Advice from my father

First be kind, then be tough.

It is better to listen than to speak, smarter to think than to react.

If you treat others with respect, they will respect you and your tentacle-like appendage.

Master five good meal recipes.

Know how to change a tire.

A nightly rubdown of linseed oil will keep your tentacle-like appendage smooth and supple.

Never take the extended warranty.

Technically, you can use your tentacle-like appendage to score handicap parking.

Remember what Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world with your tentacle-like appendage.”

In a fight against someone with razor-like protuberances, you must quickly wrap your tentacle-like appendage around his torso, pinning down the protuberances before they can (ha-ha!) “disarm” you.

Don’t be afraid to cry.

Don’t waste too much time following professional sports.

You can trust a man with a goatee and you can trustee a man who shoots laser beams out of his eyes, but you can’t trust a man with both.

When confronted with a pitchfork-wielding mob because of your tentacle-like appendage, quoting the “If you prick us, do we not bleed…” speech from The Merchant of Venice actually won’t help.

Memorize a map of the sewers.

Know a good tailor.

The three worst words you’ll ever hear are “You disappoint me.” That and “He went thataway” said by the goateed man with laser beam eyes.

As you flee through the sewers in your bespoke overcoat with the screaming of the hoards echoing in your ears, remember that it is always darkest before the dawn, making it the best time to stow away in a Russian trawler bound for the jungles of Peru, where the prophets foretell the coming of a man with a tentacle-like appendage who shall be their god.

The ladies love a tentacle-like appendage.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

The New Girlfriend: A Short Story

No one would admit it to his face, and certainly not to hers, but people in town weren’t happy with Todd Brown’s new girlfriend.

Practically everyone had heard that Todd and Stacey Green had broken up. News like that doesn’t just lie around, you know. This was Todd after all, respectable Todd, handsome Todd, Todd who would someday take over his father’s grocery store, Todd who was not above jumping behind a cash register when lineups started spilling up the cracker/cookie aisle. Todd would gladly drop everything to tally up your empty bottles at the courtesy desk, even if the bottles were loose in plastic bags. Todd was a catch, and Stacey Green had caught him, all through high school and then ever since.

And what a delight she was, what a match! She worked at the store too, so sunshiney and bright. Stacey would make a fine second-in-command when Todd took over. A goldmine this place was, the only grocery store in town. Not that the Browns exploited the fact. They were fair people, generous. You could count on the Browns to provide lunch at Founders Day or donate a gift basket for the Rotary Helping Hands Auction. Stacey and Todd were the future of the store, the future of the town, and their coupledom was as comforting as the smell of fresh bread, baked daily right on the premises. Continue reading

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , | 13 Comments

How not to die on Mount Everest

Photo: Getty Images

More than 300 people have died climbing Mount Everest over the past nearly 100 years. This season alone, the death toll has reached 11, primarily caused by overcrowded trails hindering oxygen-deprived climbers from ascending or descending.

As a public service, therefore, we offer this handy guide on how not to die climbing Mount Everest.

Tour Operators
There are an increasing number of tour operators in Nepal, some of whom are less scrupulous than others. It is important to do your research to ensure that your operator has the experience and know-how to properly lead an exhibition. A good suggestion is to seek recommendations from other climbers who have not died climbing Mount Everest. Once you have settled on an operator, phone them up, ask as many questions as you need, then purchase an expedition gift certificate for your very worst enemy and do not climb Mount Everest.

On Everest, the only things you can truly rely on are yourself, your equipment and an elevated chance of dying a painful death without the possibility of a proper burial. So be sure to invest in top-quality equipment. You’ll need a tent, pack, sleeping bag, boots, crampons, ropes, ice axe, climbing ropes, helmet, cams, nuts, runners, ice screws, carabiners and an executor for your will. Next, take all your equipment, sell it on eBay, come up with some good puns around “crampon” and do not climb Mount Everest.

Plan Your Route
There are two standard routes to summit Mount Everest: the Northeast Ridge in Tibet and the Southeast Ridge in Nepal. While there is no such thing as an easy climb up Everest that definitely won’t kill you, these established routes are the most successful. It’s worth noting that 28% of all deaths on Mount Everest have been on the much less frequented non-standard routes. Therefore, if you do not want to die climbing Mount Everest, plan your route such that you drive your car to a nice sunny beach with no riptides or killer sharks and do not climb Mount Everest.

