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