Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ball of lights from hell

Christmas is the time of year of good will toward man, woman, child and, yes, even in-laws.
It is also the time of year hydro executives salivate over.
Throughout the land, countless thousands of people brave the winter chill to get their festive lights strung up in hope that St. Nick will be able to use them as landing lights and visit their home.
Around my homestead, the tradition of putting up the lights unfolds much in the same manner every year. First, I dig through a stack of boxes at the back of the garage looking for the ones marked ‘outdoor lights.’
Of course, I forgot that I forgot to mark them last year, so I get to open every box I think might hold the beacons of the Yule Tide until I get the right one, which is, of course, the last one.
I then hoist the 40-pound ball of green wire and little lights out of its summer hiding spot and spend the next five hours trying to untangle them.
The good-cheer-o-metre is already falling a notch or two as I struggle to separate one set of lights from the other.
For a brief moment I contemplate simply hanging the entire ball of lights from the apple tree in my front yard and calling it art Noel.
The tangle would represent the chaos that can come with Christmas and the lights are beacons of hope in the midst of modern-day madness.
You’re right, I am not buying it either.
Once the lights are untangled and the appropriate amount of ‘special’ eggnog consumed, it is time to put up the glowing orbs of merriment.
Here is where I will impart a piece of wisdom I learned the hard way: always make sure the lights work before you string them up.
After spending hours untangling and stringing the lights, the good-cheer-o-metre takes a serious hit when you plug them in and only half of them work.
Some very un-Christmas like words may form in the back of you mind and you risk being put on the naughty list if those words should accidentally slip out.
Years ago, my wife and I decided we would buy one strand of lights for each Christmas we shared together and then when we are old and grey we can look at all the lights and think, “I am waaaay to old to be climbing an ice-covered ladder in the middle of winter to put these up.”
Or something like that anyway.
We kept the tradition of purchasing a single strand of lights and after a while the front yard was looking pretty good.
However, I began to notice a flaw in the plan. The more lights we got, the more work it was putting them up and the more time I had to spend outside in the cold plugging things in, wrapping them with electrician’s tape and spending countless hours searching for that one burned out bulb.
That messed up bulb has been my festive nemesis on more than one occasion and the longer it takes to find the problem, the more impact is has on the good-cheer-o-metre.
But thankfully, there are people out there who are like a secret Santa with a desire to help and save me from at least some of that work.
Once, such a special person visited our festive display under cover of night and relieved me of a lot of work by running off with several strands of light.
My son was heading to school the next morning and asked, “Hey, dad, what did you do with the lights?”
OK, that’s not exactly what I said, but it was pretty close. About three strands of lights had been ‘liberated’ from our front yard.
The good-cheer-o-metre took a definite hit, but in keeping with the love of the season I got over the act of a Scrooge and thought, “Oh well, they must have needed them more than I did.”
That’s what I thought, honest.
Despite the act of Grinchery by unknown bad guys, we continued with our humble decorations.
But of course, there is always that one guy in the ‘hood who has more decorations than Santa’s workshop.
You know the guy. He has so many lights UFOs think it’s a homing beacon.
With around seven-million lights, 4,000 figurines and at least 500 Santas of all shapes and sizes, the yard lights up the night sky to the point where you need sunglasses just to drive past. It generates so much heat the snow is starting to melt four houses down.
It is without question the brightest and boldest house in the ‘hood.
I wonder if he is compensating for something.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sorry Bros, I had to do it

I'm sure I just violated some sort of man code.
I may even have to turn in my membership to MGPC — Men's Global Procrastinators Club.
What have I done that will have men muttering under their breath?
Did I miss the 'big game?' Well, ya, I did actually, but that's not what this is about.
This is about the fact I have officially completed my Christmas shopping.
I bet you ladies never saw that one coming.
That has to be a new record for just about any man on the planet.

I have a little more than two full weeks to go before the big day and I am done, finished, kaputzki on the shopski.

I know I am in violation of the hard and fast rule that says guys cannot finish their Christmas shopping early, but to my detractors and critics who are upset I have broken this unwritten rule I say – bite me.
It feels great to be done so early and while you last-minute shoppers are bouncing off other last-minute shoppers and ripping around the mall like a fart in a hurricane, I will be kicking back with a 'special' eggnog wondering how the less-organized people are making out.

Getting the shopping done early has another bonus: those two weeks might be enough time for me to wrap the presents because I am possibly the worst gift wrapper in the world.

Anything I wrap looks like it was done outside in a hurricane, blindfolded, while hanging upside down.

I have never used the services of the mall wrappers who adorn your gift with fancy paper and bows because it would be too obvious I did not do the wrapping.

I like to provide the personal touch of wrapping the gift myself. Besides, it is fun watching my wife wrestle with the present as she tries to open it because I make up for my lack of wrapping skills with copious amounts of tape, something I learned from my dad.

Whenever Pops mails us a package, it has enough duct tape on it to rebuild the space shuttle.
It typically takes about 20 minutes and the use of power tools to open, but at least it is secure and Dad is doing his part to boost the economy by purchasing duct tape by the crate.

But when it comes to Christmas shopping, I was not always so efficient. Not by a long shot.

I used to be one of those lunatics who would start hitting the malls around Dec. 23. It was like a sport for me back then.
There was strategy involved as you cut through various aisles trying to get to the perfect gift before some other hapless husband happens to put a hand on it.
Some physicality comes in to play as men push and shove to get what they need so the Missus won't stick a candy cane up their nose come Christmas morning.

The latest I have ever left my Xmas shopping was Dec. 24. Yup, one year I waited until the last moment possible.

Not the smartest move I have ever made and one I have not made since.

Even though I finished my shopping early this year, it does not mean I rushed in choosing my gifts, especially for the Missus.
I had a pretty good idea of what to get her before I even headed out for the first swipe of the debit card.

The key is to pay attention to subtle hints that may be dropped when she spots a sweater in a store that she likes.
Hints such as, “It sure would be nice if someone got me that sweater for Christmas.”

