February 2005

Hindsight With Astigmatism...

Astigmatism( -st g m -t z m)
n. A condition in which unequal curvatures along the different meridians in one or more of the refractive surfaces of the eye cause the rays from a light source not to be focused at a single point on the retina. Also called astigmia.

I do love dictionary.com

I've been looking back. Or better yet, trying to at least. In the corner of this room there is a bloated fish, a frog, two small crustaceans who refuse to behave in any sort of a civil fashion and me.

The me in the room is the one lost in puzzled introspection. You can tell the difference because I'm the only one not currently looking for little bits of compressed algae and protein rich in calcium and such.

If you turn the lights out, things disappear. If you leave the lights out for long enough, you'll eventually forget that you. Or they, were even there.

This is a great method in many regards, but eventually, some yo-yo is going to come stumbling in thinking he has found the bath room and turn the lights back on again. Either that, of the sun comes up and you find that despite your efforts to stay in the dark, you forgot to tin foil over the windows.

Critical that.

Amazing material tinfoil. Not only is it affordable and malleable, but boy does it mess you up if you accidentally get a bit of it in your teeth...

Don't ask. Some things are better left unsaid.

In the midst of insomnia, you can find yourself waking up from a half sleep that was in no way satisfying, but at was pretty good at the time, being the best that you could get.




Influence is a funny thing it is.

in·flu·ence( n fl - ns)
n. 1. A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort: relaxed under the influence of the music; the influence of television on modern life. 2.Power to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position: used her parent's influence to get the job
2. A person who exerts influence: My parents considered my friend to be a bad influence on me.
3. An effect or change produced by influence.
4. A determining factor believed by some to affect individual tendencies and characteristics understood to be caused by the positions of the stars and planets at the time of one's birth.
5. Factors believed to be caused by the changing positions of the stars and planets in relation to their positions at the time of one's birth.

tr.v. in·flu·enced, in·flu·enc·ing, in·flu·enc·es
1. To produce an effect on by imperceptible or intangible means; sway. 2. To affect the nature, development, or condition of; modify.

I think I like this one the best...
"To produce an effect on by imperceptible or intangible means; sway."
I have recently become aware that for a good long time, I was influenced away from myself by a great many things and people. I have also recently become aware that I don't like this one bit. I only realized this when I was told a joke by someone that I might have laughed at a couple of years ago. The rub of the whole thing that this joke brought me to the realization that two years before that time (so four years ish ago, bear with me on the fuzzy math…) I would have found it repulsive. The thing that caught me was that for the first time in four years, I found it repulsive again.

Somewhere in the punchline of bad drug humour, the person that I was a long time ago came around for a drink or two, shot the shit for a while, and did his best to remind me that certain things are just in remarkably poor taste. And I have to admit, I think the old chap managed to be somewhat persuasive on that matter.

I've spent a lot of time moving away from people in general these days. I'm told that's not healthy, and at this point, with a massive head cold and lungs that feel as if someone has a steady supply of molasses to pour into them every few hours (mind you, I think molasses would probably taste better), my health is clearly not in it's pink.

But I've also realized that there are some people that I simply shouldn't be exposed to. Given the right conditions, some people sunburn very easily. Given the right conditions, I think that I people burn just as easily.

Reading that over, I can't help but think that I might have a little more inner rage than expected.

Here's the long and the short of it. I have realized that I have spent roughly the last two years waking up from the nightmare of the three years that came before that. In that time, I have done some incredibly horrible things. I have made choices that I would not have imagined myself making because they hurt other people terribly.

I guess it's just starting to dawn on me what a bad phase that bad phase was. And I guess it's starting to dawn on me that some of the reasons that the bad phase was so bad was because of the people I was around. Now to be sure, I'm not trying to dodge any responsibility for the mistakes I have made. I made those choices of my own volition, and under the influence of others or of irresponsibly excessive amounts of alcohol in no way excuses me from taking full responsibility.

But I can look back and say that I certainly was being influenced. It was in the most intangible and imperceptible way imaginable, but boy, it was there nonetheless. And again, to be clear on not dodging the responsibility of my mistakes, I made the choices to be with these people.

I do, however, feel some remorse for those that I may have influenced myself in that time. I do know that I gave people ideas about life and values and such, and that I was terribly, terribly wrong in some of those.

Mistakes were made, and plenty of them.

The interesting thing about it all is that as I look back and realize all of these things I can see the mistakes I made so clearly, but the motives that I may or may not have had are surprisingly blurry.

