Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Sunday, June 27, 2010

La Fête nationale du Québec

The copper roofed, historic Frontenac Hotel; the roaring majesty of St. Anne’s Gorge; the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec; the kids rolling a joint from a baggie of marijuana on the Plains Of Abraham. Nothing stirs the interest of twelve year old boys like illicit drugs (maybe the trendy clothes store FUCKlamode in lower Old-Town.)

But to be fair, all of Quebec was in a celebratory mode, and really, a joint to start the evening may have been the least of the carnage. When you see barriers being erected around your hotel and a note from staff under the door stating that you will be required to show your room key to security to gain access, you can expect a little madness; the posters stating that the last of the bands would be starting at 3:00 AM only add to the drama. Now, move the entire party consisting of 300,000 people to the park next to your hotel and you get the idea.

The Quebecers (pronounced ka-BEEK-ers) take their National Holiday of Quebec (La Fête nationale du Québec) extremely seriously. This is a province that twice in the last thirty years voted on a referendum for secession from Canada. It’s a complicated dynamic; suffice to say it is a result of Quebecers feeling as though they were never given the social, political and cultural respect they deserve from greater Canada. Much of this stems from constitutional back-stabbing in the eighties whereby the Canadian government created their constitution through back-door dealing with the other nine provinces…Quebec still has not ratified the constitution. You heard me…Quebec has NOT ratified their country’s Constitution. (To be fair, Quebec hasn’t always worked and played well with the other provinces…in 1977, as a slap in the face to the Federal Government; they made French the official language of the province. It would be like Nebraska making Rastafarian their official language.)

So, in an effort to again trump the Feds, the Quebecers throw a blow out party on June 23rd, a week before the lightly celebrated Canadian National day of July 1st. Even though our hotel was modestly protected, the rest of the city was up for grabs. Apart from the dope, alcohol consumption was not only tolerated on city streets as well as the park, but seemingly encouraged. So, we have: 300,000 independent minded Quebecers + a long winter + copious booze + unsanctioned fireworks displays = Mardi Gras, Carnival, Running With The Bulls; all on Human Growth Hormones.

After partaking in some fanatical Quebec flag waving near the main stage and a few refills of local brew, the family and I strolled once more through the park. By this time, about ten o’clock, legions of youths were traipsing past our hotel with coolers. I knew from the previous days wandering where the US Consulate was in case evacuation was needed…I was picturing going helicopter style like in Vietnam…getting plucked off the roof. Alas, other than the occasional Roman Candle flitting past our window, we survived unscathed. The same couldn’t be said the next morning for the guy who covered the entire street outside of our hotel as he plunked one heavy foot in front of the other, back and forth, back and forth, as he made his way home.

(The picture above is from the day after the party.  Notice any mention of Canada is crossed out...among other things.  Really, they are serious about this.  But you know, they are damned nice to us Americans.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm Back! (almost)

Just got back from a great family vacation in Quebec City.  Looking foward to filling in some of the details here...think: snails, independance and the fun of not speaking the language!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Sport I Will Never Play - And It Is Not Soccer

There are some sports that are so violent; no state would possibly sanction them. Cockfighting at City Hall would be more palatable to the masses. In the spirit of “some of the best sports are ones that have never been invented,” the kids have developed “Handball.” Seems innocuous enough, yes?

To stage a match, you need two hockey nets placed at either end of the yard. Since we have more nets than Quebec Province in our cul-de-sac, this is not a problem. You need a ball, preferably one that has air in it, though it is surprising the kids don’t use a brick. Finally, you need a group of boys with violence in their hearts.

There is but one objective, get that friggin’ ball in the net at all costs with no regard for your own safety or the safety and well being of others. The beauty of inventing games is that you get to set the rules; in this game, there are none. Here are some examples of things that flirt with being felonious, but in “handball,” are not only allowed, but considered exemplary:

• Blind side cross body block to the back of the person who doesn’t have the ball.
• Driving your opponent into the deck steps.
• Leg whips that sends someone tumbling into the thorny patch of blackberry bushes.
• The Cobra Clutch.

Of course, with such random violence, occasional, actual violence breaks out. Since there are no rules, the argument is not about if someone went out of bounds, rather, someone may have taken exception to being impaled on a garden stake.

