Tag Archives: Stories

My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 5

The Summer I Met Two Legendary Soon To Be Ex-Jays

I know I promised 10 of these. 6-10 are coming next year during baseball season. This blog is shutting down all baseball operations for 2015. Before that I will tell you a story from my childhood chock-full of encounters with famous people, and baseball nerdery. To be honest, I can’t remember for sure which summer this was, but according to my research, it was probably 1989. Before this I don’t recall ever meeting a major league baseball player, and if I had, I will hopefully remember that by the time I’m finished writing this post, and then I’ll just scroll up and delete this sentence. So if you just read that last sentence, that means I didn’t delete it, which means these were in fact the first 2 Blue Jays I ever met.

I collected baseball cards from the time I was a small boy until it got to be a crappy hobby thanks to unruly collectors, and market saturation. I used to memorize baseball statistics on the back of the cards as a kid. I have knowledge of baseball history that can only be described as unnecessary. I kept the cards organized by teams, then by year, then by batting average and so on and so on. You couldn’t buy me toys as a kid, but if you bought me records or cards, I was good to go (records is what we used to call music….for the young readers). My cards started out in piles with rubber bands around them. Then one day it occurred to me that these cards were actually worth money. Everyone always told the story of what a Mickey Mantle card would go for, and a generation of baseball nerds figured if we took care of our cards, that someday they might be worth something. If they weren’t in mint condition, they weren’t worth anything, so I started putting my good cards in the sleeves of binders and protective cases where they sit to this day. I had sad moments realizing that my Cal Ripken Jr rookie card and other notable gems had devalued while being shuffled around through different filing systems.

Everything I learned about collecting came from frequent visits to a local sports card store that had opened up around this time. Family owned by people who seemed to be the inspiration for every comic book store owning cliché I’ve ever seen on TV or in film. They had a tough time hiding just how annoying it was dealing with 12 year olds all day, but when they were in the mood for it, we got along great. After all, we were regular customers and spent big money (only by our meager standards of course) in there. We were there constantly. It was a bike ride away. I loved picking up the monthly price guides and finding out how certain cards in my collection had increased or decreased in value over the last month, and trying to predict those trends. It led me to have a pretty vast collection. It was through the employees of this store that I became aware that Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff would be signing autographs at a Honda dealership one summer morning.

My buddy and I got dropped off at the dealership. We weren’t even old enough to drive yet. I’m sure Honda was hoping that some of the Jay fans that would descend on their dealership that morning were at least potential car buyers. There was a rule about just how many autographs you could hit Mr. McGriff up for. I’m gonna say 1 or 2 items were the max. While in line I saw that greedy bugger from the card store. His eyes were popping out of his head, and when he saw us in line, he giddily informed us that Fred signed EVERYTHING. They had brought like 12 items. All of these items would now be for sale at his store for double the original value. I wondered if Fred knew or cared. Maybe this guy just pretended to be a huge fan so Fred wouldn’t know the difference. I think we had brought an extra baseball card over the limit just in case, but we certainly didn’t have 12 items. When I got to the front of the line I was pleased to find out that Fred McGriff was a super nice guy that was very generous with his time. He engaged in small talk while signing my cards, and gave me the confidence to say what I really wanted to say to him. As casually as I could, I asked him to hit a home run for me that night. I don’t know why. It’s not like he was signing my cast in a hospital or something. Sounds dumb to me now, but if I could somehow gather a list of everything I ever said as a kid or a teenager, I’m confident that 80% of it would absolutely sound dumb to me now, and such is life. He grinned at me and said…. something, I don’t remember what he said, but he basically agreed to hit a home run that night. Now I don’t think I was ever naive enough to think that he didn’t try to hit a home run every single time he went to the plate, and if anyone was prodigiously powerful enough to be able to confidently call a shot, it was him. You know I can’t end the story with a hitless night at the plate. Of course he homered in his first plate appearance that night. I called everyone I knew and took full credit for it. After all it was my suggestion.

Later that summer, I was playing tennis with the same friend. This is in Mississauga, which is where I grew up, and just outside of Toronto for my readers that aren’t from around here. Man, I wish I still played Tennis. Those were fun times. It was in the evening during baseball season which seems impossible now that I think about it. For a lot of reasons it seems impossible, but this was the 80s man, and ANYTHING was possible back then. My buddy and I just playing tennis, and I look over to the other court, and there was only one other court. I see a guy that looks so much like then Blue Jay shortstop Tony Fernandez, that I had to call my buddy up to the net for a little chat. I explained my suspicion, and without drawing too much attention to ourselves, we needed to be sure that this was in fact Tony Fernandez. We started rallying again, hitting the ball just slow enough so we weren’t even playing tennis, but watching Tony Fernandez play tennis. This was dumb, so we approached the net again. Do we make a break for it with our bikes, and try to get our Tony Fernandez cards, and a pen, and come back before he’s done playing? I used the word impossible before. In this day and age, a guy like him would be getting paid $15 million dollars a year, and would have an entourage, and wouldn’t come out to the suburbs to play tennis on an outdoor public court. It was summer too. They have games like every day. Are you telling me that this rich Dominican ballplayer was in town, and spent an off-day in Mississauga, and played tennis in the evening? Maybe. I mean definitely, it happened, but I still can’t believe it. Maybe he had a buddy that lived in the neighborhood. Who knows? So my buddy and I are caught between the prospects of awkwardly watching Tony Fernandez playing tennis, or stopping their game to try to talk to him, or more interestingly risking the whole encounter by leaving to try to get something to autograph, and trying to rush back before he leaves. I should mention that both of us lived about a 3-5 minute bike ride from the court. So we risked it. Even crazier is that there was nobody waiting for our court either. We used to have to wait for that court all the time, and the night Tony Fernandez is there, there’s nobody around? Crazy! We drove our bikes home like we were shot out of a cannon, grabbed whatever Tony Fernandez baseball cards we had available, and were back in 6 minutes tops. Then we had to hurry up and wait. We asked if we could get an autograph, and his buddy who was speaking on his behalf said that if we waited until their game was over, he would sign our autographs. Fair enough. We stayed behind the fence and watched Tony Fernandez play tennis for a bit on the same tennis court that we played all of our tennis on. Eventually he came off and signed our cards one at a time. During casual chat time, I tried to bait him into talking about the Jesse Barfield for Al Leiter trade which pissed me off so much at the time, although historically, it turned out ok. He just said that Jesse was a good guy, but was fairly diplomatic otherwise. Once we had our autographs, we left them alone, and probably went home to brag to our other friends who weren’t there. It was a nice surprise.

Blue Jay fans know too well what ties these 2 players together in team history more than any other detail. Unfortunately it’s not what they did for us on the field, because they were both exceptional baseball players, and their names are up there with other choice few names as the best players in Blue Jay history. Soon after these chance encounters, they were both traded to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, and it seems ridiculous to say that the trade was lopsided from a talent perspective, but Carter and Alomar were the 2 key pieces that lead the Blue Jays to back to back World Series champions in 1992 and 1993. Does that mean they couldn’t have won with McGriff and Fernandez? Nobody will ever know. All I know is meeting me seemed to be their bad luck charm that summer, but it’s a fun Blue Jays memory for me nevertheless.


