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Friday, October 22, 2010

Crossing the room is cool

By DARREN HANDSCHUH

I will always remember it as one of the greatest moments in my personal hockey history.

It was not a Stanley Cup and I didn’t score the championship-winning goal with one second left on the clock.

No, it was nothing quite so glorious. 

It was a minor thing that I would guess no one else even noticed happened.

It was the day I got to cross the room.

I was 16 years old and had been playing the greatest game ever created by God for about four years.

I was always a first- or second-line player, and being a defenseman I was always on special teams. I would like to say it was because of my amazing skill, but it was more likely attributed to a lack of defensemen in the league.

I was never one of the elite, until that fateful day.

In the hierarchy of the dressing room, the really good players sat on one side of the room, the middle-of-the-road players (that’s me) sat in another area while the bottom feeders sat in a sort of dressing room purgatory where they could quietly chat among themselves.

They were usually kept separate from the better players so their suckiness didn’t rub off and cause a super-jock to become an on-ice weenie.

It was not a planned separation, but one that occurs naturally in the wild. 

Have you ever watched a nature special and seen that one lone lion sitting a few feet from the others? Well, that is the third-string lion. That is the lion that is called upon when all the other lions are too tired to play another shift and chase down a gazelle, or a tourist or whatever.

The lion was not told to go there, but knew that was where it belonged. It’s the same thing in the dressing room.

Anyway, it was about half-way through the season and I was heading to my designated spot on the mediocre side of the room when the best player on the team summoned me.

I mean this guy was it. He was the top scorer on the team, in the top five of the league, team captain, and all around swell guy.

“Hey, Darren, why don’t you sit over here?”

He said this from the super-jock side of the room and motioned to an empty space on the long, wood bench. I had fantasized about sitting on that bench and sometimes, if I was the first one on the change room, I would actually sit there for a second before scampering to the so-so player section.

But here I was, me, a lowly D-man who averaged only a handful of goals a year being called to sit with the best our team had to offer.

Needless to say I accepted the invite. I grabbed my gear and headed to the ‘good’ side while the rest of the players watched.

The mediocre players swelled with pride as they watched one of their own take the next step in the hierarchy of hockey.

The bottom feeders did what they always did – found a shiny object to keep themselves amused.

“Hah, so long losers. I’ll be seeing you from the top of the mountain.”

I didn’t actually say that of course. Instead I sat down, looked around and the world seemed a much better place.

I also remember that game because it was in the second period when my hockey days nearly came to an end.

This was before they had automatic icing whistles and I was racing a guy to the puck when a little tug by his stick 20 feet from the boards threw me off balance and I went into the boards knees first.

I remember hitting the boards and then watching as the play headed the other way. I tried to get up but for some reason my legs just wouldn’t work.

I remember laying on the ice thinking, “That’s odd. They were working when I got here.”

The coach came running out and some of the players gathered around and helped me to my feet.

As is tradition, everyone started to cheer when I got up.

It doesn’t matter what shape the player is in, the fans will cheer when he is taken off the ice. If he is in a stretcher they cheer as he is wheeled away.

The player could be hauled off in two separate bags and people would still cheer.

Fans would be yelling, “Way to get decapitated. Good effort.”

Meanwhile the coach is screaming, “Walk it off, walk it off. OK, Johnson you’re in.”

And that is exactly what my coach told me to do - walk it off. Being young and not too bright, I was never one to buy into the whole ‘give your self time to heal’ thing.

I finished the game and then went dirt biking that afternoon.

C’mon, I was 16 and indestructible. My knees were a little stiff the next day, but not sore enough to cause any concerns.

Of course, now at middle age, if a stiff wind hits my knees I hobble like Quasimodo for the rest of the day.

Walk it off? How about I sit it off in front of the TV or something, that is more my pace.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fish food for hounds

By DARREN HANDSCHUH
It was supposed to be a pleasant trip to a provincial park to watch the salmon run, but it morphed into a journey of horror and disgust.
Well, more disgust than horror.
The biggest salmon run in 100 years happened this fall, much to the surprise of 'experts' who never saw it coming.
How do you not see millions and millions of great, big fish? Sure it's a big ocean, but aren't these guys supposed to be the authorities on this type of thing?
The ability to keep an eye on the fish should be part of the skill set for a job where one of your main tasks is keeping an eye on the fish.
Anyway, millions of the gilled swimmers made their way up area waterways to spawn and continue the cycle of life. Reproducing for humans is quite easy in comparison. Some flowers, a few drinks, take the wife to dinner and viola procreation is well on its way.
These fish have to swim hundreds of miles - up stream the entire way - just to reproduce, but I bet if man was required to do the same thing, swimming would be a national obsession.
Anyway, we loaded up the van, and headed to a river that was literally overflowing with bright, red salmon.
It was an impressive sight and was fascinating to watch.
Because the area we were heading to was a wooded park, we decided to bring the family hound for a walk and give him the chance to pee on trees he had never peed on before.
We strolled along the banks of the river while the mutt pulled at his leash and tried to sniff and pee on just about everything he could reach.
Then he spotted dog Nirvana - a giant, rotting fish at the water's edge.
He immediately tried to roll in it. Why do dogs do that? A cat would never roll in something that smells that foul, nor would most people I know, but to a dog, a rotting carcass is too great a prize to ignore.
He almost made it too, but a quick tug of the leash saved us all from a nasty ride home.
That's not so disgusting you may be thinking. Wait for it, when it comes to a young, energetic dog and dead creatures there is no other option than a disgusting outcome.
We managed to keep the hound away from a few rotting fish, but somewhere along the line he managed to eat a small piece of said fish.
OK, now we are getting into the disgusting area I was mentioning earlier. Rolling in it is bad enough, but why in the name of all that is holy would you want to eat something like that?
Dogs truly have no barriers when it comes to their culinary cravings.
Nobody actually saw him eat the piece of fish. It wasn't until he barfed it out that we learned of the riverside snack. C'mon, you knew it was coming, and I did warn you it was rather disgusting.
Forever seared in my memory is the image of a foaming pile of dog upchuck the beast deposited smack in the middle of a busy trail.
With dozens of people watching, we tried to figure out what to do. I had a doggy bag, but there was no way it was going to work on the pile o' barf, and we knew we could not leave it there, so my wife stepped up, grabbed a stick and pushed it off to the side of the trail.
My wife has been an RN for more than 23 years and has seen some really gross stuff over those years, so she has built up an amazing immunity to stuff that makes me want to join the dog in a barf fest.
Often she will ask, "Do you want to know what I did at work today."
The answer is always, "NO, I do not."
While I did everything possible not to look, my lovely wife took care of the incident without so much as a change in facial expression.
Once the pile of goo was cleared out of the way, we headed back to the van with a story to tell of a river full of fish and yet another reason why I do not let dogs lick me - ever.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just call me grandpappy

By DARREN HANDSCHUH
I had a brief look into the future the other day.
No, I was not staring at a crystal ball or paid the great 'psychic' Imafullanonesense to tell me what my life will be like when I am older, instead, this glimpse into what is to come was delivered through the school system.
And I have to admit, I rather enjoyed it.
Junior is in Grade 9 and the other day he was handed a baby (a plastic, computerized baby) to take care of for a day.
The baby would cry, be fussy, make noise and even need diaper changes and Junior had to look after the electronic bundle of joy for 18 whole hours, but by the end, I think he gained at least a slight idea of what caring for a little one is all about.
When I came home from work, Junior was sitting at the laptop trying to play Farmville with one hand while rocking the fussy baby with the other.
I could not stop smiling.
"So Junior, how is parenthood going? Having fun?"
"Not really, I can't get her to be quiet."
More smiling.
"The baby is a little fussy, hmmmmm, that sounds familiar. Oh well, let me know how it works out for you."
I then went about making supper, all the while keeping an eye on Junior as he tended to the baby.
Even more smiling.
Junior realized very quickly this squeaky little thing was a lot of work. He could not walk away for a second before the little one starting making noise.
My cheeks still hurt from fall that smiling.
As my kids get close to the end of high school, it will only be a matter of time before they head to college, get married and have little ones of their own.
It is kind of hard to picture myself as grandpa.
My dad's dad was a grandpa and he was old. My dad is a grandpa and he is old, so when I become a grandpa that must mean I am...
Well, I guess I can be a young(ish) grandpa, can't I? Why not? I am sure there are many young grandparents out there, no matter what their birth certificate says, and I plan on being one of them.
When my parents became grandparents I noticed a change in attitude, especially with my dad.
This was not the same man who raised me.
Where were all the rules? Where were all the do's and don'ts?
Who is this man and what did he do with my father?
Case in point.
When Junior was around three years old, he went to the store with grandpa who was getting the morning newspaper.
Upon their return, I noticed Junior was eating something.
"Dad, you did not give Junior chocolate for breakfast?"
"Um, no, well, sort of, but the chocolate has milk in it and there is peanut butter filling as well, so technically, I gave him milk and peanut butter, nothing wrong with that."
Like I said, this is not the same man who raised me.
By watching your parents you learn how to be a parent, and now watching them as grandparents I am getting some idea of the joys of grandparenting.
Basically, the little ones are done on grandpa and grandma's terms.
Junior made a stinky? No problem, call mom and/or dad and they will take of it. Once the changing is complete, grandpappy steps in and takes over.
Kids are fussy, messy, or having a fit? No problem, call mom and/or dad and when the problem is resolved, step in and resume the role of grandpa and/or grandma.
No wonder kids love their grandparents to much. They feed them chocolate for breakfast, all they do is want to do is have fun and they very rarely enforce any of the rules.
I can hardly wait.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The correct answer is...

By DARREN HANDSCHUH

Do you ever get the feeling you are never going to get it right?

No matter how hard you try, the answer will always be wrong. 

OK, I should correct that with 'almost' always.

The question, "Does this make me look fat?" is always, without exception, answered with "No, of course not" which is the correct (and life-saving) answer.
Do not ever - even jokingly - answer, _The jeans don't make you look fat, but your ass sure does."

No matter how many blankets and pillows you have, the couch is just not a comfortable place to sleep.

But my wife does not ask that question very often, and when she does, she knows the answer she will get. 

The correct way to answer that question is universally known and it is likely the only time a pastor would tell a 'little white lie' rather than risk getting a 'little black eye.'

There are other answers that are not so easy to provide.

For example, my wife has asked me if something were to happen to her, would I remarry.

The first time she asked this question I answered, "Depends, are there going to be any hot chicks at the funeral."
Sometimes having a sense of humour can be hazardous to your health.

After calming the situation - and dodging several items thrown at me with the velocity of a major league pitcher - I decided on a different tact.

"Of course not, Sweety, you are the only woman for me - forever."

"Good because, if you do remarry I will come back and haunt you."

Actually, the little woman insisted I find another Mrs. H ├▒ after an appropriate time of mourning of course, like 30 or 40 years.

When I asked her the same question, a slight smile came across her face and her eyes glazed over as if she was envisioning a wonderland in some distant Nirvana.

"Um, er, ah, of course not, Sweety, you are the only man for me - forever."

Let's move on, shall we.

Another common question, "What are you thinking?"
Well, based on the last set of questions and answers I am thinking it might not be a good idea to have such a large life-insurance policy. It is not easy to sleep with one eye open.

My wife has said she would never divorce me, but hey, accidents happen and people strangle themselves in their sleep all the time.

"I don't know what happened, officer. I woke up and he had somehow smothered himself with his own pillow. It is strange for sure. Say, I noticed you are not wearing a wedding ring..."

I kid of course, I have been married for 22 years and they have been the best 15 years of my life.

But here's a little tip for all you ladies out there, if you ask the 'thinking' question and your significant other says ├Čnothing,├« he means it.

It is actually possible for men to think about nothing. This has been scientifically proven. Why do you think NASCAR is so popular?

A man can sit and watch and think of nothing for hours on end, while still taking in a sporting event.

The real danger comes when the little woman wants her man to tell her how he is feeling.

Gentlemen, we're are in some tricky territory here.

I have learned it is important to tell her how you are feeling, but it is even more important to make sure how you are feeling is how she wants you to feel.

This is a vital skill every man should learn - trust me on this one.

I hope these little tips will help the male brethren out there, now if you will excuse me, I have a lot of nothing to think about.