An Adventure of Experience + Innocence in Amsterdam, Oct 2018

I’ve been meaning to write this strange adventure down for a couple of months but haven’t had the chance, and although it was easily memorable enough on its own, I did take copious notes right after it happened as I didn’t want to risk losing a detail.  I don’t usually post ‘parental advisories’ or ‘trigger warnings’ or ‘spoilers’ or ‘trailers’ for my stories, but although most of the action that happens takes place over the course of something less than an hour in total, please be warned that what follows contains some really awkward racism, blatant anti-Semitism, inappropriate sexual propositions, and possibly some light ageism depending on your definition of ‘old’.  Also, this will probably turn out to be a little bit long because, as you can tell, a whole lot of weirdness happened all around me over some of the sixty strangest minutes I’ve ever suffered through.  One last thing to mention in this preamble is that although I am a story-teller by nature and that usually gives rise to exaggeration or conflation, everything below is one-hundred percent true, is set down pretty much exactly as it happened, and if anything, is actually a little toned-down to keep some of the language a little bit more palatable for public consumption.

In October of last year, 2018, I set off on a trip to Amsterdam, my all-time number-one bucket-list city, to go see U2.  In my life, I’ve seen those four dudes from Dublin dozens of times in cities across North America, but for this particular tour they for some reason decided not to include a show for the first time in memory in my hometown of Toronto.  I considered going to see them in Washington where my cousin George lives, and I thought about maybe going to Montreal as I haven’t been there in years, and of course I deliberated over going to Dublin to see them on their home turf, but then I noticed that they were playing Amsterdam during the Canadian Thanksgiving long-weekend, and upon realizing that I wouldn’t have to burn too many vacation days to go see my favourite band in basically my dream city, the plans were set.  My wife had been to Scotland for a few weeks earlier in the summer with her mom, so now it was my turn for a fun adventure.  All’s fair in love and being jealous over trips to Europe.

Did I think it was weird to be going alone to a foreign country just to see a rock band?  Absolutely.  But I’ve never let being weird stop me before, so social-anxiety and neurotic self-doubts be damned, I landed on Friday morning and spent a couple of days walking the city, touring the canals, checking out many museums and art installations, and eating easily the most delicious pancakes and waffles to ever grace my taste-buds.  I found a bench just across the Singel Canal from my hotel and made it my own; I’d sit there for seemingly hours on end, enjoying a warm and refreshing caramel latte and some of the best people-watching I’ve ever had the pleasure to partake in, hilariously highlighted on Saturday by a very tall elderly couple barreling around the corner whilst crowded into the tiniest orange SmartCar I’ve ever seen, giving me what I considered to be the most perfectly ridiculous Amsterdam moment.

After an utterly jam-packed couple of days of foot-swelling sight-seeing, it was somehow suddenly Sunday, the day of the first show.  I’m not going to lie, I started to get a little freaked out.  I’m generally not a fan of large crowds to begin with, and here I was preparing to head into one in a foreign country where, although almost everyone seemed to speak English (better than most native-speakers, I might add), I don’t speak their language at all outside of ‘goedemorgen’, ‘behagen’, and ‘bedankt’.  My anxiety was getting to me.  What if something happened?  Like, something really bad?  I mean, the world has gotten a little bit crazy lately, and here I was all by myself, ready to put my head right into the metaphorical lion’s gaping maw… Was I crazy?

Seriously, freaking out doesn’t come close to describing what was going on in my head in the hours leading up to the concert.  But then I remembered that I was in Amsterdam, so I grabbed another latte, went to my bench, and did what most tourists in Amsterdam go there to do and partook in some time-tested and true herbal relaxation techniques.  Then, after a little more people watching, I went back to my room to order room-service (Dion the room-service guy at the NH City Centre, if you’re somehow reading this, you were totally right and the BLT was on the spot!), and get ready for the show.

Shortly thereafter, I went downstairs and had the concierge order me a taxi to the Ziggodome, which I just want to mention is one of the best venues I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend a concert in and the sound was perfect on both nights I went, sitting on opposite sides of the hall each night, so if you ever get the chance to see a concert there while you’re in Amsterdam, I feel safe in saying that you will likely not be disappointed.

The hotel lobby was a little busy, and when the taxi driver showed up there was some small confusion as two ladies had also ordered a cab to the venue and we got mixed-up over whose cab was whose, not helped by the fact that at first I thought the cabbie was with the ladies and was introducing himself as “Amir”, when in fact he was letting me know he was my driver and was actually saying, “I’m here.”  In my defense, it was a little chaotic and cacophonous in the lobby just then, and confession time, I don’t really hear all that well to begin with, so it was an honest (and pretty funny) mistake.  Also, coincidentally, his name actually was Amir.  True story. And we laughed and laughed.

Regardless, I ended up inviting the two ladies to share my cab since we were all going to the same place, so why not split the cost and save a couple of euros, right?  They were visiting from Israel and had also come to see the show and to celebrate the blonde gregarious one’s 50th birthday.  Now, I know I said earlier that I took copious notes about this whole night, but try as I might, I just do not remember their names.  Sorry, but I don’t.  I didn’t remember them seven seconds after they said them.  Ronit?  Irit?  I don’t know.  Blame the smoke I’d enjoyed earlier, but their names just did not register with me at all.  Sorry ladies.  Actually, not sorry.  Because remember that ‘splitting the cab’ thing I mentioned earlier?  They conveniently discovered that had no small bills with them, so I ended up paying for the whole damn thing (which I was fine with because I was planning on taking one alone anyhow so it’s not like I hadn’t already been planning on spending that money, but still!), and we agreed to meet up at the taxi-line after the show and they’d pay for the cab back to the hotel in return; we made a pact to ride back together since we were all going to the same place anyhow, so again, it just made sense.  Also, I am apparently a very naïve and too-trusting individual.

Without wasting too much time by giving you a complete review of the concert because I haven’t even gotten to the meaty part of the story yet, it was an incredible show.  It was everything I wanted and more.  A splendid time was guaranteed for all.  For reals – An exciting and well-flowing passionate set-list, and the boys were tight and on point throughout.  While most U2 concerts are raucous celebrations of love and togetherness, the Experience+Innocence narrative had a bit of an angrier feel; more of a call to action against all of the scary monsters trying to snuff out the light of love in our world and how the onus is on all of us to fight back against the looming darkness that surrounds.  It was amazing and inspirational and I left with all of my fears and uncertainties silenced by the power of music.  I really can’t give a better or more honest review than that, and in the name of brevity I won’t even try.

After the concert, hovering about six inches above the pavement from the euphoria I’d received from the band – I should clarify that the Ziggodome is a strictly non-smoking venue and I didn’t want to risk anything while inside the facility – I easily found the taxi-line and set to waiting for my new Israeli friends.  And waiting.  And waiting long enough that my feet were back on the cement and my hands were starting to numb from the cold October air.  Call me a sucker, but I stood there for forty-five minutes before deciding that I’d gone somewhere past being a good guy by waiting for so long for my two new ‘friends’ whom it was now abundantly clear were not coming to join me, and as the line of people waiting for taxis was starting to shrink to a size I considered manageable, I decided to join it and if the ladies finally showed up then I’d have a place for us in the queue, and if they didn’t, well, then I could at least tell myself with a clear conscience that I’d done my due diligence.  I think it goes without saying that they didn’t show up.

While standing in line was when things began to get interesting and the adventure part of the story I was talking about earlier commenced.  I’d been in line for only a few minutes and a couple of people had joined in behind me, but I honestly didn’t pay any mind to them short of smiling when they walked up because I was getting tired and hungry, and frankly was just not interested in talking to people right then.  Soon, a tall, skinny, dark skinned man, who I’m going to guess was an African immigrant based on his accent, approached and asked me if I wanted to save ten-euros by riding with him instead of taking a cab, but being completely unfamiliar with where I was and preferring to take what in my mind was a more trusted and official ride in a registered taxi, I politely declined and he moved down the line to the couple behind me.

At first, I wasn’t really paying attention, having turned to face forward and trying to count how many people were left in front of me before I’d get my ride, but I quickly swung back around to face behind me because things had quite quickly gotten rather loud and heated.  The male part of the couple that the prospective driver had approached was a very loud, very drunk, very belligerent, bald round Irishman who looked to be in his late 30’s and carrying a very bad attitude, whereas his female counterpart, who despite her screaming, “Feck off, and get the feck away from us!” at the top of her lungs towards the affronted black man who was only trying to offer a cheap ride to anyone who wanted one, actually looked to be an otherwise lovely woman with shiny straight chestnut hair and eyes, and an lilt to her accent that couldn’t help but make me smile despite the vulgarities emanating from her mouth.  The Irish guy was also yelling, the driver dude was yelling back at them, and some of his what I assume were his friends based on the colour of their skin and how quickly they jumped to his defense joined in around him in a wall of support, and there I was, something fewer than twenty-four inches away from where it seemed punches would very imminently be thrown.

I wasn’t sure what to do, to be honest, seeing as how I’m a complete and total chicken who has less than zero desire to ever get into a fight, but I was sort of stuck by my place in line with the words ‘innocent bystander’ starting to run frantically through my brain.  Should I have just turned around and ignored the fight that was about to break out literally less than two feet away from me?  That seemed like the smartest and safest thing to do, but just as I was about to show them my back, I noticed that the Irish fella had gotten quiet.  I don’t really know how or why, but I totally read his mind in that minute and I knew with complete certainty what he was thinking about doing, and what he was thinking about doing would have absolutely escalated this shouting match into a storm of violence without a shadow of a doubt, and I just couldn’t have that, especially because I was for sure close enough that I probably would have ended up getting hurt, and while I can’t say for sure that nobody on our fine planet wants that to happen, in that moment I for one knew that I sure didn’t!

Also, having seen a show that delivered the powerful message like the one we’d just attended, I sort of had to get involved and to stand up.  Silence equals death, or something like that, right?  It most certainly wasn’t bravery or anything like that, but rather I just did what I felt was the right thing to do in the situation.

The driver man was right in the Irish guy’s face, the Irish lady was right in the driver dude’s face, and the Irish guy was swaying drunk and wondering if he should say it, if he should say the one single thing that would be sure to take this to the next level.  I’m telling you, I literally saw the word pop into his mind.  I saw it forming on his smirking lips, sliding its nefarious way down his alcohol-swollen tongue towards the stinking blowhole of his small mouth, and I just had to intervene; these two drunken Dubliners definitely needed a babysitter in that moment and I was clearly the only one immediately willing and able to take the job.

