a nothing box. So when you ask, 'What are you thinking?' and we reply 'Nothing,' we mean it.
We really are thinking about nothing, we are doing nothing, we are accomplishing nothing. Come to think of it, we could probably change the name to the The Senate box, but that is for a different column.
The Missus found it hard to believe men can think about nothing, but after watching the Gungor video for herself and doing some reading on the subject, she finally relented and acknowledged it is possible for the male species to actually think about not a single thing.
Why do you think NASCAR is so popular? It is not thinking, but you get to watch fast cars and drink cold beer while you do it with.
Personally, I love the nothing box. It is like taking a mini-vacation without leaving the house.
The nothing box is another fine example of what a jokester God really is.
But it would seem God can also be a little mischevious because there is the other side of the coin called the woman's brain.
Women do not have a nothing box, in fact, they don't have any boxes at all.
Gungor compared the female grey matter to a bowl of spaghetti with the woman possessing the power to think along multiple strands at the same time.
We men go from one box to the next, often not allowing those boxes to interact or even touch. That does not mean one is superior to the other, it just means we are different – very, very different – when it comes to how we think.
We have established men really can think of nothing and have a darn good time doing it.
But when you ask a woman what she is thinking and she says, 'Nothing'  proceed with caution because women are always thinking about something – always.
Even worse is if you suspect there is a problem, but when you ask your significant other what's wrong and she says “Nothing,” you are doomed. Warning bells should be going off and red flags should be popping up with the ferocity of fireworks.
You better pursue your line of questioning with the focus of a psychiatrist and the stealth of a ninja until 'nothing' is discussed at length.
If you do not, 'nothing' will build like a swollen reservoir before breaching the dam and washing you onto the couch for the next few nights.
I am hardly an expert on man-woman relations, but I have been married for 25 years and the Missus and I have taken several marriage courses to help us better understand one another.
Ladies if you are having a hard time believing your significant other can literally think about nothing, look Gungor up on the Internet because he is an expert and he has some good advice for us married types.
Now if you will excuse me, I have a lot of nothing to think about.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to school blues no more

It is no secret the English language can be a confusing thing to get a handle on.
Take the word 'strike' for example.
You can strike up a conversation, strike someone on the bean (who desperately deserves it) and you can go on strike when your boss is being a big poopy head. Oh, and a baseball player can strike out (like I used to do every single time I went to a night club.)
You can also eat a steak, or drive a stake into the ground. They may be spelled differently, but sound exactly alike making for a potentially confusing conversation for someone who is not in tune with the nuances of the most widely spoken language in the world.
The meaning of a collection of words can also be different even though they are spelled and pronounced exactly the same.
Take 'back to school' for example. It can be both good, and bad.
As a young lad trapped in the public school system (also known as the seventh level of hell,) those words were a bad thing.
Everytime I would hear back-to-school commercials, my skin would crawl and I would develop an overwhelming urge to gather my belongings and go live in a cave in the hills somewhere.
School was not exactly a fun time for me and I felt about as wanted as a rash at a nudist colony.
I suffered through years of being bullied by classmates, some of whom I had known since Grade 1 and should have been my closest friends.
If anyone tells you being bullied is no big deal they were more than likely the ones doing the bullying.
Anyone who has been on the receiving end knows the impact it has. They know it is a big deal.
But I survived my years of torment and found a great deal of freedom when I began hanging out with a group from a different high school.
Even into my adult years, back-to-school ads generated a twinge of fear and loathing.
However, my middle-aged cranium has a new back-to-school emotion to deal with: glee.
Never in my life would I think back to school was a good thing, then I had kids.
I love my children. I love being around them, playing games with them and hanging out with them, but eventually it is mutually agreed that time apart is necessary.
Like the saying goes, "How can I miss you if you won't go away?"
So now back to school means getting rid of the kids, um, I mean celebrating their advancement to the next level of education.
My two youngest actually enjoy school – a strange concept I am still wrapping my head around. They get good grades, have lots of friends and in general fit very well with the school mold that spat me out like a bug in a bowl of soup.
And that is a good thing. They are not upset to see the back-to-school commercials. Sure they wish summer vacation could last for ever, but they are also looking forward to seeing all their friends.
And to be honest, I am looking forward to a little more peace and quite around the homestead.
I will actually be able to use the computer when I need it and I might even be able to find the remote to the TV on occasion. There will even be a little more food left in the fridge as Junior's friends head back to their own homes to hunker down for another season of higher education.
I will have to re-mortgage the house to pay for all of those back-to-school supplies, but that is to be expected, not enjoyed, but accepted as part of the fall ritual.
So there are finally good things to be said for back to school – as long as I'm not the one going back.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dance like you just don't care

