Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

A Positive Spin

February 22, 2011

I like the taste of a cold can of Diet Coke. Really cold. Straight out of the fridge cold. Or out of a really good vending machine.

I like soda crackers. I don’t know what it is – they’re such a simple little food. But I can eat the damn things a sleeve at a time and not even notice it. I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to be eaten that way. Maybe they should start marketing them as a snack food?

I like the cold and snow, because it means people don’t mill around in front of the restaurant behind my house. I can’t believe I forgot this in my post on civility, but there’s little I find more annoying than the people who plant themselves in large groups smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Amazingly, when it’s cold out, they manage to find other places to wait for their tables, or to smoke. I like this.

I like when someone sings a piece at karaoke, and does a better job of it than the original artist. I’m sitting at karaoke as I write this, and this woman just rocked “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. I’m not a Stripes fan at all, and don’t particularly like the song, but it was fantastic – she had her own interpretation of it, with a bit of flair. It was a joy to listen to.

Conversely, I take a bit of perverse pleasure when someone gets up clearly thinking they’re god’s gift to music, and just shits the bed. But I’m just mean that way…

I like the taste of a Krispy Kreme donut, original glazed, fresh off the conveyor belt, while you’re waiting in line to place your order. The donut itself is amazing enough, but the fact that they’re giving it to you for free – well, it’s like the bartender comping you the first shot of the night, or the drug dealer giving you the first hit to get you hooked.

I like Twitter. Yes, obvious to those who know me, but it’s really true. First off, it forced me to imagine from the group up how I consume information. Second, the 140-character online world brought a wealth of interesting people into my ‘real’ world. Most importantly, though, is the range of amazing sports writing to which I’ve been exposed – some new, some who I’d only read infrequently in the past. Local writers like Bruce Arthur, who’s turning out some of the most intelligent coverage of the Canadian sports scene I’ve seen in years. Ex-pats like Jonah Keri, who I used to read when he was at Baseball Prospectus, but who I’d drifted away from over the last couple of years. The incredible Joe Posnanski, who’s unquestionably the best writer of this generation using sports as a lens. Seriously, while I love Joe the most when he’s writing about baseball – or about life as informed by baseball – but I’d read 3000 words by him on bullfighting, or cricket, or tiddlywinks. Anything. Joe is the late-’50s Montreal Canadiens. He’s Coltrane. He’s Kristin Chenoweth in “Wicked”. He’s Elle Macpherson. He’s “The Rabbit of Seville”.

That same woman, by the way, just crushed some Sam Cooke. Versatile – that’s solid.

I like Brian Burke. Look, it’s easy, even fashionable, to crap on him for the free agent signings that didn’t work out – Komisarek and Lebda foremost among them. Ripping the Kessel trade is low-hanging fruit, and equally lazy. But for the first time in I can’t remember how long, I honestly believe that the Leafs’ GM is doing everything within his abilities to improve the team. That every loss is a punch to the gut, just like for the team’s most loyal fans. That other than his family, nothing is more important in his life than doing what’s necessary to bring Toronto a Stanley Cup, and not just at the corner of Front & Yonge.

I like Alex Anthopoulos. Dude’s a ninja. Sure, the Jose Bautista contract worries me, but it’s not my money – actually, that’s not true. With the amount Rogers gets from us for cable, internet, home phone, cell phones, Jays tickets – well, I figure I’m responsible for just a little less than 1/10th of one percent of his salary this year. But if this is a mistake, it’s his first one as far as I’m concerned. Pretty good batting average.

I like Mini-Wheats. They’re sweet. They’re crunchy. They’re really everything you could want from a breakfast cereal. Or an evening snack.

The point of all this? I often get accused of being too serious, of not having enough fun in life. I just wanted to take a bit of time and space to describe just a few of the things that bring happiness to my life. There are many more, which is another thing I like. What do you like?

On Civility

February 20, 2011

There’s a world that I miss.

It’s a world where men took off their hats when they came indoors.

A world where men got up to give their seat on the bus or subway to a pregnant woman.

A world where people held doors open for each other, instead of letting them swing back into their faces.

A world where people understood that the point of headphones and earphones was so that only they had to listen to their music.

A world where people kept to the right, so that there was room on the sidewalk for everyone.

A world where people paid attention to where they were going.

A world people said “excuse me” when they bumped into you.

A world where people paid attention to street signs, like the ones that say ‘no parking’ or ‘no stopping’.

A world where people understood the concept of standing in line.

A world where people didn’t wear jeans to the theatre. Or running shoes. Or hoodies. Or jeans. Did I mention jeans?

A world where people made original music, or at least remade the entire song.

A world where people cancelled reservations that they weren’t going to keep.

A world where we didn’t have Real Housewives and the Shore. Where the rich people on TV were just actors playing rich people. Where the stupid people on TV were just actors playing stupid people… or politicians.

