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/

 

Advertisements

Breaking Bad-der

My dark side has led me to this.  I just watched the entire Breaking Bad series on Netflix, and unassuming Mr. White was on to something big!  This was a guy I could relate to.  In fact, the similarities between us are remarkable!

  • Just turned 50
  • full on mid-life crisis
  • Spending way too much time in our underwear
  • Look awesome in sunglasses and a goatee

Walter White

Heisenberg

Other than his health issues, we’re practically the same guy.  Heck, we both even have a Brother-in-law who works in law enforcement.

Naturally, Walter White’s little foray into entrepreneurship ended badly for him, but I think I figured out what his problem might have been.

He chose a product that was lucrative, but meant dealing with the most unsavory and unpredictable group you’re ever likely to run across. That was his fatal flaw…literally.

My plan is a bit more pedestrian that cooking crystal meth, but under recent municipal legislation, just as likely to get me busted by ‘The Man’.  The upside to dealing in things of an illicit nature is people who want your product will pay big bucks to get it, and are motivated to keep their yaps shut about where they got it.  “Loose lips sink ships” as they say.

The key is finding a product in high demand, no one else is making, and can be distributed quietly without raising suspicion.  The answer was right under my feet – herbicides.

Thanks to heavy political pressure from the environmentalists, our local governments banned all types of residential weed killers.  The herbicides disappeared off store shelves faster than half-priced foam fingers at a Miley Cyrus concert.

One thing the government should have learned from the early years of prohibition, is that demand will always be there, and when something is suddenly made illegal, felonious characters come out of the woodwork to fill the need and make a pant-load of cash along the way.  This is where I come in.

Homeowners are faced with few options now that the Panda-lovers outlawed lawn sprays.  They can get down on their hands and knees, pulling those nasty yellow weeds out by their roots, or they can give up and surrender to this plight to their grass.  It’s in their dirt stained, desperate fingers that I will deliver their sacred nectar.

Contraband dandelion killer will be the next crystal meth for my community.   I even have my own ‘Jessie’ to help me with distribution.  There’s a little kid who wanders around the neighbourhood all day with nothing to do.  He seems to know everybody and would never be suspected by the tree-hugging police.  He’ll give out some small samples.  Maybe even spray an entire lawn as a show of our awesome power over weeds.

Poor desperate gardeners will come begging for more.  One squirt and they’ll be hooked!  Demand will outstrip supply, which will drive up the price. Economics 101, right?  I might have to move my operations from my garage to a mobile unit to stay ahead of the green cops…a Winnebago?  Yeah, I can see it now, cooking my special blend, hidden in plain sight, maybe at an unsuspecting campsite where the transient population is used to looking the other way.

I’ll have to move my product around.  Too many perfect lawns in any one neighbourhood will create suspicion. It’ll be important to stay ahead of the nature fuzz.  I might even have to leave my own lawn a semi-dead weed haven just to throw off their scent – just like the way Walter drove that Aztec around even though he could afford a Ferrari.  It’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make to stay ahead of them.

My plan is fool-proof.  Nothing can stop me!  After this long winter, everyone will pay whatever price I set for my secret herbicide, to ensure they have the best looking lawns around.  Balancing my fame against total anonymity will be the real challenge. This whole plan should keep me busy until mid-June when the current crop goes into hibernation.

Hmm.  Let’s see – it’s almost May now.  With the new equipment and raw materials I’ll need, and with the free samples to get the word out, giving my ‘Jessie’ his share, I think I should just about break even….maybe that’s no better than breaking bad, now that I think about it.

I’m sure something else will pique my interest – I just started watching Dexter.

 

 

 

 

 

Must be spring – a bug flew in my ear.

bug

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – I don’t like Spring.  It’s easily the worst season (winter being a close second after the one we just had) of the 4.

For many, it’s the promise of better weather and warmer, longer days.  That’s ‘a good thing‘, as Martha would say.

It’s true – Spring means that Summer is on its way, so we shrug off the Winter blah’s, stow away those heavy ugly winter clothes and bring out the lawn furniture.

But not so fast, my friends!  Spring is a false season. It’s a liar.  Spring is not about nice weather and sunny days.  That’s Summer – let’s not confuse the two.  Spring steals all of Summer’s thunder, literally, and offers nothing of value for itself.  It’s like a cheap sidekick as an opening act for the real performer.

It doesn’t help that I really suffer from springtime allergies.  In Canada, we celebrate the May ‘2-4’ weekend, which falls, not coincidentally, on the weekend closest to May 24th.  I think it was a British Queen’s birthday, so as ex-patriots, and exploiters of  the monarchy, we mug every long weekend we can out of them.  I used to think it was named after a case of beer…college days!

