Friday, November 29, 2013

Old monster movie plus a cat equals a change of underwear

One day my son came to me and said he wanted to watch a scary movie.
I am not a big fan of horror flicks, so I really didn't have a lot to offer him. He suggested I take him to the latest slasher movie where people are killed in more original and gruesome ways every five minutes.
I find watching people get murdered for fun and entertainment unappealing, so I declined to take my 13-year-old son to such an event.
But he persisted and then I remembered I had the movie Signs. It stars Mel Gibson (before he was a raving lunatic) and while not a horror movie per se, it did have some scary moments in it.
It did the trick, and there were more than a few parts where Junior was on the edge of his seat without having his young mind damaged by pointless, excessive violence.
Mission accomplished.
As he got older, Junior still liked scary movies, but old scary movies. He is into the black and white horror flicks that relied on acting and situations to scare people rather than gallons of fake blood and someone getting chopped up with a hedge trimmer every 10 seconds.
I must admit, as a young lad I too was called by the lure of scary movies. With only two TV channels to choose from, my options were limited, but every Friday night there would be a horror flick I would stay up late to watch.
Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man - all were roaming my TV on a weekly basis. There was also a lot of other movies I cannot recall the names of, but one movie in particular stands out.
It was a black and white show where the monster made a sound similar to a screeching cat an instant before it devoured its victim.
The movie itself was not memorable, but its aftermath was.
After watching the monster mash-up, I headed upstairs in the darkness to go to bed.
Nothing scary about that, except I did not see our black cat sitting at the top of the stairs and I certainly did not see her tail when I stepped on it.
She, of course, let out a screech not unlike the one I had just listened to in the movie.
I went straight up in the air like I had been shot out of a cannon. I knew the beast from the movie was in my house and was about to launch a fearsome attack.
Because it was dark, I did not see it was the cat until she moved near the window and moonlight caught her shiny fur.
It was only then that I starting to come down from the ceiling where I had launched myself (and was in serious need of a change of underwear.)
I laughed when I saw it was the cat, but it was a nervous, jittery laugh. Kind of like when you narrowly avoid getting hit by a bus, or being ripped to shreds by a monster. It is more a laugh of relief, than laughter of something being funny.
I continued with my Friday late-night horror movie events, but now did so with the lights on – for the sake of the cat. I did not want to accidentally step on her again, not because I was scared or anything.
In retrospect, watching all those movies was probably not the best way to influence my young mind.
For many years, whenever I was in a dark area - inside or out - all those images of monsters springing from the shadows would play in my mind making me a nervous wreck.
Of course, now I am all grown up and know there are no monsters in the world – well at least not like the ones in the movies - so I am brave, calm and under control no matter where I am.
Unless it is dark. Or creepy. Or dark.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beware the sabre-toothed deer

There are many duties and responsibilities that come with being a father, one of the most important of which is keeping the family safe.
In many animal kingdoms, it typically falls to the male to fend off the invading hoards, defeat the savage beasts and in general keep the Missus and the wee ones from harm.
This goes back to the beginning of time when cave man dad would use any means necessary to protect his young ones from a sabre-toothed tiger, even if it meant throwing the mother-in-law into the jaws of the beast.
Hey, I never said it would be easy to keep the wife and kids safe, but some sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
While I have yet to do battle with a sabre-tooth beast, and would fight just as hard to protect my mother-in-law as I would my wife and kids (honest, I would), history has decreed I be the protector of the clan.
This role was brought to the forefront last summer when we were visiting my brother-in-law at the Sunshine Coast.
Young Daughter and I were walking up a wooded trail from the beach when we noticed a sabre-tooth deer on the other side of a fence. OK, it was just a regular old deer, but still...
Anyway, it was a wire fence with rectangular holes in it that the deer seemed much larger than, so I was not concerned.
Besides, these were town deer and grew up around people, so I did not think a doe on the opposite side of a metal barrier would be a problem.
I must admit, I was rather surprised when the deer turned in our direction and jumped through one of the holes in the mesh fence.
So now I was standing five feet away from what is technically a wild animal, although normally a docile one, it was still a woodland beast.
The deer did not act in a threatening manner, and for a couple seconds we just stood there looking at each other.
Young Daughter immediately jumped behind me.
OK, time to put on my brave-dad act. I had a walking stick with me that I figured I would use as a weapon should the deer attack.
Of course, I knew it would be a useless weapon, but I was pretty sure my disarming charm and witty nature would prove even more useless in this situation.
I have seen videos where deer attack people with flailing hoofs and gnashing fangs – OK maybe not fangs, but those hooves could surely pack a wallop.
Young Daughter, who was now Scared Daughter, was still behind me when I decided to take action and go on the offensive. I lifted my arms in the air to make myself look bigger and yelled “Heeeyyaargh” while waving the stick in an effort to scare the deer away.
The tan-coloured critter just stood there and looked at me with an expression of, “Aren't you cute with your little stick.”
It was obviously not intimidated in the least.
Fortunately, the deer got bored with our game and wandered off to munch on some nearby fauna and deposit a bunch of those little brown marbles all over the place.
Relieved, Scared Daughter came out from behind me and asked why I yelled at the deer.
"I was trying to scare it away, Honey.”
"Oh... It didn't work very well.”
"No it didn't.”
So, rather sheepishly, I led now Not-So-Scared-But-Still-Wary Daughter along the rest of the trail, keeping a close eye out for anymore smart alec deer that felt like getting in our path.
Fortunately there were none and I did not have to show my mean face again. Which was good, because it would seem my mean face is really not that intimidating and if a deer is not afraid of it, what on this planet would be?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Like father, like son