Right as the ‘N’ sound started coming out of Irish’s mouth, I pushed between the three and said, “Hey, are you guys from Ireland?  I love Ireland!  Why don’t you two split a cab with me?  Are you going back to the city centre?  I’m going back to the city centre, so why don’t we just all go in a cab together and that way it’ll be even cheaper?”  At least, that’s what I was trying to say, but it probably came out more frantically and garbled than that.  It was a really intense moment!

Everything stopped for a second.  At the very least, I’d been successful in confusing things long enough for the electricity between them to slightly defuse and for the stumblebum Irish dude to remember that he was actually in a public place in a foreign country and to reconsider his words.  Somehow in the same instant the driver guy was gone, having taken the opportunity of my interference to do the smart thing and just walk away with his compatriots.  I, on the otherhand, quite suddenly had two very loud, very boisterous, very drunk, new best friends.  Fantastic.

Now, I have to be completely honest here and let you know that when the Irish guy was talking, I only understood about half of what he was saying despite it being spoken in mostly recognizable English, and I can’t say for sure whether it was because his accent was much thicker than the Irish I’ve become accustomed to hearing on television and in movies, or if it’s because he was so drunk he was literally slurring saliva out the sides of his lips when he spoke, but my guess is had more to do with his inebriation because I had no problem comprehending the lovely lilting utterances of his lady friend, and shortly introductions were made.

Liam and Linda were from Dublin (I had guessed correctly), were not a couple (I had guessed incorrectly), but rather had somehow lost Linda’s husband and their friends in their inebriated exit from the Ziggo.  Despite the really bad first impression that they’d made on me, they were actually quite lovely for the most part after they’d calmed down, so I started to relax into small talk with them.  What else was I supposed to do?  We were stuck in a line, they were drunk and friendly, and I had no one to distract me or help pull me away.  At least they were funny.  Well, Linda was funny, anyhow, and had a really big and friendly permagrin plastered on her face.  Liam, on the other hand, was kind in that dour part of a drunken binge night and had taken to complaining that he felt the show was a little flat, although all around us in the crowd verbally disagreed when he started yelling at the moon about it.

After a few moments of chit-chat as we moved up the queue and they got excited that I was from Toronto and I got excited that they were from Ireland and we talked about how many U2 concerts we’d seen in how many cities over how many years, etc., we finally made our way to the front and were greeted by a huge minivan for a taxi, so Linda took it upon herself to invite the four people behind us in line – a stunningly gorgeous brunette woman and her three male friends – to join in if they were going to the city centre.

We all piled together into the back of the minivan with the seats set facing each other three to a side, with the last third of the stunning lady’s male companions getting into the front next to the driver.  I hadn’t really noticed our additional riders until we got into the cab as friendly Linda had started talking to them at first while we were still in line and I was trying to understand why Liam didn’t like the show (and not doing a very good job of it), so the next thing I knew was that I was following Liam’s butt into the back of the vehicle and strategically chose to sit across from him with my seat facing towards the rear with the hope that Linda would sit next to him and I could get out of this very one-sided conversation that consisted entirely of his ranting complaints and me repeating, “What?” and “Pardon?” over and over again, or else just smiling and nodding in hopes he’d move on to a new topic, which he was obviously not in the mood to do.  Linda did end up sitting next to him, with the olive-skinned goddess settling in next to her (not that Linda wasn’t very pretty in her own right, if she ever reads this or if you as a reader feel you needed to know that she had a bit of a doll-face, but this new addition to our mix was one of those otherworldly looking women who you would think only exist on photo-shopped magazine covers or George Michael videos, and not sitting diagonally across from you in a taxi after a U2 show in Amsterdam), and the other two dudes filling out the rest of the bench I’d chosen.

Linda, having taken on the role of hostess, decided to start introductions all around, first for herself and Liam, and then speaking on my behalf to introduce me as well, maybe somehow psychologically cementing me as part of their group, I don’t know.  I didn’t really pay it much mind, though.  At this point, it seemed that Linda clearly meant well and the atmosphere was shifting into a jovial tone.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last super long.  Like, not even a full minute, probably.  The female half of my new Irish gang had clearly deduced something that I had completely missed thanks to my Liam-shaped distraction.  She turned face-on to the beautiful woman beside her and politely but forcibly queried in a still somehow impressively friendly manner: “Who are you and why do you have three bodyguards?”  Even as surprising as the words were as they came out of Linda’s mouth, I still took a moment to delight in her accent as she said them.

The cab grew silent as the energy quickly shifted to a quiet momentary tension and I felt the guy in the blue button-down shirt next to me physically turn his body into a lethal weapon, poised to strike in that very second should circumstances call for it, so abruptly did his posture and stance shift in the space to my left.  Later on, I would reflect that it was almost thrilling how quickly the tension arose and dissipated, but after those few awkward seconds, Helen of Troy’s Even Prettier Sister deigned to provide us with a response and the atmosphere immediately went right back to where it was only an incredibly brief moment before.

Now, I want to make something clear at this juncture.  The woman in question is an actor, and a pretty successful one at that, but not like some A-List household name.  She’s been in things and you kind of know her when you see her; she’s one of those familiar faces who plays the friend of a friend or the third cousin most of the time, and the larger films that she has had more of a leading role in are not ones I’ve personally seen.  I also, to my grand embarrassment, have to admit that I did not catch her name when she said it.  Blame the noise in the van, blame my hardness of hearing, blame the fact that I’m sadly plain old bad with names, but I simply did not hear it, and sort of just nodded along when she said it.  I did look her up when I got home, but for the sake of the story and to keep things true to my confusion at the time, let’s just call her Grace and get on with it.  I apologize if this is a disappointing turn, but it really just feels like the right thing to do.

With a healthy middle-eastern accent, she introduced herself as, “Grace who lives in Israel,” (and before you ask, the answer is “No”.  I know Gal Gadot is easily far and away the most famous actor with Israeli roots, but I assure you that it was not her.  Believe me, I would tell you if it was Gal Gadot.  I would tell everyone on Earth if I’d shared a cab with Gal Gadot. This woman is successful and famous, but nowhere near on a Gal Gadot level), and confirmed that the three dudes with her were indeed bodyguards, and offhandedly said we could just refer to them as her “Haifa boys.”

And that’s where things went wrong.  Ugh.  I don’t even want to write about this part because it just all got so incredibly awkward, but it’s pretty much one of the most important parts of this story so here goes.

A couple of things happened all at once, but with the limitations of writing it down and not having the gift of real time to reflect how it actually happened, the following is as close as we’re going to get.

Liam was suddenly sitting up straight, sober, and interested.

I said, “Israel!  I love Israel!  I’ve been there three times!”

Linda, getting right close to Grace’s face, said, “Oh, you mean Palestine.”  Just like that.  Not a question.  Not an exclamation.  Just a statement.

And all I thought was, “Oh, fuck.”

Grace turned to face Linda so that her perfectly angular nose was mere millimetres away from the snub end of Linda’s smoothly curved one, and repeated firmly but gracefully in the tone of voice only known to those truly gifted few whom are comfortably able to take command of a room on a note, “No.  I meant Israel.”

Awkward!  Everything got suddenly silent all over again, Mr. Haifa Boy next to me got all sorts of flexed-up and ready again, Liam was totally engaged with his body leaning heavily into the fray now, and I was incredibly frightened about what might happen next in our little enclosed space that was barreling down the highway at about 100 km/h.  Luckily, however, sometimes in moments of great need or dire peril, my mouth moves faster than my brain and will occasionally get me out of rotten and horrible scary situations, and this was thankfully one of those times.  I repeated what I said about having been to Israel and asked Grace what part of the Holy Land she was from, and started rambling about my cousins who live in Petah Tikva and Eilat and all types of random nonsense like that, and we all sort of started to settle down for a second, but then Liam cut in and the atmosphere grew completely disruptive again.

Directed to the Haifa Boy in blue on my left, Liam, with the biggest shit-eating grin you can imagine, asked, “So, if ye’re her bodyguards, does tha’ mean ye’re all Mossad?”  And then, to me, in an unbelievably failed attempted aside that was spoken in an extremely loud voice that he clearly thought no one else could hear, said, “They hate when yeh ask them that.  It’s their secret service, the Mossad.  They’re not allowed to talk about it.”  At least he’d sobered up enough for the moment that I could finally understand what he was saying, although it wasn’t actually anything at all what I wanted to be hearing or that I thought was necessarily even true.

To their professional credit, none of the Haifa Boys answered, and just sat silent and ready for things to go south.

I tried again, my brain finally having caught back up to my body.  Change the subject, Jamie.  Move it away from the tetchy topic of the Middle East.

“So, as an actor, we have a pretty big film industry in Toronto.  Have you ever been to Toronto?”

Clearly catching on and taking my rope, Grace replied that she’d been to Toronto many times, of course, for TIFF (the world renowned film festival), obviously, as well as a few other occasions, and that she had family there as well.  The two of us started talking about some of the sights around my city that she enjoyed, and I was hoping that would be an end to the awfulness, but Liam wasn’t done yet.

“So, then… Are all of yuh Jewish?”

Fuckin’ Liam, man.  Seriously?  Even Linda had clued in and piped down.  But, Liam?  Nope!  I guess he wanted to see where he could take this while he had a captive audience in a moving vehicle.  A really lovely situation for me, let me tell you.  Fuckin’ Liam.

Grace and all three Haifa Boys raised their hands, as did I, and I even said, sounding to my own ears like a four-year old child whose parents are giving everyone else dessert, “Me too!  Me too!”  I’ve never felt like such a dork until I heard my own voice in that moment, but I felt it should be made clear exactly where I fit into this very strange situation.  Not that it mattered in the slightest because both Liam and Linda had both clearly missed my big reveal, which will come back around to this little story shortly.

“So, ye’re all Jews, and if ye’re bodyguards, then I suppose ye’re all Mossad trained, is that right?” Liam continued to instigate.

“I was in the army, as well,” Grace said, cutting in, “And have awards for hand-to-hand combat.”  It didn’t sound like a brag to me, but rather just a plain matter of fact.

“That’s actually kind of hot,” Linda said.  In my head I agreed, but decided not to say so aloud because things were already awkward enough as it was.  Instead, I once again tried to change the subject by noting how cool it was that this entire taxi full of people had all travelled from three different countries solely to come see U2, and something about the unifying power of music, but my attempt fell into a flat silence as everyone else in the van had somehow telepathically all decided that maybe we’d be better off not talking to each other for the rest of the ride, but I somehow missed that message.  I suppose picking up on social cues while surrounded by what was starting to feel a little bit like blatant anti-Semitism isn’t one of my stronger skills.

