Sunday, June 18, 2017

Man's disgusting best friend

Where would the world be without dogs?
They are man’s best friend, loyal companion and are great at cleaning up food dropped on the floor.
I never truly appreciated that last quality until I had my first kid.
Junior spent more time throwing food on the floor than he did throwing it in his mouth, much to the delight of our two mutts.
The dogs were a little put out when we first brought this squawky little human home, but once he was old enough to eat from a high chair, all was forgiven.
The hounds clued in real fast that the squawky little human was a good source of treats.
Problem was, once Junior got old enough to interact with the dogs, he discovered that if he dropped something they would pounce on it and soon it became a game.
He would be flinging grub around the kitchen like the lid had come off a blender and the dogs were lovin’ every minute of it.
Dogs are also good at barking their heads off when a hoard of bad guys are at the gate and about to invade your home, or if someone walks by, or they hear something, or they think they hear something.
They're a food-disposal system and alarm system all rolled into one. Who could ask for anything more?
Actually I could ask for a few less things, such as a dog’s ability and willingness to eat really disgusting things.
A friend was thoroughly repulsed when he noticed his then three-month-old hound chowing down on a nice, big pile of deer droppings.
He literally had to pull the beast away from the stack of mouth-watering morsels and the closer he got to the hungry hound, the faster the pooch would eat.
I readily admit, I have never sampled deer droppings, or any kind of droppings for that matter, so I cannot definitively say they taste terrible, but I have also never smashed my kneecap with a hammer and I am pretty sure that would hurt.
For some reason, their dog finds stuff like that very appealing. He is now much older and still scrums down on doo-doo every chance he gets.
I present you with reason No. 2 why I never let a dog lick me — ever.
Why is that reason No. 2, because reason No. 1 is equally as bad, but more common among our furry, four-legged friends.
Reason No. 1 is universal among canines. While not all dogs eat poop, every dog I have ever had has eaten their own vomit.
Why? I don’t know. If a cat hacks something up, they look around like someone better clean that up."
If a dog yacks something up, they look around like, “Hey, hey, where did that tasty morsel come from? Don’t mind if I do.”
And then they do.
Don’t blame me if you find the subject gross. I don’t make them dine-on-dog upchuck, I am just saying they do it.
Dead things are also a popular entrée for hounds — the deader the better.
My dog brought in half a dead mouse that the cat killed and left outside in the middle of January. Murphy the Wonder Dog thought the mouse-sicle was the greatest find ever.
He came bounding into the house with his prize clamped firmly in his jaw and I had to chase him down to see what it was. I finally got hold of him and he clamped down even harder.
It took a minute to figure out what it was, but as I looked closer I noticed his treasure was staring at me with a buggy mouse eye.
I added that to the ever-growing list of why I don’t let dogs lick me — as if poop and puke were not reason enough.
Man’s best friend — absolutely — a very disgusting best friend, but a best friend nonetheless.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Friday, June 9, 2017

Yes, I am a spider wimp

I'm man enough to admit it.
I'm not ashamed to admit I made a noise typically reserved for a small, frightened child before fleeing like I was on fire when it happened.
And I had every good reason to be scared, because it was scary.
It happens every spring and gets worse as the days get warmer and stretch into the summer months.
But with all the rain this year and the cooler weather, it really hasn't been that bad.
"It" is interactions of the spider kind.
I hate spiders. Not many things in this world scare me as much as an arachnid. Big, small, fat, skinny, you name it, if it's a spider I do not like it.
My most recent encounter with one of the eight-legged terrors was when I was working in my garage.
I grabbed a pair of coveralls I have hanging from a nail to do an oil change on my car.
For some reason, I shook the garment before putting it on, something I never do.
Call it the voice of God, dumb luck or some other glorious interaction of the divine kind, but when I shook it, a large spider fell out of a sleeve.
Eeeeek! does not even begin to describe how I felt. And this was no ordinary spider. This guy must have been on steroids because I have never seen one this big, this early in the year.
Sure, there are billions of little spiders roaming the area, and being the big, tough guy that I am, they hardly bother me, but this one was the size of a bagel.
It was so big, I could feel the ground vibrate as it fell from my coveralls and landed on the concrete.
OK, maybe the ground didn't vibrate, but I did pee a little and jumped 10 feet straight back as the black mass of doom raced for cover under a nearby cupboard.
It was at that moment, I knew I must take action, for if the monstrosity managed to find cover, I would likely never be able to enter my garage again knowing it was in there, watching, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
So, I summoned up all of my courage and sprang into action: I leapt across the room and smashed my foot down on the offending critter with such force my toes were numb for an hour; the impact of rubber sole hitting the smooth concrete was so loud it sounded like I had shot the spider instead of crushing it to death.
At least, I hoped I crushed it to death. I stood for second frantically looking around to see if the beast,which must have been some sort of Jurassic spider because of its sheer size, was embedded in the bottom of my shoe.
Slowly, I lifted my foot and to my relief I found an assembly of spider guts and legs smooshed into a gooey mass.
Yay, me.
I had survived a potentially lethal encounter with an arachnid.
Then one of the scariest thoughts I have ever had formed in my mind: if this spider was that big this early in the year, what will be waiting for me over the next few weeks.
Even as I write this, I shudder at the thought.
Perhaps going outside is over-rated.
Perhaps there are benefits to living in a sealed room with filters and screens and anti-spider lasers surrounding the house.
Am I over reacting?
No! No, I am not.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Look out, here comes Grandma Dinomite

It was one of those things that was so odd, it was funny.

I was driving down the street when a little, old lady in a silver car pulled in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid some up-close-and-personal interaction with granny.

I managed to slow down and swerve to the point where the collision was avoided. You could say I was a little annoyed at the almost accident, until I noticed it was a kindly, little, old lady behind the wheel.

That changed my attitude rather quickly because who could possibly be mad at granny?
And besides, stuff happens, no one is perfect and I was sure she simply did not see me. No biggie.

I gave granny a little toot on the horn just to let her know I was there and we almost got to exchange phone numbers and insurance information.

This sweet, kindly, granny-looking, little, old lady, peered into her rearview mirror and proceeded to flip me the bird. 
I must admit, that was probably the last thing I expected a little, old lady to do. Shouldn't she be at home baking cookies for the grandchildren, or knitting something instead of making an obscene gesture?
Especially when you consider it was Grandma Dynamite who was at fault in the first place. And this was not a quick flip of the driving finger.
This was a prolonged, hey-butthead-behind-me-I-got-your-granny-greeting-right-here kind of gesture.

It took a couple of seconds before I fully realized what was going on. At first, I thought she was waving to say sorry for almost causing our insurance rates to go up, but most people use all five fingers to do that.

I stared for the duration of the salute and sure enough granny was giving me the what for with a certain finger reserved for non-verbal communication of the unpleasant kind.

So I did what any other driver would do, I got in close, hit her car from behind and spun her into the on-coming lane where she was creamed by a dump truck.

I'm kidding, of course. It was a cement truck.

In reality, all I could do was look on in a mild state of shock. I pulled up beside the car to make sure it really was a granny and not a teen wearing an old-people costume, but sure enough, this was a full-fledged, grandma-type driver.

I tell you, seniors are getting harder and harder to raise these days.