They say that "hindsight is 20/20", but I am finding more that they should be saying "hindsight is a rather serious case of astigmatism where you occasionally find your glasses, only to end up dropping them again, usually in the toilet"

That definition would work much better for me I think.

Meh, doesn't much matter anyway, soon Losers Incorporated will be up and running, and none of this will matter as we will be headquartered on the most secluded of tropical islands guarded by very moody spider monkeys.

Not only do you need to charter a plane, a boat, and at least two guides to get there, but if you don't bring at least 20 pounds of tobacco and rollies (assuming that you manage to make your way past the spider monkeys...), the natives there will skin you alive and boil you in oil faster than you can say "I can't believe it's not butter!"

Cause it's that good you know...


Memory And The Feel Of Gunfire...


My grandfather on my fathers side turned 80 last week.

Quite a thing when you think on it.

80 years.

I'm only 28.

He served in World War Two on a minesweeper. I can only imagine the mindset of the time. I've never had the courage to ask him if it's anything like the warmongering climate that we live in these days. For some reason, the transparency of current wars would only seem an insult to the wars of yesterday.

There was a whole family to-do about it. Family members flew in from all ports, and we all gathered to pay tribute. I can clearly see how that tribute was, and is, deserved.

History is a funny thing. We try to learn from it, but having never experienced it, the best that we can do seems to be a pale imitation of the past.

The funny thing about the whole deal is that I was asked by more than a couple of my family members if I would give a speech. To be honest, I didn't much see the need.

Here's the fact of the matter...

There were a whole whack of people (including a letter from the Prime Minister, irony that, my grandfather would rather cut off a toe than vote for Mr. Martin) that stood up and told various stories about what a great impact my grandfather had on them.

Being someone that only wishes to impact other people, what more could I say in regards to a man who had in so many ways done what I wish to one day achieve?

Their gratitude said all that I could ever hope to say, and being that one of the philosophies by which I try and live my life is "That which is understood, need not be discussed", I found for a rare time that my feelings were best expressed by those that spoke before I would have, and that my sentiments could best be expressed in silence.

And on that note...

I had, for a good time, another grandfather. I am somewhat shamed to say that I cannot remember his age when he passed on. It was a while ago, and as I have learned since then, numbers and records are somewhat trivial.

But I would like to take a page or three to go on about him for a bit.

It's funny how memory works. Funny how it starts at a point, brings you full circle and then, if you are so lucky, teaches you a thing or two about yourself.

Tonight I was watching a "Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow".

An interesting take on the early days of Hollywood, but not a great film by any stretch.

The interesting thing (to me at least) was that at one point Sky Captain pulled out a revolver, and for one reason or another, I found myself flashing back to memories of my grandfather on my mothers side.

He's the dead one.

The one that didn't just have the birthday.

My Grandfather on my mother's side was quite the success story. While I don't know all the details of his life, I do know that he rose from relative obscurity to become the editor of his towns newspaper and then the mayor of said town.

While not pretending to be a musician, I run a video store, so I have to give him props on that.

He was, by all accounts, a respectable man among respectable men. Old school all the way.

He never paid much attention to me, but he was a busy man with the world of old governing his actions, so I learned to accept that.

But when he did pay attention...

And that's where this bit begins.

First of all, for some reason, that scene in Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow brought to mind two separate moments in which my grandfather on my mothers side decided to pay me some attention.

Oddly enough, they are in complete disorder from what you might expect.

From a pistol in a wannabe silver screen movie, first came the memory of my grandfather teaching me to make a boat of an old tobacco tin. Quite an art really, and one that I suspect will be lost on a non-smoking generation in about 15 years.

Although, I have to wonder whether or not it will fall casualty to a new generation of non-smokers (to which I have no objection) or more sadly, a generation that lacks the industriousness of previous years.

Because, you have to admit, that's been missing of late.

I have decided that I will teach my grandchildren to make boats of whatever tins are available. All it takes is a can of some sort, a pair of tin snips, some solder and a reasonably weighted nail.

In the age of the Internet, that should be a walk in the park.

Anyways, for some reason, while watching Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow, I remembered labouring away on this little tin boat in my grandparent's basement.

It was quite an interesting basement, to be sure.

One room was a workshop, fitted out with all the the tools that one might need to make pretty much anything ranging from a whosiwhatsit for the bathroom to a widget for the kitchen.

This is where we made tin boats.

The other room, other than the mass common storage area was the room in which my grandfather stored, among other things, all the accoutrements from his day as a newspaper man.

