Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend Commute

It's a busy time of year at Susan's workplace and in order to keep pace with the volume of work, she had planned to log some hours at the office this weekend. She wasn't convinced she felt motivated enough to actually make the trip downtown. In the past, hoping it might provide added incentive, I'd offered to accompany her on the train ride. She admitted my company might help motivate her to make the commute. Once downtown, I would see a movie while she headed into the office. Afterward, we would take the train home.

After coaching her basketball team to a short-handed, come-from-behind win today, she decided to take train downtown.

The movie that best fit the train schedule and Susan's planned time commitment was the western re-make, "True Grit", starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. I've always liked Westerns and own some newer versions such as "3:10 to Yuma" and "Tombstone", starring Kurt Russell. I also have such classics as "Red River", "Rio Bravo", "High Noon"  and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I'd give this version of "True Grit" six on ten for good acting, decent story and tiresome dialogue.

After the movie, I sat in the food court at PVM waiting for Susan and listening to the newest songs I had downloaded onto my iPod.

We caught the train home and made it back in time to see Zdeno Chara rightfully win the hardest shot event at the NHL skills competition.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Podaholic Seeks Redemption

Hello. My name is Richard and I'm a podaholic.

While we were down south on vacation, my wife bought me an iPod for my birthday. The purchase was innocent enough, which, I'm sure, is how the story began for most of you in this room tonight. As soon as we got back home, I began transferring my compact discs onto the new iPod so that I could listen to my favorite songs during my daily train commute.

I would occasionally pester Tristan to download a few songs off  iTunes. His reluctance to find me songs taught me to be selective in my song choices. Consequently, I would only ask him to find me songs I was sure I really wanted.

At that point, I was still in control.

Things began to quickly spiral downward over the holiday season after I opened my own iTunes account. I no longer had to be selective. Suddenly, it was open season on every song that had ever crossed my path. I wouldn't buy an iTunes card and let it sit there; I would buy a card and, in one brief sitting, shop until it was completely spent. Then, panting and mumbling incoherently, I was immediately compelled to frantically buy another one, redeem it and shop until it was spent.

You know how it is; you justify everything. You rationalize. I've been looking for that Herb Alpert Christmas album for decades! Way back when, I remember thinking "Autumn" by The Strawbs was an awesome song! Oh look, they have a song titled "Canada"; I wonder what The Strawbs say about Canada? I must be familiar with some of these one-hit wonders; I like this song by England Dan and John Ford Coley! I remember "Crazy Love" by Poco; it's pretty, I'll buy that, too! "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace? Why not!

My maniacal obsession has drawn me to songs as obscure as Lorne Greene's "Ringo" and as forgotten as "Man on the Silver Mountain" by Rainbow, or Snow's "Informer".

It's also led me to some terrific discoveries, including The Propellerheads.

Now I can't stop myself. I go to buy bottled water and I throw-in an iTunes card. If we need something at the drugstore, I'll choose a pharmacy where I know they sell iTunes cards. I get off the train downtown, buy a paper at the newsstand and, lo and behold, the clerk's totalling up an  iTunes card. I've begun hiding my card purchases from my family.

I'm at the grocery store almost every day. I just realized there are iTunes cards at the top of the pasta aisle! Now, I twitch and drool when I walk in to buy groceries. I have 4713 songs on my iPod, yet I twitch and drool when I see it still has 110 gigabytes free.

If I'm scanning satellite radio stations in the car, it's to discover new songs that I can buy off  iTunes! If you see me browsing at a record store, don't for a moment believe that I'm about to purchase a compact disc; I'm there solely to come up with ideas for iTunes song purchases!

Driving home from the train station tonight, an unsuspecting Susan made the mistake of telling me $25 iTunes cards are on special for $20. Breathless with craving but sounding as casual as I could, I asked, "How long does the special last?" Yeah, I'm keeping the phone number for Podaholics Anonymous on speed dial.

I can always listen to "The Gambler", so I redeem an iTunes card!

Honestly, can anyone's music collection be considered complete without the Atlanta Rhythm Section's hits? Redeem!

Moe Koffman's "Swinging Shepherd Blues" has such a catchy melody; redeem! Will you look at that, Herbie Mann does a groovin' version of the same song; redeem!

The first song I ever danced to, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, has been re-mixed by Dave Ruffy and Mark Wallis; redeem!

As I sit here in search of restraint, with a shiny new iTunes card in my trembling hand, you know I'm all about redemption.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CAA Rocks

I dropped off my son early today and headed home. It must have been 7:20 this morning when I called CAA to ask if we could get a boost for one of our vehicles. Attempts to start the car during Monday's biting cold had evidently drained the battery. The customer service representative told me someone would stop by within the next 90 minutes. The agent on the phone also reassured me they would call five minutes before arriving at our house.

I decided it would be wise to get my morning shower out of the way so that I would be ready to answer the door when CAA arrived. I turned on the water and started to shampoo my hair when the dogs began barking. I hurriedly turned off the water, jumped out of the shower and glanced down the hall to see someone standing outside our door.

I pulled on some pants and ran to the door. It was CAA. I told the fellow I had expected a call five minutes before his arrival. He shrugged and told me the notification system wasn't working. I told him I would be out in one minute to move the second vehicle out of the way. Telling me that wasn't necessary, he asked for the key and reassured me he would take care of it.

I quickly threw on a T-shirt, a coat, stuck my bare feet in boots and went outside. The vehicle was already purring comfortably. I showed my membership card, picture ID, signed his form and that was it. He suggested I keep the motor running for thirty minutes before turning off the engine.

I loaded up Moose and Spike and headed out on the highway for thirty minutes of cruising.

Had I written the script, I'm certain I would have made the plot less convenient.

CAA rocks!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bathroom Bombfest

Under normal circumstances, the highlight of my work day is delivering a well-written, well-presented, error-free television newscast. Unfortunately, tonight's production was riddled with errors over which I had no control. As a result, an impromptu  "bathroom bombfest" turned out to be the highlight of my work day.

By no means do I pride myself on indiscretion, however, today, this was my life. I offer my humble and most sincere apologies to readers whose sensibilities might be offended by the glaring nature of the facts contained herein, or those who may find the antics described herein as objectionable.

In the bathroom this afternoon, standing unsuspectingly before the urinal, I suddenly found myself shoved foward against the wall. Hands quite indisposed, I felt my chin pressed uncomfortably against less than lustrous ceramic tile. To share any other details would be be purely gratuitous and equally humiliating.

Appearing to retreat, the suspect seemed satisfied with his quick strike. As elegantly as possible, I regained my balance while attempting to also regain my composure. In retrospect, I should have known a subsequent attack was more than likely. This time, a foot pushed me forward and held me firmly against the familiar ceramic wall.

Aloud, I vowed revenge but, typically, the suspect was undeterred.

No doubt giggling and glee-filled, he finally entered the bathroom stall only to continue flapping his gums and offering an endless stream of lame-brained and irrelevant comments. I washed my hands and then generously soaked six or seven paper towels, lined myself up with the front of the stall and, one after the other, calmly lobbed them over the door.

I admit, his play-by-play didn't sound too promising. It described a series of near and complete misses. Judging by the slow, easy arc on the bombs, I prefer to think I plastered him at least once. At any rate, I left the bathroom satisfied justice had been served; almost.

At this point and in my defence, I'd like to say to our superiors; he started it!

I still don't know whether he was gracious enough to pick-up the towel bombs and, if he did not, I hereby apologize to building maintenance staff. Truth be known, there's nothing gracious about him. Don't think for a moment he'll feel any shame at reading these words and acknowledging these truths. This is Paul we're talking about, recently unearthed by a melting glacier.

I'm fairly certain he is an instigator incapable of remorse or reservation.

I swear, some days, work is like summer camp; awesome.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Take Nothing for Granted

After seeing the movie in theatres, Susan became a fan of "The Blind Side" and finally bought herself a copy of the film a couple of months ago. We got a chance to watch it on the weekend. It's a good movie. I decided to put the closing song, "Chances" by Five for Fighting, on my iPod a few days ago. I just downloaded the same song onto Susan's iPod tonight, along with some new tracks by "Train" and the "Plain White T's".

Her iPod is still connected because I'm recharging the battery. I was just surfing the net.

I typed in the name of a talented hockey player I remember watching during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's 1985-86 season. According to the internet, Guy Rouleau passed away in December 2008. I'm stunned. I never knew him, but I watched a lot of his team's hockey games that season. He played for the Hull Olympics and was on an unstoppable line with Luc Robitaille. I saw Rouleau do some incredible things with a puck! That season, he scored 91 goals in 61 games!

Pat Burns coached the team, which was partly owned by some guy named Wayne Gretzky. What a team! Pat Brisson, Benoit Brunet, Cam Russell, Sylvain Cote, Stephane Matteau, Stephane Richer and, of course, Luc Robitaille, are just some of the young players who went on to the NHL. Much to my surprise, Guy Rouleau was never drafted. The next time I heard his name, he was playing roller hockey for the Montreal Roadrunners.

I see he played in the ECHL, the IHL and also played in Europe for a few seasons. He was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame in 2001 and his number "77" was retired by the Olympics.

Yet another reminder to take nothing for granted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sting Like A Hornet

I raced back in time with such intensity tonight, the rush of wind made my eyes water! I was suddenly propelled decades earlier in my life while listening to trumpeter Al Hirt play the theme song from the "Green Hornet". I can honestly say that, over the years, I've thought about the television show many times, but never bothered to follow up on my memories.

As we chatted after tonight's newscast, colleague Peter Anthony Holder played the theme off the internet. Wow, what a crazy feeling, zooming back in time at breakneck speed!

When I was a kid, I ate that stuff up; "Batman" and "Green Hornet"! I probably didn't see all twenty-six "Green Hornet" episodes that aired during its one year existence, but I certainly remember being thrilled by the shows I did see.

"Green Hornet" and his sidekick, "Kato", appeared in three episodes of "Batman". I still have my Corgi Batmobile with rear rocket launchers, exhaust flame, bat signal mags and pop-out front saw! I once was obliged to bring it into the rock radio station where I worked after the music director there, also a "Batman" fan, insisted I show it to him. I always wanted the Corgi "Black Beauty" model. I remember staring many times, longingly, at the toy version of Green Hornet's car through glass countertops.

I remembered the "Green Hornet" theme song, but didn't realize Al Hirt performed it. The music is an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". I remembered "Green Hornet's" secret identity, Britt Reid, but didn't know that, as Peter pointed out, "Green Hornet" was related to the Lone Ranger. For a time, "Green Hornet" stories declared Britt Reid was the Lone Ranger's great-nephew!

I had "Green Hornet" books, which I read several times.

I don't remember "Green Hornet" as a comedy, which is why I have no plans to rush to the movie theatre when the film is released later this month. Watching the television show all those decades ago, I had no idea the man playing Kato, Bruce Lee, was such an incredible athlete. It's too bad he wasn't around to make a cameo appearance.

Peter's kindly e-mailed me mp3 files of the "Green Hornet" theme song which I'll load onto my iPod, so I can sting myself as often as I like. However, I'm still going with the "Bat Cave" over "Green Hornet's" sliding billboard as my favorite secret car exit.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

HNY Fourteen Followers

After I've chosen a parking space at one of the local mega-malls, she will, invariably, make a comment as we trek toward the entrance. She'll nod in the direction of an empty space and say, smugly, "We could have parked there, it would have been closer."

In the beginning, I would kick-up dirt, pitch my hat into the ground, hop up and down, snort and howl, "Next time, you choose the parking space!" Years later, we turn into mega-mall parking lots with her suggesting, reassuringly, "Park anywhere, we can walk." Then, as we near the entrance and see a closer parking space open up, she drops the bomb, "We could have parked there, it would have been closer."

Now, I merely sag.

Oh, she'll testify she continues to say it purely for humor's sake, but as I sit, straitjacketed, in the defendant's box, I'm convinced the judge will sense the intense level of inflicted mental cruelty and rule in my favor.

As we approached the border crossing this weeekend, I asked, "Which lane?" Choosing the wrong lane, the one moving slower than all the others, or the one that suddenly closes, would result in the same verbal abuse as choosing the wrong parking space at the mall. As a matter of self-preservation, I involve her in the decisions. That way, when a decision backfires, the delightful flow of abuse goes two-ways.

"Behind the white SUV", decreed Susan. As soon as the white SUV in front of us pulled even with the customs booth, American border agents opened the door of the vehicle, led the driver around to the back where, in plain view, they handcuffed him and led him away. As one of the agents drove the suspect's vehicle away, the remaining agent waved us forward to the booth.

I managed to mutter, "Well done, dear."

Crossing back into Canada from New York today, I selected a booth under a green light with no cars in line. I, still living dangerously, made the decision without prior spousal consultation. As we rolled to a stop, I hastily reached into the centre console of the car, grabbing our passports. After bending down to glance inside our vehicle, the guard demanded to know why one passport was missing. Caught off-guard, I responded, "I didn't give you three?" My voice squeaked. The word "three" came out a few octaves higher than the first part of my stunned inquiry.

All the way home, Susan and Tristan giggled and guffawed, repeatedly blurting out the sentence, "I didn't give you squeak?", "I didn't give you squawk?"

When faced with such a lack of support, I ask you, what's a man to do?

Apart from today's episode, the holidays have been awesome! I watched a lot of hockey with the world junior tournament underway. I played a lot of hockey with two one-hour sessions of "holiday hockey", where I rent the ice for family and friends. I also played in my regular Thursday night game, collecting a goal and an assist.

I read a book over the holidays! These days, I read books pretty rarely. It was a novel Susan suggested I might like. It proved an adequate source of entertainment.

I played a lot of games! I finished second at "Balderdash", losing to Tristan but maintaining bragging rights for the year by hanging on to beat "The Great Geez" (see December 26, 2010 blog). Continuing tradition, I, once again, lost to Susan at "Scrabble". I watched others make fools of themselves playing "Kinect", although our pal, Ryan, was a first-time monster, beating our scores in the majority of sports.

I never liked him anyway.

I recklessly leapt from the iTunes nest! Fed up of nagging Tristan to find songs I wanted, I set up my own iTunes account, figured out how to redeem cards and buy songs! Now, with wings spread wide apart, I'm soaring up, down, left, right, soul, folk, jazz and pop. Wheeee!

Thanks and happy new year to my fourteen followers!  I wish you health, happy times and a heap of prosperity, too!