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How My Life Mimics Jurassic Park

June 23, 2009

Do you remember that scene in the first Jurassic Park, where Dr. Grant and the two kids had to climb over a dead electric fence to reach the other section of the park? While the little boy was on the fence it turned on, sparking in anger and blowing the kid about 30 feet off of the fence, where he nearly died. Of course he didn’t die, because it was a family movie, but that’s beside the point.
A little known fact is that scene was modeled after one of my real life experiences, with a couple of small changes. Instead of being on an island of dinosaurs off the coast of Costa Rica I was on a cow farm in southern France. Instead of being chased by the aforementioned dinosaurs I was meandering through fields, dodging the cow shit on the ground. And, finally, instead of having to climb over a huge, 40-foot high electric fence, the fence I had my encounter with was about 4-
feet high. With a much, much lower current.
But, basically the same.
So here’s what happened.
I was around 7 years old. I was in France with my family on vacation, visiting some friends of my mother. This was farmland. Fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Bales of hay filled some of the fields, cows grazed idyllically in others. Farms bracketed the property on three sides. For one farm we had to help herd cows, blocking a side road with our bodies so the bovines would rush down a single lane. Imagine it, a 7-year-old boy, eyes wide in fear as literally hundreds of the biggest and well-fed cows on the planet rumble past him. It was absolutely terrifying, yet utterly thrilling at the same time.
I was able to ride on a tractor while the farmer collected the bales of hay. What little boy doesn’t want to ride on a tractor in real life? I got to do it.
One afternoon the elderly farmer who lived on the other side of the property called me over to his barn. I went inside and came face to face with a wall of rabbit cages. There were beautiful white rabbits, lovely brown rabbits, a selection of speckled and spotted rabbits. All of them plump, soft and cute as cute could be.
“Which one you… want… to eat?” the farmer asked me, in his broken English. I pointed near the top of the cages, to a caramel coloured fuzzy creature. He opened the cage, and gave me the rabbit to hold. It looked up at me with big, trusting brown eyes while I ran my little fingers through its soft, luxurious pelt. The farmer looked at me, and I nodded.
That night the cage was empty, and there was a plate of succulent, fresh meat waiting for me.

This was how I spent my summer in France; however, the story’s not over.

One day I was walking through the surrounding fields gazing at the blue sky (something I hadn’t been used to, coming from the UK) and the cows. Unbeknownst to me, electric fences are commonly used to keep cows in their respective fields. The electric current these fences emit are but a surprise for the thousand pound cows they hit. For a 7-
year old boy, the shock is more substantial.

It didn’t help that both that the fence poles are spaced pretty far apart and the electric wires are razor thin.

I was walking around, oblivious when I walked into one of these wires chest first.

It felt like I was literally kicked in the chest by a stallion.

I was thrown back at least 30 feet (though it may have really been more like one foot) with smoke coming off my chest and my shirt in tatters (ok, I lied again, but it would have been super cool had smoke actually come off of my chest).

I suffered no permanent physical damage, though it may explain some aspects of my behaviour (like my propensity to sleepwalk, though that’s another story).

I must warn you, heed my story. If you’re ever wandering in French fields keep your eyes peeled. Or the fence just may get you too.


A Horror Story

June 9, 2009

I woke up one morning and realized I had lost a testicle.

This was new. I didn’t have cancer. I was a perfectly healthy 19-year-old boy-man-child, albeit a hung over one. Maybe that was the problem; maybe I had done something so foolish the night before that I had lost a testicle. Maybe I cut it out and offered it to a girl as a gesture of love. A fucked up way of saying “I want you to have my babies”. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a black market trade for testicles, just like kidneys. You know how people go to Turkey and wake up in a bathtub of ice with no kidneys and a note saying “sorry”? Maybe that was me, but with my ball.

Here’s how it went down.

I woke up. I reached down and scratched/made sure my… bits were still there, as most guys do first thing. It’s the most important thing in the world to many men, so we have to check on it, in case it fell off during the night. Turns out, mine just may have.

I reached down. My main actor was still on stage, no problem. One supporting actor, good. The other one… wait a minute. Where was it? I poked around… nothing. I double-checked – main actor, check. First supporting actor, check. But no number two.

I sat up, shocked.

“What the fuck?” I murmured aloud.

I jumped out of bed and ran out of my dorm room towards the communal bathrooms, still in just my boxers. I didn’t care if anyone saw, if I truly had lost a testicle I was disfigured anyway. May as well get used to a life of furtive stares and muffled giggles whenever I was around. Thankfully this was before I started sleeping naked – my nudity wouldn’t have stopped me running out, had I indeed lost my testicle.

Thankfully nobody was in the halls. It was, after all, 10am on a Wednesday. Everybody else was in class, precisely where I should have been.

