Our celebrity commencement speaker is unavailable

Madam Chancellor, distinguished guests, parents, Class of 2017:

I know you are expecting me at this point to introduce our celebrity commencement speaker. After all, the least we can do after your three to five years of academic struggle and astronomical student loans is to provide you with some sort of A-list entertainer offering high-minded bromides to create the illusion that at long last you got your money’s worth.

Maybe a celebrity speaker will be a lasting memory that will inspire you – specifically, inspire you to donate to the alumni fund when some doomed Philosophy major interrupts your very important Netflix marathon and swallows every ounce of what’s left of his pride to beg you for your Visa number.

Yes, perhaps the celebrity convocation speaker’s words will inspire you, even though said celebrity commencement speaker’s idea of inspiration is casually dropping the F-bomb, probably in regards to the sitting American president, though I don’t know why we should expect insightful political commentary from the star of Jetpack Poodle 2.

Once upon a time universities honoured people who made actual contributions to society – humanitarians, scientists, the inventor of the cup holder – but we soon caved to our graduates who told us what they truly desired was to hear life advice from Dr. Katy Perry.

How did we get here? How did we get to this point where movie stars, talk show hosts and comedians offer benedictions to our youth as they stumble into full-fledged adulthood? When did we become so immersed in irony that it’s now normal for a commencement address to include Will Ferrell crooning “I Will Always Love You”?

I can’t pin it down, but as I was straightening my mortarboard this morning, I got this overwhelming sense that it all began in 1985 with David Letterman shouting out a window through a bullhorn at “The Today Show” taping on the streets below. The world changed that day.

But that’s neither here nor there.

I know today you expected to be addressed by someone who makes a living lip-synching to lyrics that contain the words “grindah” and “buck-honey boot lick.”

Unfortunately, our celebrity commencement speaker is unavailable.

Instead, I am going to offer what I can recall of my very own valedictory address to the Class of 1984 at Antigonish Regional High School (AKA John Hugh Gillis Regional High School, AKA The Regional).

True story.


Parents, distinguished guests, friends, classmates who never thought I was a big deal but look at me now: good evening.

Today, we enter a new world. I also have new glasses. I just got them yesterday. Perfect metaphor for the “new me.” I’m not wearing them right now. I only just sort of need them, but in 30 years I’m going to be completely blind without them. Now that’s a metaphor.

Fellow students, this is our moment, but mostly my moment. As we gaze towards the future, we must look back upon the past, a past that included none of my older siblings delivering the valedictory address, I might point out.

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is a source of many useful quotes. Some day we’ll have Google and BrainyQuote. Some day it’ll be fairly common to casually run WordsTogether like that.

Here’s one of those quotes: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” That’s my message to you, graduates of 1984 (and 2017). Not sure where I was going with that. Kind of limits your options. What about purposely standing in the way? What about The Resistance? That would be handy.

What else can I tell you? Follow your dreams. Friends forever. Remember the parties. Something edgy, but not too edgy. (Hi, Mom.)

Did I mention you should follow your dreams?

I will close with a quote, I believe by Williams Wordsworth, taken from his famous work, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. I cannot tell you what quote, but you can bet your feathered 80s haircut it was inspirational.

Good luck, Class of 1984 (and 2017). See you at the after-party, where I will be moping by myself for feeling insufficiently adulated.

Again, I apologize things did not go as planned today, but I hope you got as much out of this commencement address as you would have from a celebrity speaker.

Thank you.

I’m not wearing pants.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The press conference about the press conference

Can you feel thrill?

Good morning, everyone. I think we can get started. First of all, thank you all for coming out to today’s press conference announcing today’s press conference.

First, a little background about the press conference. As you know, the press conference was first conceived two days ago when we decided it was critical at this time to hold a press conference to explain the press conference.

