Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's in a name?

Dear Sally,

I have no idea what your real name is. This is how we refer to you when we tell stories in my office in beautiful downtown Calgary.

I have no idea who you are, where you came from or what drove you to live on the street, pushing around a red shopping cart that likely contains every last item you possess.

I can't imagine the type of life you live. I hope I never have to find out. For that matter, I hope no one I love ever has to find out.

I came frightfully close last summer when my severance cheque started to dwindle and I had no job prospects.

But I managed to survive in a positive, healthy way. I wish you could have done the same.

I know not why you must direct your anger at me. You seem to recognize me and choose to throw all of your bile in my direction.

Several months ago, I went downstairs to grab a latte at the Well. It was a good day ... the cast was off my hand, the sun was shining and I was about to sip at the goodness of a cup of French vanilla syrup, espresso and steamed milk. Yummy.

You were pushing your cart up the street, pointed a grubby finger at me and yelled: "Sluts like you are the reason why I'm separated from my husband and my children."

I was stunned. And congratulations. There are few people capable of leaving me speechless.

Just a month ago, I was returning from birthday lunch with one of my best friends. There simply is nothing like a quick stopover at Hooter's for a celebration of your 36th. Why didn't we just go to the peelers anyway?

It was a cooler day, so I didn't quite recognize you all bundled up. But I hopped off the C-Train and started merrily walking my way back to the office.

You see me and yell, "You should suck a dick. It will probably make you feel better."

Sound advice, I'm sure. But I was in a good mood and I refused to let you rain on my birthday parade.

You've said things to my co-workers. But you're not near as mean and bitter towards them. They even tell me you can be quite cheerful.

I don't scare easily but my new life downtown has opened my eyes to the base level of humanity -- the one where people get pushed in front of the C-Train for a dime bag, or the one where someone sprays buckshot into the park where people like you sleep, or the one where the bus driver says to a trainee, 'This is a fun corner to drive past. You can watch the bums fight over a beer.'

So I now keep my eyes open for you. And I will cross the street when I have that opportunity.

I missed that chance yesterday. I was crossing the street and didn't see you coming, once again. But this time, I was locked into my MP3 player ... I was probably grooving to Tool, or maybe it was Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

I know it was me at whom you were yelling. I redirected my eyes, hopeful you would turn your attention elsewhere. But I could hear your screaming over my music and I could feel the piercing stares of the others in the crosswalk.

You continued your tirade at my back and maybe I'm fortunate they were only words and not a knife.

I've thought about confronting you. I've thought about introducing myself to you. But I'm still not convinced it would improve your opinion of me.

But I won't let you ruin my day. I won't let you make me as unhappy as you are.

I've worked hard to be where I am today. And you won't change that.



Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Father's Day

It was a day to get away.

We went in search of blue skies and dry ground.

We didn't find it.

I did, however, find the connection and a little of the clarity I was seeking on this day.

It was, in fact, Father's Day.

And I didn't want to be in viewing distance or earshot of happy little families, feasting on eggs and pancakes and bacon and juice.

So, we hit the road to do a little sightseeing. After a stop at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, we made our way over to Crowsnest Pass and site of the Frank Slide.

On the early morning of April 29, 1903, an entire section of Turtle Mountain gave way and 82 million tonnes of limestone came crashing down on the tiny village of Frank. An estimated 70 of the people living in the path of the falling rock perished.

An opportunity to learn about the slide drew us to the area. But it was the Hillcrest Mine Disaster that drew me in.

A section of the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is dedicated to another tragic event, just five minutes away from Frank.

On June 19, 1914, a methane/coal dust explosion killed 189 men, the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. It left a legacy of 130 widows and 400 fatherless children.

One man, David Murray, survived the blast and got out. But when he realized his three sons were still inside, he went back into the mine and was overcome by toxic gases.

He and all three sons died.

