Category Archives: Bag Boy Blues

Grocery Shopping for Dummies

Chaos in Print

Author’s Note: As part of my intricate revenge fantasy for quitting Extra Foods, I hope to publish this as a full-page ad in Drayton Valley’s local paper, the Western Review, the week after I give my two weeks notice. Consider this, then, a rough draft, and a peek at the future.

An Open Letter to the Consumers of Drayton Valley and Area

Hello! You probably don’t know me, as most of you often neglect to look at my name tag. I am a cashier at one of Drayton Valley’s grocery stores. I won’t say which one specifically, so as to minimize my chances of getting sued. I should also say that I was a cashier, as I finally got accepted to a newer, better job that will take me out of town. Since I am no longer affiliated with any of Drayton Valley’s grocery stores, I thought I would take this opportunity to speak with you. Throughout the many years that I have been a cashier, I have noticed one thing. Many of you out there just don’t know any grocery store etiquette. Let me take you through some of the finer points of grocery shopping.

– Use the little rubber sticks to separate your order from the order in front of you. Don’t rely on three microns of space.
– When purchasing bulk foods, always be sure to write down the bin number. Do not write down the price or the finely printed inventory code. The bin number is the large, bold, code labeled “Bin Number.”
– If an item does not register on the cash register, do not simply stand there and repeat the price over and over and over. Because of how the system is set up, the cashier cannot simply type in the price.
– The bagger is not an idiot. You don’t have to say things like, “Don’t squish the bread.”
– If your total is under $5, don’t pay with a $100 bill.
– If your total is greater than $80, don’t pay with Ziploc bags full of pennies.
– If you want to cash a cheque, you need a cheque cashing card. We are not a bank.
– I’m saying this for the last time. You can only use the express lane if you have less than 12 items. And yes, there is a sign saying that.
– The pharmacy closes at 6. Deal with it.
– If something about the store displeases you, do not yell at the cashier. The cashier is not responsible for how the store is run. If you want results, ask to speak to the store manager. Even better, ask to speak to the visiting management from head office, should they be in. If you want results, head straight to the top.

And finally, perhaps the most important piece of knowledge you should know:

– If something about the store displeases you, don’t tell the cashier how much better the other store is. Before you do that, ask yourself this question. If the other store is so much better, why didn’t you go there in the first place?

And finally, I would like to respond to one customer personally. When an answer I gave her was not to her satisfaction, she went on a rant about how the store had “no respect for the customer.” Well, ma’am, let me tell you this. We are not uneducated slobs. Some of us are quite well educated, and were finally forced to take this job out of desperation. We are as poorly paid as you. We are just as repressed by an non-understanding boss as you are. The last thing we need is someone yelling at us because there are no Cheezy Poofs. Respect is a two way street. If you want respect for the customer, show a little respect for the employee.

That’s all I have to say. So, until next we meet, remember: it’s the dawn of the 21st Century. The customer is not always right.

A cashier.

[And maybe I’ll stick my self-portrait scarecrow happy face down here.]

Why Don’t I Just Quit?

Had an incident with one of the bag boys a few nights ago.

Bag Boy>> Hey Mark! I betcha I’m a bigger trekkie than you!
Me>> Oh? How so?
Bag Boy>> I have all the movies on video.
Me>> I have them all on DVD. (Well, I don’t…yet, but this kid’s an idiot, and I wanted to shut him up.)
Bag Boy>> (visibly stunned) Well, I’ve met Scotty.
Me>> I’ve met Scotty, Uhura, Picard, Riker, Worf, Troi, and Major Kira (Man, Edmonton’s gotta have another convention soon. Those were fun!)
Bag Boy>> I’ve got two Star Trek pins.
Me>> I have six.
Store Manager (who’s been in earshot, listening to this, shouts to the Bag Boy)>> YOU’RE NOT WINNING!
Bag Boy>> Do you have any of the action figures?
Me>> I have a modest collection.
Bag Boy>> Are they still in the boxes?
Me>> They’re mint in package, and currently appraised at $150.
Bag Boy (really long pause)>> I’ve got hockey cards. Over a thousand. They’re worth a lot, too.
Me (annoyance in my voice)>> Good for you.

It’s times like this that I just have to ask the question. Why don’t I just quit?

I had another incident with one of the newer cashiers.

Cashier>> Mark! This customer is asking if we have and widgets. (I forget what the customer wanted, so I’ll say widget.) Do you know if we have any?
Me>> Uhh, I don’t know. You’ll have to call the manager in that department and ask them.
Cashier>> OK. What’s her office phone number?
Me>> Most of the department heads don’t have offices. They just roam around in their departments. Get on the PA system and page her.
Cashier>> The PA system?
Me>> Yeah.
Cashier>> Uhh, could you do it, then?
Me>> Why?
Cashier>> Well, uhh, I’m afraid of public speaking, and, uhh, on the PA system, people will hear me.
Me>> What? Are you telling me that you can’t get on the PA system and say two sentences?
Cashier>> You don’t understand! I did it once, and I turned beet red! I was so embarrassed that people were hearing my voice….
Me>> Just do it. It’s two sentences. It’s not going to kill you.
Cashier>> Why can’t you do it for me?
Me>> I’m not going to do something that you are fully capable of doing. Just pick up the phone and page her.
Cashier>> I don’t wanna!
Customer>> Well, if it’s going to be this much trouble then, don’t bother.

And the customer walked out of the store. Again, I have to ask. If the majority of my co-workers are morons, why don’t I just quit?

I had this incident with one of the teenaged cashiers.

Me>> Hey! This delivery’s ready to go! Call a cab and tell them to come and get it.
Cashier>> What’s the phone number?
Me>> 555-5555 (Well, it’s not that, but I don’t want to get sued.)
Cashier>> OK. Then what?
Me>> What do you mean, “then what?”
Cashier>> Well, what do I say to them? (Really sarcastic tones) “Hi! I’d like a cab!”
Me>> (mouth open in disbelief) YES!
Cashier>> Really? That’s all I do?
Me>> Yes. Now could you do it please?
Cashier>> Well…I can’t.
Me>> Why not?
Cashier>> I’m shy. I can’t talk to a complete stranger.

Eventually, I got disgusted with him and did it myself. But when this is the quality of co-worker I have, I’ve got to ask, why don’t I just quit?

I don’t quit, because. I have $20,000 in student loans. Despite being well-educated, Extra Foods are the only ones who’ll have me. I don’t want to spend another year unemployed looking for something “better.” I’ve gotten addicted to this thing called “money.” I’d like to get out of my parents’ basement someday, and it’s not going to happen while I’m unemployed. I’ve tried searching for other jobs. Extra Foods is the only one who’ll have me for now. I’m surrounded by stupid management, stupid co-workers, and stupid customers. I can do more than this job. But I can’t just quit. Not yet.


Chaos in Print

I got an e-mail from L the other day. As with me, she finds herself in the dubious position of living in her parents’ basement. She has been there for a few months, now, and she’s starting to wonder what kind of effect it’s having on her. In times like this, you turn to others who have been through a similar experience for advice, hence the e-mail I got. Since I constantly ramble on about “living in the basement,” she wanted to know how it’s affected me and even how it’s changed me. It’s something I had never really thought of before. In order to fully understand it, I had to go back to the beginning. I had to go back to the time when I did have my own room, and the occurrence that had it taken from me.

When I was 4 years old, there was a momentous occasion in the Cappis household: the birth of my sister. Now, for the most part, this was a sense of joy throughout the family, but for me, it had a bit of a dark side. For you see, my brother’s bedroom had been converted into the nursery, and my brother was made to move into my room. The next eight years saw my brother and I sharing a room just slightly smaller than the one I have now. It brought us closer, it drove both of us crazy, all that good stuff when people are made to share an enclosed space. And then, in the months before my twelfth birthday, another momentous occasion occurred. We moved. Finally, I would again have my own room. I’ll never forget that first night in the basement. The walls were bare plywood. There was no carpet yet, just a cold concrete floor. I didn’t even have a door. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was it was MINE. Finally, after all this time, a room that was MINE.