They say the acorn does not fall far from the tree.
It seems the older I get, the more of my father’s traits I take on. It makes sense, because he was the role model by which I formed my opinions, beliefs and morals.
Fortunately, my dad was a good father and a good, honest man. Sure he had his faults, who doesn’t, but he was a man of integrity, and that influenced my entire life.
He worked a lot – too much, which he admitted to a few years ago  – but he did his best to provide for his family and make sure we were always fed, clothed and safe.
My dad was not, however, adventurous. He was not big on travelling and did not like taking risks. That would be more my mom, and those are a few traits I picked up from her.
In my younger years, I was always up for a road trip and would head out on a moment’s notice. Just say the word, and I am out of here.
But, I’m not sure where I got the “go-fast gene” from. It was definitely not mom or dad, because they both drive slower than a sloth on valium. I have always had a penchant for driving motorized vehicles in a manner some might consider less than safe.
I can remember doing doughnuts in the driveway with our riding mower when I was 10. That is until dad saw the marks and told me to stop. Then I just did them in the backyard, where he was less likely to notice.
At 13, I bought my first dirtbike and took to the trails like bat out of hell. I loved going fast.
When I got my driver’s licence, I carried my lust for speed to the street. I had a very slow car, but I still drove like, um, well, I drove like a complete idiot, actually.
I fully admit and take responsibility for my lack of safety in my younger years. But, by the grace of God, no one was ever hurt by my youthful stupidity.
My wallet was hurt on a regular basis as I received many tickets. I paid more money in speeding fines than the car was worth. But my friends and I (they also drove like complete idiots) just saw it as the price you had to pay for having fun, so it never really slowed us down.
It really wasn’t completely my fault.
You see, I had a medical condition – I was an idiot. I also had a right foot that seemed much heavier than normal and was always putting more pressure on the gas pedal than it should have.
So what does all this have to do with that acorn I was talking about?
I fear I have seen shades of the same need for speed in Junior.
It was in a school assignment where he wrote he was not really crazy about his first car because, and I quote, “it was ugly and slow.”
The ugly part is not a concern, but the slow comment got my attention.
If it was slow, why would it matter, because he couldn’t go faster than the speed limit anyway. Yikes, words straight from my father’s mouth.
Junior has not yet received any speeding tickets, or been pulled over for any reason, so I feel fairly confident he is not driving like I did at his age. Aside from the hazards of such activity, the punishment for driving in a reckless manner nowadays is huge.
While the bravado of youth may taunt him to hit the gas, it would seem the long arm of the law and hefty fines has convinced him not to.
Junior still wants a fast car, but he says it would be more for show than anything else – at least that is the belief I am clinging to.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hey you kids, stop having fun