Once the initial surprise wore off, I had to chuckle at granny for not taking any crap from one of those young whippersnappers.

Now, I have never snapped a whipper in my life, but according to Hostile Hilda in the Honda, I was just some punk kid with an attitude. A punk kid who, at the time, was in his mid-30s.

What is the protocol in that situation? I couldn't give her the finger in return. Flipping granny the bird would be too strange and just seemed plain wrong.

Two wrongs do not make a right, no matter how good that second wrong feels.

Eventually, granny went her way and I went mine, both with stories to tell:
  • Hers was of some jerk in a little, red car who was harassing her with his horn.
  • Mine was of a member of the blue-hair crowd who gave me hope that when I become a senior, I won't have to take any guff from some punk on the street.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I nod, you nod, we all nod

I call it The Nod.
The Nod is when you are walking down the hallway at work, or down the street and you see someone you know, but not very well.
Usually, it is an upward nod for an acquaintance.
And how much you do the up nod depends largely on how well you know the person.
If it is someone you have seen once in a while, there is just a slight upward nod to say yes, I recognize you, but don't really know you. But because we both sort of know each other, social convention dictates we acknowledge each other, so I am sending you the up nod to say I know you, just not very well.
The better you know the person, the bigger the up nod.
A full head tilt means I know you to the point there have been a few conversations, but you are not exactly on my Christmas card list. However, there is a personal connection and I am acknowledging that.
Then, there is the up nod with a smile or perhaps with even a “Hey” thrown in.
This is for people of an even higher social status, but are still not at the point of being considered a friend.
However, their presence is important enough to warrant a full up nod and a vocalization that I see you there, I have some sort of connection to you and in general I would consider it a favourable connection.
There is also the down nod.
The down nod is almost exclusively for those people you don't know at all.
Perhaps you are walking down the street and happen to make eye contact with someone who is also walking down the street.
Rather than stare at each other awkwardly, social convention has developed the down nod.
The down nod says several things:
  • I see you and acknowledge that you are in fact, alive.
  • That you exist on the same planet as I do and because we made eye contact – intentional or otherwise – it is polite to acknowledge that we are both alive and living in the same community even if we don't know each other and will likely never see each other again.
  • It is sort of an “Attaboy for being alive” kind of greeting.
There are numerous variations of the up nod/down nod. And they can be altered to best suit whatever situation you may find yourself in.
You could run into someone you have known for a long time, but don't like. That is when the down nod is acceptable.
But nodding is mostly used for face-to-face encounters.
While operating motorized vehicles, there are other forms of non-verbal communication that can be employed.
We all know what the No. 1 signal is for drivers, but only slightly behind is when you use all five fingers to wave.
Cut someone off in traffic? No problem, a little wave of the hand means I see I cut you off and I acknowledge the fact I did so, but I gave the little wave so that's means it's OK because I just apologized.
Whether the other driver accepts the apology is determined by how many fingers are used to wave back.
If it involves two or more, all is good. The driver is not offended and realizes stuff happens. If they wave with only one finger, then they are not in a forgiving mood.
Cut someone off in a parking lot?
Give them a little wave and all is good.
Nearly hit them backing up in said parking lot?
Pull out a little more than than you should have, causing them to touch the brakes and have a hostile look on their face?
Run over their garbage can, flower box and garden gnome?
Wave and you are good to go.
Well, that last one may require a little more than a wave.
Perhaps a wave and a nod.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some free advice for the ladies

Ladies, if I may, I would like to offer some free relationship advice.
I would like to talk about communication between men and women — neither of whom actually speak the same language.
Men can communicate, but not in the same way you ladies can. When guys get together, there is tremendous communication about important things like hockey, cars, the job and other important matters.
What men rarely talk about is emotions.
"Y'know Bob, when you said my mustache looked cheesy, it made me feel all bad inside. It made me feel less attractive."
"I'm sorry, Frank, I meant it as a joke. C'mere, gimme a hug. I love you, man."
I have never, and I mean ever, been a part of such a conversation and I have been a guy for as long as I can remember.
Because men rarely talk to each other about emotions and feelings and all that gooey stuff, we are not very good at talking to our spouses about those same topics.
Women talk freely about their feelings and emotions and how their emotions make them feel. 
Practice makes perfect, and when it comes to talking about inner-most feelings, men are sadly out of practice, while women could make it an Olympic event.
My wife could easily make the national team on sharing feelings, while I would be relegated to the water boy. 
So here is where I will impart my meagre wisdom upon the world, even if it doesn't want it.
When it comes to talking about feelings and emotions, ladies, I implore you to talk slowly, use simple terms and most importantly of all never assume we know how you feel, because we don't — ever.
It is not that men are dumb (I know, there's lots of room for argument there), or we don't care (still more room), it's just we can't pick up subtle hints the lady in our life thinks is a blaring clue as to what is wrong.
If there is a problem, subtle hints work about as well as trying to knock out an elephant with a feather.
But if you say it in simple, straight-forward terms, the chances are much better our man brains will be able to connect with that little, tiny, miniscule part of our grey matter that controls emotions.
Yes, men (most men anyway) do have an area where they can look at and examine their emotions.
It is typically buried under a pile of brain clutter consisting of information about motorcycles, hockey, movies and why beer and nachos are possibly the greatest food combination ever devised.
But once you get through all that stuff, the emotional brain does exist. But subtle hints have little chance of getting past all the other things we find interesting and important.
Not that our significant other's feelings are not important, they are, honest, really, I mean that, but over the centuries men have had to concern themselves with matters other than our emotions such as hunting for food, defending their land from attacking hoards and watching the play offs.
I doubt there is a man alive, now or throughout history, who has not had the line, “Well, you should know how I feel” dropped on them.
We don't know. It's that simple.
After many years of marriage, I can tell when something is bothering my wife and she has learned subtle hints don't work and the direct approach is most often used.
See how it works?
My wife tells me how she is feeling and I recognize how she is feeling and then we have a big, happy talk about how she is feeling. I apologize for whatever it was that made her feel that way and life can get on as normal.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Do you see what I see....probably not