My Toronto Blue Jays Stories Volume 1

So the Toronto Blue Jays clinched the American League East Division Title yesterday. For the first time in 22 years. I quietly enjoyed watching their champagne showers from my couch at home. I don’t remember what I did the last time they won their division, but it was 22 years ago, which made me 18. At that age I probably would have celebrated with my own champagne shower….. or sparkling wine shower…… who am I kidding? I probably quietly enjoyed it from my couch at home.

The Blue Jays have been incredible this year. I don’t blog about sports very often (because when I do, my viewer stats bottom out for whatever reason, until I just figure ‘hey…. they don’t like sports blogs’), so I don’t know if I’ve properly explained my passion for the Toronto Blue Jays. Let’s just use the word avid. With all respect to band wagon jumpers around the city (because you’re all welcome), there isn’t anything you can tell me about the Blue Jays since the year 1981 that I don’t already know, and before 1981, I was basically a toddler. I also know my fair share of stuff from before 1981, because I studied my Blue Jay history. My wife would be quick to point out that I haven’t been monetarily compensated for any of this knowledge. I would add the word YET to that sentence.

So I’ve watched a lot of games. I was thinking about my blog the other day, and feeling a bit bad for not posting anything in a while, when I realized that this dream season the Jays are having, and me not blogging isn’t just a coincidence. I’m just having a tough time thinking about other stuff. So maybe to remedy this situation, I should write about some of my life experiences as they relate to the Blue Jays. I’ve got some good stories. I tell them all the time. I’ve just never written them down. So today, I’ve decided that my next 10 blogs will have a Toronto Blue Jays theme to them. I hope their playoff run lasts long enough that they’ll still be playing until I’m finished this project. Otherwise the last few that I write will be no-fun-at-all. Without additional delay………..

Saturday October 24, 1992 – Where were you?

I’ll tell you where I was….. Working at White Rose. It was a nursery. I had a part-time job loading garden soil into the backs of people’s cars. That’s what I remember about it anyways. We did all manner of dirty jobs at that place. Sounds crappy, but it wasn’t somehow. We were too young to care how unsafe our working conditions were. There were a bunch of people our age working there, and it was great fun. Two nights earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays had a chance to win their first World Series at their home stadium, then called ‘The Skydome’, and I still call it that because that’s the name it was given (don’t get me started on corporate naming rights). My parents were at that game too. I had written a good paragraph about their adventure that night in the following post https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2013/10/14/the-night-my-father-died/ That’s kind of a sad post, so scroll down to paragraph 12 if you’re not in the mood for a good cry. For those that didn’t click the link, the Jays lost on Thursday, and Game 6 would be played in Atlanta with the Jays up 3-2 in the series.

So this particular Saturday night might just be the first time in my life that a major Toronto sports team (apologies to the CFL Argonauts who I love dearly, but not the same way) could win a championship. The Blue Jays for those who don’t know were an expansion team new to Major League Baseball in 1977, so by 1992, we were ready. I wasn’t quite ready, I was stuck at White Rose until 6pm. I had found out that since the game was being held in Atlanta, the vacant Skydome was allowing fans to come in and watch the game for free as long as they brought some non-perishable food items for a food drive they were having. I wanted to be there, watching on the big screen with 50,000 screaming fans. With me getting off work only an hour before game time, and living in Mississauga, how was I going to manage this?

I give my friend Chris full credit for making this happen. Neither of us drove. He got his father to give us a lift to the train station. As I recall, the last train that we could catch to get us there was leaving the station at about 6:15 or so, and I know it was probably 12 minutes away. Chris and his dad rolled into the White Rose parking lot with food items to donate at 6 on the dot. I hurled myself into the backseat like it was a getaway car, and off we sped. We arrived at the station and ran up to the platform just as you could see the approaching train’s headlights off in the distance. A couple of minutes later we were on that train, closer to our goal, but not in the clear yet.

Before I continue, I have to explain the importance of this, because as I’m remembering it, I’m tensing up with excitement, but as I’m reading it back to myself, I’m not sure that I’m playing it up enough. At that point in time this was one of the few things that mattered to me in the world! I was 17 years old. One of the only Canadian kids who preferred baseball over hockey. It was my chance to watch my team possibly win a World Series. At 40, I still haven’t seen the Leafs win a Stanley Cup, and we’re not close. I fully understood this moment and how important it was, and how I’d be talking about it 10, 20, 50 years later. I had to get into this stadium, and we were cutting it real close. By getting on that train, we had pissed away our opportunity to just watch it on TV at home. We were downtown now. We weren’t old enough to go watch it at a bar, and what bar wouldn’t be completely rammed to capacity anyways? I’m sure we had no money, just a couple of jars of peanut butter or Kraft Dinner or something. There was no PVR, there was VHS, and while I’m usually happy to start watching a game after it’s happened these days, not the clinching game of the World Series!!! There was no backup plan! How did this story start? It started with ‘Where were you?’ If I didn’t get into the Skydome, I would be NOWHERE.

Chris and I got off the train and booked to the Skydome in hyper-speed. I think we had strategically chosen a gate near the top of the stairs, thinking that it would get us up into the nose-bleed section (the 500s). We maybe figured that those would be the only seats leftover. As we got to that gate there were like 200 people in front of us. The game was going to start in just a few minutes. It wasn’t looking good. There is a huge set of stairs that lead down to some more gates. We thought it prudent to check out the lineups at a couple of the other ones to see if it was more promising, so we started down the stairs. About 10 seconds later someone came on a megaphone and announced that Gates 5 and 6 were now the only gates left that were letting in people………….These were the gates that we were approaching…… the ones at the bottom of the stairs……

This next part plays out in my mind like a movie. I’m quite certain it didn’t happen in slow motion, but when I replay it in my mind, that’s the only way I see it. I can see the lady’s mouth slowly saying the words. You know in the movies, there would be a little bit of slow motion spit coming out of her mouth as she said it, and a really bitchy look on her face as she delivered the disappointing news, but she had probably been putting up with people’s shit for 2 hours and was happy to be shutting her gate down. Then there’s the crowd of people whose faces were looking ahead, have now swiveled towards us with sheer panic, and their stances turn athletic, and Chris and I look at each other like you do in one of those zombie apocalypse movies where there’s only two humans left, and you were doing okay sneaking around, but then someone dropped a candy wrapper on the ground, and 500 zombies suddenly see you at once, and decide they want to eat your brain, so you say to each other “RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Chris and I had about a 30 foot lead on these people as they started running after us at top speed DOWN TWO MASSIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS toward Gate 5 and 6. I honestly can’t remember if I actually feared for my life at the time or not, but the possibility of getting absolutely trampled to death was a real thing. As I was flying down these stairs, if I’d had a loose shoelace, or god forbid, dropped my non-perishable food item on these stairs, it would have been curtains! As it were, we maintained our 30 feet advantage, and got into the Skydome with relative ease strangely enough, but when I tell you that we were the last 2 people who got in, I’m not exaggerating by very much. I do remember the security guards closing the doors not far behind us, and most of the zombies were left wanting. We were in, and it was totally sweet. What was to come was truly one of the highlights of my life.