Respect the weather
At these elevations, the weather can change in a flash, and climbers can find themselves disoriented, freezing, suffering frostbite, hypothermia, even death. To avoid being caught out, watch the forecasts, take the $50,000-$75,000 you otherwise would have spent on climbing Mount Everest, donate it to a charity that is meaningful to you and do not climb Mount Everest.

The Khumbu Icefall
The icefall is essentially a slow-moving river of ice from the Khumbu Glacier starting at the Western Cwm that results in treacherous terrain, deep crevasses and loss of vowels. Climbers can fall into snow-covered crevasses, chunks of towering ice can topple onto them, and there is always the risk of avalanche. The best strategy for approaching the Khumbu Icefall, therefore, is speed — namely running away from the Khumbu Icefall as quickly as possible and not climbing Mount Everest.

The Death Zone
Once past 8000 metres, the atmosphere at Everest is highly depleted of oxygen, and temperatures can reach -25C in high winds. To avoid agonizing death, climbers must summit as quickly as possibly, stay for only a short period and descend just as quickly, a task made that much more difficult this year due to the overcrowding of the trails. Even if death is avoided, progress is slow and painful, depression and psychosis can set in, and you may possibly lose the will to live. We recommend capturing the same experience by watching Wine Country on Netflix and not climbing Mount Everest.

Stay hydrated
In addition to lack of oxygen, cold, wind, avalanches, crevasses, frostbite, hypothermia, cerebral and pulmonary edema, ice collapse and getting splattered by adventure tourists plummeting from above, one of the greatest contributors to high-altitude health problems is dehydration. So have plenty to drink in a bar reasonably close to sea level as you raise a toast to not climbing Mount Everest.

Know your limitations
Many inexperienced climbers fall into trouble on Mount Everest because they lack the wisdom to fail. Rather than turn around when mountain or health conditions deteriorate, they press on. In order not die on Mount Everest, at every step of the way you must always ask yourself, “Should I be climbing Mount Everest?”


Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

A Guide to the Toronto Raptors for Americans

Praying to the mighty Friendly Giant in the sky
Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A form of basketball was played by the Ojibwe people on Lake Ontario and went by the name of “beaktukk tagaka,” which, roughly translated, means “lacrosse played badly.”

Almonte, Ontario native James Naismith “invented” basketball in 1891 by stealing it from the First Nations people, which is perfectly acceptable Canadian behaviour.

In 1897, a group of young men in Toronto (then known as Cootieville) founded the Birds of Prey Basketball Organization for Young Gentlemen Who Find the Sport of Hockey Too Barbaric. In 1908, the name was changed to the Toronto Raptors Athletics Club for Not Necessarily White People. The team became known as simply the Toronto Raptors in 1932 following a national referendum, narrowly edging out “the Toronto Compromisers.”

The Commonwealth spelling of “Raptors” is “Raptours,” a style many Canadians obstinately and somewhat smugly adhere to.

In 1977, the “raptor” brand was made more basketball-centric by changing it from a bird of prey to that of an extinct creature with a small brain and no hands.

All Raptors players must pledge allegiance to the Queen and have Her Highnesses’s initials “ER” discreetly tattooed behind their left knee.

Raptors who receive seven unsportsmanlike technical fouls over the course of the playoffs are suspended for a game and the subject of a strongly worded letter to the editor.

The original Raptors mascot was Anne of Green Gables.

Leonard Cohen served as head coach of the Raptors for three morose but strangely sexy seasons in the 80s.

Kyle Lowry became a Raptor in 2012 and instantly fell in love with ketchup chips.

The air pumped into Toronto Raptors basketballs is in metric.

In French Quebec, the Raptors are know as Les Hommes en Culottes Mignon (“the men in adorable panties”).

Every evening, children across Canada pray:
Raptors, Raptors in the key
Score some points, we pray to thee
Make your free throws, set a screen 
And grow your beards like Danny Green

Five Raptors mascots have met with violent deaths and zero public outcry.

