Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You are so wrong

Okay. In case you don't read the blogs that I list on my site (which you totally should, since I have impeccable taste...), I point you towards the most recent post from Paul Davidson's blog, Words For My Enjoyment. Not only is he a great writer, but he knows how to lay down the funny.

Check it out. (for the less than computer savvy, click on 'it'. You know who you are.)

*screeee* Price check on Ruby Slippers..!

On the way home from work today, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few items for supper. Having just come from work, I felt a little dressed up for food shopping. Imagine my surpise when I saw Dorothy and the Gang inside.

I'm assuming one of the local high schools was putting on a play. I guess they got the munchies before the opening curtain.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Divine Wind and Emergency Lights

The most fun I've had in my career as a police officer to date is a period of time in Carlyle when my buddy Don and I were partners. I'm not sure why we "clicked" as we did, but we made each other laugh. A lot. We often joked that if they ever opened up The Amazing Race to Canadians, we'd apply. If it ever happens, I may just hold him to it.

Not everyone was happy with the relationship, however. I speak specifically of the wildlife inhabiting the Carlyle area. For some reason, unbeknownst to myself, whenever we were in the police car, with myself driving and Donnie riding shotgun, Bambi and her wilderness posse would try to take us out. Our chariot was frequently the target of suicide runs by deer, cats, racoons, porcupines and just about any other manner of beast found on the Prairie.

But no single incident was quite so memorable as this:

Summer. Early evening. A rural highway slices a path through farmland and into the hills north of Carlyle. Traffic is light. In the sky over the highway, a solitary hawk soars and swoops, searching for prey. A police car races along at a speed.......greater than the speed limit, lights flashing. Within, two [handsome/dashing/noble] Mounties, on their way to pick up a special overnight guest for the Carlyle RCMP Hilton.

Dave: [driving] That bird is freaking me out, man.

Don: He'll move.

The hawk soars low over the highway.

Dave: [decelerating] He's got a bloody death wish.

After a few seconds, the bird veers away, up and to the left, out of harm's way.

Dave: There...... [hammers down on the accelerator]

He waits until the last second. The bird. Then radically alters his course, swooping back towards the highway and towards the speeding police cruiser. The Mounties wince, as it careens towards the windshield, but glides up and over the top of the glass.


Dave: [startled] I think I hit that hawk, man!

Don: [chuckling] I think so.


Dave: Where did it go?

Don: What?

Dave: The bloody bird! I checked the rearview mirror. I didn't see it fly away or hit the ground.

Don: Who cares? Just keep going....


Dave: I think it's on the roof....

Don: What..?

Dave: The bird, man. I think it's on the roof! [pause] I'm pulling over.

The police cruiser slows and rolls onto the gravel shoulder, coming to a halt. Dave turns to Don.

Go check.

Don: [chuckling] What?! Why me?

Because you're on the passenger side. I'd have to step into traffic....

Don: [chuckles lightly, rolling eyes] Alright....

Don opens the door and half-steps out, his head disappearing over the roof of the car. Moments later, he returns to his seat and closes the door.

Don: [chuckling] Yep....

Dave: Yep?! Yep what?!

Don: The bird's stuck on the roof.

Dave: [in disbelief] No it's not.....

Don: [nodding] It's up there....

I don't believe you....

Don: [chuckling] Don't believe me, then.....

Dave: [incredulous] But....if it was on the roof, why wouldn't you take it off!?

Don: [shrugging shoulders, laughing] I don't know....

Dave: [rolling eyes, certain he's being HAD] I guess I'll have to check for myself......

Dave checks for traffic, then steps out of the police car to look upon the roof.

Dave: Oh my.... [gag reflex]

The back of his hand is brought up to his mouth and nose. The bird is indeed there. It's head and shoulders are wedged in the space between the light bar and the roof, a space that physics tells us is insufficient to fit the head and shoulders of a large, predatory bird. Majestic wings are spread, flapping lightly in the wind, making the creature look like some kind of bizarre, organic hood (roof) ornament. To the rear of the light bar, a trail of blood and hawkmeat is strewn, bright red against the stark white of the car's exterior.

Dave: [leaning back into the car] Why didn't you pull it off?

Don: [laughing] I don't know...

Dave: Well take it off, man. It's more on your side......

Don: [rolls eyes, still in good humour] Alright...alright...

Don steps out of the car, takes firm hold of one outstretched wing, and pulls. It doesn't come easy, but eventually is pulled from it's morbid trap. The majority of the bird is flung into the ditch, but a good part of it still decorates the car.

Don: [chuckling] Let's go.....

Don gets back in the car. Shaking his head, Dave soon follows suit. The police car rolls into motion and continues on it's journey up the highway.

