Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Some Brief Childhood Memories

Ok before you read these brief stores, I have to tell you how great my sister is. She is the best. She invites me over for dinner, she is always super supportive, and she shared her car with me for most of last year (which saved my butt more than once). She is one of the most thoughtful and caring people I know and I couldn't ask for a better sister.

Ok now that that's out of the way, here are some short episodes from me as a five year old.

When I was five (p.s. I attribute most of my childhood to the age of five. I might have been anywhere from 4-9 years old but I was still five) I used to talk to myself a lot. When I was alone I would pretend that I had imaginary kids and I would pretend that I was on TV. One day I was standing in front of the mirror and repeating commercial lines to myself when my sister jumped out from behind the couch and laughed at me. I didn't talk to myself anymore after that.

When I was five, I played hockey. I hated it. All I wanted to do on Saturday mornings was watch cartoons (if I had a super nintendo I would have been playing it...). My grandparents came to visit one time. I didn't want to go to hockey. I told my grandparents I wasn't going to go. Somehow my parents convinced me to go. Not wanting to look like I had caved, I invented an elaborate tale about how I had told my grandma and grandpa that I was actually going to do ice karate which used the same equipment as hockey. I relayed this story in exquisite detail to my dad as he put on my equipment. I am still embarassed about it to this day.

When I was five, I was playing outside with my friends in the summer. We were running through the sprinkler because it was hot. Then when we were finished, we came back inside to change. When I got back in my room I took my shirt off and then sat down and started playing with lego in my bathing suit because I got distracted. Twenty minutes later my friends came looking for me only to find me half-naked and playing with lego on the floor. When they found me I got dressed and went to play. They relayed this story to my sister and several other friends later on.

When I was five I legitimately believed that people who did martial arts had Jedi powers. I asked my friends who did them to show me. We proceeded to sit down and the two of them "were going to make a book levitate". We sat there for about a minute staring at this book when suddenly my sister came in and threw a book on the book they were going to move. I got super mad at my sister for ruining this display of Jedi powers and I yelled at her. Looking back on it now, I am amazed that my friends got out of this obvious lie so easily and how my sister was the one who got blamed for it.

Being a kid was weird.

Now that I've publicly embarrassed myself, I encourage you to leave your brief quirky childhood memories in the comments below. Feel free to leave them anonymously if you feel nervous.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

There Ought to Be More Dancing

I remember the first big concert I went to. It was in Ottawa, and my sister and brother-in-law came along. I was really excited because I had never been to a concert before. I didn't know what to expect and so I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen.  I remember writing poems about it and writing about it and walking around in this daze for a month after it because I thought it was so amazing.

How times have changed.

On Friday, Amanda and I went to see Arcade Fire play a concert in Ottawa. We have seen them before and so when Amanda initially suggested the idea, I was not enthused. I have become much more jaded when it comes to concerts after that initial experience (for the record, when I reflect on it now it wasn't a very good show but at the time I thought it was the greatest thing ever). I didn't want to go because I figured we had already seen them and I didn't want to see them again. Amanda really wanted to go though and since the concert was the weekend of our one year anniversary, I agreed.

The last time we saw Arcade Fire was when they had just announced their album "The Suburbs" and were previewing material from it on tour. They had not won a Grammy. They had not streamed a concert at Madison Square Garden which was directed by Terry Gilliam. Things were different.

Before the concert, there was significant controversy around dress code. The band wanted people to dress up and went to the trouble of actually printing it on the ticket. Then the internet discovered this and exploded in a ball of rage exclaiming "you can't tell me what to wear at a concert" to which the band responded "everybody, it's cool. You can wear whatever you want but why not dress up". Typical internet conversations.

Upon arriving at the concert I wondered who was getting angry because everyone we saw was dressed up. If everyone is dressing up it makes it easier. I wore a suit and felt surprisingly comfortable although I've started wearing more fitted pants lately and my suit pants are defs not fitted. Anyways....details.

I got the impression that this album was supposed to put a big focus on dance music. This made me nervous at first because I don't really like dancing. It makes me nervous. The entire time I am just thinking about how other people are probably looking at me and thinking that I look silly. That makes me think people are paying attention to me or judging me and that just makes me want to crawl under a rock somewhere. Going to a concert where people are encouraged to dance would make me feel even worse. If I dance people are judging me but if I don't dance then people are also judging me. This creates some kind of judgement explosion. AHHHHHH!

When we got to our seats I figured this would not be as much of a problem. We were in a hockey arena and the only people who were really in a position to start a massive dance party were down on the floor (not where we were). I figured maybe half of the people in our section would be dancing. I could get away with sitting down if I wanted. Then the band came on...

About halfway through the first song I stood up and tried to dance a bit. You couldn't really more so it was more body shaking but you steps right? A bunch of people around us were dancing. I just kept telling myself "you don't know any of these people and you'll never see any of them again". Pretty soon I started to enjoy it. I'm a drummer so moving to the beat is my instinct anyways. Now I wasn't suppressing the urge. I could just wave around and it was fun.

I don't think I'm doing this moment justice. This was life changing. I was ready to go home and figure out how to incorporate more dance music into my library. I was planning dance parties in the kitchen. Things were going to be different.

Then it all went to crap

About five songs in, they played a slower song and it was harder to maintain the energy I had started out with. I sat down. Then they played another slow one. Then he talked for a bit. Then another slow one. Amanda and I started to lose interest. I had hope that things would turn up again near the end of the concert though. They had lots of songs that you could dance to. But before I knew it, the lead singer said "Thanks you guys have been great" which was the sign that the main set was over. I was disappointed. They played one more dance number during the encore but Arcade Fire had just taken me on a roller coaster of emotion. From fearful of judgement to a dance fiend to a frustrated concert-goer in two hours. How is that even possible?

As Amanda and I drove home, we tried to rank the concert amongst all of our experiences. We put it somewhere in the bottom three concerts we have ever seen (Feist at the Field Trip festival in 2013 is the worst in case you were curious, and Bon Iver at Massey Hall in 2012 is the best). The key factor in the let down was all the talk about dancing. Dancing is as great as they made it out to be. They just seemed to forget that when they remembered all the other songs that they wanted to play. They say it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all but I don't think that works when you're talking about dancing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Tip Jar

Did I ever tell you about the time that I got a tip jar thrown at me? If I did, it's worth repeating.

It was a Saturday at Starbucks. I know it was Saturday because it was me and another Barista and the shift supervisor and the only reason there would be that few people working is if it was a Saturday. The day was rolling along as any other Saturday does. Business was slow with occasional bursts of activity. People were setting up office around the cafe. When there was time we were cleaning things behind the counter and all the while we talked about nothing, just trying to pass the time.

At some point a group of Toronto police officers walked in. I recognized one of them. We had a few officers who came in periodically and you get to remembering faces when you are in the business of learning names. They ordered their drinks and went off to sit at our community table which is on the far side of the cafe. When you're standing behind the cash register, you can't see that side of the store because it's obscured by the espresso machines. After they sat down, I returned to being occupied with customers. Then "Dreads" came in...

Dreads is not her real name, but we had to give nicknames to all of the homeless regulars so people could communicate back and forth about them. I don't actually know what her real name is. She was called "Dreads" because she used to have dreadlocks (although by the time I got there they had been cut off). Dreads was a wild card. I think my fear of homeless people is rooted in the fact that I don't know what they are going to do. Dreads was the epitome of this. The first time I saw her, she walked in, then stood in the middle of the store and started yelling something. It was words but it didn't make sense. You know how before you go to bed or when you're really tired you can just start spouting nonsense that makes grammatical sense but doesn't make any logical sense? This is the kind of stuff she would say. My shift supervisor told her to leave and then she started throwing stuff at us. Someone went to call the cops. She took off.

After that time, every time I saw Dreads I could feel the adrenaline kick in. I could feel my heart start to kick in my chest. My senses became cloudy with blinding rage at this woman who came in and disrupted the decent enough world of Starbucks. I wanted to punch something. I don't think violence solves anything, but I had to remind myself of that more than a few times when she came in the store. I was just so frustrated because she could just come in whenever she chose to and ruin the rest of my shift even though she was only in the store for thirty seconds and there was nothing I could do about it.

I know she's a person and I know that there are probably some issues there. I know she probably needs help. But from all of my interactions with her, I didn't even know where you would start and besides, I was mostly just focused on how negatively she impacted everybody in the store when she came in.

So this time she comes in the door. I am taking an order from a woman in front of me. Dreads and I lock eyes for a second and I realize what she is there to do. She's going for the tip jar. I move to act a split second too late. She reaches around the woman I'm serving and snatches away the tips before I can get there. I watch her dump all of the change into her hand as I seethe with more rage than any man should admit to having. Then she yells something that I couldn't understand, before throwing the empty tip jar at my chest. I tell her "you need to leave" which was all I could think of as I pointed towards the door. She starts to leave, still yelling unintelligible crap. I turn to the woman I was just serving and ask her
"Are you ok?"

"I'm fine, are you ok?" she answers with a concerned look on her face

"I'm ok. This kind of thing happens more often than you would think" I reply.

In the midst of our exchange, I realize Dreads is still yelling at me from the door. "Get out" I yell and finally she leaves. You think you have control over your space and your life. You think you can predict what will happen because you know what the rules are. Then a crazy person storms in and kicks your understanding to pieces while laughing and yelling obscenities.

I step back for a moment to breath and look over at my coworker who was hidden behind an espresso machine.

"What did she do?" She asks.

"She stole our tips" I answered.

I turned back and tried to calm down to face customers. Then I hear a voice from behind the espresso machines calling to my coworker.

"What did she do?" it said

"She stole our tips" she answered.

"Oh, is it the same girl as before?" it asked.

Then I remembered what I had forgotten in my moment of rage and frustration. There were six police officers sitting behind the espresso machines who had just witnessed that whole thing. The one who was asking questions had even been in to file a report on another time Dreads had stolen.

"Yes" said my worker.

"Oh, well you have to tell us that" he said getting up. Then I watched 4 police officers head out the door down the street after her. Five minutes later a patrol car parked in front of the store and Dreads appeared in handcuffs escorted by two police officers. One of them entered the store with a fistful of change.

"Here's your tips" he said dropping them back in the jar.

There's a word for this. It's called justice porn. Situations where rough justice is dished out in a situation where someone is traditionally helpless.  I had the good fortune of having a table of police officers who were willing to chase after this woman and I got my justice.

I also lost any progress I had made with being afraid of homeless people. But Dreads went to jail for two months after that so that wasn't such a big deal.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

An Epilogue of Sorts

For a fundraiser, one of the organizers of the Tyndale Floor Hockey league made hockey cards with stats from the season (yet another example of the seriousness taken with this fun league). If you've been following this story and this story, you will probably get a chuckle out of my card.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

That Time My Laptop Was Stolen

Yes, I am a slacker this morning. I could have written today's post last night but I didn't. There's this constant battle I have with choosing not to do work when I know I should. Last night I lost. Today I will try to do better. Actually it would probably be more accurate to say that next week I will do better.

But here we are. You the reader are waiting for a story and I the writer am stalling trying to think of one. I though I could tell the story of the time someone stole my laptop or maybe the time someone threw the tip jar at me at work. Maybe I'll tell you about the laptop thing.

So once upon a time I lived in this house. There were 7 of us in this house (at the time of the story). I lived on one side with Jason and Brendan (who I don't believe I've mentioned before), and on the other side lived Todd, Chelsea, Ian, and Chris. I moved into this house because it was a "new monastic community". This is a term that is used for a bunch of house that have appeared that try to do something like monastic living but with a few twists. Like for example you didn't have to be single to live there, and you had things to do other than living in the house.

We had dinner at the same time every night and so we would often try to invite people over. I remember at one time going out on the street before dinner and trying to see if we could find anyone downtown who might want to come over to our house for dinner. The whole time I was incredibly nervous but once we actually started talking to people we knew, I calmed down a lot.

See, I grew up in suburban Kingston where I talked to my neighbours and friends, but pretty much everyone there was like me. Mostly middle class and having a pretty boring lifestyle. I grew to fear the unknown things in the world. I was afraid of the person who didn't dress the way I expected to dress. I crossed the street to avoid the man mumbling to himself as he walked down the street. The woman who was fidgeting uncontrollably made me want to leave the room. This bothered me (and still does occasionally bother me) because I don't think that people's appearances should affect how we treat them. Jesus says "whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me". "If you cross the street to avoid the mumbling man, you cross the street to avoid me". I didn't want to be someone who avoided Jesus. Part of my motivation to join this community was to help me learn how to treat people who are different from me with humanity. To see the person beyond whatever physical presence they project.

Looking back, I was a bit idealistic about entering into this process. I pictured the house like the house from the movie "Fight Club". I pictured myself single-handedly solving people's problems. I would feel great and wonderful all the time. I would walk down the street and be able to high five everyone as I went past. Then somebody stole my laptop

I left the house over the summer to go and work at camp. While there, I left most of my things at the house including my laptop. You don't usually think about things being stolen from you unless you're really paranoid so I didn't think about any of this. One morning I was sitting in the staff meeting and the camp receptionist came up to me and handed me a message. It said to call one of my housemates about something. After the meeting I headed over to the phone to call.

"Hello" I answered

"Do you remember where you put your laptop?" she asked me

"Yeah, it was in that cupboard downstairs in my bag. Why?" I answered.

"I think someone stole it" she said.

She asked me for the serial number and I directed her to my receipts and such and then she said she was off to file a police report. There was a chance I would get it back, but for all intents and purposes my laptop was probably gone.

No one knows exactly what happened but I've been operating with a theory for the last while. The person who took it knew exactly where to look for it and didn't take anything else so it was unlikely that it was a random person. What probably happened is one of the people who had been invited into the house over the summer had seen my laptop be placed in the cupboard. Then at a time of opportunity, they entered the house, picked it up, and walked out with it. Since that was all they took,  they probably sold it or exchanged it (possibly for drugs, possibly for something else) and then never thought about it again.

If helping people was supposed to feel good, this scenario did not feel very good.

A couple of months later, I was walking down the street with Jason and we walked by somebody panhandling. After we passed, Jason said

"How does it feel to see the guy who probably stole your laptop?"

We were reasonably certain this was the guy who had done it. He fit the story we had constructed. Obviously I couldn't say anything because I didn't know, but I paused to consider the statement. If this was in fact the guy who had stolen my laptop, how did I feel about that?

At this point I decided that if I was going to try and help people, bad things were going to happen along the way. Helping and serving does not always lead to awesome situations. Think of the kid throwing a temper tantrum when they can't have their own way. There's still a 2 year old somewhere in all of us who lashes out when others try to help us (especially when that help requires that we make sacrifice). Helping sucks sometimes. But I realized that having stuff stolen from me wasn't the worst thing that could happen, and we could easily plan around it. This wasn't the end of the world. I didn't need to direct my rage against this guy with his hat on the sidewalk.

After this episode, we set up an insurance fund. Not a real insurance fund, but a classic style insurance fund. People put money into the fund and then when things got stolen from the house (which happened a few times), we took the money out of that fund to replace them. It was easy to plan for theft and figure out a way to deal with it and our insurance policy helped to ease some of the pain when people stole things.

All in all the whole thing was interesting. Six years after, I think I've moved on from the frustration. It also makes for a good illustration of what to do when you're worried about having things stolen from people who you are trying to help.