Our public relations team immediately issued an invitation to media outlining the broad outlines of the press conference, namely that we would be holding a press conference, without giving so much away regarding the specifics of the press conference as to make it unnecessary for the media to attend the press conference, said media being a critical component of said press conference.

We further enticed media to attend the press conference by noting that refreshments would be served. I am pleased to announce that the refreshments as referenced are present today: two platters of saltines along with process cheese slices that have been cut along both axes, thereby turning each regular cheese slice into four miniature cheese slices.

You will find a fact sheet about the cheese slices and their specific dimensions in your press kits, which will be handed out after today’s announcement but before the refreshments.

There is also Tang.

Now that you know the background of the press conference, it gives me great pleasure to announce today that we are holding a press conference, and that this press conference is taking place right now.

As you can see, we are here in this hotel conference room that has been upholstered in a narrow spectrum of neutral shades. There is a podium that I am standing behind, equipped with an unnecessary microphone for such a small room, and behind me is a single banner that reads “PRESS CONFERENCE.” We will be posing in front of it for photos after I finish speaking but before the cheese-eating and press-kit-taking. I will refer again to photos shortly.

A total of 20 stacking chairs with a comfort rating of 6.7 have been placed in four rows at a distance of 15 feet from the podium, creating just enough distance to destroy any sense of human intimacy. The chairs are occupied by four reporters and nine people involved in setting up the press conference and who have a stake in the press conference’s success. There are just enough people to make it feel like a press conference, and yet few enough to make it feel the room is too big after all.

There are no television cameras present, which is a considerable let-down, press conference-wise, but not something we will be mentioning when we tweet the announcement about the press conference at the conclusion of the press conference (#pressconferencehashtag).

At this time, I would like to introduce you to a person who is sitting in a chair to my right as well as another person who is sitting in a chair to my left. They have things to say about their important role of sitting with me at the press conference, as follows: “We are proud to be sitting at the press conference today. The sitting that we have done here is something important that we do. Without the sitting, this would not be the press conference it is today. I hope the sitting will serve as a precedent for future sitting at press conferences for years to come.”

You will find this quote in the written press release that we have prepared about the press conference, which is located in your press kits. We will also be emailing you the press release at the conclusion of the press conference, which could have saved you the trouble of attending the press conference, except then who would eat all this cheese?

In conclusion, we will be concluding the press conference by summarizing the points of the press conference, namely:

  • We called a press conference
  • We had the press conference
  • The press conference was concluded

Thank you all again for coming out. We are pleased we have been able to package this information about our press conference today, and we look forward to seeing identical information published in all media, including hopefully somehow television, which is the only media that really matters.

Now, as promised earlier, we will be posing uncomfortably in straight lines for photos holding a thing that represents the press conference, in this case tiny squares of cheese. This will be accompanied by awkward spontaneous banter and uncomfortable laughter.

We will not be taking questions.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

One brief shining toilet

Last year, I moved into an office on the second floor because, logistically, logically, it made sense. Six months later, logisticallyer, logicallyer, it makes more sense for me to move back where I came from. It’s kind of like getting deported, except I don’t fear for my life and the greatest inconvenience is having to hang my pictures again.

I’m at peace with the move. For one, I’ll be close to the printer, so now when I stand in front of it for several minutes, waiting for it to spew my project, I won’t have so far to travel when I finally remember I forgot to press “print.”

I’ll also be closer to the coffeemaker, which some days feels so far away I can’t be bothered to get out of my chair to get the coffee I need to have the motivation to get out of my chair to get the coffee, a classic caffeinated Catch-22.

But it’s not without regret, this move. In doing so, I’m giving up a workplace perk that some people only ever dream of: a private bathroom.

This is about more than having a private place to take care of business at my business, though there is much to be said about that. Yes, yes, even the Queen poops, but you don’t want to think about that. You don’t want to walk into a bathroom just as a co-worker is walking out. You don’t need those mental or sensory images. What if the seat’s still warm? What if they left behind a horror show? What if you’re just about to go into a meeting together? That’s hard to move past.