Luckily, we had just arrived at the Central Bus Depot and the next thing I knew we were all piling out of the minivan.  Grace offered and was already moving to cover the ride for all of us, but Linda was having none of it, going off an enthusiastic rant about how Ireland and Canada can cover themselves, thank you very much.  I considered protesting because, hey, free ride!  However, I didn’t take the chance because lovely-voiced Linda could clearly be ludicrously loud when she so chose.  Whatever – What’s ten or fifteen euros between people with whom I didn’t really want to be friends?

With that, the Israeli vision of beauty and her gaggle of Haifa Boys walked off in their own direction, and I was left alone with a stumbling Liam and a somewhat petulant Linda in a place that had turned out to not at all be the place I’d been trying to go when we left the concert.  I’d said, “NH City Centre,” when we were first trying to organize our ride, but of course, they were drunk and took it to mean ‘the city centre’, where the bus depot and a whole load of hotels were.  Nuts.  My fault – I should have been paying more attention, but I guess that I just assumed ‘City Centre’ and ‘city centre’ were the same thing when we were talking about them.  That said, the fact that I was in the wrong place wasn’t even my most immediate problem.  It was that I was in the wrong place with clearly the wrong people.

The Israelis weren’t even out of earshot before Liam started in again, and this time a lot less politely than he was to their faces while we were all in the taxi.  I kind of stood there listening to him rant for maybe twenty seconds while Linda was trying to get her bearings and not paying attention to what was going on between Liam and myself, when I decided that I really needed to say something.

“Maybe you didn’t notice it when you asked in the taxi, brother-man, but I’m Jewish, and you’re being pretty wildly offensive right now, dude.”  There.  That came out in a confident, but non-confrontational way, right?  Disapproving, but because I said ‘dude’ and ‘brother-man’, it should still come across as friendly.  That was the hope, anyhow, and it seemed to take.

“Oh, don’t listen to Liam, anyhow,” Linda rejoined the conversation.  “He’s just a stumblebum drunk, is all.  He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, and he’s not going to know about it for sure in the morning.  Pay no mind at all; he’s harmless.  Now, where’s our hotel?  I’ve got to wee like never before!”

With that, Liam took out his iPhone and started screaming at Siri to tell him how to get back to their hotel.  I wish I was joking, but I’m not.  He was seriously yelling at his phone at the top of his lungs as we made our way over a short bridge towards a sidewalk that led out of the bus terminal grounds and back onto the streets, and yes, tons of people were totally looking at us like we were a gang of drunken buffoons, which I suppose the majority of our little group were, come to think of it.  I was really just trying to get to the roadway so that I could figure out where I was, knowing my hotel couldn’t be more than a ten minute walk away once I got oriented and knew which way to head.  Linda, however, had other ideas, and had decided that I was going to come back to their hotel with them and grab some food and a drink with their friends and her husband.  I was pretty hungry, so I actually considered it for a minute, but then quickly decided that I’d actually be better off finding a way to leave at my earliest opportunity as these two had provided more than too many surprises already, and I was not even slightly interested to see what happened when their group of drunken friends were added to the mix.  Things had already been weird enough for one night.  Of course, the weirdest was yet to come.

Linda and I were walking and talking, Liam howling like a banshee and swearing vividly at Siri a few paces behind us.  We were talking about work and what we did back in our respective hometowns, and at that point I made sure to mention my wife because I was starting to think that her vibe was getting a little lurid, and although we were going to meet her husband and friends, I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t into anything amorous or adventurous if that was what she was angling toward.  I know that sexual openness and permissiveness is one of the things for which Amsterdam is more famously known, but sorry, it’s just not my thing.  I’m cool with the drugs and the rock n’ roll, but the wanton sex part of the saying has never really been my thing.  No judgement, but my spectrum simply prefers intimate love and monogamy.  Maybe it was presumptuous of me to even think she was considering anything like that, but stranger things have happened and I just wanted to make sure that I got out in front of the situation.

Linda asked how long I’d been married and I said that we were going on to our tenth anniversary, together for fifteen, and that stopped her in her tracks.  “Shut the feck up!  You’re lying!” She said.

Confused, I asked her why she thought so, and she caught me completely off guard and left me laughing so hard that I nearly lost my last breath right there on the sidewalk when she told me that she and Liam had thought I was some lone-travelling twenty-two year old kid that they were trying to protect and make sure got home safely, which was obviously hilarious because I’m forty-five and from my perspective had been doing my best to babysit them and keep them out of trouble from the moment that we’d met.  She yelled back to tell Liam, who at this point looked like he was about to smash his phone down onto the sidewalk and start jumping up and down on it until the poor plastic thing was pulverized into dust; I guess Siri was having as much trouble with his accent as I was, which was in a way kind of a relief.

“Wait a fahkin’ minute, whaddaya mean ye’re fahkin’ farty-fahv?  Ah’m tharty-fahkin’-hate and thahr’s noowai ye’re alder than me!”  In his technology-raging state, his accent had somehow gotten worse and slurred again.

“Yup,” I replied, grinning ear to ear because, I have to admit, even with as heavily drunk as my Irish companions were, and that they were so obviously not seeing clearly because of that, being confused for someone in his twenties, much less his early twenties, was super flattering.  I’ve never really thought much about looking my age, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m getting older because to me it’s all just part of the story and there’s nothing I can do about it anyhow, but still, it was nice to hear.  That said, I know for a fact that I don’t look anywhere close to being in my twenties, and I pretty much look my age for someone who keeps in generally decent health.  “I’ve been forty-five for just about three weeks, actually.  But, I know – I don’t look a day over forty-four.  My heavy diet of loads of caffeine and far too much sugar keeps me young.”

Liam paused, and stood in front of me just staring.  Linda was to my right, looking on in interest.

Now quieter, he said, “So, ye’re farty-fahv, murried, and a Jew?”

“Well, yeah.  But my wife is Christian, if that makes any difference.”  I wasn’t sure why I had felt the need to add that.  A search for solidarity, perhaps?  Just trying to let them know that I was open to everyone?  I don’t know, but I started to go on about how I’m not religious at all anyhow, and couldn’t even remember the last time I stepped into a synagogue.  Now rambling, I began to go into my thoughts on apatheism vs. agnosticism and how I figured that I fall somewhere in between the two in my own personal belief system, but he wasn’t paying attention at all, and Linda was still just smiling along beside us, clearly interested in seeing what was going to happen next, which, as it ended up, wasn’t something that even she, having been friends with Liam for years, was expecting.

Liam muttered something again about the Mossad and about how us Jews really hated when people brought them up, which as an aside here is something I’ve never once heard in my life and I’m pretty sure that the existence of the Mossad is very much common-knowledge world-wide and they’ve probably even been a Jeopardy clue on numerous occasions, and then he looked right into my face with a gleam in his eye and asked once again, “So, ye’re a Jewish guy then?”

“All my life, my man.”

“So, that means ye’re cut, then?”

Call me stupid, call me slow, but I didn’t immediately clue in to his meaning.

“What?” I asked.

“Ye’re cut.  Ye’re peen.  They cut yer peter when yuh were a babby, didn’t they?”

“Wh-what?” I asked again, not because I didn’t understand what he was asking this time, but because I couldn’t believe he was actually asking it.

“Liam!” Linda admonished him in a tone of bewildered shock.  “Settle it down!”

“Ye’re circumcised!” Liam proclaimed with the same look of joy covering his round cherubic face that you’d see on a six-year old kid who’d just accomplished tying their own shoes for the first time, like he’s just cracked the Gordian Knot or something equally amazing.  He figured out all on his own that a Jew had been circumcised.  Eureka!

“Again, all my life, my man.  Or, all of it less about a week, according to tradition,” I said jokingly, failing horribly at shoving down the extreme awkwardness I was feeling in what was turning into a truly surreal confrontation.

The gleam in Liam’s eye got brighter, and although I’d at this point learned to expect pretty much anything from this sad-eyed, bald, round, drunkard, I was completely caught off-guard by the three words that next came out of his mouth:

“Whip it out.”

“What?  No!  Hell, no!”

“Liam!  Jesus!  Stop!”

“Ah mean it!  Whip it out!  Ah’ve never seen a cut one before!  Whip it out!”

I took a big step back at this point, and yelled: “What are you?  Bent?”  Don’t bother trying to figure out what I meant by that; I don’t know either.

“Liam!  Inappropriate!”  Did I mention that Linda said she was a teacher when we were discussing our careers?

But Liam persisted.  “Fer real, Ah’ve never seen a cut ‘un.  Just for a second!  Please?  Come on, whip it out.”

“You’ve never seen one?” I asked with dripping sarcasm heaping off of every word.  “You’ve been yelling at Siri for the last ten minutes so clearly you know what the internet is.  Google it!  Seriously!  You’ll easily get about a zillion hits!  ‘Whip it out’.  Like, what the fuck, dude?”

“Yeah, Liam!” Linda, thankfully was completely on my side, “What the feck?  That’s all a bit much even for you!”

Finally abashed, Liam started stumbling a bit ahead of us as while Linda apologized profusely for his behaviour, saying that she knew he was drunk and kind of a cunt sometimes (her word, not mine), but that this was beyond, even for him.

I let her ramble consoling words at me and in two minutes we were finally in front of their hotel.  Very suddenly, Linda stuck up her index finger and instructed Liam and I to “wait right here” on the sidewalk outside because she had to pee more than a river’s-worth and really shouldn’t have had that seventh beer before they left the concert, assuring us that she’d be right back and we could met the rest of their Irish contingent in the restaurant momentarily upon her return, and with that she bolted inside like a racehorse from a gunshot to relieve her bladder before she ruined her black jeans or stained her red sweater, and that was the last I ever saw of Linda.

Liam was left swaying on the sidewalk, and starting to stumble-mumble some senseless sounds, but his inebriated state had taken a strong hold again and while he was struggling to form his next sentence, I grabbed his hand and shook it, said, “See ya, Liam!” and speed-walked away to a taxi-cab that was sitting on the corner.

“To the NH City Centre, please, my fine sir,” I directed.  The driver was kind of pissed when I told him I wanted a ride that would have literally been a five minute walk down the street from where we were, but I gave him twenty euros and told him it was peace-of-mind money for helping me to escape an incredibly awkward predicament with some pretty peculiar people.

I have to admit, I do feel sort of bad for just leaving without saying goodbye to Linda, because despite our differing thoughts on Middle East politics, she was actually pretty nice.  I’m sure that Liam is probably a pretty nice guy in real life, too, but drunk Liam was simply not someone I was willing to handle for one minute more than I had to, and therefore when the opportunity to run arose, I took it.

Finally arriving safely back at my hotel, I went to my bench for a late-night smoke and to call my wife, and I relayed the entire story on speaker-phone to all of our family gathered around the Thanksgiving table at her mom’s house.  Out of the bunch of us, I’d definitely had the more eventful evening.