It’s the first long weekend of warm weather, but for me it’s a double-edged sword.  This is also the time of year that all the lovely trees are bursting forth with their pollen-spawn, clogging up my sinuses and attacking my immune system.  I usually spend it in the basement with a bottle of Benadryl and box of tissues.

Yup, Spring is a total poser – a cheap veneer, looking like a real season, but it’s just a mirage – a delusion, tricking us into liking it.  Don’t believe me?

Let’s look at the differences:

SUMMER:

  • Long days of sun
  • Warmest weather we’ll see all year
  • Vacations
  • Bikinis
  • Beer gardens & patios
  • Swimming pools
  • Days at the beach
  • Pina Colada scented suntan lotion

SPRING:

  • Rain and/or snow and/or sleet and/or freezing rain
  • Allergies
  • Weather that makes you think it’s summer until you go outside and are freezing in 10 minutes
  • All the dirt, garbage, dog bombs, brown grass, and other nasties that were hidden in the snow
  • Flooding
  • Mud
  • The smells…yuck!
  • Mosquito spray
  • Dead skunks, racoons, or anything else trying to procreate by crossing a busy road
  • Allergies (it’s worth mentioning twice)
  • Birds nesting in my dryer vent

I used to think birds nesting was kind of cute.  In our first house, they nested in the vent for the bathroom fan.  At first is was sweet, being sung to by those melodic, hungry little chicks in the morning while taking care of business, but like all animals, they grew up and trashed the house.  The mess down the outside of my home was a toxic, sticky sludge that had baked into the siding.

See?  Spring is a lousy season.  It’s only positive is that it’s followed by Summer, so it gets the polite applause it doesn’t really deserve.  It rides on the coat-tails of our greatest season, taking all the credit: “Spring showers bring May flowers” – like it’s supposed to make us all warm and fuzzy about dreary, wet days.

Walking the dog this morning, I noticed that the receding glaciers from this past Winter are exposing a lovely collection of pop cans, wrappers, and poop – literally some was on top of one of those green utility boxes.  ON TOP!  That was some dog, I tell you.

The weather was too cold for Spring attire, but because it was above freezing, everything was a muddy mess.  Just to cap it off, a bug – probably the only one alive this time of year – flew directly into my ear.

Oh, yeah.  Let’s welcome Spring, but only because it means that the main attraction is somewhere in the wings, waiting to make it’s appearance.

I can only hope that this Spring is a one-act show….

Loco for local

One of the things I love about summer, aside from the obvious stuff like not being cold all the time, are the little roadside stands that sell fresh fruit and vegetables. The veggies all probably come from the same farms as they do for the big grocery stores, but we feel better about the road-side stands for some reason.

There’s something about stopping on the way home and picking up some fresh corn or tomatoes on the side of the road, trading actual dollars for goods that connects you with the local growers that’s different than getting the same produce from the grocery store.

There’s something even better than fresh produce at a road-side stand.  Going into a local business and having the owner know you.  Nothing says ‘Ego Stroking’ like the store owner remembering you from your last visit. 

“Hey, how did that spindle rotor work out for you?  Did you remember to torque it counter-clockwise?”

“Yeah.  It worked perfectly.  Thanks for the help.”

Wow!  He remembered me!  Now I’m hooked.

There’s a little Chinese food place near our home that has changed hands more than a rental car, but the current owners are awesome.  I’ve only bought food there about a half-dozen times in the past year – clearly not enough to even keep the lights on, but for some reason the owner knows me by name – it’s like she’s some sort of Chinese Food Savant.  Eerie sure, but very cool.

Picking up steaks at the local butcher is a total rush for me.  The power of deciding exactly which cut of meat will land on my grill and then be served to my family and friends is a total trip.  You can’t deny that choosing each cut of meat after a consultation with your butcher on what would be best for the event is much more fun than standing over one of those chest fridges at the grocery store, battling with shopping carts over a pre-determined packaged hunk of meat.

We’ve been doing some cosmetic updating in our house, and I’ve found myself picking up small items at a local hardware store instead of my usual 15 minute drive to the big box stores that have everything under the sun for any project.

It’s one of those stores that you might see in a small town, where they carry a little bit of everything – barbeque parts, household cleaners, paint, plumbing supplies, building materials, even a gift section.  I don’t know how they pack all that stuff into such a small space – you could wander the tiny store for hours, finding new items around every corner.

Today, I was in again, getting some light switch covers and I got into a conversation with the owner, who was thanking every single customer for shopping there.

“We’ve been here since 1979”, he would proudly say. “Thank you for supporting your local hardware store business”.