It's all about paying attention to the little things.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hey, it's not my fault the speed limit is too low

The excuses started forming the instant I saw him.
The 'him' to which I refer was a cop sitting on a little pull out road at the side of the highway. I was the guy in the little red car going slightly faster than what some official type decided was good for the motoring public.
I was not breaking the sound barrier or anything, but my speedometer did nudge past the legal 90 km/h allowed by that official type guy.
I am not totally sure how it happened. I do drive a Toyota, so maybe I could plead mechanical woes and deny the heightened speed was my fault.
Darn those Toyota engineers and their wonky gas pedals.
Anyway, I noticed the keeper of the peace sitting in his car as I zoomed past and I knew I had been had - caught red handed, or in this case, lead footed.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but my water broke and..."
OK, that one isn't gonna work.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but I think speed limits suck."
OK, not the best way to try and talk your way out of a ticket.
"I am sorry I was speeding officer, but I am late for work and if I am late one more time my cruel and heartless boss will fire me and my children will end up begging in the street. Please, kind and wise constable, think of the children. I beg of you, think of the children."
OK, that one might be a little over the top.
"Say, um, Mr. Policeman, uh, how many boxes of donuts will it take to make this whole thing go away?"
Definitely not the right approach.
Realizing arguing with a traffic cop who has you dead to rights is like trying to outrun a dog - it just isn't going to happen - I then switched to resignation mode.
I resigned myself to the fact I was going to get a speeding ticket, my first in many years.
There was a time in my youth when I had amassed enough tickets to wallpaper by bedroom - and not just one wall, but the entire room.
Back in 'the day' I didn't just have a lead foot, my entire right leg was made of the stuff because I just could not stay off the gas and personal interaction with the local law-enforcement community was the result.
I was not a bad guy or anything. I didn't drink, I didn't do drugs, but I did have a tendency to drive in a manner that was in conflict with rules set out by that official type guy I was talking about earlier.
But with age comes maturity, and with maturity comes a realization that the three minutes I save by speeding are not worth the fines and hassles of getting a ticket.
But on this particular day, I simply was not paying attention to how fast I was going - until I saw the Kojak with the Kodak on the side of the road, then my speed became the most important thing I could think of.
I saw the cop car and immediately looked at the speedometer to find I was going almost 20 km/h over the limit. Oops.
Realizing my sin against traffic laws, I slowed down and watched the cop car for those pretty little lights to come on, but they never did.
In fact, the cop did not even pull out of his hiding spot.  
Hallelujah, more proof God loves me.
After a few seconds I began to relax. I also decided to keep a closer eye on how fast I was going, which was a good thing because the second cop I saw a couple of klicks down the road may not have been so forgiving, and besides, I was all out of donuts.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 27, 2016

There's clean and then there's wife clean

It’s interesting how men and women have different versions of clean.
A guy could look at a room and think, ‘Yup, that looks good to me.’
A woman could look at the same room and wonder what kind of barbaric hand-to-hand battle had occurred to make such a mess.
The difference is most noticeable when it comes to spring cleaning.
For a guy, spring cleaning means moving the couch when he vacuums. For a woman it means dismantling the couch, vacuuming every square inch of it and reassembling it to better than original.
When it comes to cleaning, men and women just do things differently.
For example, a few years ago my wife tried a little experiment.
There was a pair of clean wool socks next to my side of the bed. My wife was determined to leave them until I put them away.
After a few weeks, she was astounded they were still there.
“Those socks have been there for weeks and you haven’t even noticed.”
To which I replied, “That’s where you are wrong. I did notice I just didn’t care. There’s a difference.”
I figured the socks weren’t hurting anyone, they were out of the way and if I needed them I knew where they were.
Spring cleaning for a guy means going through his closet and throwing out a couple of shirts that are too torn to wear even under a sweater and digging out the several pairs of pants that have mysteriously shrunk over the winter.
For a woman, it means hauling every single item of clothing out of the closet, trying each item on, assessing their value and comparing current fashion styles with what they have to determine what goes and what stays.
The process can take days.
“Does this still look good on me?”
“Yes it does.”
“No, I don’t think it does, I’m going to get rid of it.”
That’s what I meant to say actually, but I decided to say something else to see if you were on your game or not.
Helping in this area is not something for a man. Ladies, for future reference, call a friend to come over if you want an opinion on clothes.
Unless it is lingerie, most guys are not too interested in what you dig out of the closet.
And please, do not ask the question every man dreads, “Does this make me look fat?”
Even prehistoric cave men knew the answer to this one.
When the little woman threw on the latest in Wooly Mammoth fashion and looked at hubby while asking the infamous question, even a walnut-brained Neanderthal new enough to grunt, “No dear,” lest he get a brontosaurus bone upside the head.
The lady of the house could weigh slightly less than a Volkswagen Beetle and the universal answer would still be ‘No.’
The most frightening area of spring cleaning is the kid’s rooms.
Grown men have fled in terror as the missus’ eyes glass over with spring-cleaning fever and she seeks recruits to help with the task.
The woman will dig into the job with energy typically reserved for a piranha feeding frenzy.
Every toy car, gadget and plastic super hero has its own specific place.
I did not know this. To me, everything with wheels went in the car bin, super heroes went in another bin and whatever did not fall into those categories went in whatever bin still had room in it.
Again, for the cleaning-crazed woman of the house the job is an all day affair. For a guy it’s a two-hour task broken up by time spent playing with some of the cooler toys.
It is times like this I am thankful for weeds so I can get out of the house where all I have to worry about are bee stings and burning nettle.

Copyright 2016 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who wants a bunch of gold anyway...

I was watching a show on the gold rush the other day and quickly came to the conclusion I would have made a lousy pioneer.
I am just not a settle-the-new-world kind of guy.
The documentary told of the hardships these hardy souls endured in their quest make it to the great gold fields of the north.
They would walk for weeks, even months on end.
My first question was: what sort of bathroom facilities were located along said trail?
I am pretty sure the answer involved leaves, sticks and a very uncomfortable rash.
That alone is enough to keep me safely tucked away in some already-developed part of the world.
The documentary said many of the gold rushers had never spent time outside of a city before and had to learn as they went.
I would imagine they learned really fast what leaves to avoid when it came to personal use.
'Leaves of three let it be' was a vital piece of information. Of course the aboriginal population already knew about the 'evil leaves' because they had lived in the land since time began.
I like to think there was at least one Aboriginal jokester who convinced a plump, citified white boy that 'leaves of three are ideal for thee.'
The intrepid, but not too skilled frontiersman, would then grab a handful of poison ivy after taking care of that personal business I mentioned earlier.
It would be easy to tell what gold seekers fell for the gag – they would be the ones walking like their rear end was on fire.
Our jokester would then go back to his village with a great story to tell.
"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."
Did any of that really happen? Probably not, but it is kind of fun to think about.
Then there was the bathing issue. Many of those intrepid pioneers would bathe once a year whether they needed it or not.
It was not an easy task 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?
"Joe you smell absolutely delightful today, what have you done?"
"Well Fred, I took a quick bath in that crick over thar and then used the natural wonders of the aloe vera plant to keep me smelling like a fresh spring rain"
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."
While they may have been adventurous, frontiersmen were a smelly lot with poor hygiene: no matter how hard you scrub, brushing your teeth with your finger does not make them clean.
So let's review: no bathroom facilities, you smell like a camel barfed into an old gym shoe, your breath could slay a dragon and you spend countless hours surrounded by other men.
As fun as that sounds, is gold really that important? I think I would just find a nice job in the city, squirrel away some savings and work on retirement.