We were really lucky to even find two seats together. We had a pretty awkward view of the (then, state of the art) Jumbotron, but it didn’t matter. We could see the game, and the atmosphere was electric. I had almost forgotten until now, but that clinching game was 11 innings, so we were there for hours. In between innings someone would always run out onto the field and try to outrun the security guards. Abhorrent behaviour at a real baseball game, but at the viewing of a baseball game on television, I was pretty happy to have the between inning entertainment. Lots of people took rolls of toilet paper from the bathrooms and launched streamers. I cringe for those that had to drop a deuce at the stadium that night. It was bad behaviour all around I suppose, but they were serving beer to a bunch of people who at the end of the day were watching a big TV.

The Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series that night. Chris and I, along with everyone in the 100 level charged out onto the field after the game to celebrate. Security didn’t seem to mind, so they must have been expecting it. It was the first and maybe the only time (other than the following year when the Jays won again) that I’ve seen people so euphoric that they were high fiving and hugging complete strangers. It was like you knew every single person in there, and were happy to see them. Real hugs too. People that I had never met hugged me like I was a long-lost relative they hadn’t seen in years. There we were, partying it up on the same field where our heroes made their living, and where a year later they would be celebrating again (this time on home turf). It was a strange privilege that a few thousand people got to experience just for being in the right place at the right time. The party spilled out onto the streets of Toronto, and while a year later I was in Toronto for that incredible street party, Chris and I decided to head home. The train ride was full of ecstatic Blue Jay fans. I even walked home from the train station even though it was about an hour’s walk. Cars driving down a major street in Mississauga were beeping their horns at me, and we were all screaming together at the top of our lungs well into the night.

It was absolutely one of the greatest thrills of my life, and everybody should get to experience it the way I did. I hope sometime soon they will.


That Time I Was An Actor In a Kick-Ass Movie

Recently I got the opportunity of a lifetime. Have you ever dreamed about being an actor? Then done sweet shit all to make that dream come true? Then still dreamed because that’s what you do, thinking maybe some crazy movie director will just ‘discover’ you, and put you in their film? Yeah, that kind of happened to me, and this is that story…….

OK, I did embellish a bit. The movie director probably wouldn’t appreciate being called ‘crazy’, although he probably wouldn’t mind either. He didn’t really discover me, as we’ve been friends for years, and it’s probably playing it up a bit to suggest I’ve always dreamed of being an actor, but who hasn’t just a bit? It would be cool, right?

There’s a lot of back story stuff in a previous blog which outlines my desire to be a paid entourage member of this particular movie director and his cinematographer (although I don’t think they get as rich). Here is the link to that blog…. https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2013/09/30/ridin-coattails/

Assuming you’re all caught up, the story begins like this…. I’m having drinks with my buddy (Director Trevor Juras who is going to be famous soon, I’m sure of it), and we’re talking about some of his short films (because that’s all he’d done up to that point). I had noticed that he’d used a couple of mutual friends for small roles in one of his shorts, and even though they weren’t actors, they had done a good job with their roles. I was probably beating around the bush a bit, and hinting that I would make myself available for such a gig if after all, he would use the odd amateur actor going forward. He got a bit of a grin on his face like he’d been expecting me to say something like that for a while, and said ‘You wanna do some acting?’ Of course man… who wouldn’t? ‘I’ll definitely keep you in mind’ he said. The way it’s written that kind of sounds like a blow-off, but I believed him, and never brought it up again.

Some time passed, and we were hanging out again. Trevor was getting ready to do his first full length feature film called “The Interior”. He said he had something for me. It was one scene, but had a good chunk of dialogue. The movie was described to me as a Horror Film, but my scene would be in the mix with the early character development stuff, which is actually pretty funny if you ask me. The scene is a lot of fun which contrasts the rest of the film which is significantly darker. The dialogue was written with me in mind, and when I got a chance to read it, I knew none of it was going to be too much of a stretch for me. I knew this character pretty well. So I was very excited.

They went to British Columbia to shoot most of the movie in a forested area of a beautiful (or scary) island. I don’t want to give too much away, but the main character is in self-imposed isolation out in the woods when freakiness ensues. The first 20 minutes of the film, including my part were shot in and around Toronto. My scene was the last to be filmed, so everybody involved was pretty jacked, but also really tired. My character ‘Roland’ basically gives the main character an interview for his ‘rock-bottom’ job. It was a really fun scene to shoot, mainly because everyone thought it was hilarious. I don’t know what it’s like shooting non-comedy scenes, but the mood has to be a little different. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was very focused and professional, but considering what their schedule had been like that weekend which included multiple shoots in several locations around the city, I thought they were in great spirits when we were working.

I was a little nervous at first. It was my first and only time acting in front of a camera. I’d met a few of the people before. The cinematographer Othello Ubalde is a great friend of mine, and I’ve met his team members before. The director is obviously my buddy, and one of the other actors they used in that scene is another one of Trevor’s friends who I’ve met several times. It was just the star of the film Patrick McFadden, and producer Peter Kuplowsky who I was meeting for the first time. I knew my lines pretty well, but they were far from totally memorized. Things had been hectic at work leading up to the shoot, and on my day off that I was going to devote to rehearsing, I ended up in the hospital with my mom who was having some health issues at the time. I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be, but because my character was giving a job interview, it made sense that there would be a sheet to read questions off of. That sheet saved me. I had way more on that sheet than those questions. Patrick and I rehearsed a few times while they were setting up the shot, and to be honest, it made me feel a lot more confident to do those dress rehearsals a few times, and by the first take I felt like I was giving them good stuff right away. The most notable thing about acting in a movie scene that you wouldn’t otherwise know, is just how many people are in the room with you. My scene seems to be in an office with 3 people. There were 5 other people in that room, with lights and cameras and giant microphones. I didn’t consider how difficult it would be to pretend they weren’t there, even though they were set up about 2 feet away from Patrick who I was supposed to be making eye contact with. It takes a lot of focus. That was the #1 thing I learned that day. Can you imagine what a big budget Hollywood set must be like?

After the shooting comes the editing, and a thousand other processes that I was fortunate to not be a part of. Poor Trevor probably got a text from me at least twice a week asking when it will be done, and when can I see it, and all that impatient childish nonsense. I can’t lie to you people. I’ve been excited about this all year. This is a feature-length film, and I acted in it. This is a definitive stroke off the bucket list. Everything else is gravy. I’m very excited for my friends who poured their blood, sweat and tears into this project. That alone would make me excited, but I can’t overstate enough, how stoked I am that I’m acting in it. That is fun shit people! FUN SHIT!! So where do we go from here?

