31 March, 2014

Looking Back (III) The Joke That Wasn't Pinned On Me, Thank God

As published April 2nd, 2006

Spring forward, and lose all your clothing.

Hey, everybody! How's about an hour's less sleep?
April Fool's!
What? You thought I was April Fooling you? Well, April Fool's allover that!

When I worked for 7-Eleven, I was always scheduled every 'spring forward' night. I used to dread every night shift...my store was surrounded by bars catering to the student crowd, and students, as a rule, drink to excess on nights ending in "y". Thursdays through Saturdays were the worst, as even the poorest students scrounged up enough money to intoxicate themselves on those nights. And of course, special occasions like New Year's Eve, Octoberfest, Hallowe'en (and its attendant Devil's Night), the return of the swallows to Capistrano, any of those and a dozen more would provoke an orgy of casual shoplifting and bring threats of violence or vandalism.
But 'spring forward' night was unique, its own special breed of hell.

Drunken louts aside, the actual job of working a night shift at a 7-Eleven store was much more demanding than you'd imagine. On most nights you were on your own, and the list of things to be cleaned ran to twice the length of the store. Some of these things--Slurpee machines, Cafe Cooler machines--required disassembly and thorough scrubbing/sanitizing in the back room. The cooler would need stocking at least twice on busy nights. There was a cornucopia of baked goods to prepare. The coffee was supposed to be dumped and remade every ten minutes...I can pretty much assure you that never happened, not when you'd be lucky to sell one cup of coffee between 11:00 and about 4:45.
Everything in the store used to have to be counted once a week for ordering purposes, and night shift had its share. Separate to that was the counting and ordering of sandwiches, burgers, also supplies. Then you'd have to do the milk order at some point...the Coke order...the Pepsi order...the Nestle order. And I've barely scratched the surface. Customers? We doan need no steenkin customers!
I dreaded the arrival, every April like, uh, clockwork, of the night when I had to forfeit an hour and still complete the list. Corners would have to be cut, and for most of those years my boss was a woman who simply would not accept corner-cutting. I'd hope like hell on these nights that a huge wind would come up out of nowhere and sweep my lot clean for me, saving me half an hour amongst the litter of cigarette butts, discarded fast food wrappers (very little of it from our store) and broken beer bottles.

Now, of course, I'm back to working days, and my clock-forward angst has been reduced to a bitter memory. The most onerous task we have now is changing all the fricking clocks in here. Invariably we forget one of them; just as invariably we forget how to change one of them--usually the one in the car. One year I just let the car clock show the wrong time for six months. Our car became a time machine, existing one hour in the past. Hell, the VCR in the bedroom just came into phase with the real time, after six months of being an hour ahead. It didn't matter: there were three other clocks in the room.
Everything these days has a clock attached to it. A rough count in this house yields no fewer than twenty three timepieces, only a few of which are smart enough to change themselves over to Daylight Savings and back. That's almost five clocks apiece for me, my wife, our dog, and our two cats. Total overkill. And guess what? Given large amounts of money, I'd like nothing better than to add to the collection. Only I wouldn't bother with one more electronic device irradiating the night with glowy green digits. You can damn near read a book at midnight in our kitchen as it is. No, I'd get a grandfather clock, a cuckoo clock...a seven-day clock...any handmade clock with character or quirkiness.
Ever seen a Kit Kat Clock? No, it's not a clock in the shape of a chocolate bar. It's shaped just like a little kitten. Its tail wags like a pendulum and its eyes go back and forth every second, and I think it's adorable. I saw it in Stratford a few years ago and instantly adopted a kittenish begging posture. Please? I mewed at Eva. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. See, I thought this thing was kitschy, as in 'kitschy-kitschy coo". My wife thought the Kit Kat Clock was the Icreepiest thing she'd ever seen. She stared down my miaowing and announced that I could get that clock so long as I got a divorce first.
Sigh. This from the same woman who proudly displays a picture of a cat-burger. That's right: not a cat burglar: a cat burger... a picture of a hamburger with all the fixings, just one of which is an orange tabby. Oh, well. One of the things that everyone learns as their marriage grows is that their spouse is not only freakier than they had supposed, but freakier than they can suppose.

Where was I going with this post? I have no idea.

April Fool's. Despite having inherited some of my father's legendary aptitude for practical jokery, I never was much for this. There's no fun in punking people on a day when they're expecting it.
The best April Fool's joke ever played on me came in my second year of university. I came home after pulling an all-nighter in the library to find my entire wardrobe missing. Very funny, guys, I thought. Okay, I'll bite: where the hell did you hide my clothes?
"We put them in green garbage bags..." said one housemate.
"...and I put them out in the shed, " said another.
So, like a schlemiel, I gallumphed out to the shed.
No clothes.
Back in I went. Yeah--guys...ha, ha, April Fool's and all that...so where are they, really?
"I put them in the shed!" Indignant.
"Well, they're not there now."
"Of course they are...big green Glad bags, three of them. I put them out there a couple of hours ago."
Then it dawned on me.
Garbage day.
Today was garbage day.
The chore list said it was Mario's turn to put out the trash. Housemate number three...the one I hadn't seen yet...the one who had pulled his own all-nighter last night, came home, done his trashly duty, and gone to bed.
And of course the fucking garbage truck had picked this day to do our street first. Our entire street was free of garbage, and I was left with the clothes I was wearing. If I looked really hard, I might find a spare sock under my bed.
I went downstairs and pounded on Mario's bedroom door.
"Mario! Sorry to wake you, man, but did you take out the garbage?"
"Yeah! What the fuck? Let me sleep!"
"Were there three big green Glad bags?"
He sounded a little more awake now. "Yeah. Why? What was in there?"
"Oh, nothing, just ALL MY FUCKING CLOTHES!!!"
His door opened, and he clenched his eyes against either the sunlight or my own harsh glare.
"Oh, shit, sorry, man, I didn't look at the stuff, I just put it out!" What the fuck were your clothes doing in the garbage?"
"It's April Fool's Day! These assholes" -- I pointed at my housemates, who looked woebegone -- "decided to play a little joke on me! They took all my clothes and put them in garbage bags and put them out in the shed and you put them out to the curb and now they're gone and...you FUCKING ASSHOLES! That's, like, a thousand bucks worth of clothing!"
I stomped upstairs, lost in a red haze. This was the thing about practical jokes: sometimes they backfired. Sometimes they went a lot further than they were supposed to. And damn it, I had no clothes!
"Where the fuck's the phone book?"
"Right here", said one of the assholes. I couldn't believe he had the balls to still be in here. I felt like killing him.
I called City Hall, explained the situation, and asked them if I was as screwed as I thought I was.
The guy on the other end of the phone line snickered at me. I clenched my fists and thought really hard about teleporting through the phone line and strangling him.
"Are you sure your room-mates threw out your clothes?"
"YES I'M SURE!" I fumed.
"Well, they're gone," he said. "You might want to think about calling a lawyer."
Funny, I'd already thought of that.
I had a shower, got back into my only set of clothes, and trudged off to class. When I came home later that morning and opened the door to my bedroom, I beheld three large green Glad bags full of my clothes. Turned out everybody had been in on this. Mario had hid the bags in his closet the whole time.
April Fool's.

