24 September, 2012

S before M

Premarital sex, or lack thereof, seems to be in the news lately. I'm not sure why. I ran across an article (on Fox News, natch) that got my blood boiling, not because of it's oh-so-pure message (frankly, I don't care if you never touch yourself or each other before you tie the knot), but because of its holier-than-thou tone. Steven Crowder calls anyone who has premarital sex a "harlot"and "floozie". Notably absent, of course, is any equivalent male derogatory term, though he does sound awfully self-satisfied (dare I say prideful?) of his unsullied premarital chastity. Goody-goody for him.

I'm not going to sidestep the scholarly articles, and there are reams of them, showing pretty conclusively that non-virgins at marriage face a higher risk of divorce. I've no doubt that's true. People who have sex before marriage are also statistically more likely to cheat on their spouse, and for much the same reasons, I suspect. Those who wait to have sex make an investment in the relationship and tend--I'd guess--to take their marriage more seriously. The same holds true in cultures that practice arranged marriages, incidentally.

Tell you something, though, and I'm sure you've heard this before: Correlation does not imply causation. That's a logical fallacy, a very common one. The ancient Romans knew it as post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Your marriage's longevity is not dependant on whether you've never touched each other beforehand, nor whether you've engaged in every sex act known to man and beast during your, uh, engagement. It is, rather, dependant almost entirely on your attitude towards the marriage itself.

I'll be the first person to tell you I DIDN'T wake up the night after my wedding and think holy cow, everything's changed. No, actually, I felt exactly the opposite both a day, a week, and a month later: holy cow, everything's the same. Crowder alludes (or thinks he does) to that in his little slice of sanctimony, dismissing his beachmate's wedding as "just another party" whereas his, of course, was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

My wedding was a once-in-a-lifetime event...but my wife and I were married on our third date. The ceremony only served as a public announcement (though what a glorious announcement it was!)

I'll explain that, because whenever I tell people about the story of how Eva and I met and mated, I get incredulous looks and dropped jaws. As longtime readers know, my wife and I first met at a job interview. I knew walking out of that interview that I had a job, and I strongly suspected I had a girlfriend. Sure enough, within a few short months I had to quit that job since dating the boss is a no-no. (Okay, truth be told I sucked at the job and would have been fired if I hadn't quit, but I like telling this story the other way.)
Our first date lasted something like fourteen hours.  We bought a bed after our second date, on the grounds that I didn't want her killing her back on that shitty futon (and my back was a consideration, too.) And on the third date, I moved in with her. At that point, a wedding had already been discussed: it was, we both knew, a foregone conclusion.

We both knew. We just did. An inkling of that knowledge presented itself before our first date. Speaking for myself, it took time for me to figure out that what inkling was, and accept it for what it was when I did. Call it...a week. By that third date, as far as we were concerned, we were married and had an attitude towards our relationship pretty similar--honestly!--to the attitude we share today.

Some atavistic relic deep inside me waited for the prison door to slam shut with the pronouncement of the vows. I'm a man, after all. Part of man-lore, handed down by every comedian ever, is that marriage is a trap. Russell Peters goes so far as to call it a disease
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But there was no disease and no trap. Marriage, I decided, was just like single life...only with more security. That was what my wedding got me: a promise of more of the same, a promise I gleefully accepted and just as gleefully gave.

Well before that wedding formalized the arrangement, Eva's grandmother asked her almost within my earshot if she had "tried me out". This woman was married for fifty nine years. Most emphatically happily married.

Indeed Eva had "tried me out". What's more, neither of us lived in a sexual bubble before we met each other. (Psst, little secret: it's not premarital sex if you don't marry the person, now is it?) We've been married coming up on twelve years, or well over thirteen if you count from when I like to. We're more than happy: we're content. That's what familiarity breeds, isn't it? Content?

Once again, like I seem to find myself doing with every blog post, I'm going to say "ours is not a better way, ours is only another way." If you choose to wait to have sex until after you're married, that is your prerogative and your decision. I won't judge you for it and I'd ask you extend me the same courtesy.




15 September, 2012

Here We Go Again

Another NHL lockout.

