Monday, February 28, 2011

Darwinism At It's Best

Apparently Colin Rutherford needed a holiday. So of course, you don't have to go far down the alphabet before discovering Afghanistan as a world tourist mecca.
And now, he's been kidnapped by the Taliban.

I can maybe understand if you're Afghani and have family back home. Maybe. I've never met Colin Rutherford, but I'm going to make an assumption that this isn't Mr. Englishasanamecouldbe's heritage. He went to Afghanistan as a tourist. And now he's in trouble.

The Canadian Government is going to spend a lot of time and money trying to rescue him. The Canadian Military will likely risk soldiers' lives trying to rescue him.
And this fool is responsible for anything and everything that happens to him. I hope there are no losses related to his predicament, that would be unfair to those men and women risking their lives for Queen and Country.

If I was the Canadian Prime Minister, I'd have someone make a phone call to see if the Taliban would be nice enough to let him go. And then I'd close the book on him.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fifteen Years

This month marks the 15th anniversary of my moving to Toronto.

I was living in B-F, Ontario, and I hated it. I had spent a couple of months living in the Annex neighbourhood the year before, and it felt like 'home'. That was a feeling I'd never experienced before, and knew it would keep me from committing suicide in the small town I was trapped in. I would rather have died quickly than spend another year in that hellhole.
Thus, early February 1996, I spent 3 days sleeping on my city friend's sofa while looking for an apartment. I acquired a room in a clean-looking rooming house on Bathurst St, and headed back to town to close out life there. I wrote my last high-school exam to obtain my Grade 12 diploma, had one last dental visit booked to pull my wisdom teeth, and my bags were packed. The day after my teeth were removed, I was in my friend's van headed to a new life in the city. I may have been loaded up on T3's, but the high was due to the excitement of escaping the small town.
Moving to Toronto, I had no job and $3000 in my pocket. Losing $800 of that to rent and deposit, and another $1000 to bartending school, gave me a very short window to find work and catch up. After my second day of school, a week of living in the city, I was walking home and passed a psychotic-looking drunk. Avoiding eye contact, I was surprised when he called my name. It was an old friend from school! I had made another contact in the city! We went for a coffee, and renewed a friendship that would last for quite a few years before Toronto ruined him.
And so went the struggle up to the sunshine. It took a couple of months to find a job, learning to live on $7/week for food, starving in a rat-infested dump (rooming house wasn't as nice as appeared), and one month on welfare (nightmare).
I ended up getting a job working the midnight shift at a gas station. This gave me a steady, if small, paycheque. Then I was able to upgrade to a clean bachelor apartment. Then I switched to a management position at a busier gas station. A little more money, and a better bachelor apartment.
Then, another old friend moved to Toronto and found a job in the mailroom at a large law firm. He got me a position there too. At this time, I was making friends quickly and enjoying city life. With basic art skills and connections, I got a paid apprentice position at a tattoo studio. I quit when the owner and I argued about the 'paid' aspect, but it was due to his failing, crack-addled memory. Then I joined a band and recorded a CD. I was fired from that group after a few months. I joined a new one, made 3 discs with them, played a lot, and quit a few years later.
I made a lot of good friends, lovers, and had many, many, many crazy experiences.
I temped through a few random jobs before getting an entry-level job on Bay St. I got a NICE apartment, and shortly after that I met my first wife. I moved to the 'burbs for a couple of years. I hated it, and disliked her. I left and came HOME. I got an even nicer home, and started going to university at night.
Then I met OLK, she moved in, we got engaged, and married.

Life is great. It's strange to remember how I felt 15 years ago. I was depressed, hated myself and my surroundings. I felt that I had no future, and disliked my past. I didn't want to BE. Now, I'm not depressed. I love my surroundings. Toronto is still 'home'.

I wonder where I'll be in another 15 years?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Healthy Dickey

Well, it’s been a week.
Last Wednesday I set foot in a gym for the first time ever. Each day since then, I have spent my lunch hour running 3 miles, and sitting in the steam room. And I’m not hurting like I had expected.

The showers were a mixed bag. I have never in my life used a communal shower, so it's a litle uncomfortable. In high school, it wasn’t an issue: I spent my Phys Ed classes smoking while playing, and doing as little as possible. In 2 years of that class, I don’t think I broke a sweat once.  The two nights I spent in jail were simple overnighters. No showers (thank christ), just time to sober up and wait for the bruises to fill out.
After 5 days, I’m more or less used to showering publicly. It feels great to go back to the office after lunch, fully refreshed and feeling like the day’s just started. Actually, that’s the biggest benefit to this.