Who out there has ever played a game of tag?
That's what I thought. Pretty much anyone who was a child, has played the game at some point.
Tag is where one person is 'it' and they must run around and touch - or tag - another person who will then be it, and then they run around and touch someone else etc.
So basically it is a fun game where children build up their cardio after spending hours sitting in a classroom.
It is a game that has been played on school yards since the creation of school yards.
Well not any more. An elementary school in the Lower Mainland has banned Kindergarten children from playing tag.
Why, you ask with a look of astonishment on your face?
Were kids taking steroids to perform better on the field of honour? Were ringers being brought in from other schools to dominate the playground?
Nope. It would seem school officials are worried about children hurting themselves while playing.
Some are concerned the running and twisting and turning involved in such a sport could cause one of the little ones to fall upon the hard earth and scrape a knee or skin an elbow.
Oh, the humanity.
School officials said they banned Kindergarten kids from playing for safety reasons and one teacher was astonished anyone would object to such a move.
In fact, the school took it a step further – like they always do – and banned any game where there is any sort of contact no matter how minor.
You can't push your friend on a swing anymore because there is contact and you certainly can not run after them and tap them on the shoulder because that would lead to fitness and children having fun outdoors.
And then people wonder why Junior weighs 200 pounds going in to Grade 1.
For years we have heard about how weight-enhanced our youth are becoming and now they ban a game that is nothing but pure exercise from start to finish.
Did I play tag when I was in school? Of course, who didn't?
Did anyone get hurt while playing tag? Not really.
Sure someone would stumble and fall down, causing minor boo-boos, but 99.99 per cent of the time, that person would jump right back up and get right back in the game.
What kid hasn't scraped a knee, scuffed an elbow or planted the palm of their hand so hard tiny rocks get embedded in the skin?
No need to panic, freak out or cancel the game. All you have to do is brush the tiny rocks away and keep on playing.
Kids are going to be kids and by being kids they are going to encounter a variety of injuries, typically none of which are serious enough to require such a drastic move as banning the game of tag.
I can remember playing tackle football without any gear during my elementary school lunch breaks.
Yes we did get hurt. We had minor cuts and bruises and even the occasional sprain, but it was all part of the childhood experience.
Soon, schools will demand children be completely encased in bubble wrap while wearing a hockey helmet and steel-toed boots just to go to class in case they accidentally fall and need a bandage to cover a tiny wound.
I agree safety for our children is important, but it is also important to let them be children. Let them run around and have fun. Let them chase each other in a game of tag and, yes, let them fall down and scrape a knee once in a while.
Creating a generation of overweight children who are afraid to leave their rooms for fear of being hurt is not good for anyone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Barkerville is always a blast

To get away from grind of work and the pressures of daily life, I loaded the wife and kids into the mini-van and headed out on a family vacation.
The destination was the historic gold-mining town of Barkerville. This was the fifth time I have been the to the old Cariboo community and I have a great time, every time.
There is just something intriguing about turning the clock back 150 years to a day when men were men and women were, um, well, based on the stories I read some of them were a lot like the men as well.
You had to be of hardy stock to live so deep in the woods, taming an untamed land. The lack of bathroom facilities alone would be enough to keep me in the city, but many made the journey through the wilds of B.C. in search of gold.
William 'Billy' Barker actually did not start the gold rush in the Cariboo region, but he did haul out a lot of gold. He hauled out some $600,000 in gold, which even today is an astounding amount of money.
Barker had the richest claim in the area yet he died a pauper in Victoria. His grave did not even have a marker until the 1960s.
So Billy was a great gold miner, but not so great with money.
Barkerville is a steady climb up a mountain roughly an hour from Quesnel. By stagecoach it was a two-day journey.
We went for a ride on the stagecoach around the historic settlement that lasted about 20 minutes and my butt was already getting sore, so I could not fathom doing that for days on end.
For those walking to the gold fields, the journey could take weeks. Did I mention my concerns over the bathroom facilities?
On this trip, we stayed at the Wells Hotel, which was built in 1934. It was the oldest hotel I had ever stayed in. The rooms were the smallest I have seen and there was no phone or TV in the room. It was one of the coolest hotels ever.
Not very often do we get to actually interact with history like that, so staying there added to the already historic feel of the journey.
There are a couple of bed and breakfasts and a hotel in Barkerville itself where people can stay, and actually spending the night in the old town is something I have got to do one day.
The buildings in the once-thriving town are as close to original as they can be and offer a fascinating look at how life was way back then.
There are actors strolling about in period costumes who put on performances in numerous locations around town throughout the day.
It seemed every half hour or so, someone would break into a routine depicting life long ago. The performance at the water wheel was my favourite street show, mixing humour with the telling of the history of gold mining. They are all free and add greatly to the experience.
The show at the Barkerville theatre is a must see. You do have to pay for this one, but it is well worth the cost. The stagecoach ride costs extra as does panning for gold, but all add to the adventure. And when you pan for gold, you will find several flakes of the precious metal that is put in a little vile that you can take home as a souvenier.
At the far end of Barkerville is China town, where you can get a glimpse into how the Chinese helped settle the region and the contribution they made to the town.
One of the things that impressed me about the entire Barkerville experience was the lack of price gouging. I know, I couldn't believe it either. Typically a tourist destination has you paying through the nose for everything (Disneyland charged me $8 for a hot dog.)
But the prices in Barkerville are reasonable. Wake Up Jake restaurant has wonderful food for the same price as just about any restaurant I have been to recently. The 'general store' also has reasonable prices on their confectionaries, souveniers and other items. For those with a passion for pastries, the old bakery offers up fresh treats, breads and other items – at a reasonable price.
There are some expensive, high-end items to be found, but there is also a bevy of well-priced items ideal to take home as a reminder of your trip.
And it is likely a trip you will remember, especially if you harbour a fondness for the rugged frontier. My children remember their excursions back in time and the city of gold still has enough magic in to keep even teenagers from getting bored.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Just because we're married, doesn't mean we both like zombies