It would seem God gave men and women different eyes.
The mechanics are the same, with retinas and all those other eyeball thingies, but they just don't see the same things.
For example, there can be a few items on the counter and, to a man's eyes, they are just fine where they are, but to a woman they are clutterish (if that is even a real word) and they must be put away — immediately.
A guy can look at the items many times and not see a need to do something with them. That is not to say men are slobs.
OK, some men are slobs, or neatness challenged as the politically correct world calls them, but I am talking about a couple of minor items here.
A woman, or more accurately my wife, can look at a room and see a dozen things that need to be done, changed, moved, cleaned, burned, have an exorcism performed on them or simply left alone.
I can look at the same room and think, Looks good to me.
So how come her eyes can see such a different world than mine do?
Beats me.
However, I have noticed that once we step outside, a role reversal takes place and I start to see things she does not.
Our lawn can be three metres tall with a family of rednecks living in it and she would not see a need to mow the grass. There could be more weed per square foot than Woodstock and she would simply walk by them every single day.
My man eyes, however, see the need to get the motorized lawn chopper out and make the yard somewhat presentable. The weeds, of course, must go, the hedge has to be trimmed, the trees pruned and something must be done with that darned spreading juniper that is attempting to take over the entire front yard rock garden.
“We have a spreading juniper? What's a spreading juniper?”was pretty much my wife's response when I told of the cedar situation that is threatening to create havoc in the entire western hemisphere.
I will show her the bush that is just slightly smaller than an aircraft carrier and she will invariably respond, “Oh, I never noticed it before.”
Funny how that excuse does not work when it comes to a pile of laundry.
“What do you mean you did not notice it? How could you not notice a pile of laundry next to the wash machine behind a closed laundry room door? It's so obvious. Juniper? What juniper?”
Let's just say the yard work has been left mostly to yours truly. Fortunately, I have two big strong sons who willingly jump in and help me with the back 40.
OK, willingly might be a bit of a stretch. I think forcibly is a more accurate description of their helping out with the greenery.
My wife's eyes do notice the gas guage now, which is a good thing. For a while she had a blind spot for that particular vehicular function and I would often jump in the car to go somewhere to find it had less gas than a squirrel fart.
But that's OK, I never quite did get the hang of noticing when we were out of conditioner (Hey, I'm a bald man, conditioner is not a real big concern for me.)
But eyes can be trained. My eyes have learned to notice when the floor needs to be vacuumed, but for some reason I am still somewhat blind to a pile of dirty dishes.
My wife has figured out the gas thing, but for some reason remains oblivious to the plight of the lawn.
Perhaps glasses might help us both.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, May 7, 2017

I'm not Gutzilla...not yet anyway

It was a sad day indeed.
I remember it vividly: the angst, the sorrow, the disappointment.
It was a day where I sat back and took stock of my life: the decisions I made to get me to this point; the paths I should have taken; the paths I did take. 
Yup, it was the day I could no longer suck in my gut to make it look like I didn't really have a gut.
Like I said, it was a dark day indeed.
I knew my gut was getting bigger. 
Hell, it was right there in front of me, so how could I miss it?
It seemed like every day my middle section became more prominent.
For a while, I could clench my abdominal muscles and make it look like I had a flat belly.
However, this could only be done for a short period of time before my face turned red and I passed out from lack of oxygen.
A small price to pay for beauty, though.
However, as Father Time continued to slap me around, sucking in the flab became harder to do until one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and realized no matter how hard I tried, my gut would remain out there for the world to see.
So I did the only logical thing: I bought larger shirts that would seem baggy on me and make me look thinner.
And it worked great – in my mind anyway, but at the end of the day, my abdominal shame was on display for all to see.
I had a shirt full of belly and I knew it.
And the stupid mirror knew it too.
Every time I would walk past the blasted device, my shame was there for me to see — protruding like some sort of carnival side show freak. 
Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it was noticeable.
I was hardly Gutzilla; that would be my neighbour who looks like he is 18 months pregnant with triplets, but I was hardly the svelte lad of yesteryear.
But then again, neither are my friends.
When I go a period of time without seeing them, the first thing I do is compare abdominal regions to see if they have outpaced me in the getting flabby competition.
Some of my friends have, some haven't.
Now, I just spend more time with the ones who are more abdominally enhanced than I am. Not necessarily because they are better friends, but because it makes me feel better about myself.
This works at the beach as well. The key is not to find the best spot with the best view, but to find the fattest person or people.
By dropping your towel next to a weight-enhanced individual, you automatically take a couple steps down the flab-o-metre. 
The problem is when someone does the same thing to you to make themselves look good. Eventually, there is a line of people from XXL to XL to L to M. all in a row along the beach.
But packing on the protruding pounds is part of getting older I suppose.
There are a few exceptions to the rule. I worked with one gentleman who was several years older than I was who was in fantastic shape. Flat belly, outstanding cardio – the guy was as fit as someone half, or even a third his age.
Yup, I really hated that guy.
There was a day when I could eat whatever I wanted and not have to worry about gaining so much as a pound.
Scrumming down a bacon cheeseburger with fries, gravy and Coke at 3 a.m.after a hard night of clubbing was not unheard of. 
And I would not gain an ounce of flab.
Now, just writing about the mouth-watering, late-night treat I put on three pounds.
So, if you will excuse me, I have some really baggy shirts to buy.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Excuse me, is that a lizard in your nose?

I know I'm not the only person who has had this happen because I have witnessed the dilemma from both sides of the table.
The other day I spent a few minutes chatting with a buddy  after church. Nothing odd or embarrassing about that – well, wait for it.
The conversation was not the problem. The problem was I had a booger hanging from my nose that was just slightly smaller than a Smart Car.
I had no idea this Green Monster of Ick was crawling its way out of my nose ready to destroy the world like a Canadian version of The Blob.
However, as soon as I ran into the Missus, she kindly pointed out I had this thing sticking out. The only thing that kept it from escaping completely was my abundant nostril hair.
Now, the question is: was the Booger of Doom hanging out the entire time I was talking to my buddy, or did it get loose after the conversation?
He never said anything about it, so maybe it wasn’t there. But if I were on the other side of the situation would I mention it?
“Hi, Brian, how are ya? Good to see you. By the way, you have a giant snot slinky slithering out of your nose. So, how are the wife and kids?”
It is not something you can casually slip into a conversation without the recipient of the news feeling at least somewhat embarrassed. And once the protruding bit of nose phlegm is pointed out, what then?
Does the bearer of the booger just go macho and wipe it away with his hand? If he does, will you shake his hand at the end of the conversation?
I thought not.
He could excuse himself, head to the nearest box of tissues and rein in the offending piece of matter, which is probably the most sanitary and least disgusting thing to do.
Of course, the conversation is over at that point. "Sorry, pal, I’ll be right back I just have to shake this booger loose.”
Not many conversations get restarted after such an interruption, unless the conversation is about boogers hanging from your nose.
If so, you have the perfect conversation starter at hand, or rather, in nose, or should it be partway out of the nose? I don’t know; booger etiquette has never been my strong suit.
When you are a kid, having a greenie hanging out is a topic of laughter from the boys and, usually, an ‘Ewwww, gross’ from the girls. Why boys find gross things funny is a topic for another column. But the younger the kid, the less they care about nasal discharge.
Every parent has seen their kids come home with glassy sleeves. To a kid, sleeves were invented to be portable tissues. What other purpose do they serve than to slide across your nose? To a kid, none. Being a snot collector is about all they do.
And children use the full length of the forearm – from elbow to wrist – without so much as a second thought.
Hey, I can remember being far too busy playing to go find a tissue and wipe my honker every few minutes. Besides, I had these cool sleeve things that were the perfect built-in tissue.
The sleeve device was always with me, I had two of them should one lose its absorbency and I did not even have to stop playing to take care of the situation.
Of course, as an adult I now know how truly revolting walking around with a sleeve or two covered in nose goo is, which is a strong argument for washing the children’s clothes separately from the civilized people in the house.
Like death and taxes, boogers are a part of life. I just hope to avoid all three for as long as possible.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Eeeeek, the bugs are back