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 an intrepid gold seeker went by.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 13, 2016

I didn't know I wanted Netflix until my son told me I do

I came home from work the other day and Junior informed me he had signed us up for Netflix.
“That was very kind of you son. And, why do I want Netflix?”
“Because they have tons of cool shows.”
“OK, and I assume I will be the one paying for all these cool shows.”
“Um, er, well...lemme show you what all they have.”
So now, I have Netflix (which actually is pretty cool.)
They do have a lot of good stuff – and a lot of stuff I could care less about – but it has more that interests me than what is on TV, so I figure I will give it a try.
The problem is, our television set is so old, Fred Flintstone used to watch it.
It is an old bubble TV that we got for free when our other ancient TV packed it in a couple of years ago. But despite its age, it does everything I require of a TV – it lets me watch TV.
The challenge now was, how do I get Netflix from our wi-fi router to our ancient boob tube?
There had to be a way, so the Missus and I headed to the local electronics store to see what kind of gizmo we would need to make the magic happen.
The first store we stopped at we were assisted by a lad so young his voice had barely finished changing.
We explained our situation while he looked at us with a blank stare.
He then called his manager over – who was just slightly older - and she too gave us a blank stare and said they could not help us.
Hmm, perhaps this will be a little more difficult than I thought.
But we carried on with our quest and explained the situation to the kid at the next store.
This guy seemed a little older as was evident by the three whiskers he had growing out of his chin. I had a pair of shoes older than he was, but at least he was not giving us the blank stare.
But as we told Scooter about the situation, he did look at us like we were hill folk in town for our annual pilgrimage.
Obviously, he could not believe someone – anyone – in this day and age would still have a bubble TV.
On the outside, he listened patiently, but I am sure on the inside he was thinking: “These old people need to get with the times. I hope they don't break a hip in the store. I wonder where they parked their walkers?
"A bubble TV ... I can't wait to tell everyone on lunch break.”
I am not at the top of the tech game, but I am hardly a dinosaur – even if my TV was around the same time T-Rex was.
I may have recently slid past the 50 mark, but I am hardly ready for a home – although some days, it does sound appealing.
Unlike Skippy at the first store, this guy actually had an idea of what we needed, and after he explained the situation to a much older co-worker – this guy was at least 25 – they found what we were looking for.
It is some sort of adapter that receives the wi-fi signal and will hook up to our Jurassic TV set.
I must admit, deep down I was scanning new TVs and secretly hoping we could replace the bubble with a new, high-tech contraption, but Scooter came through and the gizmo thingy works just fine.

--> That's OK, the gizmo cost a lot less than a new TV and the bubble TV works just fine – and now it works with Netflix.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 'fun' of parenting never ends

When my children were younger, I would always think things will be easier when they are older.
“When they are older, I won't have to change stinky diapers anymore.”
Which is true, but for a while you have to deal with 'accidents' that happen at pretty much anytime of the day, no matter where you are.
For parents with children in this transitional phase, you quickly learn to carry extra clothes with you even if you are just running to the grocery store for 10 minutes.
Because, as every parent knows, you can ask your young one if they have to go 'potty' before you leave to which they will always say no.
Then, five minutes after arriving at your destination, they will have to go - immediately. Sometimes you would make it to the nearest lavatory on time, some times you wouldn't.
And of course more than one day began with the changing of the sheets after a night time 'accident.'
“It will be nice when they can walk, then I won't have to carry them everywhere.”
Now that statement is true. I did not have to carry them everywhere, I had to chase them everywhere. And young children rarely walk anywhere. Instead they skip and hop and run, but they rarely walk.
I used to think, “It will be so nice when they are in school. I will have all this free time – it will be wonderful.”
Well, you do have more free time during the day. But after school there is homework and sports and special events and parent-teacher interviews and...
Then there is the drama. Oh my, the drama.
Not so much with my sons, but with my daughter there was lots of girl drama – something I was not expecting nor prepared for.
I had no idea the emotional tsunami a growing girl brings to the party with her. One minute she is feuding with someone, the next they are best friends. One second she is happy, the next she is bawling her eyes out.
It was hard to keep up.
“When they are in high school, then things will be easier.”
Remember that emotional tsunami I was talking about? Well, it carries on well into the high school years.
It is true they are a lot more independent in the teen years, which is good, but they also think they know a lot more than they do.
It also means they want to drive, and for the first few years that meant driving my car, until they could afford one of their own.
“Dad, the car is out of gas”
“Well, put some in.”
“I don't have any money.”
“Dad, I kind of backed into a truck. The truck is fine, but the car not so much...”
So for the next couple years a drove a red car with a grey trunk that was always out of gas.
OK, when they graduate high school and move out things will be easier.
Except for the ridiculous expense of college that is.
“What do you mean one book costs $600. What kind of book is it? Is the type written in gold or something?”
Then there is the moving out part.
“He dad, can you help me move – again.”
“Hey dad, I'm a little short of rent money this month – again.”
So you see, the challenges of young children are replaced with challenges of older children.
I know people who's children are well into their 40s and still giving their parents grief.
Now I say, “It will sure be nice when we retire, then we can move away and not tell them where we went.”

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Soliciting strangers for candy

It's almost that time of year again.
The leaves are turning their magical colours, the air is crisp with a hint of frost glistening off the hood of my car as I head off to another day in the salt mines.
Yup, it can only mean one thing: Halloween is just about here.
I love Halloween. It should be a stat holiday. How can kids concentrate when they know there is a mountain of candy waiting for them at every door?
I know when I was a wee lad the school day was pretty much a write off. Kind of like most days actually, but this time I had a legitimate excuse for not paying attention.
All sorts of hideous creatures with their scary faces and foul stench were seen roaming the hallways at my school, and some of those people dressed up for Halloween as well.
There were always a few kids who were too cool to wear their costume to school, but later that evening, when all that free sugar was being handed out, they were jostling for position with the best of them.
You are never too cool to get free candy.
The spooky commercials and TV shows would start a few weeks before the big day adding to the excitement.
Is it just me, or was the world a lot less weird back then? Some of the stuff coming out in the form of horror movies these days is downright disturbing.
I never saw it in the theatre – I was way too young – but I can remember hearing about The Exorcist and how scared people were. I can remember news stories on how people were terrified about being possessed.
Now, it would likely be viewed more as a comedy than a horror, but back then, it was some scary stuff.
I know I am rambling on like an old fuddy-duddy, but movies seem to have crossed the line from being scary to being gross and filled with mindless violence.
But then again, I am sure older people said the same thing about the horror movies I used to watch as a teen.
Either way, horror movies and Halloween go together like America and fat people.
TV is also besieged by ghastly ghouls of every description and that is just on the news.
Every show has to get in their Halloween special featuring everything from cute and cuddly monsters to some scary beasts that devour humans like Elvis on a deep-fried doughnut.
Before TV, people used to sit around in the dark and tell scary stories to frighten each other.
“There were two horrific beasts preying upon the good citizens of the land. Each had a foul tongue and used every trick they could to fool and captivate innocent people...”
Wait a second, my bad, I was referring to the U.S. presidential debates, sorry about that.
Anyway, TV and movies have replaced storytelling with visual effects that could not even be imagined a few decades ago.
Costumes are also way more intricate than when I was a kid. My friends and I had to suffer those thin plastic masks with elastic band straps that depicted vampires or werewolves or other ‘scary’ creatures.
The problem was, the only scary thing about those masks was when your friend ran up and pulled on it before releasing his grip and laughing as the mask smashed into your face.
It is amazing how often that would happen in a single night.
But no matter how things change, the more they stay the same.
Halloween is still about dressing up, having fun and getting a bag full of free treats.
So like clockwork, every Oct. 31, parents dress their children up, send them into the dark of night and encourage them to take candy from strangers.
Copyright2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, October 23, 2016

