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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Knotts & McGavin

By now you've likely heard or read about the recent passing of Don Knotts and Darren McGavin, 81 and 83 respectively. These two actors played memorable roles in my childhood.

I have fond memories of watching Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which always seemed to air on Sunday afternoons. I sympathized with Knotts as he tried to prove he was brave (and a good reporter) - tried to prove he belonged. I can also remember eating chips and drinking pop on the gym floor mats while my friends and I watched this movie.

And then there was McGavin, whose performance as Kolchak: The Night Stalker stays with me to this day. He, too, played a reporter. The situations he found himself in seriously creeped me out. I've encountered the occasional bit of resistance or attitude while following a story, but I've never been attacked by a room full of possessed mannequins. Or maybe that was just in his mind. I don't know: I was 8 at the time. But here I am writing about it. And some say TV doesn't matter. Rubbish.

But I definitely recall the sense of intrigue and the excited conversations with my friends the mornings following each episode. Standing under the big steel cross bolted to the front of the our Catholic school in Markham, we would share our reactions to Kolchak and speculate on the evil that lurked around every corner.

In my quieter moments, I would ponder the role of the storyteller or journalist. The very idea of snooping around and writing about it seemed too good to be true. Perhaps that's why the idea of becoming a writer of any kind never really came back to me until I was long out of university. But that's a whole other story.

What I do know is that I'm sorry to hear about the deaths of these two actors. But they will live on, because these men were a part of my childhood. And they will serve to remind me why I love telling stories so damn much. It's not just about telling them; it's about remembering and retelling them.

And if you inspire someone else to tell stories (yours or theirs), then you've done your job and can rest in peace.

Update: Shortly after I posted this, I heard that Dennis Weaver, also in his early 80s, passed away. What the hell? That's three. Maybe I shouldn't read too much into this. Old people do die.

Still. It's weird.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Karma on a Sunday Afternoon

Since Louise broke her elbow I've been on full-time chauffeur duty. I drive three generations (her parents live in the basement) of family members here and there - school, work, grocery store, etc. I would do it even if I didn't like it, because, well, they're family (see my last post).

But it just so happens I love driving. When Louise and I first met we discovered this fact right away and were delighted. She doesn't care for driving. I love being at the wheel. I especially love road trips. I still don't mind city driving too much, except when I'm in a hurry. Or when I'm in a bad mood.

One day last week I was in a bad mood AND I was late for something. Having forgotten something at home, I sped through a nearby residential area, narrowly avoiding detection by a policeman who was idling at an intersection and whose line of vision was temporarily blocked by a SUV. Judging by the way he stared at me as I passed him, I'm sure he sensed something was up. Now, this is a quiet residential area with three schools. I really deserved to be punished.

Yesterday I was driving Louise somewhere. This time I was driving on an insanely busy stretch of Weston Road near Albion. I had just passed up over the 401, down under the Albion overpass, and was motoring along a a good clip when, BAM, I got the wave-over. You know that angry cop wave - the shame wave. Rigid finger on one hand and radar gun in the other: "Gotcha, buddy. Get the fuck over here."

I'm not sure if profanity was going through his mind at the time, but it was going through mine.

I was doing 71 in a 50. How such a bustling area gets a 50 km/hr designation is beyond me. The flow of traffic demands speed there. It's a busy interchange teeming with cars jockeying for position. Anyway, I got my first speeding ticket since high shool (1984 or so), and $103.75 worth of karma to boot.

At first I was pissed off for getting snagged in speed trap. Then I thought about the kids in that residential area. While helping my own family I had forgotten to think about other families. That's bad.

So, I quietly folded my ticket, told the officer I had no questions, and slowly drove off. As I merged into traffic on Weston Road, I saw the young officer was waving an SUV into the same parking lot.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentine's Day

Love and let love. Get up tomorrow and do it again.

There is no greater courage.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Spam Slam, Thank You Mam

I think it's time to put a spam block on my computer. I have the other protection packages. But I never bothered with the spam one because, well, I never used to get much spam.

Lately, however, I've been getting a steady stream of emails offering cheap drugs. Most of these emails deal with sexual performance. Now I need a protection package to block email dealing with ... packages.

You've probably been seen the work of these penis-pill shills: "Increased stamina" and "Firmer, stronger erections" and "Increase blood flow" and so on.

Now, on my planet one does not seriously discuss private parts with strangers. This policy has served me well all my life, so I don't intend to adopt a new one now. However, it seems that something has changed in terms of communication in the other direction. At what point did the presumption of impotence in all men become an acceptable and effective marketing strategy? Don't get me wrong. I'm not dismissing men who actually suffer from erectile difficulties. I wish them all the best (whatever that means to them). I'm just saying that I don't believe I know anyone who would respond favourably to unsolicited messages implying sexual inadequacy, especially first thing in the morning.

It's like a deranged man poking his head into your window and shouting, "Hey, good mornin', has the cock crowed?! Does the cock crow?"

To which you could only reply, "I think he just did."

Furthermore, why quote statistics? Is that to feign sympathy? Or is it to make men feel guilty?

To quote one of the emails: "A recent survey showed that 68% of women are unsatisfied with their sexual partners."

So? How is this my problem? I leave it to 68% (give or take, depending on lifestyle choices) of the adult male population to deal with those women. Leave me out of it!

Besides, my guess is that most men suffering from this sort of problem don't give a damn about the other, er, members of the crowd. As for me, I'm content to keep the private private.

I wish the spammers would do the same.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An intense week

It's been quite the week. We got our puppy early, which was a nice bonus, and began playing with him and feeding him. Happy puppy. Happy family. Everything was good.

Then, two days later, while going to work the morning after rain and a temperature drop, my partner, Louise, slipped on snow-covered ice and broke her elbow. It was bad. It needed surgery, and wires to hold it together. Connor and I both fell going to her aid. Evil ice! It was as though it was going after the entire family! We two males were okay, luckily, though my own badly bruised elbow and knee still smart when I put pressure on them.

So we rushed to the hospital. After waiting a day to be sure surgery was necessary, we struggled (with the help of the surgeon) to get Louise into the O.R. as quickly as possible. Such an overloaded health care system! This is no surprise, of course. But things seem worse and painfully clear when someone you love is hurt. The brain tends to work that way, I think. Maybe it's just us, but we don't think someone with a shattered elbow should have to sit in a gown all day, I.V. in arm, waiting for surgery. The triage nurse told us they had admitted a whole bunch of slip-and-fall cases that slippery day. Stupid weather.

At the hospital we got upset. The staff were great. They just don't have the resources and space. So, after fuming at the hospital, I would drive home, where I would get angry with the puppy for doing his business in the wrong places. I know, he's just a puppy and doing what comes natural to puppies. We hadn't had time to get him a cage or start to train him properly when the accident happened. I think I went through a truckload of paper towels in one week. Compounding all this was the usual stress of life.

To cut a long and stress-filled story short, Louise is home and recovering. Her prognosis is good. And the puppy is starting to do his thing on the puppy pads. Happy day! I spent the past week tending to my family. And though my blog is back on my radar, my priorities as clear as ever.

Clearer, in fact.