Spring is, without question, my favourite season.
The snow is gone; the sun is out; the trees start to bloom and, over all, it is just a wonderful time to be alive.
There is, however, one small drawback to spring: the return of bugs.
The winter months, while cold, are a bug-free environment, devoid of the nasty, little critters that go into stasis until it is time to re-awaken and scare the snot out of me once again.
During the winter, I forget what it is like to have a creepy, buzzing, insect fly into my hair (what little of it I have) and twist around to get free.
This instantly and without fail causes me to thrash wildly as I try to get the vermin off my head lest I do something in my trousers I have not done since I was a small child.
In case you haven't guessed, I don't like bugs.
When I was a young lad, bugs did not bother me a bit. I used to catch them, hold them in my hands and, in general, I was at one with the insect. But the older I got, the less I liked them.
My first bug encounter of this year involved some sort of flying beast.
It was a cross between an ant and a pterodactyl, only bigger and scarier.
It landed on the back of my neck and threatened to work its way down the back of my shirt.
Without thinking, my ninja-like reflexes grabbed the winged horror. It squirmed between my finger and thumb and I almost – almost – screamed like a small, frightened girl.
As soon as I clamped down on the unholy abomination, my mind started to race.
First, I was amazed at how big this thing was. Shouldn't it just be a tiny little insect at this time of year?
This monstrosity was a full grown bug.
And whenever there is an encounter with a bug of any kind, the question looms: what kind of bug is it?
If you ask entomologists, they will say there are millions of types of bugs out there. I am not a bug expert, but I can tell you that there are only two types of bugs in the this world – ones that will hurt you and ones that won't.
I did not know what type of bug this was.
Was it the kind with a giant stinger, or pincers, or a knife — or a gun? Who knows?
Or was it one of those friendly, Disney type bugs that instead of hurting you becomes your adorable little friend?
I did not know and as I felt the beast try to get free from my grasp I waited for the pain. The searing, instant pain that only an evil bug can deliver.
All these thoughts tore through my semi-panicked mind in a nano-second. Time slows down when you are in great peril and holding some form of nasty bug between my fingers was great peril indeed.
As I pulled my hand away from my neck I looked at the critter and saw this brownish-red head with huge eyes looking at me.
However, there was no pain, so either I had it in such a hold it could not unleash its insect fury or it was one of those friendly bugs.
With reflexes that would make Chuck Norris look like a sloth on Valium, I threw the offending beast to the ground only to watch it spread it massive wings and soar away, blocking the sun as it passed.
I still don't know what kind of bug it was, and to tell you the truth I don't really care.
I survived my first up-close-and-personal contact of 2017 with an insect.
But if this is a sign of things to come, it's going to be a long summer.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, April 14, 2017

We don't need no stinking seatbelts

Every year, my parents would go on a two-week vacation that typically involved a marathon road trip somewhere in the United States.

We would all pile into the station wagon with the fake wood grain finish and head out on the open road while towing a tent trailer that would be our home for the next 14 days or so.

My parents would, of course, sit in the front, my two sisters in the back seat and my brother and I would lie down in the back with some pillows.

Seatbelts? We don’t need no stinking seatbelts.

We would wave at police as they went by and sometimes the police would wave back. No one gave it a second thought that we did not have any seatbelts and the only thing keeping us back there was gravity.

We were kids; we never thought of the possible dangers. What did we care if in the event of an accident we would rocket through the air like little, pink missiles. We had the back of the family wagon to ourselves and it was sweet.

It was a different world back then. We would drive at 60 miles an hour for hours on end and the only safety device my brother and I had were the pillows that would hopefully pile up at the windshield before we did, thus cushioning the blow as our young selves hurled around the interior of the car.

Other kids would be sitting in the back of their cars waving at us. It was like a rolling convoy of kiddie carnage just waiting to be unleashed.

When dad had to slam on the brakes, we would go sliding up against the back seat, books would be flying around, pens, pencils and what ever else we had back there with us would projectile to the front of the car.

A sharp corner had a similar effect only in a lateral manner rather than back to front.

It was kind of like a home-made rollercoaster, except there were no seatbelts.

We never thought of the possible hazards, nor did our parents, the police, the government or anyone else.

Now days, everyone has to wear a seatbelt, which is a good thing. You are also supposed to wear a helmet when riding a bike – another good thing.

As a young lad, I learned to ride a bike with no protective gear whatsoever.

Helmets? Those were for motorcycles. No one needed them on a pedal bike.

These days, when most parents send their kids out their bikes they have:
  • helmets
  • knee pads
  • elbow pads
  • a full suit of armour
  • home-made airbags on the handlebars
An still, some over-protective parent will run beside their child with a large pillow to throw beneath them should they have an unplanned dismount from their metal steed.

Of course, no child should be sent out without being completely encased in bubble wrap. That way, when junior crashes, all there will be is a multitude of popping noises as the child bounces down the street.

Crash – pop, pop, pop – bounce – pop, pop, pop.
“I’m OK.”

The kid will look like the Michelin Man, but the new mantra is safety first, so there can be no such thing as too much gear.

One area where safety has not penetrated is the world of skateboarders. You will see the occasional helmet, but, in general, the only thing between a skater’s melon and the cold, hard concrete is a hat or some goofy hair.

I guess it’s not ‘cool’ to be wear a helmet, but one good whack on the bean and you are eating Jello and playing with crayons for the rest of your life.

I am sure eventually the skater safety attitude will change and soon everyone on a skateboard will be covered in a titanium suit that could stop a speeding freight train.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world will already be several steps ahead in safety and all cars will come with dozens of airbags, all occupants must wear complete hockey gear – football gear would be an acceptable substitute for our American cousins – and, of course, the car, the driver and the passengers will be completely encased in bubble wrap.

Remember kids, safety first.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

When did riding a bike become so hard?

OK, something is wrong here.
Over the winter, I took up snowshoeing and encountered a worrisome situation: it seems Earth's gravitational pull is increasing.
How else can you explain how hard it was snowshoeing up a hill?
For some reason, trudging through the woodland realm in the middle of winter was challenging and the only thing I can think of is an increase in gravitational pull.
Has no one else noticed this?
It can't be me, because I am a in shape — the shape happens to be round, but it is still a shape.
I do exercise on a regular basis. No. Really. I do.
I go on my treadmill at least six days a week for up to an hour per session.
I used to do martial arts until Father Time slapped me around too much and I could no longer keep up with the young whippersnappers.
I also don't heal as fast as I used to, so it was time to hang up the gloves, but I still keep active.
That is why I couldn't believe how hard it was to go for a mountain bike ride.
I bought a new bike a few days ago and couldn't wait to go for a nice, long ride.
The bike is decent, not a high-end $10,000 bike, but a decent two-wheeled roller ideal for an old-ish guy like me.
Besides, if I had 10-grand to spend on a bike, it would come with a motor.
The last bike I bought was 22 years ago. It was fairly high-end and thanks to a buddy who ran the bike shop, I got a pretty darn good deal.
I put a lot of hours on that bike both on the street and cross-country trails.
I was doing martial arts back then as well, so I was in decent shape.
It has been a few years since I have used pedal power as a form of exercise, but it was always something I enjoyed, so I decided to dig out my old bike, which, after being used by friends of my teenage son, had seen better days.
I didn't mind as I figured I was due for a new bike anyway — buying a new steed every two decades is acceptable. I bought a new, shiny, black bike and as soon as I got home, I grabbed my shiny, new, black helmet and took off for what I knew would be an epic ride.
And it was, for the first few blocks. The epic transitioned into exhausting, especially when I hit the first hill. Half way up, I did the stop-and-get-off-the-bike-and-look-at-the-gears-like-something-is-wrong-so-I-can-catch-my-breath routine.
I was stunned at how out of shape I was.
This can't be right. I do a run/walk/lean on the treadmill for at least an hour a day. every day, so why was this so hard?
I used to rip up hills on my mountain bike like I had a jet pack strapped to my butt. Sure, I have not been on a bike for a few years, but this can't right. It should not be this hard.
Could it be that my middle-aged, somewhat flabby physique was that bad?
I was once a mighty athlete. OK, I was once an athlete. OK, OK, I attempted to play sports when I was younger, but now I could barely ride up a little hill.
Was I getting that old and out of shape?
Then, it hit me. Memories of the snowy climb that left me gasping for air flooded my mind, the sweat, the sore muscles, the gasping for air (I know I mentioned that once already, but I feel it was important enough to list twice) and I knew what the truth was.
I knew why things were so much harder: Earth's gravitational pull had increased even more since the winter.