You're OK, kid, walk it off

I find it interesting how children interact with their parents.
When my boys were younger, it was clear their mom and I each had particular roles to play.
If they wanted to wrassle, roughhouse, or generally do things of a testosterone nature they came to yours truly.
I can remember one instance when the boys, who were around eight and six at the time, were using me as their personal wrestling dummy.
They would attack in tandem and I would fend off the assaults that came from every direction imaginable.
I stopped the action and asked why they never wrestle their mom this way.
My oldest stopped, looked at me and with all seriousness said, “Because we love mom.”
The younger one agreed and the assault resumed.
It's not that they didn't love me, but they decided it was my role to give them noogies while holding them in a headlock.
It was mom's job to provide a more nurturing role.
As little guys, they determined mom was the giver of affection and dad was the jungle gym, punching bag and wrestling mat.
Their mom also took on the role of academic assistant. When they needed help with their math homework or something of that nature, they ran straight to mom.
This had nothing to do with me being the dad, but everything to do with mom being a lot smarter than I am.
However, when they needed help repairing their bike (later on their cars) they came to me, because while their mom makes me look the intellectual equivalent of a neanderthal with a learning disability, I am fairly handy with tools.
I spent a lot of time fixing my own bikes and cars over the years, so I could apply that knowledge to assisting my spawn.
And while they interact differently us, my wife and I interact with them differently.
Being boys, I expected them to come home with scrapes, bruises and the occasional boo-boo.
If they were walking, talking had all their appendages and assorted body parts, I would generally say “You're OK.”
And they were – aside from a few minor injuries that is.
I witnessed many of my dad friends do the same thing with their kids.
“You're OK, now pick up your spleen and put your bike away.”
Of course, if the injury was more than just a minor boo-boo, I knew exactly what to do.
“Where's your mom!”
Mom would then rush in, assess the situation and apply whatever type of care is needed. From a Bandaid to a hug, mom could cover it all.

It's not that dad's don't care, they just do things a little differently than their female counterpart.
For example, my oldest son loved to climb trees when he was small and the apple tree in front of our home was a perfect place to hone his skills as a monkey.
One day he fell out of the tree, a distance of about two metres. I ran to the window in time to see him get up, dust himself off and give me a big grin.
I made sure he had not hit is head or broken anything before giving my official diagnosis of “You're OK.”
When I told his mom about it a couple hours later, she called him over for an examination that came just short of a full body CT scan.
When she was done, she reached the same conclusion I did, he was OK.
I hate to say I told you so, but...

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I have good ideas galore

I wish I was better at marketing things.
And by better, I mean I wish I had even the slightest idea of how to market things.
The Missus and myself have come up with some awesome inventions over the years, but we have no clue what to do with the idea after it forms in our collective craniums.
Many years ago, we came up with the idea for the “air bra.”
The concept was simple: you place a tiny hand pump in a specially designed bra and should the need arise to em, er, enhance things a little, well problem solved.
All the wearer has to do is squeeze the pump a few times and voila. No medical procedures are needed, the changes would be immediate and if you put in too much air and things are growing a little too much, just release some of the pressure and things go back to normal.
Of course the trick would be to make sure both sides inflate evenly for obvious reasons.
Dumb idea you say? Probably, but several years after we came up with the idea, we saw an ad by a major clothing company for – that's right – an air bra.
You don't hear much about them nowadays so they must not have taken off, but it was still an idea good enough for a major corporation to give it a shot.
A friend of mine suggested we make air underwear for men, so they could um, er, enhance a certain area of their physicality.
Hey, if women can do it, why can't men?” was his argument.
I think I will leave that marketing campaign to someone else actually.
A few years after the bra inflator idea, we were driving down the road with our two dogs in the backseat when another idea came upon us: doggie seatbelts.
Our mutts would bounce around back there - jumping from window to window - and if I had to hit the brakes really hard they would always slam into the back of our seats.
Once, the littlest dog actually made it all the way to the front seat.
And that is where the doggie seatbelt idea was born.
We had it all figured out. It would be like a harness that snapped into the regular seatbelt clip. No more risk of Fido becoming a projectile in the event of hard breaking or a collision.
We talked about it for a while, but due to our complete and total lack of salesmanship or marketing abilities, the idea faded.
Until a few years later when we saw an ad for, that's right, a doggie seatbelt.
The design was similar to ours and we were wondering if perhaps we were being spied upon.
While the air bra was kind of a silly concept, doggie seatbelts are a great idea and had we been smart enough to market them, there is a chance I would be writing this column from my yacht in the Bahamas.
It would be a small yacht, but a yacht none the less.
But alas, I have no marketing or sales skills.
I do have all sorts of ideas that are sure to make a small fortune should they ever make it to mainstream society.
If the Pet Rock – which was absolutely brilliant by the way – can make its inventor rich, then there has to be other silliness out there that can do the same for yours truly.
I just don't know what they are yet, and when I do know it still won't help because I won't know how to market them.
OK, I will admit, there are a few holes in my get-rich plan, but at least I have a plan.
Anybody looking for an ideas man with no marketing skills?