I ran into the bathroom. I needed the industrial glow of halogen lights to find my lost soldier. Flipping them on, my bleary eyes squinted at the sudden onslaught of white light. The only thing more painful would have been daylight.

I reached inside my boxers and fumbled around, again. Main actor, ok. First supporting actor, ok. Holding my breath I moved my hand over slightly. Second supporting actor… was there. Hanging out, so to speak, with nary a care. I was whole again, I had been re-masculated (I know that’s not a real word, but shoot me. Crunk isn’t a real word either, yet it’ll be in the dictionary before too long).

I’m not sure how it happened. Maybe I wasn’t thinking properly when I woke up and somehow missed my second testicle, twice. Maybe it burrowed inside me for warmth and popped out while I frantically ran to the bathroom. I don’t know. But let this be a warning to all men out there. You could be next.

The Life and Death of Bill & Ted

June 3, 2009

I was reading a post today by the wonderful and talented Cherie Priest. Her fish, the aptly named Howard The Fish, died recently, causing her much sadness.

It reminded me of the deaths of my own fish. It began like this…

For a while, all was good. The sun would shine through my window in the morning, easing me awake with its gentle, warm caress. The rays of life-giving light would illuminate the goldfish bowl on my shelf, where my fish, Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, known affectionately as Bill & Ted, lived. The fish would swim laps around their little bowl. I’m not sure whether they were training for the Round-Bowl Freestyle in the 2008 Fish Olympics, held in the warm waters of the Caribbean every four years, or whether the old adage about a goldfish having but 2-human seconds worth of memory was true. I’m beginning to think it was the latter. Like the movie characters after which these fish were named they didn’t seem to be the brightest tools in the drawer.

But they made me happy, and really, for a 19 year old guy stuck in a dorm room the size of a closet and trapped in a dead-end long-distance relationship, what more could one ask for?

I would sit and watch them swim for hours, their little mouths opening and closing as if they were trying to express their gratitude to me, their benevolent god, with voices too tiny to hear (not all benevolent gods are omnipotent). As boring as watching fish swim may be, it was worlds better than writing a political science paper, or talking to my very strange roommate (more on him later).

But one day, tragedy struck.

I woke up, but something had changed. There was little sunlight. The air felt chilly. Something was wrong.

Bill was dead.

Maybe Ted was dead. It was hard to tell the difference.

I wish I had reacted appropriately. I should have cried. Maybe I should have even fell to my knees, screaming at the sky, “Noooo!”. I could even have added a, “Whyyyyy?”.

Instead, I went “eww” and found a cup to scoop Bill or Ted out of the bowl. I had a small funeral for him in the nearby communal toilets where I spoke of his love for Ted or Bill, and his devotion to his shared home. In fact, I like to think of myself as helping to ushering in gay marriage, at least in the goldfish community.

I went back to my room and comforted Ted or Bill. I took solace in the fact that I had one fish remaining. The rest of the day was dark. I rocked back and forth in the corner, holding back my sobs of anguish.

The next morning I woke again, knowing there was something else wrong. The sky was near black, and there was not a sound. It was as if the entire animal community was mourning. For I found another dead fish floating in the bowl.

So distraught by the death of his partner, Bill or Ted had followed Ted or Bill to the great fishy beyond, a warm turquoise blue ocean where they could swim together forever, without fear or hesitation.

You’ll be shocked to learn that people have blamed me for the deaths of Bill and Ted. “You shouldn’t have dumped both fish into cold tap water right away” they said. “You didn’t even change the water after one fish died? No wonder the other kicked the bucket!”

To these charlatans of concern I say, “Do not blame me. For it was their time. The great fishy god of the sea (a licensed subsidiary of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) called His children home. They lived together, they died together, and are as united in death and they were in life.”

Peace be with you, Bill. S. Preston, Esq., September 2008 – September 2008.

Peace be with you too, Ted “Theodore” Logan, September 2008 – September 2008.

May you rest eternal.

The Weather in the Motherland

June 2, 2009

My emotions have always been quite level. I swing into anger very quickly, but it subsides just as quickly. When The Wife and I have a fight it happens very quickly, but is over before we know it. We don’t have those lingering, drawn-out fights where you don’t speak to each other for days on end. We’re emotional people, but we’re very much in love and hate arguing. Which is the way I like it.

But, back to emotions.

Like I said, I’ve always been very emotionally stable. I don’t get angry a lot; I don’t get sad a lot. I’m not saying I’m immune to mood swings; after all, what good is life if it doesn’t affect you in some way.

I know a lot of people in northern-North America and Europe get the “winter blues”. However, when I was at University in the near-Arctic Circle I never experienced this. I spent much of my childhood in the UK and was always happy. I think that the outside world, and especially things I couldn’t change, like the weather, just really didn’t affect me.

