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