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, October 9, 2016

It may not taste great, but it's good for you - sigh

I miss the good old days.
Not just the days when nothing hurt when I stood up, or the days when I had hair on my head and not my back, but the good old days when I did not have to watch every single thing I ate.
With the big 5-0 disappearing in the rearview mirror, one has to start thinking about what one eats or one will end up looking more like two than one.
There are also pesky things like a risk of having a heart attack, stroke or some other nasty bit of body breakdown that come from not living a more healthy lifestyle. And that healthy lifestyle means giving up pretty much any and all food that I used to enjoy.
As a young lad, cholesterol was an old person problem. Well, it is now my problem so that must is a middle-age person problem too.
There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and it would seem I have an abundance of bad cholesterol, as does several of my kin.
I did not exactly win the genetic jackpot with a family history that includes just about every ailment modern science knows about.
I am not talking about stuff you can catch – like malaria or anything – but medical issues that are part of your genes and you have very little choice of getting them or not.
Among my inheritance from my forefathers, foremothers and forecousins was a wonky cholesterol situation.
The doctor informed me of my cholesterol woes and said I would have to change many of my eating habits. No more fries, cheese, bacon (noooooo) or any of the other stuff I have enjoyed for decades.
So naturally, I got a new doctor.
Actually, I took note of what he was suggesting and walked out of his office with a stack of papers on what I can eat, should eat, must eat and should never again even think of eating ever again.
Upon reading the list, I quickly realized eating the paper itself would likely taste better than most of the stuff on the list.
I admit, the list did contain a plethora of healthy items that I know I have to eat in order to live a long life – a long bacon-less life.
More greens, OK, I can do that. More fibre, OK, I can do that. Less of everything else, um, er, I'll work on it.
But I know and accept that as we age, we have to change our lifestyles. No longer can I stay up until the wee hours of the morning and then bounce out of bed ready to go to work.
I go to bed in the wee hours of the evening now and it is still tough to not smash the alarm clock with a barrage of verbal and physical abuse when it goes off.
But with age comes maturity (well, that's the theory anyway) and with maturity comes the strength and will power to skip the bacon cheeseburger and fries and go with a nice salad instead.
So over the past couple of years I have eaten more greenery than a rabbit with the munchies. Salads of all description now fill my plate instead of real food.
Fries have been replaced with carrot sticks and celery; fried chicken has been replaced by boneless, skinless whole chicken breast spread out atop a field of greens loaded with all those ingredients needed to live that long life I was talking about earlier.
And that really is the goal: to live as long as possible because the alternative sucks and I plan on making dying the last thing I do.
So, yes I will have the salad please.
Would I like bacon bits sprinkled on top?

OK, just this once.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Drop the needle and travel back in time

I did something the other day I had not done in many years: I dropped the needle.
That's right, I dropped a needle onto a record player for the first time since I can't remember when.
The trek back in time to the nostalgic era of my youth happened when I bought the Missus a record player for a gift.
For several months, my wife had been talking about getting a turntable so when I found one on sale, I grabbed it, wrapped it and couldn't wait for her to open it.
She was surprised and excited to have a record player of her very own – again.
In the far corner of a little-used storage room in the basement sat a box covered in dust.
Inside was a stack of vinyl history. Records from the '80s, from when we were young and records were the No. 1 way of listening to tunes, sat waiting to be rediscovered like King Tuts tomb of rock and roll.
The funny thing is, with ever-advancing technology providing music online, on phones and pretty much anywhere else you could think of, records are making a comeback.
I talked to a university student recently who said all of her friends were into vinyl.
“There is just something about the sound,” she said. “It is much richer, fuller, not as perfect as a CD or digital.”
And she is right. When we played the first record in many years, it did have a distinct sound that was really captivating, and not just because that is the sound I grew up with.
I am sure that is part of it, but the sound of a small needle dragging its way along a grooved piece of plastic does have a unique vibe to it.
Of course, the records we had were 30-plus years old and some were damaged, causing the needle to jump, but that is just all part of the experience.
When a CD skips it is enough to cause me to have a seizure as it repeats the same fraction of a second over and over and over...
A record can be similar, but not as harsh as a CD.
Digital songs don't skip at all, unless there is a glitch which causes them to stop and start and stop and start and cause that seizure I was talking about.
When a record skipped, you would oh-so-gently move the needle past the damaged part so you would not miss too much of the song.
Even without playing them, those old 33s brought back many memories.
I pulled out the first record I ever bought – Loverboy - and my second copy of Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell (the first copy got stepped on and it was, and is, a must-have for my music collection.)
Def Lepard, Styx, AC/DC (of course) and a whole pile of classic tuneage is now available for my on-demand listening pleasure.
But as I flipped through the stack of classics, I stopped cold at a beat up, scratched, liquid (beer)-damaged copy of Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage.
Instantly I was thinking of my good friend who was claimed by the scourge of cancer more than five years ago.
We used to listen to that record all the time, and even seeing the album cover brought pangs of missing my good buddy, my brother since I was four years old.
My jubilant trip down memory had hit a speed bump. Memories of a lifelong friendship raced through my mind. The trouble we got into and the fun we had while doing it. Discussions about cars, music, girls and the deep thoughts of life all filled my consciousness right up to the day of his passing, stopping the memories in their tracks.
I sat, silent and still thinking about his loss, before pushing those thoughts aside and rejoicing in the friendship I had, rather than dwell on the cruelty of it being taken away far too soon.
I know eventually, I will drop the needle on Joe's Garage and be reunited with my buddy through the magical time travel that only music can provide.

Eventually, but just not today.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's OK to let your kids get a hurt once in a while

The other day I heard someone say it is a shame children today do not get to experience getting hit in the face by a big red ball during a game of dodgeball.
And they are right.
I loved dodgeball when I was in school; mainly because I was really good at it.
I could twist and turn and was rarely taken out of the game. I did get hit in the face a couple times, but that was just part of the fun.
We did all sorts of sports, games and goofing around that ended in minor injuries. It was called being a kid and it was something we all accepted as simply part of life.
In elementary school, we used to play tackle football at lunch without any gear. We could have played flag football I guess, but it was just not the same.
Following a rambunctious 30-minute game, just about everyone had some sort of minor injury from grass burns on our elbows to bruises and even the occasional black eye – which was worn as a badge of honour. But we were all ready to go again the next day.
Nowadays, teachers and parents are so worried about Junior getting a boo-boo they have banned pretty much all contact sports. One school even banned tag because a child might fall and hurt themselves while running from the person who was 'it.'
Really? Tag is nothing but running and fitness and building cardio. And then they wonder why Junior is so, um, er, weight enhanced at such a young age.
I played hours of tag when I was a kid and I don't ever recall someone getting hurt.
If someone fell down, they dusted themselves off and got back up – simple as that. The worst part of falling down was it usually meant whoever was chasing you, caught you and now you were it.
No need to call the paramedics for that.
Another school banned soccer because – you guessed it – someone might get hurt. Here is another sport that involves nothing but running around a field. There is no tackling, body checking or any real physical contact, but someone was worried some how a child could receive a minor injury while having fun so they had better cancel having fun.
It's all part of the 'helicopter parenting' that has taken hold of North America in its overly cautious grip.
I admit, I too have been a hovering parent at times, but not so much when it came to letting my boys be boys.
Every parent wants to protect their child, but there is a time when you simply have to step back and let them get a bruise or two.
It's part of life. I did it, my dad did it, his dad did it and so on and we all survived.
I am not saying to let them jump off a small cliff holding onto a bed sheet as a parachute because that really does not work - trust me on this one - but a little rough housing is just fine.
Oh, and also maybe don't let them try to jump from one branch of a pine tree to another because if they miss that really hurts too.
But my sons would often come home with bruises from skateboarding or crashing their peddle bikes – something I had done more times than my mom could recall – and they are now healthy adults with a few scars to tell stories about with their friends.
In the quest to keep children safe from harm they are also keeping them from having any fun, experiencing life (which involves bumps and bruises) and doing what kids do.