I knew there had to be a logical explanation.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I thought this parenting thing would get easier

I thought it was supposed to get easier.
I thought the older the children grew, the easier the task of raising them would be.
I thought wrong.
When our first child was born more than two decades ago, I thought the task was insane.
The whining, crying – and that was just me; you should have seen the fuss the newborn made.
Going from no kids to one kid was a big leap. Raising the wee one becomes all consuming. You are at his every beck and call, 24 hours a day.
Feeding the little gaffer several times a day, changing his diaper every two or three days, I mean come on, how much can be expected.
I am kidding about the diaper thing, of course. As any parent knows, when Junior needs a diaper change, he needs it now and he is none too shy about vocalizing his displeasure when the garment that gathers recycled food matter becomes uncomfortable.
Eventually, the diaper days are done, then, it's potty training where you make a big deal when Junior goes poopoo on the potty.
Any self consciousness is wiped away by the time you finish dancing around the bathroom with a toddler because he made a stinky in the potty.
But with potty training comes accidents, so you never leave the house without at least one extra change of clothing because, as I learned quickly, when Junior has to go, he goes.
“Daddy, I have to go peepee,” said Junior while we were in a store one day.
“OK, son, hang on I will get you to the nearest bath....”
“Too late, Daddy. I already go.”
Cue the change of clothes.
Similar stories can be told of all my children, and I am sure every parent can relate.
I was prepared for that aspect of child rearing – sort of – before we had children. I knew once a child arrived, my life was no longer my own and I accepted and even embraced it.
I really did enjoy being a dad — maybe not the cleaning up barf from all over the floor, crib and wall at 2 a.m. — but, most of the time, it was a task I did enjoy.
It was fun to watch them reach milestones like:
  • successful potty training
  • going to school
  • going to high school, etc.
But I must admit, once they got into early adulthood, I thought my parenting stress and responsibility would reduce.
This is where the parents of adult children snicker at my naiveté.
I am learning one set of parental stress is simply traded for another.
Helping them through the early years of adult life is proving to be a bigger challenge than I thought. I used to think once you're an adult, you are on your own to forging your own path.
While they are forging their own path, that path leads through post-secondary education and that means money – lots and lots of money.
My two oldest are in university and working hard to get by. Both go to school full time and work part time, but they still need a little help once in a while.
When they are a few dollars short on rent, or tuition or books, it is often up to the Bank of Mom and Dad to help out.
So the stress of getting them out of the baby and teen years morphs into the stress of helping them through the young-adult years.
Not just the financial stress, but there is also emotional stress as they navigate life, love, loss and all that other stuff young minds encounter.
There's the stress of watching them make less-than-ideal decisions, or trying to help rein in the raging hormones of a teen girl (that is a story in itself.)
But that is just part of what parenting is all about, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Now, if you will excuse me, tuition is due for both of my oldest, so I am going on eBay to sell a kidney.
Any takers?

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Computers are nothing but pure evil

The more I use them, the more I am convinced computers are vile entities designed to make me crazy.

I suspect I am not alone in my assessment of the ‘marvels’ of technology.
Many movies have been made about computers running rampant and destroying humanity. I say we are almost there.
The electronic beasts have effectively taken over the world and are in control of everything from traffic lights to international banking.
They were supposed to make life easier, but as my home computer proved this week, that’s like saying alcohol makes people wittier.
My computer had been acting up for some time and the other day it gave the electronic version of a death gurgle and shut down.
My computer at work is in good shape, but it still drives me crazy because, after all, it is a still a computer.
Then there is the perennial problem of the electronic terrors crashing without warning. One minute you are merrily working away, your fingers happily caressing the mouse and then - BAM – you are left staring at an error message.
I think I know why quirky little things happen when using the infernal machines: computers are evil.
More than once I have wished I could bring a computer to life just so I could have the pleasure of killing it.
“Hi, I’m your computer. I have just come to life.”
“Really, that’s great.”
“Reboot that.”
Acting as a buffer between feeble-minded computer users – I’m not mentioning any names here - and the technologically bloated machines are the tech experts, who are sometimes referred to as geeks.
I, of course, would never call them that and have a deep and heart-felt respect for their astounding ability to communicate with said machine, and to correct whatever digital crisis the device may be enduring.
I really mean that. I am not just saying it because there’s a chance the company tech will read this and take offence to being called a geek.
Because if he were to take offence to the comment (which I am not making) the next time I go scampering to him for help, he might just stick his fingers in his ears and go, “La-la-la-la-la” until I went away.
Or worse, he might put his hands over his eyes and say, “Where’d the tech go? Where is he? He’s all gone.”
When it comes to fixing computers I am lost after re-booting, which is the first thing I do no matter the problem.
Smoke and flames could be pouring from the hard drive and my first course of action would be to reboot. If rebooting doesn’t work, I might try hitting it on the side like the Fonz would have done. I would like to add that never works on computers or anything else for that matter.
I would then think bad thoughts about the computer before running to our most beloved in-house computer tech who is not unlike a knight in shinning armour waiting to battle the evil, glitch-breathing dragon that has dared attack one of his flock.
One time I explained the problem, but he was too busy to tend to the matter immediately, so he rattled off some possible solution and asked if I knew how to do it.
I said I didn’t have to know how to do it. That’s what he was for.
He corrected the problem in about four seconds.
“The least you could do was make it look difficult so I could salvage some shred of self worth. Maybe spend a whole minute fixing it or something, I mean, c’mon will ya. Every body is watching.”
Maybe I’ll just sit back and wait for this whole computer “fad” to end.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a long wait.

Copyright 2017 Darren Handschuh

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm old and wise. I used to be young and stupid

It happened once again.
The clock kept ticking and another birthday came and went – just like it does every year.
I have been roaming this earth for a little more than half a century, soaking up knowledge and storing it in the vast intellectual vault that is my brain.
OK, I will admit a lot of that knowledge is absolutely worthless. Did you know cockroaches have teeth in their stomachs to break down their food? Now you do.
Just another useless tidbit of information I have archived over the years. I could barely remember the information in a book I am studying, but I do know all bananas have a very low level of natural radiation.
But I am much wiser now than I was 20 or 30 years ago.
There is a difference between being smart and being wise.
Smart will help you figure out quantum mechanics, wise will help you realize you are not smart enough to figure out quantum mechanics.
There have been many instances when I have passed my hard-earned wisdom on to my children – only to have it completely ignored.
Not because it was poor advice, but because teenagers know everything in the world that has ever been worth knowing.
Junior bought a truck a while back. A great big four-wheel drive that is much more truck than he required.
A co-worker asked me why he needed a truck that big.
“He didn't 'need' one that big, he 'wanted' one that big.”
And to a teen, 'want' and 'need' are very often the same thing.
While the truck is in pretty decent shape, it needed new tires before long
Wisdom told me the rubber would be expensive. And when I mentioned that to Junior, he replied, “I know.”
I told him they would cost more than $1,000.
“I know.”
I told him with the bank loan, insurance and his social life, coming up with that kind of money will be hard.
“I know.”
Well, the time has come for the rubber to hit the road and that rubber is going to cost a bundle.
When I mentioned it is time to replace all four tires, he replied “Ya, but they are expensive.”
To which I had the great pleasure of responding with, "I know."
My son is very smart, but he is not very wise.
What young lad is, really?
I wasn't at that age.
It has taken five decades to accumulate such a vast wealth of knowledge and intelligence. Well, knowledge anyway, I have never claimed to have an abundance of intelligence.
It is a shame you cannot download all that wisdom to your children, saving them from making he same mistakes you made at that age.
But because it is the first time they have done or experienced something, teens think it is something completely new and us 'old people' wouldn't understand.
What the kiddies don't appreciate is us 'old people' have already walked that path, we have already experienced what they are now just discovering.
I am sure my own father wished he could have injected his wisdom into my teenage brain, just like his father and his father before him.
But before you can be old and wise, you must be young and stupid.
I admit, I took the stupid part to new heights (well, new to me anyway), but what teen didn't do stupid things in the name of adventure and excitement?
Wisdom teaches you it is not smart to try and jump a barbedwire fence with your dirtbike. The stupidity of youth says 'Go for it, dude.'
Wisdom also knows new tires for a big truck are expensive, eating fast food several times a week is not good for you and the world will not stop rotating if you do not get the latest and greatest gadget.
Not all 'old people' are wise, and I have some peers who are still making some very dumb decisions. Fortunately, I am now wise enough to not make the same choices.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I love dinosaurs (and they love me)

I don't know what it is about dinosaurs, but I just love them.
I have been fascinated by the Jurassic critters for as long as I can remember.
Every time I saw a drawing of one, I always got this odd feeling inside. I am far from being a kid anymore, but when I went to a local dinosaur exhibit, I got same feeling all over again.
Perhaps I should have been a paleantologist instead of a media guy. Or a firefighter instead of a media guy, or a singing barber instead of a media guy or a...never mind, you get the idea.
Anyway, as a wee lad I just could not get enough of the ancient monsters.
Because in a way, that's what they were – real, live monsters.
Growing up, I had books on dinosaurs, life-like plastic dinosaurs and was (am) a fan of pretty much every movie ever made that includes a dinosaur.
I know the movies are not factually correct, but I am willing to over look that just for the chance to see a dinosaur moving and roaring.
However, as a kid all of my toy dinosaurs had to be factually accurate and a silly 'pretend' dinosaur would just not do.
Those dinosaurs usually ended up in the business end of my pellet gun. Which, I must admit, was pretty darn fun.
I would envision myself as being lost in time and having to battle my way past a hoard of gnashing teeth and flesh-ripping claws.
Of course the beasts always lost, and I was always the hero. Childish, I know, but give me a break, I was only 23.
Actually, I was around 10 years old when I got my first pellet gun and discovered the joys of shooting things – like rampaging dinosaurs.
But not the realistic dinosaurs. Those were far too important to fall to the lead projectile of my break-barrel air rifle.
I knew more about dinosaurs by Grade 5 than most kids know in a lifetime. By Grade 6, my teachers forbade me from doing any more book reports on dinosaurs.
By high school, dinosaurs had been replaced by my other passion: motorcycles. I have loved motorcycles for as long as I loved dinosaurs.
Cars, girls, work, motorbikes, girls - all distracted me and my focus on dinosaurs faded into the far reaches of my mind – until my son got old enough to become interested in things and he became interested in dinosaurs.
I did not prompt him to want books and toys on the great beasts, he just gravitated to them on his own. I was one proud papa, and in my 30s I was once again laying on the living room floor playing with plastic dinosaurs.
Junior knew a lot about dinosaurs. He knew many of their names, what they ate and other 'vital' information.
But he too grew out of the dino phase and the numerous plastic dinosaurs were relegated to a corner of his room where they waited to once again roam the earth.
They only had to wait a few years. A good friend of our had a son who was fascinated by dinosaurs to the point that was all he talked about, played with and drew.
This was my kind of little dude.
So I gathered up all the toy dinosaurs we had and, with the permission of junior, gave it to our friend's little guy who looked like he had just won the lottery as I handed him two bags full of the beasts.
Dinosaurs may be long gone, but they are definitely not forgotten.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why do you even ask?

“Why do you even ask?”
I have thought that a lot more than I have said it when it comes to queries from my wife, and it’s a question as applicable now as the day I got married.
I really noticed it during a pre-Christmas shopping outing. My wife and I were looking for items for her step-mom, my mom and sister.
My wife picked up an item for her step-mom and said, “What do you think of this one?”
Examining the sweater I thought, “Ya, that will do,” so I responded accordingly.
“Looks good to me. I think she will like it. The colour is nice.”
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t like it.”
She put the item back and kept on shopping.
This happened with the next two items as well, prompting the question, “Why do you even ask?”
After almost three decades of marriage I have learned not to ask that question out loud.
When I did express such sentiment the answer is always something along the lines of “Because I want your opinion.”
Now that is only part of the answer.
The full answer is, “Because I want your opinion which I will immediately disregard and go with what I think will be best unless I am in agreement of course, but thanks for playing along.”
Which brings me back to, “Why do you even ask?”
I could probably say just about anything with the same results.
“What do you think of this one?”
“I think it is perfect. If you do not get it, you are making a colossal mistake, one that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
“No I don’t think so.”
“Right, what I meant to say was it is the ugliest piece of rat cloth I have ever seen and even a beggar wouldn’t be caught wearing it.”
Either answer would typically get the same response, but at least she includes me in the goings on.
I am typically not offended by her inclination to disregard my advice. We both know my main goal when shopping is to get out as quickly as possible, so my answers may be skewed by the fact I am starting to break out in hives and am being overwhelmed by an urge to run like a madman.
My wife, however, has the shopping tenacity of a pitbull.
When she heads into a store it is with a purpose – until she gets distracted.
When men shop, they go in, get what they need and get out.
Browsing? What is the point of that? If I need something all I have to do is find it, buy it and get on with my day.
My wife on the other hand – and I have heard similar tales from my married male friends – will be looking for something and wander off to look at something else.
We can go into a store looking for shoes and she ends up trying on jackets.
“Well, I was heading to the shoe department when I noticed a really nice sweater that was on sale. The colour was similar to my jacket and I got to thinking how ratty it was looking so I decided to check out what other jackets they had…”
This is not her fault, nor is this a criticism of her or any member of the female persuasion. It is just that men think differently. Brain doctors, aka psychiatrists, have discovered men tend to have a more singular focus than their opposing gender counterparts.
With men, each thought has its own little box and being the big, strong guys that we are, we can usually only use one thought box at a time.
Women, on the other hand, can jump from one topic to the other with ease and even integrate topics such as trying on jackets while looking for shoes.
A guy would look at shoes, then, if needed, he would head to the jacket area of the store, his single-thought brain happily switching from shoe mode to jacket mode once shoe mission is complete.
Personally, I can only spend so much time in a department store or mall before my eye begins to twitch and I know it is time to leave or I will lapse into a grand mal seizure.
For my wife, shopping can be an all-day affair, and she will keep trudging through the store until she finds what she wants.
If she can’t find the item by closing time, she heads to the camping department to hunker down for the night.
She joins the myriad of other female shoppers who are setting up tents, digging out sleeping bags and preparing meals in what can only be described as shoppers’ refugee camp.
In the morning, the mass of die-hard shopping aficionados returns to their mighty quest.
Meanwhile, their husbands have fallen into a coma and can be revived only by sitting them in front of a TV – preferably with a hockey game on – and by putting a remote in one hand and a beer in the other.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Welcome to the army, kid

