I am the face of erectile dysfunction 

Last year, thanks to an anonymous tip by someone looking for a friendly face online, I learned that my not so friendly face, posted four years earlier on this blog, was being used by someone on a dating site. I was less appalled than amused. I mean, look at that face.

A reverse Google image search revealed that the my image was best described as “middle-aged man.” Further investigation revealed that this image was being used as a fake avatar on dating sites, Yelp pages, Google Plus, message boards, an English language instruction site, even as a real reporter’s head shot.

Several months later, a handful of those sites have been taken down. Other cease-and-please-stop requests (so Canadian!) have been ignored.

But worse, new fake identities have popped up. Worse still, they’ve put words in my mouth. Worst of all, I have penis problems.

img_1056For ABC Computer Solutions in Australia, I am Jeremy McDall, driver for Brown and Hurley, very pleased with the services they provided my computer and iPad. “Will definitely be back when needed.” I definitely wrote them and asked them to remove my image.

Pretty innocuous comments, however. Who doesn’t have computer problems? Sometimes your computer is just tired. Maybe your computer drank too much or is undergoing a lot of stress. No big deal. It happens to the best of hard drives.

Penis problems, on the other hand? PENIS PROBLEMS! Now I’m talking about PENIS PROBLEMS?

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Oh, there’s more. I’m a Cheap Cialis spokesman two-times over, though clearly I am not a spokesman in my first language. I am also really icky.

 

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“My girlfriend was exhausted.” No one believes you, Bill!

Clearly I would prefer my face not be used to hawk knock-off boner drugs. And look at that face! It does not look like the face of someone whose sex-marathon was a success.

I don’t want to be Andrew or Bill, and yet I find no way of contacting this “company” except to go through the process of ordering Cheap Cialis. It’s bad enough I now have “Cheap Cialis” in my browser history.

I continue to be baffled by why this face, of all the head shots I’ve posted over the years. And if it can be used to sell penis pills, where does it end?

Oh wait: it ends here. On this tattoo site, I am the #1 Sad Middle Aged Man.

Well, if you were an involuntary sex drug shill, you’d be a #1 sad man too.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 41 Comments

I want to be the guy who drives the snowplough

maxresdefaultO, I want to be the guy who drives the snowplough through the town.
A vanquisher of snowstorms, mighty king of streets and roads.
How I wish I were admired for my ploughing skills and courage
As I drive and sing the hits of Hall & Oates.

O, I want to sit inside the cab atop my splendid beast,
As the blizzard swirls around me, as it rattles from the skies.
I would push the snow and crush it in this transportation battle
While I play the air guitar to “Private Eyes.”

How I want to feel the asphalt grind and spark beneath my blade
As I barrel through the streets where cars can’t go.
And like those mighty ploughmen who have cleared these roads before me
I would sing along to “Say It Isn’t So.”

I am mighty, I am big, I have traction, force and power
I could wreck your lawn and crush your little mail hutch
But snowplough man, he doesn’t. He has sworn his sacred duty.
And, oh, my favourite song is “Out of Touch.”

At 2 or 5 or 6 I’m out and ploughing when I’m needed.
The ploughman never sleeps until the snow has stopped its fall.
“Duty calls,” I say beneath my breath, my gaze upon the snowstorm
Swirling, flowing like the hair of Darryl Hall.

Children cheer my roaring, though they loathe to see me passing
For it means the roads are cleared and there is school.
The busses now will make it, thanks to me, the mighty ploughman.
Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo, boo-hoo.

(“Ohhh, here she comes… she’s a snoweater…!”)

Later I will sit with guys who likewise drive the snowplough
And we’ll talk of blade arc, torque and things hydraulic
We’ll speak of wind shear, salt and sand and 80s soft-rock hits
Along with John Oates’ stache in terms most hyperbolic

You think that I don’t know you hate the piles along your driveway?
That barricade of snow that makes you glare when I pass through?
You wish I’d lift my blade along the places that you’ve shoveled,
Yeah but I can’t go for that, no. No can do.