I got way more hurt playing organized sports than rough housing, so let them take a big red ball to the face, let them fall out of a tree, let them have fun (but keep the bandaids handy).

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Welcome back to school...sigh

I recently read a story about how to prepare your child for going back to school. It was full of all sorts of interesting and helpful suggestions, tips and advice for helping your child make the transition from the care-free days of summer to the regimented routine of a public school system.
When I was a child, the only thing we did to prepare for going back to school was go shopping for books, paper, pencils, erasers, (wine for mom and dad to celebrate our return to school) and even some new clothes – which, of course, you could not wear on the first day because it was not considered 'cool' to look your best.
Instead, you wore the same ratty jeans you had on at the last day of school from the previous year. Like a fine wine (the kind parents use to celebrate back to school) you had to let the new clothes sit and 'age' for a while.
At least a week, then you could wear a new shirt. A few days later you would venture out in your new jeans and then your new shoes. Eventually you would head out with all of the new clothing on at the same time, but by now school had been in session for at least a couple weeks so you were not branded a geek for wearing new clothes on the first day.
And if memory serves, there was a whole bunch of other reasons you were branded a geek. Or so I have been told anyway.
Anyway, the article recommended all sorts of things to help the youngsters get back into the school groove before school even starts.
They suggest you start preparing your children two weeks before the big day by doing things like establishing a routine, explain expectations, hold those expectations to a realistic level, talk to your child about school etc.
All good advice indeed. When I was a kid heading back to the seventh level of hell, er, I mean school, the only prep we had was seeing those horrid back-to-school commercials on TV.
They would start a couple weeks before the nine months of torture would resume and had the never-failing result of ruining the last vestiges of summer you had yet to enjoy.
Who could enjoy late August when you knew your care-free days were numbered? Not I.
As for my parent's role in preparing me for school, if I recall it went something like this: School starts next week.
The end.
That was about it. A quick reminder I was about to lose my freedom to the dungeon masters of the public education system for another year.
There was no advice on how to get used to going back to school, there were no pep talks, no cushioning the blow – just one day you are enjoying summer, the next you are chained to a desk learning that most evil form of math - algebra.
The first day of school we would find our name on a list taped to the side of the school that let us know what kind of a school year we were in for.
The list told us what our homeroom was and what courses we were taking and when. Groaning and gnashing of teeth was heard throughout the day as people saw their short-term future printed before them in black and white.
You would then run around to all your friends to see if you shared any classes with them which either led to rejoicing or more of that gnashing I was telling you about.

But it only took a few days to get back into the routine and in the back of my mind was always the reassurance that summer vacation was less than 300 days away.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh    

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I'm tired and wanna go to bed

There are many things I dislike about getting older.
I don't have nearly as much hair as I used to. Well, not on my head anyway. For some reason it is growing out of my shoulders – that's a great place for a mop of hair. Many other parts of my body that used to be hair free are now sprouting a full-blown lawn of follicles as well.
My eyebrows are so long a family of pheasants could nest in them and I would likely never notice. My belly is larger and my patience thinner.
I could go on and on, but one of things that annoys me the most about stacking on the years is how tired I get.
There was a time not too long ago — actually it was a long time ago, but please let me live in the illusion – when sleep was something to be done when I had nothing better to do.
Long gone are the days when I could indulge in social activities well into the night and pop out of bed early the next morning, ready to take on the world.
When I was 18, I averaged about four hours sleep a night.
Thank goodness for high school where I could at least get some rest.
I worked part time, hung out with my friends part time and slept some of the time. Life was good.
Fast forward 30 or so years and a friend of mine hit the Big 5-0. A social gathering in his honour was organized and we all joined together to bug him about being the first of us to reach the half-century mark.
That gathering lasted until 1 a.m. In my teen years and well into my 20s, 1 a.m. meant it was time to start thinking about the after party.
At my friend's birthday, 1 a.m. meant I was well past my bedtime.
The next day, I was downright tuckered out from a night of vigorous activity so late into the darkness.
In my youth, I can remember thinking sleep was a waste of time. Why would I want to sleep when there is so much fun to be had. Life is too short to sleep it away.
Nowadays, my attitude toward sleep has taken a quantum shift. Now, I like sleep, I enjoy it, I look forward to it. It has become one of my favourite things to do.
Late night TV is now 10 p.m. and anything beyond 11 p.m. is just not worth watching.
There have been days when I could not wait to go to sleep.
The party used to beckon me like a siren calling from the deep to join her until the sun came up. It was a call I answered more often than not.
Now, my bed calls me not like a young, beautiful temptress, but as a comforting old friend that is always there for me, always ready to envelop me in the soft folds of blankets and pillow.
And if I do ignore the call of my old friend for too long, there is a price to pay. Unlike the days of my youth where I could pop out of bed on four hours sleep and be ready to tackle the day bright eyed and full of energy, now I am ready to tackle the couch for a nap the first chance I get.
But the alternative to getting older sucks so I will endure hairy shoulders and the need to inject coffee directly into my bloodstream just to get through the day for as long as I can.

