Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time Passes Differently For Some.

Thanks to Facebook, I sometimes learn of things I'd rather not know.
The other day, I got an email from a girl I dated 20 years ago. She's doing well - a loving husband, a few kids, she's happy.

However, she is about to become a grandmother! This threw me for a loop. I'm in my mid-thirties and would be nearly ready to comprehend parenthood, she's a couple of years younger than me and hitting "the next level."
For her, it's a mixed blessing. Her teenage daughter is about to become a mother, which is an awful shock. It will likely affect her schooling and social responsibilities. However, by having a baby so young, my ex is able to help raise the child while giving her daughter the freedom to still retain some of her youth.

For me, it makes me feel old. Theoretically, I could become a grandfather if there's an accident I haven't been told of*!!
When I was young, I saw grown-ups as having their s**t together. Men worked, drove, and supported the family. Women either worked outside the home or in. They were polite, usually sober, went to church, and always knew what was going on. By the time my dad was my age, he had been a professional rugby player, a father twice over, and had been a qualified pharmacist for almost a decade. My mum had given birth to two boys, relocated to a foreign country for her husband, and had a nearly-fatal brain tumour.
As for me, I'm a newly-married middle-class guy in my mid-thirties. Mid, mid, mid. Once or twice a year I drink enough to forget where I'm going and smash headfirst into walls and drunk-dial coworkers. I kick at cars that nearly run me over. I spend my money on guitars, watches, and holidays, so I have NO savings hidden away. I swear like a sailor (slurring), fantasize of a life completely different to my own (except for the inclusion of Wonderful Wife), and feel completely powerless to change the things I really want to change.
The discrepancy is tremendous, and what makes the thought of grand-parenthood so shocking.

I wish her all the luck in the world, and hope she's more the childhood ideal than the reality.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Drinking in a Bar? Really?

On Saturday night, I went to see a friend's band play in Parkdale.
Maybe I'm getting old, but I really appreciated seeing musicians with grey hair beating out high-energy ska. It reminded me that we don't HAVE to get all quiet and sedate as we age. They had a great time, and really didn't give a f**k that they could have had their children in the audience.
Plus, the beer was cheap and the crowd friendly.

One downturn was seeing an ex-girlfriend at the bar. No malice, now throwing bottles at each other, not even harsh words. To be honest, I don't even know if she noticed me, but it was sad to see her there. From 2000 to 2003 we lived together. She was an alcoholic who's drunken behaviour lost the trust necessary for our relationship, cost her any job security and workplace respect, and at the high point around $300 per week!
We broke up because I couldn't see a way to fix what had been damaged. We retained a friendship afterwards, which was easier when she managed to quit drinking. I helped her move a couple of times, she gave me solid advice when I needed it, and I ended up giving her a few hundred dollars to replace glasses that got broken. Shortly after giving her the money, I found her blog where she was badmouthing me. Apparently I was a manipulative, controlling liar (and a bunch of other stuff that I've forgotten). I was really hurt after helping her out so much. And I told her so, commenting on the blog.

I hadn't seen her since, until Saturday. Unfortunately nose-deep into a pint. I had really admired that she was beating her addiction, and wanted her to succeed regardless of her feelings for me.

As a fellow addict (mine is nicotine, not booze), I can understand the 24x7 temptation. I just hope she was experiencing a one-off...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Falling Over

Often, when flying to Mexico or Central America, my flights have left at around 6am. This means getting up at 2am to get to the airport. I experienced the exact same feeling this morning, getting up at 7am.
Between the average 5-hour-overtime shift each evening this week, the homework backlog, and family stress, I can barely stay vertical. On this morning's subway commute, I had to hold on to the poles for dear life - at each stop I nearly fell, and the driver wasn't especially reckless. I'm just so drained that I can't even keep my balance anymore.

Tonight: A little more overtime. Then hours of homework.
This weekend: More homework. And hopefully remembering to see a friend's band on Saturday night. Then more homework. I need to get the project finished this weekend so that I can catch up on my 3-week backlog of reading to prepare for the exam coming up in less than 3 weeks.

All this work is crashed and immediate because of the Christmas plans that fully occupy each weekend leading up to the 25th. I find them such a drain, but they're pretty much mandatory as a newlywed. However, since The Wife will be as drained as me by Xmas, we've decided to NOT see either family on Christmas weekend. We're going to hibernate and recover.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I didn't go out for dinner and a cigar last night.  Instead I got trapped, working 8 hours of overtime (after a regular day at work).

Thus, nothing to write or preach about.  I left work, went home, sat on the couch with a beer, suddenly woke up 5 hours later, poured still-full bottle of beer into the sink, showered and got back to work.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As The Mouse Plays

The Wife has gone away for a few day. She's really busy with work, and this will be her last break before Christmas. So she's off staying with her parents.  This leaves me to my own devices.

I've got my own workload too: lots of overtime at work, so much that I have to skip school this week. Loads of homework for university. An entire album that requires vocal tracks.
So what did I do last night? After working late, I went for a beer with a coworker. Then to a local pub for another pint and dinner. After the meal, I took a walk in the unseasonably warm fog of downtown Toronto while smoking a cigar.

Then, home to bed. I enjoyed it so much, I might repeat the process tonight.

It's funny - 10 years ago I'd have bored myself senseless simply going for a solo meal and a walk. In my mid/late-thirties, it's just my speed. God, what will I be like in another decade?

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Man With A Plan

Not surprising, but I didn't will the $22million lottery on Saturday night. To be honest, the newly-revived blog would probably fall off my plate again.
However, I'm a planner. And here's my plan.

1. Charter a 2-week cruise on a small yacht. This is to ensure that I'm not about to make the biggest mistake of my life (see#4).
2. Give around $5,000,000 to friends and family.
3. Sign up for Maritime Navigation and Diesel Maintenance schooling.
4. Spend $1,000,000 (approx) on a 43' Nordhavn Trawler, and have it shipped to Toronto for spring.
5. Donate $3,000,000 to a handful of charities.
6. When Spring and the Nordhavn arrive, practice driving it on Lake Ontario for the summer. Along with it being somewhat familiar, the water is unpredictable and therefore a good place to learn.
7. Next Fall, head down the canal system to New York, down the US Atlantic coast, then over to the Bahamas for Winter#1. After that travel the world at my leisure, from the comforts of my new floating home. With lots of time spent anchored in places like this:

Hope is not yet lost, Wednesday's draw is for $25,000,000.  My plan can accommodate the budget change.

I hope The Wife wants to come, or we may have an issue...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sniper In Training

I’m an impatient man, and readily admit that.
But one of the things that annoys me most is when someone is standing in the doorway of a busy subway train and won’t make room for others to get off.
It happened to me the other day. In the midst of rush hour at Bloor Station, one guy in his mid-twenties was standing in the doorway staring blankly at nobody in particular. Unfortunately, nobody could get past him to exit. They couldn’t get past me, and I couldn’t get out of the way until Dummy moved. So I made eye contact and said “can you move please?” He just ignored me and looked away.
Being the subtle gentleman that you know and love, I just walked through him laying my shoulder into his torso. He staggered back and off the train, and I followed. Stepped to the side to give the other passengers room to exit, and re-boarded the train along with Dummy. He glared at me, furious, and angrily asked “are we good now, a***ole?”
“We are as long as you show a little common sense.” I replied and turned away from him.
We avoided each other for the next few stops until I got home.

Late the next evening, I was waiting for the subway to take me home after a university class. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone fidgeting behind me. I looked back, and it was Dummy. Angry, glaring at me, he moved towards me as if to confront me on my actions. Mouth open, finger pointed at me, he stopped and backed up a little. Then seemed to change his mind and move back towards me. Then hesitated again. Finally, he gave me an angry look and stomped away.

I know maybe I shouldn’t have physically removed the obstacle, but I can’t understand how people think it’s acceptable to be so inconsiderate to everyone around them. He wasn’t disabled, he simply didn’t care enough to show any common courtesy or sense.

For the record, I also kick the cars that nearly hit me while cutting me off in intersections, hold doors for ladies, and say please and thank-you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


In mid-December 2006 at my office, I got into an elevator with one of the executives who I’d never met. Making idle chat, he asked if I had any Christmas plans. I replied “no, I’m holding off for a couple of weeks before going to Costa Rica.”
A couple of years later, I again ended up in an elevator with the same exec, and another coworker that introduced us. “I remember you,” he said. “How did you like Costa Rica?”
I was shocked that he remembered, and flattered that he cared about his multitude of staff enough to remember such little things. I also realized that I’d be willing to work harder for this man. This attitude is how people get to that “multi-million dollar salary position.”

My version happened last night, at a much less executive level. I had to work late to supervise some workers rebuilding an office. One of the labourers looked familiar. While (he was) working away, we started chatting. “Didn’t you quit this job to go to university?” I asked.
“Yes, it didn’t work out.” He replied.
“A European Dentistry school, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah.” And that’s when he gave me a funny look. He was the one impressed and flattered, that someone up the ladder (one rung) had given him the respect. There’s often a divide between labour and management, and it’s important to try to cross it for everyone’s benefit.

It felt good to be ‘that guy’ yesterday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Port Hope-less

There have been a few recent articles in the news regarding the radioactive waste in Port Hope, Ontario. A large uranium refinery has been operating there for decades and is apparently poisoning the town. I’ve heard rumours that the waste from the Nagasaki and Hiroshima A-bombs were buried there. I remember reading somewhere that it was the second-most polluted town in North America (after Fire Island). I also saw a legitimate news article in the 1990s about a fish caught in the Ganaraska River, which flows through the middle of Port Hope. The fish had two fully-formed mouths and was blamed on the radioactivity.

The small town of 15,000 is rife with cancer, birth defects, “ghost sightings” that are likely hallucinations, and loads of other oddities. I know, because I lived there once. One friend told me how he was sitting in his high school classroom, idly daydreaming and staring out the window. Suddenly he saw men in hazmat suits run past.
All the residents are aware of the radioactivity. There are a few sterile men in town that when asked will simply shrug and say “yeah, it’s from working at the plant.”  Residents have always assumed there is waste buried under the schools, playgrounds, and parks in the area.
To be honest, there could be a lot of finger-pointing when it comes to the declining health of Port Hope residents. After all, the town’s public beach is squashed between the uranium refinery and the water treatment plant… Combining those two with the children playing and swimming in this section of Lake Ontario virtually guarantees health issues.

I don’t know what can be done, but it’s shocking that the government isn’t doing anything to assist. In all the news articles I’ve been reading, there has been no representation from our elected officials. NONE.

On the upside, my healthy green glow means I don’t need my nightlight anymore. And I'm no longer scared to drink Toronto tap-water - I'm sure I've endured worse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Self Assessment

Quote from a website regarding skills for coping with dementia patients:

“Monitor yourself for signs such as anger, anxiety, irritability, depression, social withdrawl…”

What if those are your dominant personality traits at the best of times?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bad News for a Monday

A couple of days ago, I got an email telling me that a family member is starting to break down mentally.
Alzheimer’s, dementia, I don’t know what; the diagnosis hasn’t come back yet. However, it became obvious when she was shown my wedding pictures (from 6 weeks ago) and had to ask a few times what the bride’s name was.

My family has had a lot of major trauma in the last 25 years, and always managed to pull through. Often frustrating, there seems to be an odd balance where each issue is weighed against an opposing but equally unwanted deficiency. And because of this we have always persevered.

I don’t think we can beat this one, and it’s got me worried.

Friday, November 12, 2010

More Money Than Cents

My wife and I have been married for 7 weeks. We have yet to pay down the (low) 5-figure debt from the wedding. We’re not too worried, it’s on an extremely low-interest credit line with a plan to wipe it off within a year.

So why do I have this urge to spend? When did I become such a consumerist?
I like watches and clocks, and always have. Last year I discovered Oris watches. I was offered a great deal on one, and decided to treat myself to a high-end piece of jewellery. A sexy black/silver piece on a black crocodile-leather strap.
Suddenly, it was June in Toronto. Lovely humidity, sunshine, heat. I started to sweat and realized that I would soon ruin the strap. I phoned the local Oris dealer, La Suisse, to price a steel strap for the watch. THREE HUNDRED & FIFTY DOLLARS!!!!!! No way, I might as well buy a second watch! So of course, I was offered a great deal on another (being viewed as a ‘repeat customer’ has benefits). So I bought a second one, a little less formal, more durable and casual. This one has a black rubber strap (infused with vanilla so as not to smell like a tire).
So now I want a steel strap for this one. It’s not as expensive as for the first watch strap (this one has a more common interhorn size), but still more costly than both my non-Oris watches combined!

I’m even eying cheap used Oris Diver models! WWWHHHHYYYYYYY???

My credit card is safely locked at home, I have set up my bank accounts and budgets to give me a minimal allowance, and I can only get more of my funds if I jump through self-imposed hoops.

But dammit, I want to spend. I want to spoil myself. I want to stop.

God, life is tough sometimes, ain't it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

This morning I woke up with Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" in my head. Not much of it, just the first line: "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun..."
I've been a Floyd fan for around 25 years, but today for the first time it made me think of my grandfather.

My family is British, and when World War 2 broke out everyone joined up. Everyone. My grandfather was 16 or 17, and went to enlist on Day 1. He wasn't old enough to know to lie, so when asked his age he told the truth. The enlistment officer flatly told him that he wasn't old enough to join the army. He would have to leave, walk around the block, and come back when he was 18. So what did he do? He left the office, walked around the block, and came back saying "I'm 18 sir."
He fought in North Africa and Italy. He was captured at Anzio and saw some horriffic things happen. Stories that I recently heard from my parents that are worse than you see in films.
When the war ended, he went home. He polished his medals and put them in the back of a drawer.

36 years later, he was dying of prostate cancer. He pulled his medals out of the drawer for the first time, shined them, mailed them to Canada and died. I was very close to my grandad, and it meant a lot that he wanted me to have those icons. I received them after hearing of his death, which was quite hard.
These medals sat for for another 30 years in a box hidden away in the various bedrooms I've had since then. For Christmas, my wife had them set into a shadow box along with my only photo of him. This display is mounted on the wall just as you enter my apartment. It serves as a memorial to my grandfather, and also as a reminder to live my life with the honour he did, to make his memory proud.

Thank you grandad, I miss you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Land of Opportunities and Choices

A few months ago, I applied for a new job. This job was the best and most suitable position I’ve ever heard of (except for Rock Star).

As Tour Manager for a large orchestra, I would be able to use all the skills I’ve learned in Corporate-Land, but put them to good use in a field I respect. Unfortunately, I didn’t even get an interview and they hired someone else.
A couple of days ago, I saw a posting for the same job with the same company. The Wife says I should re-apply. I’m hesitant, as I’m almost finished my schooling.
If I apply, I could get the job. I would have an exiting position full of stress, frustration, accomplishment and world travel (aka fulfillment). It would also mean dropping out of University with only one course left before graduation. I’d be in a job that I want and respect, reviving the soul I’ve peddled to the lowest bidder. But I would still have no post-secondary qualifications.

The other option is to wait. I will graduate in April, a fully-qualified Project Manager. That and a toonie will get me a coffee at Starbucks (as long as I only want tall-size and plain basic caffeine). But it will be a qualification…
I can hope that this job will reappear, or that another opportunity will rear its head at that point.
I have thought of simply applying to keep my name in the loop, but it doesn’t sit well with me. They have already received two resumes from me. I don’t want to intrude if I’m not willing to take their best-case scenario.

Any thoughts? Anyone reading this again?

Or I could just win the $11million lottery tonight and disappear over the southern horizon on my new yacht…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Return of The 'Bird

I’m back. Miss me?

When I dropped off the edge of Blogworld three years ago, I was a faceless office drone in Toronto. I had a girlfriend, an apartment, and 2 cats. I was recovering from a failed marriage and trying to "find myself."
Now, I’m a faceless office drone in Toronto, and go to University at night. I have a wife (not the previously-mentioned girlfriend or previously-mentioned wife), the same apartment and same 2 cats.

I have another blog that gets updated occasionally, which is about my life as a musician. It’s public, informative, and quite unknown.
This one is to voice my thoughts anonymously, and I’ve recently started to feel frustrated about my life. So I’m back to writing.

I wonder if anyone will know that this has been updated? I remember there being some sort of notification, but it’s been 3 years…

So let’s start with last weekend’s drama:

Billy Connolly is the funniest man on earth. I have seen him 3 or 4 times, and each time my face and belly has hurt from laughing so much. However, in the last decade I haven’t caught any of his shows. Last July, I was really happy to buy 2 tickets to his Massey Hall show. Other than my wedding day, this performance was my most-anticipated event of the year. Seriously, I woke up the morning after the wedding thinking “6 weeks to Billy!” I ordered the tickets, and they sat pinned to the kitchen corkboard for 3 months.

On Saturday afternoon, The Wife asked what time we should leave to head over to the venue. I wanted twice as much time as necessary, because I’m neurotic. We ended up splitting the difference, leaving early but not as soon as I’d have liked.
As the subway train got to Bloor St, it stopped and we were informed that it would go no further “due to a police investigation. Shuttle busses will be deployed shortly.”
Frantic to not be late, we left from the station and hurried the four blocks to Massey Hall through seedy alleyways that normally we’d avoid at night.

We arrived at Massey Hall 10 minutes before showtime with a sigh of relief. My adrenaline was already running when I handed the doorman my ticket. He looked at me with worry, and cautiously said “Sir – this ticket was for last night.”
“No,” I countered, “this is the 6th!”
“Sir, the ticket says Friday Nov5.”

Somehow I had bought tickets for the wrong date and NEVER noticed. I was furious. At myself. We begged the ticket booth for any consideration, but there was nothing they could do – it was a sold out show, and they wouldn’t even let us stand in the back.

This is where it got weird. Sure, I missed a performance I’d been looking forward to for months. Sure, I lost $200 on tickets that couldn’t be refunded or exchanged. But that was when I realized what this show meant to me. I love my wife and the life we’re building together, but I HATE the 2/3 of waking day that I spend at work. I really do – it’s the worst job I’ve ever had. Unfortunately I’m pretty much stuck here until I finish night-school and am qualified to do something else. I’ve done the math, and can’t reasonably get by on less than what I’m currently making. So I have resigned to my assignment for the next year or so.
But this was the only shining moment until a vacation booked for February. And it kinda hurt to realize that I wanted the next 3 months to disappear in a coma-like state. It made me take stock of my life, and how I’m not at a position I want to be in even though I worked hard to get here.
Screw Christmas, Screw NewYears, I just have to keep my head down and barrel through until sunshine and escape briefly present themselves.

So here you go. I’m back, I’m grumpy, and I’m vocal. Not much has changed.
I don't know how long i'll be posting for this time, but let's just see how this goes shall we?