I got them back, though...or rather, I got the ringleader back. And my practical joke actually did backfire. It went a lot further than I had intended. In fact, I honestly believe my target would have cheerfully killed me had he ever so much as suspected me...


Rereading this, it occurs to me I never did tell what it was I did in revenge. 
One of my housemates--his dad actually owned the place, and I think he might own it himself now--was an Italian kid who used to get mortally offended at my love of Kraft Dinner. He was also the biggest homophobe I ever met in my life. I mean, this guy would have been right there with Fred Phelps.  It seemed to me that such over-the-top hatred was just ripe for mockery.
So several weeks after my clothes vanished and then reappeared, my girlfriend at the time and I, we went porn shopping. The store down the road had a wide selection of pornographic magazines. I had never had occasion to browse, let alone purchase, any of the gay porn, but browse and purchase we did that day. In bulk.
Then we had a gay old time (ha-ha) cutting and pasting. We must have snipped twenty or thirty pics from various magazines. We even framed a close-up shot of a particularly large penis. A few of the mags were left whole, the better to put under (and on) his bed.

Carm was usually diligent about locking his bedroom door, but bedroom door locks can be defeated with bobby pins, of the sort my girlfriend usually carried. This of course is (ahem) illegal...but since my clothes had been safely (!) ensconced behind a locked bedroom door, it really didn't seem to matter overmuch.

Well, the framed penis was tacked up over his bed...it really did look quite ravishing up there, if the angle of your dangle was right for that sort of thing, of course. The rest of the smut was scattered come-hither and yon. And then we closed the door and waited for Carm to come home.

With his girlfriend.

AND his parents.

This would have been okay except Carm, for some bedevilled reason, had to bring everybody up to his bedroom. 

I am a klutz and I have done stupid things and I am INTIMATELY familiar with the sort of horror that first dawns, then grows, then suffuses everything as you realize events are spiralling completely out of your control. Never have I felt that horror so acutely than I did watching the whole fam-damily troop up those stairs. In this case there wasn't a thing I can say or do without bringing hell down upon me.

The roar that came out of that boy was not human. It was ursine, Lovecraftian, something out of time and space. He stampeded down the stairs and I swear he had murder in his eyes. He confronted everybody in the house in turn. I denied any wrongdoing, and I did it with a straight face. While I am known for being completely see-through--I have never played poker, because there is just no point--on that occasion, at least, I successfully told several barefaced lies out of sheer self-preservation. 

It's been more than twenty years. I hope the statute of limitations applies. 

Creature of the Night

It's nearly two in the morning as I write this. The house is not as still as you might think:  Eva's sleeping upstairs, having set her alarm clock (me) to six a.m. In the basement, a load of clothes is sudsing away in the washer and another is tumbling around in the dryer, with a third in a basket waiting the all clear to come upstairs (six a.m., remember?)
Peach is asprawl on the couch; Tux is within petting distance of me (or probably more pertinently, within easy grabbing distance of any of my lunch that might chance to drop his way.) The cats are wherever cats go between bouts of mindless frantic running all over the house. Oh, there's Mooch now, looking for love in all the Daddy-places. Bubbles cares not for love....Bubbles cares not for naught but Bubbles.
And I? I'm listening to Godowski's improvements on Chopin's √©tudes, played by Marc-Andre Hamelin. I've completed a French essay and I'm reading, between distractions, a long article in the weekend Globe and Mail about distractions.  There's one more load of laundry to go (I hate laundry month) and a load of dishes to run through as well. Given the ridiculous hydro rates in Ontario (which are actually beginning to spawn protests), the chance to do all this laundry and run the dishwasher in 'off-peak' hours is a nice perk of my new schedule.

The solitude is lovely. The loneliness, not so much.

I shouldn't really complain. I'm not the only person working this infernal schedule and some have it much worse than me. But there are things I doubt you daywalkers are aware of. For instance: technically, unless I ask for one, I never have a day off anymore. Yes, I'm not at work right now, but I worked the first six hours of yesterday and I work at ten p.m. today.  The other thing is that unless Eva decides to have a morning nap--or I do, before my lunchtime--I never get to sleep with my wife any more.

I had foolishly thought this schedule might give me a social life. Before, I was going to bed right about the time most people were gearing up to go out. Now, I'm gearing up myself...to go to work. Except on Tuesday (when I have French class) and Sunday ("we asked one hundred people, 'what night of the week is reserved for fun?' 'Sunday!' 'Survey says: BZZZZZT!'")

I went to bed early yesterday -- before 9 a.m.--and slept until almost seven, which is incredible. The funny thing is, each sleep has followed the same pattern: I've awoken  three or four hours in, absolutely resisted the temptation to leave bed for anything other than the most pressing excretory reasons--and then laid there, unthinking, trying to sleep. At some point I'll look over at the clock and four (or today, almost six) hours has gone by, so obviously I've slept. But even today, it didn't really feel like it. After a week of such non-restorative slumbers you can start to understand why it was Michael Jackson took the pills he took.

First world problems, to be sure. I have a job I'm reasonably happy at, and the actual shift is a joy, now that I have a pair of wireless headphones and the license to wear them once the store is closed an hour into my day. I miss my workmates, though. Some of them quite a lot.

'Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before!'

I don't think I can. I may work nights, but I may never be a creature of the night...

24 March, 2014

Like This! It's For Breast Cancer!

So there's a couple of trends going around Facebook right now that I really need to comment on at some length. Both of them ostensibly have something to do with breast cancer, although I can't think what.
A work colleague got me today with one of those bait-and-switch status updates. If you've been on Facebook any length of time, you've probably seen at least one of these things. The person puts something in their status that's guaranteed to elicit some kind of reaction amongst his/her friends, something like "the damn condom broke last night and I think I might be pregnant" or "has anybody got a remedy for excessive flatulence"...you know, like that. Then when you like or comment, you get a private message telling you that you now have to perpetuate the meme.

I played along with one of these things a few months back--'haha, you got the riddle wrong, now you're a giraffe'--and I'm sorry, once was enough. What really irked me about this particular iteration was, well, a couple of things, really.