I’m not imagining this, right? That world existed? Where people treated each other with kindness, and respect, and civility? Where shooting to match the lowest common denominator wasn’t the preferred route in life. This wasn’t just something that I saw on TV or in the movies?

Regardless, I miss that world.

This Weekend is Mother’s Day for Me

September 12, 2010

For better and for worse, I am the man that I am today because of my mother.

I don’t say that lightly, for my father played no small part in my upbringing and I’d like to hope that I’ve been somewhat responsible for what/who I am too.

But it’s quite simple – there is a single, defining event in my life and it has had a hand in shaping everything that’s come since (I guess that’s why they call it a defining event, no?).

On July 22, 1975, my mother lost her fight with breast cancer. She was just 35 years old. I was 6.

Growing up without my mother is why I know how to cook, and clean, and do laundry – my older sister and I pitched in on the chores at a very early age, to help take some of the load off my dad. From everything I’ve been told, my mother is the root of my musical talent – she won awards in local music competitions. As a child, I learned to be polite, quiet, respectful of my elders; really, I learned to be a mini-adult, because it made everything just that much easier.

On the other hand, growing up without my mother is also probably why I got married the day after I turned 22. It’s certainly why it took me two failed marriages and until my mid-thirties (and my current fiancée) to finally get it right with a relationship. It’s why I’ve never said “I love you” to the important people in my life nearly often enough, and why I’ve never said it at all to some of them. A psychoanalyst would probably tell me that growing up without my mother is why I don’t have any interest in having children of my own, although I’d argue I have plenty other good reasons for that.

Anyway, not having a mother and never really getting to know her, Mother’s Day has never held any real meaning for me. However, about 6 1/2 years ago, I came across something that did have some meaning – a roundabout way I could connect with my mother. In September 2004, I took part in the second annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event, it was a two day, 60 kilometre walk throughout the streets of Toronto, with a minimum fundraising requirement of $2,000. It was, to say the least, a life-changing experience. The weekend itself was a flood of emotions – the people I met, the stories I heard, exhaustion and exhilaration all mixed up together in one package. I raised a boatload of money for a great cause and met some people who’ll be in my life for a long, long time.

It was such a great experience that I came back in 2005 and did it all over again. And then once more in 2007, although circumstances (also known as a blister covering the entire pad of my foot) stopped me from getting the job done after the first day.

I haven’t been back to walk since, for a lot of reasons. The event’s now known as The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers (one of the reasons, in fact) and this year’s edition wrapped up a couple of hours ago. But even if I’ve soured on taking part myself, it doesn’t stop me from being in awe of everyone who does and wanting to get out and support them in the effort. Yesterday morning, I found a nice quiet side street in the Avenue and Lawrence area not too far from home, parked the car, and stationed myself on the sidewalk at about the 19 km mark in front of a row of townhouses. From 10:30 until just after 3:00, I stood there and clapped my hands red for every single one of the 4,623 walkers on the route (okay, I maybe missed the first half-dozen or so while I was getting parked). Young and old, women and men, large groups or lone walkers, pregnant, knees braced, walking poles – they all came by.

Yesterday was my chance to say thanks to a large group of people – today, there are a few in particular who I’d like to make sure know how much I appreciate their sacrifice:

  • Thanks to Deneen Cole-Ashbury – a friend from my first year, and an absolute road-warrior for this cause. This was her 7th year doing the Toronto event, and her 16th event overall – yes, she’s travelled to other cities to walk long distances, and each one of those had the same $2,000 fundraising minimum. Do the math…
  • Thanks to Erin Truax – fellow CIBCer back for her second year
  • Thanks to Jai Cole – friend from what seems like a lifetime ago, queen of the sweeper vehicles – and her daughter Stephanie
  • Thanks to Greg Barry – motorcycle crew man extraordinaire
  • Thanks to Ngaio Potts – castmate from this spring’s production of The Producers
  • Thanks to Meri Rawling-Taylor – one-time boss, now co-worker and friend
  • Thanks to Ana Mae Soquena – our intrepid, ball-of-energy assistant at work
  • Thanks to everyone else from Team CIBC – the ones I know/have met (Sonia, Victor, Leslie, Maureen, Colette, and Martha) and all of the dozens others I don’t/haven’t
  • Thanks to Dee Brun and Lisa – two ladies with long-familiar Twitter handles who I was just twintroduced to last night

To everyone who walked or crewed – but to all of you above especially – thanks for registering, for training, for walking/crewing… thanks for the sore muscles and the blisters… thanks for taking the weekend away from your partners, your children, your pets… thanks for raising almost 11 million dollars this weekend.

Mostly, thanks for doing everything you can to try to create a world where little boys become men because they have their mothers around, not because they don’t.