My wife and I have been married for 25 years (and all of them to each other). That is a quarter of a century together, and more than half my life.
After that many years you do develop many traits that are similar, but there are also long-standing differences I suspect will be there even after 50 years.
For example, I like zombie movies. My wife hates them. She would rather take her mom grocery shopping than watch a zombie flick.
I also like pretty much any post-apocalyptic movie with or with out zombies. She sort of likes them and will occasionally sit through one, depending on who is in it and it is zombie free.
The Missus is more of a fan of those sappy, so-sugary-I-need-a-shot-of-insulin movies where everyone is in love and they ride off into the sunset together with smiles on their faces as they bask in the glow of their eternal happiness. Yeesh.
Perhaps that last one is universal for women because they all seem to love The Notebook and Beaches, both of which rate extremely high on the chick-flick-o-meter. Although Beaches does not have a happy ending in the traditional sense (yes, I have watched it), it oozes sap like a wounded maple tree.
Seeing as how I am not a member of the female fraternity of frilly flicks and she is not a card-carrying member of the macho manly movie club, our taste in entertainment varies greatly.
When we first started dating, it was not that big of a problem.
We were both brimming with new love and willing to sit through any form of cinematic torture just to be with each other. I would manage to get through a girl movie without falling asleep, barfing or going into a sugar-coma one week and she would cringe her way through a man movie the next.
But after two and a half decades together, we now debate what movie to see and if a consensus cannot be reached, we likely will just stay at home and go another day.
Over the past 25 years we have spent a lot of time together, so squeezing in a couple hours more at a movie really is not that big of a deal.
In our younger years, I would even go shopping with her and pretend to be enjoying myself as she tried on 345 pairs of shoes without finding the exact ones she was looking for.
“You don't like any of them? Well that is OK Sweetheart, we will just spend another four hours in the mall while you try on every single pair at the next store. I love standing around waiting for you to find the perfect pair of foot wear.”
Nowadays, when my wife says she is going to the mall to look for shoes my response is a little different.
“OK, see ya.”
“But don't you want to come with me? We can spend the afternoon together. It will be fun.”
"Sorry, but there is something else I have to get done today.”
“I don't know yet, but I will think of something. I am sure it is very important and must be tended to the exact time you are looking for shoes. Sorry, my hands are tied.”
She will then head off to look for new foot attire while putt around the homestead looking for anything that is more exciting than watching my wife try on shoes – like scooping dog droppings from the backyard, or performing home dentistry with a drill and hammer.
I love my wife more now than I ever have, but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes understanding that we do not have to like all the same things and it is OK to do things apart once in a while.