I’m 36 years old.
I started smoking when I was 13, inhaling almost 25 a day for 2 decades, quitting when I was 33 years of age. I started drinking regularly around 15, and am only just slowing down now. I have a social drink, or cigar now, but am avoiding the binges.  But there is a 20-year span of this to account for, and this is probably the best way to do it.
Also, I realized that my dad was less than a decade older than me when he had 2 massive strokes. Heart disease and strokes are in my family like distant aunts and uncles.

I've been going to the gym for a week as a guest. Today I paid for the membership. I’ll have a “fitness assessment” next week, and a couple of $60 personal trainer sessions to show me how to do whatever it is that I need to do.
And then I’m off – 4 days a week, 1 hour a day, Fridays stay free to have a congratulatory cocktail.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pizza and Coke. No, Other Coke!

15 years ago, I worked the midnight shift at a gas station in downtown Toronto.

I spent a good chunk of my paycheque having lunch delivered from the local pizza joint. A run-down place on a quiet side-street, I never knew how they stayed in business. I found them because they were the only pizzaria open until 4am.
From this unusual schedule, I discovered that they had the best pizza in the city! An independent store, with reasonable prices and good food.

This morning, it got busted with more than $1million dollars worth of marijuana, crack, and oxycontin. No wonder the pizza was so good!!! The owner has been charged with trafficking and possession, around 15 charges in total I think.

I miss that pizzaria.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Antigua Escape

Sorry it took a week to write up, but here’s the lowdown on the holiday OLK and I took 2 weeks ago.
Saturday. Saturday was pretty uneventful. A mid-afternoon departure from Toronto got us to Antigua at around 9:30pm. It was interesting to approach the tiny island in the dark, with minimal lighting in the coastal villages. The bus trip from the airport to the resort had me a bit worried – OLK and I were around 30 years younger than the other 4 couples making the trek! I really worried that we had mis-judged the trip, and would be surrounded by fuddy-duddies that were more interested in the local price of the gasoline than the driver’s must-see list of the country. A fast check-in, and we headed down to the bar for a drink and a cigar. Then, an early night.
We had already planned to do nothing on Sunday. We woke early, and had a surprisingly bad breakfast. This resort is the only place on Earth where I have tried the bacon and refused to eat it again. Still, a quick meal and we were off. I wanted to go to the nearby supermarket to replace my sunglasses that broke on the plane. The rest of the day was spent lounging by (and in) the pool and reading. Recuperating. I met a guy from Pickering who was there with his family. We struck up a conversation and he had me intrigued with tales of sailing from The Canary Islands to the Bahamas. We ended up drinking together most evenings at the hotel bar. There was an evening trip to Shirley Heights that was highly recommended, but we didn’t think it was worth $60US to see a picturesque lookout from the middle of a huge crowd of tourists and steel bands. Instead we went to the hotel bar, where they were having a Karaoke Night. An American got up, saying “This is for my ex-wife” and sang Like A Rolling Stone. We all had a good laugh. He sat down next to OLK and I and formed a quick friendship. OLK decided to sing Life On Mars, by David Bowie, but was horrified (and confused) when they started playing a horrible techno/dance remake of the classic glam ballad. She managed to get through the song, but was pretty pissed off that she’d looked so foolish and tasteless. She agreed to sing a duet with the Bitter Dylan Balladeer, but was in the washroom when their song started. I held up the family honour, and ran up to sing with him instead. Awful, drunken noise, but fun.
On Monday, we booked our excursions for the week: a catamaran circumnavigation of the island, and a zip-line adventure. After that, headed into St. John’s, the capital city. It was quite rundown, and we felt somewhat unwelcome there. 45 minutes after arriving and wandering the streets, we decided to give up and head back to the hotel. We parked our bums beside the pool, swam in the Caribbean Sea, and wandered through Jolly Harbour Marina to ogle the yachts and have lunch at the marina bar. Enjoying a super-spicy Caribbean chicken dish, I was attacked by a gecko that leapt onto my shoulder and quickly ran away. Friendly little critter. Then, an afternoon nap before dinner. I spent the evening in the bar again, while OLK had an early night (this was the usual night routine – some guests didn’t believe OLK existed!).
We got up early Tuesday morning to board the huge catamaran to circumnavigate Antigua. We met a couple that were making a pit-stop from their cruise liner on this trip. They were friendly, and also from Southern Ontario. Heading around the northeast coast, we sailed into the Atlantic Ocean hitting giant waves unimpeded since Africa. They were huge, the yacht was rolling heavily, and I LOVED it! When the bows buried into the oncoming waves, the spray would shoot up 20 feet to hit me. Fantastic. We stopped for a couple hours of snorkeling, lunch, and booze. The snorkeling was good, and there was a nearby shipwreck that wouldn’t sink due to the coral reefs. It just sat on the water, begging to be climbed. Unfortunately it was close but inaccessible. After the swim, I sat in the shallow water with a beer and cigar. This left me the last person in the lunch line. Unfortunately they were short ONE food allocation, and I only got a spoonful of rice. And rum. Still, I had a good time. After the yacht tour, we went back to the hotel for dinner, then OLK to our room and me to the bar. Again.
Wednesday was another do-nothing pool day. We swam, drank, tanned, and read.
Thursday morning we went into the jungle for some zip-lining. We had a great time, and it was pretty exciting. After the zips, there was a treetop “adventure tour” which was terrifying at times. Specifically when we had to step off the ledge and drop around 30 feet. There was a safety line, but it was the stepping that was freaky. Jumping would have been fine, but we had to simply walk off the edge. Unnerving. The zip-line adventure tired us out, so we spent the rest of the day lounging and reading by the pool. We had dinner that night at a nice Italian restaurant in the marina next door.
Friday we lounged. We were disappointed to not be able to book the hotel’s ala carte restaurants (they were full) as we were tired of the buffet fare every night. There weren’t many places close to the hotel, so we were pretty much stuck with the bland, disappointing buffed restaurant each dinner.
Saturday I managed to take a quick sailing lesson and whip around the bay on a Hobie Cat. The wind was really gusty, and the watersports staff were considering shutting down. It was lots of fun, and I’m totally hooked on sailing now. I spent an hour nearly capsizing the boat, burying the bows into oncoming waves, and generally misusing the techniques I’d just learned. A few people caught huge gusts of wind and capsized the boats, but I wasn’t one of them. Then, at 6pm, we left to head to the airport. While waiting, I looked through the Duty Free store. They had my favourite Cuban cigars there, but the prices were exactly the same as what we pay in Toronto. The cashier heard my comment, and knocked $15 off the price. Who haggles in Duty Free? The sketchy mofo probably got them for duty-free prices, and then randomly added his extra profit. I didn’t get a receipt either, which made me a little nervous when coming through Canada Customs. Our 8:30 flight was delayed an hour and a half, which meant that we would be leaving after all the Antigua shops closed. With this delay, I was roped into buying an EIGHT DOLLAR (US) small bottle of water!!! Bastards. The flight home was uneventful, we landed in Toronto at around 3am, and arrived at home at 4am. We went straight to bed, exhausted.