My wife likes to dance.
Not in front of men who are waving money at her or anything like that, but at parties and weddings etc.
She always wants me to hit the dance floor and bust a move (I am more worried about busting a hip).
We don't go to nighclubs very much anymore – and by that I mean never – so opportunities to dance are greatly limited.
And I am OK with that. I never was big on dancing.
I can dance in my own unique style, but I am not very comfortable on the dance floor.
At more than six-feet tall I always feel self concious as I boogie on down because I am taller than most of the people out there and I stick out like a dorky white guy who can't really dance.
My wife is so vertically limited the only people who see her are the ones directly around her, so she dances without a care in the world.
Our stunning height difference also makes slow dancing nearly impossible. The only way she could rest her head on my shoulder is if she had a small stepladder with her.
But that's not to say I have never cut a rug in my day. With enough liquid encouragement anyone will take to the floor and show the world what they have.
I have done my fair share of girating to the music (and not always with the addition of liquid skills), but there is only one setting where I am comfortable doing it: a wedding.
These days when the Missus and I attend a wedding it is for a niece, nephew or the child of a friend of mine which officially makes me the old guy.
And the 'old guy' can dance anyway he wants and not give a darn.
Once I realized that, I didn't care how badly I danced because as the 'old guy,' nothing more was expected of me.
I don't have to bounce with the latest dance moves or be up on the coolest trends. I can go out there and jump around anyway I want and all the young people will accept that whatever I am doing, it is because I am an 'old guy.'
I no longer have to worry about being cool. I never was cool, but I used to worry about it. Now, who cares, because all the other old people are dancing just as badly as I am.
While the young kids are spinning around on their heads so fast I am sure they will eventually drill a hole and strike oil, I am putting on my tried and true pattented moves that have done me just fine for many years.
You know, old guy moves.
But the best part of a wedding — and I also realized this many years ago —is  no matter how badly I dance, there will always be someone out there who dances worse than me.
Typically it is the drunk uncle who had his usual “one too many” and just can't contain himself any longer.
Of course, everyone knows about Uncle so they avoid him like a drunken plague and he ends up dancing by himself in the corner while slurring the words to a completely different song.
Eventually, Uncle moves from the dance floor to a chair where he spends the rest of the evening with his friends Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker.
Even without Uncle showing the next generation how it's done, the party continues and the youngsters jump around with the coolest moves they can muster.
As the night progresses, I show them a few moves of my own, like the I'm tired and I want to sit down (my personal favourite.)
They may not realize it at the moment, but eventually that is a move they will all mimic.