The next morning, as I was heading out of my hotel lobby to grab yet another caramel latte and go check out the bookstore so that I could buy a friend a gift that I’d noticed a couple of days earlier and that I knew (hoped) he was going to really appreciate, I ran into the two Israeli ladies who’d stood me up at the taxi line, thereby causing me to get into the previous night’s trouble in the first place.  They were headed to the airport on their way home and were profusely, if not completely obviously fakely, super apologetic.  I politely let them know it was okay, and that I actually ended up sharing a ride with Grace, who is an unbelievably huge celebrity in their country, so though I don’t like to admit it because I try to be a better person that this, but I was more than a little joyed at their chagrin from missing out on meeting such a huge star.  I don’t think I’m all that petty normally, but I really don’t like being stood up.  Especially when it’s a cold and gloveless autumn night in a foreign country and I’m surrounded by racist anti-Semitic drunk people.

After the next night’s show, I got into the taxi line by myself, ignored everyone around me, and took a very nice and comfortable ride back to my hotel alone.  It was a much more pleasant experience all around, but sadly doesn’t make for as good a story.  Oh!  But, I did find ten euros on the ground when I got out of that cab, so at least I’ve got that going for me.


These Were Supposed To Be Some Brief Thoughts On Socialism But I Clearly Need An Editor

First of all, I don’t want anybody to feel personally attacked over what I’m about to write about. This isn’t pointed towards any one person, nor even a couple or a few, but rather should serve as a blanket to all. These are just my thoughts on the discussion some people are trying to create on my social media, and rather respond to every one individually or call out their names for fear of either embarrassing them or myself, I’m just putting it all down here instead. Also, I felt that since this new meme seems to be so prevalent, it made more sense to put it all down at once rather than as a reply to so many people’s posts as there were quite a few and having a bunch of running debates on Facebook is not how I want to spend my time.

Over the last few days, I guess since the Conservatives started falling behind the NDP in the polls in the Ontario Provincial election, I’ve been seeing a lot of hyped up rhetoric espousing the evils of Socialism, some even going so far as to say that the ideals of Socialism threaten the very fabric of our civilization. These memes haven’t just been coming from one or two people or just the usual right-wing right-fighters who like to share some of the more inflammatory or trolling things, but they’re also coming from people who are either generally usually quiet on social media or at least don’t post things of a political nature on a regular basis, so it really got me thinking. I’ve been trying very hard over the last little while to stay out of political discussions and debates on social media because it really bothers me that people get so offended or hurt over conversations with otherwise good friends or loved ones to the point where they stop talking, but this anti-Socialism thing seems to be starting to take root, and I’m really trying to find a way to say this non-confrontationally, but those of you who are saying and sharing these things either really don’t mind being blatant hypocrites, or maybe you’re just not thinking about what you’re saying before you say it? I don’t know because I’m honestly puzzled and can’t figure it out. I mean, you do understand that without Socialism, we can’t have a functioning society, right? You have to know that, right?

For the sake of knowing that I said it at least once, Socialism in its simplest explanation, means that we pay taxes to the government, and the government provides us with the things we need to make sure we can live and thrive. Pretty much every government and political system works this way to one extent or another – liberal, conservative, capitalist democracy, communist, even some of the more benevolent dictatorships. That’s the framework of society and of the civilization that it’s apparently somehow threatening. Socialism. Society. Kind of go hand-in-hand when you say them out loud together, no? Just like ‘Michelle, my belle,’ these are words that go together well.

Now, just because I’m using this as a bit of a finger-stretching exercise, I’m just going to riff off and list some of the things we all get to enjoy because of socialism, like paved roads bordered by electric lights and traffic signs and signals to keep us from crashing, clean water in my tap and shower so I won’t smell as much as I constantly fear that I do, police and firefighters and emergency workers for those times when I hopefully never need them, postal delivery so that my lazy ass doesn’t have to go to some sort of far-away depot to pick up my packages while getting all sweaty and smelly again using those good old paved roads I mentioned a second ago, public parks so that I can go read a book beneath a tree in a bounteous and beautiful garden or go adventuring and camping up north if the urge ever comes upon me, and oh yeah, a nice healthy military to keep me safe from those bigger threats that give me nightmares and keep me from sleeping well. And, of course I can’t forget, here in Canada, fully funded healthcare for when I get a scratch or worse.  Not bad. Despite some of my personal qualms, I’ve got to say that when my wife got sick a few years ago and then suffered some pretty severe complications, I was sure pretty happy that her seven weeks full of surgeries and seemingly endless tests and procedures cost me a great big ball of nothing, y’know? We’d already paid for it. Thanks taxes!

But the part that really got me thinking about those anti-Socialism memes I was seeing, and I must stress that there were well over a dozen of them which is probably why I started noticing them, was that every single person who posted them have benefited from the social aspects of our society far more than I ever have or will, and that’s what really made me question if they actually considered what it was that they were saying. I don’t have kids. Every single one of the people who posted one of those memes that I saw has at least one child. All of them. That means benefits I’m paying into that they’re receiving include: the zero dollars it cost to give birth to their babies, those lovely baby-bonus government checks they all receive for each of their kids (unless, of course, you donate those to children’s charities because you don’t want the government’s assistance or you believe in giving back or something, in which case, good for you!), their child’s entire healthcare through to adulthood, and for some reason two different school boards so that their kids can get the best education public money can buy.

That’s right – For me, Socialism kind of sucks because I’m paying into so many of the more expensive services that I am never going to be using, and yet, for some ridiculous reason, here I am defending it. Crazy, right? Except for that it isn’t crazy. It’s part of living in a safe and healthy society, so I’m okay with that. I’d rather your kids be in school learning how to be productive people than on the streets all day doing whatever it is that a city full of uneducated children with too much time on their hands would do. Just the same way I’m okay with my tax dollars going to help feed and shelter the less fortunate because, to put it bluntly, if someone is put into the position where they have to steal or commit a criminal act to eat or feed their family, then they become an even bigger burden on society as we’ll need more police, a more robust court system (again, funded by public money), and of course the cost of keeping someone in prison where they’ll end up getting that proverbial loaf of bread anyhow, only now it has to go through many more hands and therefore costs a lot more public money to provide it.

The other thing I’ve been seeing on some of these shares is the fear that Socialism leads to government corruption. Well, I don’t really know how to respond to that except I guess to ask you to show me a political system that doesn’t come with that threat, because as I see it, as long as you have people in power there will always be the potential for them to take advantage of their positions. We just have to pick the candidate we like the best and speaks most to our values and hope that we get it right, and if not then we boot them to the curb and get the next best person into the chair and hope that they’re not as bad. We do have the power to do that, and that’s a good reminder to the corrupt that their power is only as fleeting as our collective electoral whims – Just look at the Ontario Liberal Party’s polling numbers for an example of that. Sorry to her supporters, but it doesn’t look like Kathleen’s winning anything.

Seriously though, I hope I didn’t offend anybody too much, but I just felt it needed to be clarified. Also, I’m not writing this to tell anybody where or how to vote. I’m just trying to say that when you make blanket statements like ‘Socialism Is Evil’, you’re kind of telling me that you either don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t care to know what you’re talking about, or don’t mind if you look kind of foolish in some sort of effort to take a stance against what you perceive to be your opposition, and I know each of you and you’re all better than that. I mean that wholeheartedly. If you’re against the NDP in this election then say you’re against the NDP, but don’t say you’re against Socialism because if you live and enjoy your life in this (or any) society, you’re clearly not. No matter who gets your vote, you are voting for a Socialist system. Understand that. Complain about specific aspects of that system if you want, but to call Socialism evil and to call for its abolishment is clearly against your best interests, so maybe hone your arguments a little better, I guess? I know we’re living in a time of misinformation, fake news, and ‘alternate facts’ or whatever, but come on.

Unless you’re one of those crazy left-wing Antifa Anarchists who want no form of government at all, of course. Those guys and the Fascist Dictators at the other end of the spectrum are really the only ones who are against Socialism.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Peace and love. And in this case, Socialism.


Amend

AMEND (verb) –

  1. To make minor changes to (a text, a piece of legislation, etc.) in order to make it fairer or more accurate, or to reflect changing circumstances.
  2. Put right.

Stop telling me that the Second Amendment is sacred, as though written in stone like words on high given with divine providence.  Saying that – believing that! – shows that you either don’t care, don’t want to care, have no ability to critically think, or have just simply given up in defeat.  It can be changed and it must be changed, and that very needed change is implicit in the word itself.  Amend – To change; to put right.  I mean, come on!  Do I really have to spell it out here?  The Second Amendment itself is a change from the original, apparently not so Almighty Constitution, so if you can’t recognize that it’s time to amend again and pass laws that will stop this insanity from recurring, then shame on you and the world is worse from your willful blindness to see what’s right in front of your eyes.  With the current laws, it was illegal for this kid to buy a handgun, but a high-powered assault rifle is no problem?  Are you fucking kidding me?  It’s time to amend the amendment.  It’s well beyond time to make things right.

This is not directed at any one person in particular, but rather in response to far too many comments I’m seeing all over the internet today. I know I have gun enthusiasts and responsible owners amongst my friends, and I’m sorry, but your hobby kills and needs to be taken more seriously by many of your peers.  I have friends and loved ones whose kids go to that school.  I was as terrified yesterday watching the news as I was seeing the plane smash into the second tower on 9/11.  Maybe more, actually, because I had real faces and names of people I know and love to add palpably to my fear.  I still can’t come anywhere near imagining the horror my friends were going through yesterday waiting to hear if their children – THEIR CHILDREN – were going to come home from school alive.  My anxiety was as high as it has ever been, so to even try to imagine theirs?  Impossible.  None of my friends lost their children yesterday.  Some of their friends were not so lucky, and that spilled blood is on many hands.

And please don’t anyone come back at me with the bullshit about the need for an armed militia in case the government goes off the rails. Your government has weaponized drones, heavily armoured tanks, a goddamned air-force, chemical weapons out the wazoo, and the ever-loving atom bomb. Your assault rifle is a stick and a stone in comparison and you know it. And if your argument to that is that you need to be prepared to stand against your government and therefore the laws should be even looser, to put it bluntly, you’re an idiot. A dangerous idiot.  To be on even-ground with the government you’d basically need to allow anyone to own a nuclear bomb.  Anyone.  The dumbest and craziest kid you knew in school.  Your argument is foolish and moot and you know it, and the current gun laws in the United States as they stand today are flat-out insane, and you know that too.

I end this as I often do with the urging to call your representatives, local, state, and federal, and make some noise.  And if turning a whisper into a shout doesn’t work then buy a bloody megaphone.  They can’t ignore you if you don’t let them – it’s their job.  The gun lobby may have more money, but the people have more votes and the smart politicians know which one is really worth more.  Your voices will be heard if enough of us are all wailing the same thing.  Push them to make the change.

