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