Tuesday, March 30, 2010

:: A week off ::

I think that I've mentioned this before, but in the past – especially when I was in college – I would get sick at the end of nearly every semester or long period of stress/work, etc.

In school, I used to spend the first 3-4 days of my Christmas break, and usually the first couple days of the summer, lying in bed not because I was lazy (although I was) but because I felt awful and worn down. Basically, my body and my brain were exhausted.

I've had a few similar episodes since I graduated – usually after a rough week or two stretch at work, but by and large, it hasn't been that bad. I don't tend to get too stressed out these days, even if I do still have a recurring dream where I wake up (in my dream, not in real life) only to realize I have a semester's worth of projects/essays/final exams to do that day, and haven't prepared for any of them.

That dream stems from the time that really did happen to me –my final semester before graduation. But that's another story for another day. The point is, for the last few years, I've been pretty stress-free, never feeling too worn down.

But right now, I feel, not worn down or stressed per se, but just... off.

At work, for example, I haven't been able to focus as much as usual, and while I don't think my work has really suffered, I just haven't felt too good. The creativity/writing ability needed to do my job just isn't here right now, and I don't know where it's gone.

And the thing is, I'm not particularly stressed with regard to work, nor am I getting sick like I used to in college, nor am I overly tired or worn down physically, but I think the fact that work has been a little tougher than usual (including working a few weekends) plus the fact that all the house-selling/buying/packing/moving drama is over with, has really absolutely drained me.

I'm having a tough time putting it into words (which is obvious, if you've read this far), but I just feel like my brain needs a break. A serious, more-than-a-long-weekend break where I don't think about work at all.

Of course, we have Easter Weekend coming up (even if I only get three days off, not four), and then it's my birthday, and then I have a week off for Vegas, so that break is coming soon.

But really, it can't come soon enough.

And even though I know that going to Vegas with about 20 people – or whatever the number is at now – isn't exactly a recipe for relaxation, it at least will get my mind a chance to be addled with booze, instead of work-related thoughts.

God knows I need it.

:: False advertising ::

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the air/fabric freshener, Febreze. What makes it different from other similar products, according to advertising, is that it does not mask the smells, but actually eliminates them somehow.

Nice marketing pitch, sure, but it's all crap.

I've come to realize this in the last month since Christene and I moved into the basement. The basement, you see, is only about 200 sq.-ft., plus a little bathroom. And without getting too graphic, let's just say there is not much room for smells to, uh, hide.

Solution? Why, Febreze of course!

In our bathroom are two different scents of Febreze spray. One is called "clean linen" or something - smells like clean laundry, and the other is some kind of tropical Hawaiian scent.

Both of 'em are nice. But that part about eliminating the old smells?

Bull. Shit.

Depending on which Febreze bottle you choose to spray, all it does it make the room smell like you either a) took a shit in a clothes dryer, or b) dropped a deuce inside a pineapple.

It is not overly pleasant.

Oh. So much for not getting too graphic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

:: Hot Tub Time Machine ::

Christene and I went and saw Hot Tub Time Machine last night, which was surprisingly excellent in a "This is ridiculous" kind of way.

And it got me thinking – if I had a hot tub time machine, where would I go and what would I change? It wouldn't be 1986 like it was for the guys in the movie (really, what fun am I gonna have at 5 years old?) and all the other things I said maybe I'd chance, I probably wouldn't – because eventually the chain of events changes something good down the line.

(For example: Maybe I go back in time and invent the Internet. Then I'm super rich and never have to work at my current job. But then I don't meet my friend Kristyl, who would never introduce me to Christene. See how that works?)

So what would I chance? Well, after carefully considering the Butterfly Effect, it'd be this: I'd go back two weeks ago, when I went through a drive-thru but didn't realize they'd screwed up my order until I got home, at which time it was too late to go back.

With my knowledge of the future, I would definitely check the bag before driving away this time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

:: Throwing hands ::

In my adult life, I've been in two fights - both, incidentally, at hockey rinks. The first, some of you may recall, came about 5-6 years ago, when a handful of us were watching Chris, Gorski, and... other people (sorry, can't remember if anyone else was on that team. Lambie maybe? I dunno...)

Anyways... that altercation came about when - after a bit of a brouhaha on the ice - I cheered when Gorksi, who was in net, hit an Aldergrove guy with his stick. An Aldergrove dad, sitting a few rows behind us, did not like it, and we started yelling at each other. Then he called me fat, yelled at my mom, and that's when I punched him. Pat broke things up about five seconds after that.

Fight #2 came Friday night, when I went to the rink to watch the Mooseknuckles game. After the game, a bunch of us - all the players, plus Chris, Me, Sean, Amanda and Jenna - were sitting in the dressing room, having some beers. I was sitting next to the goalie, Danny.

Right from the start, he was being weird about me being in his space - I'm not sure if he noticed how small the dressing room was, but there's really not a lot of places for that many people to sit, and I'm also not sure why he thought he deserved eight feet of bench, but that's really not important. What matters is that he was being weird about it.

Eventually, we started jostling for space - trying to knock each other off the bench, etc... it was all just goofing around. We were laughing (at least I was).. no big deal. But then he decided to put me in a headlock and quite literally, try to choke me out.

Whether he knew it or not, this is when it went beyond just a couple guys screwing around. I honestly could not breathe - my face went red, and I didn't enough have enough oxygen to say, "OK, joke's over. Stop." I mean, this Danny kid was a strong guy, and I really had no way of getting him off me.

So I elbowed him in the junk (which missed and got him in the thigh), and then when he finally let me up, I threw a beer at him and punched him twice in the face, before he came back at me and Bucholtz - wearing his delightfully tacky Cowichan sweater - broke it up.

I never got hit, and then I left the room, followed by Sean and Chris. A few seconds later, the goalie tried to come after me again in the lobby, but Chris stopped us from having round 2 (And almost started trading punches with him, himself, he said.)

