Bit of a long one today but I need to just let this out …
I don’t mean to boast (well, maybe I do) but I’ve always been a little quicker than most people I know. Maybe it’s because I hung around with the people deemed the bottom of the barrel, or maybe it’s just because I really am this gift of nature, this remarkable being wandering through life delighting and entertaining all.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect lately, and most of my reflections have
brought a smile to my face. Naturally, I have had some tough moments over the
last couple of months, being so far away from family and friends. But all in all, things have been going good and I’ve been managing to smile.
And many smiles came from some simple reminiscing …
The first thing that made me laugh was the time when I was living in Calgary and
a bunch of us went to Chinook Mall one night with a plan to have a contest. The
contest was simple; see who could get the most phone numbers in two hours.
Now, there was me, pre-Penguin days. I had a bad haircut, stuttered frequently,
didn’t have the confidence that seeps from every tiny pore and well-manicured
follicle that I currently possess. With me was my best friend Glenn, a guy who
was dating a girl so he’d be of no use to me in this venture, and a collection
of misfits and head-bangers. This motley bunch was a great laugh, but we’d see
how they fared in the competitive game of womanizing.
Glenn and I went straight to the bowling alley where our friend Garth was
working and we could have a beer or two or three or four. As the time chugged
by, we decided to meet our mates at the pre-determined spot and see who won. A
few slips of paper were produced, each one containing a phone number, hastily
and femininely written by the guy who produced it. But, since none of us wanted
to ruin a parade, no one said a word. All eyes turned to me as they waited for
me to produce what I had conjured up. Between you and I, my avid readers, you’ll
know I didn’t even take part in this little game. However, I couldn’t be shown
up. Casually, in the best piece of “I’m so cool” I’ve produced since the last
time I produced the “I’m so cool” move (I have no idea what this looks like by
the way, but I bet it would have the ladies screaming and fainting), I bring a
phone book out of my bag. “I believe there’s about 800,000 numbers in there,
what do I win?”
Glenn was pissing himself, the others were furious. A phone book doesn’t count,
they told me. I argued that we just said who could get the most numbers. We
didn’t say girls, in person, or that they had to give them to us themselves. My
argument fell on deaf ears, but I think they were all just jealous because I hit
them with a right hook so cunning I could have been working for the KGB. Hearing them try to pronounce my name, I sometimes wondered if I was more foreign than I actually was.
We all went back to the bowling alley for some drinks and bowling. And I got two
phone numbers. Legitimate this time, from sisters. And, surprise, surprise, I
never called either one.
Imagine if you will, a typical gathering of friends at a restaurant. Try hard to
open your minds and look. I’m sure you’ll pick me out first, I’m the shortest of
the men there, but, and I say this humbly, I’m also the most attractive one
there, and the nicest dressed. Do you see me yet? I’ve got short spiky hair,
piercing blue eyes, two days stubble, a white shirt, black slacks, and a silk
tie with penguins on it. I’m smiling at you right now; it’s okay to wave. We’re
all just friends here, nothing important going on.
We are out for dinner, again, the setting is Calgary. My friend Glenn is there
with his girlfriend, her twin sister, three of their girlfriends and her dad.
Fortunately, we’re also joined by Ernesto (His real name is Ernie but I’ve never
called him that) and Tommy the Cat (thank you Les Claypool and Primus for making it impossible for me not to call Tom, Tommy the Cat anymore).
Now, I’m not sure I’ve told any of you this before, but I’m a bit of a lunatic.
My favorite thing to do in life is make people laugh. I’m a joker, I’m a clown,
I’m here for a good time, and to make sure you have one as well. I’m a
self-admitted idiot, and I will never apologize for that. And put me in a room
with Glenn, Ernesto and Tommy the Cat, and it just gets repulsively silly and
For the record, we weren’t at a fancy restaurant charging obscene prices per
plate, but we out enjoying a grown-up meal and conversation. But I can only be a
grown up for so long before I start to get a little uncomfortable and feel caged
up. Thankfully, I surround myself with people who are much like me.
And every circus needs a ringleader my friends. Every circus needs the high wire
daredevil as well. Luckily for all of you, I am both of those roles put into one
mildly magnificent package. And thus, our dinner was about to be ruined. Well,
ruined for the people without a sense of fun and an overactive desire to be an
adult. I’m of the opinion that if no one gets hurt or offended, it’s fair game.