But things began to change a couple of years back.

A few of my friends attended university in the UK. They would come home to a much warmer climate and complain about the grey skies, the pale and unfriendly people and the bitter cold. I was never able to empathize with them, as my memories of the UK were distinctly different. I remembered sunny warm days, beautiful green countryside, old monasteries, churches and castles. I remembered smiling, happy faces and blue skies above. Of course it rained occasionally, but not that much, I would argue.

A couple of years ago, after my university graduation in the near-Arctic Circle, I decided to move back to England (as an aside, more stories of England will now follow in the near future, now that I’ve unleashed some of the truth from my anonymity). My student visa in the near-Arctic Circle had run out, and I had little desire to move back to the warmth that was home.

I went to England full of hope and confidence, my head and my heart full of happy memories and idealized visions of the weather.

And they were all wrong. It was cold. It was damp. It was just plain dreary. The people were cold. The people were pale. And the people were unfriendly.

I was used to cold. In my university days I would brave -20*C weather to get to class. Snow would fall in buckets, until it became too cold to snow. And I loved it. I loved seeing the sun shining off of a frozen lake. The white of the snow hurting your eyes it was so bright. It was gorgeous.

But England, oh England had the kind of damp air that would seep through your clothes and chill you to the bone. In Canada you’d merely walk inside to warm up. In England I found that you had to change each and every item of clothing you wore to avoid hypothermia.

But, in some ways, the worst part of the experience was the way the weather, grey skies and all, affected me. I became disillusioned. I became unmotivated. I became sad. It was the most depressed I had ever been in my entire life, and I hated it. I hated feeling that way, and most of all I hated the way I allowed the external environment to dictate the way I felt.

So I left.

I finally understood what my friends, and much of the wider world, had been talking about when they discussed British weather.

I still love the UK. I have many friends there still, I had a very happy childhood, and I have some lovely memories.

But I’ll be damned if I can handle that dreary weather for more than a 2-week vacation!

An Email Test

May 26, 2009

I figured out that one can post via email to WordPress.

So now I can post from the website at home, from email at work and from my iPhone while away from either.

Your scheduled programming can now resume.


May 26, 2009

My mouth begins to water, like one of Pavlov’s dogs after hearing the ringing of a bell. One word, just one measly word that sounds like it has been made up, does this to me.

Ribbons of white light shine over my face, the ceiling lights reflected off the gleaming steel blade that slices with ease through the soft flesh of the fish. Piles of rice, seaweed, ginger, wasabi and all manner of culinary accessories surround the small Asian chef as I watch with baited breath, yearning for my time to come.

My chopsticks tap anxiously on the table. My foot taps on the floor. Silence surrounds me. There’s no need for conversation. The same thought runs through all of our heads:

It’s sushi time.

My very own Cheers is no more

May 25, 2009

The backlit sake, vodka and whiskey bottles are reflected in the shiny wood of the bar surface. The black wooden furniture and accessories complement the Asian inspired art on the wine-red wall, while a blue curtain with gold stars catches the eye, but surprisingly fits in perfectly with the rest of the décor.

Ice clinks against the glass in my hand, my tongue tasting the bitter but pleasant flavour of the scotch. The liquid of the martini you hold carelessly in your hand sloshes dangerously close to the rim of the glass, but somehow remains in place.

You smile flirtatiously at me over the rim of your glass, as you listen intently to whatever nonsense I happen to be spouting – knowing me it could be anything from politics to religion to Battlestar Galactica. Your ability to take an interest in anything that matters to me has always been one of the things that I love about you, and I am reassured that this is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The room around us is busy, but not bustling, as I would have expected on this particular night. There’s a young, attractive couple, well dressed, having drinks at the bar as we lounge on one of the faux-suede couches. It becomes apparent later that the woman is from Chicago, only here to visit her male ‘friend’, though he obviously wishes he were something else to her.

The wife of the owner and executive chef lounges on a couch across from us. She is with her friends but is alone in her thoughts. Her tear-filled eyes catch mine, and she softly smiles a sad smile. Everybody else in the room is upset about the restaurant closing down, but their main concern is finding a new place to drink. For her, this is the end of a journey, and the destruction of a dream.

This place, an oasis of chic civilization in the middle of a desert of uncouth alcoholics, holds memories of suck good times that it’s hard to let it go. You said I should have brought a camera to remember, but a simple photograph merely captures the appearance of this place. Essence, and memory, eludes a still image.

I’ve never had a place like this. A place I’m excited to go to, a place I feel good at, a place where, for lack of a better term, everybody knows your name.

And I’m not sure if I will again.