Optimist Prime

WAY TO GO

You know that feeling you get when you see pictures of yourself at a party and you gasp at how old and flabby the photographer made you look?

It shakes the soft foundation of your fragile ego.  Well, this blog isn’t about that….at least not directly.

I’ve been reading back on some of my older material, and decided that I’ve been a bit bitter lately.  Not ‘Ben’s Bitter Bog‘ bitter, but at least pretty sarcastic with a touch of nasty thrown in.

But that’s not me!  Like those terrifying photos, where I try to convince myself it was bad lighting or the camera put on 10 or 40 pounds, I want people to know that this guy is actually pretty light-hearted and fun.

I can tell jokes, and smile at strangers.  I even used to whistle, until I heard on the radio that no one whistles anymore….except for old people.  That sucks, but what song would you whistle to now anyway?  ‘Wrecking Ball?’  ‘Uptown Funk?’  Not exactly whistling music. Even older stuff by my standards wouldn’t do.  ‘Black Dog?’ ‘One Scotch-One Bourbon-One Beer?’ They wouldn’t work either….maaaaybe ‘Hotel California’.

Anyway!  Back to me.

I thought about how I might be perceived based on my blogs, and after reading them, I figured it was time for a change.
grave

So, I had this epiphany about being a bit too negative, and realized that I don’t want that to be etched on my gravestone.  I mean, that’s the one thing in your life that really is written in stone, isn’t it?

Oh, boy – now you probably think I’m being morbid and obsessed with death.  Not true!  In fact, I typically take stupid risks believing that I won’t get hurt.

Alright – off topic again.  This self-realizations stuff is harder than I thought.

Back to the blog.  I think I need to start being more positive.  More glass-half-full, as they say.  I need to share the silver lining in life more often, and leave people smiling and happy.  And, dammit!  That’s what I’m gonna do, even if I hate it, and have to drag my family along kicking and screaming on this impossible mission!

For starters, I’m going to stop commenting on all those political attack ads.  They are poison to the soul, and I for one, will not be a party to such negativity.  Of course, if it’s against someone I support, it would be wrong to just allow malicious comments go unchecked.

Springtime has not been my favourite season.  You may have even read an earlier blog from me, attacking this very important part of the year.  In fact, it’s my second favourite season – right behind the other 3.  But, I’m a new man, and I will embrace the spastic weather, the frozen then thawed dog poop stuck to the bottom of my shoes, and those annoying little bugs that show up and get into everything.  Yup – I am Mr. Spring Sunshine and Rain!  I’m almost even looking forward to allergy season.  Bring on the pollen!

Traffic is another area where I will transcend road rage and frustration, and will endeavor to find peace and harmony even if that dingbat in the left lane won’t move over. People who cut me off are simply poor heathens who aren’t as developed as I am.  So, I will wave a finger at them in show of support of their growth opportunities.  And I can’t forget to smile while doing it…it’s important to repeat actions until they become habits.

Telemarketers are brothers, sisters, children, parents and friends, just like real people.  Why should I add to the misery of their scum-sucking jobs by yelling at them for interrupting my supper, or TV, or staring at the wall?  No, from now on, I’m going to engage them in a fully detailed account about my colonoscopy.  If they give me their email address, I can even send them some high-res pictures.   Who else but a complete optimist would be happy to share a bit of their personal lives with a total stranger?  Now, that’s sharing with my fellow man!

I’m already feeling very in tune with nature, just by opening up and sharing with you, my faithful blog-groupies.  The sun is shining a little bit brighter as the glare blinds my path.  Birds that nest in my dryer vent sound all the sweeter as I try to dig them out with a broom stick.  I even feel healthier and lighter, particularly since I switched to stretch-waist pants.

Wow!  Being a positive, optimistic blogger has been a life-changing process.  No more crabby weather complainer, or disgruntled customer service guy.  From now on, it’s all good!

Even today, while watching the hockey game, I was overheard saying,  ‘Good call, ref!’. Ahhh…peace and harmony.

By the way, there really is a ‘Ben’s Bitter Blog’ – it’s really depressing!!

http://bensbitterblog.com/

 

Canadian Thanksgiving – a vaguely historical account

This weekend, Canada will celebrate it’s 56th official Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.

Up here in the ‘Great White North’ we honour this event on the second Monday of October, not because our season is shorter, and we’ve harvested the crops already, but we really just wanted to beat the Americans at something.

Canada is relatively new at this as an actual holiday, having made it official in 1957. I guess being the polite sorts we are, we didn’t want to offend anyone by being officially thankful without making sure everyone was okay with it.

The original conception for the Canadian Thanksgiving, by my recollection, actually started way back in the 1500’s, when an explorer named Martin Frobisher had loaded his boats with what some historians believe was maple syrup (some insist it was gold, but that would ruin the story – you’ll see what I mean).  He ran into the ice and the sailors had to be saved by the local indigenous people.  By some strange twist of fate, he hit the ice in Frobisher Bay.  Huh.

Most of the syrup was lost, but the kind and gentle natives who witnessed the accident, had a big supply of Canadian back bacon and decided to share it with the sweet-toothed explorers.  Of course, Canada hadn’t been invented yet, so it wasn’t called Canadian back bacon at the time.

Some of the maple syrup that leaked from the ships, froze into smallish disks on the ice and the locals would hit them with their hunting spears. The syrup ‘pucks’ would slide across the ice, giving birth to our greatest national pastime, hockey.  Others would eat the tasty frozen treat, which was delicious, but they had to be careful not to get hit with one of the spears.  This probably led to the hockey helmet being invented.

Hockey, another gift from our First Nations people, accidentally led to the expansion westward from Quebec City, when the natives and explores were playing hockey with frozen syrup on the St. Lawrence river.  One of the explorers got a breakaway, and because they hadn’t invented goalies or nets yet, skated all the way to what is now known as Kingston.

The explorers were so pleased and thankful for this discovery, that they decided to take all the land from the indigenous people, and throw a huge party for themselves.

Although this all happened in the middle of winter, the English and French settlers argued about when to hold this annual celebration.  The French wanted it in October, the time of year that they bamboozled the generous locals into giving up their bountiful harvest.  The English wanted it in the spring, because this is when the river thawed out, and they were able to paddle in-land and take over a significant part of the country.  Then, the English changed their minds, and decided November was a better time for this, since it’s when they officially pilfered the land.

For a long time, the celebration was held on different dates, until the English decided that they wanted a special day to mark the taking over of the country with a separate war-related holiday, thus giving in to the French.  As it turns out, this was the first (and maybe only) time that the French ever actually won anything.

In a weird twist of cultural irony, it is Quebec, our French-speaking province that does not view our modern Thanksgiving celebration as an official holiday.  This is because, when the rest of English Canada got on board with the October feast, Quebec immediately abandoned it, siting a need to be a distinct society.

The precursor to our Thanksgiving in October is another celebration brought over by the Germans, who oddly enough, had nothing to do with the take-over of this land.  Anyway, it was the October festival, known as ‘Oktoberfest’, celebrated in major cities, but primarily hosted in Kitchener, Ontario because of its large German population, that is considered one of our unofficial kick-offs to Thanksgiving.  I mean, what says ‘Let’s get this party started’ more than drinking too much beer while wearing leather shorts?

Today, our modern Thanksgiving is celebrated in a very similar fashion to that of our American cousins.  Families gather for the long weekend to dine, close the pools and cottages, rake leaves, and spend time together. They eat themselves into a tryptophan induced coma with turkey and ham, and all the usual fixings, like stale bread stuffed into the backside of a dead bird.  Sometimes, it defies explanation how these traditions came about.

Unlike our American counterparts, we may not have the big football game, or the official kick-off to the Christmas season, but we, in very Canadian style, reenact some of our unique history by watching English and French millionaire athletes chase a puck around the frozen pond. They don’t use syrup any more, and instead, in a back-handed, slightly racist tip of the hat to our First Nations people kind of way, use an ‘Indian rubber’ puck.

I can’t confirm that all of the historical points above are completely accurate – I slept through most of grade 9 Canadian History class.  I do know that I can’t wait to head up north where the air is crisp and clean, the leaves are blazing with colour, and we’ll give thanks for the awesome country we live in at a family cottage, while feasting on the above-mentioned turkey and stuffing.

Wherever or whenever, or even however you celebrate Thanksgiving, my wish to you is that you celebrate it with good friends and family, and that you take a moment to reflect not only on what you’re thankful for, but  who you’re thankful to.

Wishing all of you a happy and safe Canadian Thanksgiving, eh!

P.S. – for handy tips on how NOT to cook a turkey this Thanksgiving, see my Blog “Folklore, Flaming Turkeys and Family Traditions”   https://troypulchinski.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/folklore-flaming-turkeys-and-family-traditions/

P.P.S. – If you found this blog offensive, see my Blog, “The Perils Of Humor”  https://troypulchinski.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-perils-of-humor/

Life Lessons from Street Hockey

street hockey
If you grew up in Canada in the ’60’s or ’70’s, it’s likely you spent a lot of time outside.  Those were the days when the big rules at home had to do with being within ‘ear-shot’, meaning your mother could yell your name from the front door and you could hear her…naturally, if you were playing hide and seek, you couldn’t give up your location, so you had to weigh the odds between being caught or being in trouble with Mom.