Charles Elick climbed out of the Frank Mine ruins after the massive rock slide, only to die at Hillcrest 11 years later.

And it was upon learning of this disastrous loss of life that I realized how lucky I was.

I had my dad for 25 years -- and that's a lot longer than some of those 400 children had theirs.

No matter how much I missed him on Sunday, or how much I miss him every day, he was a part of my life for a quarter of a century.

He wasn't perfect. He was mean sometimes, distant and detached most times. We know why and we are left to remember and bear some of his pain.

But he taught me about strength, about never settling for second best and how to put in a hard day's work, no matter how bad your feet have to stink at the end of it.

And as time goes on, I realize I am more like him than I ever thought.

And it's a darn good thing, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Leadership starts behind the bench

This is going to be a quick one ... as speedy as the playoffs went for the Calgary Flames.

Done in six games. They lose two, they put out two gritty performances and tie the series ... then there was the Saturday debacle.

The Flames respond to cheap stickwork with cheap stickwork. They respond to sucker-punches with sucker-punches. Trips, dives, smacks, whacks ...

This was not hockey. Not the way us old-fashioned Canadians like to watch it.

Worse yet, this was not the same type of hockey the Flames played in their magnificent Stanley Cup run of 2004 ... won in the sixth game by the Flames but faulty reviews let the Tampa Bay Lightning win the game, tie the series and force a seventh game on home ice.

No, it wasn't the same type ... some character types were missing.

Worse yet ... some types had lost their character.

I won't dispute for a second they were beaten by a better team, the Detroit Red Wings, whose roster sports the amazingly talented Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

But the Flames still have decent talent ... one of the best power forwards in today's game, Jarome Iginla; one of the best leaders in the game, Craig Conroy; one of the best young defencemen in the game, Brad Stuart; and one of the best goalies in the game, Miikka Kiprusoff.

But the road record during the regular season was appalling, especially for a team with the decent talent the Flames had. And the road effort was no better in the playoffs. Four consecutive losses outside of the Saddledome.

And the debacle of Game 3 in Detroit has convinced me I will not watch another Flames game provided Jim Playfair is behind the bench.

Playfair ... Darryl Sutter's understudy in that magnificent playoff run of 2004.

Handpicked by Sutter to take over the coveted job of leading a talented team which was expected to be a contender at the beginning of the season.

But one that barely held onto its playoff spot.

What was truly appalling was Playfair's inability to corral the team on Saturday and harness their emotions and turn them into hard-nosed hockey -- the kind of hockey where guts and hearts beat skill and talent.

With the right leader behind the bench, Jarome Iginla picks the biggest, toughest guy on the team and either kicks his ass or takes his licks -- just like he did in '04 with Derian Hatcher.

With the right leader, Jarome Iginla isn't responding to chippy stickwork with his own, especially that butt-end in the last 45 seconds.

With the right leader, Jamie McLennan is never put in the position in which he found himself ... finishing his career with a two-hand chop to someone's stomach. And no, I don't give a crap whether Franzen overacted. McLennan still delivered a two-hand chop to his stomach.

With the right leader, the players -- from captain to fourth-line checker -- are prepared to play against any adversity ... just as they did in 2004.

Now I'm not saying Darryl Sutter is the right person. But I will say I don't believe Jim Playfair is.

And there won't be a single Flames game viewed by these eyes as long as Sutter thinks Playfair is.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Am I really supposed to swoon?

Note to God, or whomever is in charge ...

The man of my dreams does not chew tobacco.

Picture it.

Saturday night, all dressed up for a night at the Roughnecks game with the gang. It's halftime and we head up to the Whisky.

We hang out, we laugh, we play a little Tippy Cup ... time to head back to our seats.

But first, a pee break.

On the way out of the facilities, we get stopped for a chatup. No biggie.

It's time to continue on but I get stopped for further discussion.

He says, "I need to ask you a question."

I say, "Er ... OK."