Amend.  Put it right.


The Pen is In My Hand

The pen is in my hand
Its hardness in my grip comfortable and familiar
As it hovers over the pristine page spread out before it
Soon to be covered with its inky substance
Waiting to receive creation.
Do words have the power to change the world?

I believe that the true answer to that question is that words are the only thing humankind has that truly can change the world.

A tornado or an earthquake has no forethought or malice in the destruction they reap, but with a word from a man Armageddon can be unleashed upon the planet.  And that would not be possible without words.  We need words to communicate, we need to communicate in order to work together and build, and we need to build in order to invent weapons of destruction to make sure our enemies can’t build something better than what we’ve got and annihilate us first.

Words can change the world.  Words can end the world.

But I notice in my postulation above that something comes before the destruction.  Words first lead to communication, providing us the opportunity to work together.  Instead of using words to tear down, we need to hold on to the thought of using them to build up.  It’s inherent in the premise that we need to work together in order to tear apart, so the onus of social evolution is really on us to finally learn how to hold on to the first part without succumbing to the second; we need to learn to work together towards something other than ideas that continue to pull us further apart.

If we could all just stick on communicating with each other it’s beyond imagination what we could truly accomplish as a species and a civilization.  Instead of continually picking apart each other’s differences, we should be talking about the things that we have in common.

The planet.  Family.  Community.  The desire to do well.  A will to succeed.  The hope for safety and security and a place to call home.  We all want water to drink and food to eat.  Air to breathe is always a winning concept no matter who you ask!

We want a better world for those who come after us, and we want a happy world for ourselves even sooner than that.

And here’s the shocking part, or, shocking to me, anyhow.  None of those things sound like they’re wildly outside of the realm of possibility, even within our own lifetimes.  Really, with a little respectful conversation and some realistic problem-solving skills applied, none of these wants or needs or desires sound implausible at all.  In fact, with a little bit of common-thought communication and cooperation, most of it actually sounds pretty easy.

We all just need to use the right words with each other.

Words can change the world.

The pen is in my hand.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but you can’t write the word ‘sword’ without a pen to make the ‘s’.

The word is mightier than the pen and the pen is in my hand.

We can all hold pens in our hands.  Instead of using these false phalluses to assault with harsh and bitter derisions of division, let’s use them to write wild words of wonder and imagine a way to create the world we all really want.


Quick Reply to Some Comments Left On My Facebook Post

The following is in response to most of the comments made on a picture I posted on Facebook yesterday in reaction to the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords. Apparently I wrote too much for a Facebook comment to handle, so I’m putting it here in my blog instead, and then linking the blog to the comment section. Best I can do.

Here’s the post in question just in case you’re somehow linking to this from elsewhere, but it’s basically just a picture of me giving the bird outside of Trump Tower and asking when the US is going to realize that many of the rest of us see them as the villain in the current political narrative if you don’t want to click through: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10158918152675601&set=a.10150273601230601.533444.849670600&type=3&theater&notif_t=photo_comment&notif_id=1496347815024780

And here’s my reply to my friends who commented:

I appreciate the feedback – both positive and negative – that I’ve gotten from you all. I don’t have the time or energy to reply to all of your comments individually, so I will instead just quickly make this blanket statement to cover as much of this as I can, and then get back to work, and thanks for giving me something interesting to do over my lunch-hour.

First of all, on a professional level, Trump pulling out of this deal and pretty much everything he’s doing is incredibly good for me on a financial level. I don’t share too much about my work on social media because I try to keep the two as separate as possible, but believe me, the chaos down south is becoming increasingly profitable for some of us. Also, I don’t have children, so really, at the end of the day, what do I really care if the Earth has breathable air a century from now? My genetic code will have long been retired by then. So, for me personally, the only pony I’ve got in the environmental degeneracy race is actually on the side I’m politically against, albeit only tangentially related. So you’d think I’d be happy with this, right? I mean, I like money, and I like opportunities to make more of it. And yet I’m against this. Strange… Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe issues concerning our all-encompassing environment aren’t all about me… Crazy, right?

Regarding call Americans villains – You are. I do not mean you personally – I certainly don’t think that my beautiful Bubbie Stella was a villain and she was American – but you do seem to be moving backwards and directly against the common-sense dictates and needs of the planet at large. And that hurts me in my heart and my soul. I love America, I love the American Dream, I love your sprawling landscapes, I love your diversity, I love so much of your culture that has absolutely helped to shape and dictate my personal values, forming me into the person I am. I lived in your amazing country for eight years, got my degree there, fell in love there, got my heart broken there and possibly may have broken some as well, had times both good and bad, got married there, and I still love coming back to visit. I moved away in 2004 because I couldn’t justify my tax dollars going towards funding what I considered to be the highly unjustified war in Iraq – It was a hard decision, an expensive decision, and for me it was the right decision. Money talks and bullshit walks, right? So I took my money and walked away from that bullshit, and I’d be doing it again if I still lived down there now. Sorry, but it’s true. Because, as I stated above, in the current narrative as I see it, you are the bad guys right now on the global stage and the rest of us are just perplexed about what’s going on over there and how quickly it all seems to be happening. That does not mean Americans as individuals are villains or bad people, and if you think that’s what I was saying then I must ask you to please check your ego because when it comes to discussing global politics, you personally don’t count for much. Thankfully for both of us, neither do I. Your current administration, on the other hand… For socially conscious and environmentally aware people, they are currently pushing you guys back into 20th Century, and unfortunately 20th Century technologies and solutions are both unsustainable and incredibly dangerous to the world around you, particularly to your closest neighbours like us here in Canada. The rest of the world is calling on you as individuals now to stop your government from being the villain in this story – Pepper your congressional representatives with your opinions, pester your senators with your complaints, make your voices be heard not only during the election cycle, but constantly. Remember, your government works for you – You pay their salaries. If they’re no longer representing your interests, tell them to smarten up or to find a new job, and then follow-through with that in November (or whenever the next election cycle comes around). I’m not going to go in particulars about why Hillary lost because at this point that doesn’t matter, but I will say that if more people hadn’t just assumed she was going to win because ‘Trump is crazy’, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now. Make your voices heard – It’s not only your right, it’s your responsibility!

Now, down to the actual business of pulling out of the Paris Accords. I, too, have made deals that have ended up being perceived as unfair due to changes in the economic climate. I, however, as a business person who believes in the honouring my word, do not just arbitrarily pull out of those deals. What I do in those situations is that I approach my relevant partners with a concern, or conversely they approach me, and we talk about the issues and renegotiate from there. I don’t just say, “Fuck you, I don’t think this is fair,” and walk away from the table, firstly because I have integrity and believe in being true to the needs of the original agreement as much as possible, and secondly because of the complete and utter disrespect that would show to my clients and other interested parties. We then come together and renegotiate while still honouring the spirit of our now disputed contract. Because, trust, integrity, and being true to your word and delivering what you promised is the only way to be truly successful in any relationship – personal, political, business, or otherwise. If you can’t be trusted to follow through on your pledges, then people will rightfully not trust you to do so in the future. At least not in my experience. Good deal or bad, America made the pledge to do take part in the global actions against climate change, and then yesterday they pulled out, with the platitude that maybe they’ll come back and renegotiate in the future. Maybe. That’s bad business practice. At least with NAFTA the US didn’t just back out, but rather said it’s time to renegotiate – Scary for me as a Canadian, but at least respectful enough to let me know that you still want to partner with us, but feel the need to change the terms so that they’re more realistic with the current climate – Good business. See the difference?

With thoughts toward those saying the picture and words I’ve posted are a rhetorical low-point and overly hyperbolic at best, let me simply reply with a quote from the man himself, the illustrious 45th President of the United States of American, and say that “I like to grab ‘em by the pussy,” and let you figure out for yourself what I mean by that. Also, stop getting so butt-hurt over small and inconsequential things. At least I got you engaged, right?

This sentiment about being overly sensitive goes to my friends on the Left as well, by the way. Stop making mountains out of molehills because soon we’ll be surrounded by so many mole-hills that we’ll no longer be able to see the mountains. He made a typo. He touched an orb. Big fat hairy deal.

And in that respect, one last thing – I’ve seen a few of you accuse me of being a Liberal and a Leftist. I actually don’t think I’m either of those things. I’ve certainly never signed up or joined any political parties. In fact, the only two clubs I’ve ever joined are “The Swedish Chef Fan Club” when I was seven, and U2’s fan club because I got to get me those concert tickets, son! Though this may shock some of you, I’m actually highly aligned with mostly conservative values in many of my personal philosophies. Yes, I do lean heavily to the left on social issues, but fiscally I’m rather conservative, and I think I actually fall pretty firmly in the middle of the political spectrum. I am no bleeding-heart liberal, and I’m also not a cold, calculating conservative. I don’t play party politics. I vote for whomever makes the most sense to my world-view at the time. I read and watch at least three different news sources that provide different angles so that I can come at any situation holistically and make an educated opinion from there, and that seems to work for me – someone even called me ‘normal’ earlier this week, so I guess I’m doing something right. I’m a party-politician’s worst nightmare because I don’t align any one way. Has that method ever failed me? Well, Justin Trudeau is in office breaking some of the bigger promises that I voted him in for, so yes. But it still makes more sense to me rather than just blindly saying “Liberal” or “Republican” and backing that team no matter what, even when the values of those parties move so far away from what originally attracted me to them in the first place, which from what I hear from a lot of my Republican friends south of the border is kind of what they feel like has happened to them over the last ten or so years. But they still vote Republican because they simply refuse to vote Democrat based solely on an ideological label, even when they admit that it’s not in their best interest. In what world does that make sense? Because it doesn’t make sense in mine. Think critically, question everything, and stand up for your causes and passions. Those are the only politics I believe in.

Thanks again for your comments and opinions. I truly do appreciate them even when I disagree with them because, unlike America and the Paris Climate Accords, I believe we need to keep the conversation going if we ever hope to move forward together as a species.


#letsrise – Quick Thoughts on the Toronto Blue Jays and The Hashtag From Hell

I didn’t want to say anything when I first thought this because, like most irrational sports fans and armchair athletes, I am incredibly superstitious and didn’t want to do anything that might jinx my team.  Now that the Jays are solidly in the basement with our Disabled List bearing almost as many impressive names as the current active roster, however, I think it’s safe to assume that we’re well past the jinxing stage and rapidly approaching panic mode. We sit with four wins to thirteen losses for this utterly dismal start to the season. Without Googling, I’m pretty sure it’s not the worst start to a season in the entirety of baseball history, but to steal a sentiment from Pete Campbell on Mad Men when considering how the team I love is doing, I have to think, “Not good, Bob!”