One, I fell for it. Somebody tells the world on Facebook that they think they're in love and they don't know what to do, and I immediately think of what seems like dozens of people who have come to me in real life with that exact problem over the years. (Often, but by no means always, they're people I'm in love with at the time and the person they're  in love with has never once been me, but hey, what are friends for?) And so yeah, I'm pretty much morally obligated to weigh in on a status update like that. And so I did, and even got complimented twice in the ensuing comment thread for being a 'smart cookie'...that fine, fine Facebook ego-stroke we all know and love.

Except the comment thread was booby-trapped, as I soon found out. When the bait was switched, one line of the 'haha, now you gotta play too' message stood out, not in a good way. "This is the 2014 breast cancer awareness game", it said, and I thought ah, so it's a game, now?

I ignored the message...and actually felt kind of bad for so doing. The person who sent it is very nice and I really didn't feel like I should express this anger. I mean, it's irrational. It's just Facebook, it's just a silly little game, and why do I have to take everything so fucking seriously, et cetera, et cetera.


I know breast cancer survivors. More than one. You could say I'm quite aware of this disease; really, I'm surprised there are people who aren't. It's not a game and it's not funny and it's not the sort of thing that should lend itself to trifling Facebook pranks. I'm sorry to burst your balloon but...no, actually, I'm not. What does 'why is nobody around when I'm horny' have to do with breast cancer, or anything else, really? Is that about cancer just because you say it is? How about "I really don't know how 2 tell anyone and I'm sick of hiding it I'm gay." There, you've managed to trivialize breast cancer and someone coming out of the closet all in one sentence.

You know what "games" like this do, at least for me? They make me very leery of commenting on anyone's status update, in case what looks like a cry for help is actually a stupid game of hot potato. And while I'm sure someone will say that people crying for help on Facebook are just narcissistic attention-seekers...tell me one other way to reach your entire support network at once. I think Facebook really is the best way to seek solace, empathy or advice, and I really don't like things like this ruining that perception.


Then there's the 'post a selfie without makeup for breast cancer' meme.

This one I'm really torn on. I have to say, first off, I'm perversely glad that Google Chrome's spellcheck still highlights 'selfie'. It may be an official English word -- it's in Oxford, now -- but I absolutely detest it. Maybe I'd feel differently about it if I were in any way photogenic, but...no, really, it's a stupid sounding word for a stupid obsession.

One friend--who could post a makeup-less self-portrait that would make a whole bunch of men go weak in the knees--posted this instead to explain why she was opting out. As I read it, I found myself agreeing vehemently in places and yet going "but but but but!" in others.

Emily Buchanan's argument is multi-pronged here. First, she says something I could have said word for word myself:

It was all very well meaning and inoffensive but, as far as I could tell, absolutely nothing to do with breast cancer awareness. If anything, it was trivialising a very serious issue and using it to justify a vanity project.

Hear, hear. Then she notes

If you need to tell people how much of a good person you are, it's time to question your motivation for doing good at all. Goodness should permeate throughout life and in every decision we make, not because a trend on Facebook tells us to.

And that, too, resonates strongly with me: are you genuinely concerned or are you just looking for the attention?  

But but but but!

There is something unutterably refreshing about seeing all these photos--okay, damnit, selfies--of incredibly beautiful women without makeup, being visually true to themselves. For many of them, I suspect, it takes a whole lot of courage to actually post such a thing: there are entire nations of women who wouldn't think of leaving the house and GASP being seen without makeup. It's offensive to even suggest that this courage in any way mirrors the kind of courage someone living with breast cancer must summon to get through every hour of every day, true...but the courage to post a bare-faced selfie shouldn't be entirely dismissed, either. 

You know me, folks. I wish "makeup-free" was the default setting. It's not that I think women should feel fantastic about their appearance (although I do)...it's that I firmly believe that they should feel fantastic about the inner beauty they have, which will by definition make them beautiful. While I generally don't go around thinking any one gender has got it right, in this case I think men actually do. We don't wear makeup, as a rule. Why? It's not because we think we're all George Clooneys or Daniel Craigs or (insert hunkahunkaburninglove here)s. For most of us, it's because it simply doesn't occur to us. We're not our bodies. 

(Mind you, we shouldn't be falling into the common man-traps of (a) thinking women ARE their bodies and (b) thinking we are our job titles...so, no, it's not that men have it right, we're just a different kind of wrong.)

And as for the narcissistic self-validation of these pictures? You know what? People need that ego-stroke. They do, or it wouldn't feel so good to get it. They especially need that ego-stroke when they do something outside of the ordinary, such as posting a picture of themselves as they really are. People, women in particular, need to know they're beautiful. I believe that with all my heart. 

So please, continue to post these things...I smile each and every time I see one. But can we maybe divorce this from breast cancer? Can we maybe call it cancer of the confidence instead? That kind of cancer is only fatal in its most extreme cases, but it's even more widespread than other kinds...and it's worth fighting.

23 March, 2014

Life is a Cabaret

What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play

Eva told me weeks ago to mark March 22 on my calendar. We have not seen all that much of each other since Christmas...she's been working an awful lot of overtime, leaving both of us "sitting alone in our room" far too often.  Mystery date night! 
She wouldn't tell me what this date entailed, only that it would be a night I'd enjoy and that it involved a bit of travel. 

Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the cabaret

Little did I know it would also involve seeing an old chum. Craig was my closest friend for a couple of years of high school. HIs passion for music made (and makes) mine look like a passing fancy: he was playing trumpet at a technically professional level in grade nine. We bonded over a love of brass music, but drifted apart as so many friends do...only to reconnect on Facebook many years later and pick up the threads of a friendship as if they'd never dropped. (It's interesting to note he also drifted apart from a woman he had a huge crush on back then, a woman I also counted among my friends...only to reconnect with her years later on Facebook: they're married now. They got married in the music room of the high school we all went to.)

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom
It's time for a holiday
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret

And so March 22 finally arrived. We piled into our new car...my first time in it. I realized where we were headed as soon as we turned south off the 401 towards Hamilton. I knew Craig was playing in a production of CABARET at the Theatre Aquarius. We'd been chatting about it: he said it was one of the better musicals he'd played, that it was a whole lot of fun, that the band "really cooked"...all things that seemed calculated to make me want to

Come taste the wine
Come hear the band
Come blow that horn
In fact, I told him at one point how much I wanted to see him in this production (which he immediately copied and sent to Eva with a wink; it had been planned that I would see him for about three weeks at that point.) 