I'll tell you just how asinine this is. It's exactly one hundred percent asinine. You have to figure Gary Bettman likes things that are asinine. That he revels in asininity.

Yes, I blame Bettman, not Fehr and not the NHLPA. For a myriad of reasons, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, let me tell you that unlike most red-blooded Canucks, I haven't spent the last twenty years hating Gary Bettman. Oh, I can't deny the New Yawk lawyer reminds me of a weasel, and the traditionalist in me doesn't appreciate the changes he brought to the game I love. But I confess to a certain admiration for the son-of-a-bitch. He's held his post for twenty years. This in a game where coaches and GMs are hired to be fired, where many players have a shelf life measured in seasons. You have to figure he's doing something right. He's willing to be the face of a rapacious group of team owners -- not a job I'd take at twice his salary -- and despite several missteps borne of the best of intentions, he's managed to grow the NHL into a $3.3 billion-a-year enterprise.

Those missteps, called the Lightning and the Panthers and especially the Coyotes, were borne of good intentions, no matter what Canadians might have to say on the subject. Florida might as well be a Canadian province in the winter, after all, and Phoenix is the fifth largest market in the United States. You can blame Bettman all you want for putting hockey teams in the Sun Belt -- I won't stop you -- but I gotta tell you, the American media shares some culpability here. Hockey isn't even an afterthought on ESPN.

(I've often wondered just why the game of hockey doesn't seem to translate into American. Of baseball, football, basketball and hockey, the latter is the fastest-paced by far, and it has that incipient violence that Americans seem to crave, It's got a mix of skill and brawn that really should appeal to the American sporting spirit. But doesn't. There was a time, back when the '94 Rangers ended their Cup drought, that hockey seemed poised on the verge of, well, not a renaissance, more of a naissance...then it petered out. Weird.)

All that said...

For every Tampa Bay Lightning team that has to comp tickets to the Stanley Cup Final (and isn't that just sad?) ... there's the Nashville Predators, home of the "hockey tonk" with a rabid fan base. There are the L.A. Kings, the team Gretzky built, still selling out games years after Wayne and last year's Cup winners. Carolina's another team in a non-traditional market doing better than many Canadians think they have a right to be.

The league as a whole is doing quite well: an average of seven percent growth in hockey-related revenues over the past few years. Not too shabby given the recession and all. There are a few teams drowning in a sea of red ink, besides the aforementioned Coyotes. The Sharks in San Jose were doing relatively well until recently; the Islanders in New York would still be doing well were it not for about two decades of colossally inept management. As a Leaf fan, the situation in New York is almost enough to make me feel better about Harold Ballard. Almost.

These teams could be eliminated, or more likely moved. Southern Ontario alone could easily support two more NHL teams, to the great benefit of the league. They've relocated Atlanta franchises twice, after all, both times to Western Canada. But relocation is an ego-blow and the people we're talking about here have large egos. Odds are pretty good that even the Coyotes will be staying put a while longer.

Which brings us to the current "impasse" and lockout.

I'd like to emphasize lockout. THIS IS NOT A STRIKE. I heard people bandying the word strike around in 2004 and it bothered me then; it really bothers me now. The players are not withdrawing their services. They want to play. The owners are not giving them the opportunity because -- we're told -- the players make too much money. Well, I ask you, who signed the players to their contracts? Who decided the value of the Scott Gomezes and Mike Komisareks of the world?

Yes, this is a "crisis" entirely of the owners' manufacture. The NHLPA recognizes this, and has offered a revenue sharing model to alleviate some of the financial difficulty of the league's weaker teams. The problem with that, of course, is that the richer owners would have to forfeit some of their wealth. They don't want to give more money to the players and they sure as hell don't want to share it with each other. Nope nope nope nope nope, it's mine all mine ALLMINEALLMINEALLMINE--

I must repeat: the players, to a man, want to play. So why not start the season on time and negotiate behind the scenes? Is there any good reason the fans -- who ultimately pay both the owners and the players -- should have to suffer through so much as one hockeyless Saturday night? I think not. But the owners believe, rightly or wrongly, that the fans will come back, as they did once already.