There are a lot of factors at play to blame here, I’m sure. Donaldson started the season at less than 100% and because of that his injury exacerbated itself and now he’s forced to watch from the bench, joined by Tulo, Happ, Sanchez, and I don’t want to take the time to list Pompey and the rest sitting there with them because it’s getting depressing. The team itself is actually playing pretty well for the most part, if not with a little less bluster than expected, and Pillar is a freakin’ superstar so far, but things just aren’t coming together. For me, as what I would consider to be something more than a casual fan but not a statistic spouting fanatic by any means, I don’t see this as a problem with the management or the coaching, and I don’t even blame Jose’s silent bat because I know it’s just a matter of time before that switches back on again (we’ve seen him slump before and everything has turned out fine, so have a little faith, people!).

No, for me, being the kind of fan who runs more on unbridled unreasoned passion and the previously mentioned superstition, I blame that stupid awful and insipid hashtag Jays marketing came up with to represent our season this year:

#letsrise

I had a problem with it from the first second I saw it, for so many reasons that, as I said, I was afraid to talk about for fear of the jinx, but at this point as we’re sweeping the cellar with seemingly few prospects of dropping our brooms and climbing out for at least the next few weeks, so… Yeah.

First of all, the English nerd in me is offended by the lack of an apostrophe. Not to mention that self-same lack of proper punctuation also changes the meaning of the word. They’re trying to say ‘Let us rise’, as in ‘let us rise to the occasion and vanquish our foes’, but instead what they’re saying is ‘lets rise’ as in ‘rent is going up’, so I guess they were really referring to the cost of seats this year?

Second of all, assuming we’re all going to agree to let the grammatical error slip by us and act like it actually does mean ‘let us rise’. It’s still a horribly negative sentiment to start a season with. ‘Let us rise’ presumes we need to lift ourselves up from something. The statement itself, ‘let us rise’, assumes that the top is not where we are or belong. How the hell is that supposed to be inspirational? It’s pretty much saying, “We’re not the best, but hopefully, maybe one day we can be?” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me want to jump up and scream GO JAYS GO at the top of my lungs. It instead leaves me asking, “Go Jays Go?” I mean, if they can’t make it sound like they believe in themselves, how the hell am I supposed to? I’m superstitious, remember?

So yeah, the experts and people who actually know what they’re talking about can blame injuries, slow bats, Gibby, the back-office, or whatever. And they’re probably, like, a million times more right than I am about what’s going on that has led to this painfully slow start.  But, me?  I blame the marketing team and the person who approved #letsrise in the first place.  That hashtag is a curse, and regardless of balls, strikes, swings, hits, homers, injuries or errors, it all comes down to surrounding ourselves with a negative sentiment. Words have meaning, and words have power. That’s why we use them. Words convey what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling, and hashtags are meant to turn that feeling viral, which I guess worked because look where we are.

The bottom.

With no choice left but to rise.


Some Quick Thoughts on International Women’s Day, The Big Bang Theory (the show, not the concept), & Pay Equity

As a man who has lived his entire life surrounded by strong and independent women who own who they are and have often shown their superiority, much less their equality, I love the fact that the world celebrates International Women’s Day every year, and I hate the fact that we have to.  I mean, the Equal Rights Amendment has been around since we were kids, right?  Almost all of my best teachers from nursery through university were women.  Most of the best bosses and managers I’ve ever had ever since I started working at age 14 have been women.  A great deal of my favourite characters and role-models from television, movies, and books, have been women.  Authors and actors, directors and doctors, I have never once thought that their work could possibly be less good just because they don’t have a penis because a penis has nothing to do with doing good work.  Women in the workplace and women in business leadership roles have been normal to me for the entirety of my existence, and I have never once in my personal career met with the occasion that I was forced to question someone’s capabilities based on their gender – Stupid decisions are gender neutral.

Yet, here we are, in 2017, still in the position where females are not paid in parity with their male counter-parts, and are for some reason still considered as ‘less than’ in the workplace and society – “Of course they’re capable of taking on executive roles in our organizations, but compensate them similarly?  Surely, you jest!”  Because why would providing equal pay for equal work be a thing?  It seriously drives me a little bonkers because there is so little sense in the way that it works right now, and there is absolutely no justification for that mentality.

Which brings me to a news story from last week that at first I celebrated, but then found myself really bothered by as the day progressed.  I don’t know if you watch The Big Bang Theory on CBS, but surely you’ve heard about it at this point as it has been on for about a decade and is one of the most successful shows in the history of television, and despite what you or the critics may think about it, it is consistently one of the most viewed shows on the small screen and therefore brings in bucket-loads of advertising dollars for the network and the producers.  Last week, there was a feel-good news story about how the four male leads of the show took pay-cuts so that their lead female co-stars could get raises up to an equal salary, which makes perfect sense since the girls on that show are just as funny (or not, depending on your taste) and important to the story as any of the guys, and definitely more-so in the case of Mayim Bialik’s “Amy” who at this point is the main driving force for pretty much all of Jim Parson’s “Sheldon’s” character development.

Nice story, right?  Co-workers looking out for each other, sticking it to The Man so that everybody can be treated equally?  But then I thought about it.  Not to take anything away from what the guys of The Big Bang Theory did because it was a marvelous gesture to give up some of their admittedly ridiculous salaries so that their female friends could have equal pay, but you know what?  No.  The fact that they felt like they had to is a real and serious problem, and instead of celebrating the kind gesture those men made, we should be raging about the fact that they were put into a position where they felt like they had to make it.  I mean, seriously – Watch the show and tell me that there’s any reason why the seven lead characters should have been making different salaries in the first place, regardless of their genders?  They’re all lead characters – it’s an ensemble show – so should they all be paid as leads?  It’s 2017 – Why the hell is this still a thing?

For the people who know me or have read my blog before, you were probably expecting a couple of bad and/or inappropriate jokes to be thrown in here, but you know what?  I don’t find this funny at all and this isn’t a laughing matter to me.  The struggle for equal rights for women has been around since before I was born, so seriously, what the fuck, society?  I love International Women’s Day and everything it stands for, but I really hope that by the time my days on this planet are over that it is no longer something we need to note or celebrate because we’ll be too equal to care.  That’s my wish, and if there is one thing I know, wishes can come true.  Let’s all work a little harder for this one, though, because the reality of the situation as it stands just doesn’t make any sense and is frankly unacceptable.  We all do the same work in the same ways and with the same outcomes, so why the hell aren’t we paid that way?


How I Think Donald Trump is Going to Make America Great Again (not a satire)

For those who know me, that’s probably a pretty shocking title to see coming out of my pen (or, keyboard, as the case may be). For those who don’t know me and may have found this blog by accident, first let me say hello!  Hi!  My name is Jamie and I am not a fan of Donald Trump.  Like, at all.  I believe that he is a bombastic, bigoted, billionaire boy’s club blowhard and a bully who is only interested in his own self-edification and aggrandizement.  If you’re wondering why I believe these things, it’s because I have eyes.  And ears.  If you’re a supporter of his, that’s fine, and I hope and pray that your man proves me wrong, but in the twenty-five or so years that I’ve been aware of his existence, dating back to when he was nothing more than tabloid fodder set up by his PR team to try to make a celebrity name for himself around his highly publicized divorce from Ivana, he has done nothing to dispel me of the notion that he will.  If anything the last few years have only made him worse, turning himself from a B-rated circus sideshow freak into an A-rated circus sideshow freak in the Oval Office.  If you’re okay with celebrating someone who brags about grabbing your wives or daughters by the genitals, or stereotyping Mexicans as criminals and rapists, or any of the other asinine and insane things he’s said over the last few years that I don’t have time to get into because I’m just quickly spitting this out on a short break from work, but if you’re okay with those things, I suppose that’s between you and whatever compass of morality and common decency you adhere to, but I know that it’s not the same as mine.  Doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends, but we should probably avoid discussing politics, and you’ll understand if I keep my mother, sister, wife, and nieces away from you.  And don’t give me that line about locker-room talk.  I’ve been in plenty of locker-rooms, and while some crude things were thrown around, I never witnessed anything on that level of pure creepiness and narcissistic self-assurance.

So, if I am so diametrically opposed to Donald Trump and just about every single thing he stands for, why the hell am I writing a blog about how I think he’s going to make America great again? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?  Except for that it does.  You see, I’ve spent the last couple of months since the election experiencing a myriad of emotions.  First, just feeling defeated that the election went in the opposite direction of my personal values – I believe in openness and inclusion, I believe in freedom from persecution, and I believe that all are equal before the law, but instead the election, and the reaction to Trump’s ascension, went a little backwards from those values.  It was a sad time, and then it was an angry time, and there may have even been some feelings of metaphysical malaise mixed in there as well.  And neither the news reports about his cabinet picks, nor his reactions to celebrities and comedians making commentary on his actions and opinions only made those feelings worse.  I don’t have kids so I may be off the mark, but he comes across as a petulant toddler throwing a tantrum because he was told that he had to wait until after dinner to have his dessert, but dammit, Donnie wants his ice cream now!  Waa!  Donald Trump is reactionary and dangerous, and as of tomorrow he will be one of the most powerful people on the planet.  Terrifying.

Okay, yeah, I think I’ve established that I really don’t like the guy, so why on Earth am I sitting here on the day before his inauguration finding myself filled with a great amount of optimism? Seems kind of counter to everything I just wrote down, doesn’t it?  But it isn’t.  Because, you see, I have not been alone in these feelings, not by a long-shot!  People are angry, they are scared, they are fed up, or to put it in acceptably geeky pop-culture terms, they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.  In the last two months I have seen people organize, I have seen people get engaged and involved, I have seen people from opposing walks of life come together in protest and I have seen that with my own eyes.  Today on the news, I see people in countries all over the world gathering together in solidarity for women’s rights, getting ready to march against this crude excuse for a man, this snake-oil salesman who somehow scammed his way into the highest office in America.  I see anger and despair being transformed into a fighting spirit, I see apathy melting away and being reborn as passion, and I am filled with the joyful light of hope.

Do I think the next four years are going to be easy? Nope.  Not even a little.  And I expect to be angry a lot, I expect that I’ll be screaming at my television on a fairly regular basis during the six o’clock news, and I expect that things are going to get worse before they get better.  But, my American friends, you’ve got this.  Stay involved, express your outrage when appropriate, engage your local and state representatives and don’t stop engaging with them, stay in communication with each other, and continue to stand up every time they try to shove you back down.  They may be the Right Wing, but that has never meant that they’re right, and you’ve shown me over the last few months that you’re going to do whatever you can in your power to prove them wrong, and that’s amazing!  I honestly never would have expected it after surviving through the Bush II years.  But this guy, your new President, and let’s get this straight, whether you think he’s legitimate or not, he IS going to be sitting in the chair of the President of the United States as of tomorrow, is so divisive that people have just had enough and are finally making their voices heard in tones both loud and proud, and that is how Donald Trump is going to make America great again.  Good job, Donnie!  Go get ‘im, America!