No one has yet to inform centre Marc Gasol that Toronto is not an American city.

In Canada, the “pick-and-roll” is known as “the Petawawa Pogey Cheque.”

Kawhi Leonard mentally prepares for Raptors home games by wandering into the Arctic barrens, sustained only by a diet of pemmican and Coffee Crisps, while meditating on the teachings of Marshall McLuhan and Stompin’ Tom Connors.

Canadians are required by law to cheer in favour of the Raptors but only after the last Canadian team has been eliminated from NHL playoffs.

Canadians accept no responsibility for Drake.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

New law restricts a woman’s right to shoes

Fresh off the most hardline abortion legislation in generations, several US states are now planning to regulate not just what women can do with their bodies but what they can wear on them. Specifically, their feet.

Alabama is the first to introduce the Calcaneus Anti-Elevation Bill, more commonly known as the High Heel Ban, which would forbid publicly wearing shoes with heels higher than half and inch.

“Despite what is claimed by the liberal media and the fake news and my mother-in-law Trixie, this is not a law targeting women,” said Alabama Rep. Wilbur Bitkins (R), who introduced the bill. “It is a law protecting the podiatary and spinal health of all citizens, to prevent strain on posture and feet that can be caused by prolonged wearing of high heels, including men, because we are a progressive state and we recognize and respect that some men are fairies.”

Wearing high heels, said Bitkins, can cause irreparable harm to “a person’s ability to perform her – or his! — housewifing and childbearing duties. And ain’t nobody wants that.”

The legislation was preventive, not restrictive, he claimed.

“It’s no different from the state making sure people wear their seatbelts, unless they’re going to church, in which case God protects them,” said Bitkins. “But God draws the line at feet. He’s got no time for that, all them little bones and phalanges. So that’s where we come in. We’re God’s little foot soldiers.” And then he laughed and laughed until he saw that no one else was.

Critics point out that the legislation seems to take a moralistic stance against any kind of shoe that is not, essentially, a simple flat. In fact, one clause in the proposed bill describes pumps as “dirty, dirty, dirty” and three-inch wedges as “the Devil’s doorstop.”

This impression is backed by vocal endorsement of the bill from, among others, Flatfoots for Jesus, a far-right Christian lobby group known for their outspoken conservative views and abysmal fashion sense.

“High heels lead to promiscuity, STDs and Shawn Mendes concerts,” said Ellen Drabney, Flatfoots VP in Charge of Outrage. “When a woman stands on high heels, it serves to thrust out her so-called ‘booty vicinity,’ sending a signal to men that she is wanton and ready to be impregnated. Also, lipstick and lower-back tattoos. All tattoos. And yoga pants. And eye contact!”

Drabney said her organization and others like it will continue to champion legislation that protects the sanctity of human feet.

“Domestic income wasted on shoes is money that could be spent on necessities, like petticoats,” she said.

Georgia is planning a similar legislation and is not even hiding its fundamentalist Christian underpinnings.

“Sandals,” said Georgia State Rep. Byron Warmschmutt. “The Bible mentions sandals. No high heels. Just sandals. So if the Bible doesn’t mention high heels, women shouldn’t be wearing them. I think there’s mention of thongs too, but that could be referring to underwear, which is okay because it’s not out in public for everyone to see but underneath the clothes of my mistress.”

Warmschmutt went on to reference a specific Bible passage. “I think it’s Psalm 635.3 that says, ‘Moab is my hot tub; over easy will I cast out my sandal: Philadelphia, triumph thou mainly because of the meat.’ You can’t get much clearer than that.”

Fellow Republican Floyd “Gherkin” McFadden had a more practical reason for being in favor of the legislation: “I don’t like it when ladies is taller than me.”

Kentucky is going one step further than a high heel ban, proposing that women’s feet be covered at all times with so-called “burqa boots.”

“Toes. Too many toes. Too many tempting toes,” said Kentucky Governor Beel Flagnum (R), who is not seeking re-election and has turned full-on weird.