Included among these was a library of old newspapers, various tools, a printing press, and several firearms, including an air hand gun, an old revolver and a pearl handed semiautomatic pistol.

Thus my second memory.

One day, after much chiding (I had learned that my grandfather kept several guns in the basement and simply had to know more), my grandfather took me into the basement to show me a few of the finer points of firearm care.

So down we went.

The first thing that he showed me was the air pistol. Start small and work your way up I suppose. He took great care to lecture me at length on the dangers that even an air pistol could present, explaining how you never point it at a person, and how you were always to treat any weapon as if it were loaded.

And then, being that it was an air pistol, he explained the concept of dry firing.

Dry firing is when you pull the trigger of an unloaded weapon.

He then went on to demonstrate.

I suppose that there's no way that he could have known that after years of non service the air pistol had in fact been primed and loaded.

At the time that he pulled the trigger all that I knew was that there was a loud pop and that a small metal bit bounced off the floor, then off of the old printing press and then by my left ear.



I can still remember the sound of air being cut so close to my ear. A hard sound to describe, even on a good day.

I imagine that my grandfather was somewhat shocked and appalled at that turn of events, but if he was, he certainly never showed it.

After that little piece of metal imbedded itself in the wall, he calmly went on to show me the revolver, which had a nifty little arm that popped out any spent cartridges out when you opened it up.

He also showed me how to take apart and clean his pearl handled pistol. I always wanted that pistol, but it has since landed in the care of the local RCMP detachment as I understand it was quite the little weapon in it's right.

Probably for the best, I doubt that I am one to be trusted with the care of firearms, even on a good day.

My final memory of my grandfather is of that in a nursing home, false teeth all loose and sliding about. It's not a pleasant memory, and one that I by and large choose to ignore.

For the best I think.

The odd (and in hindsight, impressive) thing was the calm with which he went on to show me the finer workings of the other two guns. Despite the fact that he had nearly blown off his grandson's head, he never missed a beat.

It was this onslaught of memories, combined with the very recent birth of four baby bunnies in my home (prefaced by the birth of three very still born bunnies) that brought me to realize a simple truth, one which I think that I have avoided for a very long time.

Of all the things that might scare me in life, death is not one of them.

It is the memory of death that scares the crap out of me.

I can deal, reasonably easy, with the idea that the grim reaper is waiting in the wings for me. I accept that as inevitable. However, the idea that death is also waiting for anyone or anything that I care about...

That fucks me up.

I'm a firm believer that as long as things are moving, you can affect them. When they stop moving and you can no longer influence them as they are completely out of your control, that messes me up.

That and if you're going to have a final image in your head, it should really be one you can deal with.

For some reason, I find it a heck of a lot easier to hold on to the memory of almost having my head taken off (as it turns out, that air pistol has more than the force of a 22 rifle behind it) than the image of an old man in a hospital bed unable to keep his teeth in.

Maybe one day that will make sense.

Moral of the story?

My other grandfather turned 80 last week, and I have a whole bundle of good memories of that to hold on to.

Which, rest assured, I will.

Find The Truth Behind The Questions That Are Haunting You...


It must look pretty easy from over there. Thinking about it now, I don't think that you ever really worked out the fact that I actually did give a shit about you. Time for that is well and past though.

I bet there's probably been a couple of drunken nights where you cared a whole bunch both ways. Some where between missing this and cursing my name there just might have been a little bit of truth.

It always amazed me how you could never say no, but you could never really say yes either. You kinda lived in this halfway world where things never really took any sort of real form.

They more just hovered.

I can't help but wonder where it all went. I can't help but wonder how it all got sucked out the window so quickly. There was so much there, and then there just wasn't. Magic tricks like that should only by practiced by the most experienced of illusionists.

Amateurs like us never had a hope to get it right I suppose.

We should have stuck to easy card tricks and that one where you wiggle the spoon to look like it bends.

I don't think that it bends anymore.

I think it just breaks.

And I'm scared to think that your desperation may have finally broken you. I hear the stories and I can only try and shake the bewilderment from my head. I shouldn't need to tell you that you should know better, but I still want to.

That should mean something, right?

Humility...

I've been following the story of Romeo Dallaire this week. Having read his book some time ago, it only seemed appropriate.

If you haven't been, I strongly suggest you do.

I can only hope that I might one day affect people in the way that his story has.

And I pray to all that I believe in that I never will.

You know where to find me...

Nate@natepike.com