Festival Time! So with Trevor’s first short film garnering some attention, and getting into a few Film Festivals, we’re obviously hoping for the same thing for ‘The Interior’, and we are in luck! ‘The Interior’ premiered at The Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on July 27th of this year. At that point, I hadn’t even seen the movie. Montreal is too close to Toronto to pass that up, so my wife and son took a little trip with me out to Montreal, which ironically we were thinking of doing anyways for my wife’s birthday. Her birthday was the week before, so we slid the trip over to make sure we were there for the premiere. This trip no longer was happening on my wife’s birthday, and I just want to officially nominate her for wife-of-the-year award in front of the blogging world, for allowing me to make her birthday about me somehow.

Going to the premiere was so much fun. Trevor, Peter, Othello, and Patrick were there, as well as Jake who acted in some of the B.C. stuff. We showed up at the movie theatre, and there was reserved seating for the cast and crew. Like the amateur that I am, I secretly was getting a kick out of that while trying to look like I wasn’t getting a kick out of that. I didn’t even have to pay for my seat. It was getting better all the time. On an interesting side-note, Kevin Bacon was to be at this festival the following night for his movie ‘Cop Car’ which they were taking around. So if I’m ever playing the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, I’m going with this story.

Watching the movie was the best part of all. I’d intentionally not watched it up to that point. Not that I had access to it, but I’d seen a few clips at Trevor’s place at an early editing phase, and probably could have begged to see more. I thought it would be fun to watch it on the big screen with fresh eyes, and while I knew the story a bit, I had no idea how it ended. My part came up pretty early, and by the time I saw myself onscreen, I had almost forgotten that I was in the movie. I think that’s a great testament to how much I enjoyed the film. I was really into it, and then boom, there I was on the screen. My part was over not long after it had started, and I was able to focus and enjoy the rest of the film.

After the film we all went up on stage for a short Q&A session, and then headed off to a pub that was sponsoring the event, so even though it was a Monday night in Montreal, this place was busy until 3 am. It was fun to see the guys from the film get their props from the various people that had attended. I was even approached by a couple of strangers to be congratulated, the most notable of which happened out on the street when I was alone, and stumbling back to my hotel room. Wow, I got recognized on the street as an actor for probably the only time in my life. Even though that person had obviously been at the screening…… don’t ruin it for me, it happened. Never can I recall 6 hours of work translating into so much for me. It was too much fun.

Man, the film’s good. I’m so proud of my guys. The movie is visually stunning. Particularly the stuff they did in the forest. It’s both the most beautiful place you’ve seen, and somehow the most terrifying all at the same time. There’s nothing conventional about the story or how it plays out, which is refreshing to me. It’s pretty dark, but doesn’t have the cheesy horror clichés, and keeps just enough of its sense of humour along the way. It treats the viewer as an intelligent being, and doesn’t tell you what to think or feel. There’s no Hollywood gift wrapping at the end either.

I hope you’ll seek out ‘The Interior’, and try to watch it at some point. It will be difficult to do that in the short-term, unless it comes to a movie festival in your town. It’s set to play the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival on October 3rd, and there are whispers of potentially additional festivals coming up as well, although that’s all that’s official at the time I’m writing this. That said, at some point it will become available to the general public, and when it does, please check it out.

For more info and social media handles, visit http://www.theinteriorfilm.com

Oh, and here’s a link to the trailer. I made it in somehow. I’m the guy that looks like he’s saying something very emphatically.


Thursday Dance of Madness

I entered a short story contest.
I lost.
Even though this is presented as fiction, every detail is true to the best of my memory.
Without further ado.

Total goofiness is greater than the sum of its parts. If the following events had happened on four different days, this story might not even be worth telling. Foolishness was in the air on this autumn Thursday. There was no escaping it.

I was a college student, and the first week of school was 60% in the bag. I had use of my mom’s car on this day, which was a refreshing reprieve from the convoluted public transit arrangement that I was normally subject to. This would allow me the time to actually make myself a proper breakfast. I had recently learned how to make bacon and eggs, and did so whenever I felt like I had some extra time in the morning. College was still very fresh and new for all first year students. Not only were we trying to make sense of our schedules, buying the right textbooks, and locating our classrooms in the myriad of buildings on campus, but there was also a sense of youthful optimism and general excitement surrounding the prospect of sharing space with the vast number of attractive females. It was to be a good time in our lives, and this was just the beginning. Was it these factors that affected our behaviour on this day?
Thursday was different from the rest of the days from a scheduling perspective in that it featured a common lunch break for everybody in the entire school. Honestly, I never liked this arrangement because from noon to 1 p.m., all students and faculty had one hour to purchase food if they hadn’t packed a lunch, and find a place to sit and eat, which was hard enough the rest of the week. It would take 45 minutes just to get food sometimes. Leaving class for this common break, I remember walking through the hallway of the ‘business building’, which was absolutely bumper to bumper with people trying to make their way to either the cafeteria or the student pub. The signage for the different rooms hung from the ceiling on small chains. While we moved slowly through this hallway, there was a student who was clearly filled with that annoying cocktail of testosterone, confidence and bad judgement, and was slapping these signs as he walked past, causing them to dangerously flap back and forth. I quietly judged his behaviour as I moved past. After all, this wasn’t high school anymore, right? Suddenly there was a snap and a yell, followed by a smattering of applause. This idiot actually knocked one of the signs down, and the chain managed to hit him in the face on the way. Perfect! In almost all other life scenarios, some innocent bystander gets hit with the sign, but on this day, justice was served. As the crowd swept me even further away, I noticed that he was getting lectured from a faculty member. What an idiot! I couldn’t wait to find my friends and tell them.

The one benefit to the common lunch break was that I was able to meet with friends that were in another program, who normally didn’t have a break at the same time. We had arranged to meet in the student pub. Looking back, I’m not sure that it’s such a great idea to have a pub inside of a college or university, which serves alcohol to students in the middle of the day. We were of legal drinking age, and surrounded by people with dumb ideas. My only saving grace was that I simply couldn’t afford to drink that much, so my days of sitting around in the pub, and getting smashed were a lot fewer than they could have been. When else could one possibly say that a lack of funds came in handy? Remembering I had my mom’s car, I stayed sober over this lunch break, and returned to the business building for a math class in the afternoon.