Start celebrating right this way
Your table's waiting

We were to meet at Slainte Irish Pub for dinner before the show. I copied Google Map directions for the place and even armed with them, we still somehow got ourselves hopelessly lost. Hamilton is a mess of one-way streets, none of them going the right way, and Slainte turned out to be on something closer to an alley than a street.  But with help, we eventually made it, and had an excellent and quite reasonably priced dinner. I'd recommend this place heartily to anyone who can find it.

We sat with the band, and afterwards went to the theatre. I felt like I had an all-access pass: before the show, Craig took us up to see his perch above the stage, "where the Kit Kat Klub Band" would soon be belting out the tunes. I got to flip through his book...the music didn't look overly challenging at first glance, but I hadn't heard it yet.

What use permitting some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret

Actually, I'd heard almost nothing of this music, and knew less than that about this musical. I had archived on some level that it was set in 1930s Berlin, that Liza Minnelli had played some sort of iconic role...and that was about it.

Right from the opening flourish, it was obvious we were in for a treat. The band really DID "cook"...just a little ensemble of trumpet, sax, clarinet, bass, keyboards and percussion, but the score was masterfully written so that each instrument could play off all the others, making the group sound bigger and bolder than it was.
And the actors! I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't that level of panache and showmanship. The singing, the dancing...all excellent. You'll laugh (the Emcee alone is worth the price of admission) and you'll cry (the ending is....dark)  and you'll marvel at a wonderful story well told. 

Afterwards, we got the rest of the backstage tour, and then parted ways for the trip home. Got back here a little after midnight.  All in all, a great night. If you get a chance to see Cabaret, do it...even if Craig Robertson isn't playing trumpet in it.

Life is a cabaret, old chum
It's only a cabaret, old chum
And I love a cabaret

21 March, 2014

"That Is Because You Crazy"

I know it's silly, but I feel bad for Harold.
I haven't seen the new addition to the household yet--Eva believes it's a girl--but I did turn in my key to Harold this morning and I have the car a little pat on the rump as I went off to work.

I'm not going to tell you I'm crying over this car. If I was still a child, though, I would be.

I don't know how old I was when I accompanied my dad--I think it was just my dad--to the junker's. Too young to remember why we were there, but old enough to go exploring. I found something deeply, deeply disturbing about the smashed up cars there. Cars missing doors, cars with shattered dashboards, one car with a steering wheel embedded in  a seat...I couldn't shut off my imagination, much as I wanted to. And then I ducked into one particularly well bashed in vehicle and  found a colouring book on the floor.  The implications of that took a while to filter into my brain, and once they did, I was an emotional wreck. From that day forward I wanted nothing to do with junked cars. It took some cajoling, not to mention a rearrangement of my brain, to get me to go with Eva to a demotlition derby years ago; truth be told I'm still not all that comfortable with the idea of cars being smunched. My adult brain knows that there is no other purpose for these things anymore, and further that cars are inanimate objects that have no feelings; my inner five year old claps his hands over his ears and yells "don't care!" And now I imagine our 2003 Echo, which always has been and still is a good car, is headed off to get disembowelled. Maybe his frame will sit in some junkyard, rotting. I rather hope he's recycled, that parts of him will emerge in a new, even gayer car.

At least Harold isn't a 1984 Plymouth Horizon...

20 March, 2014

Upgrading the Wheels

It's time. Time for a new vehicle.

Harold the Happy Homo will be headed to that Great Bathhouse in the Sky tomorrow, or at least to the local junker. Harold is a 2003 Toyota Echo, and the story of how he got his name is right here.

Yes, he's a gay old car. Not that there's anything wrong with that. He's served us very well: two trips to Florida and a myriad of shorter jaunts (for Ontario values of 'short': my dad is four and a half hours away from here...five counties over, and that's still well within southern Ontario.) We've crammed all manner of stuff into that capacious back end of his, including some things you'd swear would never fit. As I say, somebody reamed this car out but(t) good: the trunk on an Echo is shockingly large. Very few problems over the years, but we're getting to the point where stuff is going to start costing.

And we'd like something bigger, something a little more capable of dealing with winter. Eva's got a commute now, and some of it is on roads that get a little hairy. Our Harry has coped with them...okay...but now that Eva is on her way to being half her size, she's no longer the anchor she once was. A 2003 Echo driven by Eva2 stays on the road. Driven by Eva, it has a tendency to blow around.
No cruise control on Harold, either. Nor iPhone/iPod accommodation... nor various other features that are commonplace now were either unheard of or unaffordable to us in 2003.
And one other thing: Eva wants something with road command. Now, granted, the Echo sits higher than many sedans. The two other cars I've spent any time in at all recently, I find either difficult or almost impossible to get in to, and this was in fact one of the biggest reasons we got Harold in the first place. You can get in and out of an Echo without having to do painful things like bend.
So yes, Harold sits high, but not high enough. It seems the road is full of SUVs these days that you can't see around and you sure as hell can't see over. They're forever blocking your view at intersections and making driving even more of an adventure than it needs to be. Given all this, and given also that the new vehicle's going to have to be big enough to take Princess Alexa and her subjects to Disney a few years hence...if you can't beat the SUV crowd you might as well join it.

There were four vehicles on our list: a Ford Escape, a Kia Rondo, a Hyundai Tucson and a Mazda CX-5. All four came recommended from people who had them. For external appearance, I especially liked the new Escape, but none of them were hideous (well, the Rondo was kind of ugly-cute in the same way Harold is...if we'd gone that route we probably would have called the Rondo Harold's big gay uncle or something.)
The Mazda had the advantage of fantastic fuel economy. People were reporting figures better than the EPA ratings, which is practically unheard of. Since I don't see the price of gas going down any time soon, or ever, that was a serious plus.
We ran the figures for insurance and discovered that the Escape cost considerably more to insure than any of the other three. The Kia dealership was  on the other side of the city and extremely inconvenient; also, in months of looking, we'd seen seemingly hundreds of Tucsons, a smattering of CX-5s...and exactly one Kia Rondo. I like to blaze my own trail as much as the next person, but you have to figure there's a good reason certain car models are popular.
 These may sound like pithy reasons to disqualify a vehicle, but we had arrived at a point, pre test drive, where the four seemed interchangeable...and let's face it, car shopping is stressful. We wanted to trim the list down to two, and so we did.

Honestly, I was hoping the Mazda would win out. Great fuel economy, very good quality...seemed like a worthy choice. Until I got into it.
It just didn't feel right. I can't be more specific than that. Eva can--she'll tell you that the controls were just that little bit awkward to get at, and that the seat was too firm in some places and too soft in others; for me, it wasn't any more or less comfortable than Harold, and that seemed...wrong, somehow, for a brand new car. And the salesman really didn't seem to take our interest very seriously, which was a strong turn-off.  (As usual when making a big purchase, we went in dressed--not grungily, but extremely casually. We have found over the years that many salespeople focus on your appearance rather than your intent. As someone who unfailingly does just the opposite, I find this rude and insulting.)

So we went to the Hyundai dealership, and before we pulled in, we told each other if this thing felt wrong, too, we'd hit Kia up as soon as we could.

It didn't. None of it did. The salesman was much more welcoming...unlike the Mazda man, Shane took us around the Tucson going over numerous features before we even got in.  On the test drive he mostly let the thing sell itself, and it did. Of course it was cavernous...after an Echo, almost anything would be. But it also felt cosy, It felt like a vehicle I could spend a day in without noticing.

When Shane came back with a price $3000 less than the CX-5, for a vehicle with more features, well, that clinched it. We pick up the Tuscon tomorrow. I want to call it Timmy Tuscon but as Eva says, its name is its name: we'll know it soon.

15 March, 2014

Looking Back (III)

As published March 23, 2006

Say hello to the Sunkist Man...

...all juice, no seed.
Yes, I had "the procedure" yesterday, the one where they 'fix' you. I still don't know why they say 'fixed' when they mean 'broken'. 
The transition of Ken Breadner to Scooter the Neuter began with our third and worst miscarriage. To this day, that story is very painful to narrate: suffice it to say that my wife went in for a routine ultrasound at the three month mark only to discover the baby had died inside her weeks before. I was regaled with stories about people who had miscarried umpteen times before delivering a perfectly healthy child (or, often, two, three, or thirty). Eva and I talked it over, and I decided I couldn't risk putting her through that ordeal again. Because of a myriad of complicating medical factors--polycystic ovarian syndrome, the diabetes it spawned, incompatible blood, just to name a few--"that ordeal" was, while maybe not assured, very likely.
And so we embarked on the adoption option...and, as an aside, we all know how that turned out.
No matter: the decision not to 'have our own' meant snippage was inevitable. 
I hemmed and hawed about that for awhile: like any man, I have an inordinate attachment to my genitals, and the thought of mutilating them, even to a good purpose, took some getting used to. Back in November, I saw my family doctor, and he referred me to thespecialist in town, a Dr. Hickman. This man's a nutcutter extraordinaire: outside his office, there for all to see, are the Golden Testes, with the motto below: over ten thousand severed. 
With stats like that, I thought, it's something of a wonder that those virulent anti-abortion wackjobs hadn't painted a big fat bullseye on the guy.
It took some doing, getting in to see him. His office lost my records twice, leading my G.P.'s secretary to dole out some harsh words. Finally, some four months later, I had my consultation.
My initial impression: Dr. Hickman is Boredom personified. His voice made a monotone seem melodious: you almost expected to see ticker-tape spilling out of his chest. 
Then he had me drop trou so he could examine my "area". I stopped being bored in a hurry as he poked, prodded, and punched around down there. Jesus, I thought. I feel like my nuts have just gone three rounds with Rocky Balboa, and this was only the consultation? 
Dr. Hickman informed me that I had the option of a prescription for Lorazepam, a.k.a. Ativan, a.k.a. the frying-pan-to-the-noggin-drug. He said that one out of every twenty men took the option. I thought about that for a while. If he had said nineteen out of twenty guys took the Ativan, or even half of them, I probably would have gone along. Instead, he said one out of twenty. I searched the monotone for signs of derision and found none, so I made up my own. Ha, I thought. That means one out of every twenty guys is a big PUSSY. I've always wondered exactly how many PUSSIES are walking around. Now I know. 
In a firm, very unPUSSYlike voice I announced that I would be fine without the drug. A few more robotic instructions (shave a week beforehand; wear light clothing, the room's hot) and the official countdown began: thirty six days until The Cruellest Cut.

Last Sunday was Shave Day. This was a first for me, and I don't mind telling you I was almost as nervous about this part of the operation as I was about the other. I trust my wife implicitly, but thanks to carpal tunnel her hands occasionally play dumb: the idea of those hands steering a bunch of whirling trimmer blades swashbuckling around my pubes at high speed didn't exactly put me at ease. All those verbs...too many things could go wrong...too many things that could force me to change my name to Kendra. If God had intended scrotal sacs to be shaved, He wouldn't have made them so wrinkly.
But the trim proceeded without incident until the very last stroke, when a tiny fold of scrotum was momentarily caught, causing me to shriek like a little girl. Some people actually find genital shaving sexy and arousing...freaks. 

I was treated to any number of vasectomy stories from people at work. One guy got infected--gee, thanks, I needed to hear that!Somebody else's friend's vasectomy didn't work the first time. One rep told me his doctor had asked if it was okay to bring a student in to observe. He said sure, and what to his wondering eye should appear but a cute co-ed, about 23. "If I get excited", he claims to have said, "do we have to put this off?"

Friday drew inexorably closer. I got to wondering whether I was, in fact, a member in good standing of tribe PUSSY, because I was losing sleep. Not over the vasectomy: that decision had been made and reinforced. No, I was losing sleep over my stupid macho insistance to undergo my alteration...unaltered. 
Every pubic hair emerged with a little twing! The itch was maddening at times. Each time I imagined the procedure to come, my testicles would shrivel up and try to run away like a couple of tumbleweeds. Miaow.

Comes the night before, and when I'm not laying awake, I'm dreaming. I dreamed that I was basking on a beach as far from Dr. Hickman as it was possible to get without a rocket, and suddenly some sort of strange eel was biting my scrotum. I dreamed that I was late for my vasectomy, and the doctor had, so sorry, freshly run out of anaesthetic. I dreamed that I entered the doctor's office to find him drunk out of his mind. ("Well, not completely out of his mind," said one of my colleagues at work the next day. "He was just half in the bag.")

"Break a leg", the same wag told me as I left work en route for Hickman's Hideaway. Before I knew it, I was staring at the Golden Testes again. Over ten thousand severed...

I brought a book in with me, Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. I have recently discovered this author, and really like him. The idea, of course, was to immerse myself in Stephenson's world so I wouldn't have to think about what was happening in mine. 

A cute nurse named Carol came in and gave me a heat pack to shove down my underwear. My mind oscillates back to the story from that Christie's rep...might she be looking in? Am I to be granted that special Penthouse Forum moment that all man yearn for and so few attain?
She left, taking my disappointment with her. Fear swirled around in her wake, with a renewed sense of PUSSYness. 
Then came the doctor, done up like a sterilized Grim Reaper. He swabbed and lotioned and--what the hell is that, a condom? Carol, get back in here! Oh, never mind. 
"Okay, you're going to feel a little pinch here", said Doctor Hickman, and yup: little pinch. Pshaw. Did I lose sleep over this? I went back to reading, but soon noticed the strangest pulling sensation. 
"Do you feel that?"
"Yeah. Weird feeling. And I feel like I have to urinate, but I don't."
About ten seconds later a wave of pain came out of nowhere and threatened to carry me off. I hissed and tensed and tried not to cry. 
"Does that hurt?"
"Yah-HAH!" Why the hell do they ask such stupid questions? Naw, that doesn't hurt at all, and if you get just a little closer to this fist here, I'll show you how much it doesn't hurt.
The pain went down to a dull roar, and I went back to Neal Stephenson. I found myself reading the same damn passage over and over with no idea what it said, so I put the book down and tried not to think about the feelings coming from between my legs. 
It's strange. You feel everything except the pain. Somewhere in the back of your head a voice is niggling away, going you know, this should fucking HURT. But it doesn't. Instead you just feel heavy, as if your basket had been replaced with that of an elephant. 
Snip. At one point it sounded like he was using some kind of rachet. Don't think about it.
Presently, an announcement: "Right side's done." I asked him if I was going to feel another blast of pain as he started the left side, and he replied that I would feel some pain, but it shouldn't be too bad, as he had re-applied freezing. Sure enough, the left side didn't hurt near as much. I picked up the book again and breezed through a couple of pages, snip ratchet man do I have to piss!
Then I feel the curious and not-entirely-pleasant sensation of skin being folded back into place.
"There. Finished."
"Well, that wasn't such of a much."
"No," he said. "There was more pain than usual on the right side--the freezing didn't take right away, for some reason. There's no bleeding from the vas, which is good"--d'ya THINK?--"but there's a bit of bruising on the right. Shouldn't be a problem, though."
I thanked him and he bustled out, soon to be replaced by Carol, who didn't look half as cute now that I was, in the words of Pink Floyd, comfortably numb. We chatted for exactly twelve minutes and then an oven timer DING!ed. Time to go.

One last thing to dread: the wearing off of the anaesthetic. As it turned out, that wasn't so bad, either. I was told that the aftermath would feel just like I'd been kicked in the nuts. That's about right--but it takes two hours for the freezing to abate, so at its worst, it feels like you were kicked in the nuts about two hours ago. There was a scrip for Tylenol-3's in my post-op kit, but I didn't need them. 

Today I feel a little tender--occasionally, how do I put this, my nuts pucker a little. Sitting's fine, standing's fine, getting from one to the other is a bit touch-and-go. My biggest complaint, though, is not being able to shower until Monday night. I feel dirty already. But I also feel relieved. You could say, in fact, that there's a vas deferens between the fear and the reality of a vasectomy.


I didn't gloat about it much at the time, but I'd like to remind everybody here that the anaesthetic didn't take. He started sawing into my scrote while I could still feel it. I hereby claim many MAN points for stoically withstanding that kind of pain. Oh, for sure, tears ran down my face...but they ran stoically. I cried out in pain, yes, but in a very stoic fashion.

This post dovetails neatly with the last one, about our failed adoption process, in that this too was a very firm decision about a lack of children in my life. Only this time it was a decision I made myself. 

The closest I've come to regret at the vasectomy, both before and after, was the recurring thought that I'm the end of the line. If my dad is disappointed at this, he's never said it...which hasn't stopped me from hearing it, in my imagination, at times.

Admittedly, I've never felt the biological imperative to create carbon copies of myself. I was not an easy child to raise and I'm not an easy man to live with and I've known both of these things almost since I've had a sense of self. The thought of raising another me, even one tempered by Eva's passed-down charms, fills me with a sense of existential dread...which is why adoption was such an inviting prospect, until it got yanked out from under us. I still think I'd do well with kids, just maybe not "my own". And at 42 going on 84, I'd feel more like Grandpa than Dad. 

But that, again, is a passing fling of a thought, usually triggered by children behaving adorably. Children behaving badly--and I see more than enough of that, working where I work--make me want to run away. I will say this: not once have I ever thought of reversing the vasectomy. 

I do wonder what sort of person I'd have turned into if I'd gone down that other road, though. I can't help but think about that every once in a while, and it's not the sort of question that can really be answered. I read a study recently that showed that parenting is the source of life's greatest joys and its greatest miseries...parents live an amplified life. I strive above all else to maintain an even keel, so either I'd succeed and be the same rock-in-the-storm I pride myself on being...or I'd crack, which is something I'd rather not think about.

Once again it's time to bring Douglas Adams out: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be."


14 March, 2014


So Rogers is starting to shuffle Don Cherry off towards retirement. And with him, presumably, Ron MacLean.

Word is that George Stromboulopoulos is going to take over hosting duties on Hockey Night In Canada once Rogers assumes editorial control next season.

The only people who have no emotion over this, seemingly, are those few so-called Canadians who do not care one whit about hockey. Everyone else has weighed in pro or con. Surveying around, very few people are unabashed Strombo supporters: most people seem to view him as an interloper from well outside the hockey world, even though sports broadcasting is where he started his career.  No, it looks like people aren't so much pro-Strombo as viciously anti-Cherry (and to a lesser extent, anti-MacLean).

There are certain touchstones in Canada that derail sane, rational discussion. As in many countries, mention of anything that could conceivably have anything to do with government is like a spark to a bomb: here, it immediately brings about a brouhaha between hyper-partisan Harper supporters and people who believe Stephen Harper is some sort of devil.  But we have odder talking points in Canada, and they revolve around coffee, donuts, and hockey.

None of these things, I'd wager, is a reliable topic of conversation in, say, the U.S. of A. Outside certain hockey-crazed communities (and contrary to popular Canadian opinion, not all of them are in the northern half of the country), our national sport does not register in the lower 48. America may be the birthplace of Starbucks but just try to find one on an Interstate. You can traverse most of the length of I-75 without finding a coffee chain; sometimes it seems like you can't go across the street in Canada without being in view of a Tim Horton's. It's by far the  most popular fast food outlet in the country and most of them are packed at all hours of the day, especially this month.

About that, though. Mention coffee and/or donuts in any context in Canada and a cavalcade of people will descend upon you and tell you that Tim Horton's is evil, their coffee is poisonous, and their donuts are rotten. You are not allowed to disagree with any of this and retain your humanity.

And then there's hockey, our national winter sport (the national summer sport is lacrosse, and comparatively few Canadians have ever even seen a lacrosse game, live or on television.) I'm tempted to say that EVERY Canadian has seen at least part of a hockey game, and a solid majority of us are a little bit fanatical on the subject. Our fanaticism extends well beyond individual teams and players and into the personalities that surround the game.

