Call It Out

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 9.12.06 PM

Yes, I love attention.

Anyone who knows me could tell you that. I always love to tell a good story, or make wisecracks and try hard to land the perfect joke. So with that comes a certain amount of spotlight loving, I’ll admit.

I used to blame all that stage hogging on my crazy family.

You try growing up being the fourth of five siblings. Think about it….what the hell does Number FOUR get you? You’re not first or second. You’re not the baby of the family so you miss out on all of those perks. I mean, you can’t even lay claim to be being the problem middle child! And let’s not forget that it wouldn’t be Cape Breton without raising a few wacky cousins! So with all that crowd and all that noise, and no place in the pecking order, what’s a guy to do but come up with unique and wonderful ways to find that misplaced attention sometimes?

This past week, I got a whole lot of unnecessary attention for something that just seemed kind of…well, obvious and decent to do. But the next thing I know, I am on the front page of the local newspaper and being asked to do radio interviews, all the while being pursued by a rabid “fan” base of alt right supporters from the good ol’ U S of A, who come equipped with ugly threats, questionable wardrobe choices, bad selfies because they can’t find anyone else to hold a camera, and shockingly bad spelling and grammar.

It all started innocently enough. It was Halloween eve and after overdosing on coffee and mini chocolate bars all day long, I thought it high time I introduce a vegetable or two to my system, so I decided to wander over to the local grocery store before it closed. As I stepped outside, I came across four figures approximately 20 feet away, standing on the sidewalk. They were dressed head to toe in dark clothes with black hoodies, and had anonymous white masks covering their faces. To be honest, I couldn’t tell their age or race or gender…they were covered in a way that made them pretty much unidentifiable…but I knew they were vaguely masculine shaped and all of them at least a half-foot taller and a few inches broader than me.

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 7.56.05 PM

For a moment I froze, and they froze, and my first thought was “aren’t you a lil’ old for trick or treating?” This was quickly followed by my second thought, which was: “DAMN but you’re all spectacularly creepy looking, just standing there and not moving or talking, so I’m just going to get the hell out of your way!” And so, giving them a pretty wide berth, I lowered my head, glanced at the sidewalk and quickly walked past. As I look back, I notice they still haven’t moved on, and I watch as the one in front, staring towards me through those empty black eye holes, motion towards a street pole with his hand. Then I heard the familiar click of what I thought was a staple gun – now, you try living with a reupholstering maniac and you’ll hear that sound in your sleep, too – and that’s when curiousity got the best of me. Yes, it is true that in that moment I thought to myself they are probably a posse of serial killers out advertising for their next victim, and all I have to protect myself is my charming wit, my boyish good looks, and my puny little fists, but I turned around and slowly followed them back up the street anyway. Before I’d reached the pole they had been standing in front of, they had already rounded the corner, and I could hear a horn blaring at them as their hard to see selves must have dodged traffic crossing the busy street.

So I got to the pole and I glanced up high and…I felt my heart sink and my blood pressure start to rise. There, in bold black letters on the stark white sheet were the words “It’s OK to be white”. Instinctively, I reached for it, ripped it down, and crumpled it into a ball, as I glanced around to see if anyone was watching. Then I ran up the street to where I saw the foursome headed before they had disappeared. I looked frantically around, unsure what I would do if I found them, but knowing I was angry and that I had to confront them and wave this stupid crumpled paper in my hand in their stupid blank, hidden faces and say “THIS? This right here? It’s WRONG”.

Read More

Chow Down at Chick Fil A


I have a secret.  A secret only a few very select people know.
Something I only just this past week shamefully admitted to my boyfriend of four years…
I LOVE fried chicken.  In particular, Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken, with its 11 secret herbs and spices.
It reminds me of hot summer days of my childhood when, after a day of swimming and sun burning at Front Lake or Dominion Beach, we’d all pile into the car (or at least as many of us as could fit) and head off to the nearest KFC to get a monster bucket of chicken, with all the fixings: golden french fries, coleslaw,macaroni salad, soft rolls and hot gravy.  Sometimes if someone was feeling really extravagant, we ordered the potato salad too (never as good as mom’s though!)  AND as an added bonus to all this yummy goodness, we got to use paper plates and forks, and when you come from a family of five kids plus their  friends and your very own large extended family hanging about on any given day, and your chore that week was to wash AND dry all the dishes, THIS was a major blessing!  And so, sandwiched inevitably as I was next to my much bigger and left-handed brothers, my much smaller and woefully right-handed self would clash elbows in an all out war before those crispy fries got cold, battling for bread rolls and gravy, creamy coleslaw and ice cold pasta salad, and the most mythic, legendary piece of them all: the keel (Hell, I didn’t even know what keel meant – it’s actually the breast bone of the chicken – but I knew I’d fight to the death for it, or at the very least until my brothers would hold me down and stick their disgustingly wet fingers in my ears until I screamed and gave it up!)
Over the years I tried to branch out, with a dabble or two into Mary Brown and her offerings, and a weekend special here and there at Sobey’s or some local pizza joint, and as a grown up I even tried to make my own healthier, oven baked variety.  (Also, I learned about things like clogged arteries and double chins, and decided the rare and occasional indulgence suddenly suited me best).
But alas, nothing could compare to the good Colonel.   And to be honest, dining alone on a Toonie Tuesday could never compare to the epic battles of my youth.   Where was the fierce competition, sense of adventure?  Where was the yelling, hair pulling, and tripping one another (and that was just the fight over who got to CARRY the bucket!)
Would I ever recreate that long ago magic?
So it was with some interest that I heard a few months back about a possibility of some famous deep fried chicken franchise known as Chick-Fil-A possibly opening in Halifax. Could it be I’d find a newfound love, where I could trick a group of  innocent and naive friends into going out for dinner, and then before they even knew what was happening jump ’em and hold them down with the threat of some wet willies or atomic wedgies until they gave up the most desirable pieces and were left, sad faced and still hungry, holding nothing but some small, sad, shriveled wing?
But then Chick-Fil-A hadto go and ruin things and bring the Baby Jesus into it.

Now, unless you’ve been living in a box somewhere, cut off from all society and its many trappings, you  have seen, heard, or read about the controversies surrounding Chick-Fil-A these day.  Founded in Atlanta  by the Cathys, a southern Baptist family with some pretty deep religious convictions, this once small town American family restaurant has grown into a monstrous chain, going from 1 store in 1964, to over 1600 strong present day.  Dan Cathy, son of the company’s founder, and current President and Chief Operating Officer, has come out raging in the media (well, perhaps ol’ Dan wouldn’t approve of “coming out” or “raging” as the best choice of words) as a very outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and a strong supporter of conservative Christian causes.  EXTREME conservative causes that Chick-Fil-A has allegedly bankrolled for a cool 5 million,  like Exodus International, those zany “straight advocates” who support “ex-gay” reparative theory (ie, they promise to “pray the gay away” and restore you to blissful heterosexuality) or the Family Research Council, who’s charming philosophies put forth the idea that gay men are all mentally ill pedophiles, that gay sex should be illegal and criminalized, and that they’d support gays being exported from the country. (Not sure what island nation they plan to ship them off to, but I’ve gotta admit, that would be SOME party!)  I’ve since googled this stellar organization, and came across images of a few of their founders such as Tony Perkins (no relation to Psycho) and Peter Sprigg, and seems to me one thing they all have in common is an unfortunate case of “Gay Face”.  Or in other words, I doth wonder if they protest too  much?