In math class, our teacher was using the overhead projector, which is always a great way to put me to sleep. The thing keeping me awake was a student on the other side of the class who JUST WOULDN’T SHUT UP. I’m no angel, but I don’t like to interrupt people when they’re talking, especially when they’re talking in front of a room full of people. I felt badly for the teacher, who kept requesting silence from the class, and wasn’t even singling this obnoxious guy out. I had spotted this disruptive student in the pub an hour earlier, and it seemed pretty obvious to me that he had consumed a fair bit of alcohol during the lunch break. Finally, the disruptions had proven too much. The teacher confronted the student and asked him to leave. The following reaction surprised me a little, because this loudmouth didn’t seem to want to be there or learn math, but when asked to leave, he refused. The teacher paused, considered, and decided to let him stay under the condition that he would be quiet. They agreed, and the lesson continued. Not a minute later, the student began chatting again, and the teacher immediately called security. The student shot up out of his seat and started screaming at the teacher. I do mean screaming! This profanity was unprecedented in the history of student/teacher interactions I had witnessed. Suggestions of what to do with certain body parts, F-bombs, derogatory references to family members….. It went on and on until security arrived. What made this outburst particularly riveting was the amount of anger this guy expressed in reaction to being told to be quiet. It seemed unprovoked otherwise. This was just our second class, so the guy couldn’t have hated the teacher yet. Maybe it was due to a liquid lunch, but how drunk could he have possibly gotten in the two hours that the pub was serving alcohol before this class began? Finally, security arrived, and this guy got in some parting shots before being whisked out of the door. We all looked at each other to see if anyone else was completely freaked out by this outburst. The teacher shrugged and got back into his lesson, trying to downplay the ambush. I was personally feeling a mix of appalled and stoked. Was the college experience going to continue to be this interesting?

After that class, my day was done, and I met up with a friend who I had offered to drive home. I couldn’t wait to tell him about my misadventures today, or rather the misadventures of others that I just happened to witness at close proximity. I finished telling my story as we approached the off-ramp of the highway. Just as we got to the stop light to make a right, a song that I loved came on the radio, and I turned the speakers up so I could do a little car dancing. Well into my rhythmic head-bobbing, shoulder-grooving, and whatever else, I looked to the left to see an attractive girl in the car beside us smiling. I was so embarrassed. I turned my head forward, and stilled. My face felt all shades of red. Was I the third idiot of the day? Isn’t there a rule about things happening in threes? I tried to explain to my buddy that she was ‘laughing with me’, but he assured me that she was ‘laughing at me’. I moved forward as traffic in front of me started to make their right hand turns. Shortly after I moved ahead of the girl who had witnessed my ‘Thursday Dance of Madness’, I heard a screech and a crash. Oh no! I looked back. It was the girl. She had been watching me, and when she saw that I started moving forward, she too took her foot off the break and crashed into the car in front of her. Her lane was going straight and the light was still red. Could it be? A pretty girl was so focused on checking me out that she crashed her car??? It was only a small fender bender to be sure, but I felt bad. Not bad enough that my buddy and I didn’t start giggling when we figured out what happened. I wanted to go back, but the off-ramp prevented that. I couldn’t just stop my car from where I was. Besides, what was I going to say? Should I have apologized for distracting her? That would have been presumptuous and wouldn’t have helped her cause any. She was in a stopped position before she got into the collision, so she wouldn’t have been hurt. I hope.

I dropped off my friend and headed home. What a crazy day. I couldn’t ever recall such random acts of goofiness all happening at once. I had a huge smile on my face as I got home, thinking about how this college life was going to provide endless days of entertainment. As I entered, I noticed that the house felt really warm. I went into the living room to have a look at the thermostat. Had my sister turned it way up again? The temperature displayed confirmed that it was really warm inside, but the settings didn’t look like they had been tampered with. It had been pretty sunny all day, but enough to make it this hot? I headed to the kitchen to get a snack, and when I turned the corner, I glimpsed a shock of orange to my left. The electric element for the stove was turned on high since this morning, by me. My heart jumped. I calmly walked over and turned off the element, and removed the (warm) towel hanging from the oven door. Wow!
Did I not just spend the better part of my day witnessing 3 people make complete fools of themselves, and was happy about the way in which I was entertained? Meanwhile I was doing everything in my power to burn my parents’ house to the ground? It seems so. I cracked a couple of windows open, and hoped the breeze would come in before my family did. I managed to get the temperature of the house down a few degrees before anybody else arrived home. In order for me to continue to enjoy certain privileges in my parents’ household, it would be wise if this story went untold.


And The Paranoia Begins…..

I went out for a beer last night with a friend of mine. One of those friends who you share old stories with, and then near the end of the night when you start doing the math, you realized that most of the things you talked about happened more than half your life ago which makes you feel old and weird. Nevertheless, these little beer nights seem few and far between for whatever reason, and the last thing I wanted was for either of us to get killed, but I’ll get to that later.

We’re at a bar that I’ve been to a few times before. One of the best beer selections I’ve seen, and they keep the pricing very reasonable considering the rarity of some of the beers they have. Great beer, low price is a fantastic business model if you ask me. I’ll give them all the money I can spare. The food wasn’t as good as I’d remembered, but you can’t have it all. The waitress was cute, and did a good job answering our questions. We had a nice spot right near the front of the restaurant beside a window. Life was good, and we were having a good time catching up, when the paranoia sets in.

A guy in his mid 50s comes in with a sandwich board looking sign over his shoulders that says “What Is Love?” He stands right near the front door, which is basically right near us. I’m waiting to see what sort of disturbance he’s going to cause. We were in downtown Toronto, which is really safe by large urban metropolis standards, but there are still quite a few weirdos out there, and on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of weird parts of town, this bar was located between 8.5 and 9. At first I thought maybe this guy was homeless, but with the sign and all, he’s clearly got a bee in his bonnet. Perhaps he’s protesting something. Or maybe he’s selling flowers. He took the sign off his shoulders to take a little rest. I didn’t see any flowers under there. Have you ever had someone sell you flowers in a restaurant? Not on a Wednesday. He seemed like he was waiting for someone, but he didn’t grab a table (it was seat yourself). Then he went outside for a second. Not for a cigarette, just to do it. Then he came back in and stood. Near our table no less. All of which caused my friend and I to have the following conversation which I sort of remember sounding like this…….