Take note of this, though, citizens, the ploughman has the power
And this news may fill your heart or cause dismay
For I’ll track down every one of you who dares to say “the white stuff,”
And I’ll “white stuff” you so hard you’re stuck ‘til May.

And it’s spelled “P-L-O-U-G-H,” not “P-L-O-and-W.”
For it makes no sense that “plow” won’t rhyme with “snow.”
There’s time to think on things like this while safely tucked inside my cab
And singing “Sara Smiles” as tempests blow.

(Now see? “Snow/blow,” that makes sense, but “plow”? No.)

O, I want to be the guy who drives the snowplough through the town.
I long to conquer snowfall, battle drifts all season through.
To the man who grants me access to such bulk of force and metal
I would say to him, “You make-a my dreams come true.”

(You-hoo, you, hoo, you-hoo.)

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

The furious incident of the stupid dog in the night time

bellaThe stupid dog goes to the door around 5:30 a.m., maybe earlier. Dogs can’t tell time. Every night when I come up to bed, Deb reminds me, “Did you let The Beast out?” If I haven’t, I do, even though I know it’s probably pointless because, at 11 o’clock, the dog doesn’t need out. The dog needs out at 5:30 a.m., maybe earlier. Stupid dog.

She scratches at the door, or sometimes she’ll stand in front of it and make a sound like a congested umpire calling a strike: “Rmmph!”

Deb or I will roll out of bed. I’m a little deaf, so sometimes I don’t hear her (the stupid dog), which makes getting up that much more aggravating for my wife. But I honestly do try to intervene when I hear the dog and am in no way only pretending to be asleep, I swear.

Sometimes we’ll whisper-shout from the top of the stairs: “Bella! No! Go lie down!” But the stupid dog is not to be deterred. Scratch. “Rmmph!” Scratch.

I slide on my slippers, go downstairs, open the front door and grab the leash that’s lying there. But first I have to grip the cold metal clasp in my hand to thaw the mechanism so I can attach it to the collar. The cold air swirls through the open door and up my pant legs. “Rmmph!” I grumble.

The dog pads down the steps as I close the door. I find a nearby blanket and curl up on the couch while the stupid dog does her stupid business.

And that’s when the stupid dog starts barking.

“Wurf!” Pause. “Wurf!” Pause. “Wurf-wurf!” Long pause. I start to drift off… “WURF!!!”

There were a couple of nights in the early winter when the barking stopped. But then it stopped for too long. I woke up half an hour later. I went to the door and spotted the leash, but no dog. This had already happened a few times during the day, because there is something wrong with the clasp (and not because of how I hooked it, Deb!).

When Bella’s loose, she bolts. At 5:30 a.m., maybe earlier, it’s not the best way to meet your neighbours, wandering around their back yards as their motion-detector lights snap on. Still, better than when I first met our new neighbours after I drove over their cat. (The cat was fine; neighbour relations not so much.)

But most nights, it’s “Wurf!… WURF!” Again, not a neighbourhood pleaser.

As I lie there on the couch, I wonder, what is she trying to express? What is her message to the night?

“I am Bella, spawn of Candy! I did not choose my name, but I shall choose my voice! Even though I have nothing to say, I will keep saying it! I am the comments section made flesh!”

“Cold! It’s cold! COLD! I have no clothes on. COLD!!!”

“I eat garbage! I like it! Bring me garbages! All of the garbages! To ME!”

“I can’t stop retweeting! If I stop retweeting, Trump wins!”

“My owner wrote a novel! A novel! Why haven’t you bought it yet? It’s really good! Everybody! Did you write a novel? No! My owner did! A whole novel! He also ran over a cat. I’m a good dog!”

“Those alarm system signs on people’s lawns? They’re fake! Fake I tell you! Haha! Haha! I’m barking. Now that’s an alarm!”

“Anyone who thought Justin Trudeau was actually going to keep his electoral reform promise is a fool. A fool I tell you!”

“Trump! Trump! Trump Trump! TRUMP!!!”

In the darkness lies a hollow of the sickness of the mind
Where the brambles of delusion shade the sense you cannot find…

“TRUMP!!!”

But then one night I got off the couch and went to the door to see what exactly she was barking at. By the streetlight, I could see the dog pace the lawn, then bark, then sniff and pace, then bark. Then she did her circle, bark, circle, bark bark, squat, bark, pace, circle, bark, squat, bark, bark, and finally down to business. That’s when I realized what she was saying:

“HEY! I’M POOPING! NOBODY LOOK, ‘CUZ I’M POOPING! POOPING AT 5:30 A.M., MAYBE EARLIER! I CAN’T TELL TIME! BECAUSE I’M A DOG! AND I’M POOPING! DON’T EVEN THINK OF PEEKING! HEY!”

Stupid dog.

Posted in It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , | 35 Comments

I am carrying this live skunk to protest everything Donald Trump stands for

skunklady

She gets me.

For the past weeks, as I’ve watched the presidency of Donald Trump unfurl like a deep-fried blooming onion at a county fair – unhealthy, nauseating, greasy – I have asked myself, how can I make my voice heard? How can one small person effectively express his utter loathing of Trump and his so-called policies? Also, what can I do with this live skunk I happen to have?

I have felt powerless facing down a reckless political machine that overwhelmingly rewards self-interest and negates common sense. What could I hope to accomplish as simply one more body in a sea of protests, specifically a body who really can’t afford to take time off work to march in the streets?

But then I noticed among these protests the complete absence of skunks of any kind. That was when I realized that my Trump protest and the live skunk I happen to have are one and the same. The skunk is the protest!

So now I am carrying this live skunk to protest everything Donald Trump stands for.

My protest is a reminder that all citizens must band together to fight intolerance, lies and bigotry. We must fight with our hearts and minds, we must fight with our voices and hands, and we must fight with the caustic, stinging stench of a live skunk.

In carrying this live skunk, I am telling the world, “My heart is sickened by the disrespect President Trump has shown society’s most vulnerable, not just in his own country but in deeply troubled parts of the world. I cry these tears out of sorrow, and not merely due to the irritation caused by the sulphurous discharge from the scent glands of this live skunk.”

Go ahead and build your wall, but no wall can keep out love, just as no wall can keep out the acrid stink of a live skunk.

By carrying this live skunk, I am expressing my belief that Trump’s immigration and refugee policies have little to do with security but are meant to whip up fear of “the other,” ultimately to justify the curtailing of human rights and civil liberties. By carrying this live skunk, I am reminding people that most of our fears are irrational – except for the fear of being sprayed by a live skunk, which is highly likely in this instance.

We supposedly live in a post-truth age of alternative facts, and yet there can be no denying that this is definitely a live skunk I’m carrying.

The live skunk has a Twitter account: @TrumpSkunk. It consists entirely of pictures of me carrying this live skunk and people reeling back in abject horror. It’s a metaphor, the live skunk being Trump’s Twitter statements, and the horrified people being the horrified people.

A word about the live skunk: the live skunk does not seem to mind being carried. If it wants down, I let it down for a while, but not for so long that I can no longer claim that I am carrying a live skunk to protest everything Donald Trump stands for.

I also ensure that the live skunk has adequate food and water. I take great care of the live skunk, because I know that even the slightest harm caused to a helpless animal is far more upsetting to many people than the serious harm caused to a human refugee.

I cannot explain where the skunk came from. It seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, although in hindsight I should have seen the skunk coming.

Until the Trump administration backs away from its cynical, Orwellian strain of politics, I will continue to carry this live skunk, surrounded by a noxious cloud, much like the noxious cloud of division that permeates this administration and serves only to embolden the ignorant and hateful, a noxious cloud that’s going to take a whole lot of tomato juice to wash out of our clothes/souls.

Carrying this live skunk to protest everything Donald Trump stands for is clearly the only thing I can do.

I have named the live skunk Steve Bannon.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , | 46 Comments

Talking about A Hole in the Ground

Here’s an interview I did a while back on “Quebec AM,” the province-wide CBC Radio morning program out of Quebec City. The host, Susan Campbell, is a fellow Nova Scotian, and we have known each other pretty much since we first moved to this province as young journalists years and years ago now. So the conversation was one of the most comfortable I did in promoting my novel, A Hole in the Ground.

If the embed doesn’t work, you can find the interview on Soundcloud.

Posted in Reading? Ugh! | 14 Comments

O, supplemented youth!

In the 1960s and early 70s, Canadian children did not regularly eat fresh fruit or vegetables during the winter months due to complex British Commonwealth rules that stated that all food must be grey or mush or both.

Even if fresh fruit were allowed, the cost of transportation from warmer climates was prohibitive. This was due to isolationist trade regulations that required each piece of fruit to be packaged and shipped separately due to an irrational fear that foreign fruits might contain parasites or demons. Today, of course, we understand that fruit demons are extremely rare.

Consequently, if you were a Canadian child growing up in the 60s and 70s, you basically became transparent during the winter months. One of the reasons we survived at all was because in the spring and fall we ate a steady diet of lawn clippings and Lik-M-Aid.

During the brief summer months, it was important to ingest as much fresh fruit as possible. The countless strawberry festivals across the land were not so much social events as ritualistic intakes of vitamin C that happened to involve (as do all good things in this world) whipped cream and cake.

But winters in Canada were bleak. By the mid-60s, our pioneering skills in canning fruits had been lost due to the pervasive American belief that sugar should not be used as a preservative but consumed directly.

Thankfully, Canada at this time benefited from the burgeoning nutritional supplement industry. For example, I distinctly remember taking a daily dose of vitamin C syrup. It was orange and viscous and formulated to supplement a child’s winter diet of potatoes and Squeez-A-Snak cheese.

(My mother, incidentally, has no recollection of such a syrup, but who are you going to believe, someone whose brain was nourished by vitamin C syrup, or someone whose wasn’t?)

There was also, of course, Broccolot, which promised all the goodness of broccoli in the form of a syrup that was also a silver polish. It was truly an age of wonders. Broccolot wasn’t particularly popular, however, because most Canadians had never heard of broccoli until 1980, coinciding with the United Nations International Year of the Stinky Vegetable.

Banoobe was a banana-flavoured paste in a tube that you could spread on toast. It contained zero percent real banana but seemed like the real thing if you had never tried the real thing. It was the Tang of breakfast spreads.

And it wasn’t just fruits and vegetables. There were other supplements as well. For example, who can forget Mr. Beef-O? These were pills shaped like miniature T-bones that offered concentrated doses of growth hormones and testosterone “For The Little Raging Man Inside You.” Mr. Beef-O pills are now thought to be responsible for Paul Henderson’s iconic winning goal versus Russia as well as 63% of all schoolyard fights between 1968 and 1977.

Vitee-Teet was another popular supplement for children who were unable to get enough dairy in their diet. It was particularly popular during the mid-70s when Canada was converting to the metric system, and there was an extended period when the only available containers that could hold the revised volumes of milk were Kodiak boot boxes. That’s where the term “Sloshing ’76” came from, as I’m sure you know.

Powdered milk also became popular at that time, but mainly as a form of punishment.

Then there was Squink. I knew a lot of kids who used to drink Squink, which was powdered squid ink that, when diluted with water, tasted like low tide and armpit. With its label depicting a winking squid with a leering grin and outstretched tentacles, Squink was chockful of vitamin B, potassium and the stuff of nightmares. Lightly diluted Squink could also be used to devise crude prison tattoos. Squink was eventually discontinued when it was found to contain high levels of plutonium. RIP, all those kids who used to drink Squink…

Astro-Dent was popular for a while, it promised “Strong, Healthy, Extra-Large Teeth… Just Like the Astronauts!” Whatever was in those pills made your gums tingle.

Everything changed in 1982 when Canada repatriated its constitution, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Free Plums. No longer was the country duty-bound to follow British trade rules. Fresh fruits and vegetables flowed into the country all year long in great abundance, although to this day, no one knows exactly what is meant by “fieldberry.”

