Mr. Charlton – Dog Owner Part II

May 19th was Pookie’s fourteenth birthday, and even though she’s a dog and the concept of birthdays is probably out her scope, me and Kat decided to celebrate it anyways with a little cake made of her favorite foods; Tuna, peas, and carrot peelings. We put it in a little bowl, got a candle, sang her happy birthday like idiots, and gave her the little dish. Something wasn’t quite right though. She didn’t finish it.

Pookie hadn’t been herself for the last week or so, actually. She was sleeping a lot more. She was having a hard time balancing. And now she wasn’t eating as much as she used to. Me and Kat decided that, after the long weekend, we’d take the doggle in for a checkup.

Unfortunately it was a really long weekend, and Pookie had stopped eating all-together. I took her in Tuesday morning, and the prognosis wasn’t good. The statement from the vet was “We’ll go as far as you’d like to go with this” which is coded words for “we can put her down right now if you don’t want to spend any more money”. I wanted to know what was wrong with her, and I knew Kat would sell everything we own for her little dog, so I signed off on some more tests.

I gave Kat a call, explained the situation, and told her we’d know by noon. So I picked her up from work and we drove to the vet in silence. On arrival, the vet sat us down and gave us the bad news.

Pookie had late stage kidney disease. Some of the tests they ran were so bad they were off the charts. She didn’t have a lot of time. They gave her some IV fluid to keep her going for a bit, but when we got home it hit us that we’d have to put down our little furball.

I’ve never owned a dog before. I wasn’t a dog person. When someone lost a dog, my only reaction was “Well, it was just a dog.” But after living with a dog for two years, after having her greet me everyday when I got home, getting pictures from Kat of Pookie waiting for me by the door, her running up to the kitchen every time I was peeling carrots in the hopes she’d get some, well, you get pretty attached to the little fluffer. I fell in love with that dog, and now I had to say goodbye.

It’s a strange pact you make with an animal. Unless you’re getting a turtle or a parrot, you’re going to outlive. The story when getting an animal almost always ends the same way; with grief. A dog only has a decade, maybe a decade and a half of life. You’ll watch it turn from an excited, wiggly puppy to an old dog that’s struggling to walk.

It hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. After Pookie passed I’ve been pretty miserable to be around. I’ve basically sat around like a goon, playing video games, and stuffing my face with ice cream. Both Kat and I have been doing everything in order to avoid hearing the sound of silence that’s now permeating our apartment. Every once and a while you find something that reminds you of Pookie and your eyes get all misty and you have to get yourself another bowl of ice cream.

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Look at this dog’s stupid little face!

But even though the doggle is gone, her dumb little spirit remains. We managed to get some of her paw prints cast before she left us, and we’re getting her paw prints tattooed next week. We’re already talking about what kind of dogs we’re going to get when we finally settle down. Even though her loss hurt me, I’m willing to try this dog experiment again.

I’ve now officially had a dog, and it’s come with the pain of losing a dog. Five years ago I would have never imagined, but Mr. Charlton is a dog person, and will own day be a dog owner again.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about dealing with grief. ‘Cause I am now an expert on it.

Ready Player Two

We met in the one of the worst households I have ever lived in. In an effort to get back to my roots, I had thrown caution to the wind and decided to live with some people after living by myself for the last three or four years. It was both a blessing and a curse. The curse was that within three days of living with strangers, I quickly realized why the hell I like living by myself. Because goddamn it if an adult, who pays taxes and would be drafted in a war against aliens if they ever landed, can’t wash their dishes after they’re done with them. But I’m planning on saving the House of Hell stories for later. I still want to talk about video games. It’s kinda how I met my current girlfriend.

That was the blessing of the House of Hell, because she was one of my roommates.

I had been living in this backwards revival of my youth for about a week and a half, and so far it hadn’t been going all that well. The house was usually in a state of disarray and the kitchen was almost always a disaster. I had met everyone in the house, but hadn’t really spent any time with anyone, except for Kat, who split a bottle of wine with me a few days earlier. One of the housemates, an energetic 19 year old hot idiot by the name of Shay, was planning to get some of us together and have a few drink. Seeing as how I had nothing better to do, I figured this would be a great way to meet everyone in the same setting.

There was seven of us in the house. Three people said no, so there was the four of us hanging out. Shay, Katie, Kathryn, and myself.

Shay – The 19 year old Hot-Mess. The reason the house was always a pigsty. Smoked weed like it was keeping her alive. Thought she was the glue that held the house together. In reality, she was the reason most people stayed in their room. Very free spirited. Would have loud shower sex at 2:00 in the morning with her boyfriend. Always angry at the fact there was never any toilet paper in the washroom. Everyone hid their toilet paper in their room, because Shay would use it and never replace it.

Katie – The 27 year old Addict. Soft spoken with striking red hair, Katie was an incredibly nice young woman who just happened to be a full on alcoholic. I didn’t actually know what the word alcoholic meant until I met Katie. It wasn’t unusual to find her passed out in the hallway at 11 o’clock in the morning, or having the police show up at random times trying to find her. A story a lot more tragic than most.

Kat – The 25 year old woman who didn’t belong in the house. There wasn’t actually anything wrong with her. The only thing I could deduce was she was in the wrong place at the right time. Level headed and about a half inch taller than me. At this point in the story, she was the only person I was talking to on a regular basis and wasn’t a crazy person. Just finished a diploma at SAIT and was looking to go back to Lethbridge and finish a degree in New Media.

So it was the four of us, sitting at the kitchen table, having a few drinks. Katie downed a mickey of vodka in under five minutes, then went to bed almost immediately. Like I said, alcoholic. That left me, Shay, and Kat. They were both wondering about my lack of stuff. I mentioned that I was a minimalist, and that I was in the process of downsizing even more. In fact, the last big thing I was getting rid of was my Super Nintendo and my small collection of games.

“You have a Super Nintendo collection?”

Love is a weird thing. People talk about waves, or ups and downs when it comes to the emotion. My Super Nintendo, even though I was thinking of getting rid of it, represented my youth. It was my skateboards on the wall, my dumb posters on the wall, my hanging out with the crew. And here was this young woman, someone I had only known for a week, and she was flabbergasted that I was even thinking of selling it.

“I’ve got a Super Nintendo collection too! I’ve even got one still in the original box.”

Here’s this smart, funny, beautiful, slightly taller than me blond woman, and she has a Super Nintendo. I’m talking about burying my childhood. I’m talking about murdering the boy inside the man, and this wonderful person, in one weird sentence, is telling me both can exist at once. And she’s got no clue what’s going on inside my head.

Kat, if you were ever wondering why, or when, I fell in love with you, it was over the Super Nintendo collection.

I love video games. It’s how I like to spend my free time when I’m not working, or writing, or learning. When I’m kicking back, I like to do it with a controller in my hand. And this incredibly fantastic person fell into my life and wanted to pick up a controller and shoot zombies in the face with me. (Note: Kat is much better at Left 4 Dead than I ever will be. If we’re ever in a Zombie Apocalypse, Kat’s getting the gun. I’ll be organizing people, or doling out med kits, or something besides shooting zombies in the face).

That night, much to Shay’s chagrin, me and Kat stopped becoming interested the three person party and plugged in the Super Nintendo. We played until three in the morning.

It’s the weird little story about how I met my sweetheart. It wasn’t at a club, or a coffee shop, or the grocery store. It was in a shitty house, at a shitty time in both our lives, and it blossomed over a dumb hunk of grey plastic. I’m hoping later tonight, when we both get back home, we’ll pour a glass of wine, look each other in the eye, and fight over the good controller. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. We could use some recommendations regarding some sweet two-player co-op games. We’re both getting sick of the Borderlands series.

The Origin of My Name

To a lot of you reading this, you only know me as the Illustrious Mr. Charlton, a silly moniker I took upon years ago when I started writing on the intertubes. There might be one person who actually calls me that in real life, but most people know me by my legal name;

Sandy Lee Charlton.

Now, I’ve been known to get some flack over my name, mostly the fact that apparently this is a woman’s name, and I happen to have a penis. To this day, as in a woman recoiled in amusement at the mention of my name less than a week ago, people still think it’s weird that my name is Sandy. And plenty of people burst into hysterics when they find out my middle name is Lee. So let’s talk about my name, and where it comes from.

I’m not going to dwell too much on the first or the last part of my name. Sandy is a derivative of Alexander, which means defending people. Charlton, my surname, means settlement of free people. Combine the two and my name basically means The Defender of the Settlement of Free People. Which by itself is pretty cool and completely badass. The coolest part of my name isn’t the first or the last part of my name, it’s the middle part. Because even though it may seem like my dad was planning some sort of ‘Boy Named Sue’ type thing for me, my father named me after his twin brother, my uncle Lee.

My uncle Lee, along with my aunt Susan, has four children, James, Nick, Robyn, and Cody, all of whom are older than me. Their youngest son, Cody, is about nine months older than me, so I’m certain my folks decided to start making babies the moment they saw him (which is strange, because rumor has it that Cody was a really ugly baby). I was the first of three boys, and I’m the only one who was named after another relative. Which is a shame for me, because I have to live up to my uncle Lee’s good name, and he’s a much better person than I am.

Uncle_Lee

An incredibly handsome man with a pretty ugly child.

The last time I saw my uncle was when my father passed away. I’ve mentioned this to people, that my father’s twin brother was there when my pop’s was on his deathbed, and a lot of folks assumed that having my uncle there, who’s an identical twin of my dad, made the situation harder to deal with. Nothing could have been further than the truth. My father loved his brother, and having my uncle there in our family’s time of need made a bitter pill easier to swallow. Before the accident, I would have told you there wasn’t a person on Earth that could have made my father’s death less painful. Uncle Lee proved me wrong.

But it was the third last time I saw my uncle that solidified to me what kind of man he is. I was passing through from Victoria to Golden, and my father suggested I look him and my aunt Susan up, spend a day or two with them before heading home. Even though it was midnight, and I had called him maybe ten minutes before I actually got to Kamloops, he still had no problem coming to the bus depot to grab his nephew. Once we arrived back at the house, he and my aunt greeted me, made me a little food, and got me setup in the spare bedroom. Once that was done, my uncle Lee went out to a homeless shelter for the rest of the night to keep an eye on things.

It’s one thing to donate your money to a charity. It’s another thing to volunteer at a soup kitchen or the likes. I’m not disparaging either form of charitable acts. But it is a whole other ballgame to stay up for the entire night at a shelter to make sure people stay calm. He jokingly asked if I wanted to come and I politely refused. Maybe I should have taken him up on his offer. To this day, part of me is still ashamed that I didn’t tag along. Sure, I had just spent the better part of the day on a greyhound bus, but if a man in his late 50’s was able to stay up past his bedtime, surely a young man in his late 20’s would have been able to keep up.

My uncle Lee passed away last week, after a long battle with cancer. I haven’t written anything for the blog since I heard the news. Writing about anything else after finding out about his passing would have been tacky. He leaves behind my aunt Susan, his four wonderful children, and a smattering of grand kids. There isn’t a whole lot of comfort I can offer this far away from the rest of the family, but maybe these words will help. He was a better man than most, and certainly a better man than I. I’d be lucky if had a tenth of the heart he did.

Sincerely,

Sandy Lee Charlton

p.s. I should mention that not only did my father and my uncle look identical, they also sounded exactly alike. It wasn’t unusual to get a phone call, once a month, from my “dad” to ask me to do a chore like set the car on fire or fill the toilets with cement. Good times, uncle Lee, good times.

p.s.s. I should also mention that I am a dead ringer for both my father and my uncle. Almost uncanny.

p.s.s.s. I completely forgot, the only reason I stopped off in Kamloops was due to a highway accident. I was stranded in the bus terminal, it was actually more like two o’clock in the morning, and uncle Lee was going back to the shelter. Sometimes life throws a rock at your head, and sometimes that rock turns out to be a lump of gold. I’ll never forget that visit.

2016 – Mr. Charlton Looks Back

Wow, it’s been an entire year since last year. Well, that statement would have been true on New Year’s day, so technically it’s actually been four days since last year. And what a year! It was pretty tame compared to 2015. At least for me. Social media seems to think it was the worst year ever, for some reason. Let’s get to the bottom of why a lot of people think 2016 blew an enormous amount of chunks.

Reason #1: A lot of celebrities died

Slightly more than average, but it felt like it a lot. There was Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister, Gene Wilder, and even Alan Rickman! Some other people died too, like John Glenn, Fidel Castro, and Nancy Reagan. But still, celebrities were dying left and right. Even ol’ Mr.Charlton tried to get in on the mix.

mr-charlton-tweets

Mr. Charlton trying to participate in social media in 2016 is like Mr. Charlton trying to participate in society in 1998; Awkward and forced.

Here’s the deal, though. I don’t know Lemmy Kilmister, lead vocalist of the greatest rock and rock band ever Motorhead, in real life. Me and David Bowie, a man who was on the waves edge of pop music for decades, aren’t friends. I’ve never actually been to a concert where either was playing. It’s sad they died, but not sadder than a bunch of other people who died. Dying is kinda something that happens to everyone eventually. Most of the people on the list had a good run. And most of them left some sort of impact on our culture. Shit, if I died tomorrow, the only thing I’d leave behind is a crappy blog and a couple of half finished books.

Reason #2: Politics were kinda crazy this year

Two really big things happened in western politics this year. First, Britain decided to Brexit the EU, sending a ripple throughout the world. Some people were cheering an end to globalization by tweeting on their iPhones manufactured in China. Some people watched as Britain’s pound got pounded. What was interesting is the polls showed Britain sticking around the European Union. Nobody thought they were going to leave until they did.

Which brings us to the next big thing; Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States. Nobody thought he was going to win the Republican nomination for his party, but he did. Then, no one thought he was going to win the presidency, but he did. Hell, nobody thought he was going to use nuclear weapons….

I mean, I DOUBT he’ll use nuclear weapons, but that’s kinda the big issue with Trump. You don’t know what promises he’s going to make good on. The POTUS isn’t an exactly great position for brash decisions. We still have another two weeks before he’s sworn in. My money is on Trump getting impeached before the end of his first term, though. We’ll wait and see.

So a bunch of people died and the President of the United States is a reality television show star who doesn’t want to stop running his business so he can run the country. But what was awesome about 2016?

Reason #1: The gene linked to ALS was found with Ice buckets

Not literally, mind you. But all those videos seems to have actually paid off. Also, the money that was actually donated paid off. Money helps with research too.

Reason #2: The Cubs won the world series

This is a big deal if you’re into sports, I guess.

Reason #3: Pokemon Go forces a bunch of nerds to get some actual exercise

The hit augmented reality game has taught me an important lesson; Nerds will walk miles to catch Pokemon. World records could be set if we had Pikachus at the end of finish lines instead of ribbon.

Reason #4: I started a Blog! (again)

Now these words are forever immortalized on the intertubes. Now I can look back on who I was like ten years from now and see exactly what kind of dumbass I happen to be. Seriously though, writing on a more regular basis has been a wonderful experience. Little by little I find myself getting better.

Reason #5: I moved into a place with my girlfriend Kat

I was well into my thirties before I actually lived with a girlfriend before. So this is new territory. I like it! Shucks, I’m more in love with Kat than when we moved in together almost a year ago. Plus, I only moved once in 2016, whereas I had to move several times in 2015.

With 2016 all wrapped up, it’s nice to know there’s a clean slate in front of everyone. I mean, as long as you believe in that sort of stuff. Personally, it’s another arbitrary rotation around the sun on the starship Earth. No resolutions besides the usual ones; eat better and write more. 2016 was a-okay with me. Here’s hoping 2017 is even better.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. When I said I moved several times in 2015, I mean exactly that. I moved seven times. Seven times of putting my shit into boxes and moving it to another location.

Snowflake Day

It’s no surprise how I feel about Christmas. I mean, there’s other reasons besides what I posted in my last blog. I’m not someone who gets attached to tradition. I’m not a fan of routine. Doing the same thing, every year in and every year out isn’t my bag. I’ve been celebrating Christmas every year for decades, people. I’ve been decorating trees, baking treats, cooking turkeys. When it comes to Christmas, I’ve done it all. Time for some new traditions.

Enter Snowflake Day. This isn’t an original idea, it’s lifted from a cartoon that only aired for a season back in the early ‘naughts. We stole the idea, because that’s one tradition we’re keeping. If the early Christians can steal the idea of Christmas from the pagans, then we can certainly steal this holiday from a failed animates series that features most of the cast from Scrubs.

Snowflake Day is the holiday replacing all other holidays during the winter months. By trying to avoid offending anyone, you manage to offend everyone, which is a win in my books. The story of Snowflake Day tells the tale of Snowflake Jake the pirate. In a quest to make the holidays open to anyone, Snowflake Jake captures all the other representatives of the holiday season and threatens to make them walk the plank if they keep up their traditions. They agree, Snowflake Day takes the place of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Instead of gifts, you exchange spices. Instead of turkey, stuffing, and gravy, there’s lamb tacos, cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry, and jerky balls. And instead of a Christmas tree, you light up a non-denominational snowman. So we took it the full nine yards. We decided to throw a party and have lamb tacos, cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry, and jerky balls.

Lamb tacos? Easy peasy. Now, instead of pure lamb, we went with a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef, because the flavor of lamb is a potent beast. I went with a straight up Tex-Mex blend of spice to throw in there, garlic, oregano, cumin, and three different kinds of dried chilies. Threw in a little pico de gallo, some fresh peppers, and some home-made tortillas, and you’ve got a tasty taco feast taking place in your domicile.

Cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry. This was the easiest item on the list because it was the one I cared the least about. I took hot dogs and wrapped them in store-bought pastry, the kind that comes in a can and explodes if not handled properly. There’s actually a warning on the packaging, telling you to point the lid away from people, children, and small dogs. Technically, it was the most dangerous dish to make on the list, but I still managed to pull it off without a hitch. Once the pastry is out, all you’re doing is wrapping the weenies. Feel free to insert your favorite tubed meat joke.

The toughest item on the list, without a doubt, was the jerky balls. Partly because I had no clue what a jerky ball was. I could have gone with beef jerky balls, but this presented two problems. One, jerky is drier than sand, so getting it to stick together in a ball would be a challenge. Two, beef jerky is crazy expensive. What happens to be cheap right now is turkey, so I went with ground turkey mixed with Jamaican jerked spice. I purchased a utility turkey and decided to debone it. I’ve deboned a number chickens in the past, so I figured this would be a cakewalk. Two hours later, and turkey gunk in every corner of the kitchen, I had a bunch of turkey with no bones in it. Two hours after that, I manage to grind the meat and mixed in the spices. Turkey jerky balls are now done.

The rest of the party is straight forward enough. Most of the Snowflake Day songs are simply knockoffs of Christmas tunes, so we decided to play MIDI versions of famous Xmas songs (if you’re unfamiliar with the MIDI audio format, it’s what predated the mp3 format. It’s mostly known for being incredibly crappy). Little pirate hats were made for various objects in the apartment, and snowflakes were hung from the ceiling with care.

People came, we exchanged spices, lamb tacos were noshed, and Snowflake Day Carols were not sung. I put a kibosh on that right away (sorry Kat, I’m only willing to go so far for a joke, and that boundary is singing).

Will we be doing it again? I’m not one for traditions, but I’ll honest, lamb tacos are the bomb and turkey jerky balls, although a hassle to make, are pretty tasty. I might do something a little more extravagant next year, with stewed lamb meat done as a curry. So yeah, we’ll be celebrating Snowflake Day again. If you’re lucky, and you’ve been good all year, maybe you’ll hear the YoHoHo instead of the HoHoHo, and Snowflake Jake will bless your home with a bounty of cumin and basil.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Truthfully, if I have the opportunity, I’m going someplace with a beach for Christmas. Tradition can take a back seat for sunshine and sand.

p.s.s. Holy shit, is it a goddamn pain in the ass to debone a turkey. I swear, the turkey fights back. I could have worn the thing like a cape.

Mr. Charlton is Sick of Winter

My shoe has a hole in it. Not a very big hole, mind you, but a hole none the less. I discovered the hole on my commute to work this morning. There’s a fresh blanket of snow on the ground, just a skiff. When I was walking, a little ball of snow had gathered in the hole and compressed into a solid chunk. The part touching my foot started to melt, and the water has frozen on the bottom. It feels like I have a cold, wet, rock in my shoe. So I hobbled the rest of the way to work, and there was only one thing crossing my mind; Mr. Charlton is sick of winter.

There was a time when winter was easily the greatest season of them all. Summer was alright. School was out and we had two to three months of time off to play in the sun. The downside was the mosquitoes, which my hometown got in spades. Fall was lame, as it was the beginning of school. Not to mention the colours and the changing of seasons was lost on a child of my age. Spring was okay. It was wet, ’cause the snow had melted, and the free time we had was spent building little dams blocking streams. If there were times as a child that led me to a career in civil engineering technologies, this was it. But man, winter…

Winter was king, plain and simple. Sure, it was cold, but when you live in a little mountain town, the possibilities are endless. The first Christmas I remember vividly was when I was five. We had just moved into a new house, a house that was much closer to the mountains. Going to the hill, any hill, from the trailer park required a ride. In our new house, the hills were a block or so away. My parents capitalized on this and bought my brother and I GT snow racers.

gt-racer

King of the Hill

If you’re unfamiliar with this bad boy, this is the Noma GT snow racer. A GT made you the coolest kid on the hill, and we had two of them. To celebrate our new gifts, we went to the best sled run in town; Snake Hill. We were close to a hill, a little chute we could go down in a few seconds. Snake hill, on the other hand, was a short drive away and always a tobogganing party. It was packed, and for good reason. It was a sled paradise. Someone would normally have a fire at the bottom where you could warm up, and it was a hot spot for kids who’s birthday landed in the winter, like both my brothers.

There were two rides you could take. You could hike up this steep chute, a bomber that would take you down in under a few seconds. It was a speed run, and it wasn’t unusual for half a dozen children to pile onto an inner tube and barrel down this crazy grade. Kids would be bouncing off the tube as the few second ride progressed, and you were lucky if you were one of the two kids still clinging on for dear life. As a bonus, the kids on board would typically aim for the fire, making it a goal to try and run over the burning logs. This happened once, and after having to put a kid out with snow, I think we wised up and avoided the fire from then on (I can’t remember who went up in flames, but it was probably my brother Kelly. He’s the most flammable Charlton).

The main attraction was Snake Hill, so aptly named because it was a twisty, winding toboggan run that took at least a minute or two from the top to the bottom. Snake hill wasn’t as fast as the chute, but it was a better ride. It felt like a bobsled run. It had big, sweeping curves and a couple of shortcut jumps in the run. Getting up to the top was dangerous, because the only way up was walking on the run itself. Walking up required getting out of the way of speeding kids on crazy carpets, and it wasn’t unusual for a kid flying down to run into a kid climbing up, resulting in a high-speed collision. It was like a bowling alley, except the balls were fifty-pound children screaming down the hill at knee height, and the pins were fifty-pound children moving slowly up an icy slick toboggan run.

The GT changed the game, ’cause you could steer. The brakes on the thing were useless and would tear up the run (it wasn’t unusual to shun a kid if they were using their brakes), but the thing steered pretty well. When you were on a non-steering toboggan or a crazy carpet, you were basically holding on for dear life. With the GT, however, you were in control. That crazy run was now a race track, and you were driving the sweetest ride on the block. As a kid, I loved winter.

Now? I live on the prairies. Getting to a hill is a dangerous trek, and now that I’m an adult, these things cost money. Skis are expensive, and I get weird looks when I plow smaller children out of the way on the GT. The cold didn’t used to bug me, but now it gets me right to the bone. My skin used to be full of moisture and life, now I have to slather myself with hydrating cream, or dust my naked body with Gold Bond powder. I hate dusting my body people, I’m not a chinchilla.

The Norse blood that ran through my veins now runs dry. Maybe it’s because it’s the first real cold snap of the year, and I haven’t adjusted to it yet. But I think after living three decades on this planet, as well as having options, I think the warm coast might be a nice change of pace. Nothing wrong with the prairies, but there’re so many years on Earth I want to live with cracked and bleeding lips, and 30+ is enough of them for any lifetime.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. Here’s the website I got the picture from. http://www.bossbi.com/bike/stiga/stiga.php

p.s.s. It’s mostly the seafood, actually. That’s the real reason I’m moving.

p.s.s.s. Like some mussels in a nice cream sauce.

p.s.s.s.s. Oh man, with some bread for dipping? Talk about my jam right there.

Mr. Charlton Doesn’t Go to Calgary

Crazy thing. I’m supposed to be in Calgary right now. I’m not in Calgary, which may leave people who were expecting me to be in Calgary to ask the question “Mr. Charlton, why the hell are you not in Calgary?” This is a valid question. I wanted to be in Calgary, so very badly, but sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and bail on a situation when it’s appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine (We’ll call her Lisa) invited me out for drinks in Calgary. I don’t live in Calgary. Where I live right now isn’t even that important to the story. What you need to know is my current location isn’t Calgary. Now, there was a very long time where my location was Calgary, because Calgary was my home. I love Calgary, and I have a lot of friends who still call Calgary their residence. I was headed to Calgary to meet some of these people.

Here’s the thing. I have been stressing out these last few days. I took on a lot of projects recently, and I was getting worried about deadlines. They’re manageable, but between the coding I’m helping Kat with, the 3D modeling I’m doing for a friend of mine, plus work, plus the fact I’m still trying to write two thousand words a day, plus the coding I’m doing for myself, well, my time has to be managed properly.

I planned out the entire day. I had some time on the bus to get some stuff done, I had breaks in between meeting friends, I had my day sorted. I would get plenty of time to code, plenty of time to visit, and plenty of time to write. I was going to have a great time.

I didn’t plan on outside circumstances, though, like the bus being an hour and a half late. Where I live wasn’t important to the story before, but I guess it is now. I live in the wind capital of Canada, Lethbridge. I stood out in the cold wind for over an hour and a half. People waiting with me ended up leaving, or calling friends and sitting in their vehicles. Slowly, my day was being eaten up. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. Plus, it was cold out. I dressed appropriately for someone waiting fifteen minutes, not an hour and forty-five.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

So I bailed. I said, “If the trip is starting out badly, then it’s a good sign to count my losses and chill for the day.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to treat myself to a nice lunch, and I’m going to work on some of the things I had planned on getting done.

There’s a lesson here. In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with catchy slogans like “Live to Win” and “Bite off more than you can swallow, then chew” and “Gotta hustle every day” and “The man who stands upon the largest pile of skulls can see the furthest”. But sometimes, if you’re gut is telling you to slow down, that something ain’t right, then back off.

I’m not in Calgary, and it might be a good long while before I’m in Calgary again. That’s a shame, because I really do love the city. To all my friends, I’ll be out later than sooner, I’m afraid. In the mean time, you’ll find me right here, on the internet.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. ‘Ain’t’ wasn’t always a word, but it is now. Which is grand, as it makes me seem like I’m full of folksy bumpkin wisdom.

p.s.s. Just CHALKED full of bumpkin wisdom.

How the Kat Saved Festivus

You’re going to have to excuse me on my birthday. It’s going to get a little heavy in here.

Back when I was 23 (I think it was 23), I thought I had the worst birthday ever. I spent most of it by myself, my friends were all busy, my girlfriend wasn’t around, and there was no cake to be had. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own, and from then on, I decided that I would take complete control of my birthday. I was taking the reigns of the day I was born in my hands, and through that promise to myself, Festivus was born.

Every year since then, I would take the week off surrounding my birthday and celebrate however I wanted. I saw something I wanted? I’d buy it. A restaurant I want to eat at? Goddamn it I would eat there. The wine, beer, and scotch would flow. Some years I’d throw a party, where I’d have a bunch of people over and make food for everyone. One year I threw the famous ‘Reverse Surprise Party’, where I invited a bunch of friends out to a bar for unknown reasons, then told them it was my birthday, brought out hats for everyone and opened a bunch of gifts that I purchased for myself. All the gifts were labeled ‘To Me, From Me’. For years, my birthday was something I looked forward to more than any other holiday, simply because it meant I could be absolutely selfish for a week. I was certain that my birthday would always be an awesome one because I was in control and nothing could change that. Life occasionally has a wonderful way of throwing a wrench in your plans.

The worst birthday I ever had was my 30th birthday. I was surround by family and friends, and I was in Vancouver over at my uncle’s place. Unfortunately, my father’s funeral was the next day. On August 11th, 2013, my father passed away in Victoria. A couple hours later, I opened the gifts that he got me for my birthday. It was a surreal experience, one I’ll never forget.

Needless to say, since then my birthday has had my father’s death shadowing it. I have not really celebrated my birthday since. What used to be a week-long festival of selfishness turned into me wanting to hide away under my bed for a month. And, until very recently, I was about to write the whole birthday thing off completely.

Enter my girlfriend Kat. I was telling her about Festivus and how I used to celebrate my birthday before meeting her. She knew why I didn’t celebrate my birthday anymore, but because she’s awesome she decided to do something about it.

There’s only one gift I demand for my birthday from people if they’re so inclined to get me something. And that’s a macaroni card. A card decorated with macaroni. Or basically anything that you have to sit down and make. Write a poem, sing a song, or paint a picture. Something I can’t buy for myself. I have a box full of the cards I’ve gotten for my birthday over the years, and every once and a while I open that box and reminisce about birthdays past and the friends who’ve made me something.

Kat, knowing I’ve been kinda down in the dumps the last couple of days, went ahead and painted me a picture every day for the last five days. My dull office now has a wall full of art. Considering she’s finishing her degree in Fine Arts, they also happen to be great paintings! Here, I will show you some of the art I’ve gotten this week.

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Day one: Unicorn and Narwhale

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Day Two: Lonely Bird

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Day Three: Scaredy Owl

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Day Four: Chilling Crows

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Day Five: Odin’s Raven

I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the past relationships I’ve had and the gifts I’ve received. But never has anyone taken as much time to pull me out a depressive funk as Kat has. If she hadn’t done this, there’s a good chance I would never have celebrated Festivus ever again. This week, it feels like my birthday again. So thank you very much Kathryn, I owe you dearly and I love you very much.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I still have to work today, which is the first time I’ve worked on my birthday in years. And I think it will also be the last time I work on my birthday.

p.s.s. Yes, there is clearly a theme going on in the paintings.

p.s.s.s. I’ll be taking Sunday off, because it’s going to be a taco fest here in the apartment! Beef tongue is ready to go!

Mr. Charlton – Green Thumb

I do not have a green thumb, which is to say that Mr. Charlton isn’t skilled in the garden. Plants in my care usually meet their demise, and it’s not for a lack of trying. The only plant I’ve personally grown successfully actually has a story, because it too met its demise. The story’s a funny one, but it’s one that should be told anyways.

Years ago, and I mean almost a decade ago, I went to a friend’s birthday party. Matty showed everyone a great time, and was even handing out old school goodie bags at the end. There was a number of gifts in the bag, toys, candy, gum. He really went all out. There was one curious item at the bottom of the bag though; a bean stalk in a can. When the bean sprout grew big enough, the can promised, you would be able to make out an important message on the leaves.

For some reason or another, some wires connected in my brain that suggested this was a challenge, not a set of instructions. This can of bean stalk had the audacity to call me out, telling secrets to others while remaining a mystery to me. It knew that I had no abilities when it came to gardening. Here was this can, this gift, and it was laughing at me. Smirking from the bottom of the bag. It might as well have been a can of assholes.

I was determined to read this message. I was going to find out this bean stalk’s message, and the only way I knew how to coax it out was to take care of the little fellow. So I took it home, followed the instructions of ‘put it by some light and water it every day’, and that’s what I did. Everyday, I went to the window where it was sitting, made sure he was getting enough sun, then I’d water him.

At first, there wasn’t much of anything. For the first few days, nothing. Then after that, a little bud appeared. He didn’t grow much after that. For about a week at a half, he didn’t do to much, except be tiny and green. It wasn’t wilting, it wasn’t turning brown, it happened to remain a dwarf bean stalk. Even though he wasn’t getting any bigger, I was still happy to go through the motions every day to make sure he was getting plenty of sun and water. Then, almost over night, it shot up. And it grew. It grew to need a chop stick to wrap around, then a longer chop stick, then piece of doweling rod I bought from a garden center. Soon this little bean stalk was over four feet tall, and still growing out of the same little can.

Now, not being much of a gardener, I never bothered to repot the not so little fellow, simply because I would have killed the plant. That didn’t matter though, because the secret message on the leaves was revealing itself. I’m not sure how they did it, but the letters ‘P’ ‘E’ ‘A’ were stamped onto one of the larger leaves. With still more message to come, I made sure he was getting taken care of.

Enter my neighbor, we’ll call him J. The guy living next door was a bit a nuisance. I made the mistake a couple of months prior of knocking on his door and offering him a beer. He was a shorter guy with a Napolean complex, and introducing myself turned out to be an error, because then he was knocking on my door every other day looking to bum a cigarette. Basically the guy was a dirtbag.

One night there’s a knock at the door, and there’s J, drunk and high on cocaine. I know this, because the first thing he said was “Hey man, listen, I’m drunk and high on cocaine right now, and I locked myself out of my apartment”. I suggest that if he needs to get back into his place, he should go out my balcony, hop over the fence to his place, and go through his balcony door to get back in. He agrees, and marches over to the balcony door.

My bean stalk is in the path between him and my balcony, and he ends up trampling my plant. Didn’t knock it over, full on stomped on the sucker. He hops out the door, clamours over the fence, and succeeds in getting back into his place. I’m holding what remains of my plant when he comes back to brag of his success. He sees the dead plant, apologizes, then hurries back to his apartment. In a few seconds, he returns with two warm beers, apologizes again, then goes back home.

I never did find out exactly what the plant spelled out. Was it ‘Peace’, and offering humanity a message? Or was it simply ‘Peas’, because that’s the kind of plant it was? I’ll never know, and it will forever remain a mystery.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. Thanks again Matty. If you’re reading this, that was still one of the best birthday parties I’ve been to. Every time I see a pea plant, I think about that party.

 

Still Blinded by Straight White Privilege

I was about the write off the recent attacks as an isolated event, another crazy person with access to weaponry he shouldn’t have. The attacks were an issue with American guns laws. I told everyone this would happen again, it might be a school, like the Sandy Hook murders, it could happen in a movie theatre, like it did in Aurora. I wanted to pin this on something other than hate against a marginalized community. I started reading a bunch of hateful Twitter posts about retribution from God, and I wrote it off. I heard second hand of a local Christian man who’s decided to side with the shooter on this one, and I put it aside. I didn’t really think of the fact that the streets were being painted at the crosswalk in rainbow, and that Pride was happening locally soon. And it wasn’t until I sat down and read through the comments of my last blog, when it hit me; every single person that commented on it was a straight white male.

The attacks that took place were an attack against the LGBTQ community, and I made the mistake of trying to appropriate that elsewhere. To write it off as anything else was arrogant of me. To think that such a close knit community wouldn’t be reeling after a tragedy like this was ignorant. For that I apologize.

Anyone with a heart and a conscience has got to be feeling something these last few days, and everyone seems to be reacting differently. Some people are mourning, some are angry, some are frustrated. Some are also joyful, thinking this brutal act of hate is justified, that somehow the love between two people is more of an affront to humanity than the ending of a human life. And that’s what the LGBTQ community stands for, love and the right to love. It’s sickening to think there’s a vocal group of people who would rather see bloodshed than two men kiss.

In my haste, like many others, I was looking for a reason to why this happened, and I chose gun control. Other’s picked terrorism, some chose mental illness. There was a lot of things we could point to, to take our minds off the idea that the queer community is still vulnerable and still under threat. I wanted to think we were past that, the old guard who held that banner of homophobia was dying and that things were progressing. I still think things are getting better, and progress is being made, but after thinking about it long and hard, I had the sober realization we still have a long way to go as a society. The shooter was three years younger than I am. To think the old guard hasn’t left an impression on new generations was an naïve ideal.

It wasn’t long ago that being gay was a crime in this part of the world, where the treatment was rehabilitation, therapy. People were rehabilitated violently, and were subjected to chemical therapy. Love between two people was outlawed and met with violence and death. And it’s still illegal in much of the world, still outlawed, still met with vicious confrontation and murder. It seems so mind boggling backwards that love is not only looked down upon, but endures homicidal fury.

While debating whether owning a gun was a right or a privilege, I forgot that the opportunity to love someone else is a privilege, not a right in this world. That I have the privilege of being able to walk down the street without having the word faggot or dyke lobbed in my direction. That I have the privilege of being able to say “I love you” to someone I care about without having to look over my shoulder or mutter under my breath. That I have the privilege not to be a target because of my sexuality. These are privileges I take for granted. After the recent attacks, maybe I shouldn’t be so callous to give my opinion on a privilege that not everyone has access to.

All around the world, people are holding sigils to honour the dead and remember lose who have lost their lives to this tragedy. Maybe tomorrow, instead of getting on my soapbox to give out my opinion and ask hard question, I’ll try listening to someone else’s opinion and questions instead.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m still going to write something tomorrow, but goddamnit, I’m going to pick something that isn’t a tragedy.

p.s.s. All kinds of hugs to people out there. I’m hoping tomorrow is a sunnier day.