I think this time they're wrong. I think that should this lockout persist past American Thanksgiving, many NHL fans will abandon the league and become fans of their local junior franchises, or maybe they'll give up hockey altogether. And that, too, would be the fault of the owners.

(My money's on this being a short lockout, simply because the league is doing as well as it is. This isn't 2004, when the league lost hundreds of millions of dollars. They've just signed a lucrative American television deal of the sort that has eluded them for years, and that money is obviously forfeit once their regular season starts (or doesn't start, as the case may be). The owners are stupid, but they can't be that stupid.

I hope.

09 September, 2012

Into the Graveyard

Relax, folks, this post has nothing to do with death at all.

I'm staring a string of six night shifts in the face. Ugly face, let me tell you.

I used to work nights almost exclusively. I've done it for three separate variety store chains as well as McDonald's. We're talking about five years or so here, and you can take those five years and subtract them from my expected lifespan. For those years I never really got fully to sleep and I never really came fully awake. I existed--hard to say lived--in the half-world, suppressing jaw-cracking yawns, wondering how it was I could rise from bed every evening more tired than I was when I fell into it every morning. (7-Eleven was notorious for occasionally throwing a 7am-3pm or 3pm-11pm shift in amongst all the overnighters, which depleted me further. It was something akin to perpetual jet lag.)

I'm a lark by nature, usually up by six a.m. at the latest whether I need to be or not. That said, I don't mind the night shifts in and of themselves: I actually rather enjoy them, especially now that I'm well away from the endless parade of drunken louts that stained my nights twenty years ago. Much more work can be accomplished, partly because there are no customers, partly because comfortable clothes can be worn and tunes can be cranked.) I remember rocking out to Winger, of all things, at Mickey Dees in the early nineties...now I have a radio station in my pocket, eclectic as hell and endlessly energizing if I want it to be.

No, the night shifts are just fine. The problem is sleeping between them. The last time I pulled this stunt, I barely slept at all for damn near nine revolutions of the clock. I'd say no more than three or four hours of sleep in every twenty four hour period, and none of it restful or restorative. I fell violently ill and missed the last of my scheduled night shifts altogether.

You can tell me to keep the room dark and quiet and cool, and I can do all that. Our bedroom curtains are a thick, deep and lustrous green and they block out sunlight very well. Aside from marauding telemarketers (the do-not-call list in Canada is a deeply unfunny joke), the house is fairly quiet during the day. I can play Georgia-ball in the morning long enough to tucker out the Peach for the day (the Tux is a sleepy rug about twenty seven hours a day anyway). And I have A/C in the bedroom in case summer hasn't quite finished tormenting me.

None of that does a damn thing to shut that bitch Circadia up. She cheeps and chirps away from sunup to sundown, telling the world it's time to be awake, damnit, up and at 'em, get your ass out of bed! After awhile you get to romanticizing comas and thinking about clocking yourself in the noggin with a frying pan.

My mother-in-law very kindly gave me some fortifications against Circadia's incessant chittering and my wife is prepared to add her own should the need arise. I certainly don't need a repeat of that last zombified week.

I know I just got finished saying the Breadbin is back open for business--but it will likely be shuttered for the next week or so.

06 September, 2012

Life And Death and Life

You will have noticed that I have not written much in the blog for most of this calendar year.

From a couple of recent posts, you may be able to glean why.

My father-in-law passed away this past Monday after a hell of a battle with cancer. I will draw a curtain of privacy around the details. Suffice it to say I have now seen two kinds of death, the sudden and the prolonged, and I hope I'm given a choice, because I know which one I'd choose. I can take pain, I can take suffering: when the only prospect after pain and suffering is death--no thank you.

That said--sudden death remains a vivid nightmare for me. Not so much mine. I'm not afraid of death at all. It seems silly to be afraid of something everyone must do at some point--it'd be like having a morbid terror of eating, or defecating. But the thought that someone I love can die at any time! sends a chill across my heart. It's a selfish chill: I see that now. If a death is owed, and nothing else in life is as sure--then that death is better paid in one lump sum than in instalments. Yes, I see that now.