If someone gets offended, it’s usually even better.
Thankfully, Glenn, Ernesto and Tommy the Cat share my love of music, and a love
of watching me be the center of attention. However this day was different. I may
have started the ruckus, but I was no means the center of it. On this day, we
were more equal than the Beatles (and really, how equal were the Beatles anyway? Everyone knows Ringo ran the entire show and only let John and Paul do most of the singing because he was too busy drumming). On this day, we were all Ringos.
I must interject a comment here. We weren’t all sitting beside each other
either. Glenn and I were separated by plates of food, his girlfriend, her hot
single friend, and an empty chair holding their shopping bags; Tom was opposite
Glenn, beside his girlfriend’s dad; and Ernesto was sandwiched between two
girls, with Tommy and I on either side of the girls. And this made no difference
to my mates or me.
This would have been the early 90s, much around the same time as the
aforementioned phone book story. Tommy played the guitar; Ernesto was the most musically gifted individual I have ever met (he could even fill sauce pans with
water and make them sound good when he banged them with wooden spoons). Glenn and I were in the process of putting together our punk band that never took off; Venereal Tartan. I had already written our first song, The Alleys of Jack, in
hopes we’d take off to super-stardom. Later, we had the idea of forming a
rockabilly band and Ernesto was gung-ho about the project. He’d play bass and
call himself Johnny Fingers, aptly named for his slap method of playing the
bass. I was the drummer in training, calling myself Clarence Bagsweat. Glenn, in
those days, always had to be the front man (his James Deanish demeanor and
pompadour demanded it) would be our singer and guitar player and call himself
Jimmy G. String, after the only chord he could play. I wrote a song for that
band too, but its title escapes me. With a bit of begging I could probably
recall it, maybe even a few of the lyrics too. At this time, Tommy was in school
taking Veterinary Medicine so he had no time to start a rock band. Ernesto was
working as an accountant. Glenn and I were doing meaningless things. But, let’s
get back to the story of a few years earlier.
Our love of music encompassed many decades and many genres. I could have started singing the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, Elton John, the Clash, or Abba, and they’d have sung along with me. But none of those would do this day. I dug deep into my repertoire, picking a song that needed a musical introduction before the opening crescendo of lyrics. I sipped some water, finished off a Long Island Iced Tea, and began.
It would be easier if you all knew the song so I need you to do me a favor.
Every one of you needs to go on to your favorite music downloading site and search
for Seek and Destroy by a quiet band called Metallica. This was back before
Metallica sold out. This was back before they turned into a lame bunch of money grabbing pussies. This was when Metallica had a set and played their music loud. I won’t get into the reasons why I think they’ve been castrated.
I start in with the guitar sounds. And I’m not shy about it either. My hands are
busy finger-picking the invisible Les Paul I’ve got sitting in my lap. My voice
is high-pitched and squeaky; I am, after all, emulating a guitar. Ernesto is
next to join in, bringing in the deep booming bass line just as it is required.
As I said, the man is a musical genius. He’s so good, he could have no arms and
drum better than the guy from Def Leppard who has one. Yeah, that is good isn’t
The Cat jumps in, adding a second riff of guitar. The band is warming up, the
table is watching on in varying levels of disgust, excitement, and panty
throwing admiration. Glenn looks tense, his girlfriend and her dad staring at
him. Still we drive the music on, reaching a monumental peak, before dipping low
just before the oncoming vocal explosion. And the explosion comes.
“Scanning the scene in the city tonight, looking for you to start up a fight.”
Now , I never said early Metallica wrote inspiring lyrics. And the actual song,
much like Glenn’s rendition of it now, was sung in a raspy whiny kind of voice.
We have captured it brilliantly.
Tommy takes over lead guitar duty as I begin the drum assault. Glenn is rolling
through the first verse; Ernesto is keeping time with the bass line. And then,
the back-up vocals.
“Running” I let loose with perfect aplomb and timing.
“You will be,” Glenn counters.
“Dying.” Again it is my turn to shine.
“A thousand deaths,” Tommy joins in with Glenn this time.
“Searching….” Glenn stretches it out perfectly
“Seek and destroy.” The four us start and finish as one. Brilliantly executed,
especially for an unrehearsed accapella performance. The four of us drop our
heads as one, thrashing to the music that we are providing. Before the next
verse, the table erupts.