He says, "How can you look so pretty and yet so unapproachable at the same time?"

I'm damn near positive the look on my face would have been enough to whither his potential erection for years to come. I fire off a 'because I am' and continue on my way.

But I got to thinking ...

What was it about his question that was supposed to make me swoon.

Oh, Mr. Rhett Butler, I do declare your ardent attentions are givin' me the vapours!


Compliment me and insult me in 14 words and one sentence?

Am I unapproachable?

Or are you just intimidated, setting yourself up for failure because you know you didn't stand a chance?

Then why bother? Or was it just for the entertainment for your buddies? Are you so full of self-loathing that you had to embarrass yourself in front of them?

And for God's sake, did you really imagine I was going to giggle, twirl my hair and bat my eyes for you, while you stood there with leaves of tobacco weaving their gag-inducing way through the jumbled mass of your lower mandible?

Or maybe I was supposed to playfully wipe away the oily black spittle at the side of your mouth?

I swear, if there's a mystery around how women think, it can only be slightly less confusing than the way men think.

I was reminded this morning of an e-mail I sent out a couple of weeks ago. Rumour has it, the originator of the missive is male and I want to find someone who thinks like that.

The e-mail is entitled 'Why Men Love Women' and it reads:

1. They will always smell good even if it's just shampoo.

2. The way their heads always find the right spot on our shoulder.

3. How cute they look when they sleep.

4. The ease in which they fit into our arms .

5. The way they kiss you and all of a sudden everything is right in
the world.

6. How cute they are when they eat.

7. The way they take hours to get dressed but in the end it makes it all worth while.

8. Because they are always warm even when its minus 30 outside.

9. The way they look good no matter what they wear.

10. The way they fish for compliments even though you both know
that you think she's the most beautiful girl on this earth.

11. How cute they are when they argue.

12. The way her hand always finds yours.

13. The way they smile.

14. The way you feel when you see their name on your cell after you
just had a big fight.

15. The way she says "lets not fight anymore"

16. The way that they kiss after you have had a fight.

17. The way they kiss you when you say "I love you".

18. Actually...Just the way they kiss you...

19. The way they fall into your arms when they cry.

20. Then the way they apologize for crying over something that silly.

21. The way they hit you and expect it to hurt.

22. Then the way they apologize when it does hurt (even though we don't admit it).

23. The way they say "I miss you".

24. The way you miss them.

25. The way their tears make you want to change the world so that it doesn't hurt her anymore...

Yet regardless if you love them, hate them, wish they would die or know that you would die without them it matters not. Because once in your life, whatever they were to the world they become everything to you. When you look them in the eyes, traveling to the depths of their souls and you say a million things without trace of a sound, you know that your own life is inevitable consumed within the rhythmic beatings of her very heart. We love them for a million reasons, no paper would do it justice. It is a thing not of the mind but of the heart.

A feeling.

Only felt.

So where is he? Because I've never been more ready to welcome him into my life.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Peeling away the layers

Isn't it amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do ... for the soul?

Last weekend, we started transforming my wee little dungeon with the permission of my landlord.

If I was going to stay there another year, dammit, there was no way those walls were going to be that dingy ... and no amount of bleach was going to help.

Frosted lemon in the bathroom, butter cream in the kitchen, mystical sea in the bedroom.

And just the living-room is left for this weekend.

We've already pulled away the horribly tacky wallpaper border that ringed the ceiling.

Karina grabbed hold of one end and started pulling. She stopped after a good hard yank and we both wanted to vomit.

The wall space hidden by the border was as white as white could be. We started to understand that the colour of the wall was a decent white battered by years of smoking renters and a lack of will to clean.

But here's the point ... when you pull away your tacky wallpaper border, what's left behind?

Another friend, who shall remain nameless, just turned 35. She was rather upset about it at the time.

Having that year of my life almost completely under my belt -- Aug. 18 is 36, write it down, commit to memory -- I counselled her.