Me: Do you see this guy?
Him: Yeah. What is Love?
Me: Baby don’t hurt me….don’t hurt me….no more….(you won’t get that unless you’re between 38 and 43, so let’s move on)
Him: What do you think?
Me: I think we’re gonna get stabbed. This is the beginning of Fisher King all over again.
Him: Yeah, you might be onto something. Although he doesn’t look too crazy. More like a recluse.
Me: I know. Those are the ones. The ones that look really crazy get arrested more often because people see it coming. This guy? What is Love? Nobody will see it coming, and then on the news the police will be all mystified. The neighbors will be like ‘he was so quiet’.
Him: Should we get our next round somewhere else?
Me: I don’t know. Let’s wait it out for a bit. I’ve still got half a beer left. It’s really good. Do you want a sip?
Him: Sure. Why is he carrying the sign around? Was there a march we didn’t know about? What is he protesting?
Me: He’s protesting happiness man…. He’s gonna off everybody in here that looks happy, and he’s gonna start with us.
(Waitress approaches…..by now the guy has taken a seat, but he’s facing us, and he’s opened a laptop)
Me: Oh, hey…..
Waitress: Do you guys want another beer?
Him: Uhh we’re just debating that right now. We’re kind of concerned that the guy behind you with the sign is going to open fire on the entire restaurant. What’s with that sign?
Waitress: I know, right? He’s been in here before, I think he’s waiting for somebody.
Me: I feel like there’s a button on that computer that is going to blow up this entire street if he presses it, and he’s just deciding whether to or not.
Waitress: I’m pretty sure he’s harmless.
Me: Lower your voice, he might be the type that could hear a pin drop from a mile away. We might be one ill-advised comment away from getting it…… In the meantime, bring us 2 more.
Waitress: OK. (Leaves)
Him: So, what are we going to do if the shit goes down? At least we’re close to the exit.
Me: Keep your bottle within reach.
Him: Maybe we should change the subject.

So the story ends like this…… This fairly attractive black lady comes in and she has to be 15 years younger than him. She gives him a full on kiss on the mouth, picks up the sign even, and walks with him toward the back of the bar where there was more privacy. I debated whether to include her race because it doesn’t matter, but I do think it adds to the ‘that was the very last thing I was expecting’ vibe of the story. She seemed as normal as can be. There were guys in their 20’s in this bar whose dates weren’t nearly as attractive, but she came for this strange older dude with a sandwich board strapped to him. I always think I’ve seen it all. When the waitress came around I asked what they were drinking. Him tea, and her tequila neat. I should have bought them a round just to hear their story. I’ll bet it’s fascinating.

I don’t know how this whole thing reads for someone who doesn’t know me. I really wasn’t overly concerned, but was more just having jokes with my buddy. That said, there’s always some element of truth. I was staying mentally prepared just in case this guy was a psycho, because you NEVER know. On the opposite end of my learnings, the theme of not judging a book by its cover was present here as it always seems to be in life.


The Time I Worked In A Chinese Restaurant

Sometimes, years later when you tell a story, it can seem so much like a dream. You start to recount the events and the more bizarre it gets, you start to wonder if it actually happened, or did some character in a movie do it? Yeah, I worked in a Chinese restaurant for a bit. Strange thing, because I’m not Chinese. Not close in fact. I’m not suggesting that when operating a restaurant that specializes in ethnic cuisine, that you should have to hire staff only from that particular ethnic background, but for Chinese food…..I’m thinking you do. If I open an Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto tomorrow, and I need a staff of 10 or so to get it started, I just might not be able to easily find 10 Ethiopians that would be qualified to help me. The thing about Chinese food is that no matter where you are in the world, you can be pretty sure that there’s a good supply of Chinese people. Right or wrong, when I go into a Chinese restaurant, and a white guy comes to take my order (which has never happened, by the way), I’m thinking the place is a little suspect. Here’s the story of how I became that guy.

My first job when I was in High School was at KFC. I worked there for about 2 years. I went through 4 managers while I was there, the type of stability which I would imagine is par-for-the-course in that industry. The 3rd of the 4 was a Chinese guy named (or nicknamed) Ringo. By this time I had a few buddies that worked there too since the previous manager’s recruiting system involved asking me if I knew anyone that needed a job once every 6 months. Ringo was something else. He had a ponytail (it was the 90’s), he was fairly muscular, and loved to wear a tight Miami Vice T-Shirt. He was a laid back boss and sometimes would take us out after work. He knew a place or two where we wouldn’t get carded. These weren’t awesome places, but we didn’t have cars and weren’t old enough to drink, so this was living on the edge for us. He was in his early 30’s and my mom definitely found it weird that he would want to hang out with teenagers. As an adult, I now understand that concern, but c’mon now…… we were hilarious. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with us???? He had his reasons. Maybe his other friends were too stuffy. This guy was waaay into MC Hammer at the time too. I swear I couldn’t make this up. He would sing these MC Hammer songs with his Chinese accent all day at work. It was just fun. He once asked us why we didn’t have any hot girls working at our location, because apparently the previous KFC he worked at had several. It wasn’t far away, and he started the process of trying to get some of them to transfer over. This was huge for us, most of whom still had a lot of work to do in the ‘confidently meeting girls’ department. From that time forward our excursions with him generally involved some female company as well. It was a blast.

I don’t remember the details surrounding Ringo’s departure from KFC. I don’t remember if he was good at his job or not. At that age, it’s hard to care about things like that. Going to work was a party, and now that I’m older I understand that we probably weren’t the most productive bunch in the world. I’m pretty sure Ringo was let go, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if there was some money missing or something like that. I could investigate this further, but it’s not crucial to the story. A couple of us kept in touch with him over the next few years. He was working as a waiter at a Chinese Buffet for a bit. Then I had heard that he got his own restaurant. It was right near Greek town. Small place, close to a subway station, but nothing fancy. I went down to visit a couple of times. The last of which I’d been out of school for a bit. I had decided to come back for an extra year of high school with the intention of taking Co-Op for a semester or put off adulthood depending on which sounds more believable, but due to my own laziness and/or lack of focus, I was never able to find a placement. So I took a semester off. I signed up for night school, and had a part-time job, so I was keeping a little busy. Ringo told me that his daytime waiter had quit, and he didn’t have anyone to wait tables from 11am-3pm during the week. This sounded good to me. A new adventure with a familiar friend, and I could get back in time to go to class or work at my other job. Sounded perfect, so I did it. I became a waiter at a Chinese restaurant.

Was it a problem that I didn’t speak Chinese? Ringo didn’t seem to think so. Lunch service would have maybe 5 tables. He probably didn’t need a waiter, but he was in the back cooking, and it was hard to keep walking away from that to seat customers. Most of the time I just hung out. He didn’t pay me well, or consistently, but he’d feed me breakfast and lunch while I was there, and always made sure I had bus money. If a Chinese person that didn’t speak English came in, I would just smile at them, and hand them a pen and paper with their menu. If they seemed like they were asking questions, then I’d just get Ringo to pop out for a minute.

We had a couple of regulars. One girl came in every day. She was a student at an Adult Learning Centre nearby. Every day she ordered the same thing. Chicken Wings with Pork Fried Rice, and a large Chocolate Milk. Strange that a Chinese restaurant would carry Chocolate Milk you say? It’s because we didn’t. EVERY SINGLE DAY when she came in, I would take her order (which was always the same), and walk into the back to tell Ringo. Ringo would reach into his wallet and grab $5, and send me out the back door so I could run across the (busy) street to buy a Chocolate Milk at the Convenience Store. Had the customer really been paying attention, I was in plain view. I always tried to seat her away from the window, and if she was near the window, I’d run way down the street, then cross, then back down, then cross back so she wouldn’t see me. I’d be panting as I ran through the back door, poured the Chocolate Milk into a glass, and casually walked it over to her table. EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR MONTHS.