It was an anniversary I had completely forgotten.
It was 32 years ago I nearly froze my, um, er, ears off.
It all started when I joined an army reserve unit. I had officially been sworn in on Wednesday and the entire unit was scheduled to leave for a winter training exercise on Friday.
Not a lot of time to get a grip on the nuances of military life, but I had a feeling I was about to get a crash course.
We all had to be at the armoury no later than 2000 o'clock - that's 8 p.m. for all non-military persons.
I arrived shortly before 8 p.m. with all the gear I had been issued: nothing.
I then had to scramble around and try and get at least the winter kit I needed to survive two days in the frozen tundra of B.C. in January.
The sergeant in charge of supplies leapt into action and told me to wait and he would get to me, which he did after talking to his girlfriend on the phone for a half hour and then chatting with people he knew in the unit for another half hour.
Eventually he got around to doing his job which was to supply the new recruit with all sorts of neat army stuff, which he did – sort of.
I was presented with winter pants that were two sizes too small, winter boots that had no inner linings, two left-handed winter mitts; a toque that was so dirty not even a hobo would wear it and a jacket that, amazingly, actually fit.
And because it was a winter exercise, I was issued snowshoes – that did not have any bindings to hold them to my feet, but that is an entirely different story.
Once I got all my kit sorted out, it was time to get some sleep. But with more than 120 people all 'sleeping' in a large gymnasium type room, there was not a lot of sleep to be had.
Things settled down at around 2 a.m. and boy was I happy to hear reveille at 5 a.m.
And by reveille, I mean someone yelling 'Get the hell up' at the top of their lungs.
But I did get a whole three hours sleep, so I was ready to go.
I did not realize it yet, but the army was convinced soldiers did their best work when everyone was so tired they could barely muster a bean fart.
As we lined up to get our weapons, I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. That's when I heard a voice, a very deep voice, a voice that I would soon learn struck fear in all who heard it.
The voice said: Are you holding up that wall, private?
To which my groggy brain replied: Yup.
There was an audible gasp and I opened my eyes to see one of largest humans I had ever seen. He stood 6'8” and weighed more than 300 pounds and was not impressed with the skinny recruit standing in front of him.
I thought he was going to grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, but because I was a new guy he cut me a little slack and I learned to always know who I was addressing before I addressed them.
With wide-eyed people looking at me from all angles, amazed he did not grab me by the head and screw me into the ground, we collected the last of our gear and were ready to go play war.
We rushed to stuff our gear into ancient backpacks that I am sure were used by Genghis Khan and his troops. Officers yelled “Hurry up, move it, let's go, let's go, let's go.”
Which we did. We packed as fast as we could and then all lined up ready to pile into troop trucks – which arrived almost an hour later.
Welcome to the army, kid.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, February 10, 2017

The maim game is painful fun

I have a love-hate relationship with the tech world.
I am impressed with what can be done with electro gadgets these days, but hate when something goes wrong.
Actually, I often hate technology when everything goes right.
Nothing is more frustrating that doing everything right on a computer and it still won't do what it is supposed to.
Some would say that means I am not doing everything right and them I say...well, they are probably right, but I am doing everything I know how to do and it is still not working.
But I muddle along as best I can with my old-man brain.
However, one of the cooler areas of technology I have embraced is Facebook.
There are many aspects of Facebook I must admit I do not care for – pick a political meme, any political meme - but there are some really great things about it as well.
The coolest thing about Facebook is the ability to keep in touch with people all over the world. It also allows you to re-connect with people you may not have seen in a long time.
Such was the case when I connected with a buddy from high school. We took different paths after graduation and I have not seen him since, but through the magic of FB, we are once again able to 'hang out' and this time it is not painful in the least.
Let me explain. You see, when we were in elementary school this friend and I played a little game where we would try to maim each other.
It was nothing too serious, just good old fashioned youthful energy channeled in such a way as to cause each other occasional bruise, scrape or second-degree concussion.
I don't know how the game started, but there are two distinct incidents I remember well.
The first was in the gymnasium where the class was doing a variety of sporting type activities. I happened to have a basketball which, as most people know, is fairly hard.
Seeing my buddy standing 10 feet away, I looked over and said 'Hey, Jeff' in a very non-threatening manner.
He turned around and I threw the ball with every ounce of strength I had, hitting him square in the face.
I was quite pleased with my shot, and when he regained consciousness I was even happier.
He was out for about 10 seconds and I thought for sure I was going to get it. But instead he was very calm about the whole thing.
That was my first warning sign because I knew he was planning his revenge and for the next couple of days I was a nervous wreck.
Cue gym class again and we are playing softball under the clear blue sky.
I am on first base running to second when suddenly I see stars.
The next thing I remember is looking up at that clear blue sky while the gym teacher freaks out because one of her students has been doing the ball diamond slumber for almost a minute.
I have to admit, it was one hell of a good throw by my buddy.
A batter hit the ball to the infield and my friend grabbed it and fired a masterful shot, beaning me in the bean as I ran full tilt toward second base.
He claimed he was trying to throw to second, but we all know the truth and the smug look on his face showed how proud he was of his accuracy.
I had a headache for three days and am pretty sure that was the first time I received a concussion.
But all is fair in love, war and the maim game.
We carried on this way until we reached high school where such antics faded away as we matured and all that stuff.
Basically we got tired of always being on edge and always wondering where the next assault was coming from.
Being a young boy is not for cowards.