Don Cherry is one such personality. Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that.

The Upholstered One has been pontificating from his seat opposite Ron MacLean on Coaches Corner for thirty three years. In that time he has been voted one of the Ten Greatest Canadians and courted seemingly endless controversy. There are people who don't even watch Hockey Night in Canada but who tune in at 7:50 every Saturday night just to catch Coach's Corner; there are others who say they don't watch ANY hockey on Saturday night simply because 'that racist, misogynist knuckle-dragger' is part of the program. Cherry has rabid fans...and much more rabid haters.

And why? Because people seem to be incapable of differentiating between Don Cherry the person and Don Cherry the persona.  The persona is gruff, brusque, everybody's opinionated old uncle. In today's vernacular, there are zero fucks given. You think a man who gets his Saturday suits at Fabricland cares what anyone thinks about him?

Well, yeah, he does, because he's human. Beneath that persona is a teddy bear with a heart of gold, the most generous man you could ever hope to meet. He's forgotten more about hockey than most people ever knew and he is an unabashed cheerleader for the game played hard but clean...as he would say, "the Canadian way".

The garish patriotism grates on people a little, I get that. But let's make a couple things clear here: one, Cherry is Canadian, Kingston, Ontario born and bred, so you wouldn't expect him to cheerlead for any other country, now, would you? Two: the man turns eighty this year. He's of a generation well before political correctness, a generation for whom frankness and clarity of speech are a prized virtue.

He has some views I disagree with. Strongly. I don't share his love of 'rock-em, sock-em' fighting in hockey. I don't like some of his politics. But for some weird reason, I don't hate the man. On the contrary, I respect and admire him.

I'm sorry, I don't see why people feel justified in hating him. I don't understand how anyone can claim to hate a man they've never even met. But that kind of free-floating hatred is everywhere these days. You're not allowed simply to respectfully disagree with something or someone: it must be STUPID or EVIL or both. Names are called (supposedly Don Cherry is misogynistic...I was surprised the person who called him that could spell it. How they square that with him having married not once but twice, not to mention his close friendships with the women who play hockey for Canada...I have no idea.

What do people get out of hating so easily? The few times I've felt raw hatred in my life, it hasn't sat well with me. Like every other kind of stress for me, it settles (or rather, unsettles) in my gut. I feel poisoned by it. Doesn't everyone feel that way? Apparently not.

I know nothing about George Strombolopoulous, and even if his hosting of Hockey Night In Canada rubs me the wrong way, so what? I'm there for the hockey game, what are you there for?

09 March, 2014

For a friend: Why Are Men Arseholes?

This blog is for a good friend. She knows who she is.

"You always hurt the one you love, the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can't recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all."
 -- The Mills Brothers

"Each man kills the thing he loves." --Oscar Wilde

"Love of my life, you hurt me, You've  broken my heart, and now you leave me." --Queen


There are dozens of similar sentiments scattered throughout song and story...so many that it almost seems like love and sabotage are synonyms. It's yet another of those cultural tropes I simply do not understand. Love and pain are opposites. Love is a salve for pain, and (to me, at least) the desire to inflict pain is a symptom of hatred, not love.

I'm not talking about unintentional hurts. A close, loving relationship actually increases the chance of these, for a while at least: in your desire to know every corner of your partner's mind, you can occasionally stub your toe on rocky mental outcroppings, and everyday life lived in proximity inevitably chafes if you let it. 

No, I'm talking about the big, blatant and obviously premeditated hurts, the kinds of things I've seen all too often inflicted on friends I care about, leaving me speechless with sympathetic pain, seething with muted anger and frustrated with my inability to lance the boil. Shared pain may be lessened...but I want a way to make it gone, to make it didn't happen. 
When someone hurts a friend of mine, they hurt me as well. Often, believe it or not, it's a physical pain...at its worst it feels like a punch in the gut, except it can last hours or even days. My mind is poisoned with a desire to hurt the hurter, and it can take an inordinate amount of skullsweat to restore equanimity. I must constantly remind myself that nobody is a villain in his own mind: everyone, without fail, acts in what they perceive to be their self-interest...and some people's concept of self-interest is remarkably narrow.

What to make of a man who leaves his partner, seemingly on the spur of the moment...but oh so casually lets it be known as he goes that the leaving had been planned and facilitated over months, that he had an apartment all set up? And then, months later, suddenly shows up on her doorstep proposing marriage? Sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? It brings to mind another cliché that makes no sense: "

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone...--Joni Mitchell

"...only know you love her when you let her go..".--Passenger

"...and it feels like I am just too close to love you
so I'll be on my way"--Alex Clare

Such bullshit. Of COURSE you know what you've got, or you wouldn't make the choice to make it gone. And you know you love her before you let her go--you've told her as much, haven't you? Were you lying? Evidently. And as far as being "just too close to love you"--that's right up there with the stupidest snatch of lyric I've ever heard in my life (It's you I love, but every time I think of you I throw up."

This sort of behaviour is almost (not quite) exclusively male.  As my friend says, "why are men such arseholes?" To which I bristle a bit internally--I'm a man, am I an arsehole? --before conceding that yes,  it does often seem like there are more arsehole men than women.

Lest anyone get the idea I'm blowing my own horn with these sorts of posts--trust me, I'm not. I have more than my share of faults and I'm sure many of them are just as incomprehensible to the average person as this is to me. That acknowledgement doesn't lessen my confusion, though.

To be fair (or at least as fair as I am capable of being when a friend of mine is hurt), it's not as if many men have real role models when it comes to love. Although there has been some progress over the last couple of generations, there remains a hell of a lot of work to do when it comes to raising boys. Men are still tacitly encouraged to bottle up, or even distrust, their emotions. Empathy is seen as a weakness rather than the great strength that it is. And women are so hyper-sexualized in this society that when you consider the empathy boys aren't generally raised with, it's little wonder so many women are seen as little more than notches on a bedpost. 

That doesn't, or at least shouldn't, excuse lying, cheating, leading a double life. And in my view, at least, some errors are so grievous, so fundamental, that they forever alter the relationship. It doesn't mean that some things are unforgivable...everything is forgivable. I means that forgiveness doesn't obligate someone to abrogate natural consequences. You choose to leave me in the most painful way possible: fine, I can forgive you and wish you well...but I'm not taking you back. Ever. If you had said anything, anything at all...even something as hackneyed as 'I need my space'...there are lots of ways to grant that space within the context of a relationship. But just buggering off one afternoon, when that morning, like any other, you were full of endearments? Securing an apartment and having his parents help him clean it up and repaint it, on the sly,  over a period of a couple of months? Frankly, that strikes me as sociopathic. 