The battle affected me deeply. For one thing, nothing else really seemed worth writing about as it raged. The rest of the world pales into utter insignificance when you're dealing with life and imminent death. All else is trivia. This may sound silly -- hell, I have no doubt my father-in-law would have no use for this line of reasoning at all -- but it is, nonetheless, true. I couldn't find it in me to care about much of anything beyond my wife and her family. I still feel that way, truth be told. It's hard to pick up the threads of your own life after you watch someone else's get cruelly snipped.

Grief has a way of toying with your mind. When my Uncle Ted died, I confess I didn't feel much of anything for weeks. I felt nothing, that is, except steadily mounting guilt at feeling nothing. When an uncle dies, especially one as loved, you're supposed to grieve, right? It was as if I didn't know how.

(And then one day it occurred to me in the context of nothing at all that I would never see my Uncle Ted again...and a dam I didn't even know was there suddenly burst and left me floundering in a flood of tears.)

I've cried for my father-in-law, a little almost every day over the past six months. Again, he'd as like have no use for that. And he'd have a point, because even knowing the outcome of this pitched battle in advance didn't really do a damned thing to lessen the wave of grief I felt when it was over. What use tears, if they don't even lessen the sadness? Especially when you know the person you're grieving for would want -- expect -- you to minimize his death, and, if anything, celebrate his life instead?


My own father laughs in the face of death. Then again, in his career as a police officer, he saw vastly more than his share of it and he has the policeman's way of dealing with stress down to a fine art: he turns it into a joke. He's told me at various times that his funeral will involve (a) Whooppee cushions under everyone's seats; (b) a remote-control laughing box; (c) a tape-recording of his voice saying that yes, as he expected, he's been sent to Hell...but luckily, he remembered to bring the Fire Department's hose with him and now it's one big party down here. The only tears he'd welcome are tears of laughter.

And yet...

There are two funeral homes in Parry Sound, his childhood home and the closest town of any size to his home today. The practice at one of them, for as long as I can remember, has been to announce deaths on a bistro-like easel outside on the sidewalk. My father unfailingly refers to this easel card as "the menu", as in "who's on the menu today". Yes, he actually says this out loud. Often.

(Imagine my mingled horror and hilarity when, in researching this blog, I checked the website for this funeral home and found...right on its home page...a menu. Done up in restaurant-like script.

He checks "the menu" quite often and always has. The biggest reason for this, I think, is that at any given time he knows somebody on it, or at least knows of him or her. Police officer, remember? It seemed to my childhood self that Dad knew everybody in that town of six thousand, not to mention the outlying areas. It still seems that way today.

But I catch myself wondering sometimes, as my father's age steadily accrues, if today he's reached that stage of life where he's checking "the menu" not so much to see who has died, but to see who he has outlived. The elderly--a word I flat-out refuse to associate with my father, just as I couldn't associate it with my wife's dad--often check the obituaries in a spirit of mad competitiveness. Something about that I find disquieting. I hope that's not top, or even bottom, of mind to my dad as he checks his "menu". Because when you start outliving people, it's only a matter of time until you're outlived yourself.

No, death doesn't scare me. Dying, on the other hand...

My dad's day will come. My mom's day, my wife's day--I don't give a fart in a glove about my day, but I look at all those other days as monsters hidden in the bushes and I want to take them out somehow, if only I could see them. And then there are the warning shots--my father's heart attack last year, more recent heart attacks in two colleagues and a friend, all three of them of an age that's awfully similar to mine and therefore my wife's.

Get it out of your mind, Ken.

I try, I try, but nothing else has really been in my mind for half a year, now. I won't get all melodramatic and say I've forgotten how to think. No, it's more like I've forgotten what else there is to think about. And so--

Life must go on. My father-in-law would be the first to say it, and he'd say it with conviction. As with anything else that happens for good or ill, it's up to us to determine what to do next, and how to do it. I can think of no better tribute to my wife's dad than to live life as he lived it, and that's what I intend to do as soon as this novocaine wears off. The alternative is to sit in a dumb haze waiting for the next loved one to be picked off...and the next...and the next...

No. Fresh bread will arrive in this Breadbin with more regularity, henceforth. Life must go on.