It really isn't as bad a number as it seems.

It has been a time of transformation, a time of realization.

Who is this Flash that everyone thinks they know so well? Trouble is, Flash didn't know.

But when you've had everything you know torn away -- your heart, your dignity, your job, your soul -- it's a good time to start rebuilding.

From scratch.

Flash doesn't like to drink beer.

Flash doesn't like to drink.

OK, maybe a glass of red wine with dinner and the occasional beer at a hockey game.

But last summer was ridiculous ... closing the ballpark down every Wednesday night and twice on Sunday? Good grief ...

Flash doesn't like to party.

Flash would rather spend the time at the gym.

Or walking the dog.

Or in quiet conversation with a few good friends.

Or cuddled up on the futon watching movies.

And she really has to stop talking in the third person!

35 has been an eye-opener, an awakening.

My friend is in the beginning steps of her awakening. And if I can hold her hand or give her a shoulder to cry on, I will.

The pushoff in the little dingy is through rough waters but once you get to the open sea, it's smooth sailing and everything starts to fall into place.

And there really is more to life than the ballpark and the junior high dynamics that go with it.

So, I was long overdue for that fresh coat of paint.

And the one I chose has the words 'Cover Girl' and 'age-defying' on the label ...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I have GAS

Allow me to introduce you to a very important and new part of my personality.

No, this has nothing to do with me being anything like Sybil and the nine different people swimming around in her grey matter.

This is called my 'Give a Shit' scale.

Should what you have to say register high on the GAS scale, then I will be extremely interested in what you have to say.

I will turn toward you, listen intently and participate in the conversation when my turn comes due.

Should the poop particles not stir, a cloud will likely fall over my face, my sense of hearing will shut down and I may very well fall asleep right in front of you.

Maybe you've hit a five ... you're going to have to start using some fancy words, metaphors and tall tales but you may at least have my attention. You may get a lift of the chin. But nothing too engaging.

Please don't take offence. You're just not very interesting.

No, that may be mean. How about ...

Please don't take offence. What you have to say isn't very interesting at all.

Subjects that will remain low on the GAS scale will generally include all forms of gossip, stories about your children and whining about how much your job sucks.

Subjects that will hit high on the GAS scale are few and far between ... but likely will involve men or athletics ... or both.

And yes, for the purpose of maintaining a solid relationship with some people, I will fake it.

So, how will one know whether they should just move along and not bother consuming the energy to talk to me?

The eyebrows. It will always be in the eyebrows.

Low on the scale ... nothing.

High? They're gonna shoot so far up you'll never know I had a forehead. Then you know you got me.

Egad ... you know what this means? I'm becoming more and more like my father every day.

Trouble is, I can't do the one eyebrow thing.

That was when we knew we were in shit.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

More than just a reason

There's an old saying about relationships: People always come into your life for a reason, a season and a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.

I hooked up today with a friend whom I hadn't seen in almost six months. No matter where our lives take us, we are brought back together by a hockey team. When the Kamloops Blazers come to town, we know it's our day.

We sat and talked about where our lives have taken us since we moved out of the house in Montgomery almost two years ago.

And we couldn't believe how much time has passed and how long we've kept some of the people in our lives.

Doyle ... he's known me for 10 years, since I moved out west.

Dale ... she's been my rock since she moved out west in 2000.

Kirk ... entered my life in 1999.

Traci ... one of my best friends since Grade 11. Good grief, that's 20 years exactly.

The only one with whom I'm in constant contact is Dale. But the others ... I know they're there when I need them.

A valuable part of my world, they show me a bit of who I am ... after all, the people close to you are a reflection of who you really are.

They are smart, they are intelligent, they are passionate ... and they care.

We may not always understand the reason we are in each other's lives. Those lessons may not be learned for decades to come.

But I look forward to figuring it out ... and it also helps me realize there are a select few new people in my life whom I'd like to keep around for a few decades, too.

If not a lifetime.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Some hoop on ya!

There was a great e-mail sent out the other day. It was entitled How To Tell If Your Ass Is Too Small.

The attached video is from somewhere in India and a couple of the good citizens are unloading blankets or something or another of a wagon. As the camera pans forward, we get to see why they're unloading the wagon ... the load is so heavy that the poor little donkey is completely suspended in air.

I send it out ... I get the following reply from my buddy, the incomparable Eric Francis: 'that shit was funny - ass is a funny word.'

Ass is a funny word.

In a wonderful way ... look at all the different meanings.

Of course, there's the ass, or 'poor little donkey,' in the video but what if somebody says 'check out that ass'?

Is he looking at your tuckus? Admiring it? Or like Greg in Gander, N.L., used to yell across the ball field at me, 'Some hoop on ya!' Ah, those Newfies ... the words they have that only make sense to them ...

Or is he calling you an ass, as defined by Merriam Webster as a stupid, obstinate, or perverse person, often compounded with a preceding adjective, such as smart-ass.

And then look up smart-ass ... well, it takes on a whole different meaning. refers you to 'smart aleck,' which means an obnoxiously conceited and self-assertive person with pretensions to smartness or cleverness.

Hey! Mom used to call us smart alecks all the time ... that bitch, wait until I get back to Nova Scotia this summer. She's gonna get a talking to ...

Then there's asshole. If you're called an asshole, are you actually the orifice from which you defecate? More likely, someone means a stupid, incompetent, or detestable person.

Same with asswipe, a word I remember being very popular around our household in the late 80s and early 90s.

In any case, that's what makes the English language so much fun ... different meanings on different levels for a word as small as 'ass.'

Now if we could just figure out why we have to have homonyms. Then I wouldn't have to choke the shit out of some asshole who confuses 'there,' 'their' and 'they're.'

There, there, Flashy. There, there.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quite the day

In about two hours, it will the one-year anniversary of one of the strangest days of my life.

I was still at the Sun then, so Wednesday was my day off. I had been through hell the last couple of days as will become clearer as the words progress.

I got my lazy ass off the couch and took my dog for a walk. As we took those last few strides back toward the house, I saw the truck sitting outside my house. My heart leapt into my throat.

I walked through the gate, toward my door and there he was ... waiting for me.

With the Reader's Digest version of the previous six weeks, I had been dating a guy, whom we will call Muffin, but he was involved in a long-distance relationship with another woman. He had never quite been able to tell me that he loved her or why he needed to be with me, too.

The best I could get out of him was 'I don't know.'

Against my better judgment, I fell deeply in love with him ... no one on this earth has had the power to bring me to a state of relaxation like he could, to make me smile from the inside out, to feel that incredible kiss deep down in my toenails.

But I surreptitiously snuck into his e-mail, found her e-mail address, set up a fake name for myself and told her all about me ... on New Year's Day, 2006.

All hell broke less. I went to that old adage, 'Deny, deny, deny.' It worked until the guilt boiled up inside of me so bad it was in my mind morning, noon and night. My work was faltering, I couldn't eat and I couldn't run ... the one thing that had kept me sane for the last two years, I couldn't bring myself to do.

And there he was, standing on my back doorstep ... knocking at my door and calling my phone.

He wanted to talk.

We talked. I told him everything. Everything I had done. Everything I had told her. Everything I was feeling.

He didn't yell. He didn't hate. He didn't hit.

He said he kind of knew all along but didn't really want to believe it.

Stranger of all, he looked me dead in the eye and told me he wanted to be with me.

I couldn't believe it.

He. Wanted. To. Be. With. Me.

My heart skipped a beat ... or maybe a hundred. I asked him to say it again. Again. And again.

We promised to make Feb. 15, 2006, the first day of working towards trusting each other and building something together.

But something somewhere somehow changed along the way. We did stay together ... for another three months. And all along, he stayed with her, too. He told me he wanted to stay friends with her, that's all.

Except that's where he is today.

And I wonder if he remembers that one year ago today he told me he wanted to be with me.

You can tell I have questions, can't you? Questions that will probably remain unanswered for a hundred lifetimes.

Answers that I probably wouldn't understand.

Because really ... what does 'I don't know' mean anyway?

In a couple of hours, I'll head home from work. His truck won't be there. He won't be standing on my back doorstep ... knocking on the door and calling on my cellphone.

I'll walk the dog and he still won't be there when I get home.

And if it's all the same to you, I'll spend some time crying ... wondering what could have been if he'd just made good on his words.

Wondering if I'll find that perfect state of relaxation again. Or that inside-out smile. Or that kiss in the toenails.

And rest assured, someone's going to suffer my frustration ... tonight, Thorncliffe Arena. Somebody warn them about No. 7.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy what now?

Today sucks for a lot of people.

Not me. I guess you would have had to have a good Valentine's Day at least once in your life to have expectations for the day.

First boyfriend: Emotionally abusive stalker, who used roses as a way to entangle me in his misogynistic trappings ... you can't wear that shirt, you can't hang out with your friends. Ditched him soon after he told me I was going to be a teacher ... bahahahahah!

Second boyfriend: Dirt poor. Spent his meager earnings on dope. Took my money when he had none.

Third boyfriend: Thought romance was wasted on women, simply because his ex-fiancee dumped his ass when she figured out she wanted more out of life than Westsyde.

Most recent involvement: Well, I wasn't the only girl he was with and she found out about me around this time last year. Didn't make for a solid V-Day on any end of that triangle.

So it's just another day ... if I could manage to turn the TV and radio off and not listen to all these people flogging this Hallmark Holiday and telling me to love the one I'm with.

That's my dog. And I love him with all my heart ... except for yesterday when he snuck out of the backyard to dig at the garbage and munch on a frozen head of lettuce that the boys upstairs threw out.

Or is it my girlfriends? They've been an amazing support system through these last lonely months of solitude. Of course, I love them, too.

But it sure would be nice to cozy up to a warm set of arms one of these days soon.

Except for one thing ... Valentine's Day ... acronym V.D. ... isn't that a dangerous thing?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hey, Shoulders ...

I call you Hot Guy to my friends.
I've been noticing you for a few months now. Every now and then, we'll work out next to each other, so I know we look good together.
But I'm one of those girls who thinks maybe ... just maybe ... you might be too hot for me.
Thus, it took a whole lot of courage to look you dead in the eye last week and say 'hi.'
Man, your face lit up like a Christmas tree, which only made me smile bigger.
Did you sit next to me tonight to hit your biceps on purpose then?
Let me tell you ... it took every fiber in my being to pull my headphones out of me ears and hit you with that deadly opener: "I sure hope you didn't bike over here tonight."
After all, it is 21-below Celsius. Positively frigid, like an old boyfriend. Bahahaha!
He laughs, smiles and says, "Yup."
What ensued was a fairly innocuous conversation about the weather but one in which we both divulged some information about ourselves.
We're both grumpy about people who don't know how to drive in winter. Oh hell, who isn't?
I admitted I just ditched my sweet sports car for an SUV.
You tell me you actually biked to school this morning.
Grr, a tidbit of information that leaves me wanting to know more ... are you a teacher? One of those people I actually admire because of the incredible patience required to deal with idiot kids?
Or are you a student, taking your life in a new path at a later age because you finally have it all figured out?
And what in hell would my fingernails look like digging into those massive shoulders?
Time is running out ... my membership runs out on March 9 and I'll be heading over to another gym, one with better equipment.
But one without you.
Will I have the guts to hand you my digits? Not something I've ever done before.
They've always sought me out ...
Maybe the winds of change are blowing, though.
And that's never a bad thing.