Deathbed Regret

The amount of time I spend looking on my phone for just the right icon to accompany a text message is something I’m sure to regret on my deathbed, yet I am powerless to stop. In fact, it is possible that in the final moments of my life, in a weakened state, my body racked with some virus of the future that originated in China (because China has pig farms on bird migration routes and the birds drink the polluted, poopy water and thus incubate new and powerful viruses), I will be scrolling through to find that one icon that is a poop with eyes. Because it cracks me up every time. Because I’m ten. And it does not matter if I’m texting about a Blue Jays game, what time I’ll be home, or something that happened to me on the bus. A random poop will be inserted somewhere.

This could be ice cream but I choose to think of it as poop with eyes.

This could be ice cream but I choose to think of it as poop with eyes.

And my loved ones will say, “Well, he died doing what he loved: sending us a picture that only slightly relates to the writing it accompanies.”

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but really, what choice do I have?

Things That Made Me Happy and Sad These Past Two Weeks

Things that have made me sad:

  • An Edmonton police officer was shot and killed while serving a warrant. The nut job who shot him was one of Freemen on the Land, a quasi militia group that is dedicated to hate and does not recognize the authority of the government. This was the first Edmonton police officer killed in the line of duty in 25 years.

EPS Shot

Things that have made me happy:

  • I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. It was visually stunning and the writing was decent.
  • I saw Jurassic World. It was visually stunning and mostly a lot of fun but the writing was atrocious and sexist. The dinosaurs stole the show and turned in some great performances. I hear there’s even some Oscar buzz for the raptors.
  • I finally got a PlayStation 4.
  • We bought a Sodastream and I made myself some pop.
  • The Toronto Blue Jays are on an 11-game winning streak and are scoring upwards of ten runs per game.

Blue Jays Martin

For the most part, life has been good in the past little while. It’s been difficult to find anything to complain about but I will continue to try. Cheers.

 

Prisoner Transport: Conclusion

Prisoner Transport Part 1 and Part 2.

The bus I took did not look like this, but I wish it had.

The bus I took did not look like this, but I wish it had.

Our bus driver’s name was Mrs. Dodoo. Her son Stephen rode the bus as well and was in the same grade as me. Not only did poor Stephen have an unfortunate last name, he was, even by our backwoods standards, an odd-looking fellow. He had huge, brown, wide-set eyes and a nose and chin that looked like they had been malleable at one time and someone had pulled on these features, stretching them, resulting in a face that reminded people of a jack-o’-lantern.

I liked Stephen and his mom. They were both quick to laugh and they thought I was pretty funny, although at times I could get carried away acting a fool and Mrs. Dodoo would have to employ some of her trademark screaming in order to settle me down.

“For the love of Christ, John, stop jumping over the seats!”

“Be quiet, John, I can’t drive with all this noise!”

“John! For the love of God stop sitting on her! She can’t breathe!”

But no matter how mad she seemed, I’d give some ridiculous apology, and she always started to laugh.

Once, on a warm spring day, but with some snow still on the ground, I packed a tight snowball and, with a perfect toss, threw that ball of ice and snow right through the open window of the bus while it was driving away. I think someone had dared me, so of course I had to try. I was successful beyond my wildest dreams. It sounded like a small bomb had been detonated and I heard screams and then laughter.

Mrs. Dodoo slammed on the brakes and screamed bloody murder, so I ran for home as fast as I could, which was difficult because I was laughing so hard.

Stephen had a locker near mine. One morning a self-possessed, attractive, grade-nine girl approached Stephen as he was getting his books out to start the day and with a smile, flashing her braces like the teeth of a shark, said, “You’ll never have a girlfriend because you’re so ugly.” She giggled maniacally and scurried away. Jesus, what a thing to say. I think this may have been the first time my heart broke for a friend. He looked at me and I could see in his eyes all the pain that was to come in his life–the persecution for something he could not help, could not change, and the bits of him that would be diminished by the words of pretty girls who hate because they can.

“Well, she’s an ugly dog anyway,” he said. It was a feeble attempt to muster some dignity and I nodded in agreement, making the two of us complicit in this lie. To be so young, and vulnerable, and so without power, made for long days that were all the longer because not only were we unable to help ourselves, but we were helpless in the face of all that pain inflicted on the ones we cared about.

But the bus is what saved us. A bubble where ugly didn’t count. Clothes didn’t matter. Hair was just something that happened to be on your head. Laughter, music, and stories were the measure of quality. It was this state of grace that dried our tears and put us back together as the bus delivered us from evil and gave us a place to stretch our souls and become the children we were meant to be.

Prisoner Transport: Part 2

Prisoner Transport: Part 1

The school bus had become our sanctuary, an oasis of acceptance in a vast desert of judgement where cruelty was a form of currency and there was always an abundance to spend. Children doled out to other children small nightmares as though their survival depended on it. The wrong kind of jeans could banish any one of us to “bottom bitch” status where identity was reduced to that of victim. If you were a victim that is all you were and all you could ever be. I felt as though I walked among vampires in the halls of this junior high and I had no garlic, no cross, and no fortitude needed to fight back or even run away.

It was on the bus where we could breathe at last. At the end of the day we would be giddy with the elation of plane crash survivors, relishing the here and now, this moment of knowing that for the next five minutes we were safe. And then five more minutes. And then five more minutes. This time of safety was our currency, a black market economy that traded in relief. Our true selves could come out of the hardened shells of anonymity and the “please God don’t let them see me” default demeanor we had created.

True to his word David brought his Walkman for me to listen to. The tape was Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil. The art work was a picture of a pentagram on one side and on the other a head shot of the four band members.

 

Motley Crue 2Motley Crue 1

They were terrifying. The pentagram was terrifying. And this may have the coolest thing I had ever seen up to that point in my life. I pushed “play” and when the song “Shout at the Devil” began to play,  I was vaulted to a new evolutionary level. It was my first time using headphones, and it was as though up to that point in my life I had never heard music. This song was everything I felt. The anger and frustration, the hatred, the love, the passion, the pounding beat that seemed to insert itself into my soul and give voice to my confusion and exhaustion. It was a hyper-masculine artifact that felt like a cloak I could don and it would afford me protection. I finally had a talisman to ward off the vampires.

I looked at David with wild wide eyes as the song played, and he smiled at me knowingly.

“Pretty fucking awesome, huh?” he asked.

I had no words. I hit rewind and then played my new anthem again.

I would join this tribe and be reborn.

 

Prisoner Transport: Part 1

I stood at the end of the lane waiting for the school bus to pick me up and take me to a new school to start grade 9. The bus was small as there were only a handful of us in this particular pocket of the county who were designated to attend a junior high in the city.

The small yellow bus stopped and the door popped open.

“Are you John?” the driver called out. I nodded and climbed onto the bus. The driver was an elfish woman with a gravelly voice that must have come from whiskey, cigarettes, and a lifetime of yelling. It was a voice I’d only ever heard in the movies. I looked around at the collection of misfits. Bad haircuts, ill-fitting clothes, and a fashion sense that indicated limited access to chain clothing stores. There were the gangly, the sort of fat, the acned, and the crooked-toothed. The place had the atmosphere of first-time convicts on the way to do hard time in a federal penitentiary. You could smell the fear and anxiety.

I sat beside a larger kid with a bowl cut and apple-red cheeks. His hair was much like mine– no style, not cut by any professional, just there on his head with the odd piece sticking straight up like it had never occurred to him to comb it, or wash it, or put it right in some way.

“I’m David Lightfoot,” he cheerfully introduced himself. I had never met anyone named Lightfoot. I shook his hand.

“Do you like Motley Crue?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure. I guess so.” I was bluffing. I had no idea who Motley Crue were. That summer my cousin Sharon had given me the Loverboy album Get Lucky and I had pretty much worn it out, mostly because it was the only record I owned.

“I got a Sony Walkman for my birthday. I can bring it on the bus if you want. You can listen to the tape.” He was being really nice. The bus drove on. After a few minutes of chattering about his family, nervously, he suddenly put his head in his hand. And threw up. The vomit had pooled in his hands and he looked at me in pleading, heartbreaking, way and said, “Oh geez, I’m sorry. That’s really gross isn’t it?” He must have been searching for a place to put his throw-up because he looked around furtively, but, finding no solution, he dumped the contents of his hands on the floor.

He vomited again. It was loud and plentiful. He caught this batch in his hands as well and then dumped it on the floor. It splashed and splattered.

Again he apologized: “I’m really sorry about this, man, this is really gross.”

The smell filled the bus and soon everyone was plugging their noses and making noises of disgust. But no one was angry. In fact a few of the kids were laughing and soon we were all laughing.

When the smell hit the bus driver, her head whipped up to the rear-view mirror and she yelled, “What in the name of God is that?”

Through her chortles, a curly-haired, bespectacled girl with braces said, “That kid puked all over the floor. Ewwww.” She pulled the front of her t-shirt up over her nose.

“Guys, I’m really sorry. I don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

The bus made a detour to a gas station and the driver borrowed a hose and managed to wash out most of the vomit. By this time even she was laughing and shaking her head. We had all gathered around outside and had made fast friends with each other now that we all shared a minor trauma. Even David was laughing. He kept apologizing, but by now no one really cared. It was funny. And thanks to David we were all a little less afraid.

For that whole year riding the bus was the best thing about going to school.

Bird on Boy Violence: A Story of Survival and Triumph

The other day I was talking to joeyfullystated about flying critters that attack, so I thought I’d write about my brush with bird rage.

It was a humid day in mid-August. I was probably about nine or ten, riding my heavy framed, red, CCM, no-speed bike (a bike with gears was for rich kids) down by the railroad tracks, minding my own business.

I had about a one-second warning; the hair on the back of my neck stood on end just before the attack commenced. A big red-winged blackbird swooped down on my head like a kamikaze pilot on meth and dug her feet/talons into my scalp and began pecking my head. Really hard. This bird was drilling my skull as though her last meal might be buried in my cranium.

Bird attack

I. Was. Terrified. And it hurt. I jumped/fell off my bike and began swatting at the demon, but she merely had to fly away. She was also screaming at me. I don’t speak bird but I could understand that she was pissed about something. I wanted to say, “Your outrage is manufactured, good madam, for I have committed no transgression.” But I was ten so what really came out was: “Aaahhhh! Fuck off you shit bird asshole bitch.” As I swung wild, impotent haymakers, she continued to swoop and dive, claw and peck, and I could not figure out what the hell to do. As soon as I jumped on my bike and began peddling, she took advantage of my unprotected head. So I alternated, peddling for as long as I could stand and then jumping off my bike to swat, spit, and throw some rocks–but it was all for nought.

After what felt like a day and a half but was probably more like ten minutes, I managed to bike out of range. I pedalled hard for a good while and then stopped and looked back. She was nowhere in sight. I took a deep breath and ran a hand through my hair. I was bloody and bruised but I had survived. The day was mine after all.

Now I am here to share my story of survival and to let others know that if you’re ten, riding a red bike by some train tracks, and are attacked by a mother bird likely protecting her nest, then you are not alone. And it is possible to survive, and even flourish after, such bird on boy (or girl) violence.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

For anyone new to this blog, I’ll fill you in on what’s been going on in my life. Due to my massive following of about 150 people, I had decided it was time to take it to the next level and fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a cult leader. You can catch up by clicking the links. Or not.

So last week I went to city hall and asked, politely, if I could please get a permit for a cult. Though I plan on breaking all sorts of laws and cultural mores, I’d like the launch of our (and by “our” I mean “my”) cult to at least get off to a smooth start. I had the notion that maybe the Mayor or at least a couple of city councillors would attend the opening. Maybe even a photo op of a ribbon-cutting ceremony. I have big dreams.

thHBKSGDXM

Well, I was practically laughed out of the glass pyramid that is our city hall. Jeremy, an insolent peon with a bad comb-over and a moustache that looked like a sickly caterpillar clinging to his lip for dear life, told me, smirking, that no such permit exists. My fury rose up in me and I was never so desperate to have a cowering flock on which to vent my rage. Jeremy then closed his window and put up a sign in chicken scratch: “Gone for lunch.”

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“May your computer be afflicted with a thousand viruses, Jeremy. From this day forth you are a sworn enemy of me and my minions,” I yelled. I may have even shaken my fist. Man, I really need to work on my curses.

The bugger did not even turn around but just gave a dismissive wave as walked back to an inner sanctum of cubicles where he no doubt would be having a bag lunch of tuna sandwiches.

“May the bread of your tuna sandwich be soggy, Jeremy.” Ugh! Now this was getting embarrassing.

I stood simmering and red faced, filled with impotent rage. I now know your pain, Martin Luther King. I too have a dream.

I sincerely hope you guys are appreciating all the work I’m doing. I wonder if there’s some sort of support group where I could talk to other potential cult leaders who could understand the work I’m doing. It’s lonely at the top.

Better Late Than Never

It has been a really busy week and it’s only Wednesday. We’re finally going to buy a home of our own and there is a LOT to consider. But the process isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Our one regret is that we are purchasing much later in our lives than most people, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

If you’d told me 15 or even 10 years ago I’d be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed you. It will be in some ways a relief to be out of our building. As I write this cigarette smoke is being blown into our back bathroom through the ventilation system. And when we got home from talking to the realtor yesterday, we found this notice slipped under our door:

IMG_20150422_0001

This happens a lot. Now I just need to remember to shower extra long before 9 a.m., or the smell of cigarette smoke will be the least of our problems.