At least through Facebook we can't knock each other out...yet.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tobogganing the mountain of doooooom

There is a terrific tobogganing hill a couple hundred metres from where I live.
There are several grades from a leisurely slide down the hill to a rocket-like decent for the brave and foolhardy.
The best part is, the run off area is a football field.
My children spent many an hour sliding down that hill, as did numerous other kids from the neighbourhood.
There were even a few of us older kids out there once in a while, reliving our youth by taking a blast of frozen ice particles to the face.
I never had an actual toboggan when I was a young lad, but I have ridden on one and quickly learned the snow pours over the top of the wooden contraption and sandblasts, or rather snowblasts, you in the face, tearing off the first layer of skin and rendering you temporarily blind.
Good times.
But, the more the hill is used the less powder there is, until eventually, the snow packs down and the slope ices up until it is basically a downhill skating rink, allowing participants to break the sound barrier before they reach the bottom of the hill.
As a young lad, we would all gather at 'Suicide Hill' to do our sledding.
What else would a group of youngsters name a tobogganing hill? Gentle Slope of Fun? Slide of Silliness?
No, it had to be something dangerous, something that evoked the death-defying acts we were performing.
We were, after all, daring dare devils doing daring acts. Or something like that anyway.
Actually, it really was quite a dangerous place to go sledding and now that I am all grown up I wonder why we were even allowed to go down such a hazardous hillside. Where were the adults when I was growing up? Probably just happy to have us out of the house.
There were two runs: a short fast one, and a long slower one.
The short fast one went down a fairly steep slope before it leveled out. Doesn't sound too bad, does it? And except for the barbed wire fence at the end of the run, it wasn't. If you had too much speed, you actually had to jump off your mount to slow down or you would hit the fence – as had been done by many people on many occasions.
Torn jackets, scratches and even a few stitches were just par for the course.
The other run was much slower and if you did it right you would slide across a driveway, over a cross road and down another road that was even longer than the actual hill you started out on.
The full length of this run could only done when there was a fresh, unplowed snowfall blanketing the blacktop because sliding on bare asphalt is a bad idea any time of the year.
Aside from the risk of being run over by a 2,000-pound automobile, it was a lot of fun. Kids rarely factor danger into their activities, so we hardly ever thought about being clobbered by a car.
Our focus was on racing down the mountain and seeing who could slide the farthest, the fastest.
No one was ever seriously hurt, but one intrepid slider did crash into the side of a car, much the displeasure of the car owner who was more worried about a dent in his automobile than the head of the child that caused it.
That hill is now a housing development, so never again will a child be able to dodge a Dodge or find a way to stop before sailing through a barbed wire fence.
And perhaps that is a good thing.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Snowshoeing is fun, but gravity sucks

Did someone increase the Earth's gravitational pull and not tell me?
Because I did not get the memo.
My query is based on an experience I had on the weekend.
The Missus and I wanted to break free from the cabin fever gripping our souls and venture into the great outdoors where the air is fresh and you can pee on a tree without getting weird looks from your neighbours.
As this is not exactly hiking weather, we got our hands – well, our feet actually – on some snowshoes and headed for the back country to commune with nature and frolic in the woodland realm that is our majestic country.
This was the first time I had donned the large footwear in many years. The last time I ventured onto snow in such a manner was when I was a teenager in the army reserve.
We were on a two-day exercise in the middle of winter several kilometres in the mountains. We were flown in by Chinook helicopter -— those massive double-prop choppers –— and dumped somewhere in the mountains. Exactly where I am not sure, but I did know it had snow, a lot of snow.
So much in fact that when we jumped out of the back of the helicopter, the man in front of me disappeared. I mean one second he was there, the next he was gone.
As soon as I jumped out, I knew why because I sank up to my man nipples in snow and I was 10 inches taller than he was.
We managed to swim through the snow to the tree line where the powder was more manageable. I dug out the snowshoes I was issued and attempted to put them on. These were old-style snowshoe, and by old style I mean pre-Second World War vintage.
The age of the snowshoe was not a problem, but the fact they had no bindings to hold them to my feet made wearing them slightly more challenging.
I dug out some shoelaces from by backpack and fashioned some bindings so I could play soldier for the next 48 hours. Of course, at least half the snowshoes we were issued had no bindings, so everyone was getting creative in holding them to their feet.
We ran up hills, across fields, down hills and up more hills on those rickety old snowshoes, all the while carrying a rifle and a backpack full of stuff.
Now, fast forward 30 or so years and I have a very nice pair of snowshoes with the newest style bindings. They were light weight, stuck to my feet like glue and were easy to manage.
I did not have a backpack or weaponry of any sort, but the first steep hill we encountered nearly gave me a heart attack.
Which brings me to the question of when did Earth's gravitational pull increase so much? What other reason could there be?
I am a little older than the last time I snowshoed, well, OK, a lot older. I am also a little heavier, well, OK, a lot heavier, but still...
I have remained regularly active over the years (no, really, I have) and am not in horrific shape. Sure I am not exactly a mighty athlete (sumo wrestlers are athletes) but I did not think I was that out of shape, so it must be the increase in Earth's gravity that got me.
By the time the outdoor adventure was over, I was sweating like a fat guy in a sauna — or rather, a somewhat round guy on snowshoes.
Despite the challenges, sweat, a sore knee and general complaints from my flabby body, I had a great time and Missus and I plan on going out again.
I just hope Earth's gravity is back to normal by then.


Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh

Friday, January 20, 2017

I'm a weather wussy and I admit it

Dear Old Man Winter: Stop it.
I readily admit I am a weather wussy.
I am not a fan of snow, nor cold and when you put them both together as this fine nation does every year...well, let's just say a hacienda in Mexico sounds better every day.
My dislike of winter weather begins long before the snow flies. It actually starts when the frost begins.
You know those frigid morning where you haven't adjusted your schedule to accommodate the time you need to scrape off the diamond-hard layer of frozen water on your windshield.
And then there is the frost on the inside of the window. As the car is warming up and you have take a credit card out of your wallet and scrape the interior of your car windows, sending those little white snow-like bits of frost all over the dash.
And now you are late for work so, with the heater on full blast, you gingerly make your way out of your driveway while scrunching down to look through the tiny spot at the bottom of the windshield that the heater has managed to melt.
When you get to work, the windshield is clear and your car is toasty warm – just in time to park it for eight hours so it can return to being a car-sicle for you warm up again so you can go home.
At least you don't have to shovel frost, but you know when the frost comes, the white frozen water that falls from the sky is not that far behind.
One thing I do find very amusing about snow is all the people who say it caught them by surprise.
How does an entire season catch anyone by surprise. Unless you just moved here from that hacienda I was talking about, you know snow will eventually find its way to your doorstep.
It's too bad there was not some sort of warning the snow was coming. Perhaps a device with numbers, days of the week and months on it that would indicate what season it is.
I do not know what to call this device, but it sure would come in handy to help people figure out roughly when winter is going to make an appearance. We could even hang it on the wall where it would be easy to see.
Perhaps the old timers, which is pretty much anyone over two years old, could tell those drivers that every year, winter happens in Canada.
That way, they will not be caught by surprise.
When the first snow hits, local tire shops are swamped with surprised who people who thought maybe this year there would be no snow and are stunned to find out that there is.
Imagine that, snow in Canada in the wintertime.
The first snowfall of the year also brings with it accidents as all those surprised people forget that snow is not only cold, it is slippery.
Every year the RCMP issue an official warning, urging people to slow down and drive carefully.
That is right up there with the warning on a hair dryer that it is not to be used in the shower.
Do we really need an official warning to figure these things out?
I guess we do, actually, because there they are.
I do admit the first snow fall of the year (you know, the one that catches everyone by surprise) is usually the toughest one to drive in because you have to re-learn how a car handles in the snow.
But if you ease up on the gas pedal and remember that tip about snow being slippery, you should be just fine.
We still have a few more weeks of winter ahead of us so remember drive safe, defrost your windows and dream of that hacienda where the coldest thing you will have to worry about is the ice in your drink.

Copyright 2017, Darren Handschuh