To take it a step further only because I can’t leave this one out, I worked the evening shift once, and only once when the regular waiter called in sick. This was tricky because even though I’d been doing lunch service for a month or so, I never got any better at being a waiter, mainly because I was never tested with any level of restaurant traffic. Dinner was busier. Still not busy by successful business standards, but more than what I was used to. At one point in the evening somebody had requested a Spring Roll with their order. I brought the order back to Ringo, and he shot me a pained expression, like he was obviously hoping nobody would order Spring Rolls because he didn’t have any. “Ice, I need you to go to another Chinese restaurant nearby to order a Spring Roll. It will only take 2 minutes!!” OK, let’s start with the Ice thing. It was the early 90’s and my hair was styled not too unlike Vanilla Ice’s hairstyle minus the dye and the shaved eyebrows. I could do the thing where I insist that I had that haircut first and blah blah blah, or I could just let it go, and let you think what you want because I’m old and I don’t care anymore. Ringo called me Ice….exclusively…..sigh……Now the thing about the Spring Roll. This didn’t seem like a good idea, but I shot out the back door (like I do), and ran over to the Danforth (Torontonians will know where this is). I ordered a Spring Roll to go from a competing Chinese restaurant. It took what seemed like forever, probably because there was a dining room with people who might be waiting for me to bring their food or bill or something like that. I remember this place was right across the street from the Danforth Music Hall. There was a concert that night by a group called Moxy Fruvous who were pretty big locally at least during that time. They were right off the heels of the Barenaked Ladies, and it was the same sort of funny-hippie-pop as I recall which I despised at the time. I remember seeing all of the people lined up with their wool socks inside of their Birkenstock sandals. Gag! (2 interesting side notes. First, I decided to google this to see if I could find out what date the concert was, and was able to ascertain that the date this particular story took place was October 2, 1993. That’s probably only interesting to me. Second, the group Moxy Fruvous had a member – Jian Ghomeshi – who went on to become a successful radio talk show host, then became even more famous for trying to sue his former employer for $55 million dollars for letting him go after the word got out that he was into rough sex, but then he withdrew the suit when all sorts of women came out of the woodwork to say it wasn’t always consensual. This was one of Toronto’s top news stories of 2014. Apparently he’s a big deal. I hadn’t heard of him because I don’t nor can I believe that other people have time for talk radio. I was familiar with Moxy Fruvous though, and they were getting ready to perform across the road while I was waiting for this Spring Roll). I made it back, Ringo with the “What took you so long?” BS, and me putting a Spring Roll from another restaurant onto a plate, and walking it out to a customer. So unbelievably grateful that they did not order a second.

Maybe a month or so later, my father’s office had a real back log with their files, and needed someone to organize that mess. 40 hours a week, and much better pay. I traded in my Cantonese Chow Mein for a shirt, tie and paper cuts until the second semester was ready to begin. I know Ringo lost that business not too long after that, and ended up working as a waiter again for a bit. We might have hung out a couple more times, but I lost track of him after that. Those were some fun times.


Another New Year’s Eve Story

I sat down with the intention of writing about the millenium which was 15 years ago. Funny that nobody seems to be talking or reminiscing about that much. It was hilarious. I just texted my buddy to remind him that exactly 15 years ago we were on the way home from a crazy little Y2K party at some weird guy’s cottage almost 4 hours from home. On the drive home, I do recall listening to Eminem’s first album for I think the first time. That was definitely unlike anything I’d ever heard before, but this isn’t about him.

The thing is, I’ve already half told that story in another post. I had to check before I wasted my time doing it again. I think I covered it pretty well here.

https://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2014/01/02/oh-ive-had-some-new-years-eve-moments-in-my-day/

The above link is a post with a few abbreviated versions of stories from New Year’s Eves in the past. I can’t believe I didn’t tell this one though. I have a buddy (who is one of the main characters in this story) who makes me repeat this story ad nauseam. Writing it down will ensure that the next time I’m asked to tell it (and I am aware that it’s a better story told verbally than written, but 15 times or so is my limit), I can just pass on this link. You ready??? Here we go……

December 31st 2001. I can’t remember what was happening during the day that would have led up to this, but I was to spend my New Year’s Eve with my friends Jay & Dwight (yes those are their real names…..I usually protect the innocent, but Jay’s the one that keeps making me tell the story, and Dwight is always late, so they deserve it). Who am I at this point in time?? Working in retail management at a shitty store in a bad situation, driving a horrible vehicle, and living in my parent’s basement. This is mere months before my wife swooped in and straightened me out (somewhat). As I think back, this might have been the only New Years Eve where all 3 of us were single. In those situations it always seems like it will be better than it actually ends up being. I was at the point in my life where I accept no less than being at a Night Club on New Year’s Eve, and we had purchased tickets to go to Guvernment which capacity wise was probably the biggest club in the city at the time (and is apparently closing its doors soon…Oh the memories). We also had been invited to a condo party that night as well. Perfect. Since the club thing wouldn’t get good until about 11pm, we had time to go to the party first.

Logistics play a role in the first part of this story. Since not all of my readers are from Toronto, I’ll just use the 3 locations ‘west-end’, ‘downtown’, and ‘east-end’. As I describe this, it’s going to sound like one of those math problems you get in school where they describe the scenario, and you try to figure out how many cookies Johnny actually ate vs. what’s still left in the tin for Jenny. I am from the west end, Jay is from downtown, and Dwight is from the east-end which is probably 40 minutes from the west end, and 30 minutes from downtown (with traffic). The club is downtown, but the party is on the west-end. Dwight and I have cars, but Jay doesn’t. Jay has an apartment that I will sleep at, so I don’t have to drive home from the club, and Dwight has to work the next morning (New Year’s Day??? Sucky), so he will drive us to the club, leave early, and we can take a cab back to Jay’s, so no drinking and driving. It’s organized perfectly.

Dwight is always SUBSTANTIALLY LATE. For everything. Always. For dumb reasons sometimes too. On this night, he had to work until 6 or 8 or something. He works downtown. He can’t just bring a change of clothes with him to work. That would be too logical. He wants to go home to the east end to groom himself so he can drive us to the west-end, then back downtown, then back home to the east-end at the end of the night. That’s how he rolls. When I finally get in touch with him, he’s at home eating dinner. It’s probably after 8 by now. They are totally serving food at the party we’re going to, but Dwight is going to take his sweet time like he always does. So I call Jay and incorporate plan B. I’m going to pick up Jay and go to the party without Dwight. The way he wastes time, there’s no way he does all this east-end primping, comes to the party, and then still gets us to the club in time. The club is what matters. It’s where we will ring in the new year, and where we have shelled out money ahead of time to be.

