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.

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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.

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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.

 

When Your Appendix Attacks!

A friend of mine is getting out of surgery for appendicitis today. Everything is okay, but it did leave me wondering what the hell appendicitis is. Now, I’m no doctor, but I do have an internet connection and an hour to kill, so as far as I’m concerned, that puts me half way there.

First off, what exactly is the appendix? It’s an organ, in your body, like your brain or your heart. Unlike the brain or the heart, however, you can live without your appendix. For a long time, doctors and researchers thought the appendix was vestigial, which is a fancy word for pretty much useless. I’ll be frank, the appendix ain’t really pulling its weight in the whole ‘being a part of the body and contributing something’.

But, apparently it has a couple of uses, although certainly not vital. Back in 2007, some researchers at Duke University proposed the appendix might be a safe haven of sorts for the good bacteria in your body. See, your body runs on autopilot. You’re made up of billions of cells, all working together like some sort of kickass Power Ranger to pilot your body around so you can watch Game of Thrones and touch yourself inappropriately. Now, your body can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the bad guys can’t always differentiate between the locals and the tourists. Viruses and bad bacteria will attack good bacteria. If your body is being invaded by bad guys, then your white blood cells go nuts and start killing anything that isn’t part of you (sometimes those trigger happy white blood cells even start wacking your own body, then sprinkling crack on the victims). Basically, you body is an episode of ‘The Wire’, and the appendix is a safe house where good bacteria can lay low and play cards while the rest of your meat body wages war.

There was an even more recent discovery, where it was found the appendix was part of the lymphatic system. Due to my incredibly limited knowledge of biology and the human body, what I gathered was the appendix acts like traffic cop, making sure that waste gets disposed of properly. It also acts as a early warning system for disease, making sure the body’s defenses are coordinated properly. Even though this isn’t necessary, it’s handy to have.

But still, to continue to use the police analogy, the appendix is an old cop, who specialized in prohibition era law. Unfortunately, it’s not really needed anymore. The appendix hasn’t taken this news well, as occasionally it blocks up and explodes in your body.

Yes, you read that right. If your appendix becomes inflamed enough, it will actually burst, spewing pus and bile and whole bunch of other nasty stuff into your body. An appendectomy is a fairly common practice these days, but a hundred or so years ago, appendicitis could have easily been a death sentence.

Why would someone’s body decide to wage war against them? Your appendix gets a little fussy, then decides to lob a grenade in your direction. I have a theory. All the people I know who’ve had their appendix removed are pretty healthy people. They abstain from heavy alcohol use, they don’t smoke, they eat well, and get plenty of sleep. I, on the other hand, spent my twenties treating my body like a temple that I was constantly defacing. I smoked cigarettes and cigars, drank whiskey and beer, ate cheese stuffed with more cheese, and rarely slept. My appendix is terrified of me. It wouldn’t dare try to fuck with Mr. Charlton. My whole body wouldn’t even think twice about going against me. Sure, one day they might call in some heavy hitters, like cancers or a stroke, but it knows that I might just decide to dose myself in kerosene and start my birthday early.

Appendix_(PSF)

I don’t know, body, do you feel lucky today?

The people who get appendicitis are reasonable people. My body knows that it’s dealing with an unstable maniac. So if you want to stay healthy, make your body afraid. Hold your appendix hostage and wave a gun in its face. Tell your pancreas that if it even thinks about giving you cancer, you’ll throw a wrench in the plans by drinking bleach and committing seppuku. Don’t take any shit from your body, and trust me, you’ll soon find you can terrorize your body into behaving.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I treat my body a lot better these days. It now suffers from Stockholm syndrome.

p.s.s. Images taken from Wiki Commons

 

Happy Mother’s Day

My mom was born on on a day, somewhere in the Vancouver area. At least, I’m pretty sure of the location. She was the youngest out of five children, and grew up in Surrey, BC. Back then, Surrey wasn’t the sprawling suburb of Vancouver it is today. Back then, it was a much smaller place. She’s told me and my brothers about growing up with four older siblings, how my grandfather brewed root beer and put it in real beer bottles so it looked like they were all punks, the time one of my uncle’s set her leg on fire, the infamous ‘Bleach smells amazing story’. A bunch of laughs, funny moments and inside jokes from her childhood

Here’s the strange thing. Even though my mother has told me a ton of stories about her past, how she met my father, moving from Surrey, to Kamploops, to Revelstoke, and then finally to Golden, I never really knew my mother. I’m not sure many people do. If you were like me, then once you left the nest, you might only see your mother a few times a year, mostly at holidays. Even though you’re an adult now, you’re still the kid and she’s still the mom. And that the way it was, for over a decade after I left home. Until recently.

I quit my job last year, decided to hang up my scales and give up the drafting game for good. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do, but the first plan was to go back to Golden, stay a month or two, wait for a couple of final checks, then go traveling. I ended up staying four months.

First, the checks rolling in were taking their sweet time in getting to me. That was definitely one of the bigger reasons for sticking around. There was another big life change. My mother, within the first week or so of my arrival, put the house up for sale. The house I grew up in. The house that my parents had purchased back in 1991. A house that accumulated 25 years of stuff you normally accumulate after owning a house for 25 years. The house ended up selling within a couple of weeks.

When she told me the house was going up for sale, I honestly didn’t think much of it. House can take months, if not years to sell. Selling a house is a pain in the ass, mind you. The place needs to be spotless every time a potential buyer stops by to have a look. Which means that every time you have someone looking at the house, you end up having to clean the floors, wash the walls, vacuum, dust, and do the washrooms. Every. Single. Time. But we made it happen.

When she told me the house had sold and we need to start packing, I was stunned. Here I was, on a bit of a vacation, and now I was put in charge of packing, selling and moving a massive house. Five bedrooms, two living rooms, and a large workshop needed to be bagged, tagged and shipped to a new place. At this point, I still hadn’t really dealt with my father’s death, and packing up his stuff hit me pretty hard. There were a number of moments where I started welling up and had to go for a walk to regain my composure. But we made it happen.

The place we were renting was also up for sale, but we didn’t think much of it, as it had been on the market for a year and a half. After being in the new place, we found out it had sold. We were both pretty sick of moving at this point, so my mother threw caution to the wind and bought another place, a much smaller place, and we ended up moving again.

Through all of this, after two moves and three months of living together, my mom stopped being my mom all the time and was now more like my roommate Kathy. This may sound weird, but I actually got to meet Kathy for the first time. Truth be told, my mother is one of the best roommates I have ever had. She doesn’t party all that much, cleans up after herself, and all her friends seem pretty chill.

Jokes aside, I love my mother. But last year I got to find out that I actually like my mother. My mom is a cool person to hang out with. If she gave me a phone call and said she had two tickets to Europe, I’d go with her in a heart beat. Even at my age, that still seems rare that you know your mom as something other than mom. So maybe I’m luckier than most.

If you have the opportunity to give your mother a phone call or, even better, a hug, go do that. Life’s too short as it is. Not everyone is lucky to have their mom still around, and some peoples relationship with their mother is estranged. I count my good fortune that my mom is still around to talk to. Not only that, but my mom is someone I can go have a patio beer with on a hot summer’s day and we can both find ourselves laughing our asses off.

Cheers Mom. Love you tons!

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yes mom, if you haven’t noticed, the language on this blog is a lot cleaner than the last one. Everybody has to grow up eventually.

p.s.s. I finish SpaceX tomorrow!

p.s.s.s. Post was edited to remove the day and location of my mom’s birth. Can’t have scammers stealing identities!

 

Fort McMurray

If you were to look at the oil and gas industry in Alberta as a body, Calgary would be the brain. It’s where the head offices are, and consulting firms for Shell, Imperial, Suncor and other oil and gas companies do most of the engineering and design work. Edmonton would be the muscle, providing the manpower and the logistics. If Calgary’s the brains, and Edmonton is the brawn, Fort McMurray is the heart.

If you live in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Fort Mac. The largest tarsands operations are in Fort McMurray, or close to it. Anyone who’s worked in the oil and gas field lives up there, has worked up there, or at the very least have designed or planned something in the area. It’s the little city that never sleeps. It’s a lot smaller than Edmonton or Calgary, but it’s just as well known. Working up there usually means twelve hour days, for stretches up to three weeks. For a long time, Fort Mac represented one of the last places you could get a solid job without a degree, where the working class person could get not only a job, but build a dream. That dream is going up in smoke. Literally.

An out-of-control fire has ravaged over 10,000 hectares and destroyed over 1,600 homes and buildings. For the 80,000 people who evacuated, many won’t have a dwelling to come home to. That’s what was speculated five hours before writing this, and the numbers are sure to go up when the final tally is taken and the fires are put out.

Right now there is a huge amount of love and support from around the country. People are donating money, and most importantly, their time. There’s also people soaking up some schadenfreude, saying the fires are the cause of climate change, snidely pointing and laughing at the misfortunes of other. There are those who are pointing out that, due to the mass layoffs in the oilpatch, it’s convenient this fire stuck a town mired in debt and foreclosure, that this could be a blessing in disguise for those who have lost their jobs. Insurance money will roll in, they assure, and those who were in a bind will have their shackles broken.

One meme in particular has been floating around, the picture of the oilfield truck blazing down the highway, with the caption “Don’t worry, Fort Mac! We are coming with tools, trucks, our trades. And we will rebuild!”. The sentiment is nice, but the logistics of this should be something to consider.

Compared to the Slave Lake fires of 2011, the Fort Mac fires are twice the size and have destroyed close to four times the number of buildings. Compared to the Calgary floods of 2013, the city of Calgary is situated in the middle of Alberta, along both the TransCanada and the Queen Elizabeth, while Fort Mac is five and a half hours from the nearest major city. When the numbers come back and the fires extinguished, how much of Fort McMurray will be left to rebuild?

Rebuilding takes money. Even though the the city, the province, and the country are strapped for cash, you can be certain the money will be found somewhere. Rebuilding takes people. There are a lot of people with the skills and the knowledge to make that happen. More importantly though, rebuilding takes time. The hard truth is the reconstruction of Fort Mac will take a lot more time than Slave Lake or Calgary. Simply due to the scope of the area impacted, and the location of the area itself.

If you want to help, the best way to do that is through donations. Right now you can text REDCROSS to 30333 to donate $5, or you can text REDCROSS to 45678 to donate $10. If you are thinking about donating clothing, furniture, or household items, refrain from doing so. Too many items are often shipped, and often cause havoc for those organizing the fundraising.

To those throwing the political gauntlets, this isn’t the time to do it. Whether you’re trumpeting the governments’ success or their failures, we can judge them down the line. There’s still three years for both the federal and provincial governments, whether you like it or not. You’ll have plenty of time to place judgement regarding their handling of this crisis.

To those laughing at the irony regarding the possibility of Fort McMurray destruction due to climate change, just remember this; Climate change affects us all. It would be like deriding your foot for having cancer.

To those of you saying that this will be a huge payout from the insurance companies, I only have this to say to you; You have obviously never dealt with an insurance company.

To those witch hunting the former NDP candidate who tweeted the fire was ‘Karmic’, please stop. What he said was ignorant and childish, and trying to burn the man in effigy is equally ignorant and childish. Venting your anger and frustrations by trying to ‘get’ a man who said something stupid on a platform called ‘Twitter’ is a reminder of exactly what terrifies me about social media.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yes, I do have my own site now.

p.s.s. I have a friend up in Firebag, working at camp. Says it’s weird to have children running around and dogs barking in his wing.