The other rule that got better as the summer months progressed, was the ‘street-light’ rule, which meant you could stay out until the street lights came on, then you’d better be heading home or else!  That one was a total rip off in the winter.  In Canada, the sun goes down around 4:30 in the cold months, so outdoor playtime was precious indeed.  Most of the time, though, it wasn’t all that bad on account that it was Canada and it was winter.

When we could, we would stay outside all day if possible.  Going in the house usually meant being ‘caught’ by Mom, and having to clean your room, or God forbid, vacuum the living room. Nothing was worse than that.

Because of this, we got pretty good at surviving outdoors for long periods of time.  Fluids came from a garden hose behind someones house – no bottled water for us, and nourishment was found in fruit trees growing around the neighbourhood – the trick was not getting caught.   Outdoor plumbing was never an issue…I’ll leave it at that.  Even injuries were managed outside, as long as they weren’t too serious.  There was one time playing street hockey, a kid got the butt of a stick in his mouth, which knocked out most of his teeth.  Because he was wearing a brand new set of braces though, they just kind of hung there on the metal tracks.  Needless to say, his father, who just finished paying for them, was not at all happy with us.

We loved playing street hockey.  It was a great way to live out the skills of your favourite NHL player.  Mine was Bobby Orr – the great number 4 from the Boston Bruins.  Most of the kids didn’t choose Lanny McDonald, not because he wasn’t a great hockey hero, but because none of us could grow thick mustaches.01f74-lanny

Mom liked us being outside because we burned off a ton of energy and we couldn’t break anything.

There were a lot of kids on our street, so getting a game going was pretty easy.  We didn’t have much in the way of fancy equipment like nets, or pads or anything.  We often used rocks as goal posts, and marked center ice with our hats or something else that we probably should have been wearing.  The puck was a tennis ball.  Tennis balls were as precious as gold back then.  Having one was like holding the conch in Lord Of The Flies…but of course, no one got killed.

We didn’t have blue lines on the road, so kids could stand pretty much anywhere on the ‘rink’.  There wasn’t an off-side rule but we did have the ‘Cherry Picker’ rule, which wasn’t so much of a rule as it was an insult.  A Cherry Picker was someone who would wait near the opposing goal area, hoping that the ball would make it down to them, and they’d have  a clear chance to score.  If you were brave enough or thick-skinned enough, you could be a Cherry Picker, but the other kids would yell out ‘Cherry Picker‘, like it was a terrible insult.

The most important rule in the game was the ‘car’ rule.  Because we were playing in the middle of the street, we had to always watch for cars.  If one came by, someone would yell, ‘CAR!‘.  Whatever play was going on, it would have to stop immediately, and get off the street – this was a great rule if the other team had possession of the ‘puck’.

Games kind of just happened if enough kids were around, and pretty much everyone could play as long as they had a stick.  Teams were organized in one of two ways, mostly.  The way I liked was that all the sticks would get piled up in the middle, and one of the kids, usually the oldest or most respected, would randomly throw sticks, alternating towards each net until they were evenly separated.  The other way was to have 2 captains choose their teams in alternating turns.  This wasn’t much fun if you weren’t very good, because you really didn’t want to be the last kid to get picked…’I guess I’ll have to take Troy…‘.  Either way, it was about the most fair, democratic process I’ve seen, even as an adult.

The interesting thing about street hockey was that although we were kids, and clearly unorganized, the rules of the game were strictly adhered to.  Any kid who refused to follow the rules, either spoken or assumed, was pretty much banished from all social games for a long time – kids could really hold a grudge.

We didn’t know it at the time, but street hockey was teaching us a lot of important lessons about life.  Besides being great exercise, we learned about the order of things.  We learned about leadership and hierarchy.  We knew that rules were important and needed to be followed.  We learned about teamwork and about knowing that we had to respect that we were on the street and it belonged to the cars.  It created the framework of morals and ethics for adulthood, and about hard work.

We had hero’s back then.  People we looked up to, and they rarely disappointed us.  Bobby Orr and Lanny McDonald are still stand up guys.  I don’t know if the same could be said about most sports stars today.

I’m seeing more kids in my neighbourhood playing street hockey again.  I’m glad for this, since they will learn the same important life lessons for future generations.  This gives me hope for the future.  They’ll learn about the importance of order, leadership and teamwork.  They’ll learn about not only how to follow rules, but to respect others.

They’ll probably never learn how to vacuum, though.