Of course, as the summer of 1989 dragged on, I added little touches to assert that this space was mine. I got carpet. The bare plywood was soon covered with posters; some old (some leftover He-Man and Transformers ones from my swiftly ending childhood) and some new (I had just become a trekkie, and searched Edmonton hi and lo until I found a Star Trek V movie poster). The lack of a door did start to bother me after a few months, so Mom made a curtain to cover the doorway. I finally got a full-blown door in 1992. Oh, you don’t know the simple pleasure of closing your door until you don’t have one to close. As time grew, I came to love my little room. It didn’t matter that it was in a basement. It didn’t matter that, under the posters, it was just bare plywood. It didn’t matter that I could see the underside of the living room floor. It was MINE. MY space. MY sanctum. MY room.

And then, the great move to university came. My room was still my room in principle. I still had a lot of stuff, so that’s where the excess was stored. I still slept there whenever I came home. But it was starting to feel different. The less time I spent there, the less it was feeling like my room. Where I lived in 2nd East, then Moi, then Marken (Mark’s in Marken, oh that made my sister laugh), that was my room now. With these new rooms, of course, came new rules. There could be no loud music after nine. You had to share a bathroom with your next door neighbor. But I could live with those rules. At the end of the day, it was still MINE.

May of 1999 came, and I had no plans as to where to go next. So, I went back to Entwistle, and that corner in the basement that was my room. But, it wasn’t mine anymore. The posters didn’t cover up all the bare plywood anymore. The underside of the living room floor was starting to hurt my eyes. It wasn’t mine anymore. As much as I tried to make it mine again, it felt cramped. I didn’t have as much room as I had in university. And that was the rub. I didn’t want A room anymore. I wanted MORE room.

There are many things that come with living in the basement. Most notable are parents. With parents come rules, because, when all is said and done, it’s their house. In university, I never took off my shoes. When I wanted to go somewhere, I’d go. At home, I have to take off my shoes because I’ll mess up Mom’s carpet if I don’t. It I want to go somewhere, it’s “Where are you going? When will you be back? When did you get a life?” At first, it was a little difficult to comprehend. I had to live with rules when I was at university. These were the exact same rules I had to live with before university. Why should they be bothering me now? Those who own the room make the rules.

That’s what it comes down to. I’ve always had just a room. A room in someone else’s home. And it’s starting to become painfully obvious of what it really is: a cold basement. I don’t want a basement anymore. I don’t want a room to call MINE anymore. What I want is MY kitchen, MY living room, MY bathroom, MY bedroom. MY room doesn’t cut it anymore. I want a place where I can make MY rules. I don’t want a room in someone else’s home. I want MY home.

Right next to my room in the basement is the empty remains of my sister’s room. It’s bigger than mine, and I’ve been tempted to move into it. But I don’t. As much as I would like to have more room, I know that it would start to make me comfortable. And that’s a dangerous thing. As long as I’m still in the smallest room in the house, I’ll be tripping over things, knocking things over, and always cramped. I’ll always be just that little bit uncomfortable. And it’s that tiny bit of uncomfort that’ll drive me out someday. To MY home.

There was a time when this little corner of the basement was my sanctum; my refuge from the cruelties of the world. But now, it is just another of the cruelties. As the boxes keep piling up and the walls appear to grow closer together, what was my room starts to feel more like a cell. In some ways, it’s a negative thing, as it makes me just that much more bitter towards my life and those around me. But then, it’s also a positive thing. I am fully capable of making my own decisions. The more it makes me uncomfortable, the more I desire to move out. In a way, it’s motivational.

I finished writing this up, and sent it off to L. I was also sure to thank her, as this topic would make for a great column. Living in the basement has effected me. But it’s for the better. I will escape from this prison, someday. Someday, I will have more than a room to call my own. Someday, you will all be welcome in MY home.


Chaos in Print

I’ve never really liked my name. “Mark Cappis.” It’s just so…common. I came to this realization at a young age. My parents were talking one time, and I learned that I have a third cousin twice removed by the name of “Mark Cappis.” One time, out of curiosity, I opened up the Edmonton phone book and found three Mark Cappises. My latest tussle with the commonness of my name was in my guestbook. It was recently signed by a “Mark R. Cappis,” with the message, “We have the same name! We should be friends!” There are just two many Mark Cappises in the world. I’m just another mark in the crowd.

It’s times like this I delve into my personal history as to how I became a Mark. Apparently, the decision to call me Mark was eventually made by my mother. My father was really pushing for Lucas. On the outset, I kind of like the ring to it. Luke Cappis. But then, as I look at the pop culture from my formative years, it’s almost a blessing I didn’t get that name. Having grown up with Star Wars, who knows how much teasing I would have gotten? I’m sure people would have routinely said, “Luke! I am your father,” or something as witty as “Where’s R2-D2?” Plus, don’t forget The Dukes of Hazzard, with Luke Duke. I probably would have gotten, “Where’s Bo?” or, “Did you drive the General Lee to work today?” If I ever get back in touch with my college friend Lucas Warren, I should find out exactly how much trouble the name Lucas was for a child of the 80s.

For a while in junior high, I was infatuated with the name Zack. Zack Cappis. That sounds cool. As soon I was old enough, I was going to change my name to Zack. Zack was just cool. But then, Saved By The Bell came along, and Zack was forever connected with teen-age heartthrobs/pretty boys. Suddenly, it wasn’t very cool anymore. It looked like I was again stuck with Mark.

Or was I? I didn’t have to outright change my name in order to get something exotic. I was reading a trivia question about former prime minister Brian Mulroney. It turns out his full name is Martin Brian Mulroney. So, why don’t I just drop my first name, and go with my middle name? Sladen Cappis. Whenever I mention that my middle name is Sladen, eyebrows are raised, mouths open slightly in shock, and people utter, “That’s different.” And besides, if I did use it as my name, it would wind up getting shortened to that ultra-cool, surfer/skate punk/extreme sports athlete name, Slade. Slade Cappis. That would be cool. When I first resolved to start going by my middle name, I bounced the idea off of my mother. “That’s OK,” she said, “But you’ll always be Mark to me.” What was the fun in going by my middle name if Mom refused to acknowledge the change? And so, I stayed Mark.

The only time I ever really chose a new name and had it stick was in university. There I was, my freshman year, and I was going to be doing a radio show on the campus station. I looked at some of my favorite DJs on Power 92. There was Shotgun Sean, Chad the Pog, and Kira K. And let’s not forget one of the most famous DJs ever to sit behind a microphone, Wolfman Jack. I knew I was going to need a DJ name. What should I call myself? I flopped down on the couch in the floor lounge and started flipping through channels. Eventually, I found a rerun of Batman: The Animated Series. It was one of my favorite episodes, featuring my favorite villain. This villain always based his crimes around exploiting the fears of his enemies. I admired that. Unlike most other villains, who sought to defeat Batman through sheer physical force, this villain would let your own mind do you in. He wouldn’t beat you up. He’d make you curl up in the fetal position, screaming your head off as your darkest fears came to life. I liked that. So, I decided to name myself after that villain. I became Scarecrow. I was thrilled at how Scarecrow caught on with the campus. When Lucas Warren and Brad Goertz took over as editors of the school paper, the first thing that Lucas said to me was, “Wow. You’re the Scarecrow. I gotta say, I love your column! Oh, and just out of curiosity, what’s your real name?” And that’s when I started having problems with Scarecrow.

When I began my campaign for VP External in my senior year, the one question asked of me at the candidates forum was, “I just learned that you’re the Scarecrow. Why do you use a fake name? What are you hiding?” I tried to explain that it was just a DJ name, but she wasn’t buying. She felt I was hiding something. A few months later was the only time I was offended to be called Scarecrow. It was during my infamous “vote no” campaign against Brad Goertz. Whereas Lucas took the time to ask me what my true name was, Brad never did. As Brad and I were having a heated discussion about my vote no campaign, that’s when Brad’s enforcer Andre Goulet came in. Andre, in his way, just lost it on me. “Scarecrow, what you’re doing is full of shit! Scarecrow, you are being such an asshole!” It was all Scarecrow this and Scarecrow that. He was constantly accusing me of hiding behind a false name, and yet he’d never use my true name. When I had had enough, I let loose with the only time I ever raised my voice during the whole vote no campaign. I turned to Andre, and said, “MY NAME IS MARK!” He started calling me Mark, then, but he was uncomfortable in doing so. Out of my whole vote no campaign, that’s the only time I made Brad’s pit bull uneasy: I made him call me by my real name.

That’s when I started realizing that there’s nothing wrong with being a Mark. The last time before that happened when I was 7. I was just starting to really get into movies, and I was reading a book on the making of Star Wars. That’s where I learned the name of the guy who played Luke Skywalker: Mark Hamill. Wow! I have the same name as a Jedi! That made me quite proud for a few days. Suddenly, myself and Luke Skywalker shared a common bond. We were Marks.

A similar incident happened a few days ago. Civil elections are this fall, and after 15 years, my mother is stepping down as school board trustee. Just to get some gossip going, I’ve been circulating the rumor that I’m going to run for school board; “follow in her footsteps.” So, the other day, I stopped in at the school division office to pick up a nomination package. As I walked up to reception window, I looked in to see a normal, bustling office. When the clerk finally approached me, we made small talk, and then I asked for a nomination package. As she handed it to me, she asked for my name. I said it proudly. “Mark Cappis.” The office went dead quiet. All eyes were focused on me. “As in Monika’s son?” the clerk stammered. “Yup,” I said, “I want to follow in Mom’s footsteps.” “Those are some awfully big steps,” she said. I agreed, thanked her for the package, and left. I couldn’t help but smile. Never had the very mention of my name bring an office to a standstill.

Yes, the name Mark Cappis may be a common one. But the reputation behind it, that’s uncommon. Take heed, all you other Mark Cappises! There may be hundreds of us in the world, but we each bring our own twists to it.

Love & Justice

Chaos in Print

A lot of atrocities have been committed in the name of love. There have been stalkings, scams, and things to vile for me to mention here. Sadly, though, there are no super-heroes dedicated to battling these crimes of the heart. Why aren’t there more heroes out there, protecting the sanctity of this, the holiest of all emotions? You don’t see Batman beating up the jerk who broke you heart. Spider-Man doesn’t go after that good looking person who won’t return your phone calls. The only I can think of is Sailor Moon, who vanquishes villains in the name of love and justice. Where, then, are the Sailor Moons when people like me are stung?

About a week ago, I got this e-mail. “Someone has a huge crush on you. Go to to find out who!” Intrigued, I went to This is how it all works. Someone left their e-mail at this site, and you have to randomly type in people’s e-mail addresses until you hit upon the sender’s. This person allegedly has a crush on you. If you need a hint, you click on “hint,” and it’ll give you one. If you’re just absolutely stuck, you can buy a key, and then be flat-out told who it is. After I got through to the site and read these instructions, it was time to start guessing.

I clicked for my first clue. “Try a hotmail account.” So, I entered every hotmail account I know. Nothing. I go for another clue. “Try a Yahoo mail account.” I don’t know any Yahoo mail accounts. “Perhaps it’s someone you work with.” If it’s one of those idiot teenagers I work with, I’m giving my two weeks notice. Last thing I need is for them to start harassing me at home. But wait. Everyone at work still treats computers like some strange, foreign toy. How could they know my e-mail? I go for another clue. “Maybe it’s someone who shares public transportation with you.” Wait a minute. I live in a small farming town. I don’t use public transportation. These clues have nothing to do with the person who’s identity is unknown! They’re being randomly generated!

Out of desperation, I try every female e-mail address I know. Nothing. Still desperate, I try every e-mail address I know, regardless of gender. Still nothing. What the hell is going on? Is this just some complete stranger who glimpsed me in the store and decided to hunt me down? This mystery is really starting to bug me. It’s time to seek the easy answers. It’s time buy one of those keys. I follow the step-by-step instructions. $5 U.S. I can live with that. I enter my credit card number and hit “purchase.” My credit card was rejected. WHAT?? But it’s good! I haven’t used it in months! My credit is good! I’LL NEVER KNOW WHO IT IS! I NEED TO KNOW! I NEED TO KNOW!

I was completely stumped. I had run out of e-mail addresses to randomly try. I had no opportunity to purchase a key. There was a third option. In the e-mail I got informing me of this crush, there was the option to say, “No thanks, I don’t want to be a part of this.” I could do that, but then, I’d never find out who this is. And, as previously mentioned, I NEED TO KNOW!

Time was running out, as I needed to go to work. As in all matters like this, I unloaded my frustration and grief on Chuck, thanks to ICQ. I headed off to work, and spent a hellish eight hours in the hell that is the store. (See the column Sunday Sucks for the elaboration.) I returned, and found some words of wisdom from Chuck. It was his usual sympathetic words. “Wow. That’s tough. Hey! It’d make a great column.” Then, there was a second ICQ message from him. “OK,” it read. “I just did some playing around with Go to my site [] (oh man, I just revealed Chuck’s true identity!) for an emergency column I wrote about it.”

I headed over to Chuck’s site to read his complete report. It seems that he too was the recipient of a huge crush. Like me, he began randomly typing in e-mail addresses to try and reveal who it was. Then, Chuck had a brainstorm. On a whim, he typed in my e-mail address. It turns out it was me. Chuck, being more logical than me, began analyzing the set up. Why were you always required to enter two e-mail addresses when you made a guess? Why did he get a huge crush when I randomly guessed him? Chuck began doing the addition. I get a huge crush. I type in e-mail addresses trying to figure out who it is. He gets a huge crush. It turns out to be me, who typed in his e-mail address. Then, chances are, someone out there got a huge crush from Chuck, and it’ll be one of the e-mail addresses he guessed. It’s a never ending chain of e-mail addresses. It’s a scam! It’s designed to collect e-mail addresses, probably for spam lists! And, with the whole key business, they make money too! Chuck, having seen Fight Club one two many times, then spent the rest of his column outlining an intricate revenge plan to use this to take down big corporations.

When I learned of Chuck’s findings, I was appalled. Having a person who has had a crush or two in his time, I know of the agony of trying to reach out to that object of your affection. And here, some greedy little .com was using that to their advantage. Here it is, the most fragile and misunderstood manifestation of love, and it was being used to manipulate people into forking over their hard-earned cash. How dare they! Here I was, obsessing over who this possible secret love might be, but now I know that it was probably someone I know, who got stuck with a “huge crush,” and randomly entered my name.

Stop and think about the average person who has a huge crush. It’s an adolescent. The hormones are just kicking in. They think they’ve fallen in love with someone. They don’t know how to express those feelings. Here we have the weak and defenseless person-child, stumbling upon what they think is a forum to let their feelings know. They use it, and what happens? Some slimy underworld creature gets just that much richer. It’s sick.

Where are our brave and bold knights? Those who use their swords to defend those who can’t defend themselves. This is an occasion for a knight if I ever heard one. Love, the most pure and noble of emotions, being used to fleece people for money. This world needs more Sailor Moons. In today’s society of greed being good and one night stands, someone has to stand up and defend good old fashioned love. But how do you battle something like this? How people express their emotions is something that’s very difficult to legislate. People will still do it even though there is a law against it. Laws and justice are two very different things. The police can’t do much against a person or corporation that breaks hearts. We need our knights. We need our Sailor Moons. But in a world of greed being good and one night stands, does love even exist anymore? There’s no point in having Sailor Moon if she has nothing to fight for.

[And to those who got a huge crush from me, my sincere apologies.]

Random Thoughts

Chaos in Print

Hey, all you lucky loyal readers! So, this has to be posted within a few hours, but I really haven’t had the time this week to write the thought-provoking miniature works of literature you’ve become accustomed to. You will not get an angst filled rant about virginity tonight. You will not get a venting about how much my job sucks tonight. Hell, you won’t even get a Midnight Rambling. Instead, what you’re going to get stuck with is a collection of paragraphs and sentences that have nothing to do with each other! Each one could become the basis of a future column, or each one might never be mentioned again. Either way, they all have one thing in common. They are being put up to fill space. My, don’t you feel lucky that I feel such a great responsibility to all 12 of you that, even when I have nothing to say, I still say something? Listen up, then, for this glimpse at the sewer of my mind.


I had that dream again last night. You know, the Ally McBeal dream. Yeah, I know what you think. These dreams are weird. You think that if I were to have an Ally McBeal dream, it would involve Callista Flockheart and Jell-o, or some such erotic nonsense. But no, I have something more straight-laced. In these dreams, I am Mark Cappis, the new lawyer at the firm. It’s like I’m just the new character on the show. How lame is that?


“How many times do I have to tell you? I’M NOT A POKEMON!”


As I was lying naked in the tub, I started thinking how much more relaxing this would be if the tub were filled with water.


The whole concept started with the cavepeople. See, we originally had these two cavepersons, let’s call them Zog and Zorg. Zog grew potatoes and Zorg was a hunter. Then, one day, Zorg was getting tired of bronto burgers every night, and Zog was getting tired of french fries. So, Zog said, “Hey, Zorg! I’ll trade you a couple of potatoes for some bronto steaks.” And thus bartering was born. Society was happy with bartering. But then, a third caverperson was introduced to the mix, Zach. Zach had no meaningful skills whatsoever, save for the gift of gab. Zach wanted some bronto burgers and potatoes, too, but had nothing to trade. So, Zach grabbed a handful of rocks and polished them up in the river. He went to Zog and Zorg and said, “I’ll trade you these shiny rocks for meat and potatoes.” Zog and Zorg, being easily impressed with shiny things, gladly accepted. Zach thought this was great, but he wanted more meat and potatoes. So, he said to Zog and Zorg, “Having one shiny rock is good, but having lots of shiny rocks is even better. Keep giving me meat and potatoes, and I’ll give you more shiny rocks.” Before long, Zog and Zorg were doing nothing but getting meat and potatoes for Zach, all in the name of more shiny rocks. But, Zog and Zorg started catching on. Soon, they too started trading the shiny rocks for other necessities of life. The friendly spirit of bartering and cooperation had died that day, and along came the concept of money. And now, we find our days constantly filled with working for cavepeople so we can get more shiny rocks.


And Kenten curled up into the fetal position and began weeping like a little girl. (Sorry, Kenten, I just felt like throwing that in there.)


And that’s when I started thinking, “When A&E does do a Biography on my life, what are people going to say about me?”


Death is a funny thing. I laugh about it constantly.


I needed an anime fix tonight. It had just been so long since I’ve seen some, that I was starting to get the shakes. So, I went to the video store across from work, and rented Sailor Moon R The Movie: The Promise of the Rose and Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice. Of course, they were dubbed and severely edited, but it would make the cravings subside. The first one was about this guy, who was a friend of Darien’s when they were kids, who had come back to earth to “reclaim” his friend, but he accidentally teamed up with something evil and was about to destroy the world. The second one was really Luna’s story, as this talking cat and Sailor Moon’s mentor actually fell in love with a human male. And, as with the entire Sailor Moon universe, the recurring theme of fighting for love and friendship was underscoring both productions. It was near the end of the first one, when all the Sailor Scouts were rising up to fight along side their friend, and thus lend her the energy from their friendship, that I came to startling realization about myself. I am such a girl.


Tonight, we will rely on our brains, and our hands.


We have greater worries than a dead Spock with no pants.


Just as I was placing the role of tape on a scale to determine its mass (what can I say, it’s a really boring night), Beverly walked up to me. I often wonder just what the hell Beverly is doing working here. She has recently finished high school, but has yet to go off to college or some place like that. It’s obviously where she belongs. But yet, she’s here. She has long dark hair, and deep brown eyes that you could get lost in. Her smile is the cliched kind that lights up her room. In the black hole that is this grocery store, she has a kindness and purity to her heart that she hasn’t lost yet. She makes working here tolerable. And it’s for those reasons that I think she should get out of here as soon as possible. At least she’s my supervisor on this long, boring day.

“Whatcha doin’?” she asked.

“Putting my education to work,” I replied. “I’m analyzing the motion of this roll of tape. As soon as I get its mass, I can determine its velocity as it smashes to a halt.”

“Why?” Wow. This is the most she’s ever said to me.

I really hate going through this for my co-workers and the customers, but if I have to, I have to. “Because I have degrees in math and physics, and I hope to get out of this hell hole someday to a job where I actually use those degrees. Until then, I may as well keep my skills sharp.”

I never liked teenagers, and I think I never will. When I was younger than them, they were this dark, mysterious force. Now that I’m older than them, I find the immaturity and arrogance that dominates their lives to by annoying. And when I was a teenager, I hated my own kind, which I’m sure you’ll agree just isn’t natural.


How come I never told her I loved her?


Just stop the fighting. Stop the fighting. STOP THE FIGHTING.


People are stupid. There’s just no other way of saying it.


The bolt of lightning shrieked from the sky; unknowing of its destination. It did not know where it was going, nor did it care. All it knew is that it must strike the ground and die, for it was a bolt of lighting, and that’s what bolts of lightning do.


If Jack helped you off a horse, would you help Jack off a horse?


I once read that all people who keep diaries have a subconscious desire for someone else to read it someday. What better way to get some attention than to make the subconscious conscious? So, I satisfied my craving for attention by posting my diary online, and calling it a “column.” It’s not exactly the best thing to do. There’s this new advice columnist in the Edmonton Journal: Caroline Hax. This young man once wrote to her for advice. It seems that he met this really cute girl and got her phone number. Then, at home that night, he was just goofing around on the Internet, entered her name into a few search engines, and it wasn’t long before he found her website. He began reading her online column, where she’d spill her guts about her inner demons on a weekly basis. After reading some of her works, this guy didn’t like her so much anymore. So, he asked Ms. Hax for her advice on how to deal with her. Ms. Hax responded that she’s obviously just a loser seeking attention, and that, despite how cute she is, he shouldn’t call her back. This got me thinking. This woman’s website paralleled mine in so many ways, and that was enough to make this man not like her. In my cravings for attention, I never stopped to think about what kind of impression I’d be making on the world. Revealing all my secrets on the Internet isn’t such a smart thing to be doing. It’s time to make my secrets a secret again.


This has been my opinion. If you disagree, that’s your right. If you agree, I thank you. Now go forth, ask others, and get the balanced argument on your own.


And, just like when I was writing papers for university professors, the word count tells me this is long enough. I hope you enjoyed this wild ride though my psyche.

Adults Only

Chaos in Print

Who should we be more worried about: the man who rents 18 hours of porn movies, or the man who rents 18 hours of Disney cartoons? — From a Talk Back posting at Ain’t It Cool News

When we are children, we are fascinated with the facets of the adult world. This fascination, no doubt, comes from the mystery of said world. We discover that there are certain things off-limits to us because we are too young. We can’t go into a bar because we are too young. We can’t buy lottery tickets because we are too young. In our teen years, the fascination reaches its peak, and so we use the alternative methods to get into these forbidden zones. Thanks to clerks who neglect to ask for ID, or just have trouble spotting a fake one, teens get their hands on their much coveted beer and lottery tickets. Then, after they’ve gotten a taste of this contraband, they ask the immortal question: “Why was this kept from me for so many years? It’s so lame.” By the time they can acquire this contraband through legal means, the fascination has worn off. Like most, I, too, was fascinated with these vices I was deemed to young for. I have sampled beer, decided it sucks, and don’t drink. I have bought the occasional lottery ticket, but don’t play, simply because, well, I know I’ll get a million dollars sooner by saving the money I’d spend on lottery tickets. But there is still one aspect of this adult world that I have yet to indulge in. There is one facet that I have yet to venture in to. I have yet to walk through those swinging doors in the corner video store. I am talking about the world of adult movies.

Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to satisfy this curiosity once in the past. I was still in university and had just returned some movies to Video Update. It was before lunchtime, and the store was deserted. After I dropped off my movies, I began skimming over the new releases, pondering whether to get something for that night. As I followed the wall of new releases, I soon came to the swinging doors. I looked at those doors. I took a quick look around. The store was still empty. The clerk wasn’t even visible. He must have been behind a shelf returning the movies I had just returned. I summoned up my courage, and ventured through the doors. I was greeted by the loudest squeaky hinges I’d ever heard. A SCREEEEECH echoed through the store. But I had made it to the other side. I just glanced at the walls around me. They were covered with videos featuring women in various states of undress. I didn’t venture forward any farther. I didn’t even randomly grab one of the videos off of the shelf to read the back. Only one thing dominated my mind. “I’m on the other side.” Completely stunned that I had gone this far, I didn’t know what to do next. So, I turned around and walked back out. Again, I heard the SCREEEEECH. It were as though it were screaming “PERVERT!” The clerk lifted his head up from the counter, took a quick glance at me, then went back to work. I breathed a sigh of relief that only one nameless clerk knew of my sin, then began the walk back to the university.

My friend Chuck once worked at this Video Update, and one time I asked him how many people actually rent porn movies. He told me that it wasn’t very many, but those who did seemed to fall into a type. What he described to me sounded a lot like what most of us expect a porn enthusiast to be: middle aged, balding, wearing a trenchcoat, and just a little secretive in their behaviour. This was a huge contrast to an article I had just read online. It was from a video store clerk who was talking about his first day on the job, and in his first few hours, he was completely stunned by how many people actually rented porn movies. Maybe Camrose is just removed from Los Angeles in more ways than one. My image of the typical adult film enthusiast tends to be that of Fox Mulder, perhaps the most prominent character on TV with that kind of hobby. Here he is, a distinguished professional in his field, who enjoys adult movies. He doesn’t go out of his way to hide it. He doesn’t go out of his way to proclaim his love for them. He just likes them like how I like cartoons. They’re just another genre of movie to him. So, if one of the iconic television heroes of the last ten years can adopt this attitude, why can’t I? I mean, I’m not one of these perverts that Chuck told me about. I’d just be renting one to see what it’s like. Or maybe two, because Tuesdays are 2-for-1 at most video stores, so I may as well get the free one if I go though with this on a Tuesday.

Well, right now, I do have geography working against me. I’m living at home. I’m sure my parents would have some pointed questions if I came home with one. There’s your ideal family viewing. And it’s not like I can just wait for a weekend in which I’ll be home alone. With Mom retiring from politics this fall, she’s going to be around home a lot more. With Dad taking a new job that’s closer to home, he’s going to be around home a lot more. Nope. It looks like I won’t be able to do this until I move out.

Then, we come to the whole relationship that I’ve established with my video store. The one I currently frequent is Video Headquarters, which is just down the street from where I work. I’ve been known to stop in and rent a couple of new releases and classics on my way home from work. Hell, I’ve even been interviewed to work there. Most of the movies I rent tend to be cartoons of the 80s. I remember the glee I expressed to a clerk at finally being able to watch Go-Bots. I remember that one clerk sarcastically saying to me, “I think I see a theme here” when I rented all the Alien movies. I’ve continuously harassed the management over not getting an anime section. I remember requesting to the management that they get more Stanley Kubrick films so I can finally experience his work. They know me and my habits. That image is going to be shattered as soon as I walk out from behind those squeaky doors with a movie under my arm.

But then, I guess I should remember that those clerks are idiots. “Do you have Princess Mononoke?” I asked. “Mono-WHAT?” they responded. “Do you have pi?” I asked. “Cooking movies would be in special interest,” they responded. “Do you have Cannibal: The Musical?” I asked. “No, but here are some other horror movies about cannibals you might like,” they responded. Should I really be valuing the opinions of these people? No. I of all people should know that customers tend to blend together after a while, so their memories of me are probably fuzzy at best.

My curiosity about adult movies is really starting to get the better of me. It doesn’t help that, during the last re-organization of Video Headquarters, they moved the DVD section to surround the swinging doors. Now, every time I’m looking to rent a DVD, I’m confronted with the swinging doors. I’m sure those clerks must be running some kind of pool by now, as whenever I pass those doors, I linger, wondering if I should go through them. “I betcha he’ll go in this time,” one must say. “I’ll take that bet,” another probably says. I go through the same questions I went through that day at Video Update all those years ago. If those clerks ever got a good look at what I was doing, they would see me squinting my eyes, trying to peer through the crack between the doors. I want to go through, but the thought of humiliating myself keeps me out.

Last time I was perusing the DVDs and glancing over at the swinging doors, a man came out from that room. He must have had 16 films tucked under his arm. And that’s when the fear hits. The real reason why I don’t go through. What if I do rent one, and I like it? What if I begin going though those doors more and more? What if I turn into that guy? That’s the problem with being mature and finally being able to realize the consequences of your actions. When we all took that first sip of beer, we weren’t thinking, “What if this turns me into an alcoholic?” When we bought that lottery ticket, we weren’t thinking, “What if this turns me into one of those nuts who spends hundreds of dollars on this and doesn’t win anything?” We looked around. There are millions of responsible drinkers. There a millions of people who just spend $5 a year on lottery tickets. There are millions of people who indulge in these vices and are normal, so we knew that nothing would come from one beer or one lottery ticket. So why can’t we think the same about porn movies? Why can’t I think the same way about porn movies? It should be no big deal, but to me, it is. I guess, even though I’m legally an adult, I’m still too young.

Midnight Ramblings XIX

Chaos in Print

NOTE: I have this tendency to ramble and it generally manifests itself in long drawn out rambling e-mails to my friends until one day when I thought “hey, why don’t I format this ramblings into columns?” and so I did that but I still e-mail my friends and they still find it annoying but they love me so because I annoy them in that nice kind of way and…oh, I’m rambling again.

Hey Neelix!

I just watched A&E’s Biography on Tim Burton, and man oh man, I love that director more now than I ever did. In a hero worship way, of course. What stunned me was who all they talked to. Sure, they talked to the requisite people associated with Tim Burton: Danny Elfman, Michael Keaton, Paul Reubens, and long-time girlfriend Lisa Marie. But, they also talked to some of his old fellow Disney animators, like Little Mermaid and Hercules co-directors John Musker and Ron Clemmens. What amazed me the most, though, was they talked to his old college classmate, fellow former Disney animator, and director of Toy Story, John Lassetter! It’s weird, mainly because since they have two vastly different storytelling styles, you don’t think that they’d be friends. But they are. Very cool. And John Lassetter had some of the best stories, too. “The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen was when Tim first showed me his sketchbook. Each page was just so…alive.” “When Tim first told me he was doing Batman, I thought (eyes go wide, jaw drops), ‘WOW! HE MADE IT!'” “When I first saw Tim doing an interview in those dark sunglasses, I knew right away that he had created a character. He doesn’t do interviews as Tim Burton. He does it as Tim the Director.”

And the Disney animators also had some good stories. I knew that Tim Burton worked on The Fox and the Hound. I knew that he had done a lot of the conceptual art for The Black Cauldron. What I DIDN’T know was that all his conceptual art for The Black Cauldron was rejected because it was too Tim Burton-style and not Disney-style. Tim Burton was very unfulfilled with his work at Disney. The animators would tell stories about how Tim would hide under his desk and spend hours standing in the closet. “We’d go to the closet, open it up and say, ‘Hey Tim, you OK?’ and he’d just stare at us.” Man, I used to do that in junior high when an oral presentation didn’t go well. Tim later started focusing his creative energy into doing no-budget short films on video cameras with his friends during weekends.

And I finally got to the bottom of something! I had known for a long time now that, around the time Nightmare Before Christmas came out, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman had a huge fight and didn’t speak to each other for about a year and a half. That’s why Ed Wood is the only Tim Burton film without music by Danny Elfman. What happened? Well, Tim had worked for seven years straight. He was nearing a burnout. Then, he met his long-time girlfriend Lisa Marie, and he had trouble communicating that he was in love and wanted to spend more time with her. So, rather than say to his friends, “I’m in love and I want to be with my girlfriend,” he got testy. Elfman’s brief comment about the fight? “Tim and I are like brothers. But, we’re brothers from a dysfunctional family.”

What better way to follow up the Tim Burton Biography than by watching the “the making of” special for his latest movie: Planet of the Apes? When I read the blurb about the special in TV Guide, they said that, among those interviewed, were Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And I got to thinking, “Now what would these two have to do with Planet of the Apes?” So, in the special, they talk to a whole bunch of celebrities about Planet of the Apes. In this montage, they talk to Parker and Stone. Turns out that their band, DVDA, wrote a song about Planet of the Apes. It’s sung from the point of view of Charlton Heston’s character, and pretty much recounts the plot of the first film. But what they did in this special was, they took this song, and used it as the musical backing to a whole bunch of clips featuring Planet of the Apes jokes and references in various movies and TV shows! I just loved the scenes from The Simpsons, where Homer finally clues in on the ending during a NASA press conference:

Homer>> I have no problem with going into space. As long as they don’t send us to that horrible Planet of the Apes!
(various other clips.)
Homer>> Wait a minute. Half-buried Statue of Liberty…THAT WAS OUR PLANET!
(various other clips.)
(cut to Charlton Heston doing the same at the end of the first film.)

And then, at the end of this montage, we go back to Trey and Matt: “Oh yeah, we’re close friends with Tim. We’re sure he’ll stick it on the soundtrack. We hope he’ll stick it on the soundtrack.” Cut to Tim Burton: “You’re kidding, right?”

Man, I’ve got to hurry up and see Planet of the Apes before the media blows the new twist ending. You know what other big summer blockbuster I still want to see? Jurassic Park 3. Actually, I was reading an interview with Stan Winston online a few weeks ago. You know Stan Winston, right? His animatronics shop built the animatronic dinosaurs in all the Jurassic Park films. And what Winston does in his spare time is…cool. Ya know those TV shows that are currently on with 2 robots slugging it out? This takes it to the extreme. At the end of filming Jurassic Park 3, Stan Winston and his crew of puppeteers had the animatronic T-Rex and the animatronic Spinosaurus slug it out. The winner? The Spinosaurus, which ripped off the T-Rex’s head. Said Winston, “The head was lying there on the ground, with all this oil spurting out.” And (get this), the director of Jurassic Park 3 filmed the whole thing! Can we say “DVD bonus material?”

Speaking of DVDs, guess what’s getting the 2-disc special edition treatment? Tron. Yes, it’s already out in a bare bones basic edition, but Disney is preparing an all new, 2-disc super special edition for the film’s 20th anniversary! Expect the standard accouterments like a director’s running commentary, cut scenes, and an all new documentary on the making of the film. Plus, since it was the first film to feature computer generated FX, it’ll have a brand-new documentary about the history of computer animation. What’s getting most geeks excited, though, is the storyboard-to-film comparison of the light cycle chase. It’ll hit store shelves in January.

While I’m talking about DVD’s, let me boast of my latest acquisition. I got the big boxed set of the Die Hard movies. I watched Die Hard for the first time in years last night. Know what? It wasn’t as “big” as I remember. I’m thinking that maybe, for the sequels and rip-offs that followed, they just kept making the formula bigger and bigger, now making the original pale somewhat. But it was still good. But, following with the “bigger is better” logic that’s been incorporated into my personality, I guess I’m going to have to say #3 is my favorite.

WOO!! I just found out that Pokémon 3 comes out on DVD on Aug. 21! What’s really weird, though, is among the bonus features is the trailer for Pokémon 4. I thought #3 bombed, thus eliminating the chances for #4. Oh, well. I guess the straight-to-video market always needs product. And how else are they going to sell all those action figures?

Everyone’s getting in on the action figure game market now. I knew that when I first heard about the Bionicles. What’s a Bionicle? Well, you see, even Lego’s getting in on the action figure game now. The Bionicles are Lego’s premiere action figure line. The heroes are a group of funky Earth spirits that you build yourself out of Technic Lego. They’re in stores now! The villains, a group of funky Technic Lego demons, comes out this fall. Lego’s got a whole back story to these guys, with the requisite cartoons and video games in the works.

But besides old stalwarts like Lego getting in on the action figure game, everyone and their brothers are forming toy companies. Stan Winston has now formed his own toy company. But, rather than making action figures of the classic animatronic characters his company has made over the last 25 years or so, they are going to be ALL NEW creatures. Said Winston, “These are going to be all new creations from the people who designed Predator and the Terminator and the Jurassic Park dinosaurs. Rather than buying a copy, it’ll be the original.” And, each figure will come with a CD-ROM, telling you all the vital stats on this creature. How cool is that?

But enough of toys! What would one of these ramblings be without some mention of Star Trek? I’m doing more reading on Enterprise, and you gotta love how people look for loopholes. See, in Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of Star Trek, he had one simple mandate: it takes place far enough in the future where humanity has evolved to a point where only its good qualities remain. There is no racism, sexism, homophobia, war, poverty. The human race has become good. Then, Rick Berman comes along. He says, “Yeah, that’s good and all, but if the crew all likes each other because they are so evolved, you eliminate tension between the crew members, and thus lose a lot of dramatic possibilities.” So, all of Berman’s shows have been, “How can we get the crew to not like each other, but still stay true to the original vision?” For his first attempt, he said, “Let’s put it at a space station, with hundreds of different alien races, some hostile. That should do it.” Deep Space Nine had some mild success with this. For his second attempt, he said, “Let’s create this rebel faction in the Federation, and then have them and the Federation be forced to work together.” That was Voyager, and the whole Federation/Maquis conflicts tended to fade away in the second season. Now, we’ve got Enterprise, where they’ve said, “This time, let’s put it not so far in the future. Let’s set it where humanity hasn’t evolved to that point yet.”

This is starting to become evident as I read more about our new captain, Jonathon Archer. It seems that Archer doesn’t like Vulcans very much. He dismisses them as smug and suffering from a superiority complex. Archer’s distaste of Vulcans comes from the fact that he believes that Earth (and, more specifically, his father) could have made great advancements in warp technology if the Vulcans had shared their technology with Earth, rather than being so huffy about their “prime directive.” So, of course, there’s a Vulcan on his ship. A very sexy Vulcan. Or, at least, that’s the impression, seeing as to how the only piece of work I can find involving this actress is a Maxim pictorial.

And, that’s all for now. Well, maybe one last thing. At the recent San Diego Comic Con, the audience was treated to the first ever clip from Spider-Man! Just for you, here’s a description of that clip. We’re at a New York City science lab, where Peter Parker and his class are on a field trip. Peter and fellow geek loner, Harry Osborn, are hanging at the back, and Peter tells Harry of his love for Mary Jane Watson. Harry asks what kind of lines Peter would use to dazzle Mary Jane, so Peter tells him. Harry then goes and uses these lines on Mary Jane with great success, much to Peter’s dismay. So, the field trip continues, and they soon come to the insect room. Here, the tour guide tells the class that they are doing experiments on spiders involving radiation. As Peter gets close to one of the cages to snap some pictures for the school paper, he notices that one spider seems to be missing. The tour guide says that it’s probably been taken to another lab for experimentation. As the tour wraps up, Peter’s love gets the better of him and he snaps a picture of Mary Jane. Mary Jane, feeling goofy in that way that teenagers are, begins to strike a number of fashion model poses for Peter, and Peter gladly begins using up his roll of film. As this foolishness goes on, we see the missing radioactive spider descend on a webline behind Peter. The spider lands on Peter’s arm and bites Peter! Peter shakes off the spider, and gets up. And that was the clip! Oh, and the spider was described as looking like a Black Widow, only the trademark red hourglass marking was replaced with markings in Spider-Man’s red and blue colour scheme.

And that’s all! Until next we ramble!


What Happens Next?

Chaos in Print

It’s become a staple of every sitcom. When our young, female lead finally gets engaged, she begins planning her dream wedding. I don’t know if this is true of all young women, but on the sitcoms, the wedding is something she’s been planning since she was 6. It generally involves horse-drawn carriages, a legion of bridesmaids, and, of course, Prince Charming as the groom. I have been going through something similar in my life. I have been planning it in my mind and organizing it for a long time. Not my wedding. Ever since I learned that I was going to die someday, I’ve been planning my funeral. Like little girls planning their weddings, I currently want it to be a grand affair. There will be legions of bereaved, all gathered to mourn the loss of this, one of the greatest people they’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. You might think, then, that I look forward to funerals with a certain morbid glee. You might think I look upon them as places of research and gathering to add to my own dream funeral. Well, not the most recent one I went to.

Recently, my next door neighbor died. Throughout the past 6 years or so, my family had taken it upon ourselves to be her caretakers. We’d look after her place, doing things like cutting the grass and shoveling the walk. When we knew that she could no longer look after herself, we worked with her family on getting her into a nursing home. With her family being from Ottawa, we looked after her financial affairs while she was in the home, and continued tending to her property. Last time her family was out three years ago, they felt it best that a proper will be written up. My father was deeply involved in the process, and approached me about being a pallbearer. Not being able to see so far into the future, I agreed. So, when our neighbor died about a week ago, a flash of fear went through me. I knew we’d be having the funeral soon, and I only had one day off in the days ahead: Thursday. I was really looking forward to finally seeing Tomb Raider. As my father and her family began discussing the best day to hold the funeral, I listened at the door with anticipation. I kept repeating one silent prayer over and over. “Please don’t say Thursday. Please don’t say Thursday.” And that’s when I heard those dreaded words. “So, it’s agreed then. The best day to have this is Thursday.” Death had screwed me out of my day off.

Thursday morning came, and I was still more upset about missing Tomb Raider than laying my next door neighbor to rest. The family of the deceased was gathering at our home. We were to be hosting the fellowship after the services. My brother, also asked to be a pallbearer three years ago, was soon arrived with his wife and kids in tow. I mingled as best I could, and then I knew I had to get into my formal clothes. I retreated to my inner sanctum and dug out my suit. I hadn’t worn it since my sister’s high school graduation two years ago, so I was a little worried as to whether it would fit or not. To my surprise, it actually fit better than it did two years ago. When it comes to formal wear, what always sets off a suit is a tie. I went through my small collection of ties, trying to figure out which one would be the best to wear. I ultimately decided to go with my black bow tie, just because they don’t let me at work and I was going to have some fun with my day off. I finished putting together my outfit and checked myself out in the mirror. And, if I may say so, I clean up good.

From there, it was down to the community hall to begin setting up. We arrived before the funeral director, so first we had to spend some time waiting in the van. The hearse finally pulled up, and we were given our instructions. The instructions for a pallbearer are rather simple: grab a handle and lift. I grabbed and lifted. We brought her inside, and set her down on the stand that was set up. My brother, father and I grouped up as the director told us that she’d be set up shortly if we wanted to pay our final respects. As my brother and father started talking about what they always talk about, I wandered off to take a look at the body. It’s always unsettling looking at the body. Here’s this body, once full of life and vibrancy, now in eternal slumber. The questions started pouring in. Where is she now? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Was she going up or going down? What does happen next? We’ll all find out eventually. We all headed back up the house. We had an hour to kill before the service began.

And hour later, we all started arriving with the various obscure members of her family that had come out for this. Still, though, it was a small funeral. As with all things, I had good seats. Right up front. The service began, and the minister started quoting passages from the Bible. As has been ingrained in my mind since the age of six, Bible passages are a signal to start tuning out. I was soon brought back by the first song that the deceased had wanted played: Peace in the Valley. By Elvis Presley. I’m sorry, but Elvis just doesn’t work for a funeral. Yes, it’s a hymn, but Elvis? It was an unorthodox choice. Now that I was back in the real world, I started listening to the minister’s words. It all soon got the better of me, and I felt the tears welling up. It wasn’t enough to cry, but the emotion was there. In my own, weird little way, I’m going to miss her. Soon, it was time to head out to the graveyard. More heavy lifting for me.

Spirits were high in my brother’s minivan. As we all drove out there, we talked about the family that had shown up and how some had gotten really fat and others really skinny. We criticized the driving of the other mourners and made really bad jokes. My family has a really weird way of mourning. Soon, we were out at the graveyard and it was time for the last little bit of heavy lifting. We all grabbed and lifted, and soon the casket was suspended in mid-air over its future eternal resting place. The last words were spoken by the minister, and then, it was over. She was literally dead and buried. It was time to head back to the house.

When we got back home, my mother had a special task for my brother and I. We were to head back to the community hall and collect all the flowers that had been donated. My brother and I got back into his minivan and proceeded down the street. My brother hit play on his van’s CD player, and we were soon listing to that rock classic You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC. My warped sense of humour kicked in. I turned to my brother and asked one simple question. “Do you have any funeral appropriate songs on that disc?” My brother, operating on a similar wavelength, smiled, and hit a few buttons on his CD player. When we arrived at the community hall, we were both singing along, loudly and badly, to AC/DC. “HIIIIIIIIIIGHWAY TO HELL! HIIIIIIIIIIGHWAY TO HELL!” Finally, my sense of good taste kicked in, and we shut off the song.

But why must there be good taste? I do know this about my funeral. I want it to be fun. The song I want played is Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life by Monty Python. It’s OK to make plans like this, but soon a reality sets in. This is death. It’s the end. No one knows what happens next, if something happens next. I, personally, have always believed that something happens next. As a wise man once said, “There can be no happy endings for nothing truly ends.” That’s why my funeral’s not going to be depressing. Nothing ended. A new chapter will have begun, just as it has begun for my next door neighbor. It’s good to have a plan in place, but I don’t want to see it come to fruition just yet. God willing, I will find out what happens next in 70 years or so, with my wife among the grieving. I’ll worry about the funeral, as I’m sure she (whoever she may be) already has our wedding planned.


Chaos in Print

I recently attended yet another family reunion. I don’t care much for these family events. My cousins and I grew apart a long time ago. They’re all from the Lacombe area. They went to school together. They hung out together. They were a nice little clique. Then, at these functions, they would naturally group together and do what it is they do on a daily basis. I was often left out, tending to the campfire, reading a book, or just doing what I do on a daily basis. They would always see another excuse to hang out with friends. I would always see another school dance where I’d be sitting by myself in the corner. Now that I’m this 24-year old, I’m mature enough to send an RSVP in the negative whenever I hear that one of these events is on the horizon. Except this time.

By its very nature, this reunion was different. It was being organized by my father and a cousin of his. This reunion was to focus on a different facet of the family. It was going to focus on all the descendants of the siblings of my grandmother. We were talking about third and fourth cousins who hadn’t seen me since I was probably about six weeks old. Since this event was scheduled to take place on my birthday, I was hoping to weasel out of this function and spend a day in Edmonton partying with friends. But, as previously mentioned, one very important fact made this different. It was being organized by my father. And since my siblings had already beaten me to RSVP-ing in the negative, I knew one of us kids had to go to throw support behind the family. Since I am living in the parents’ basement, the duty fell to me. No birthday movie. No intellectual discussions with friends about Junkyard Wars and the hilariously-imploding Alliance Party. Just sitting by myself in the corner at the school dance. I was looking more forward to the drive to the campground than the weekend.

I arrived at the site with little fanfare. I pulled up the car next to my parents’ truck and sought out my folks. Dad was already catching up with some long-lost uncles. Mom was doing similar at the other end of the campground. It also didn’t help that a lot of these people were significantly older than me. Most were middle-aged. Most hadn’t seen each other in a long time. I found my corner and prepared to sit. But I was intrigued.

For a campground so close to the Saskatchewan border, it was rather hilly area. The campground itself was situated in a valley. As I drove in, I was astonished by what I saw. There was this marvelous old steel bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. I knew I had to get a closer look at it. And the most startling part of the landscape was this hill that stood over the campground. True, by all definitions it was a hill, but in geometry it looked like a mountain. A scaled down mountain. It was rather unique. I knew that if nothing there was one thing I could do at this campground. Explore.

After I found my parents and they introduced me to a few people, it was time to go sit in my corner. The old uncles and not-so-old distant cousins got into their cliques and began visiting with each other. I was starting to get bored. I was starting to get really bored. It was time to do some of this exploring. I grabbed my camera (you never know if you’re going to find something photogenic when exploring) and started walking.

My first trek was to get a closer look at this bridge that had me spellbound. I started following the many roads of the campground to get back out to the highway. It was a clear sunny day in this little valley. The sun was beating down, as though it were trying to force me back into my shady corner. But not today. That bridge had captivated me, and I wanted to get a closer look. There weren’t a lot of trees along my chosen route, so I just tried to enjoy the sun as best I could. Soon, I was passing the rodeo grounds. This campground was built as part of the local rodeo grounds, so it dominated the majority of the camp’s parkland. The locals kept saying it was a world-renowned rodeo, but I had never heard of it. I kept my eyes forward and kept walking.

After about twenty minutes or so, I had made it back out to the highway. I turned left, and started marching towards the bridge. It was starting to get even hotter, as the sun reflected up from the asphalt onto my bare legs. But I kept marching. When I was halfway towards the bridge, I stopped and turned around. I was amazed at how far I had come. I’m always amazed at how much distance I can cover just by simply walking. I turned my back to what was behind me, and kept going towards that bridge.

When I got there, I was amazed. Fortunately, I was at the side with the dedication plaque. This bridge, spanning the North Saskatchewan River, was built by an ironworks company from Winnipeg. It was opened in the mid-50’s, and the plaque even gave a file number. No doubt, were I to look up that file in the provincial archives, I could get a wealth of information on that bridge. What just impressed me, though, was its length. It was one of the longest bridges I had ever seen. From what I could tell, it had five distinct spans. I had this urge to keep walking. I wanted to walk across this monster bridge. But, as it was a highway bridge, there wasn’t much of a shoulder to walk on. What finally convinced me to not cross it was the gravel truck that passed me by inches. I decided to head back to camp.

The evening came, and all the various families grouped together and went back to their individual camps for supper. There, in our little trailer, my parents presented me with my birthday presents. Yay! I got clothes and Chicken Run on DVD. We had some birthday cake, and then the inevitable truth came. I was 24. Wee-ha. After dinner, more visiting happened, and I was once again in my corner.

The next morning was when it was instrumental I be around. See, my father and his cousin couldn’t hold this event without financial support from viewers like you. So, we were going to politely charge these relatives $1 at breakfast to cover the pancake batter and $5 at supper to cover the steaks. Since I am a cashier in a grocery store and I wind up working the door at every Liberal fund-raiser, my Dad volunteered me to work the door. My corner was moved to a little table by the front door in our communal hall, and I had a little Tupperware container to use as a cashbox. I sat there, politely smiling and saying, “Yes, you can pay for your steaks here at breakfast.” At least working political fund-raisers, I learned how to smile and thank you when I take you for all your worth. Breakfast soon came to a close, and I was relieved of duty until supper. Time for more exploring.

This mini-mountain that stood over the campground had a viewpoint at the top. A lot of the kids under 10 who were dragged along to this event had taken to climbing the mini-mountain to this viewpoint. Dad suggested that perhaps Mom climb to the top and take a picture of our campsite from above. Mom, in her polite and political way, said that Dad was out of his gourd. Showing an unusual display of ambition, I volunteered to do it. It was then that Dad pointed out that there was a road up to the viewpoint. I hopped in the car and went for a drive. I arrived at the viewpoint, and was met with a spectacular view. Directly in front of me was the campground. The collection of trucks, cars and trailers looked like a collection of Hot Wheels. To my left was a view of the North Saskatchewan, rolling continuously in the direction it had rolled for centuries. To my right I could see pretty much the entire golf course that bordered our campground. I took a moment to snap a few pictures, and another moment to take it all in. It was then back into the car, but I didn’t head straight back to the campground. I headed out to highway, and drove across that bridge that had captivated me so. On the other side, I noticed the high riverbank that formed one of the walls of the valley the campground was in. I conjectured that there must be a great view of the bridge from the top of that bank. I drove back across the bridge and headed back to camp. My next trek was planned.

After a few more hours of sitting in the corner, I grabbed my camera and once again went trekking. I headed the route I had went yesterday, until I arrived at the turn-off into the campground. To my right was the highway. To my left was a gravel road that headed to parts unknown. Straight ahead of me was the gentlest slope to the top of the valley. I was going straight. There was only one obstacle in front of me: a barbed-wire fence. I hadn’t needed to crawl under a barbed-wire fence since I played out at McDougall’s farm when I was a kid. It was a skill that quickly came back to me. On the other side of the fence, I checked my camera to make sure that I hadn’t crushed it by rolling on top of it, and then started climbing. Halfway up the climb, I began passing the rocks. The name of the campground was spelled out on the side of this hill in large rocks, painted white. You quite often see signs like this, but when you’re driving at 80-km/h along a highway, you can never tell how large the rocks are. Now that I was a stone’s throw away from them, they were boulders. How they got them up this hill I’ll never know. I continued climbing. Off in the distance, I could hear the moos of cows. I began to wonder if this sign was ever obstructed by grazing cattle.

At long last, I reached the summit. I looked back at the bottom of the valley and the now-distant campground. It’s always good to look back once in a while, just to see how far you’ve come. I turned around, and gazed at what was in front of me. The ground in front of me gently sloped down to some grazing land, and then the North Saskatchewan River. I was right. There was a great view of the bridge from up here. I pulled out my camera, and took a few pictures of the bridge. Then, mission accomplished, it was time to head back to camp.

When I arrived, it was getting near suppertime, and I knew it was time to head back to my post. But first, my parents had another job for me. The barbeque was all fired up, and I was to sample the first steak. Using a tiny plastic picnic knife and a tiny plastic picnic fork, I began sawing my way through the steak. A tiny plastic picnic knife is not the optimal tool to use to cut a steak. After five minutes of sawing, I was finally able to make a cut large enough for my Dad to see that he had in fact made a perfectly well done steak. I continued sawing so I could get a piece off and tell him it tasted good. With Dad satisfied that he would be an OK cook tonight, I got myself a baked potato, headed to my station, and continued collecting money while eating my steak. The evening was the followed by more uneventful visiting.

It was during this evening visiting that I looked at my dog. I felt sorry for her. Every other dog was running around free, but not my Buck. My parents, being the sticklers for the rules that they are, were the only ones who kept their dog on a leash. Buck would walk to the extreme end of her chain, and look at us, just 10 feet away, laughing and talking. I knew it was time for her to have a little freedom. I unchained Buck, put on her leash, and took her for a walk down on the golf course. There, we marveled at how cool this valley got when the sun went down. We wandered around a bit on the first green. We crossed the bridge over the creek and walked into the rough for a little bit. We were both grateful for our freedom. But, it had to end, and we headed back to the camp.

The next morning, the reunion broke up pretty quickly. By noon, my folks and I were the only ones left. It was getting time for me to head out, as well. I took out my camera and snapped a picture of that mini-mountain. I can hardly wait to finish that roll so I can get the pictures developed. I took one last moment to take it all in. It’s funny to be the outsider looking in. You get so used to that perspective that, most times, you force yourself into it. When you reach the age of 24, you’re supposed to be past cliques, and in a place where you can be sociable with those who are different. But, when you’re on your own for so long, it grows comfortable. Sometimes, you amaze yourself at what you can do on a daily basis. Perhaps sitting by yourself in the corner isn’t as bad as some make it out to be. With my parents’ assurance that they didn’t need myself to help break camp, I got in my car, and headed for home.