Then, life got back to normal too quickly: grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, and work work work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I'm a busy guy. You can tell because I still haven't been able to write about my holiday…

I work Monday to Friday 9-5(ish). There's also overtime/ evening/ weekend work on top of that.
I have singing lessons on Tuesday evenings.
I go to university on Thursday evenings.
On Sundays, the only time I'm alone, I try to work on my music.
This leaves me 3 evenings and Saturdays for myself. Given that I was told recently that the homework/ classtime ratio should be roughly 3:1, that takes care of my other weekday evenings.

I'm also surprisingly flabby. I've wanted to exercise for a couple of years now. I gained around 30lbs when I quit smoking. Combining that with my taste for beer and a desk-job, I'm in need of some shaping up. A couple of times a year I try to set a workout regimen, but after a couple of weeks I get bogged down with life and drop out. By the time I finish work I'm often tired, hungry and frustrated. Not exactly the best shape to do anything.

A coworker invited me today, to get a membership at a fancy-pants "executive" gym with him. I don't need the fancy, or the inflated costs of a Bay St gym, but the lunchtime schedule might be just what I need. It'll give me an excuse to NOT work for an hour. It'll give me a way to expend frustration in my day. And it'll give me something to do other than head to the pub for a fattening comfort-meal, returning with beer on my breath and gravy on my tie. 
Plus, with us both committing, there's someone to shout "Hey, it's time." Backing out on someone else who expects the company and support makes it much harder to shirk.

Another bonus is that I'll have to go shopping for workout clothes…

To be honest, as Kevin Spaces shouted in 'American Beauty', I JUST WANNA LOOK GOOD NAKED!

I'll let you know if I actually go through with this commitment.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Hi All,
We're back from Antigua, safe and sound.  Unfortunately i'm swamped with work and haven't had time to write about our adventures.

Give me a couple of days, i'm still on "Island Time"...