Today, our children have access to a yearlong variety of healthy foods and no longer require a market flooded with ridiculous supplements and fruit-like substitutes. Thank goodness the food industry came to its senses about what we should be feeding our kids.

Posted in It Could Happen... | Tagged , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Townshipslaining the PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a town hall in Sherbrooke, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a town hall in Sherbrooke, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Oh, hi there, Prime Minister Trudeau, or as we say here in the Townships, “hi there.”

You see, Justin (may I call you Justin? I think I may), the Eastern Townships is a pretty easygoing place when it comes to the whole English-French thing. Certainly we’ve had our battles – sign complaints, bilingual status debates, health care access. But for the most part, even during difficult times, both linguistic communities have been fairly even-tempered, dare I say cooperative.

Just ask around, and by that, I mean ask the endless stream of your political peers who have stood before English audiences over the years and reminded them of how tolerant and open this community is – as if we needed reminding from politicians, whose goal is actually to demonstrate how tolerant and open they are. But, still, it’s nice to be thought of once a year or so.

That “once a year” I speak of, JT (may I call you JT? No? Too far?), is usually Townshippers’ Day, an annual event that takes place in a different community each fall across the Eastern Townships. It’s a celebration of the English community, a day just for us, a day to essentially say, “Hi there. We’re still here.” Politicians come out, make some speeches, and say, “Yup, we see you.”

Oh, I see your confusion; I need to explain to you what I mean by the “Eastern Townships.” Well, you go to Montreal, see, and then you take a right. Sometimes people refer to it as “the Estrie” but those people should be shunned. And don’t get me started on “Montérégie.”

The Eastern Townships, you see, was settled primarily by the English. I don’t want to brag but we were kind of a big deal. The English community has a long and proud history here. Schools, banks, churches, community organizations, even hospitals – all founded by the English community.

But you know what, times change. Demographics change. Politics change, as I’m sure you’re aware, given that you must always be looking over your shoulder, and not just for selfies. As the French community in the Eastern Townships expanded, the English community went into decline, for many reasons. But like I said: hi there. We’re still here.

And the best part of all is that our francophone neighbours generally recognize this. It’s not just about tolerating or patronizing the English community – a little linguistic pat on the head here and there. There’s a real recognition that the English community has deep roots in the region, whether it’s Sherbrooke or Stanstead or Richmond or way up in St-Félix-de-Kingsey.

In other words, Prime Minister, “English Quebec” does not equal “Montreal.”

That’s the only way I can interpret your decision at Tuesday’s town hall in Sherbrooke to answer English questions in French. You must have thought, “This isn’t Montreal, so the English community doesn’t exist here, or at very least doesn’t matter. I’m in ‘the regions,’ the hinterland, so I better play the French card, demonstrate that I’m in touch with le collectif, pander to the hardline, remind this English speaker the reality of Quebec in 2017.”

Well, no, sir. This isn’t a hardline community. Remember what I said about being tolerant? The soul of the Eastern Townships is more than that. It’s about being polite. We are very polite. If someone asks you a question in English around here, you answer in English, or you try. If you can’t manage, you work something out. No big deal.

“Yes,” you’re probably saying, “but there might have been people at the meeting who didn’t understand English. Plus, if you’re at a town hall meeting in Sherbrooke, surely you must understand French. Therefore, if I answer in French, everyone will understand!”

I see your point, Trudeau Fils, but it’s not up to you to dismiss over 200 years of history and community engagement. It’s not up to you to override the sense of politeness that we’ve worked so hard to establish.

Now, believe me. The last thing we want is to turn this into a language crisis. We are so over that. The English of the Eastern Townships know that this is a French region and that French is a fact of life and that you better manage at least a little in French if you want to get along. But we expect and deserve respect. Thankfully, most of us as individuals and institutions receive it from the people who live here. We expect the same from our Prime Minister.

Thanks for stopping by. À plus tard.

Posted in Canada and/or Quebec, It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments