The Tweets
The Tweets

Entries in Memories (4)

Thursday
Jul212016

Decade: It's not just a defunct wrestling faction

Ten years ago I was single, new to the city I currently live in and living with roommates in a rental house. Oh, and I had a father who was alive.

Today I'm married, getting ready to leave this city for a better one and living with my wife (and cat) in a condo that we own. Oh, and it's been ten years since I've had a father who was alive.

A decade of a life lived, more than a quarter of the time I've been on this planet, some of the happiest moments; some of the most sad. None of which I was able to share with my--forgive the hyperbole--hero. He was the one who got me to a place where I could live the life I would end up living, the one who helped me out the--quite literal--door, and one of the two who welcomed me back when I needed to come home.

Ten years ago I had a family of three.

Today I have almost tripled that number with ties that only get stronger every day. I'm so lucky with the life and extended family I've married into and I'm so incredibly unlucky that I can't share this with him. He's a part of me (the best part of me), but not beside me anymore.

And because half of our relationship was based on the most inside of jokes, I'll end with one that he would no doubt approve of, will always make me giggle, and is subversive in a way you'll probably never understand:

Miss you dad; miss you every day.

Thursday
Nov052015

Apple (Music) is making me love it (music) again… a love letter from a lazy technophile that's really about something else

While this is incredibly late to be relevant anymore, I'm hoping this is far enough removed from relevance to avoid most of the "fanboy" tags from being thrown my way.

I love Apple Music, and it's really because I've become lazy in my old age. Oh, and because podcasts.

Let me explain. The main reason I realized that some kind of music service was for me happened on the day I realized that I was a) listening to podcasts exclusively and b) it was turning into a bit of a chore. The whole reason I love podcasts--yes,still in the present tense--was that it was an enjoyable way to get informed, be entertained or just spend an hour (or two, if you're listening to Never Not Funny or the Todd Glass Show). When it got to the point that I was slogging through things just to get through them, I knew that there was a problem. Part of it is my "completest" disease, but that's another story.

The other thing that came to mind is that I couldn't remember the last time I heard a song that wasn't playing in my own head. That really hit me hard because music was the podcasts of my youth. I wouldn't leave my house without a walkman, discman--later MP3 player, iPod and iPhone--in my bag or clipped to my belt. Yeah, I was that cool. So many of my memories, both good and bad are forever and inexorably linked to songs and albums.

Ironically, it was a podcast (TOAP) that really reminded me that I needed to find some way to fit music back into my life. I started to institute a rule for my weekday listening experience: Podcasts on the morning commute; whatever you want to listen to during the day; music on the afternoon/evening commute. Because there is a never ending rabbit hole of both podcasts and music, this has worked out well for me, and to my surprise, I've rarely broken the rule except when I feel the onset of podcast fatigue or alternatively if there's an amazing episode I can't wait to listen to coming up that only shows up in my feed at 2:00PM.

But I'm getting slightly off track; this was supposed to be a fanboy gushfest about Apple Music. So to undercut everything from here on out, if I wasn't all in on the Apple Ecosystem, this would probably be about Spotify or something. But I am, so it's not.

While incredibly easy, the biggest selling feature isn't the fact that I can search for any song that comes into my head, and there's a 95% chance that I can find it and add it to my library. Nor is it that everything is remembered/saved in the cloud so I don't have to physically (digitally) have the song to have access to it. What I love are the playlists: Playlists created by real people that actually make sense and take me back to 1997 or 2003. Playlists that I can trust will take me back to 1956 if I want.

Not that I'm incredibly important or anything, but I honestly don't have the time to recreate a skate punk mix that will remind me of the times I would sit on the asphalt of a skating rink turned basketball court in July listening to "The Bag," waiting for my friends to show up for a pick up game, but a quick scan of the plethora of playlists available to me, I can come pretty close to finding one in a few clicks and swipes. Curation is a wholly undervalued skill; something that I would love to do if I could make a living off of it, mostly because I wouldn't have time to do anything else.

In a (read: my) post radio world, I'm just very happy to have a place where I can still discover both old and new music, listen on my terms and not sacrifice some of my other audio based forms of entertainment after which I can easily share with friends and jumpstart a dialogue with another real human being in the real world?

And isn't that one of the best ways to use our innate selfishness for good?

Saturday
Aug102013

Why my dad's Ace will always be up my sleeve...

"Forty Five" is a weird card game to explain. Considering my first exposure to it involved house rules and copious amounts of cheating, I'm not entirely sure if I even know what the real rules are. At this point, other than taking an hour to explain them to the uninitiated, I don't think it even matters. The "Forty Five" I grew up with is my family's game, and will be forever linked to my relationship with my father, both before and after his passing.

Growing up, I was fascinated by my family (always in fours) sitting around the table throwing around phrases like "30 for 60," "Trump," "Hold," "You can't reneg the Jack," "Take it, you bastard," and many more colourful words that I'll refrain from using here. There was always alcohol on the table (this was actually the site of my first taste of beer at the age of eight), and a multitude of odd gestures, coded movements and raised eyebrows. When I was ready to be indoctrinated into the "Forty Five Family," I soon learned that the rather circumspect activities made up the heart and soul of the game.

I'll refrain from going over the rules here, but if you must, dig up a copy of those "rules for every card game ever created" books and assume only half the rules apply to the version I love.

What's important for you to know, is that this game is almost always played with four people, in teams of two. There is an every person for themselves version, dubbed "cutthroat," but for the most part, I find the team style vicious enough for me. Teams co-operate both within and outside of the realm of fair play in order to score the requisite 120 points to win the game and the bragging rights that come with it (In our family, this usually takes the form of a battle of the sexes, adding a whole other dynamic to the proceedings). The 5 of whichever suit is Trump is the strongest card, followed by the Jack of Trump, the Ace of Hearts, the Ace of Trump (if Trump is anything other than Hearts) the King of Trump, then Queen of Trump, and if the suit is black, 2-10; 10-2 if the suit is red--you're welcome for not going over ALL the rules here.

The Ace of Hearts is the most interesting card in the game due to its ubiquitous placement in the card hierarchy no matter what is Trump at any given moment, and the one card that means the most to me for reasons that will soon become clear. But before I go any further, here's a sample of some of the "outside the rules" action you can expect to see during a normal session of "Forty Five" with my family:

  • Subtle pointing to an engagement ring to communicate a desire to lock in "Diamonds" as the trump suit.
  • References to yard work to reference "Spades" as the desired trump suit
  • Tapping of the chest when "Hearts" is the suit needed to be trump
  • Banging on the table to represent "Clubs"as the most favourable suit
  • ...And finally, my personal favourite, and my father's go to move: Positioning your current hand in front of the window behind you so that your partner gets a solid--and illegal--look at all of your cards

Beyond this, there was an uncanny ability for the aforementioned Ace of Hearts to show up in my father's hand whenever he needed to get out of a sticky situation. My "adult" vocabulary was bolstered as a youth by my aunt, who took the brunt of my dad's last second Ace of Hearts shenanigans and felt the need to lambaste him every time "his" Ace would hit the table.

The night my father passed away, I was seven hours away, watching Clerks 2 in a movie theatre (a movie it took me years to be able to watch again, and not because of its quality as the natural assumption would be) when my mother left a voicemail for me stating that I should probably try to get home as fast as possible.

Five hours later, I was pulling into my parent's driveway, fully expecting, but equally unprepared for the devastating news that was waiting for me.

...let's fast forward to that evening, shall we?

That night, my aunt, uncle, mother and I (seated in my father's chair), sat down at the dining room table to drink, trade stories of my dad and play "Forty Five." All through the night--be it through some supernatural force or, more than likely, my uncle dealing from the bottom of the deck--every time I needed it, the Ace of Hearts found itself in my hand. I was the one that my aunt's rather venomous comments where aimed at; the table free to be pounded by my beer bottle at just the right second; the window was mine to reflect valuable information across the table to my uncle. That night gave me and my uncle a win for the ages and the honour of paying tribute to my hero: the dirtiest--and most missed--player in the game.

Wednesday
Jun062012

Anachronism, Chicago punk rock and New England horror stories

Through the sometimes mad genius of shuffle, I heard a song today that I hadn't heard in a while (Calling All Skeletons by the Alkaline Trio to be exact, but that's not fundamentally important to the story). The interesting thing is that this song, and the entire album it's from reminds me of the Stephen King novel The Stand.

A little background: Irony and Agony (the album the song in question is on) came out in 2008; The Stand was originally published in 1978 (a year before I was born for those not paying attention to the subtitle of this website) and I first read it sometime in the early 1990s.

So why, exactly, are these two things joined at the hip in the recesses of my mind? Well, in the year 2008 I had purchased what was then the latest Alkaline Trio album and was listening to it on my daily commute. As I've been known to do, I would also read at the same time. Some might say that that would be counterproductive and would split my concentration. To these people, I would politely ask that they not pretend to understand the means I use to survive my (week)daily trek to and from my place of work.

...but back to the topic at hand. I'm also the type of person who will re-read favourite books multiple times. I had just gotten though one such cycle of re-reading and there didn't happen to be any new books on my radar at the time. So I culled my ebook collection and I stumbled upon this forgotten gem. Since it had been somewhere around fifteen years since I had read it, my aforementioned split focus leaned heavily towards the book and not the new album in my ears. 

I also go through phases where I listen to entire albums as opposed to having an endless shuffled playlist; sometimes I'll even listen to one album for a period of time.

Thus, the perfect storm was born. While this album seeped its way into my subconscious, I got reacquainted with and old (inanimate) friend. Unbeknownst to me, my mind was already creating links between the two; plot points and lyrics, melodies and emotions. It wasn't until months later, when I heard one of the songs again, did I realize that it reminded me instantly of one section of the book that I thought I had forgotten. I could now tell you exactly how this makes sense; how there actually themes that intersect between the two. Whether I'm right or full of shit doesn't matter. My brain was working on rationalizing this connection well before I was consciously aware of it.

Now, I realize that none of this is unique or particularly noteworthy in and of itself. What struck me as particularly noteworthy how this relates to the human connections that we make.

It might seem natural that when you meet someone and you can connect over a cartoon you saw when you were young because "that's what everybody watched when they were seven." But that's not necessarily so. There are so many people and so many things that we could all be doing at the same time that it is truly remarkable to meet someone who had the exact same experience with something, or if you're really lucky, many of the same things.

There is so much out there for us to consume that we can't all expect to take it all in as soon as it becomes available. There are movies, music and books (among other types of art and entertainment) that I have just been introduced to that have been around for years, not to mention what's out there that has been available longer than I've been alive.

For me to connect with one of my best friends over Welcome Back, Kotter in 2006 is really quite incredible if you think about it. We're close to the same age, but there are still a handful of years separating us, and this particular show was off the air before either of us were born. Sure, the show and quotes from it are in the zeitgeist, but I couldn't tell you how many references I use every day that are met with blank stares.

So, in the spirit of looking on the bright side of life (one example of a reference that people I know don't always know exactly where it comes from *cough*Python*cough), just take a look at your significant other--or one of your close friends--and reflect on some of the things you have in common and just how amazing it is that you were actually able to meet this person who shares a weird connection with a thing that someone you never met created for people that they will never know.

Sometimes I even surprise myself with how disgustingly optimistic I can be... and how I don't hate it.