It reminds me of a time in college when the guys who lived next door to us got their hands on a pair of boxing gloves. One afternoon when they were properly lubricated, they were going to “play box.” Ideally this meant good natured, light tapping. A few laughs, a leathery kiss to the top of the head and it would have been over. That lasted three seconds before someone took exception to a decent right cross…punches with bad intention soon were thrown with malice. We watched, didn’t break it up, and tapped the keg of Milwaukee’s Best.

This afternoon’s game had me reading the fine print of my homeowner’s insurance policy to see if coverage is extended to illegal sports played by minors on my property. This was after I witnessed what was as close to a pile driver I have seen since the Super Fly Snuka days…and this happened away from the ball. There doesn’t seem to be a certain score that ends the game – it seems to end when everyone has pretty much had enough of beating the shit out of each other. Red faced and sucking air, the boys tossed on their swim suits and headed off to the neighbor’s pool…who hopefully has the industrial filter system that can clean the water of sweat, grass and blackberry thorns.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Anniversary Issue (Nice and Short)

In my last post, I made mention that within the contact field of my Blackberry, there was the “anniversary” function, and I wondered who would possibly need this outside of their own lives. Well, sonofabitch, if my blog isn’t about one year old! Maybe this year it will learn to walk! Oddly, when I was looking through my first entries (and please, please do not do this to yourself –they are aimless and could easily lead you to believe that I was one or two keystrokes away from writing a “manifesto” of some sort) I realized I had this weird gap. There were some in June, and then nothing until September. I wish I could at least fill in this gap, but I can’t remember what the hell was going on that this space exists. It’s kind of like the Darien Gap in Panama, thus preventing a true land route between the Americas.

I fully realize my posts can come off as; arrogant, self-righteous, condescending, stupid, poorly written, out of touch and foolish. But you know what? I fucking like it. But here is the other, most important part; I have heard some pretty complimentary things over the year. And that feels really great. Writing this nonsense only for me wouldn’t be much fun, and I really hesitated plopping my link on Facebook. But over the past year, this little blog has generated several thousand hits.

So, whether you have come by once or read every post, I really want to thank each and every one of you. It really means a lot to me…actually, probably more than you will ever know. I have been blessed.

So, until you find something better to read (like the Dead Sea Scrolls) I will be looking forward to another year! THANKS!

(The photo is where the action happens.  Right in the kitchen, where there are plenty of distractions!  The beer is mandatory.  Off to the side are all of this year's lacrosse stat team statistician, my job was to compile the stats from all the games, upload them to a spreadsheet and send them to the coaches so they could promptly ignire them.  My brother has a standing order that if something happens to me he is to run my hard drive through a chipper and scatter the bits in the Darien Gap.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How Many Ways Can I Get In Touch With You?

I don’t have a smart phone; I have a phone that is too smart for its own good. If it’s true that there is a fine line between brilliance and insanity, my Blackberry is it. I fear that between texts, messaging, web browsing, actual old fashioned phone calls, some apps that I downloaded (Pandora, Jethro Tull Radio!), something called VZ Navigator and more folders than a doctor’s office and more icons that a Coen Brothers movie, I am only challenging this phone at about 10% of its insanely powerful capacity. I am pretty sure with the correct tweaking and keystrokes I could use it fiddle with the atomic clock.

Occasionally I randomly open folders to reveal an even greater number of widgets and gadgets I have no use for. I promptly hit the red phone button to escape literally and figuratively back to my home screen…where I feel safe.

But the other day, I was adding a number to my contacts. (Gotta have contacts, lots and lots of contacts! Is there anything more we love than contacts?) As many times I as have done this, this was the first time something really odd struck me. Did you ever look at the expanse of fields on the contact page? Not so briefly: Title, Name (first, last), Nickname (who the hell would ever really use this? Would you put in “Bob” for “Robert”, or “’limpdick” for your college roommate?), picture (if you are over thirteen and use this, 3 to 1 you also Twitter), Company, Job Title, Custom Ring Tones for this contact when they call or message you (I did call my buddy one time looking for him in a bar and heard the tune Sexy Motherfucker…), two each; email, work phone, home phone, mobile phone, a Pager Field (isn’t it easier to get a cassette player than a pager?), Work Fax, Home Fax, Other (OTHER! What the hell was left out? “Limpdick, I am just going to put your Social Security Number in ‘other’”), PIN (no shit…I think this is some sort of Blackberry code for their Instant Messenger app…but who the hell knows), Work Address, Home Address, Birthday, Anniversary (what anniversary, besides your own do you really need! Insanity!), a field that says “Categories” (I’m thinking: Good Guy, Whore, Drunk, that sort of thing), Web Page, then four fields that are labeled User 1 – 4 (is this a question? User? Fuck yeah she’s a user!), and lastly, Notes (likes tequila shots and lapdances from “pre-law” students).

Thirty-Three…that is the number of possible entries you could make for one person’s contact information! Recently, my wife told me she was thinking of getting rid of our land line…no one uses it. According to my Blackberry, not only do I need one home number, I actually need two. Who am I to argue with a phone that is smarter than me?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dog Urine and the BP Fix

The following is a side by side comparison of two remedies for a particular scenario. A case study if you will. First, I will present the problem, and then I will present two solutions. I invite you to vote and/or comment on which one seems more practical.

SCENARIO: Our dog, Zeke, the bastard son of a mongrel bitch is fourteen and a half years old. As such, he is occasionally prone to accidents in the house. As much as we would, obviously, wish this wouldn’t happen, his equipment, though long and well serving, is not always reliable. Today, in the living room, I found two things; 1) the remnants of a bologna container, and 2) a urine stain on the carpet. The container was tossed (again) in the recycle container but the urine stain is what this case study is about (Isn’t that always the case?)

Solution 1: Knowing there is always a risk of this happening, we do our best to get Zeke outside as frequently as possible in hopes of mitigating the risk of peeing in the house. However, sometimes the forces at work mean 1) we aren’t home at the exact time he has to pee, or 2) he doesn’t realize it until it is too late. (Don’t laugh, adult diapers are a million dollar industry.) This being the case, we always keep a bottle of Woolite Pet Cleaner on hand. When I saw the stain, I immediately blotted as much of the urine out of the carpet as I could, doused the area with the Woolite, and patted/blotted the stain. Fix time, three and a half minutes.

Solution 2: Though I know Zeke peeing in the house remains a real possibility, I am willing to assume that risk and hope that even if he does, he will somehow pee directly into the floor drain in the laundry room. When I saw today that he peed on the carpet, my first response was to say it was not that bad and that I hadn’t been properly informed of the risks of this actually happening. I am going to ignore the stain at this point and spend the next several months looking for an engineering fix that may or may not have ever been tested. I tell my wife that the stain, though unsightly, will eventually dry and fade…but not completely. Months and maybe years from now there will be an uneven dark circle on the carpet, but since no one really sits on the floor in that exact spot, what real future problem does it present? In the meantime, still ignoring the stain, I insist that I am working with the best and brightest our country has to offer, because I need to know whose ass to kick. After several months of focus groups and think tanks, the overwhelming results seem, somehow, to point to the fact that I was negligent. By this time, however, I am hoping the boys decide to repaint my car with some spray paint they found in the woods* thus drawing attention completely away from my previous lack of judgment.

Simple right? Action or inaction? My son, 12, asked me this exact question two days ago, “Why isn’t anybody doing anything about the oil?”

(* This derives from a real life situation…the kids did find spray paint in the woods when they were younger and painted my garage door, the neighbor’s garage door and the neighbors mailbox.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

D.A.R.E. - To be Honest

I have no quarrel with a good argument. In fact, one of the few things I am sure of in this world is that there are two sides to EVERY story. However, I like to call bullshit when I see it – or in this case, read it. A few weeks ago, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Dr. Neil Capretto, the medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation posited the opinion that legislating the use of medical marijuana is “foolhardy.” So says he.

His basis is that there are plenty of prescription meds on the market to deal with the health issues of sick people and that legalizing a largely untested and unregulated drug like pot can have dire consequences. Maybe.

However, I would like to know how many of the doctor’s patients enter his rehabilitation center severely addicted to the same medications he claims as being “safe” because they are FDA approved? Pain pills in this country are doled out like handbills on Election Day. My cousin died from being addicted to oxycontin, not because he may have smoked a joint once in a while.

Doctor Capretto does advocate the further testing of the drug and his point is well taken that it should be studied more to determine its possible benefits. The problem with this approach is that the government machinations in place move grindingly slow. This is further coupled by the fact that we are still living in the post-Reagan “Just Say No” era that grew out of the embrace of the sixties counter-culture’s use of pot. However, no other illegal drug has gained one bit of traction as a viable form of medication. Cocaine, acid; they all had their heyday. The reason stronger drugs have not held sway is actually pretty simple. People are pretty smart at sorting out what is good and bad. We already had a massive clinical trial for marijuana in this country for fifty years. Millions of people have smoked pot. While I am sure there are well documented cases of a small number of people having psychotic episodes or needing medical care, I would also bet the numbers pale in comparison to the dangers of alcohol. I can see legislators now denouncing pot over a few martinis, and then getting in their car. Can’t you?

I fully respect the doctor’s concern given his position. However, his clinic operates at least some degree because of pain pill addiction; drugs that were tested, vetted, studied and prescribed legally. This leads me to believe that the current system in place to get drugs to market does not provide a barrier to addiction. In fact, I would assume that most pain pill addiction starts due to the lawful prescription of these pills. The point is, to conclude as the doctor seems to; that the normal course of bringing drugs to market somehow protects the end user from abuse is disingenuous.

Let’s be even more frank…blunt actually. Have many of us have smoked a joint in their lives? I mean, how many of YOU? The anecdotal evidence I have seen, from friends not personal experience, is that side effects include raiding the pantry, not a lust for black tar heroin. I know, someone has a friend who smoked a joint and is now scoring crack from a prostitute. Well, the bars don’t open at 6:00 AM on Butler Street for an after work cocktail…but no one seems to give a shit about that. I’d ramble more, but its 4:20…

(Don't call me a pro-drug me a realist.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sex Ed 2010, or, What I never Learned In Catholic School

Last Wednesday, I came home and asked my son how his test went. He said, “I got them all correct but I had a little trouble remembering the difference between uterus and urethra.”

See, last week was the much vaunted “Reproductive Health” course at school. After gladly signing the permission slip so the boys could learn the technical terms for the things they talk about on the bus anyway, I anticipated the week and some insightful, if not embarrassing conversation. From what I could tell they spent three class periods (pun definitely intended) studying, 1) the male reproductive system, 2) the female reproductive system and 3) the basics on how they worked together…or in the case of married men, how they theoretically worked together.

The conversations after school went like this.

Me: What did you learn about?
Them: Hormones…and a few other things.
Me: Yeah, like what?
Them: Pubic hair…and a few other things.

Where it went from there will remain between me and two twelve year olds.

During day three, they covered STD’s. Fine by me, who am I to get in the way of that (and is it true that if you get crabs and hold a mirror down there they all jump off because they think they are going to greener pastures? Or, was that just the line the hooker in Tijuana told me…I mean told me friend). Interestingly though, by law there was to be no discussion whatsoever of condoms or other forms of birth control…not even the pull and pray method; the favorite among college students everywhere. I mean if you are going to talk about sex and STD’s, well, haven’t you already gone there anyway? Good Lord, when the swine flu issue was playing out I longed for the good old days of duct tape and plastic for the next terror attack. Can you imagine the CDC stating, “This flu can be really bad, and golly we have some ways to help prevent it, but we are just not sure if the public is ready.”

My point is…what the fuck are we so afraid of? I’m pretty sure a little discussion about condoms is not going cause an uptick in stolen condoms among twelve year olds. How can we harm our kids by giving them information? It could have been done thusly, “Listen kids, one more thing. You guys may be a little young right now, but it may not be long before you are going to have to make some choices. The only 100% sure way of preventing STD’s is to refrain from sex. But if the time comes and you think this is something you want to engage in, you have to know how to protect yourself and the person you are with. You have to wear a condom or you and your partner risk getting really sick. When that time comes, there are resources available to you to help you make that decision. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing in the world.”

I know, there is the whole argument about how I should talk to my kids. Believe me, my wife and I do and will. If they can handle talk about erections, I’m pretty sure they can handle some discussion on condoms…or “rubbers” as I am sure they are called on the bus.