Jay and I arrive at the party, have a drink or two and some dinner. I call Dwight for an update. He’s still in the east-end. It’s getting closer to 10pm now. We’re about to leave this party, and drive downtown to Jay’s apartment so I can drop off my car. I tell Dwight that under no circumstances should he try to attend this party because Jay and I are now leaving to go downtown, and he should head straight there to pick us up. We get to Jay’s place and go upstairs for a drink. It’s pushing 11. I call Dwight so see where he is. He tells me he’ll be there soon. I hear people in the background. I ask who the people are. He confesses that he is at the party. The party I just forbade him to go to. I had kittens.

Now for those that think I’m overreacting, please understand that you don’t mess with a man’s New Year’s plans. Timing is everything. The big celebration is at 12, and if you can’t get there before then….. I don’t know…..what’s the point? So now that I’ve screamed at Dwight, he’s on his way to come pick us up, but the clock is ticking quickly. There is a real chance that we won’t be there to toast in the new year. I’m sure the tickets to get in are like $50 each. That’s a lot of money to spend so you can bring the new year in with 2 dudes in a Volkswagen Golf. The guy’s giving me a lift. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I can’t repeat any of the things I said to him in the car when he finally picked us up at about 11:35. We arrived at the club at about 11:52. We got in fairly quickly, rushing around because we knew we had 8 minutes to check our coats and get a drink in our hands.

We get to the coat check only to find out that it’s full. Yes. Full. The implications of that are that I will be carrying my coat around for the next several hours. Did I mention I was single? Did I mention it’s the dead of winter in Canada, and I don’t know how I’m getting home, so I have to bring the warmest winter coat I have? Did….I….mention…..that…. the coat….was……..WHITE???????????????????? Ok, I have to take partial blame for that. It was 2001 and puffy coats were everywhere, and where I worked, we sold them, and while most of the universe bought the black one……. I went with the white. I thought it looked hot, get over it. Now I have to either carry that big goddamn coat with me everywhere, or find a corner somewhere, dump it and hope for the best. At least nobody would confuse it for theirs.

What could I say to Dwight that I hadn’t already said? It was midnight, we had drinks in our hands. He just gave me that semi-remorseful smile, we toasted and moved on. I can’t stay mad at him. The alcohol was taking the edge off, and I started to have a good time. I don’t remember the rest of the night too well. Dwight left an hour or two later, but Jay and I got word that the place was going to be open until 6 am or some crazy goddamn thing. We decided that we should try to close the place. At some point we either got bored or ran out of money (probably the latter), and we left to head back to his place. There was a supply and demand problem with the cabs outside. I suggested that we should walk toward his place for a few minutes, and just flag one down. We were super hammered. We started walking, and in what seemed like 2 minutes we had arrived (but let me assure you, there’s no way that walk is less than 30 minutes, and it was way below freezing, just that we were too smashed to notice). Jay’s apartment was a pretty small one-bedroom unit. He didn’t even have a couch. There was a love-seat. Me being 6 feet tall didn’t fit too well on it, so I put the cushions on the floor thinking maybe I could lie on them with my legs hanging off the end or something. He didn’t have a carpet or rug or anything, and the wood floors were kind of slick, so the cushions kept sliding apart, causing my ass to fall in between them. Finally I gave up and just laid there on the hard floor with my head on my puffy white jacket which had a drink or two spilled on it for sure. I slept.

Woke up the next day. I would say morning, but I’m sure it was already afternoon. Felt MISERABLE!!! What a horrible start to 2002. I had the hangover to end all hangovers, and I couldn’t just take some Advil and try to nap. I wasn’t at home, and I was super uncomfortable. Jay wakes up cheerful as shit, and tries to get me to go have breakfast with him (at Fran’s!! Torontonians know what I’m talking about). I reluctantly agree, but there’s no way I ate anything. I needed to get home. I needed to get into my own bed. This day was a write off, and I had to be at work on January 2nd. There needed to be a New Year’s resolution regarding this too, but I didn’t know what. After breakfast Jay and I went our separate ways. Him to his apartment, and me to my car.

About the car……. So I’ve alluded a little bit to being broke and living pay cheque to pay cheque around this time. My car was a piece of shit. No different from its predecessor. This is kind of that rock bottom moment that makes the story funny, but also super depressing for me (although it’s over now, so I can laugh). My car was in bad need of repairs. The rad had a sizeable leak. For those that don’t know cars (like me), coolant is the thing that keeps your engine from over-heating. The Rad holds the coolant. When your rad has a leak, you need to get it fixed for your own safety, and probably the safety of others. There is a band-aid solution however, and I was all about band-aid solutions at this time. Until I could afford to fix my rad, I was REGULARLY putting a product called ‘Stop-Leak’ or ‘Gunk’ in my rad, and then adding a bunch of coolant before I went on the highway. This was to be a necessary step on January 1st, 2002 if I wanted to minimize the horribleness I already feeling in the form of the worst headache ever, and just a general dissatisfaction with the direction of my life as a whole (because it’s New Year’s Day and everyone takes inventory whether they want to or not).

I drove to a gas station near Jay’s apartment. Probably put $5 of gas in the car, or some crazy thing. Pulled the car off to the side, and went inside to purchase some stop-leak, and the smallest bottle of engine coolant I can get. I walk outside only to be met with the most unforgiving, howling goddamn sub-zero wind that’s making my face scrunch up, which is aggravating my headache. I lift the hood of the car up, and open the cap to my rad. I grab the stop-leak and read the instructions carefully. It says to shake the bottle before opening. I shake that thing like a sonofabitch, and puncture the seal, then SPLATTTTTTTT!!!!!! Doesn’t half the bottle of Stop Leak explode onto my fucking face, and what doesn’t land there ends up on my white puffy jacket next to whatever footprints and mixed drinks ended up on it from the night before. I’m a grown man saying this to you right now, but I never came so close to just breaking down and bawling my fucking eyes out than I did at that very moment. Instead, I slowly collected myself, put the remaining stop-leak into my rad, and opened (carefully) the bottle of engine coolant, and proceeded to pour it in as well. I closed the cap, and commenced my walk of shame which was much different from most of the other walks of shame that people were doing on January 1st. Mine was into the gas station to ask the attendant if he would be so kind as to give me a bit of paper towel to wipe the stop-leak from my face, and coat.

My car survived the ride home, and with a raging hangover, I was finally soooooo close to my pillow and mattress (which by the way are just a regular-ass pillow and mattress, but compared to what I slept on last night, they might as well have been a cloud). It’s like 5 pm by the way. I have no idea where the day went. I get inside and my mom asked where I’d been and told me it’s a good thing I was home because dinner’s almost ready. I told her that I wasn’t hungry and really needed to go to sleep. She got mad because she had prepared a nice New Year’s Day dinner. She also made it sound like our family having a new year’s day dinner was some time-honoured tradition like Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, but for whatever reason I just wasn’t remembering that from any other year of my life. We argued. I thought I would die if I didn’t sleep, so I negotiated a 30 minute nap. As I walked down the stairs to my room, all I heard was “YOU’RE SELFISH!!!!!!!” Awesome.