He only recently bought it, but he was banking on the history of the store to strike a chord with his customers. With 18 hour work days, his young children help out at the store, manning the cash register, or helping lost customers.  He’s taken only one day off work since opening last fall.  Who has that kind of work ethic?

There is a large chain hardware store coming to the neighbourhood in the next few months, literally a stone’s throw from his little business.

I’ve always been a total sucker for the underdog, and I wish this David well as he battles Goliath.

I know we sometimes complain about high prices in these convenient stores (or convenience stores), but that’s the point isn’t it?  It’s convenient, so you pay a little more.  There’s no way these ‘little guys’ can match what those big box stores sell items for, given their limited buying power and size.  The difference is, it’s helping out your neighbour and maybe giving a job to a young person just starting out.

Something else that deserves a bit of our attention are kids who are looking for simple work – lemonade stands (yes, they do still exist), cutting grass, or shoveling the driveway.

Most of the winter I’m praying for some kid to come and shovel my driveway for me!  For 20 bucks, I can stay toasty warm, save my back and legs and help a kid get healthy, and dream of one day being the next big business entrepreneur.

That’s what I call a ‘win/win’.

I’ve got nothing against large chain stores.  In fact, most of my dollars still end up there, and I won’t be cutting up my store credit cards any time soon.  They do an excellent job of offering competitive pricing, bright clean aisles, and tons of selection, but if all I need is a box of screws or a pound of hamburger, I’m going to try the local independent business first.

So, here’s a challenge to all of us.  The next time you need a bottle of ketchup for the hot dogs, or a paint brush for your home project, or have some industrious neighbour kid knocking on your door offering to clear your sidewalk, consider how in small ways, keeping things local might just be the best thing you can do.

At war with the yellow menace

There is a hole in my front yard.

Technically, it’s not really a hole – more like a patch of scorched earth that has created a huge blemish on a very small but artificially well maintained piece of green earth.

I wish I could garner sympathy by saying that it was put there by some insidious enemy who had it out for me, or was indiscriminately added like one of those ‘taggers’ who blotch up walls, utility boxes and light posts with ugly scribbles.   The truth is that this awful blemish on my pretty little piece of heaven was perpetrated by yours truly.  That’s right, I am the stealthy vandal who created this terrible brown mass.

Like a few of you, I have declared war on the yellow enemy know as ‘Dandy Lions’ – those resistant, unapologetic weeds that flourish the more we try to eradicate them.   They tear me from my sleep and force me to suspend any outdoor activity the moment they pop their terrible sickly yellow heads up, so that I must engage in hand-to-hand combat, one on one with this relentless adversary.

The hole?  In the heat of battle, conventional, humanistic conscience is occasionally abandoned in order to win.  In this theatre, I am embarrassed to  admit, I resorted to chemical warfare in order to defeat my enemy.

You see, I decided to to fertilize the lawn, trying desperately to keep pace with my neighbours. You probably have neighbours like this too – the ones with the perfect grass? I bet they have some sort of laser-guided edger, making every curve and corner so precise it looks like its out of an ad for Home and Garden.  And they have rare tropical plants in full bloom, defying nature and baffling the rest of the block.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see some wayward soul teeing up their golf ball on one of these lawns by mistake;  who could blame them for being confused?

While I was out being a good neighbour, trying not to single-handedly destroy the local property values, I took one of those hand fertilizer spreader thingies and started to dutifully cover the (what should have been) green parts of the property.

SIDE NOTE:  does anyone know if its harmful to get this stuff on your dog?

Anyway, as I was churning out the grass food like that scary Scottish guy in commercials tells me to do, I paused to chat with my next door neighbour to catch up on the local gossip.  As I was chatting, my hand spreader decided to go to work all on its own and dumped a small pile of this ‘food’ on the lawn.  By the time I noticed, it was too late.

My selfish desire to eradicate everything yellow from my land, led me down a path of self-destruction.  I poisoned my own troops.  I guess this is what they call ‘friendly fire’ in the big show, but it doesn’t make me feel very friendly.  Now I must do what so many have done before me.  I have to conscript new troops, and go down to the garden centre to buy new top soil and sod.  Its a terrible cycle.  Fight, lose troops, replenish the troops, then fight again.

Each day, however, I wake up to see another evil little yellow flower thumbing it’s green nose at me, as if to say ‘you will NEVER win‘.

Maybe that’s the message.  Maybe I need to do what others have unashamedly done, and embrace this interloper that will not die, will not rest, and will definitely not go away.  Perhaps I need to change my prejudices about these little yellow flowers.  Maybe I should take delight in running through fields of ‘lions’ after their blooms have faded and been replaced with wisps of fluffy seeds, like a child or a puppy would.  I could lay in the grass, blowing the seeds into the air…right on to the neighbours lawn that looks like a golf course.