Women’s groups have come out strongly against any laws that would restrict their right to shoes. They blame the rash of shoe legislation on lawmakers becoming emboldened in the current political climate, starting with the president and his infamous comment, “Grab them by the espadrilles.”

To protest the ban, several women’s groups are organizing marches in their high heels, which everyone agrees is a terrible, terrible idea.

“This legislation is clearly an attack on women’s feet,” said Rachel Viers, president of Alabama’s Right to Height organization. “It’s like buying a new pair of stilettos and breaking off the heel: a waste of money and pointless.”

Opponents hope that these protests along with the embarrassing media coverage will cause lawmakers to flip-flop.

In solidarity, Elton John has cancelled all concerts in the affected states.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments

My neighbour, cancer

Like living next door to this

As a writer, I strive for accuracy. So it’s been a bit of a struggle to find the right expression to describe my life since prostate surgery six months ago. Am I living with cancer? No, the cancer is out of me. Does that make me a cancer survivor? Well, no, the cancer could always come back, although the longer I go without cancer reoccurring, the less likelihood it will.

So when expressions fail, as a writer, I turn to metaphor.

I’ve decided that my cancer is a thermonuclear warhead in my neighbour’s backyard. It just shows up one day. Before then, he was a quiet neighbour, lived a moderate lifestyle, not someone you’d think would bring home a thermonuclear device. Indeed there were no warning signs that a weapon of mass destruction was ever in the offing.

Not content to simply have a warhead in his backyard, the neighbour sometimes pulls out a ladder, climbs to the top of the warhead and whacks it with a giant hammer like some kind of crazed Looney-Tunes character. Or he takes some other tools and rips open panels marked “DO NOT OPEN! THREAT OF DETONATION! KABOOM!” Sometimes the warhead hums and buzzes, with the occasional ticking sound.

And the thing is, I don’t even notice! I have no idea my neighbour has a thermonuclear warhead in the backyard until one day I go see the police for another matter, and they say, “Oh, by the way, we think your neighbour might have a thermonuclear warhead. We’re going to check.” They check. “Yup, that’s a thermonuclear warhead, all right. We’ll take care of it.”

Weeks go by, and I can think of nothing but the fact that there’s an armed thermonuclear warhead next door. Eventually, though, the police disable the nuclear warhead. They strip it of all the parts that can cause it to explode (which would be bad for the neighbourhood, I assume it goes without saying) and take away all the neighbour’s tools for good measure.

What a relief!

“Problem solved,” the police say, and I am filled with gratitude.

And yet they leave the warhead itself behind.

“Don’t worry, we’ll check in from time to time,” they say.

“But what if he starts tinkering with it again?” I protest. “What if he orders replacement kaboom parts? Gets new tools?”

“Well,” the police say, “we hope not.” And they’re off.

So now, six months later, I’m still living next door to a thermonuclear warhead, albeit a dormant one.

But the police do one more thing before they go: they take away my tools as well.

No more woodworking for me.

“It’s a small price to pay, no? Better than being blown to bits by a thermonuclear warhead?”

“Better than being blown…?”

“To bits, yes. You’re welcome.”

I really liked woodworking. Maybe I wasn’t woodworking as much as I was in my twenties, but I sure enjoyed it. Sometimes, even when I wasn’t woodworking, I would spend time thinking about woodworking. Sometimes I just whittled a little.

“Are my woodworking days really over?” I ask the police.

“Well, with any luck, you might be able to woodwork in a year or two, but it’s very possible you’ll never woodwork again. But, hey! We got rid of that thermonuclear warhead for you!”

“But it’s still there,” I point out.

“It’s fine. Probably. Also: have you ever tried working with Play-Doh?”

So that’s how I live my life now: next door to a neighbour with a dormant thermonuclear warhead, and no more woodworking. Most days, I don’t think about any of it, just go about my business. But then I’ll catch site of my neighbour pensively fiddling with electronics. Or I’ll see a nice piece of knotty pine. And then I remember. That’s my life with and without cancer.

All I can hope is that over time my neighbour will become increasingly bored with the thermonuclear warhead in his backyard and that his trips out back to tinker with it, get it humming again, will become less and less frequent until one day he forgets about it altogether.