Wisenheimers – A Short Story

I decided I wanted to try to write a sad story. This is what came out.

WISENHEIMERS

The forlorn looking little boy stood near the edge of the crowded room with tears in his eyes and the old man couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen another soul who seemed so alone.

The little boy stood straight with his arms held tightly to his sides, his small hands clenched into fists, his tousled hair tossed and askew, and his wide eyes set in a thousand-yard stare, clearly taking no notice or care of the teeming masses of moving bodies thronging through the fog around him.  He was wearing his favourite pajamas, the soft fluffy blue ones patterned with a thousand tiny dancing snowmen and that had the snuggly feet for extra winter warmth, but he appeared to be feeling no comfort at all.

The old man recognized the boy, and he knew that lost look ever more well than he wished to.  A meek but cordial smile appeared on his face as he approached the little boy.

“Oh, dear me, hello little one,” the old man said in a kind voice that gave off the sense not of your wise old grandfather, but rather your grandfather’s cooler brother who is willing to share the tricks and family secrets  that your grandfather would never reveal. “I know and remember you well, kiddo, and I recollect you as being much happier than this, so tell me, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?”

The little boy sniffled deeply, his tears spilling over and down his cheeks as he came back to himself from wherever his wandering thoughts had stranded him. “I lost my friend,” he said softly, and dissolved into sobs as he ran to the old man and embraced him around the hips, the little boy’s pudgy face pushing warmly into his soft belly, causing the old man to absently wonder if he’d ever been that short, that small, that young, and concluded that even though it seemed impossible, he somehow must have been.  It may be impossible to remember it, but we all were babies once upon a time.

After a moment or so of comforting the child through his tears, the old man put his hands gently around the boy’s arms and moved him back so that there was enough space between them within which to make eye contact as they spoke. There were three roundish stains on the old man’s white shirt, one for each eye and one for the nose, where the boy’s tears had soaked through to his skin, and the old man couldn’t help but feel his heart break for the pain he knew the boy was suffering through.

“What do you mean, you lost your friend?  Do you need help finding her?” The old man asked, hopefully.

The tears sprung up again in the little boy’s eyes. “No. We can’t find her no matter where we look.  Daddy said she’s gone and that I can’t see her anymore, but I really, really want to!” He finished this by thrusting himself deeply into the old man’s arms and falling once again into a fit of uncontrollable weeping.  The old man gave the boy a few soft pats on the back in a vain attempt to give comfort, but he knew he wasn’t helping. This was fresh grief, and as any old man could tell you, the only thing to settle fresh grief is time.

“Do you mean you’re not allowed to see her anymore?” the old man asked, “Or, do you mean…” His voice trailed off as though he knew all the right words to say, but he’d forgotten how to say them.

The blankness came back into the little boy’s gaze. “I don’t know. They don’t tell me. And when they do tell me, they don’t tell me the truth. And when they do tell me the truth, they don’t tell me all of the truth.”

The old man’s heart wept and all of his sympathies went out to the small, lost, and confused child before him. He knew what this was now. He knew where this was going. He looked tenderly at the boy and waited for him to continue, knowing that the first step to excising an internal hurt is to bring as much of it to the surface as possible, and the only way to do that is to talk.

“You’re talking about Patricia.” The words tumbled out of the old man’s mouth bluntly with numb emotion, but the little boy’s eyes looked up at him with a fresh clarity of understanding all the same, like a dog in a desert who realizes that drinking dirty water is better than drinking no water at all.

“They took her to the Big H building, the hospital,” the little boy replied, pronouncing the last word slowly and carefully, recognizing that he had the penchant to pronounce it ‘hopsital’ when he got too excited or spoke too quickly, the word being so new to his vocabulary and his young tongue still unpracticed in shaping its sounds. “Daddy said that she would only be there for a few days before we could play again, then he said that Patricia’s daddy said it would be a week, and then today he told me that she’s not going to come home at all and I don’t know what to do!”

The old man’s heart melted like a candle whose wick was a neutron bomb and this time it was he who pulled the boy in for an embrace, a vain attempt to give succor to a confused child who couldn’t even begin to comprehend the misery he was currently drowning in.

“I’m not going to tell you that I know how you feel because I know that won’t help, but know that I do know, and that what I’m about to tell you comes from a place beyond grief, from the experience of surviving the worst of the worst and learning how to smile again,” the old man spoke the words gently and quietly into the little boy’s ear and felt the trembling in the child’s shoulders and chest subside enough to let him know that the boy was listening.

“This is the worst you’re ever going to feel, and this is not the only time you’re going to feel it. I wish I could say that it was, but it’s not even close.  And it’s just as horrible each and every time. Sometimes it’s more devastating than others, sometimes it takes longer than others, sometimes it will strike you numb, and sometimes it will drive you insane, but the one true dependable constant in life is that you will lose people, not even always to death, and it will hurt every single time.”

The boy drew back and gave the old man a look that said that the old man was clearly a crazy person if he thought his words were coming anywhere close to doing anything to help make him feel better.

“I know, I know,” the old man said tut-tuttingly with a gentle smile, “and you’ll think I’m even crazier when I tell you that the hurt you’re feeling is a good thing because it shows that person left an impression in your heart, and that’s vitally important and imperative to what you’re going to need.”

“What I’m going to need?” the little boy asked in a tone loaded to the brim with curious trepidation.

“Yes,” the old man said warmly, then leaned in conspiratorially and quietly added, “what you’re going to need, because, I’m going to tell you a very big secret.”

The boy moved in closer again and gave a small smile for the first time, saying, “I like secrets.”

“Of course you do,” the old man chuckled. “Everybody likes secrets. Until they don’t. Not all secrets are good to know, but this one is. This is a secret you’re going to like.”

The little boy looked up at him expectantly.

“You may have lost your friend Patricia,” the old man said, “but what if I told you that not all of her is truly gone?”

The little boy’s face gave a quick indication that he was puzzling this over, and just as quickly revealed that the results were not good. “But she is gone. Daddy said she’s never coming back. That she can’t come back! Believe me! I tried to convince him otherwise, to let her come over and play, but he said that he couldn’t, and he explained it to me, that gone is gone and dea…,” his small voice cut off, unable to finish that ever so short but ultimately ever so ugly final word of his sentence.

“Yes, that’s all true, but just because her body’s gone doesn’t mean that she’s all gone.”

The little boy looked first confused, then frightened. He whispered, “Do – do you mean she’s a ghost?”

The old man’s cheeks reddened with amusement as he tried to stifle his laugh; he should have expected that question, but he hadn’t. “No! No, not at all. I don’t believe in ghosts. Not that sort of ghost, anyhow. Do you?”

“Sometimes,” the little boy admitted, “but Mommy said that’s okay because I’m just a kid and I’ve got lots of imagination.”

“Well, your mother’s right, and you know what else?  It’s good that you’ve got a big imagination because that just so happens to be the other thing you’re going to need.”

The boy looked up into the old man’s eyes with great expectation for the secret that was about to be revealed.

“You see,” the old man continued, “That hurt you feel in your chest when you think about Patricia, even though it doesn’t feel good, in its own very particular way, it is good. Because that pain is a spark, a tiny little light going off in your heart, and that twinge is not only the love you feel for Patricia, but also all the love you’ll miss from her now that she’s gone. Which sounds not so great when I say it out loud, I’ll admit, but there’s more!”

Thinking of the Patricia again caused the little boy’s eyes to threaten water again, but his curiosity remained. “More?” he asked.

“Why, yes! Of course there’s more. There’s always more. Which is a secret in itself, but not the one I’m going to tell you about now,” the old man said with amusement and almost lost his train of thought, but quickly managed to find the track again. “Now, that bad pain that I said was actually sort of good, that spark, it actually has a job. It does something. That spark belongs specifically to Patricia, and every time it flares it sends a message to your imagination, and from there they get together with the most important thing you’re going to need out of them all.”

“The most important thing of all,” The little boy said with a sense of awe and a hint of wonder. It could have been a question, but it wasn’t.

“Memory,” the old man said, giving the word all of the reverence and importance it deserved. “You see, as long as you keep that spark in your heart and allow it to drive your imagination, then you can use it to see and spend time with all the people you know, all the people you’ve ever known, and all of the people who will ever touch your heart. It’s really quite an amazing gift, when you think about it.”

The little boy had heard what the old man had said, and more, even thought that he understood it, and although his tears seemed to have gone back to wherever unspilled tears go when they’re no longer needed, the consternation in the little boy’s eyes still betrayed a longing that showed he hadn’t quite grabbed onto the concept as much as the old man had hoped.

“I know it’s hard to believe, especially coming from as young a perspective as you are,” the old man said, trying to reassure the sad child, “but, it’s true. You see, I know that this is strange, but right now we’re dreaming, and do you see all of these people around us? These are all of those people. Everyone we’ve ever met, from the pediatrician who delivered you into this world, to the new doctor I met just the other day.”  To which he then added in a slightly more sardonic tone than he intended, “Old men meet a lot of doctors.”

The little boy looked out into the crowd, noticing them for the first time as something more than a muddled mass of moving grown-ups all hurrying about their ways like grown-ups always do, and thought he might have recognized his grandfather among them.  He said, “So, if I can feel that spark in my heart to…”

“Ignite your imagination,” the old man helped.

“Ignite my imagination, then I can use my memory to see Patricia? Like, not actually see her, but sort of see her all the same, only just inside my imagination? Just inside my head?”

The old man smiled warmly at this success. “Precisely!” he said with a nod and a smile. “And what’s more, you can even talk to them if you want to, and sometimes, and this is the really great part, with the right mix of imagination and memory, in some ways, they can even talk back to you!”

The little boy backed away at this, frightened by the concept. “I don’t want my dead friends to talk to me!”

The old man recovered quickly. “I don’t mean that they actually speak to you, but sometimes, in certain situations, you kind of know what they would say, or how they’d react, and that can be both a sad and beautiful thing.”

The little boy pondered this for a moment, then said, “Sort of like if I was building a sand castle fortress for my army guys, Patricia would tell me that was stupid and that I should build a palace for her Barbie?”