At the time, being an animal lover, I was a bit mortified. Today though, we always look back on The Hawk Story in humour, given that was the first event in our "wildlife escapades", and the fact that the story didn't quite end there. There was the fact that we had to throw the guy we arrested over the trunk of the car while we handcuffed him, his face inches from the remains, but completely oblivious because he was so juiced. And then there's the fact that I got my uniform completely soaked trying to wash the car afterward, and that I continued to see a chunk of hawk on the floor of the car wash for at least two weeks afterward.

It's funny the things that stick with you. Donnie and I had many the adventure. Maybe I'll share another one sometime.

Here's to you, Donnie........

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Road Not Taken

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;"

-From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost-

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? It's the idea that a small initial action can have a profound effect on future events (i.e. flapping of butterfly's wings causing a tornado to form [or not form, as the case may be]). There was a movie made by the same name starring Ashton Kutcher, in which the main character is able to go back and change things in the past which tend to have a profound effect on his future (usually for the worse). There's also a good movie called Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow which examines the great difference one seemingly mundane event in her life has on the course of her life (i.e. missing the subway).

Invariably, at some point in your life, someone will ask you, "If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?" I never quite know how to respond to this. I have a pretty good life at present, so it's hard for me to look back on anything as a "regret" and as something I'd want to change.

Sure....if I was sitting in a cell in Kingston Penitentiary, doing a life sentence for a murder rap, I might be saying to myself, "Yeah...I sure regret killing that guy. I sure wish I could go back and maybe....I dunno.....NOT kill him." That might qualify as a regret. But even still, if it were The Butterfly Effect, maybe if I hadn't killed that guy, he would have gone on to acquire a WMD and detonate it, wiping out half the eastern seaboard. Chew on that!

So would I change anything? Probably not. If our foresight was as keen as our hindsight, it might be a different story. Then again, if that were the case, the best decision could be made in the first instance, couldn't it?

Nonetheless, when people ask a question like that, it tends to lead to some retrospection. Undoubtedly, there are moments in one's life that are watersheds.....times where you come to a fork in the road, like in Frost's famous poem. These moments jump out at you. They lead to "what would my life be like today if....." type questions. Looking back, I can see at least 4 or 5 such events (of those which were of my own control) that have shaped who and where I am today. After a bit of personal deliberation, I've decided to share them.

1. The Girl Unanswered.

In the summer between Grade 5 and Grade 6, we moved. I was a popular guy in my old neighbourhood, and at my old school. I was in the "IN" crowd, insofar as you can have an "IN" crowd in Grade 5. When I started Grade 6 at my new school, it was foreign territory. There weren't many kids my age in my neighbourhood, so I went in not really knowing anyone. Luckily for me, I was darn cute and completely adorable, so people took to me like moths to a flame. Especially the girls. I guess it's that age when guys and girls are starting to notice each other and all that. I was LITERALLY being chased around the schoolyard by packs of 10-11 year old girls. In retrospect, I look back and ask myself, "Why was I running?". The reality was, I was terrified. I didn't quite know how to deal with the whole situation. I think being in a new area, new school, etc, I retreated into myself a bit, and it's when my shyness (which I've never been able to shake) really took hold.

Soon after my arrival in that Fall of 1986, I learned that K had a bit of a crush on me. K was one of the "IN" girls at the new school. Her "crowd" tried tirelessly to impress upon me her interest, and made numerous attempts to bring us together, through courtyard socialization, trying to get us to "hold hands" at the skating rink, etc. I resisted. It's not that I didn't like K. She was attractive...popular, etc. Rather, I was in the grip of fear and didn't quite know how to deal with the situation. So I ran away from it.

Eventually, they gave up on me and I found myself socializing more with The Others. The not quite as cool kids (i.e. the nerds, the geeks, the burnouts....yes...strangely enough, there were burnouts in Grade 6). There seemed to be less pressure in that peer group. There was also less co-ed mingling. It's not that I didn't like the girls....I just hadn't quite figured them out yet. We fear what we don't understand.

Looking back, I at times wonder how I, and subsequently, my life might have been different had I given in to the pressure to "date" (exaggerated quotation gesture) K. By way of this schoolyard romance, would I have developed more confidence and been more outspoken? How would a different peer group have affected my future choices as far as sports, work, occupation? Would I be the same person? Hmmmm......

2. The Clown Corporation

In 1991, amidst increasing presure from my mother, I sought a job. I found one....at McDonald's. Two of my best friends at the time already worked there, so it seemed as good a place as any to apply. I was hired in June. In December, my wife was hired. A year later, we were dating. The rest, as they say, is history.

Aside from the obvious personal impact on my life, I also spent 8 of my formative years as an employee of McDonald's, 4 of those in management. It taught me a lot of life skills and work ethic which I believe I carry with me to this day. Through that job, I also made a number of friendships, as well as solidifying some of my strongest ones which continue to this day.

And I got fat.

3. The Stay At Home Voyageur

As my high school days drew to a close in 1993-1994, I was faced with a big decision. On the one hand, Carleton University in Ottawa. On the other, Laurentian University at home in Sudbury. I'm not sure whether fear or finances played the bigger factor, but I eventually decided to stay in Sudbury. As such, I continued on at McDonald's (eventually joining the management team), probably saved a lot of money, lived at home until I was 24, and likely protected the relationship with the girl who was to become my wife. I sacrificed independance for stability. It's interesting to wonder how things might have unfolded had I gone to Ottawa on my own as an 18 year old.

4. The Westward Marcher

In February of 2000 I flew out to Regina, Saskatchewan to attend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Training Academy. It was 5 months of gruelling training after which I earned my badge. If I had not applied and been accepted, or had I failed at the Academy, I wonder where I would be. Still at McDonald's? It's almost mind-boggling to consider, as since 2000, my life course has been shaped by the RCMP.

I was initially posted to Carlyle, a little community in the southeast of Saskatchewan, policing 11 communities and 2 First Nations Reserves. After 3 years there (our family having grown by one feline and one canine), we shipped north to Pelican Narrows, a First Nations community in northern Saskatchewan for 2 years. In our time, we made many good friends, and I was exposed to so many life and work experiences that I never would have imagined for myself. Now back in Ontario, I work in the VIP section which has put me in the presence of Prime Minister's, Presidents, and Royals. Wild.

I'm certain there are other life events and decisions which have influenced my life, but I view those as the big ones to date. I am certain that there will be many more to come(the first probably as soon as October). Who knows what the future will bring?

In answer to the question, "If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?".


But sometimes, it's fun to wonder.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bear Witness to The Awesome

If you have a gander over on the right hand side of your screen, there is a list of blogs which I read on a regular basis. One of those I enjoy is that of Jessica Stover. Why, you might ask?

Bear witness.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

That Night in Toronto

Growing up in Sudbury, Ontario (and the outskirts thereof), I always considered myself something of a "small town" guy. There was something attractive in not having to contend with congested traffic on a daily basis, having a big yard with trees, knowing your neighbours by name, and other things attributed to small town living. This was further reinforced when I moved out to Saskatchewan and lived in Carlyle for 3 years, a place with a whopping population of 1200. Sure, I missed some of the conveniences of an urban centre (theatres, restaurants, etc), but regardless of that, I was fairly content.

When someone out there would ask me how I liked it, since I came from Ontario (a word which was often spoken with thinly veiled disdain by the locals, since it was a strange and alien place filled with them "city folks"), I would tell them that it wasn't that big a deal, since I was a "small town" guy from Northern Ontario, which was completely different. I would even often add that I wasn't a big fan of Southern Ontario......and Toronto in particular.

All this is slightly ironic since now I live just north of Toronto, and a great deal of my work time is spent within the very "center of the Universe" that I used to put down at every opportunity. And contrary to my previous opinions about the place (which were formulated primarily by a Grade 8 field trip and a couple bus excursions as a teen to see a play and a Jays game), I've come to rather enjoy the place. Not necessarily the nerve-fraying traffic or industrial eyesores that populate the Greater Toronto Area landscape, but the downtown core in particular.

Last night, I was downtown for work. It was about 4pm and some co-workers and I had sat down for a quick bite on a patio at the corner of Front and York. The sun was shining, the weather was warm with a cool breeze. Traffic and pedestrians buzzed through the intersection on their way home from work, many dressed smartly in business attire. The area was full of twenty-somethings, many who were likely students. Blue Jays jerseys and Pearl Jam t-shirts caused those in the crowd to pop out at me, reminding me of just two of the events going on downtown that evening (one of which I had full intentions of attending as of a couple of months ago, but for which plans did not materialize). I began to wonder what it would have been like to go to school or live in downtown Toronto. How would I have enjoyed living in a condo or apartment, taking the subway or walking where I needed to go? To be in such close proximity to so much culture, entertainment and activity might have been an interesing experience. Would I be happy with such an urban fantasy, or is my "small town" reality more in keeping with my personality. I suppose we always wonder if things are better on the other side.

In consolation, I am close enough now that I can experience a lot of the aspects of big city living anyway, and my job takes me down there pretty frequently. Perhaps it's a happy medium.

In summary, I guess what I'm trying to say is, I need to see more concerts. Therefore, extended family should try and win more tickets on the radio since apparently they have Cliff Claven type knowledge of obscure musical trivia.

And because I'm cheap. (the real reason I can't live in Toronto)