Now if you will excuse me, I feel a nap coming on.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, August 28, 2016

News flash: cats rule the world

I read an article that said the common house cat is a direct descendant of wildcats.
“Domestic cats can be traced to wild progenitors that interbred well over 100,000 years ago, new research indicates,” said a CNN website.
And if CNN says it, it must be true.
So house cats come from wild cats..... well, there’s a shock. Let me guess, dogs are somehow related to wild wolves and a budgie is the long-lost cousin of a condor.
I am more of a dog person than a cat person, but when my son was much younger, he wanted to get a pet so Gilbert the Cat entered our lives.
Although he technically belongs to my son, from his point of view we all belong to him.
The fickle feline will come when he wants, go when he wants, eat when he wants and, in general, act very much like a teenager all the time.
And could someone please tell me why he has to stick his butt in the air when you pet him.
It is most unappealing.
A dog would not do that. Mind you, I have seen a dog eat its own barf, which is something a cat would never do.
A dog looks at it and thinks, “Hey, where did that tasty treat come from?”
A cat looks at it and thinks, “Somebody better clean that up.”
We were kind of reluctant to get Gil at first, because I can’t stand the spastic, hyper-freak cats that go through the roof at the slightest sound.
If you are going to have a pet, it might as well be one you can interact with. As far as I am concerned pets are something to, well, pet. That’s why they are called pets.
If the cat clings to the ceiling every time you walk pass, it likely will not be the best critter to have around children.
Some friends had a monstrous black tabby name Figaro. The cat was a freak of nature. It was not only big, it was mean.
“Uh, you better not pet him. He’s not real friendly. In fact, you should try to keep a couple feet away from him at all times,” was often what the owners told people who saw Catzilla for the first time.
Figs, as he was called, would take a swipe at you just for walking by. Only one of their daughters dared touch the beast that, for reasons only a cat can understand, was as gentle as a baby fawn with her.
With the rest of the world, he was more like one of his wildcat ancestors – only meaner.
They endured Figaro for 12 years. I think they were too afraid to touch him, which is why they never got rid of him.
He was the only cat I have ever seen with a tattoo and leather jacket.
Gil on the other hand, could not be any more mellow if we fed him valium. Nothing fazes him — not loud noises, sudden movements — nothing.
And that is a good thing.
When he first came to his home (it used to be my home until he moved in and declared it his own) he was an adult, so we missed all the clawing and stuff kittens do.
He is also an accomplished hunter and a killer through and through.
Within a couple weeks of his arrival, mouse and bird carcasses (or what was left of them) began popping up in our yard.
One day, he left almost an entire mouse on the front steps. My son was proud of the hunting ability of his furry friend and I explained it was an offering from Gil to him declaring they were part of the same pride.
I told him it was a cat thing.
He thought that was pretty cool, until I told him in keeping in the tradition of the cat kingdom, he had to eat the mouse.
His jaw hit the floor and his eyes bugged out until he realized I was, of course, kidding.
Gil was also a bit of scrapper when he first showed up. He and a few neighbourhood cats quickly established a pecking order and as far as I can see, he is pecking the heck out of the other cats.
Gil is now a senior car, he's getting a little slower, a little greyer, but he is still the king of all he surveys – just like every cat in the world.
Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Monday, August 22, 2016

And that's why I'm scared of spiders

A few people have asked me recently how I became so deathly afraid of spiders.
Was I born an arachnid wimp who always screeched like a frightened school girl at the site of an eight-legged beast, or did it take time to become such a fraidy cat?
It happened one fateful day when I was in elementary school.
Up until that day of infamy I was not a huge fan of spiders, but I was not the trembling super wuss I am today.
Like every little boy anywhere in the world, I was interested in gross stuff like bugs, snakes and other such critters. We used to catch grasshoppers by the handful and chase dragonflies every chance we got.
I can even remember grabbing some of those big, ugly, nasty looking water beetles from out of our pool.
As I grew older, my fear and dislike of insects grew – that will happen when you catch a biting or stinging variety one time too many – but I had not yet developed the mind-numbing terror I feel as an adult.
Spiders were never one of my favourite bugs to play with, but it was on a camping trip in school that my stark raving fear of spiders was tattooed onto the psyche.
It was day two of a four-day trip when some friends and I (yes, I had friends in school) were goofing around and running about the campground.
I can remember being chased by buddy of mine for some reason or another when I turned hard off the roadway and into the surrounding woods.
I was ducking and dodging branches and bushes like a woodland sprite when I cut between two trees.
It was then that fate took its cruel turn in an incident that would scar me for life.
You see, strung between those two poplar trees was a spider web. A big spider web. A big spider web that was about head high.
I hit the web at full speed and it wrapped around my face like a mask. Of course spider webs are sticky, so it didn't just hit my face, it super glued itself to my entire head.
Now the thing about spider webs is they often contain a spider. And often the spider will sit in the very centre of the web and wait for an unsuspecting insect to get caught in its trap of doom.
When I hit the web, the spider, which was roughly the size of a small Bassett hound, ended up in my left eye socket.
As of that wasn't bad enough, the beast then scampered up my forehead, over the top of my head and down my back – into my shirt.
To say I freaked out is to say the Titanic had a bit of a mishap.
I clawed at the web to get it off my head even as I felt the spider run down the back of my neck.
I was spinning and turning and thrashing like a mad man having a standing seizure.
This is known as the spider dance – an uncontrollable, panic-driven set of moves designed to rid yourself of any possible intruder. This works for bugs of all description, but is most enthusiastically done with a spider.
Anyway, after doing the spider dance to the amusement of my friends, I tore my shirt off, slammed it on the ground and continued to twist and gyrate like I was on fire.
Once I calmed down, I stomped on the shirt repeatedly in case the spider was still in its cottony folds.
I don't recall if I ever wore that shirt again, but to this day I can still recall the feeling of that massive, prehistoric-sized spider clambering across my face and head.
Even thinking about it now sends a shiver up my spine causing me to do the spider twitch (a much more subdued version of the spider dance.)

And that, dear readers, is how I became terrified of spiders; and really, who could blame me.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A few lessons for all you new husbands

In high school, students are often taught life skills like how to cook and do bankbooks, but the course should also include wife skills that clearly outlines what should and should not be said.
Having been married for more than two decades, I have learned a lot about the opposite sex.
I still don't understand them, but I am less confused (slightly less) than I was 20 plus years ago when I said “I do.”
But I am trainable, so I have learned a few things that have helped me survive the joys of marriage.
When we first got married, I would pretty much say the first thing that popped into my head and express my opinion before my brain had a chance to analyze the question and more importantly the possible ramifications of the answer.
I am not saying to be dishonest with your spouse, but to phrase your response in the most favourable light possible.
Of course the universal question “Does this make me look fat?” is a no brainer and even as a newlywed I knew not the answer was always no.
Even if her butt can be seen from outer space, the answer must always be, “Of course not, Dear.”
Fortunately, it was an easy question to answer then as it is now, because I am blessed with a wife who not only runs the home, but manages to stay fit in the process.
One day, shortly after our nuptials, the little woman came home with a new hair do and asked what I thought.
Having been married for less than a year, my mouth would engage much faster than my brain and my response was not the best.
“You look like a poodle,” I said of her wavy hair without any real concern.
Wrong answer, and I am talking wrong with a capital W-R-O-N-G.
This was my first real introduction to answering questions in the correct fashion.
The look on her face told me that I just made a major blunder.
I tried talking my way out of it, but seeing as how she is much smarter than I am, there was little I could do but apologize and mark it down as a lesson learned.
She could come home with dead rats duct-taped onto her head and I would rant about what an innovative hair style she has.
That is not to patronize her, but is more a survival technique than anything else.
I am sure she does the same thing.
“Honey, is my stomach getting too big.”
“Why of course not,” may be her answer, but she is thinking “not if you are a pregnant oranguatan that is.”
Bloated primates aside, there is a certain amount of leeway in a marriage when it comes to commenting on hair styles, food – even if it is boiled possum tails it is the best meal you have ever had – and, of course, body size and shape.
All of these rules can go both ways. I have only experienced them from the husband side of the line, but I guarantee my wife could provide her own endless list of enhanced comments for my benefit.
So to all you husbands out there remember: her butt is never too big, her hair is perfect and that dress looks great.
To the wives of the world: pot bellies are cute, bald spots are even cuter and the prison slop he created for a surprise meal is spectacular (you can get your stomach pumped when he is not looking.)