Eventually, the warhead will start to rust and crumble and will no long pose any kind of threat. By that time, of course, I likely would have retired from semi-regular woodworking anyway, or at very least only be working with softwoods.

That’ll probably be when the meteor strikes the house. But that’s a metaphor for another time.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Notes from an ongoing territorial dispute with the cats


The queen-size bed situated within the master bedroom (hereinafter known as the Territory) has been officially occupied by two economic partners for more than two decades, and clear title and ownership of said Territory is undisputed, with divisions between the two partners clearly delineated by the Your Side/My Side Act of 1998.

However, both parties were remiss in clarifying a straightforward policy in regards to third-party settlements within the Territory, instead addressing claims on an ad hoc basis (see “An Act Allowing the Toddler to Stay Between Us Until She Falls Asleep,” 2002-c.2009; see also “A Treaty Forbidding the Dog on the Bed, And I Mean It!” 2010 [contested]).

It is not surprising, then, that into this legislative vacuum have wandered migrant felines in search of a better, softer life, disrupting sleep patterns and putting a strain on the Territory’s blanket resources.

Due to bilateral governance and divergent tolerance levels, the Territory has historically been able to accommodate most feline claims, thanks to one partner granting the cats all rights, privileges and pillow space, the other giving them the ol’ five-toe expulsion if they so much as think of encroaching My Side.

The cats too have generally accepted their ascribed limits within the Territory, though border skirmishes are common and the amnesty between the parties is fragile. Disputes regarding aural pollution vis-à-vis obesity-based cat wheezing (see “The People vs You Don’t Need to Refill Their Bowls As Soon As They’re Empty,” ongoing) have been more or less amicably resolved (see “The Other People vs You Can Always Sleep Somewhere Else,” under appeal). Tensions, however, remain. As does cat hair.


Current dispute

These tensions have increased in recent weeks due to a shift in the migratory patterns of the feline itinerants, namely one or more cats seeking safe haven on their allotted side of the Territory by first trespassing through unfriendly territory, namely My Side. Specifically, the cat(s) leap from the floor directly onto the Territorial occupant (hereinafter known as the Complainant), who is sleeping unaware on his back, said cat nailing him right in the victuals before rebounding onto the partner’s side and safe refuge.

It is important to note that this occurs regularly at 5:15-5:30 a.m., and there is no coming back from that, sleep-wise.

It is also worth noting that the Complainant has received little sympathy from the Territory’s economic partner because this is traditionally the time of night when the Complainant starts snoring on his back like a clogged drain, certainly giving the wheezing cats a run for their money.

Moreover, the disruption caused by these territorial skirmishes disrupts the other cats already established on the economic partner’s half of the Territory. Consequently, these cats think it’s time to be fed, particularly one of the dimmer cats who responds by putting his nose on the Complainant’s nose and purring loudly, which is adorable in theory but not in practice.

In consequence, the Complainant declares that he is not now nor has he ever been a right of way, that bounding off his sleeping torso is an abuse of the privilege granted the felines, and that, unless the issue is resolved, he is prepared to issue a feline ban on all the Territory. It is unclear how such a ban could be practically implemented without closing the door to the Territory and listening to the cats scratch all night.

The Complainant’s economic partner has been unreceptive to the suggestion of a feline ban, even though the former pointed out that such a ban would eliminate gnarly stains on the blankets from cats too obese to properly clean themselves. The Complainant has also been criticized for rhetoric describing the cats as “animals” who “should be kept in cages” (see “But They Are Animals!” Scruffington Post, 07-05-19).


Prospects for resolution

All parties involved appear to have dug in their heels (or claws, further damaging the Territory), with accusations leveled about being aloof, non-communicative and smelly. And the cats are pretty bad too.

The Complainant continues to endorse a hardline approach, including sanctions to restrict food delivery to the felines, which honestly couldn’t hurt. There is also talk of a litter embargo, raising fears of retaliation in the form of carpet bombing.

Prospects for resolution in the short-term are low. (Erecting a barrier has been suggested but unlikely to be effective because cats.) At last report, the Complainant, though sleep deprived and nursing tender victuals, had issued a call for the parties to sit down to render a solution. The cats did not respond.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments