Categories
Uncategorized

On Walter.

My grandfather, Walter Michael Michaelski, passed away Oct. 4. Yesterday, I had the honour of delivering his eulogy. Below is what I said, with less pauses for me to stop crying. 

 

Good afternoon. Thank you all so much for coming today.

I am honoured to be here, to stand in front of you and do my part to tell my Grandpa Wally’s story and to try and do justice to a man who, through force of will, occasional stubbornness and remarkable character, lived a life whose influence has shaped the lives of so many of the people in this room and beyond.

Walter Michael Michaelski was born on his family’s farm in the district of Keld, Manitoba, on the border of Riding Mountain National Park. His parents had immigrated from Ukraine during one of the many mass emigrations, scraping and fighting to build a life and support their family.

Life on the farm was hard – and following the death of his father, Wally moved to Dauphin, where he drove a cab before he started working for CN Rail.

In 1951, a year after he met her over a cup of coffee at the E-Lite diner, he married Jean Trohubiak, the love of his life.

From the birth of their five children, Angela, Bob, Pat, Marcie and Karen, and through to the end of his life, Grandpa would have an unflinching and dutiful partner, occasional foil and better angler by his side.

Following his retirement, Grandpa kept busy by opening a tool sharpening business, and working on and enjoying his cabin in Waterhen.

Many of my earliest memories of my Grandpa are from the garden, the boat and the dock at that cabin, including the time, shortly after I heard the crack of his .22, he emerged from the bushes holding the rabbit that had been eating his lettuces.

I remember the giant grin on his face as he held this poor bunny by the ears, and his laughter as I fled behind the shed to cry until dinnertime, when we ate the most delicious “boiled chicken” I had ever had in my whole life.

Most of my memories of Grandpa are of times like these – working in the garden, eating at the dinner table, getting offered alcohol at a shockingly young age because my Grandpa couldn’t stand the sight of a guest without a drink in their hand.

Of his wonderful, vibratto-filled voice belting out an old country song or Christmas carol, accompanied by himself, Uncle Bob or my Dad on the guitar. Of his huge smile and laugh as he regaled us with another joke or perfectly crafted phrase.

From Dauphin, to Waterhen, to High River, to Calgary, Grandpa was so often the life of the party, rivalled only by his own children in the capacity to host and to show folks a good time.

Every friend I ever brought to Grandma and Grandpa’s house would leave with a full belly, a host of new stories to remember and a blood alcohol content well beyond the legal limit if they weren’t watching when Wally filled their glass.

My Grandpa Wally was so many things – a husband, a father, a railroader, a hunter and angler and craftsman and Holder of So Many Opinions on absolutely everything – but to me, above all other things, the thing that defined my Grandpa was his love of storytelling.

I might be biased in this department since I’ve somehow made a career out of telling stories, but I bet there isn’t a person in this room who hasn’t experienced the distinct sensation of having been “Wallied”.

At any given moment, on any given day, Grandpa could launch into a tale that would, at its outset, appear innocuous. It would seem like he was simply adding his two cents to the conversation, providing and dispensing a dollop of perspective or wisdom on a specific subject, born out of a long and rich life full of experiences.

By story’s end, however, you would be a different person, not only because of the richness of detail, the carefully chosen turns of phrase and the sheer volume of words, but because of the story’s battering, relentless length.

By the time Wally was done telling one of these stories – which could be on any subject under discussion, or quite possibly on a subject seemingly totally unrelated to the discussion – you would feel – and be – appreciably older than you were at the outset.

For many of those that loved Wally, we had heard so many of these stories countless times. Grandpa’s incredible memory and attention to detail made his storytelling and recall perfect – a recitation of prose that was like the litany of the Catholic Church, or the works of Homer – and like most church sermons or live readings of The Iliad, they could get pretty repetitive.

I used to count the number of eye rolls from Grandma and the kids as a way to keep myself entertained while Grandpa retold the story of the time he finally caught a bigger pickerel than Grandma.

But Grandpa didn’t just use stories to get a laugh, or make a point, or burnish his credentials; he told stories as a way, when couldn’t necessarily say it directly, to show you that he saw you, that he understood you. He used his stories as a form of empathy.

For example – when I was 14, my parents separated. It was, as you can imagine, a difficult time for everyone – my Mom and Dad were trying to navigate a new world after more than 20 years together, and on top of that they had me at 14 to deal with – at the absolute peak of my self-regard. The only thing bigger than the hemline on my enormous baggy jeans was my ego.

The next time I saw my Grandpa after my parents split was at their home in High River, at a big family dinner, with my aunts and uncles, my cousins and my Grandma. As I went around the house, each person asked me how I was doing, how I was feeling.

I would tell them I was doing fine, that I felt okay, that things were good, when in my heart I knew that things were not good. That I was scared, and I was raw, and I was very, very angry.

As I made the rounds, I finally said hello to Grandpa, and he asked me how I was. I told him the same thing I told everyone else – that I was just fine, thanks – and asked him how his week was.

In response, my Grandpa, completely unprompted, launched into a 45 minute long story about his prostate.

In that 45 minutes of getting “Wallied”, I learned many things about the diagnosis and treatment of an enlarged prostate, and many, many more things about my Grandpa.

I learned about the effects of an enlarged prostate on his bedtime routine, on his drives to Brandon and Winnipeg for treatment and on the various wildlife he saw along the way.

I learned about PVP GreenLight technology, also known as the Photoselective Vaporization of the Prostate, a turn of phrase that my Grandpa seemed to relish in a way that some people over-pronounce their pasta order in Italian restaurant.

I’ll have the Spa-ghet-ti Bol-o-gnes-e, I’ll take the Pho-to Se-lec-tive Va-pori-za-tion of-a the Pro-state.

So I enter this chat 14 years old, peak Colin. Scared and miserable and angry. 45 minutes later, I leave the conversation changed.

Confused, yes – for sure, embarrassed, probably a little hungry and thirsty, slightly nauseated – but changed. Grandpa, in the telling of this story, had somehow broken the hold of the anxiety that had clamped over my heart, if only for a little while.

It would be easy to attribute this story to my Grandpa’s – shall we say energetic – interest in his own life, to a man trying to change the subject to something he was more comfortable with.

I mean, who consoles or relates to their 14 year old grandson with a story about their prostate? What was I to do with this information, and perhaps most baffling, why did it work?

It took me a long time – years, really – to figure it out.

In some ways, the gap between my Grandpa and I couldn’t have been larger. I was born in a time and a world so different than Walter Michaleski.

As a kid, I was in my parents’ basement, building myself my own computer, while as a kid Grandpa was out on the farm, working with animals.

When he was bent over in the sun planting seeds in his garden, I was hunched over a book in the shadiest spot I could find.

When he was impressing German POWs by one-handing axes into trees from 40 feet away, I was impressing girls by deglazing a pan with Viognier.

How does this man, who grew up so tough, with immigrant parents, with tragedy and hardship and challenges, who subsumed his aspirations for education and intellect to support his family, relate to this kid? To this whiny, sullen, 40-inch bottom jeans, spiky-haired little dink?

In that moment, in those 45 minutes, my Grandpa showed me how you do it. You see, my Grandpa started telling me that story not because he thought I would be incredibly interested in his prostate, but because it was about the time when he thought he had cancer.

It was the time in his life when he felt scared, and angry, when he didn’t know what was going to happen next. In every moment of that story, he was telling me that it was scary, that things were hard, but that, in the end, he made it. And that in the end, I would too.

It probably took me twenty years to realize why my Grandpa’s stories have always had this effect on me, why it always seemed so important to listen, to understand and to acknowledge this gift.

In his stories, he spoke not only about himself – he used those words to connect with others, to bridge the 60 years between Grandfather and Grandson, to find, in the sharing of stories, the sharing of oneself with the people you love.

So that’s what we’re going to do today. We are going to share Grandpa’s story, and in some small way remember him as a proud, passionate, complicated but ultimately caring man; a man who understood that his true wealth and his real investment lay in the people who surrounded him.

His job was on the railroad until he retired, but his life’s work was his family and his friends. To see so many of you here today, to know that in no small way he built what we have and what we are, gives me a great deal of comfort.

So, in closing, I have one request to all of you; if you can, don’t just take this day as a time for silent, solemn grief. If your instinct is to retreat inside yourself, or to feel that you’re spreading sadness by speaking of it, that is completely understandable.

But if you can, just today, tell your story about Walter and maybe fill someone else’s glass while you do it.

While Grandpa is gone, his legacy is secure in so many of us that carry on without him, so long as we remember and tell his stories to our own friends and our own families, to share our own stories, to connect and care for each other in whatever way we can.

Thank you.

 

Categories
Calgary Music Relationships Uncategorized Writing

Endings and beginnings.

When you sit down and do the thing where you try and summarize your year in the Internet Wilderness, it becomes painfully obvious that all of that ’embrace the inevitability of change’ stuff is as clichéd as it is correct. Life consists of a cavalcade of curveballs that you fight off desperately, trying to get ahead in the count, hoping for one easy pitch that you can put over the fence.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that there are no easy pitches.

When I was a kid, I was scared a lot. I was sensitive and awkward around other kids and never felt like I belonged. I looked at my parents and was in awe of how in control they seemed – so confident, so sure of themselves, who they were, what was right and what they should do.

This year I turned the age my father was when I was born. When I look back now at the albums of photos from those days I don’t see a man holding a child who is the master of all he surveys, the unconquerable hero of my youth – I see a guy holding a kid, looking extremely happy and a little tired.

IMG
Aww, yeah, that’s Gangsta Carpeting, right there.

I’m only guessing, but I’ll bet that he was probably fighting those curveballs off just as hard as I was.

This year has had some great stuff happen along with some pretty crappy stuff, but lord knows it was a hell of a lot better than the last one. I just want to say thank you to my family and friends who (again) gave me so much love and support. You rock, rock.

This new year is going to be very, very different from the last one, which was exponentially different than the year before. I’m starting to notice a theme, here – that the inevitability of change is something I should probably learn to embrace rather than resist.

Speaking of changes, I have decided I should probably set some goals like I did a couple years ago. Since I am completely fuelled by fear and shame, a little public accountability goes a long way for me. I did, like, two of the three in 2012, which is an order of magnitude better than I usually do at goal setting. So, without further ado:

Goalpocalypse 2013

Get Divorced.

The weirdest part about starting my new job is having to explain to people that I am getting divorced. I get a lot of “Oh, but you’re so young!”, which I guess is a good thing, but kind of leaves me at a loss as to how to respond further. So far my “Why, yes, I did manage to already have one relationship explosion before I was 30, and yes it is pretty pathetic that people have had bowel movements that took longer than the amount of time it took my wife to leave me – thank you for your observation!” technique has had mixed results in terms of making people like me in the new environment. I think I’m just going to stick with using sarcastic deadpan that about 25% of people know is a joke. 

This should be pretty obvious to anyone who has had to listen to me rant for the last year and a half. It’s been a tough time and it is getting better, but a little bit of closure will go a long way.

I have a wonderful, patient girlfriend who has listened to me talk – and talk – about this person who was so much a part of my life for so long and now haunts the corners of my days less and less as time goes on. My formally ending that chapter in my life, I’m hoping I can help move that much further away from that time and place and person I was and more the person I want to be now.

Get creative.

On New Year’s Eve this year, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time and picked up a guitar in front of another human being for an extended period of time for a little impromptu jam session. The other two guys who were playing were exponentially better than I was, and there was no question I had a sufficient degree of liquid courage on board, but I subsumed my worry about judgement and failure and just played. I was fairly crap, but no one shouted me down or made me feel like I should just leave the room. So I played a bit, I learned a lot and the first thing I did when I got home was blow the dust off my guitar and played a bit of what I had been taught to help me retain it for the next time I play with those guys. 

I really want there to be a next time.

One of the reasons I have spent so little time writing on here in the last year had a lot to do with trying to be more conscious of the record I leave online. I’m technically supposed to be one of those web-savvy people that understands the reach and power of the web, so I thought it might be a great idea to just tap the brakes on the free-association nonsense on my blog and focus on my professional writing for a while. It was fine, but there’s no question that it exercises a different muscle than the kind of work I like to post here.

Ultimately, I look around at my friends and family and I see a lot of people who may or may not read the words I write, and they may not like the songs I play around them, but they will show up and they will support. Some of the best times last year was seeing my friends Adam and Tom play in their band The Special Edisons and seeing all of those folks come to see something cool that their boyfriend/son/buddy is doing is a cool feeling. I need to stop worrying about being terrible or judged and remind myself that pretty much everyone that is still here in my life is a pretty cool person.

Get serious.

This is probably the one that’s going to be the hardest, but I’ve decided – in no small part because of the things above – that it’s time for me to start building the kind of life I want, and not just live.

My divorce has put me in a tough position financially and emotionally, and while I have made a lot of progress over the last year in terms of getting into a better space, I still have a long way to go. This is going to involve a more considerable lifestyle change and a renewed focus on setting goals to help me get to a much more stable place – one where I end this year with no debt and the foundations for owning my own place, preferably in a part of the city that I both want to live in and can afford to do so.

I’m really excited about this year and what it’s going to bring.

At the bare minimum, at least I’ll have the chance to meet Strombo and hug Peter Mansbridge.

Categories
Uncategorized

Thank you.

I’d normally start writing a new entry by making some smartass comment about not really having an excuse, and admonishing myself to write more, but to be quite honest I haven’t exactly been in the mood to write another breezy piece about how great the Parkdale Farmer’s Market is (though it is great, check that shit out). I’ve had some pretty serious stuff happen in my life over the last few months and while it hasn’t taken the joy out of writing for me, it’s made it spectacularly hard to concentrate on anything beyond my immediate circumstances. Questions like “where will I be sleeping tonight”, “will I die alone surrounded by cats, and am I really upset about the idea of them eating my corpse”, and “what is the appropriate emotional reaction to having your life explode in front of you” tend to overwhelm and shut down the part of me that likes to be creative.

I’m three days out from my first attempt at being alone since I was 21. When I look back on that person, it doesn’t seem conceivable that I’m the same guy. The world – my world – was so different then. People, we did not have Facebook the last time I was single! Twitter was but a glimmer in the Fail Whale’s eye! I thought I might make an excellent Prime Minister!

On surgery and recovery

Day one, post-op. Moist handcloths and gowns with no back side were very popular with the kids that summer.
Day one, post-op. Moist handcloths and gowns with no back side were very popular with the kids that summer.

This summer, I had my appendix removed the day I returned from a trip to Spain. Long story short, my surgery was referred to by my resident as a horror show, which was a delight to hear, but I kind of believed him since the pain was so bad that my lungs collapsed. Not being able to take a full breath for four days was a bummer, and my mobility was so crap that I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet down the hospital corridor with my buddy the IV stand before I had to turn around. The pain was tolerable with enough morphine, but I was eager as hell to get out of the hospital and when I finally was released, I didn’t really care if I was ready or not, I just wanted to get out of there.

I took some time, I rested and recuperated. For a few days, I had trouble doing simple stuff without lying down on the couch and sleeping for a while. I had a literal hole in me where my drain had been; the incision scar and swelling made it look like I had a miniature sideways butt right at my waistband below my belly button. I had to wear swimming trunks exclusively because anything with an inelastic waistband felt like barbed wire.

In a week, I was back at work, definitely not 100%, but to my surprise I didn’t come back to a massive pile of accumulated assignments and overdue projects. I came back to a clean desk, with major initiatives I had spearheaded moving forward without me – my team had kept the ball rolling and made sure nothing fell off the edge of my desk or got missed. I had never experienced anything like this before in my working life – a team of people who had been there and supported me through a really nasty thing, doing it because they genuinely cared and wanted to make sure I got better.

On tortured analogies

I can’t help but feel the parallels with what I’m experiencing now. I feel like I’ve been through something extremely painful that reduced me to survival mode. All of my energy and effort has been focused on my relationship and in trying to keep it going. I’ve been feeling alone and scared as hell and unable to breathe, except it’s been going on not for four days but for a year.

Now, the surgery is over. Whatever has happened to my heart, whatever damage I might have incurred, it’s happened, and now I’m in the recovery stage. Things still hurt – there’s nothing like the joys of anxiety to remind you of what it feels like to never sleep again – and some days it feels like I should probably just stay home, slide under the covers and watch Freaks and Geeks for 10 consecutive hours until I can start drinking with a manageable level of shame. Either way, I know things are bound to improve from here, if only because they couldn’t get a whole heck of a lot worse.

On love and gratitude

But throughout this process, I’ve discovered how ridiculous it’s been to feel alone. Since I started to break the news to people, I feel this enormous surge of relief, of not having to hide behind my pride and act like everything is OK. I’m filled – absolutely to the brim – with love and support from friends and family. Just like when I got out of the hospital and back to work, I’ve found that people’s genuine care – their capacity to just be there for you, even if they don’t know what more to say than “wow…uh, that fucking sucks, dude” has been the single most important thing to help me heal. The blast of text messages, emails, phone calls, Facebook stuff – it’s forcing me out of my shell, keeping me social and interacting with others, and helping me remember and rethink about what it is to be just me – just Colin – not “Colin and Inesia”. It turns out those two entities may be pretty different things.

Sometimes, when he looks at me, I can tell he's just really curious about what my spinal cord tastes like.
Sometimes when he looks at me, I can tell he’s just really curious about what my spinal cord tastes like.

Four months from my surgery and recovery, I feel healthy. My lungs can fill with air, I can play basketball terribly again. My drain incision healed up and the swelling went down, and now my scar looks like someone drew a line in felt tip pen delineating the precise halfway mark between my belly button and my junk, which has led me to consider some very, very bad ideas for tattoos (please try, and fail, to get the image of a “you must be this tall to ride” sign out of your head – I know I have).

I know that I’m going to get there again, too. I know I’ll be okay, that I won’t actually die alone, gnawed on by Meak or his future brethren. Virtually everyone that reads this blog and many, many others have put in time in the last while to help hold me up, to keep me moving and to remind me that there will be an end to this – a moment where I can return to the land of the fully living, to return the favour a hundred times over.

So, thank you, thank you all so much for everything you’ve done, for your support and love. You have done more than you know to help me start to heal. I love you all so much.

Categories
Uncategorized

Diamond Rings.

Directly from the Diamond Rings website:

Although he learned piano, guitar, and saxophone at a young age, John O (as his friends call him) was more into playing dress-up with his cousin Lisa while dreaming of a life beyond the Toronto suburbs where he was born. Of course, being the only kid on the block that wanted to pair a ballerina tutu from the tickle trunk with hockey gloves didn’t always make things easy. As he explains, “when I was in high school I never really identified with that macho jock attitude but because I played on the basketball team I couldn’t hang with the goths and punks either. Let’s just say I spent alot of time alone trying to figure myself out.”

Shall we revise?

Although he learned jazz dance and guitar at a young age, Colin B was more into playing dress-up with his cousin Missy while dreaming of a life beyond the Calgary suburbs where he was born. Of course, being the only kid on the block that wanted to pair a black turtleneck with a  football helmet didn’t always make things easy. As he explains, “when I was in high school I never really identified with that macho jock attitude but because I played on the football team I couldn’t hang with the goths and choir either. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time alone trying to figure myself out.”

Is there any wonder I identify with this guy. And not just because I can actually sing in his range for once.

Go here to listen, please. He is amazing. 

Categories
Uncategorized

The last men’s club.*

I’m a gamer. I’ve been one my entire life; hell, before I finally badgered my parents into getting me the classic grey-and-black Nintendo Entertainment System, I used to play Intellivison at my babysitter’s house (portmanteaus/weird dial controller 4 LIFE). I love card games, board games, sports – I love it all.

Intellivision
That’s that OG shit, right here.

As a kid who routinely felt powerless and confused by the wider world, gaming gave me the ability to control my own destiny – to match wits against a series of problems, and beat them – had a huge appeal. It still does.

Gaming is undergoing a sea change right now. For the last five years, the gaming industry’s revenues outstripped Hollywood and the music industry, and at a growth rate of more than 9% annually, is expected to eclipse their combined revenue within 10 years. With big money has come an increased emphasis on games as art, as the industry has expanded into increasingly baroque subcategories.

There are indie games, games as art, games as storytelling vehicles, music games, casual games, massively multiplayer online role playing games, augmented reality gaming – we are effectively at the moment when games have reached a tipping point where you are less likely to meet someone who doesn’t game as you are to meet someone who does. It seems like there’s something out there for everyone. Except there isn’t.

The single greatest thing about games is that they are immersive in a way that goes beyond any other medium. In order to successfully play a game, you must become something other than yourself – a sword wielding hero, a player on an NHL team in a lockout season, a temple-robbing adventurer, a jewel-shifting-whatever-the-fucker.

Games are just the best thing ever

For every hurr-durr Call of Duty or retread of last year’s virtually identical sports game, we are getting games that combine jaw-dropping art direction with social psychology, games that teach you how to pop and lock, first-person shooters with more multilayered cultural references and deadpan humor than Arrested Development and underwater dystopias that act as one of the most nuanced criticisms of Objectivism since Adorno and Horkheimer.

The funniest thing I heard this year wasn’t a stand-up routine, or a comedy on TV or at the movies – it was a game where I played a silent female protagonist solving a first-person puzzle game involving teleportation and malevolent AIs. The most beautiful western I saw last year wasn’t True Grit, it was a game where I played a cowboy looking to be reunited with his family, made by the same sociopaths who brought you Grand Theft Auto. The most pants-shittingly-scared I have ever been wasn’t during a horror movie, it was as an engineer fighting reconstituted undead on a planet-cracking mining ship orbiting a strange alien world.

I honestly feel really, really bad for people who don’t want to grab a controller and just try this stuff. They are missing out on some of the best culture we are producing right now.

The best gaming moments are the ones where you can appreciate the art of what the game is doing, and made even better if you can share it with others. That sharing can include cooperation or competition – I’m not asking the world to get rid of face-shootin’ any time soon – I like shootin’ the occasional face – but the best moments are when you go “holy shit, did you just see that?”.

The best video game moment of my life was sitting in a friends’ basement with 10 other people, playing a cheap plastic guitar while my friends “played” the bass, drums and sang along. I looked over and realized that our singer was being joined by a chorus of everyone else in the room, and for a brief moment it felt like we were a real band with real fans. That’s an indelible experience, something that connected me with the people I love in a way that even watching a rock concert would have never brought me.

There’s a catch – there’s always a catch

But like virtually every mass-media cultural product that came before it, games started off as a product created and consumed by men. For the first 30 years of gaming, tastes and products were determined by gaming’s creators – young men who were often acting out their own sense of powerlessness by creating worlds that they felt comfortable in. From its inception, the idea of “girl gamers” has been seen as either:

The traditional depiction of ladies in vidya gaymez.
The traditional depiction of ladies in vidya gaymez.

While gaming seems delighted to take ladies’ money, each one of these models keeps women on the outside of what is considered to be – at least for a certain subsection of the culture – the elite, or 1337 side of gaming. “Elite” in this case being a part of T3H H4RDC0R3Z – those people who treat gaming as a lifestyle, not just something they do in lieu of watching reruns of Breaking Bad. This group is remarkable in that they see themselves as elite – despite the evidence to the contrary – and band together online to preserve their exclusivity, walling off their world from noobs and outsiders, routinely using hate speech and incredibly puerile insults to protect what they see as the mass culture’s incursion on their territory.

I really, really hate these guys.

Games are changing. Shit, culture is changing, and these guys are fighting it tooth and nail. Read any article about women in gaming – be it an executive for a major multinational gaming company, girls who play or write about games for a living, or individuals who are critiquing gaming from a feminist perspective – and you’ll see message boards filled with personal attacks, critiques of the subjects’ appearance, threats of rape and murder and worse. These people – and their “FUCKING FAGGOT” contemporaries in the world of online gaming – do more to set games back as a form of art than the worst Doom-playin’ school shooter.

So, what’s next?

I can’t think of many games that could pass the Bechdel Test, but thankfully things are starting to move in the right direction. Conversations have begun about the role of gender in gaming, with multimillion-selling games like Mass Effect including not only the option of a (frankly, much better-written and acted) female protagonist, but the inclusion of same-sex relationship options for both gender. While the system is still overwhelmingly biased in favor of male characters, there’s at least an acknowledgement that hey, sometimes it’s fun to play as a girl, the same way it’s really fun to pretend you’re a fucking space marine. Seriously, I want to be a lady space marine when I grow up.

My friend Allison thinks that this change – and the subsequent reaction to it – is the outcome of the continued push to create a more representative culture; one that better reflects the world we actually live in. This is necessarily at the expense of the ubiquitous while male, and as women keep pushing for their rightful place in the culture, the people who already feel like they are disconnected and disempowered in other way are reacting to what they perceive as yet another safe place they are having disrupted by outside forces. Quite frankly, I’m delighted. I’m tired of being me, sometimes – that’s why I play games, for Chrissakes. I hope this bullshit is just the death rattle of that hardcore culture.

Allison
Allison McNeely – she’s a laydaaaay. Oh! Also my friend. Those are her two defining characteristics.

More and more, I’m seeing women – coworkers, friends, acquaintances, you name it – who are playing the same games as these guys. They are taking the fight to them , in their own way, and doing it while having fun. When I ask them why they like the game they play, they might comment on the gameplay, or the writing, or the people they play with, not because they are trying to prove a point. In fact, they usually give the same answer I do.

If the hardcore people have a problem with reality, that’s understandable. If they were anything like me, it was usually that reality that drove them to play video games in the first place. But you don’t take the hard bumps you get in the real world and act them out on the people who want to join you in your imaginary one. You recognize and have empathy with them, you include them in your narrative and you grow your tent; if you lose a little control along the way, that’s okay. Besides, I can’t hit the high notes in Rock Band and I need someone to be my Steve Perry.

 *A huge thanks to Allison McNeely, web editor of the universe, for giving me this title and helping me walk through this topic that I honestly feel wholly underqualified to discuss.

Categories
Uncategorized

Telling the truth.

I know this is awkward and I feel ashamed having to do this en masse, but I need to be honest with myself and with everyone about what I need in my life and it is probably better to do this in front of everyone and just get it out of the way.

There’s a secret I’ve been hiding from most of you for a few years, and not revealing it has become increasingly difficult. I don’t think I can pretend any longer and while it may have a real impact on my relationships with friends and family, it’s too important to ignore.

I know this may be hard for some of you to understand, and I don’t blame you. It’s something that many people don’t want to talk about even in this modern day and age, but I feel like I should be brave and tell the truth, even if it hurts.

Sweaty nerds come optional.

I want to try Dungeons and Dragons.

Old school table-top style, with people creating their own characters and acting in-character for the duration of the game. Dungeon Masters, multisided dies, orcs, acid pits, the whole shebang.

I might be the only one I know, and if that’s the case, at least I told the truth. But if anyone wants to try it with me, message me. I promise we will be discreet.

Categories
Uncategorized

Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument – finally decided by Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart.

Okay, by their action figures, but still.

Wait for 1:46 for the rare but beautiful Double Picard Facepalm.

There is literally nothing better in this world than this video.

Categories
Uncategorized

Oh, Sister(s).

It has been an amazingly busy (and great) summer. As the cold, iron grip of another busy season at my work continues to tighten ’round my throat, I wanted to stop and write about one of the best moments of the summer for me.

My cousin Missy got married on September 10th to her girlfriend Amelia. Unfortunately for Amelia, I can’t call her Amelia, because I got introduced to her as Ed and ever since then she’s been Ed (or Edmazelington, for short – why that is apt, I’ll get into later). Why Ed? Well, there’s any number of reasons.

Missy and Ed let me stay at their place for a couple of days before their rehearsal, and having gone through the whole wedding thing not that long ago, I gotta say – they handled the whole thing like champs. It was just awesome to see them both so relaxed and happy through a really emotional, crazy and busy time. I know that weddings are supposed to be these times of joy and great feelings, and they are, don’t get me wrong – but they also happen to be a terrifying crucible that uses the white-hot flame of emotions to forge people (and families) together. People get burned by that heat, there is pain involved. Goddamn it was strange to watch it happening to someone else, not only because it makes you feel less alone, but somehow getting married turned me into the world’s biggest wuss when it comes to weddings. Case in point – my Grandfather sings one verse of one song a capella at the wedding and I dissolve into a puddle of tears that takes me half an hour to recover from. OH FUCK I AM CRYING AGAIN LISTENING TO THAT FUCKING SONG ON YOUTUBE.

Missy is three years older than me and we grew up together until her family moved away to Minnesota, just before I started elementary school. We were raised in that classic Ukrainian way, where everyone in the family just sort of communally raises each other’s kids. It’s convenient, because it means you can share the burden, giving you plenty of opportunities for smoke breaks and a chance to refill your wine glass. I’ve always considered her to be less a cousin and more a sister, and growing up a sensitive and pretty friendless only child it was really her and my cousin Kyle that were my siblings, my best friends, and the only people who really made me feel like it was okay to be whatever the hell it was I was. Our family has gone through some crap over the years, but I’ll say this – my cousins have always stuck with each other. Even when some of us (read: me) acted like jerks, there’s always a hand out and an understanding word when it really matters. Also, Missy has terrified some ex-girlfriends. For someone who weighs about as much as my left leg, she comes off like Ray Lewis coming at a dude when she wants to.

However, Missy still acted like my sister, and like all decent, upstanding older sisters she tried to drown me in the pool and tied me up and left me in the basement with the Casio keyboard demo going for 2 hours playing a MIDI version of “Little Red Corvette” . When I was 5 she told me there was no Santa Claus.

Missy learned the first rule - deny, deny, deny - early. Photo credit to my Auntie Karen and pajama credit to my Mom.

 

There are a lot of stories about this kind of thing for Missy and I, and for years I’ve teased her about how she used to push me around.There’s no question – Missy was older than me, she was cooler than me, and she sure as shit was smarter than I was, so I had better get the hell in line. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with Missy, even now, would totally get what I’m saying. She has this incredible energy and charisma that just seems to bend reality around her. She is hard not to love.

One of the tasks I had before the wedding was to dig through all of our family’s old scrapbooks, looking for photos to use in their slide show. Missy and I were both the first kids in our family, and mother of God our parents loved to take photos of us. So many of those photos are of us together, and we were unbelievably adorable.

Photo by Karen
Please note how I fail at praying. I do, however, look like I'm about to crane-kick the fuck out of someone (please note that someone was most likely my cousin Kyle)

 

What is crazy is that in every photo of us when I’m not looking at the camera, I’m looking at Missy. I can actually remember my Mom shouting Colin, look at the camera at me, when I was busy just staring at Missy, looking for the next thing she was going to do that I was going to copy. That pure adoration was born of a real love for a girl that I always looked up to, who always seemed so cool and forthright and sure of herself even when she probably didn’t feel that way. Missy’s the reason I thought it was totally normal for an 8-year-old boy to take jazz dance, why I played and sang Me and Bobby McGee in front of the entire school in elementary despite a near-complete lack of talent, why I joined choir and football at the same time. I saw Missy doing this stuff, thought that seemed like a great idea, and did it. Some of that stuff was hard, son. I got teased pretty bad, but it was never enough to make me quit; I always thought to myself “Missy did this crap, and she is way cooler than everyone I know, so she’s gotta be on to something.” The best thing is that she was; if I hadn’t learned how to dance, I probably would never have met my wife. And there were a lot of cute girls in choir.

For the past few years I’ve had the chance to see that same amazing girl finding and falling in love with someone who is just so easy to adore – so clever and thoughtful, so giving of her energy and time and willing to commit herself fully to what she loves. And Ed performs in drag as Ferris Bueller.

Watch this video. There will be a quiz later re: my cousin’s cameo. Failure will result in immediate violence.

I just want to thank Ed so much for finding Missy, for loving my amazing cousin so openly and beautifully and for being someone new to adore, and to thank Missy for bringing a new sister into my life. I love them both so much.

Photo Credit to Tim Bonham.
Photo Credit to Tim Bonham.
Categories
Uncategorized

Oh, dear, sweet summertime – you make me fail at blogging.

Hi blog! Remember me? Big ups to Rhett Soveran for absolutely nailing the fact that blogging during the summer is made of poison.

Work is finally slowing down after a totally crazy spring, and it’s been nice to take some time off and visit some really pretty country and celebrate Nesi and I’s first year anniversary. Kelowna and Penticton were both just amazing, and wine touring was a blast. We tried some really amazing wines and came back with quite a few bottles as well. Laughing Stock vineyards produces some totally amazing wines, including their Portfolio 08, which might have been one of the best reds I’ve ever tasted. Huge points on the design front, too, as they have some of the most distinct and coherent branding I’ve ever seen (which may have impacted my feelings about the wine, embarrassingly). It was such a pleasure to just hop in our car and cruise from vineyard to vineyard, soaking up some sun (and a few glasses of Pinot Gris), meeting the people at the vineyards who were all very nice and (with the exception of Mission Hill) really genuine. Mission Hill had that vibe where you kept expecting everything that you read or saw was appended with TM or ©.


Of course, the bastards do get to live in a fucking fairytale, so I guess a bit of zombie-speak is probably the price they pay.

Unfortunately things haven’t been entirely magical this summer in the pet department, as our poor kitty Meak satisfied his fever for earplugs with yet more earplugs, which resulted in an obstruction at the point where his stomach connected to his large intestine. If you can imagine the way that a rubber stopper plugs a bottle of wine, you’ve got it. Poor Meakles couldn’t pass anything out of his stomach, and he had to get surgery to remove it.


O HAI. I HAZ A OWIE, BUT NOW I’M WURTH LIKE 2 SWEET LAPTOPS.

Poor guy ended up getting an infection, which led to some awesome medieval medicine-style shit. We had to apply hot compresses to his incision to draw out the putrescence, which made me feel like I should have been wearing a robe and reciting eldritch incantations by candlelight. Meak just purred the whole way though it, which may have been related to the fact that he got to take his cone off. Meak vs. the cone was basically a nonstop comedy classic, as the absence of functional whiskers made it kind of impossible to navigate without bumping into everything while transforming him into EmoMeak, whose favorite band is clearly My Chemical Romance. 

He’s all better, now, and back to being an asshole and peeing on our bed every time I don’t let him outside often enough which I am supposed to say is a good thing. The cone was frickin’ funny though.

Anyway, I solemnly swear to do some more of this stuff before the end of the summer, and probably with more of a point than this post. Hope you’re having a great summer wherever you are.

Categories
Uncategorized

Oh god, blogfail

Driving through the Okanagan, I saw the WordPress app on my phone and remembered I had a blog. Sorry, dear reader! And by “reader”, I obviously mean my Mom. Thanks Mom!

20110625-104632.jpg