Glenn’s girlfriend’s dad is clapping. The rest are just laughing. One of the
cooks has walked out to talk to us. His hair is about as long as my… and he is
wearing, and I am not making this up, a Metallica t-shirt. He tells us to “rock
on” but our concert is over. The four of us are never invited out to dinner
again by the girlfriend or her father. I am invited over for dinner by the hot
friend. I don’t go.
And how about one last story to warm your hearts or perhaps bring you to
uncontrollable laughter? Again, the scene is Calgary. Although I am much older,
by birth certificate only, and this time it is just Glenn and myself. The scene
is no fancy restaurant, but a busy shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon. And
when I say busy, I mean busier than Charlie Sheen on two for one night at Heidi
Fleiss’s. Whew, talk about busy.
I have no idea why we’re at the mall, but there has to be some reason. Glenn
doesn’t like the mall. Well he didn’t back then anyway. Now that he’s married
and has responsibility coming out of his butt, he does the mall thing on a
regular basis. But his mall thing involves actually having a plan on what he is
going, or is allowed to buy.
We’re at the mall and I don’t think I’ve seen it this busy ever before. They are
stacking kids on top of each other to fit them in, and parents, particularly moms, all in matching tracksuits are huddled around the metal fencing forming a large
circle in the center of the mall. It appears, we have come on dance competition
day. Normally the sight of girls in spandex would make me happy, but these girls
are way too young, and when I say way too young, I mean just outside my ballpark being the naughty little penguin that I was. (I’m going to interject that I used to have a rule that I wouldn’t date a girl younger than my little sister but
she’s too old now and that seriously cuts my chances. I mean, really, no one
under 31? I’ll die single). However, I do believe in them having to be able to
buy their own alcoholic beverages though without sporting fake ID. I know, I’m a
People are cheering and clapping, kids are yelling, exactly what we don’t want
to hear. The commotion is crazier than when I released my first semi-nude
calendar (available at all fine home improvement stores near you). It couldn’t
get worse. Wanna bet?
Over the P.A. system comes the announcer telling us that Poetic Movement (or
some other witty name) is about to dance for our pleasure. This isn’t the worst
part. The worst part is the choice of music he decided to play as the kids were
warming up. Now, as a psuedo-Canadian I should love and respect all things
Canadian but I can’t. I love hockey, maple syrup, Michael Myers, Jim Carrey, Pam
Anderson’s boobs, and Alex Trebek. Heck, I even liked Keifer Sutherland when he
went through a barren patch in the late 90s. But even I have to put a foot down
My ears refuse to close, even though I want them to, and my head is full of
images of Leonardo DiCaprio holding Kate Winslet over the edge of a boat. I’ve
never seen the movie, by the way, but I unfortunately saw the music video that
accompanied the saccharine sweet and annoyingly popular Celine Dion song that
rocketed her to International super-duper-duper stardom because she wasn’t
content with super-duper stardom.
Yes, these talented and remarkably cute and synchronized kids are moving their
way around the circle to “My Heart Will go On.”
Glenn is even more of a rocker than I am. I will sit and listen to something
before I decide to hate it. Glenn doesn’t even give it a chance. He shudders,
and I can see his disgust. The pain is crippling his face, his lungs tightening
as if he has swallowed some toxic poison that will shrink him gradually, like a
grape left in the Arabian sun. And there is only one thing to do when your best
friend feels like this; you make it worse.
“I hate this fucking song.” Glenn curses, probably wishing he could grab a cigarette and a drink in some very remote location that has never heard of Celine Dion. I want to tell him that the number one wedding song in Bora Bora that year was Celine Dion but I know this isn’t good enough to officially rub it in. There is only one thing I can do.
“How can anyone hate this song?” I say, very loudly, walking backwards away from him, facing him, pulling him in with an imaginary rope, and singing the words at the top of my lungs. (I have a bad habit of remembering song lyrics). He’s
shaking his head, I need more. As Celine and I continue our magical duet, I run
across the floor, and begin my graceful drop to my knees and spin my way to the
other side, my hands outstretched. I stand up, stomp my foot, toss my non-existent hair, and open my arms to accept my appreciation. Glenn laughs, I’ve done my job. Some parents applaud. Mall security escorts me away from the children.