And here I hear my dad reminding me the number of sides to any story equals the number of people in the story, plus the truth. Granted, I don't know this man, have never even met him, and I don't know his side of the story. But I think his actions speak -- quite loudly -- for themselves. Obviously he felt he had good reasons for leaving...he sure put a lot of effort into it. And just as obviously he feels he should be unequivocally forgiven that 'momentary' lapse in judgment and allowed to continue as if nothing had happened. Cut and dried, really.

I can't tell you what to do. I CAN  tell you what I'd do. Walk away.Trust that while it sometimes seems like all men are arseholes...some of us only *have* arseholes.

06 March, 2014

Looking Back (II)

There are several posts I like from 2005, but only one deserves to be republished, in light of what an earthshaking effect it had on our lives.

As published April 18, 2005

Shock; Anger; Denial; Bargaining, Acceptance

These are the five stages of grief, as first expressed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. She stressed that there is no order to them, that regression is common, and that grief takes time to overcome.
Grief, we have been told time and time again, is central to the whole issue of adoption. The adopted children feel it, obviously, in response to the loss of their birth families. Birth parents feel it in response to the loss of their children. And adoptive parents often have to come to terms with the loss of their 'dream' family, conceived 'naturally', before the adoption process can even begin.
Oh, yeah, and you can rocket through a bunch of grief stages when Family and Children's Services determines you don't make the grade as parents. That happened to us, tonight.

They didn't tell us "no". They told us "not yet", but made that feel so much like a "no' that right now, stuck in the first three stages of grief which I seem to be feeling simultaneously, I am pretty much unable to tell the difference.

Oh, Tom positively showered us with praise while he was cooking up that plate of bile. Our philosophy of childrearing is "sound". He likes each of us and says we're wonderful people. We're also immensely "quotable"; he has repeated some of what we've said to others. There are no anger management issues. We have empathy for children. We've put a lot of effort into the process and been very open with him. We have some degree of openness towards birth families. We seem patient and stable. We communicate. And we had great references.

All those positives are outweighed by what is obviously a huge negative: WE DON'T HAVE CHILDREN. Or rather, we have little experience with children. Tom doesn't have an adequate sense of what kind of parents we would be. Our house doesn't feel like a house with children, or that is prepared for children. Our references, great as they are, don't place us in context with children.

So our file is closed; over a hundred pages of application and supporting documentation, not to mention 35 hours of class time and nearly twenty hours of intensive homestudy, means absolutely squat. We are to get some experience with kids and come back, in a couple of years...and start the whole thing over again.

Right now, I can't tell you I have the slightest desire to go through this again. It has been grueling, completely independent of the end result; that end result just tips the scale over into total despair and acute frustration.

To me, it's as if I worked my way through many years of medical school, only to be told right near the end that I can't get my degree in medicine because, well, I haven't had any experience as a doctor.
I always seem to come up with the juicy zinger just after it would be any use. The thought I
had was: Tom, you had better get your ass in gear confiscating all the children from parents who had no experience of childrearing before they popped kids out.

This hurt me a great deal more than I would have expected, mostly, I think, because it came from so far out in left field that I never even thought to look to see it coming. I was somewhat prepared for rejection on the grounds that I was spanked as a kid, or because my family dynamics are wonky...Either excuse would have been a giant pile of bovine excrement, of course, but those were issues we had covered. This, well, it's flabbergasting. Incomprehensible.

Those first three stages of grief:

S hock
A nger
D enial

How fitting. I'm feeling pretty sad right now.

There are still pangs, for both of us, nine years later. They're comparatively rare, but undeniable.

 Before I met Eva, I was pretty leery of kids. None at all was fine. One would do. Two was unthinkable.
I have no experience of siblings. Many people have tried to explain siblings to me in what to them seem like rational terms, and I remain utterly mystified. It's like this: it's okay if one brother punches the other, but if somebody outside the family punches either, he'll have the other in his face right away. "MY PUNCHING BAG! MINE!" Having never experienced a brotherly punch, I can't say for certain that they hurt less than punches from strangers, but logic would suggest they don't. A punch is a punch is a punch. And of course there's all the hurtful things I've heard siblings say to each other, things rendered even more hurtful by intimate knowledge, and the saving grace in all this, at least until both of you decide to stop acting like children, is protection from the same behaviour inflicted on you from outside the family? Sure, eventually as adults you're (hopefully) friends. But that's a long time to wait and a lot of abuse to suffer for the sake of a friendship that isn't even guaranteed--after all, some people never stop acting like children.

In all my life, I have known two sisters and two brothers who treated each other like human beings pretty much all the time. Both pairs of siblings are identical twins. Perhaps if my brother had lived past two days, I might have had a friend to share my childhood with. We'll never know.

Eva was able to show me i'd make a good father--hell, I might have even tamed the wild beast that emerges in one sibling when another makes an appearahce!-- and I knew she'd be a good mother, and every time I tell the adoption story to anyone even now, I'm thinking they must think we're monsters. I mean, the reason given to deny us kids was such patent bullshit that I just can't help thinking that. "Your house doesn't feel like a house with children in it." THAT'S BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE CHILDREN IN IT YET, YOU SHITBURGER!  "Go spend a few years with Scouts, or Big Brothers, or Rent-A-Kid, and come back and start the process ov-WHY THE JEEZLY FUCK DIDN'T YOU TELL US THIS TWO YEARS AGO BEFORE WE WENT THROUGH THIS GRUELLING PROCESS, YOU WALKING CHUNK OF EARWAX!

(And no, I do not have a temper. That was one of the things that social worker praised me for, just before he broke out the heaping helping of bullshit. Try a little irony, Ken, it's good for your blood.)

That's all anger dredged up out of the past, and I've taken a couple of deep breaths and drained it away. There. Gone now. Fact is, we've fully adapted to not having adopted. Both Eva and I have had the opportunity to touch a myriad of lives--for the better, we hope--and if the chance to shape a couple of lives has been denied us, well, we'll just have to touch a few more. Every time a harried Facebook mom posts a status update like HOW DO I GET MY BRAT DOWN OFF THE CHANDELIER, I feel compelled to take a shot at it, childless though I may be. And in real life? There's my niece, who is the kind of child whose sibling would just HAVE to be a holy terror, because she's positively angelic. (And I keep saying this, but she's *frighteningly* intelligent. She communicates better at two than I did at 4. Seems to like me, too, but that's not unusual: Kids almost always do. (Are you listening, Tom the Social Worker?)

Still sometimes wish we had kids...but we don't, and that's okay.