It’s even worse if you’re the one coming out. Your co-worker will know for a fact that you are disgusting. Even if you were just in there to fix your hair in the mirror, they’re not buying it. You’re gross. Everybody poops – in theory! No one wants hard evidence.

I like to make a big show of shaking my damp hands or wiping them ostentatiously on my pants so people know for certain that at least I washed my hands. Usually I’m doing this anyway because I’ve failed to operate the motion sensor paper towel dispenser.

With a private bathroom, on the other hand, you can poop with impunity… impoonity. No need to scope out the joint, time your entrances and exits, curse the man or woman who invented vindaloo shrimp.

But avoiding the unsavoury is just one of the benefits of a loo all for you. As I’ve discovered over the last few months, my small corner privy is a little oasis in the workday, a place I can escape too whenever the urge manifests itself. I know that there’s a magazine in there, folded over to the page I left off last time. A stack of magazines. My magazines.

I can take my time. No one’s going to walk up and rattle the door. I don’t have to say, in a tense, quaking voice, “Almost done!” If things don’t work out the first time, I can always go back for seconds. No one will know.

A makeup mirror, in which I can gaze deep into the abyss of my open pores.

My toothbrush sits in a glass by the sink. I can brush my teeth without judgement, because it’s odd how much people frown upon spitting into a communal sink, even in the name of combating tooth decay and the hazards of workplace halitosis, which I think we can all agree is very real.

The extra rolls of toilet paper are within reach under the sink. A lovely hand towel hangs there, occasionally replaced by housekeeping. There’s not a motion sensor in sight.

There’s a mousetrap under the sink, and occasionally it will catch a visitor. They usually go unnoticed for a day or two, at which time I sniff the air and think, “Did I do that?” No, it’s a dead mouse, but even if I did do that, so what? I would just close the door of my private bathroom.

It’s purely a matter of logicness and logisticness that I ended up with a private bathroom in the first place, but it feels like workplace prestige. I bet the Queen has a private bathroom.

So as much as I regret having to pack up my books and files for the second time in a year, greater still is the regret that, unlike the Queen, I will no longer have a throne of my own.

I also regret that I never got to use my private shower.

I have two days.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

CSI: Cat Stink Investigation

We had to put The Dude to sleep yesterday. After writing the post below four years ago, The Dude had come around. He stopped peeing everywhere, settled in and enjoyed a quiet simple life. He did not like to be picked up or cuddled but would approach for the occasional head pat. His being so inobtrusive made him the cat I disliked the least, even though his dandruff never improved. A couple of weeks ago, he essentially stopped eating. Two nights ago, he hopped up on the sofa beside me. He never did that. I gave him some good head pats. Don’t tell anyone.

Drinking Tips for Teens

This time, I have no one to blame but myself. I could blame the cat, I suppose, but there’s no point in blaming something that doesn’t understand remorse. Or how to use a litter box.

Deb’s the crazy cat lady, I’m not – not crazy and not a lady. At one point we had five cats but lost two in quick succession a year ago, possibly due to predators, possibly due to better offers. Down to three, I foolishly brought a fourth one home; a colleague had to leave the country in a hurry (work-related, not felonious) and didn’t feel his 10-year-old cat would survive the trauma of travel and quarantine.

“My wife would kill me if she found out you had to put him down and I knew about it” I said, “so if you don’t find anyone, we’ll take him.” I’m pretty sure this overture immediately ended my…

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Posted in Reading? Ugh! | 15 Comments

In which I enter a literary contest and don’t expect to win, but still


It’s passable!

There is no way – no way in hell – that a self-published novel, no matter how passable, will win a literary contest. Especially if that novel has a cover that looks like someone left it in a damp corner of a basement for three years. I’m not saying my novel is passable, but even if it is, no way in hell.

But still.

You have to try. You don’t want to look at the shortlist later and think, “The Baker’s Daughter’s Teacher’s Pancake? Terrible book! Mine was way better. Oh why! Why didn’t I pay the entry fee!” You don’t want that regret. Because what if it did win…? Although, you know, it won’t.

So even if there’s no way it ever ever ever will win, I’ll kiss 200 bucks goodbye and enter the contest.


They posted the list of submitted entries. There are 70 books on that list, which means I have a 1 in 70 chance of winning. No, that’s not right, because I’m self-published, and two people on Goodreads said it was a “little slow to start.” That’s called exposition! I love my readers. Thanks for the reviews.

So the odds aren’t exactly 1 in 70. More like 1 in 1,000,000,000.

Unless, of course, a judge recognizes it for its zingy brilliance. “What moron publishers passed on this book?” she says. “It’s so zingy.”

Oh look, a book by that author. Like it’s just assumed she’s quality. Oh, and that one, the one getting the buzz, even though, between you and me, zzzzzzzzzz. But that’s the game, that’s how it works. These things are rigged.

Hmmm. Four other self-published books. Write those ones off. That puts my odds at 1 in 66!


The long list comes out next month. You know, I could make a long list. Ten books. That’s a pretty long list. I never heard of most of these books (except for that one by HER). By contrast, I have heard of mine. I could definitely make a long list. It’s passable. They have to throw a couple of dark horses on there to keep it honest, right?

God, I hate my cover.

I hope they look at the back cover. “Sunshine Kvetches of a Cranky Town,” it says, which is a direct riff on Stephen Leacock. Wink, wink. By association, they’ll immediately understand my book is funny.

Who am I kidding. Never ever ever will it make the long list.

But still.

Early April

If I did make the long list, I’d have to print more copies and get them distributed. At very least, I’d get rid of the box of books at the top of the attic stairs. I’d be so happy. My wife would be so happy.

I’d probably get approached by a legit publisher and get this book properly re-printed, minus the typos that I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED!

I wonder if I’d have to take some time off or if I could handle the media inquiries from work.

Ha-ha! “Media inquiries.” Who am I kidding. It’s not like it’s the short list.

I think I could make the short list.

Of course I can’t make the short list. I’m not going to make the long list. Stop it.

But still.


So the awards ceremony is in June. That would be cool. How would I handle that, rubbing elbows with Canadian literati? “Oh, hello. Yes, I know who you are but I really don’t like your work. I know we’re not supposed to criticize our literary darlings in Canada but I’m a maverick. Did you know I self-published?” Don’t be ridiculous; I’d mumble and pretend I loved everyone. I’d pretend I’ve read everyone.

My acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank that author for not publishing a book in 2016.” Big laugh. I think I’d want to bring a pineapple up on stage. Pineapples are funny. Heavy and spikey. “I accept this for all the underdogs!” I’d say. “Pineapple for everyone!”

(You’ve got to stop this. You’re not winning anything. And it’s not because you’re self-published. It’s because it’s really not that good. It’s a little slow to start.)

Tuesday morning

The long list comes out at 1:00 p.m. Don’t even think about it. You won’t be on it. I might be on it. But you won’t be. It’s possible. But unlikely. Not impossible. Improbable. It could happen. Nah. It’s a good book. Look: a five-star rating on Goodreads. There are only 10 ratings in all, but still. “My pineapple and I would like to thank my family.” Stop it! You’re delusional. Get a grip. You’re not going to get on the long list. But I might. You won’t. I might. You won’t. I might? No. Yes? No! Maybe?

Tuesday 1:00 p.m.


Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

New Pot for Old Farts: A Guide

I’m already overwhelmed.

So, you’ve decided you’re going to start smoking pot again. Congratulations!

First, though, stop calling it “pot.” These days, the cool kids call it “weed,” and that’s 30 percent the point of this entire exercise, right? To be cool again, just like you were in your twenties when you wore a bandana and regularly smoking doobies.

Don’t say “doobies.” Or wear a bandana.

Getting the lingo down is just one of the many things you’ll have to relearn after these many, many years since you last smoked the ganja. (Do not say “the ganja.”)

You probably stopped smoking because you decided you were a responsible adult with a job and a family, but mostly because you couldn’t bare the shame of getting busted buying a bag of weed from some high schooler at the bus station. Instead, you did what any responsible adult with a job and family would do: you drank habitually.

But now that you’ve reached middle age, your body can’t tolerate alcohol like it used to. You’ve decided that alcohol isn’t worth it if it interferes with the most precious thing in the world: a good night’s sleep.

And yet you don’t want to entirely give up mood-altering substances because that would mean you would be stuck with yourself all the time, and no one wants that.

So, with marijuana expected to become legal in Canada next year, you’re thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s time again to spark up a spliff.”

Don’t say “spliff.”

If you are considering it, you’re not alone. After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, past 30-day use by adults over 26 went from 7.6% in 2012 to 12.4% in 2014. In Oregon, which legalized marijuana in 2014, use among adults 26 and older has doubled since 2006.

In other words, anywhere the criminal element of marijuana possession has been removed, you’ll find giggling middle-aged couples eating untoasted PopTarts and fighting off the paranoia that they’ll be caught not by their parents but by their kids.

If this sounds like you, read on for the lowdown on high in 2017!

What’s marijuana like now?

Back in the day, grass was like a box of chocolates: it really made you want to eat a box of chocolates. But you also never knew what you were going to get. A standard purchase might be three parts marijuana, two parts tobacco, one part oregano and one part eraser shavings.

But with the legal retailing of cannabis products, expect not only controlled dosages but also nuanced flavours and subtle impressions, with heady tones here and mellow notes there. In other words, something else to make you feel stupid and inadequate. This is also how they ruined beer.

Is smoking weed bad for my brain?

Probably. But you’re middle-aged now and your brain cells are well past their prime. Knock yourself out. You should probably be more concerned about the weight gain.

How will I feel?

Every person reacts differently, but in general terms you can expect giddiness, increased heartrate, light-headedness along with possible feelings of euphoria and/or anxiety. You will also experience reactions after you smoke the weed.

And then how will I feel?

You may feel like sitting in front of the TV for hours doing nothing but eating snacks. In other words, typical Friday night.

I’ve heard that pot can adversely affect ambition. Is that true?

You still have ambition?

Does that mean weed is now socially acceptable?

Heavens, no! What do you think this is, booze and lotteries? Cannabis is very, very bad. A scourge really. A demon plague. If you don’t believe me, witness the tone of the federal Liberals, who have made it clear that this will be their least fun piece of legislation since they decriminalized assisted suicide. The only reason Canada is legalizing marijuana is to keep it out of the hands of children. In other words, if you don’t smoke it, the children will. Do you want that? Do you want the children to be potheads? Didn’t think so. Be a responsible adult. Smoke one for the team.

Will smoking weed make me have to tinkle?

Don’t say “tinkle.” And no.

Oh, thank God.


Should I write a blog post that seemingly glorifies marijuana use, even though such a casual approach could jeopardize my day job?

I wouldn’t recommend it.

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

The Real Fate of the Furious

Short-term spike in blood pressure

Tell-tale spittle droplets on conference room table

Uncomfortable silence from co-workers

Promise from supervisor in soothing voice to resolve problem

Feelings of satisfaction that situation will be remedied thanks to forceful rhetoric

Feelings of guilt for lack of self-control

Inability to focus on anything except whether co-workers noticed spittle

Failure by co-workers to make eye contact for indefinite period

Lunches alone at desk for indefinite period

Sense that reputation is now considered “difficult”

Sense that “difficult” is code for “asshole”

Failure to receive promotion

New nickname: Spitty McSpittleface

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments