That Horrible God Awful Day Part II: Grumpy’s Marathon into Hell!


Grumpy’s Horrible God Awful Day Part II

It’s Tuesday, January 5 and the alarm blares at 5:50 am. It’s morning basketball practice for the boy and I’ve got to get him to school before 7 am. As I crawl out of bed I’m hoping this is a better day.  But, when I glance to the window, I can’t help notice the dumping of snow we received overnight.

Rousing the son is always a challenge. It’s like trying to raise a zombie from the dead. But, I get him into the shower, knowing well he’ll fall asleep in the tub within minutes. He does his showers in the prone position.

Once we’re ready to roll, we off on a side trip to pick up the boy’s sidekick in a hamlet north of our home. The roads are slick and the snow is falling like a succession of airborne wool blankets, thick and heavy. The roads are covered and the only tracks I see are in my rear view mirror. Only fools venture out in these conditions.

Once both boys are loaded, they’re begging me to turn on the radio.

“Maybe it’s a snow day, dad,” number two son remarks. (Number 1 son lives in Calgary)

And, maybe pigs have wings.

The School District won’t call a snow day the first week after the Christmas Break, unless, of course, the Director himself gets stuck in his driveway.

I turn on the radio and settle into a little white knuckle driving – NASCAR style. I’m driving the car my daughter and I share, a little Pontiac Pursuit.  Yes, that’s the car she drove into the ditch only days before. The tires that came with this vehicle are only good for parking lots and showrooms.

The radio drones on.

The problem with the local station is that their music programming annoys me. You can bet your bottom dollar that at 6:45 am the song will either be a Shania Twain or Celine Dion tune. Waiting for the snow day announcement can be pure hell.  Good Lord, this morning they’re playing Barry Manilow.

As we make the big S-bend just before the school, the tires lose their traction and we’re drifting madly to the left. A tall wooden fence is coming at us like the Great Wall of China. Fortunately, I’m driving in senior citizen gear, and we slowly glide to a stop.

The son’s buddy remarks, “That’s why you drive really slowly in the winter, eh, Grumpy”

My boy can’t resist a good opening and chimes in with, “No, my dad always drives slowly. He`s almost sixty.”

They’re both out of the vehicle before I can throttle the little monkey.

Now I’m faced with the return trip and the prospect of getting my wife to work. I try not to think of treacherous, “Dead Man’s Hill.”

Let me describe “Dead Man’s Hill”. The hill is a steep, running down to a narrow bridge, followed by an incline of mammoth proportions. On a good day you can race down that hill and catch some air on the bridge. On a bad day, you might just find yourself in the creek. This is a bad day.

As I approach the hill, I notice headlights at the brow on the other side.  A rough estimation tells me that those lights are going to meet me at the bridge. That’s when I drop the gearshift into first gear. We’ll use our engine brakes as we coast into oblivion.

Long story short!

Nothing at all happens, save for the wet spot I feel in my underwear.

8:15: I drop the good wife at her school, and return home only to find the answering machine flashing. It’s got to be Mechanic Bob, and the news better be good.

“Hey, Jim, I was able to get the proper bushings and they fit like a charm. Call me and let me know if you want me to go ahead with the brakes. They’re still under warranty.”

Cha-Ching!

This is about to become my post Christmas Nightmare. Maybe I should sell the rights to Tim Burton. He’d probably be up for a sequel and I’d have the cash to pay off my mechanic. Win-Win!

My daughter slips out of bed around 11 am. I ask her if she’ll accompany me to the dentist. I tell her, “Just in case I’m not up for driving home by myself.”

I’m surprised that she’s ready, willing and able. I tell her that we’ve got to leave at one. She promises me she’ll be ready on time. This is Hooterville, you see, and my dentist’s office is a 35 minute drive away. I also have to drop a document off at the bank. Jimbo is my name and multi-tasking is my game!

12:55 pm: “Honey. Let’s go. It’s nearly one.” I’m calling through her closed bedroom door.

“Daaaaaad, I’m not ready yet. Geeeeez!”

The girl has been preening herself for nearly an hour. I gave her fair warning. My blood begins to boil. But, I’m an experienced dad, so I choose to pop over to the Corner Gas for a fill up, hoping of course, that my little model will be presentable for her personal appearance at the dentist’s office.

We hit the road at 1:20. The snowploughs have been out so I know we can keep to our schedule.

1:55: We’re parked right in front of Doctor’s office. As I get out of the vehicle, I see that my little lady isn’t about to budge.

“You’re comin’ in with me, right?” I ask.

“No, I’ll just sit in the car.”

“But . . .”

“Don’t worry, dad. You don’t need me to hold your hand. Be brave. You’ll be just fine.”

Oh my God, I’m eating my own words. You see, I was the one who took her to the dentist many years ago when she had four teeth yanked prior to her braces being installed

As I amble away I notice that my daughter is looking at the little mirror on the visor. I suspect her makeup needs an adjustment.

I enter the office and head right for the loo. I’ve got to pee so bad I can taste it.

When I re-enter the office I see a dental assistant wandering about the waiting room calling, “Jimbobalouie? Is Jimbobalouie, here?”

I startle her when I come up behind her and say, “Looking for me?”

Here’s a little word of advice. Startled dental assistants are not happy campers. Be prepared for some rough treatment in the chair. That suction thingy is soon to be pulling the taste buds off your tongue!

She leads me back into the corridor where the examination rooms are situated. But I’m not going there. I’m heading deeper into the bowels of the torture chamber to the notorious dental surgery suite.

This room is light and bright and white. It is wide and expansive. It reminds me of the room Dave finds himself in after traveling through the black hole in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Only this is 2010 and the only black hole I’m going to experience is the gaping hole in my mouth.

After situating me on a high tech looking chair, the dental assistant removes my glasses and replaces them with some really cool looking shades. I swear they’re Oakley’s. After all, my dentist knows we have insurance and, I’m sure he milks it to its full extent. The guy’s boat is bigger than my house.

“We’ll numb you up and when it takes we’ll have that tooth out of there in a jiffy,” the Doc remarks.

Four needles later, my mouth begins to numb-up big time. I’m listening to the conversation in the room, breathing deeply in a kind of meditative state. Could it be possible that novocaine is going directly to my brain’s central cortex? I think that would be a good thing.

Dental Assistant: “Do you think we’ll need the ‘thing-a-ma-jig-a-ma-bob’ today?”

DOC HILNER: “No, let’s hope not.”

The next thing I know, there are fingers and implements in my mouth and I sense a lot of digging around. I glance at my watch. It’s 2:10.

2:15: More digging and probing and pulling and twisting. Implements are being handed back and forth and forth and back as if this is open heart surgery. Oh, my god, in goes the drill. I’m sweating profusely.

2:20: There’s a pull that has sufficient force to have the top of my head drawn down to the roof of my mouth, then a twist and a snap. That’s when I hear the words I’ve been dreading.

Doctor Dave whispers, “I’ll need the ‘thing-a-ma-jig-a-ma-bob’.”

The damn tool looks like a claw hammer when it appears in front of my eyes. The next 10 minutes are not unlike that scene from Marathon Man, with Dustin Hoffman having his teeth extracted – sans novocaine. I’ll spare you the details because they would be R rated.

3:35: The Doc is closing up shop with several stitches sewn into my mouth.

So, I ask him what the heck went wrong.

“Well, Jim, that tooth was supposed to have one root. Yours had two. I had a lot of trouble getting it out of there. You’re going to have a sore mouth.”

He hands me a prescription for Tylenol III.

With a sponge in my mouth to staunch the bleeding, slobber running from my lips because of the freezing, and a swollen face, I re-enter the vehicle to the words,

“There you go, dad. That wasn’t so bad. You were really brave today.”

I feel as if I’m a man-child. My daughter is turning into my mother.

2:50: So, now it’s off to pick up my wife and head to the boy’s basketball game.

A quick trip to Wal-Mart will kill a little time before schools out. I’m sure the people in the store think I’m a Serial Killer, what with the packing bulged in my cheek, the blood oozing from the corner of my mouth and the drool streaming down my chin.

We decide to pick up coffee at the Tim Horton`s drive through. I verbalize my order as usual.

“I’ll ave won woubble woubble an won wegular cowfee and a wunny wooler, wease!”

“Pardon me, sir?”

Louder and with a more drawn out cadence, I say, “Won. . . woubble woubble. . . an. .  won wegular cowfee an. . .  a wunny wooler, wease!”

My daughter is in stitches. The tears are running down her face and she’s bent over as if she’s got a cramp. I’m Kramer in the episode where, after some dental work, he jumps into a cab with the dude who’s having a fund raiser for “special” people. Thinking Kramer is one of his clients he invites him to be a head table guest.

3:35: Well, we pick up my wife, race to the game and are lucky to find a space in the busy school parking lot. I get out of the car, shut the door and remember I’ve left the packet of blood sucking sponges on the front seat. No problem, I’ll grab them and run.

And, pigs might have wings!

I’ve locked the freaking keys in the car and, guess what; my daughter doesn’t have her key with her.

“I left it at home because I’m always afraid I’m going lose it, dad.”

You see, she’s been on a bit of losing streak lately, having misplaced some earrings and a very valuable ring.

We decide to call CAA (AAA) later because we’re late for the game as it is. When the half-time break arrives, I borrow a hanger and try to pull the lock button myself. That’s when I notice that I also left the freaking car running. (This car idles like a sleeping kitten.)  It’s been sitting in the parking lot for a half an hour burning 99 cent a litre gas. (That’s about $4.50 a gallon) And for the record, that coat hanger technique is bogus, my friends.

Long story short!

4:45: I call CAA. The guy is there in fifteen minutes and I have my keys in my hand before I know it. I’ve missed most of the game but the boy’s team is victorious.

OUTCOMES:

The Buick gets repaired and the cost is a mere $716.00. It stays in the shop for three days.

Because of the game and key incident, I miss picking up that prescription in time, so I rely on an old Wild West pain treatment, that of a straight whiskey mouth wash and a hard swallow. (Repeat as Necessary)  No problem there, cowboys.

The tire issue with the Pursuit is solved when we spend another $500 on four all weather radial tires. Dads know that they must protect the assets they dearly love. The Pursuit could plough through just about anything.

A third key is cut for the Pursuit. I had to buy it directly from GM. Cost me 35 freaking dollars for a $2 key. Thank goodness the nice lady at the TSC store didn`t charge me one cent for the cutting. I think she thought I was mentally challenged.

“Ha-whoa, woo you coth me a keith, wease!”

In 48 hours I`ve driven half way around the world it seems, my mouth hurts like hell and my bank account is bleeding itself dry.

As my dear departed father would say. “Who has more fun than people?”

Dentists, mechanics and daughters.

GRUMPY’S HORRIBLE GOD AWFUL DAY


I'm having a bad day!

I’m having a bad day!

Have you ever had one of those shitty days that escalate into 48 hours of hell?

Well, my friends, that’s exactly what I experienced a few years back as the New Year dawned and as Grumpy was staring down the barrel of his sixtieth birthday. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

It started out innocently enough. I’d called my mechanic and booked the Rendezvous for an oil change. I added this simple request.

“Hey, Bob, when I release the brakes there’s a bit of a clunk. You know the brakes you redid a few weeks ago. They’re brand spanking new. Maybe something’s loose.  Check them out, OK?”

Down in the pit of my stomach a great rumble erupted. You see I’m always a little paranoid when I make such a request. These requests usually cost me in excess of $200. But, it’s a new year and I’m feeling kind of giddy. The yucky feeling goes away quickly.

For the purpose of this essay, I’ll refer to that call to my mechanic as the tipping point. Everything went downhill from there.

The best way to approach the next 72 hours or so is to follow my timeline to the letter. Just as you’d expect, not only did the bottom fall out but the roof caved in. So, you’d better grab a coffee and pull up a chair. This here is one mother of a marathon.

6:15 pm Sunday, January 3rd, 2010: We take two vehicles to town in order that we drop off the one and drive back the other. Such is the life when you live in the outback. The roads are slippery snow and covered. If you’re Canadian you risk your lives for an oil change. We’re tough sons-of-bitches!

BTW, we get our vehicles serviced at a place known as “Crappy Tire”.  We’re talking discount city. But, Bob’s a good guy. I trust him.

7:00 pm: The family sits down to watch a football bowl game. No such luck. The wind has picked up and the satellite dish is wobbling and weebling. A big wind storm in December broke a support strut. The picture fades in and out when it’s not presenting a blank screen. The peanut gallery is complaining that, “You’d better get that fixed, dad!” I bite my tongue. Does anyone in this house know what Christmas cost?  I pour a Scotch. It’s a double.

8:00 pm: I’m sitting at the dining room table. I’m compiling a list of things to do. My wife is back to the classroom on Monday and the kids are back to school. I’m back to a working-retirement-Mr. Mom kind of thing.  Better to prepare your honey-do list yourself, I’m thinking.

After the list expands to 25 items (and counting) I waddle off to bed. If I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and kicking, I will be more than satisfied.  My dad would often say, “Another day another dollar.” That’s about the total daily income of a Mr. Mom.

6:15 am, Monday, January 4th: The routine goes like this. I’m up and it’s dark as night. My job is twofold. Get my wife to work, a 15 minute drive to the West, then turn around for home, wake up the boy, and run him into school, a 15 minute drive to the East.  I leave the house at 6:55 am, and return at 9:00 am. That’s two hours on the road in the winter.

BONUS: I get a Tim Horton’s Coffee in town and a Toronto paper. Returning home, I settle into the Internet. I’m at one with the universe. The To-do list sits patiently at my side.

9:15 am: Better check the answering machine. Only one message was left while I was out with the taxi. It’s mechanic, Bob.

“Hi, Jim, give me a call when you get in.”

Those words are like a kick in the balls. I’ve heard them before. They usually translate into a stack of trouble and a bigger hit on the bank account.

I give Bob a call.

“You know that bump you feel, Jim. (Pause) Well, your knuckles are shot.”

“My what?”

“Your knuckles!”

“So, it wasn’t the brakes?”

“Well they’re shot, too.”

“Say what?”

“Ya, musta been the knuckles that caused that!”

I’m afraid to ask but I go for it anyway. “So what are we looking at?”

Bob’s voice lowers and speaks in conspiratorial mode.  “Well the knuckles retail for $400 apiece, Jim!”

“Bob, I’m not about to put $800 bucks in parts to correct a clunking noise. What if I don’t get it done?”

There is a short but deathly silence before Bob replies, “Well, you’ll still have that clunking noise! And if they break, our wheels might fall off.”

My silence is the silence of a guy with steam coming out of ears.

Bob picks up on that with a, “Well, maybe we can replace the bushings. They’re about 30 bucks a piece.”

I tell him I’m alright with that and he tells me he’ll call back after he checks it all out.

9:30 am: The phone rings just as I hang up. The message is short and sweet and to the point.

“Jim, this is just a reminder that you have an appointment tomorrow with Doctor Hilner at 2:00 pm.”

That’s the appointment for the dreaded tooth extraction. Believe me, I wasn’t forgetting that one.

I remember the last extraction I had. The old Doc claimed it was the most difficult one he’d encountered in 35 years as a dentist. I remember when the tooth exploded, with chards of my enamel pin wheeling before my eyes, and Dave the Doc crashing backward against the wall. I figured he’d have put a knee on my chest if that last yank hadn’t got the job done. The pit of my stomach is churning as if major butter production was part of my anatomy.

9:45 am: Pumba the Farting Dog, who has been sleeping behind my back on the computer chair, begins to stir. It’s approaching ten o’clock and his canine biological clock is beginning to scream, “It’s time for a walk.” Those of us who are close to this hound call it the “Poo Walk!”.

Why?

Well, because this dog refuses to drop a deuce unless he is accompanied by one of us in walk-in-the-park mode. It’s as cold as the Arctic outside but a guys got to take one for the team. Otherwise, retaliation by Pumba is like a pandemic. He’ll pee in your shoes or hide a deuce at night in a strategic position.

I bundle up, hook up the lead and am out the door in seconds. I’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone. I collect the mail from our locked box.  I take a butane candle lighter along with me knowing that the lock was frozen the last time.

The walk is a success. Pumba has produced a “Quad”. That’s what we call a Double Duece Poo Walk. My God, my family is as nuts as I am.

It’s now time to tackle the lock.

I loop the leash around my wrist, get down in a crouch and attempt to light the lighter. The wind manages to blow out the flame several times, but eventually the ice thaws.  The surface in front of the mail box is like an ice rink. My perch is precarious at best. Pumba sits in silence and occasionally licks my bare hand.

That’s when the police cruiser drives by. You see our neighbours are police officers. Because we live in the outback, they take their breaks at home. Pumba hates the uniform about as much as he hates the car.

The little cock-a-poo bolts. He’s in pit-bull mode.

By the time he reaches the end of the lead he is running at light speed. The tug I feel on my wrist has the force of a freight train and I’m put on my ass in a nanosecond. The dog is dragging me across the ice. I’m thinking that we look like a dog sled team out of control. The way I’m bundled up I’m sure the sled appears as if it’s loaded with polar bear meat. I try to turn and dig in my heels.

Slam!

I’ve got a grip but the force of the pull puts my body into a spin. I look like a break dancer as I spin on my back. That’s when I notice my neighbour standing in her bay window. She has her hand over mouth and her eyes are as big as pizza pies. As I skid to a halt, I give her the universal NFL signal indicating that I haven’t broken too many bones:  the very effective two thumbs-up salute.

Meanwhile, little Pumba, in fear for his master’s safety, has climbed up on my chest and is giving my face the once over with a slobbering wet tongue. I am proud that haven’t dropped the stack of mail in my other hand.

I’m so cold I can’t feel my feet or my fingers. My day is going south.

The remainder of the day includes these incidents. You see I’m beginning to tackle the To-Do list.

I get an e-mail from Dell that my new Netbook has been shipped. I’m excited as hell until I find that it is in transit in the US. It could be many days until it gets to the middle-of-nowhere. That’s where I live.

I try to go online to check my Canada Pension application. One of the benefits of turning 60 is collecting your pension early. I find out the system is down. The online system has to have been designed by terrorists; it’s that F-ing complicated and frustrating. I know if I call I might get some foreign speaking person from a call center in India.  I’ve been trying to get to a person in-the-know since November.

Upon checking my bank accounts online I find that a big chunk of money has disappeared from our savings account. Investigating further I discover that I ordered checks for the wrong account and we’ve been spending our savings like no tomorrow. Sometimes I’m a complete idiot.

I call the satellite dish guy and there is no answer. Googling his business name, I find his website and leave him a message. They’re calling for high winds tonight. Crap!

Looks like my To-do list is deteriorating into a To-don’t list!

I search the Internet trying to find out what a knuckle is and why it’s worth a king’s ransom. I learn that the problem is that GM only sells the knuckle as a package and they don’t have the bushings available. Many sites warn that, “You don’t need the entire knuckle. Just replace the bushings.” Trouble is the after-market bushings don’t fit and have to be held in with a washer.

I call Bob and give him the scoop.

He says, “I can do that, if you give me the go ahead.”

It sounds as if he’s reluctant to “Jerry-rig” the job. But, I convince him just the same. Hell, I’m looking at a $1500 outlay if I go the “replace the knuckles” route. BTW the knuckle is the thingy that support  your back wheels on in a front wheeled drive vehicle.

3:30 pm: It’s time to head out and pick up the wife. As I’m driving, my cell vibrates in my pocket. I struggle to get it out, the reception is poor, but I recognize the words of the boy, “Come pick me up at school, dad!”

WTF!

He was supposed to have a basketball practice until 5pm and I’m heading East and the school is to the West. Because the reception is so poor, I have to call my daughter at home to relay the message that I’ll be late because I’m traveling the other way. (Cell phones are like the telegraph here in the Great White North)

This is going to be a repeat of the morning. My day from hell has become my personal Groundhog Day. An hour and a half later I’m home.

It’s double scotch time, my friends, and because my duties include being the cook, dinner is going to be late.

9:45 pm: This is a big deal for us. We’re watching the Canada vs US World Junior Hockey championship game. The gold medal is on the line. The winds are picking up but the reception has been fairly good. That is until the last few minutes of the game, with the Canadians down by one, they’re pressing the Americans relentlessly. There’s a mad scramble when “poof” my screen goes black. I jump to me feet, drop to my knees, and plead with the satellite Gods to relent.

Just as the screen returns to fuzzy normal we realize we’ve missed the biggest goal of the game. Canada has tied it up and sent the game to overtime.

The wife says, “Did you call the satellite guy today?”

“I’m working on it”, I say, as I slip from the room to pour another round.

This terrible God awful day ends as I fully expected it would. The US scores a goal in overtime to win the Gold Medal.  This is as bad as when Italy beat Canada in the World Baseball Classic. No, it’s worse than that.

When I roll into bed I’m wondering what will tomorrow bring? Can anything get any worse than today? The slight pain in my upper jaw quickly reminds me that tomorrow might make today look like a trip to Disney World.

Stay tuned for part two of Grumpy’s Horrible God Awful Day.

Grumpy’s Going to the Dogs Bigtime


I’m sure you’ve received an e-mail from someone where male characteristics/behavior is compared to that of a dog. For example, this list appeared on the Website for the John Mark Ministries.

Dogs spend all day sprawled on the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house.

They can hear a package of food opening half a block away, but don’t hear you when you’re in the same room.

They can look dumb and lovable all at the same time.

They growl when they are not happy.

When you want to play, they want to play.

When you want to be alone, they want to play.

They leave their toys everywhere.

They do disgusting things with their mouths and then try to give you a kiss.

They go right for your crotch as soon as they meet you.

Conclusion: Dogs are tiny men in little fur coats.

As I grow older I see, without a doubt, that I am really going to the dogs.  My friends, current scientific data confirms this very notion. For example, take a look at this little gem from LiveScience.

“A male dog will whine and beg in deference to a stronger dog, but will lower its voice into a guttural growl if it thinks it has a fighting chance. Men unconsciously do a similar thing, scientists say.”

As confirmation, I know for a fact that I’m into whining. For every year I age there appears to be more and more to whine about. I’ve known my voice to rise to the level where I’m sure I sound like a screaming little girl. Even my almost-adult kids often say, “Stop whining, dad!” Of course, that’s when I lower my voice like James Earl Jones and scowl, “Watch how you talk to your father!”

Grrrrrr!

I tried this voice thingy thing with my daughter’s dog Pumba (You know the farting character in the lion King). Pumba is Pit Bull in Cock-a-poo clothing. We have staring contests that drag on for minutes. (My youngest son says I have too much time on my hands) but Pumba usually concedes when I bulge my eyes out and growl gutturally.

Anyway, if Pumba is up to his usual no good, I lower my voice to the depths of my throat and speak slowly and authoritatively to him. Immediately, this pit bull wannabe transforms to a pussy, flipping over on his back in total submission. Unfortunately, this lower voice technique doesn’t work with my wife. I tried it once and all that I got was the “stare of death”.  And no, I’ve never won a staring contest with the Alpha female in my house.

In another less scientific study, employees of fast food restaurants, retail establishments and the like were asked to report on the condition of their public washrooms. Here’s what they came up with.

“. . .the men’s room always had a weird stink. Funky! The women’s room, while generally stench free, did have paper (toilet paper and paper towels –complete pieces or little bits) EVERYWHERE! So men make a weird smell while women go in there and shred paper.”

          Conclusion:  When it comes to bathrooms, men are like dogs and women are like cats.

Well, I certainly concur. The weird smells I emit as I get older give the term “OLD FART” definitive validation. And, in our one bathroom house, I’ve always wondered how the toilet paper disappears so fast. Now I know – we have TWO women in this house.

MEEEEOW!

The evidence for my burgeoning “doggyness” became clearer this very week. You see I constantly scan the newspapers looking for articles that explain why, as I get older, my family thinks I am regressing intellectually; becoming a child-man, as it were. I’m trying to build arguments to counteract their statements like, “You drive so slow, dad.”, “You aren’t logical.”, “Hello, is there anyone in there?” “You forgot it, again!” and “What are you looking for now that you’ve misplaced.” (Duh! Usually it’s my marbles!)

A Toronto Star article appeared with this heading, “NOISE MARS AGING MIND!” Scanning young and old brains with an MRI, while participants attempted memory encoding tasks, caused quite a stir in the scientists.

Why?

While these tests were being conducted only the older participant showed activity in the auditory cortex.

“The researchers believe this shows that older adults are less able to filter out distractions in their surroundings. In this case, the distraction was the MRI machine which makes loud, repeated knocking noises as it scans.” TORONTO STAR, Nov.26, 2008

Eureka! Background noise drives me to distraction and I have the proof.

Last week I was typing up my son’s assignment as he dictated it to me. All was going well until he started scrapping the spoon in the plastic yogurt cup he was holding. My fingers went AWOL and the mistakes mounted. My edginess became heightened to “going postal” proportions. Suddenly, I shouted with James Earl Jones conviction, “Put that friggin’ cup down before I have a nervous breakdown!”

This phenomenon also occurs whilst driving. If the music on the radio is repetitious new style, bass driven crapola, I inevitably lose concentration and make a non life-threatening driving error. Eventually my hand hits the off button like a jack hammer. My son will say, “What’s got you in such a bad mood?” I’d like to say, “Shitty, distracting music!”

I used to be able appear to be listening to my wife while my brain thought of other things. I had this skill down to a science. Now when she talks to me her words distract my thoughts, and the look on my face is a dead giveaway for, “You’re not listening to me, are you!”

I no longer can read while I watch TV, type manuscripts with the radio on, work on intricate tasks without complete silence and walk and chew gum.

But here’s the kicker. I’ll be down in the basement with the task of retrieving item “X”, the washer will clunk, I’ll run in to see what happened, then stand there asking myself, “What did I come down here for in the first place?”

Yes, distracting sounds become memory assassins for me!

But how does this relate to me turning into a dog, you might ask?

Well it goes a way back to when I was young and my dad gave me this tip for training a dog.

“Just clap your hands or make a loud sound and the dog will forget what it’s doing!”

I know this works because when “Pitbull” Pumba barks when he’s outside, I just kick the inside of the aluminum door and presto, he ceases and desists. Usually he turns to me with a look like, “Shit, I just forgot what I was doing, again! FN humans!”

In closing, I’m going to lower my writing to a whisper and cover my monitor with my free hand. I don’t want my wife to get a hold of this information. You see, this data is just too life-altering and explosive.

Why?

Well, before too long, she’ll be clapping her hands together loudly and speaking to me in  a baritone voice while old Grumpy flips over on his back in submission, whines like a little girl, and mumbles,  “Geez, I forgot what I was doing again!”

“I’ve Fallen Down and I Can’t Get Up”: Grumpy takes a Tumble


You probably remember those commercials of the little old lady, prone on the floor, calling into her little necklace bob, as she connects to the helpline she needs after a fall. I actually rented that system for my own mother when she refused to move out of her home even though she was in her mid eighties.

Last week my cousin came for a visit and described a fall he had in the winter. We both agreed that, as you age, you begin to worry that even the slightest tumble will lead to severe injury. In his case, he broke a few fingers and cracked his coconut. Never in my wildest dreams would I have attached irony to this discussion.

Well, at least, not until last Wednesday rolled around.

I had rebuilt a small porch for the side entry to our house. During the construction I managed to hit the same thumb with the hammer twice and then slice through all of that damage with a hand saw.   My thumb looked like raw hamburger on a stick. But, you know what they say, mishaps often occur in threes. So, I thought I was done with doing grave injury to my person.

Nay,nay, my friends.

Well, I tried to copy the steps to fit the pattern of the previous steps we built 20 years before. However, open completion I discovered that the bottom step was one inch higher than the previous incarnation. My late Grandfather, who helped with the original construction would have said, “You know an inch in construction isn’t as important as an inch in the bedroom!”

Well, now I know that it is.

You see, I was cleaning up last Wednesday and had an armful of tools. Upon taking that first step my toe caught the top of the riser and, before I knew it, I was in face-plant mode. I quickly ejected the tools and tried to catch myself, only to whack my forearm on the cement platform at the top of the porch. The pain was excruciating and, upon looking at the rising welt, I figured I’d broken my arm.

Luckily, I had not fractured a bone and only ended up with a huge bruise, which in turn, was much smaller than the injury to my pride. You must know that my family really gets a kick out of Grumpy’s propensity for daring-do and the frequency of his near hospitalization.

I know you are saying, “Well, that’s not funny. Really, it’s quite tragic. Poor, Grumpy.”

That’s OK because you simply forgot that these incidents happen in threes.

The fun began on the weekend. We had driven to Wallaceburg for the “Phenom’s” Provincial Baseball Championships. During the games I often get up to walk, partially due to muscle stiffness, but more because of this nervous energy that consumes me.

There were train tacks running along the right field fence; the perfect place to stroll and watch the game. I decided I stay to a worn path there because the stone rail bed was a difficult foot hold even for a person much younger than me. I’d ere on the side of caution.

As an aside, it doesn’t matter how old you are when you are confronted with a possible situation for public recognition. Even though your body might be 60 years old, your brain has you believing you are 18.

Just as I was approaching the first base area, a batter swatted a hard foul ball over the fence in my direction. My brain kicked into baseball mode and everything appeared to revert to slow motion. Indeed I calculated I could catch this ball in one hop. However, someone pressed fast forward and before I knew it the ball was catapulting toward my head.

No matter, I’m eighteen years old again, right. I did a step back turn and caught that ball one handed, swinging my arm back to take the force of the blow. I felt like every eye in the park was upon me, and that I’d made a grab worthy of a standing “O”.

That’s when my brain announced, “RED ALERT! Your feet are going out from under you and you’re going down, Bubba!”

You see I’d stepped back onto the rocky rail bed and my feet went out from under me like I was standing on an ice rink. The ball slipped from my hand, flew up in the air. And, guess what, my previously injured arm crashed down on the iron rail causing a sound to ring in my ears like Quasimodo’s bell. I had little time to react because the baseball I tossed came crashing down on the top of my head.

All eyes were, of course, upon me.

Despite the pain and the real possibility of a broken arm this time, I popped up to my feet within a nanosecond. I was thinking, of course, that a quick recovery would redeem me with my new fans. I actually tossed the ball to a player using the injured arm, hoping to convince everyone I was 100%.

As I walked behind the bleaches a bunch of old guys peered down at me with genuine concern on their faces. “Hey, buddy, you OK?” they asked.

“Ya, I’m good,” I replied. The throbbing pain in my forearm told a different story.

When I sat back down my wife said, “Look at your leg!”

Seems as if I’d inflicted major road rash there, because my aspirin diluted blood was trickling down my calf in rivulets.

Needless to say, the teenage boys got the biggest kick out of my performance, high fiving me and back slapping me after the game. However, this was not the recognition I envisioned when I saw that ball coming my way. Really, my performance could best be described as if Hollywood picked Chevy Chase to play the lead in the Derek Jeter Story.

I later told my wife this was my first big “Boo Boo” as a senior citizen and that there would be more bruises to come. I think she’ll take this to heart and buy me one of those necklace bobs. After all, she also believes that these kinds of mishaps occur in threes and, “I’ve Fallen Down and I Can’t Get Up”, is surely part of my not too distant future.

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ROAD TRIPS WITH THE GRUMPY’S: A Fun Time For All


I love road trips with the family. Packing up our little subcompact and squeezed in like sardines, we often hit the road in pursuit of athletic excellence: baseball, basketball and school sports being the prime motivation.

This year alone we have made six trips into the U.S. and I’m sure we’ve seen every corner of Southern Ontario. There aren’t many high school gyms we haven’t sat in. And, we have the chronic lower back pain to prove it.

Earlier, I described to you Grumpy’s great adventure when he became trapped in an elevator in Indiana. Today he’d like to tell you the rest of the story. Because my friends, every single one of these trips is an adventure.

So, let’s take a closer look at what really happened when we ventured to Louisville, Kentucky this past July. Our boy was to participate in the Bluegrass Basketball Classic at the Kentucky Exposition Centre, a venue set up with over 11 courts for basketball.

Here’s my hot list of two trending topics which gave us a few chuckles and laughs during our three day stay in the Bible belt.

Topic #1: THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF JIM BEAM BOTTLE SPECIALTIES

The hotel in the outskirts of Louisville (Clarksville, Indiana) was filled with little old ladies and gentleman who were attending a convention. They all belong to; get this, THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF JIM BEAM BOTTLE SPECIALTIES. It seems as if they collect decanters and bottles from the Jim Beam sour mash whisky company. You see corn liquor and moonshine is the preferred beverage in this part of the world.

Nevertheless, when asked by one of our Wildhawk parents one old gal remarked, “We drink the whisky first, of course!”  Well, I guess they do!

That surely answered our primary question and made us understanding of all the “Yips” and “Yee-haws” we heard late into the night. I don’t think one of these conventioneers were less than 70 years of age. I’ve never seen a group of such happy seniors. Inebriation does have its advantages.

I think the Jack Daniel’s Convention might be a little wilder, though. You see that is the preferred drink of rock stars and hillbilly crooners. And, I suspect that no one in that group is into collecting empty bottles. Creating empty bottles is their primary goal.

BTW -Every time I’m in Kentucky I venture out to Wal-Mart to pick up a bottle of this interesting concoction.

Why?

Well, because my $9.95 bottle of the cheapest brand bought in Kentucky tastes better than any bourbon I can buy in Ontario. (I notice they actually sell Mason Jars of Moonshine in the liquor outlets down here. I’ve got to try that kind of hooch next trip down.)

CASE #2: Doug and Scott’s Excellent Adventure

Meet Doug and Scott; two guys that when paired together, mishaps and mayhem are sure to follow. One is a dad, the other is a coach and both of them are high school teachers.  Thank goodness, both of them are men of a strong physical presence. Otherwise, they might have found themselves in a deeper creek of dung.

So, it went down like this.

Doug and Scott were out looking to get some groceries near downtown Louisville. Unfortunately, they found themselves with a flat tire in a very sketchy part of town.

SAFETY NOTE: When the area you are driving through appears run down and potentially crime-ridden do not select the closest grocery store listed on your GPS. It might be better to go down the list and drive to the one five miles away. You see, that female voice directing you doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your personal safety.

So, our boys found themselves stranded across the street from rather busy liquor store. The bars on the windows and doors suggested that security was a prime concern in this neck of the woods.

Discovering that the spare tire was not functional, they were forced to call their Auto Club to get a tow truck out to assist them.

SAFETY NOTE: When putting air in your tires remember that that spare tire is not a spare when it is flat. Your GPS will not give you this information. You GPS gives you directions not safety tips. As duly noted, your GPS lady could care less about you and your personal safety.

Doug and Scott had to wait two hours before the tow truck guy arrived and in the interim experience reality TV up close and personal. They felt as if they were in an episode of “Cops”. Their only concern was whether they would be viewed as “victims” or “perps”.

Here’s how their two hour wait went down.

During their wait another random tow truck drove by. They tried to hail the guy down but he just stared at them, shaking his head as if to say, “Not on your life boys. I’m not getting out of my truck in this neighborhood! No way! No how!”

Meanwhile, a police car raced by in obvious pursuit of the car squealing tires in front of him. This was a police chase –up close and personal.  It was obvious that a police presence was required here given the echoes of possible gunshots they heard in the distance.

People were openly drinking and smoking up as they emerged from the liquor store. They were flaunting their joints as if this was a “pot” no zone; meaning the cops had bigger fish to fry and could care less about the “potheads” roaming the streets. Yes folks, murder and mayhem rate far more attention than misdemeanors in this particular neighborhood.

The patrons of the liquor store only favored our heroes passing glances, this despite the fact that they were the only Caucasians in sight. Again, two guys built like linebackers have some creds when it comes to the pecking order for potential muggings. The criminals in the area must of thought our guys were undercover cops setting up a rather lame “sting” operation.

Of course, there were the typical zombies wandering aimlessly on the street, most of them mumbling to themselves. Either they were high on stronger stuff or their anti-psychotics hadn’t kicked in.

Finally, there was a dude slumped over in his truck with the vehicle running. His head rested on the steering wheel. (The running engine was for air conditioning they guessed, given the +100 temperatures in Kentucky). They called him the DEAD GUY IN THE TRUCK. The poor soul sat in that truck for those two hours and didn’t stir. Not one person checked to see if he was a victim of a drive by.

Author’s Note: Being good Canadians our two aventures checked several times to see if the guy was breathing. They were sure THE DEAD guy wasn’t dead.

Well, Doug and Scott final got fixed up and back on the road. They could now laugh at their misfortune much as they laughed about how on the trip down they lost a windshield wiper in driving rain storm, while flying down the express lane and screaming like teenage girls.

Or, perhaps they’d mention how on a previous trip down (Pittsburg) one of them forgot to declare the case of liquor in the trunk. There was major ramifications with that one. This error now places them in the “red flag” border security category, and one “white lie” away from a strip and cavity search. Ouch!

In closing, a, lot of us believe that our two intrepid adventures require some supervision when they travel together. Oh, the stories we could tell.

Sometimes I believe that these adventures provide the real value from these trips. Our boys will remember the competition, but they will also member the adventures and the camaraderie.

In two trips to Louisville they have toured the Muhammad Ali Centre, visited the Louisville Slugger baseball bat plant, experienced tornado-type weather, slipped through a security gate at the 55 000 seat Louisville Cardinals Papa John’s Football Stadium and ran on the field, had great wing dinners at Hooters, hooked up with some girl’s softball team and played basketball in one of the biggest tournaments in Kentucky against good American competition.

How great is that?

The foibles of their parents and their coaches just add to this, don’t you think? Well, at least Grumpy knows this to be true because he’s the guy that got stuck in that elevator.