The old man laughed with delight. “Sure, that’s one way. Or sometimes, for me, if I’m about to do something stupid, I can still hear Mama’s voice giving me a stern warning, but it’s more than that. Sometimes, often times, late at night, I’ll talk to my wife. I mean, I’ll have full conversations with her. I knew her so well that I know what she’d say to everything, like she was such an important person in my life, and we’d spent so much time together that she became an actual part of me. I don’t hear her voice out loud, but she speaks to me all the time. Just like sometimes you’re going to hear Patricia speak to you, and tell you that your sandcastles are stupid. Which they’re not, by the way. You can always buy a house for Barbie, but toy soldiers need a fortress to either defend or attack or else they simply have no reason to exist.”

“That’s exactly what I told Patricia!” the little boy agreed excitedly, to which the old man replied, “I know.”

They shared a companionable silence for either a moment or a month (it was hard to tell as dream-time has the propensity to behave oddly), and then the little boy once again spoke a sentence that should have come out as a question. “You really miss your wife, don’t you.”

“More than any other single thing in this world,” the old man agreed, but then looked into the crowd and pointed into the mist around them, and a beautiful lady with the loveliest smile in the universe became solid and clear despite the fog. “And look at that,” the old man said with a flourish and a grin, “there she is, just as gorgeous as she was on the day we met. That’s another great thing about the gift. When you remember someone you loved, you can remember them at their best. Like that woman there. She has all the love and experience of a lifetime together, but she looks like whatever way I remember or imagine her.” As he said that, the svelte young woman suddenly shifted into a handsome elderly lady, still wearing the loveliest smile in the universe. She blew them a tender kiss and receded back into the concealing smoke of lost memory.

The little boy reached out to hold the old man’s hand.  The old man, of course, grasped the boy’s small hand right back as they watched the faces from their life weave in and out of the moving tapestry before them.  Sensing that this dream would soon be ending, the old man began to speak, calling out the names and memories that passed before them.

“Look,” he said, “there’s brother Joe and sister Anne, oh, how we miss them so. And there’s Mrs. Wright from the Third Grade! And over there, do you see? There are Mama and Daddy!”

“I see them!” The little boy agreed excitedly, but his voice sounded faded, as though it was spoken from a great distance.

The old man persisted, desperate not to lose this moment. “And there’s Rufus, our German shepherd, and there’s Gina Marchese, the first girl I ever kissed, boy, is she ever a heart-spark!”

The old man could no longer feel the boy’s hand.  He was slipping away.

Still, the old man went on. “There’s Auntie Anna, she was always so tall, and you know how much we hate when she comes over because she always pinches our cheeks, and, hey! Look! There’s Patricia herself!”

“Patricia herself,” the old boy repeated in the same voice.

The old man was stunned.  Frightened.  He continued to look straight ahead, directly into the shrouded crowd. “And there’s cousin Albert Wise. Remember cousin Al Wise? He was always such a cut-up! Funniest guy we ever knew, right?”

Silence.

“Yeah,” the old man continued, his voice taking on a wispy quality to its cadence. “Cousin Al. He was hilarious. And he had those cousins from the other side of his family, remember? And they had an act. A real comedy act. Played the summer circuit. They were big in the Catskills, weren’t they? Remember?”

There was no boy next to the old man to respond. He was gone.

“Who was I talking to?” The old man asked himself. “What was I talking about?”

The dream was ending.

What dream?

“Cousin Al, wasn’t it? And his act with his other cousins. The twin kids from the other side of his family,” the old man tried to remind himself, but there weren’t too many straws around for him to grasp. “What did they call themselves again? Al and the Wise Guys? No.”

The wandering souls of his memory had now all receded back into the ether of his mind.

The little old man started to quietly panic. “No, that wasn’t it. Not Al and the Wise Guys. It was Al and the Wisenheimers, wasn’t it? Yes, I think so. That was it, wasn’t it? Al and the Wisenheimers? Or was it Al’s Wisenheimers? Was that it?”

His confusion was mounting. “Wisenheimers? Is that a thing? That doesn’t sound like a thing. Wisenheimers? Alz…”

The little man was tired, lost, scared, and confused. He was awake. He knew that. And he was in a room, but it wasn’t a room that he recognized.  He felt like he should know where he was, but he didn’t.  He did know that this feeling wasn’t new.

He looked to his left and noticed that there were bars on the side of his bed, presumably to keep him from falling out. On the night-table was a picture of three smiling teen-aged kids, two boys and one girl, all with curly tousled hair, and beaming behind them were whom he could only assume was their parents. The father was a sturdy enough looking fellow, but the wife was a real knock-out, with possibly the most beautiful smile in the universe. He felt like he should recognize the people in the picture, but as far as he could tell they were just pleasant looking strangers.  Probably one of those pictures that came with the frame.

But the wife’s smile nagged at him. He thought that he really ought to know who she is.  He tried to puzzle it over and figure it out.  He concentrated, but for the life of him, he just couldn’t quite connect who she was.

A forlorn look settled upon the diminished man’s face.  He wasn’t sure that he’d ever before felt so alone.  He was sure he must have.

But he couldn’t remember.


2016 – My Year in Reading

I haven’t blogged in a long time now.  Just about a year, actually, and my last blog was also about the books I read that year, so this seems like a fitting way to return to talking to myself.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to blog – I have!  So many times, so many things to say.  2016 has been nothing but eventful, from Bowie to Trump, so much has happened and I’ve had so much to scream about, but I haven’t.  I can make a million excuses, but really it’s because I’ve just been doing other writing – I’m currently in the middle of three different, long pieces of fiction that will likely never see the light of day, and in a vain attempt to stay focused I decided not to blog and to instead spend my writing time on whichever one of those had the most of my attention at the time.  I don’t know if that was a mistake or not, but in retrospect I do think that it was unfair to all of the other thoughts that deserved to make their way out of my head, so I am going to make a more concerted effort in the coming year to pay more attention to my other writing and not just the wild fictions of my apparently vast imagination.

The other, and usually far more enjoyable, thing I’ve done a lot of this year, is read.  I generally read a lot, but this year I seem to have outdone myself, according to Goodreads where I’ve been dutifully logging every book and graphic novel I’ve read.  146 books this year – astounding!  Now, many of those were, as I’ve said, graphic novels, and I know that a lot of people don’t count those (which is incredibly small-minded, in my opinion, as they’re just as viable a form of literature as a novel, and sometimes superior!), so for the sake of argument let’s cut those books out of the picture for this blog, which leaves us with an even 50 novels read (although I think I’ll get in two or possibly three more before New Years, if I’m being honest – I’m doing another read-through of The Dark Tower and I’m already half-way through Wizard and Glass, and as time to read is abundant over the holidays…).

I love reading.  Always have.  Always will.  If I ever lose my eyes, just kill me; audio-books don’t cut it when it comes to bringing worlds of words into my mind.  I’ve learned more from reading on my own than I ever did in school, and I continue to do so.  The food for the mind is of the vitally important kind, and I read my feed with voracious greed.

Over the past year, I decided to challenge myself and read a couple of those more intimidating novels that I’d always avoided.  The first of those tackled was Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.  A lot of people love this book, and I can see why as the story-telling is incredibly immersive, to the point where you practically know not only every single thought of every single character, but also the background and reasoning behind them; immersive, but really tedious at times, in my opinion, and the copious flipping back and forth between the often unnecessary footnotes was annoying.  I liked it and I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’ll be going back for seconds any time soon.

I also faced-off against Ulysses by James Joyce this year, a tome that has beaten many a better reader than I to abandonment, so I was incredibly intimidated going into it.  What if I didn’t like it?  What if I didn’t understand it?  What if I can’t finish it?  I almost never leave a book unread once I’ve started it!  What if I failed Ulysses?   Well, I actually did finish it (that last chapter, though…), and I actually did enjoy the parts that I got, but I’m going to admit that there were some points where I honestly didn’t know what the heck I was reading regardless of how often I’d flip back to try to pick up where I’d lost the train.  One of the reviews I read for Ulysses said that the reviewer wasn’t sure that he’d actually read Ulysses, but he had certainly looked at every word on every page.  I think that’s fair, and I almost think that was the way it was intended.

The great thing about having worked through Ulysses was that it prepared me in more ways than one for what was for sure one of my Top Five reads of the year, Jerusalem by Alan Moore.  The influence of James Joyce was obvious in this book, including having his daughter Lucia appear as an incredibly important character (and has the most Ulysses-like and hilarious chapter in the whole massive book), and if I hadn’t have read Ulysses first, I know I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of Jerusalem as I did.  I have loved Alan Moore since childhood, so I went into this, the first prose-novel of his that I’d read, with great expectations, and in return I was greatly rewarded.  This is the pinnacle (so far) of all of Moore’s work, and truly a masterpiece for a writer who already has many under his belt.  I loved it so much I immediately ordered his other novel, Voice of the Fire, that I didn’t even know existed, and actually loved it even more.  Of course, that love was helped by having read Jerusalem in the first place, and so everything comes full-circle.  They may not be the first things I recommend to someone who has never read any Alan Moore, but if they’re already familiar with him then I will beat them with a shoe until they read these two great additions to his already incredible ouvre.

I’m getting long-winded here, so I will just mention two more books that I read for the first time this year that I just loved.  The first is Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.  I actually grabbed this on a whim.  My wife was rushing me out of the bookstore because we had to home for some important event or other that I have now completely forgotten, and this one just practically jumped off the shelf and into my stack as we walked by towards the registers.  I mean that almost literally.  We were hustling by, the cover caught my eye and the title was cool, so I just grabbed it and bought it without even reading the back.  I’d never read any Stephenson before.  I have since read six of his incredibly intelligent and well-written books because Cryptonomicon was so highly enjoyable – Who knew that WWII cryptology mixed with internet banking could lead to such high adventure?

Grabbing that book off the shelf was a whim I will forever cherish, especially because it led me to the other book I want to mention, Seveneves, also by Stephenson.  This novel sparked my imagination more than any other thing I read this year.  The premise is that the moon explodes and humanity has to deal with the aftermath of what that is going to do to the earth, and comes down to the very survival of not only our species, but all of them.  Well-researched and scenarios so plausible that the tension is palpable, without giving any spoilers, this one blew my mind.  For readers who are afraid or unfamiliar with science fiction, don’t be dissuaded.  Yes, there are some tech-heavy descriptive parts.   Read them.  It all comes together and you’ll be glad that you did, and Stephenson explains it well enough that if you pay attention, you’ll get it.  And if not, it still serves as a good bridge for setting up the next round of action.  Whatever.  My sister is not a sci-fi person and she’s currently burning through it despite the science parts that she doesn’t like, so that’s as good a recommendation I can make as any.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough for now.  It felt good.  If you want to look more into my bookshelves or see other recommendations: https://www.goodreads.com/JamieSigal