After the situation defused, Chris (who, not surprisingly, was pretty jacked up about the whole ordeal) and Sean both said I did the right thing. Jones did too. Jeremy said "Well, he owes you a punch" which is, of course, bullshit (No offence Jer - so you can't be mad). And it's only bullshit because fights are inherently not fair - somebody has to start it, somebody has to throw the first punch, and unless it's one of those schoolyard, "Meet me at the swings at recess" fights where both parties know it's about to happen, a fight is usually going to be a surprise to somebody. If he owes me a punch, I owe him a 15-second choke hold, because I didn't see that coming either.

And sure, I know that it was unlikely I was going to get the worst of it - I was in a room with 10 of my friends, you think they were gonna stand around while I got pummeled? No, of course not. But regardless, that's the situation we were in.

Besides, I think everybody knows I'm not a violent, angry, fight-starting person. But when you can't breath, you panic. And I definitely did - and when I could breath again, I just sort of snapped. I mean, you gotta stick up for yourself, and that's what happened. I didn't even consciously decide to do it - I mean, it wasn't until afterward that I even knew I hit him twice. I thought it was just once.

It was all a blur. And though I feel bad for making the dressing room an awkward place - and for making Dan suffer through the world's most awkward drive home (He gave Danny, the goalie, a ride), I don't really apologize for much else.

But I'll tell you what - for a guy who never really got hit, fuck was I ever sore on Saturday morning. Back, shoulder, neck - from the choke - it all fucking felt like I'd been in a car accident. I'm definitely too old for that shit.

Therefore, I think it's in everybody's best interest if I retire. With a perfect 2-0 record and without ever having taken a punch*.

*Whether this is because a) I'm one helluva crafty scrapper, or b) because I'm lucky or c) because my friends break things up quick, is really here nor there.)

(The line of the night goes to Lambie, who apparently said after I left the dressing room, "Leave it to Nick to insult the guy with a joke about the Internet." As me and Danny yelled at each other on the way out, I called him a "fucking Craigslist hack" because he's not a very good goalie, and because Jer found him for the team via the online classifieds.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

:: Handyman ::

One of the benefits to not living in a townhouse or condo is the absence of a strata council ruling the roost. By the same token, one of the benefits of living in a townhouse or condo is that you have a strata ruling the roost.

By that I mean, even though strata councils have their numerous downfalls, the one good thing about them is that you, the average townhouse owner, don't have to worry about much if you choose not to.

You don't have to paint the fence. You, personally, do not have to fix the drafty window or the leaky roof. Sure, you have to pay for it – Hello, $200/month strata fees – but still, for the person either not able, or simply not inclined, to do these things themselves, the strata is a good thing. Shit, they even cut your damn grass.

And I imagine that ever since I announced I was selling my townhouse and moving on to a strata-free existence, at least one of you – Ian, Bucholtz, Jeremy, I'm lookin' in your directions – thought to yourself, "How in the hell is Nick going to survive in a place like that?"

Fair question. I'm not exactly a Handyman, you see. And it's not really that I'm more Tim Taylor than Bob Vila – ie: more likely to ruin something rather than fix it – it's that I usually don't even bother trying to fix anything in the first place. It's not my thing, and I've never felt that motivated to make it that way.

(And while we're at it, I haven't cut any grass since I was about 13. I milked the "hay fever allergies" excuse for all it was worth as a kid.)

But I live in a basement now, which does not have a strata, and have already had to make a number of improvements all on my own. For starters, I put up a shelf. 

And just the other day, I replaced a broken toilet seat with a new one. And though the installation of the seat took less than five minutes and did not actually involve any tools, I still felt a sense of accomplishment.

And this weekend, I might even tackle the problematic squeaky front door hinges, which are incredibly loud and seem even louder at 5 a.m., which is when Christene leaves for work. 

We'll see though. Don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

:: I appreciate the effort, but I'd rather you just get it right ::

Every day at about 9:30 a.m., two colleagues and I go on a coffee run to the Tim Horton's just down the road. We've been going to this same place every day, four-five days a week, since we moved into this office last June. And because we've become regulars there, the employees have basically memorized our regular orders.

Well, they think they have, at least.

Lately, the two women who regularly work as cashiers/order-takers have taken great delight in announcing our orders to us as we approach the till – before we've even said anything. They like to let us know, "Hey, I remember you!" and you know what? I appreciate the effort. I really do.

But I'd appreciate it a lot more if they – just once – got my order right. I have to correct them every single day. And sometimes, because they a) are English-as-a-second-language types and b) because they've already started punching in what they think is my order, they often screw it up, and I get what they think I want, rather than what I actually do. (Or sometimes some combination of the two).

Every day, I order the same thing – one extra-large coffee with two milk for me, and usually, one extra-large hot chocolate for my boss, who often just sends two bucks with one of us, rather than make the trek himself.

And usually I end up with either two sugars, no cream, or two-and-two, or one-and-one, or two hot chocolates. Yeah, they're pretty good at their jobs.

And I hate to be a jerk about it – because they seem genuinely nice – but at 9:30 in the damn morning, I need coffee in order to make it through to lunch, I need it quickly, and I need it done right.

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

:: The Process ::

You hear versions of it all the time, how it's not about winning, but how you play the game. And coaches, with increasingly regularity (especially in the NHL), like to talk about "the process" - that most elusive of concepts. Then, conversely, there's those from the Al Davis "Just Win, Baby" camp. For the record, this is usually the camp I've fallen into. What can I say? I'm a competitive person.

But last night I changed my mind.

I was working, covering the B.C. senior boys basketball provincials downtown at the Agrodome. Saturday night was the final. The game was actually a terribly sloppy one - neither team shot anywhere close to even 30% from the field - and the team I was there to cover ended up blowing a lead and losing in the last three minutes. So it was not necessarily a fun night for me (It's awfully tough to talk to kids who just lost the last high school basketball game they'll ever play, and lost it in front of 4,500 people, no less).

One coach, I know very well. Fantastic guy. Likes to talk about "the process" a lot, and borders on being hokey when he starts talking about worrying more about turning his boys into well-adjusted men, than top basketball players. From almost anybody else, I'd call bullshit, but he's genuine, he really is. Talk to him for 5 minutes, and you know that he really cares about his players.

His team lost, but it still took him 20 minutes to leave the floor, because everyone - fellow coaches, parents, players, younger students - wanted to talk to him, give him a high-five or a hug. It takes a special coach, a special person, to have that kind of effect on people.

But last night, my courtside seat along media row happened to be behind the other team's bench, where I watch closely a coach I knew nothing about.

I was not impressed - right from the first impression.

For starters, as far as high school sports are concerned, this tournament is pretty much the Stanley Cup. So the coaches look presentable - suits, ties, jackets.. nice shoes, that kind of thing.

This coach, however, chose to wear ill-fitting black pants - which could've been track pants, for all I know - and a stretched out, awful sweater that was about two sizes to big. He was balding, and his hair on the sides of his head stuck straight out, mad-scientist style.

And oh, did he yell.

At the referees, sure - not that uncommon - but mostly at his own kids. And not that "constructive criticism" kind of yelling, not the motivation kind. It was the screaming kind. And loud, with arms flailing, hands grabbing the collars of his player's jersey. It was ridiculous. With his bright red face, I would not have be surprised if he'd dropped dead right there from a stroke. There were times where he reminded me of comedian Lewis Black, with his over-the-top, scream until your voice goes raspy deliver.

At one point, he pulled a player - who'd just made a mistake - off the court, sat him down on the bench and got right down in his face.

"You can't do this to me!" the coach yelled.

Funny, I always thought it was about the kids.

His team won, of course, thus validating his approach, which actually bugged me more than having to interview teary-eyed kids. But had his team lost, I would've known why. Teams, you see, often take on the personality of the guy in charge. And this guy's team, which trailed until its late-game comeback, was rattled right from the start. The players yelled at the refs, they pushed and shoved the other team, they screamed back at their coach. There's a fine line, obviously, between intensity and out of control, but I'd suggest the team was the latter.

The other bench? Calm and cool.

But like I said, the crazy coach won. After the game, talking to the coach I know, I mentioned my observations to him. Not wanting to rag on another coach or his style - like I said, he's a good guy - he just kind of shrugged.

"Regardless, it's a championship style tonight," he said.

He's right, of course. All the yelling, the screaming, the grabbing kids' collars, it worked. His team won.

Still, there's something to be said for the process.

Friday, March 19, 2010

:: Full Moon Friday ::

Strange day here at the office. 

For starters, for whatever reason, not many people are here today, so it's eerily quiet. The crazy kooks are also out in full force, too. We get a lot of strange, non-sensical emails – often letters – from older folks who are off their meds (seriously) or just plain crazy, and today is no exception... there've been two garden-variety nutso submissions so far, and also one phone call I just overheard. I know the phone call was from a crazy person because my colleague spent the whole conversation politely saying, "uh huh... uh huh... uh huh," followed by "OK, I'm hanging up now... thank you for calling... I'm hanging up... I'm hanging up–" Then click.

All things considered though, this letter from a local high school student was the weirdest thing we came across today. I'm paraphrasing, but here was the gist of it: 

"I have done the physically impossible, and thought you would be interested. I am not double-jointed nor do I have a separated shoulder, but I am able to lick the centre of my own elbow (The outside of it)."

"This is something that cannot be done by anyone, and thought you would like to know."

The letter-writer is right, of course. It is all but impossible to lick the outside of your elbow. Go ahead, try it. (We all did). Impossible.

Just to see what would happen, we emailed back and, in a serious tone, said, "We will need photographic proof of this feat before we consider it newsworthy."

Sure enough, not 10 minutes later we received a camera-phone photo of a teenage high-school girl doing exactly what she said she could do. Of course, this is about the least-newsworthy thing imaginable, so we won't be following up. But the question remains: What in the hell possessed this girl to think this qualified as "news"?

"Must be a full moon tonight," I suggested. "You know, when all the weirdos go crazy."

"Either that," someone else countered. "Or kids have really run out of things to do on Spring Break."

See what happens, school districts? You extend Spring Break by an extra week, and this is what your gifted children spend their time doing. When I was a kid, we had one week off in March and one week only, and never once that I can remember did we ever play the "Let's see what part of my body can touch another part."

Just sayin', is all.
:: Douche of the Day ::

There's a guy on my Facebook friends list, a former minor hockey league teammate of mine, who recently finished getting his Master's Degree at the University of Victoria. Today, his status read:

Jonathan is job-hunting in Calgary. Anyone know who's hiring MBAs for project management/consulting?

Immediately, one thought struck me – that this is one of the douchiest status updates I've read in, well, maybe forever.

Let's deconstruct, shall we?

For starters, it is my opinion that Master's Degrees are overrated. In my line of work, for example, someone with a post-graduate degree is just as likely to enter the workforce in the exact same position (ie: the bottom) as someone with a two-year diploma in the same area of study. I have a bachelor's degree, which took four years to obtain, so I fall directly in the middle of the two extremes, but sometimes I still feel like it was a waste, except for the ego-boost that saying "I have a degree" gives me (Or could conceivably give me. I don't really get an ego boost from it, but that's just me). Strictly on a professional level, it does me limited good.

In most fields, I'd suggest, Master's Degrees are about as necessary as snow tires in July.

Which brings me to my next point. I think people get Master's degrees largely so they can say they have them. It makes them sound fancy, and hey, I guess it is pretty impressive that you spend an extra 2 years in school. 

(Important note: I do have a couple friends currently obtaining master's degrees. I do not know your specific reasons for doing so, but I exclude you from my Master's Degree rant, if only because you are both far less douchy than my ex-hockey teammate, and do not post similar FB status updates.)

And case in point is this guy's status: He makes a point of announcing his MBA to a group of 200 people on Facebook. "Hey everybody, just in case you forgot, I have a Master's Degree!"

I mean, if Facebook was a corporate job board, or a business networking website, maybe I'd understand. But it's not. It's a place for posting pictures of your trip to Vegas, sending drunken messages and playing Farmville.

The only people who will read that message are people who already know him – friends, old school buddies, etc. Chances are that nobody – nobody – is going to respond to that status by saying, "Oh yeah, my Fortune 500 company is hiring people right now. Send in a resume!"

I'm sorry, but it's just not going to happen there, Champ.

Secondly, and this is just a personal thing, but "consulting" and "project management" are about the most vague, pretentious sounding jobs I can possible dream up. Which of course, plays right into Mr. MBA's hands – I mean, imagine the hard-on this guy would get if he was able to have MBA and "Business Consultant" on the same business card?

(And make no mistake about it, this guy would definitely be the type to add every possible "title" after his name on his business card, whether is was BSBA, MBA, JD, MD, whatever.)

So there you have it, the Douche of the Day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

:: The importance of considering the source ::

I just spent 10 minutes at work listening to a 49-year-old single guy give wedding and marriage advice to a woman who is newly engaged – advice ranging from how much to spend/blow on a ring, to what's really important to spend money on at said wedding, and a myriad of other marriage-related topics.

The advice was, far as I could tell, fairly smart, and he was obviously just trying to help. But still, no matter what he said – and how much sense it may have made – all I could think was "You are almost 50 and single. Who the hell are you to be giving marriage advice?"

I mean, c'mon, what's next? Nick's Easy 10-step Guide to Winning a Marathon?

I think not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

:: Get to know your girlfriend ::

Earlier today, while we were sitting around after dinner, Christene sort of giggled to herself for no reason. I asked her what was so funny, and she said she had a random memory pop into her head.

When she was in her early 20s, Christene dated a deadbeat guy named Dan* for a couple years. For their second anniversary, they went out for a fancy dinner. During the meal - probably with his mouth full of food - Dan looked across the table at Christene and blurted out this gem: "Ya know, we've dated for two years, and I don't even know you."

The dinner ended a little later that night**, and the relationship, shockingly, ended soon after.

*This isn't just me looking down on her ex-boyfriends. He really was a deadbeat.
**Christene had to pay because Dan was broke. Told ya he was a deadbeat.

Anyways, the story quickly morphed into a contest between Christene and I to see who really knew the other person better. Christene passed almost all the questions I threw her way, and quickly, I may add.

Then she asked me a bunch. The correct answers are bolded.

Christene: What's my favourite colour?
Me: Blue?
Christene: No.
Me: oh, purple!
Christene: No.
Me: Green!

Christene: How many jobs have I had in my life?
Me: Four!
(long pause)
Me: Five!
Christene: It's seven.
Me: oh.

Christene: What's the best concert I've ever been to? I know I've talked about this before.
Me, without hesitation: Weezer, when you were in the luxury box!
Christene: Nope.
Me: Tenacious D!
Christene: No.... it was David Lee Roth in 2003*. It was fucking amazing!

*The fact that David Lee Roth is Christene's favourite concert, and not some fruity new pop band or something else lame, gives her big-time points in my books.

Christene: What was my first car?
Me: Hmmm.... a Sunfire?
Christene: No.
Me: That old Audi?
Christene: No.
Me: Some kind of Asuna?
Christene: NO!
Me: Oh, the Neon. The Neon was the first!
Christene: The 1990 Ford Tempo!

For the record, Christene didn't guess my first car either - she chose the Mustang over my real first car, a rusty 1983 Honda Accord. But other than the real easy ones ("What colour are my eyes?) the only mildy tough - and I stress the world mildly - question I answered correctly on the first try was when Christene asked me how many dogs/cats she had at various points growing up, and their corresponding names.

For the record, the answer was the following: Dogs: 1 chihuahua (Mitzy), 2 boxers (Molly and Louise), and one Boston terrier (Athena). Cats: 2, Felix (who had no tail) and Little Mo (who is still kicking, and is pretty rad).

But overall, yeah, a pretty forgettable effort. But two things still work in my favour.

For starters, I have nine months to bone up on these facts before our second anniversary, and secondly, no matter what - even if between then and now I forget the things I did answer correctly, I'd still never stick Christene with the bill on our anniversary.

Unless, you know, the one thing I forget that night is my wallet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

:: Way to pick your battles ::

In the past, I've written extensively on a few of the women who work in our building who are burned-out hippie, left-wing feministas.

I have also recently written of the bathroom situation at the office; now the bathrooms are locked and keys are required. A little while ago, the two subjects met in some kind of office/blog-fodder perfect storm.

The keys hang on hooks near the door, and were made easily identifiable by large, over-sized key chains. One half of the key chains, "MEN'S" is scribbled in black Sharpie, for it is the key to the men's washroom. On the others, it says – you guessed it – "LADIES"

Makes sense, no?

Well, these labels were just brought to the attention of one of the aforementioned co-workers, who either never noticed it before or hasn't peed in six weeks. Not surprisingly, she's upset. She says the term "ladies" is demeaning. It should say "women" she has argued.

I don't know whether she's right or wrong – and frankly I don't care. But in the grand scheme of things, I mentioned to her that perhaps what is written on the bathroom key wasn't that important. Just go to the bathroom and stop worrying, I said.

What happened was I got a long-winded response about feminism and why, exactly, it's not right to call a woman a lady.

It will come as no surprise, then, that my suggested alternatives – "Dames" and "Fellas" and "Chicks" and "Dudes" – were summarily and quickly dismissed.

That's the last time I try to help.

Monday, March 15, 2010

:: A status thing ::

Dear Facebook users,

You may think your status is particularly profound or deep, but I regret to inform you that this is not the case. By posting some lame "famous" quote, or by repeating some tired, cliched truism and passing it off as philosophy, you are not impressing anyone.

What you are doing, is trying too hard. We can all notice, and you look ridiculous.

That said, if your status alternative to these pearls of wisdom is either a) a detailed item-by-item schedule of event for your day; b) how great your baby/boyfriend/wife is; or c) some emo bullshit, please continue spouted hackneyed philosophy, as it is the lesser of the evils.

Or better yet – leave it blank. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

:: Chips and a Coke ::

On Friday afternoon, needing a junk food/caffeine rush of some kind to get me through the last few loooong hours of work, I walked across the street and bought a Diet Coke and some Doritos. And as I walked back with these two items in my hand, I was for some reason reminded – out of the blue – of my Grade 8 gym teacher.

I am, as you are likely aware, not in the greatest shape. Sure, I'm not 288 pounds like I was in my Alberta heyday (I'm a svelte 227 now for those scoring at home), but I'm not about to go run a marathon either. Or wear anything slim-fitting, for that matter. 

But during the early days of high school – before what I'll call the Pizza Hut Era – I wasn't yet The Fat Kid. I was just a regular-sized guy. And my Grade 8 gym teacher was Mr. Bergen. He was a gruff no-nonsense guy, but he always got along well with the jocks – pretty standard for all gym teachers everywhere, I'd guess. He was likable enough, as far as most were concerned. But I never really liked him. To be honest, I thought he was a bit of a pompous dick.

So that's probably why I never paid much attention to anything he said, and it's also the likely reason I quit the Grade 8 basketball team halfway through the year. But more on that in a bit. 

One thing – possibly the only thing – I ever remember Mr. Bergen telling us in class came during a little speech he gave about the importance of being in shape and all that stuff. His point was that a healthy, active lifestyle was actually pretty easy to keep up. (His ulterior motive was to get us to sign up for the basketball team. He was the coach.)

"It's easy to stay fit, but it's all about choices," he told us. "When you go home from school today, for example, you can do two things. One, you can grab a basketball and go get some exercise in the driveway or at the school. Or two, you can go sit in front of the TV and watch cartoons with chips and a Coke."

Obviously, I eventually chose to align myself with the chips and Coke option. But it may surprise you to know that this wasn't my first choice. 

My first choice was to actually get some exercise. So I signed up to play basketball. Which wasn't really a stretch for me – I knew how to play, had a modicum of athletic ability, and I loved sports, so why not?

But aside from the 7 a.m. practices before school, the other thing that dissuaded me from the game – and made the chips and cartoon option look pretty sweet – was what I quickly noticed about the rest of my new 13-year-old teammates.

They were all douchebags.

Of course, at the time, I probably didn't think of them as "douchebags" but I know that I didn't like their attitudes one bit. They were mostly from James Kennedy Elementary – which was the elementary school hoops powerhouse, if there was such a thing – and I just thought they were, much like the coach, pompous dicks.

(Turns out my suspicions were correct – by Grade 12 they had all turned into your typical douchey jocks. You know, the kind of guys who all shave their heads to look the same, and say "Bro" a lot. So in retrospect, I'm glad I recognized it early and got out when I did.)

I was a mediocre player on the team. I played a few minutes off the bench, don't remember scoring much if at all (the latter fact also describes my early 20s) but I do recall being a pretty good rebounder, which was shocking for a kid who was barely five-feet tall. But basketball interfered with my weekend hockey schedule, and because hockey was more important and less douche-infested, I quit the basketball team after about a month. 

And that was really the beginning of the end for me, fitness-wise. I suffered through two years of miserable gym classes, where the pompous teachers spent most of class-time trying to act cool around the jocks while not really giving a shit about the regular kids, while the token one-year-older-because-he's-a-retard-and-failed-gym bully spent his time making life hell for the younger kids.

By Grade 10, my knees and head (concussion) were pretty sore from hockey, so I got a doctor's note to exclude me from my last year of mandatory high school gym. Sure, I probably milked it, I could've toughed it out, but by then I'd just had enough of all that high school gym class entailed – the asshole teachers, bullies, dumb jocks, etc...

And thus began my long, loving relationship with the Coca-Cola company.

Now, I'm not blaming douchey high-school basketball kids for putting me off the road to fitness and down Dorito Boulevard. I've become what I've become because of my own choices, and to be honest, I don't necessarily regret it. I'd rather be fat than an asshole. 

Just makes me wonder what might've been, is all, had I stuck with the whole basketball thing.

Maybe I could've played pro. Or at least been a gym teacher.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

:: Common sense is all I'm asking for ::

Yesterday at work, I took a few minutes to go to my insurance provider and cancel my house insurance because I'm obviously no longer living in said house (Perhaps you've heard? I may have mentioned it a time or two on this very blog).

Anyways, I explained to the woman behind the desk what I wanted to do and why – again, because I'm moving – and it was all a very straightforward, simple procedure. You know the drill – sign here, initial there, take this copy, etc etc etc... No biggie.

But then the clerk says, "OK, so you're refund cheque will be mailed to this 208th street address."

I took a second to realize what she had said because it was so dumb. I mean, let's break it down: I came into the office for the sole purpose of canceling the insurance on my townhouse because – and I can't stress this enough – I do not live there anymore. And this woman has decided that the best place to mail $67 refund (editor's note: woo! big money!) is to the address I'm leaving?

Sorry, sweetheart, that won't do.

It was obviously no big deal – all I did was leave her a new forwarding address, and I know it was a Friday and people's minds aren't always 100% on their job, but this seemed like a pretty simple thing.

She knew I did not live at that address anymore. I just told her that.

It was just annoying, that's all.

Friday, March 12, 2010

:: Sitcom ending ::

Unlike Christene, who has an encyclopedic memory for all things TV (I mean, as a baby, her first word was - no joke - "Scooby-Doo") I don't remember a lot of specific television moments from my childhood, The Simpsons notwithstanding, but one I vividly recall, for whatever reason, is the series finale of Growing Pains.

In that episode, the Seaver family uproots from Long Island, NY for Washington, DC because the mom, Maggie, takes a new TV anchor job there. It's an episode filled with sap and nostalgia, not to mention the typical Family-Moves-Away plot device as a way to end the show (copied by a million shows before and since, notably Friends).

The final scene before the end credits roll sees Maggie taking one last loving glance around the now-empty living room. Conveniently, the family has forgot to pack one last family photo, which is framed and sitting on the mantle above the fire place. Maggie moves to pick it up, and behind it, carved into the brick facade, are four words: "Mike Seaver was here"

She smiles, walks back to the front door, does the slow-dramatic-one-last-glance-half-smile-turn-off-the-lights thing, and then you hear the door click shut.


Tonight I had to drop off all my keys and garage-door openers back at the now-empty townhouse, because tomorrow the sale closes and the new people take possession. Christene had joked with me before dinner about doing a "sitcom ending" where I do the same slow turn-out-the-lights routine, or perhaps say something sappy, sad or profound as I turn the key for the last time. But I figured I'd probably just lock the door and leave.

But after I put the keys on the kitchen counter, and slowly took one last tour around the place, I suddenly felt a little sad - I honestly didn't think I would. I shoulda known better.

So I did what TV had told me to do years earlier. I took my keys, opened the accordian door to the hall closet, and on the one-inch wide edge of the door, carved a medium-sized 'N'.

I was there.

Christene, of course, was impressed that I'd finally decided to over-dramatize our exit. She carved a 'C' right below it.

"Are you gonna turn the lights out really slow and say something as we go?" she asked.

No, I wasn't. I didn't.

But I did take the welcome mat back, which at one point I figured I'd just leave for the new owners. But I took it. It was my mat, after all, and they weren't getting it.

No, they weren't getting it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

:: If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis ::

A few weeks ago, you may recall me writing about the new bathroom policy at the office – a policy which required us to use a key to unlock the bathroom door. I had my problems with it, as you may have guessed, but I also ended up having my own private bathroom for a little while, which was nice.

Well, that secret got out eventually – as expected – and lately I have come to another realization about this bathroom situation. That realization?

If you gotta go, don't wait.

In our old office, the bathroom was literally around the corner. You could get there in 10 seconds or less, which came in handy because in a deadline-driven business – where there's often not a second to spare when it's crunch time – sometimes you've gotta hold it in.

Now though, not only is the bathroom down a long hallway, you have to a) find a key (which is usually easy because it hangs on an appointed hook, but sometimes it gets misplaced) and b) you need to actually unlock a tricky, temperamental lock that has a tendency to stick.

Normally, spending 20 seconds tracking down a key, 15 seconds walking and 5-6 seconds jiggling the key in a lock are no big deal, but like I said – sometimes it's a rush.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, let's just say there were a few close calls this week, courtesy of frantic near-missed deadlines combined with extra-large coffees from Tim Horton's.

And it reminded me of a story – here's why that "too much information" label is being used on this post – that I probably have only mentioned to the people I went to Cancun with a few years ago. And even then, I might've just kept this one to myself. Either way, I figured I'd share it now.

As expected, a great deal of time during our stay in Cancun was spent sitting by the pool in the sun. More specifically – drinking while sitting by the pool in the sun. On more than a few occasions, this was done for hours and hours on end. And while I don't need to tell you all what happens to your bladder when you've drank 10 beers and 8 margaritas in one sitting, this posed a problem: The pool-area washrooms at this particular resort were, to say the least, disgusting.
Absolutely putrid. They were to be avoided at all costs – and actually for the first few days, I don't believe any of us actually knew they existed at all.

So, when the time came, it meant you'd have to hoof it from the pool all the way back to your hotel room to pee. It wasn't exactly far, but it wasn't exactly right next door either. The fact that you were barefoot and often dripping wet – usually on slippery tile floors – didn't speed things up either.

One one particular occasion, I decided to wait a little too long. Eventually of course, I had to make a mad, drunken dash back to my room. My feet slipped with every step, I was drunk off my ass, and also had to run up two flights of stairs to the third floor (there was no chance I was waiting for the elevator).

And when I got to my room, I fumbled drunkenly (my hands were wet too, remember) with my room card, and then upon opening the door I took two exaggerated steps into the "foyer" and into the bathroom to the immediate right.

I wish I could tell you that I made it.

I really wish I could.

But sometimes life doesn't work out the way you'd like.

Sometimes your bladder just lets 'er go as you run through the bathroom door. And sometimes you're in such a crazy, panicked rush that you slip on the polished, wet tile floor and smash your elbow into the countertop, leaving a helluva mark. (This is the part my fellow travelers may remember. I think I just said, 'I slipped on the wet floor' and left it at that.)

And sometimes you just have to be thankful that nobody else was around to see it happen, and that you brought an extra pair of shorts.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

:: Two responses ::

A girl in our office got engaged last night, and announced it to everyone in the office today. Some of us – the ones she told first – were happy for her, but generally cool about it. We didn't make a big fuss except to say 'Congrats.'

And then there was the rest of the office. There were two distinct responses. First, the sales women – they went completely batshit insane, as is their custom. "Ooooh my god Oooh my god!" they all screamed, in a collective voice too high-pitched for all but dogs to hear.

"Show us the ring! let's see let's see let's see!"

And then leave it to the two bitter, old ex-hippies to bring the party back down to earth. "Oh, marriage, eh? You're gonna keep your own name, right?"

And then one of the hippies managed to turn the conversation back around to make it about her – as is her custom – and about how she never thought she'd ever get married again but is thinking about it now.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

:: One more long-winded, house-related thought ::

I'm sure you're all getting sick of me blogging about the house and the move, but indulge me once more, alright?

I was thinking about money this morning. (Well, actually I was day-dreaming about Las Vegas, which led to me thinking about winning a lot of money, which led me to thinking about what it would be like to live in a solid gold house and have a rocket car).

But anyways... back to real life.

I remember eight years ago when I bought my Honda Civic (now Jenna's Honda Civic) from the dealership. I got a loan from the bank for about $18,000 or so, and how it worked then was the bank actually deposited that money in my account, and then I wrote a cheque to the dealership. I was 21 years old at the time, and I remember looking at my bank account online and thinking how amazing it was that I had that much money in my savings account.

Of course, this lasted all of 48 hours or so, as the money soon changed hands. But I was a college kid with only a part-time job delivering truck parts for barely above minimum wage, so for those two days, I felt like a king. Richer than astronauts. I remember actually taking a screenshot of my bank account to prove that I actually had that much money.

What a time to be alive.

So, you can imagine my confusion last April when I bought my truck. Having not purchased a vehicle since the day I bought the Honda, I just assumed the process was the same. And though $18,000 (or in the truck's case, a little more) isn't quite the same awe-inspiring amount it was when I was 21 (but it's still a helluva lot of money, don't get my wrong), I was disappointed to learn that the money would never, not for a second, be in my bank account. The bank instead just wrote a bank draft directly to the seller.

And on a much larger scale, it's the same way with mortgages. You never actually "have" the hundreds of thousands of dollars that you spend on a house. I mean, it would be pretty foolish for the bank to cut somebody a cheque for $500,000 and say "There ya go, Champ. Go buy something nice."

But the point I'm trying to make – you knew I'd get there eventually – is that in three days, when the sale of my house is finally final, I will actually have the money in my account.

Granted, it's temporary again – I have to pony up $20,00 immediately for a deposit, and the rest gets spent on the down payment in September – but still, it's exciting for the time being.

I am not a rich man, as you are no doubt aware (I just wrote a bunch of paragraphs about buying a Honda Civic for crissakes, not a Bentley). But for approximately six months, I will have in my account a substantial amount of money. Of course, I can't do anything with this money. I can't – or should I say, shouldn't – take this money with me to Las Vegas in April and put a five-digit figure down on black. I can't buy a Porsche. I can't develop a $1,000-a-day Faberge egg habit, either.

Really, there's only two things I can do. One, I can withdraw all the money in loonies, and fill Christene's parents' basement with them and swim around Scrooge McDuck-style or I can do what I did eight years ago, and log into my online bank account every day – even when I have no reason to – and look at it. Stare at it. Marvel at it. Maybe even take a screenshot.

I'm considering both.

Monday, March 08, 2010

:: Over and Out ::

It is done.

The move, that is.

I am now – save for a beer fridge I still have to pick up and an entry-way I still have to sweep – finished with the horrible, horrible experience of selling and buying, packing and moving. If this experience lasted any longer, I'd add "drinking and screaming" into the mix, too.

I am also now a (temporary) resident of Cloverdale.

And though I've already written about the things I'm going to miss about my townhouse – and my fear/hatred of change – I have found a solution to letting those sad feelings overwhelm me, and it appears to be working. (Although as my mom pointed out to me yesterday, during a brief "I hate this, it sucks" mini-fit, it doesn't always appear to be working. But I'm doing better than my previous moves).

Here is my method: negativity. (And believe me, being negative isn't a stretch for me.)

One day, of course, I'll only think fondly of my little house, but for now, rather than focus on those positives, I'm only thinking of all the things I hate. It makes it easier to leave.

And after talking to one of my neighbours on the weekend – who happened to mention some interesting opinions/facts about the impending roof/balcony/strata situation – I left Saturday night feeling pretty good. That feeling was boosted further after speaking to a few more neighbours.

You see, the general response when I say "I'm moving," isn't what you'd expect. By and large, it isn't people saying, "Aww, that's too bad."

It's people saying, "Good for you. Get out. Get out now."

Now, that could be because people aren't unhappy to see me go, but what's more likely is that other people can see things crumbling around them, just as I did, but for whatever reason can't get out.

So yeah, maybe I am living like a hobo with three-quarters of my life in storage and the other quarter in a suitcase or carboard box, but that's OK.

At least I got out when I did.
:: Win some, loss some ::

I got to work early this morning and was greeted with two voicemails from over the weekend. The first one was from a woman who will be competing at the Paralympic Games later this month. I did a front-page feature on her last week, and she called to say thanks, and that the story made both her and her family cry (in a good way... it was a pretty emotional story).

So that was nice.

And then there was message number two. From a woman who calls me about once every eight months to bitch. Bitch about the fact that we no longer run our "weekly sports calendar" down the front of our sports section. There are numerous reasons we no longer do this – from a design point of view, it doesn't look good with our new design; it's very time-consuming and I no longer have the time to do it; and space is at a premium in our paper these days, and I'd rather fill that space with a real story.

I have told this woman this many, many times. She's called ever since we switched the design of our paper, which was three years ago now. She says we don't do a good enough job of covering high school sports events because she doesn't know when tournaments are, etc.. now that we don't have the calendar.

I've also told her that, while these events are not in a calendar form any longer, they are mixed into the rest of the sports section in various spots, and they're pretty easy to find if she'd bother to look. She does not.

I've also told her that, if she can't find it in our paper, there's a little thing called the Internet that has all kinds of information on it – I mean, where the hell does she think I find the information?

Also, keep in mind that, over the past three-plus years, she is the only, ONLY person to ever complain about this issue.

The only one.

The message she left me today said: "I'm again disappointed with your lack of high school sports coverage despite the fact that I have complained numerous times."

I feel like calling her back and explaining to her that, unfortunately, the whims of one old woman do not drive the decisions of our newspaper.

And that it's been three years. Maybe she should get over it.

Friday, March 05, 2010

:: The elevator of guilt ::

My office is on the second floor of our building, and to get to that floor there are – obviously – two options: the stairs, or the world's slowest elevator.

Because climbing two flights of stair is not exactly the biggest endurance test on the planet – even for me – this is the option I take almost every single day. Most of us here do, as a matter of fact, except for one entire department, whose members seem to think that having to carry a soft-side briefcase with six papers in it is too much of a strain, thus making the elevator the only option.

But I digress...

The stairs are by far the best option. For starters, this elevator is painfully slow, like I mentioned, even though there are only two floors in the building – therefore, the elevator "car"* is never very far away. But still, you have time to make an entire fucking sandwich, eat it and digest it in the time between pushing the 'up' button and actually setting foot inside.

(*That's what it's called. I Googled it.)

Also, as far as getting some exercise goes, the stairs win out. So that's usually the option I choose. But you know what? There are times when I just don't want to walk up two flights.

Maybe I'm carrying a bunch of stuff; maybe my legs hurt from some other non-related incident; or maybe the elevator door just happens to open as I walk past it. Or maybe I'm just lazy, not in a hurry, and can afford to waste time waiting for it.

These occasional elevator trips were fine for months, until the new physio/sports therapy massage place opened up across the hall from our office. The main entryway of this office, you see, is directly across from the elevator doors on the second floor. So every time I take the elevator, I end up walking out onto my floor and directly into the line of sight of all the sports therapy people.

And though these people seem nice enough from the few times I've seen them around the building, they are all in ridiculously good shape. They are all trainers and masseuses, and Ironman competitors and sports-type people.

You know, the kind of people who drink Red Bull because they need the extra energy boost to go climb a mountain.

And I, of course, just want to mix it with vodka.

And though I have no clue if they are judgy-types, I tend to assume the worst in people. So now, every time I step off the elevator, I just imagine in my head what the girl behind the reception desk is thinking when she sees me.

"Hey fatchops, the stairs wouldn't kill ya."

:: Moving Weekend ::

We are moving the last of our stuff, including the big furniture, this weekend. The No. 1 way you can tell that Moving Day is fast approaching is by looking in our kitchen.

If you were, say, trying to whip up a good meal today, here are the ingredients that would be available to you in our kitchen: Coke Zero, four granola bars, lettuce and a calculator.

(No, I don't know why the calculator is there, but I found it in a drawer.)

So, yeah... It's moving time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

:: Depressing story of the day for home-buyers ::

On the heels of our recent purchase of a home in the $400,000-range, and with Kelsey and Scott's possible/probable purchase of a $700,000 place in the alternate universe known as Fort McMurray (Sorry Kels, I still cannot wrap my head around that place... It's just too insane), comes this very depressing story...

Last weekend, my mom's cousin Terri came to visit from her home in Florida (She had to be in Seattle for business and hadn't visited her Canadian family in 25 years, so she drove up). She lives in Fort Myers, home of sun, sandy beaches, and the spring training parks of both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

She lives in an average-sized house, with a yard and also a pool.

Now, her daughter - who is the same age as me - is also looking to buy a similar house in the same area, so they both have gotten a feel for the market in Fort Myers. And you know what a house near the water, with a pool, is going for in this lovely little sun-drenched paradise?


Told ya it was gonna be depressing.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

:: Christene waits for her car to be fixed ::

Christene had about 45 minutes to kill the other day, while she waiting not-so-patiently for the Dodge dealership to be done with the quick-fix of her car's mirror. She was bored.

The following are messages I received in about a 45-second span.

"I wish a giant* would come along and write me one of those big cheques and pay for the car to be fixed."

"All the salesmen here are slimy douchebags."

"Seriously, I don't like them. If I had to work here, I'd drive one of the cars through the big glass windows."

"You know... just like the monster truck in Roadhouse."

Then, mercifully, a 10 second break...

Christene: The fixing guy just walked past me and told me that my car is almost done."
Me: The fixing guy? You mean the mechanic?
Christene: I suppose you could call him that.

The lesson here? Don't let your girlfriend break her car's side mirror. And if she does, maybe turn off your phone while she gets it fixed.

*full disclosure: Christene and I have an inside joke about giants. Usually she wishes "a giant would come along" because she wants to be picked up by said giant and moved to wherever it is she is too lazy to go.

Monday, March 01, 2010

:: Goodbye house ::

There's a scene in an episode of The Simpsons – the one where Homer takes a second job at the Kwik-E-Mart in order to pay for Lisa's horse – where Apu, upon seeing Homer quit and walk out the door, looks on wistfully and says, "He slept, he stole, he was rude to the customers... but still, there goes the best damned employee a convenience store ever had."

And as my moving day fast approaches – this coming weekend is my last one before the big day – I realize that I feel the same way about my townhouse.

Like Homer's employment term at the Kwik-E-Mart, the townhouse has its problems and its inconveniences – things I just don't like about it. For starters, it's always felt more like an apartment than a townhouse, owing to the fact that, as a carriage-style place, it's really only one floor. And having somebody live below me really makes it feel apartment-style, too. And I share my garage with four other people – one of whom is an old man whose giant truck blocks access from one side of the garage to the other, which has been extremely annoying for the last three years.

And my balcony is small and gets filled with bits of the roof – which needs to be replaced, and will be the subject of a special assessment later this spring – whenever the wind picks up.

And my neighbours below me fight often and loudly.

And I don't have a yard.

And with a one-in-front-of-the-other parking situation, Christene and I have spent approximately 25% of the last year jugging cars.

And my strata is run by monkeys.

Monkeys who charge me almost 100 dollars more than any other townhouse owner I know.

And my doorbell is shrill and loud and heart-attack inducing.

And I've run out storage space for a lot of my stuff.

These are all things that never used to bother me – either because four years ago when I moved in, these problems did not exist or because I just didn't care. I mean, I still don't really care that the doorbell shrieks, or that my neighbours fight. But things like the parking situation have come about because four years ago I lived by myself.

The roof was in better shape then, too. And I had less stuff.

But problems aside, it was my first place, and first places aren't supposed to come without some warts. If everybody had their dream house on their first go-around, nobody would ever move. That's just how it is.

But you learn to live with these things, and when it comes right down to it, I'm sort of sad to be leaving. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm extremely excited about our soon-to-be-built new house – it has a small yard, its own garage (single-car though, but whatever. There's still a dedicated outdoor spot), no strata, nearly 1,000 more square feet than the townhouse; a basement that will be turned into a man cave; and a big, open kitchen with a granite-countertop island.

But I'm still a little sad. I don't like change in the best of times, and I'm actually still shocked to realize that I've actually gone through with this whole move – it sort of seemed like the kind of thing I'd talk a lot about but never actually do. But it's done.

I'm moving.

And I'll miss my little 1,200 sq. ft. house a lot. When I moved back from Alberta six years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would buy a house by the time I was 25. So for more than a year, I saved and saved and saved, and I bought the townhouse two weeks before my 25th birthday (Even if I didn't move in until the summer).

It was, obviously, the biggest purchase of my life up until that point, and it was something I was pretty proud of, so there's some sentimental value there. I still remember the day I moved in, the first night I stayed there, or the Friday afternoons Bucholtz and I spent drinking while everyone else was still at work... which coincidentally led to one of my other favourite townhouse memories – Bucholtz rapping into my intercom, which was broadcast loudly into my townhouse courtyard, which upset my neighbour because it was "fucking loud."

And then there was the time, with a few hours to kill between Cannons' playoff games, Jeremy decided he needed to cook about seven boxes of Kraft Dinner (carbo-loading, I guess) and then proceeded to eat as much of it as he could, right out of the pot with a giant plastic spoon.

Or the time I woke up at 5:30 a.m. because a giant Canadian goose was thrashing about on my balcony.

Or the time I woke up, saw Christene's stuff all over the place, realized she lived here now, and said, 'Holy shit, how the hell did that happen?'

So yeah, some good times were had there.

I'll miss it.