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Relax little man, it's just floor hockey

Due to the ever-expanding waistline of many high school students, our elected officials have made physical education classes mandatory through Grade 10.
When I was in high school, PE was just a part of the curriculum.
Because the school I went to had a strong athletics program, the gym classes were typically geared toward the jocks, and the teachers (who were also the coaches) would divide us into teams so we could learn to play games like football and basketball.
Funny part was, one side often consisted of members of the school football team and anyone not on the team was designated the opposition, or as they were more commonly known: tackling dummies.
Same for basketball. It just happened to work out all the sportos ended up on the same team and we would spend our class being the opposition while the teacher ran drills. It was not like that for every class, just near the playoffs.
To keep us in shape, the guardians of the jock straps decided we needed to run – a lot. That was fine because I had been running for years already and I was in pretty good shape, but I always questioned the route they chose.
We had a nice, flat field with a track located 50 metres from the gymnasium, but where’s the fun in that?
No, our gym teachers had a much better plan and it was called ‘Running the Tower.’ The Tower was a large water tower on the side of a mountain and the assignment was to run up the mountain, around the tower and then back down the mountain – a distance of about three kilometres. My knees still hurt from the pounding of running down a dirt trail.
The gym teachers at my old alma mater were, for lack of a better term, borderline lunatics.
They were an odd pair. One teacher was huge. You know the type – no neck, unibrow, big forehead, hairy back, looks like he should be sitting in the jungle eating grubs or something. He was your typical muscle-bound super jock who couldn’t make it as a pro so he decided to turn his attention to making life miserable for any non-athletic teens who were unfortunate enough to land in his class.
The other teacher was a little guy and when they walked down the hall together they looked like the bulldog and the Chihuahua from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
While the big one had to stop walking when he talked so his brain could concentrate on forming words, the little one was much more animated and would turn red in the face, holler, scream and generally freak out if he felt someone was not playing hard enough – and that was just during a ‘fun’ game of floor hockey.
I remember one kid getting hurt and hitting the ground and instead of seeing if he was OK, this teacher was yelling at him to “Get back in there.”
I don’t mean to burst your bubble there Skippy, but this is a Grade 9 floor hockey game, not the Stanley Cup finals and getting maimed for the sake of marginal bragging rights seems pretty stupid to me.
This guy was like that all the time, no matter the surroundings.
Winning a game of kick ball was like the World Series to this little man who was about five feet tall and weighed in at around 120 pounds, but had the attitude of Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan combined.
“Excuse me, sir. But, are you trying to live vicariously through your students because you were not even big enough to make the junior varsity tidally wink team when you were in school? I mean, if you were any smaller and the mob was after you, you could hide out in an elementary school.”
If it wasn’t so comical, it would be stupid.
He would strut around in his miniature track suit (that I suspect he acquired from the Ken doll sport and leisure line up) with a whistle hanging around his neck that looked like a piece of oversized bling because he was so tiny. And that was when he went grocery shopping. I don’t think I ever saw him without his whistle.
I am not sure where he is now, probably in a nursing home some where with his oversized whistle telling his co-habitants to “walk it off. You call that a stroke, that’s nothing. Get back out there.”

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Spiders are not a good wedding gift

I recently read a article by local museum curator Ron Candy in which he talked about spiders.
As any one who has read my past columns knows, I do not like spiders. Actually they scare the snot out of me.
In my teen years, my then-girlfriend thought it would be great fun to throw a rather large and ugly spider at me. I am not ashamed, I admit it, I screamed like a frightened school girl on Halloween night.
I then did the spider dance and was generally creeped out for the rest of the day.
In Ron's column, he talked about how beneficial the little critters are. I have never argued their benefit to the world, I have just demanded their execution on sight.
No trial, no jury and no mercy, just straight to the death chamber commonly known as the bottom of my shoe.
The only good spider is a spider that has been smashed into a unrecognizable pile of goo. Now that's my kind of arachnid.
Ron's column talked about how spiders are revered in some cultures. Let's just say I am not from that culture.
Some cultures eat spiders, and I say go ahead because a dead spider is a good spider, just don't invite me over for dinner.
Some cultures keep spiders as pets. Friends of mine have a teen aged son who has a tarantula as a pet. One day she was talking to my wife and said the tarantula had escaped its enclosure.
My wife asked how many times that had happened.
Slamming my foot to the ground as hard as I could my answer was, “Once.”
And I meant it. If I was at their house and the eight-legged horror was walking across the room they would have one less pet to feed (and a carpet to clean.)
Ron goes on to say Hindus in eastern Bengal collect spiders and let them go at a wedding as a sign of good luck.
Who in the blue hell thinks a small army of spiders crawling all over the place is good luck. I would rather have the wedding guests stick pencils up my nose for luck.
It might be good luck for my wife because she could start our marriage by cashing in my life insurance. If there are 100 people at the wedding and each one of them let even one spider go, that would be it for me. I would see all these little eight-legged nasties running around and I would be out of there so fast the wind from me leaving would knock people over.
But if you think that is bad, Ron goes on to describe another tradition in Egypt where it is common practice to place a spider in the bed of the newly married couple.
OK, hold it. Stop right there. Folks, you have just crossed the line.
Putting a spider in my bed is quite possibly the worst idea I have ever heard. Can you imagine being all in love and happy about the nuptials only to find a bug-eyed monster staring back at you from the honeymoon love lounger?
It would be the shortest honeymoon in the history of honeymoons.
“Honey, why don't you pull the sheets back. I'll be right there.”“Why yes my new wife, that sounds like a great plan.”
“Honey, what was that high-pitched scream? Honey? Honey?”
The next sound would be the door breaking as I ran through it to get out of the room.
Throwing rice and toilet-papering the car is quite enough of a wedding tradition for me thank you.

Copyright 2016, Darren Handschuh