Friday, August 9, 2013

You just can't please some people

I guess some people are just not happy no matter what you do.
The other weekend, the Missus and I loaded the van, hooked up our travel trailer and off we went to spend a couple days communing with nature in all its glory.
But this time, basking the warmth of God's creation would include man's creation of electricity and water hookups. Typically, we do not camp where there are such luxuries, but we had them this time and we were going to use them.
And seeing as our trailer was parked among the pines, it still counts as camping.
It may not have been roughing it in the sense of our founding fathers who trudged through the blazing heat of summer, the frigid nights of winter, slept on pine needles and used leaves and sticks as bathroom accessories, but two of the speakers on our four-speaker sound system were not working so we had to endure two days of sub-standard listening. It was rough, but we got through it and when you leave your big house to go live in your little house on wheels, concessions of luxury must be made.
Anyway, towing a 17-foot trailer with a mini-van is not conducive to breaking any land speed records.
I realize this and I appreciate how frustrating it can be to get stuck behind Joe tourist as he plods down the road at a much lower speed than the maximum posted limit.
It can be annoying to say the least, especially when there is no place to pass. A long line of vehicles quickly forms and people do some really stupid stuff to try and get ahead of the pack and pass the slowpoke who is holding up traffic.
I must admit, in my younger days, I was one of those boneheads who took unnecessary chances just to get ahead of the gaggle of automobiles.
I was not the most patient driver in the world and I was not alone in my loathing for the tourista in the RV, or Johnny Go Slow who just can't seem to maintain 90 km/h.
That is why when I am pulling my trailer I do my best to get out of the way. There is no way I am going to maintain the speed limit going up hills, so when I get the chance, I edge off to the side of the road and even slow down a little so those frustrated motorists in the rearview mirror can safely pass and be on their merry way.
And that is exactly what I did on our latest excursion. After climbing a steep hill I found a section of road where I could safely drive on the edge.
I hit the right-side turn signal, eased over and slowed down. For some reason the guy in the red truck behind me also slowed down to match my pace. I continued to crawl along the edge of the road and there was no oncoming traffic so Mr. Red Truck could easily pass, but instead he kept slowing down.
Now, anyone with an IQ greater than a turnip knows I am pulling over so they can pass.
Eventually this dipstick figured it out and passed me – while flipping me the bird.
Technically I did not have to pull over and could have left it up to those in line to wait for a chance to pass and then have a little stock car race to see how many cars can get past the guy towing the trailer.
But that was the exact situation I was trying to avoid.
Everyone else in line figured it out, and a few waved with all five fingers as they passed, but for some reason Mr. Red Truck felt I was worthy of the 'driver salute.'
That particular gesture usually evokes an anger response, but this time it was met with amusement because how can you get mad at someone who is dumber than a vegetable.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What a rotting thing to happen

There really is no smell quite like it.
Perhaps sweaty socks left in the middle of the room by a herd of teenage boys comes close (too close actually,) but nothing really matches the aromatic quality of rotting meat.
Right now everyone who has ever smelled the pungent, overpowering and absolutely disgusting smell is wrinkling their nose in memory.
If your nasal region has never been assaulted by the stench, consider yourself lucky.
All rotting materials smell less than ideal, but meat has a quality that has to be smelled to be truly appreciated.
After returning from a weekend out of town a few years ago, we were clobbered by that smell the second we walked into the basement and we could not figure out why.
My first thought was a mouse, or, based on the magnitude of the stench, a giraffe had died in the basement and its rotting corpse was stinking up my home.
The Missus, who has a bionic nose and can smell a fly fart in a windstorm, was quickly on the trail of the offending odour.
She tracked it down to the mini-freezer we had in the basement. The same thought reached us both at the same time: the freezer was broken and all the goodies in there had been reduced to a rotting pile of ick.
Cautiously lifting the freezer lid, we saw everything was still frozen solid. But the smell was definitely coming from that area, so we continued our search.
In the narrow space between freezer and the wall was a piece of once-frozen chicken that had somehow fallen into the tiny abyss before we left for a three-day road trip.
That meant the former fowl was fermenting in my basement for several days before it was discovered.
We wrapped the offending (and offensive) chicken breast into several bags and threw it in the garbage before giving the are a serious cleaning.
I then proceeded to spray the room with half a can of that bathroom deodorizer stuff.
So then the room smelled like a summer meadow and rotting chicken. That fresh-smell-in-a-can just added a sickly sweet essence to the room.
I am convinced that despite names like 'summer meadow,' 'spring rain' and 'red rose,' those deodorizers all smell exactly the same. They just have different names so people think they are getting a different smell.
I bought this one fresh-air spray for my car that was called 'wild flower bouquet.'
Yeah right. It was more like 'toxic aroma' or 'industrial stench.' 
It was the worst smelling air freshener I have ever encountered. It was hideous.
The first time I used it, I wished the original stink was back to overpower the smell of the air freshener.
I almost grabbed a pair of my son's sweat socks (with barbecue tongs of course) to improve the air quality in my little car.
In the end, I just drove around with the windows open and my head sticking out for the next day or two.
Thankfully I was able to do this, because it would have been hard to drive with a gasmask on.
Airing out the car was a lot faster and easier than airing out the basement. With the car you crank down the windows, drive at about 150 kilometres an hour and eventually the wind replaces the bad air with the good.
The basement in the townhouse did not have any windows, so I put a fan at the top of the stairs and forced the fresh air into the lower level of my home.
Eventually the basement was cleared and my humble home returned to its normal, pleasant-smelling abode, even with an abundance of teen age sweat socks threatening to be unleashed.