People everywhere seem to be taking sides, with liberal mayors in cities such as Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco telling the Cathys that their chicken lovin’ but homosexual hatin’ selves aren’t welcome in their towns, so they can forget about any expansion plans (although technically it’s illegal to block a business due to a person’s religious beliefs, according to that pesky Constitution of theirs, so not sure how THAT’S going to work out for everyone).  In recent days, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who demonstrated his racist roots with some ill informed attacks on the Barack Obama’s childhood experiences during his failed presidential nomination bid, and his stupid roots by crying downright moral outrage over the Chick-Fil-A anti gay backlash, and  calling for Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, urging people across the country to demonstrate their love and support for “a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse” by showing up at the chicken chain on August 1 and blissfully buying their way to obesity, cardiac arrest and Type II diabetes.   Chick-Fil-A went on to record sales that day, and as a counter move by some prominent gay activist  groups, same-sex couples were encouraged to protest with “Kiss Ins”, by storming their nearest Chick-Fil-A and taking videos and pictures, then later posting them online,  of some good new fashioned same sex PDAs.
Then, most recently, a (former) CFO for a medical manufacturing  equipment company in Arizona by the name of Adam Smith got fired from his job after berating some girl named Rachel who was working the drive thru at Chick-Fil-A when Mr. Smith drove up to express his righteous indignation at this “horrible company with horrible values”.  Calmly and politely keeping her composure throughout, although looking on the brink of tears, young Rachel  gets berated – and worse, videotaped before even having the opportunity to run off and check her hair or makeup – while  Mr. Smith has his say, who then rides off yelling he’s “totally straight, I just can’t stand the hate.”  Well Mr. Smith, while I’m sure you at least thought you were well intentioned, and undoubtedly  ‘mos everywhere appreciate the straight man support, I have but one thing to say to you: You, sir, suck.  Furthermore,  ANYONE who gets all up in the face of some fast food drive thru worker person SUCKS.  You see, as a former drive thru worker myself, I know what it’s like first hand to be barely 17 and be expected to work “close” and stay out til almost 3 am on a school night and STILL smell like raw meat during your 10 am history class the next day, no matter how much Irish Spring and your dad’s Right Guard you use.  And THEN, while at work, having to deal with the irate customers who are throwing a hissy fit because you accidentally let an onion touch their Big Mac or you forgot the damn sweet and sour sauce for their chicken nuggets.   Trust me, I doubt being the Chick-Fil-A drive thru girl is Rachel’s dream job (NO offense, but for that matter, who wakes up one day and says “I know, I want to be a medical manufacturing equipment guy when I grow up!”).  No, she probably gets to scrape by on minimum wage, and you were probably just one small example of any number of jerkfaces she must encounter and strategically maneuver about, all the while keeping a bright smile on her face, day after day, night after night.  Next time you want to express such an opinion, ask for the manager – from my experience, they are better paid (although probably still not nearly enough) to put up with the average customer’s crap, and, more likely then not,  they’re probably off  napping, taking a 2 hour coffee break, flirting with the new girl half their age or busy yelling  at the new guy why they are so much  better then him.  See, if you yell at each other, then Rachel and the new guy are left alone.  Also, it’s pretty clear now that all you’ve accomplished  in this messy situation is to go and get yourself fired, while likely getting Rachel one kick ass promotion.  I figure when she’s running the show and starts supporting anti medical equipment manufacturing groups, shutting down companies like yours and insisting we go all holistic and home-grown instead, you’re going to be one even sorrier dude then.
However, I think it’s important to note that with all this drama, we’re forgetting one very important demographics in all this:  the chickens.  Think of all those poor little chickens who got plucked and flash fried and gave up their very lives to satisfy those good Christian masses.  And then the poor few that survived the All Appreciation Day Massacre, likely gone to waste the very next day as all those good soldiers that lined up the day before now run screaming from those very same Chick-Fil-A stores, worried they’d catch ” the gay” with all those demonstrations of man loving and girl on girl action.
But seriously, with that said, I truly think that, at the end of the day, everyone needs to calm down.  It’s CHICKEN!  And not even boneless, skinless chicken, but deep-fried!  And I’m not sure what YOU believe in, but as the good Catholic boy I was raised to be, I do believe somewhere there’s a higher power, and I’m pretty certain that He/She/It  has a hell of a lot of better things to do then intervene in the affairs of some Southern deep-fried chicken franchise and its wacky owners, even wackier supporters, and the latest folks they’ve antagonized this week.  Also, might I suggest that if all those good Christian soldiers wanted to show true appreciation for life, liberty, justice and God above, then perhaps they could’ve lined up outside a local food bank and donated the cost of a spicy chicken sandwich and waffle fries to it, rather than fattening the already deep pockets of the Cathy family and their at best suspect and mostly insane causes.  Or perhaps, in a better world,  the Cathys could support some causes I’d be willing to get behind, like banning the term “sushi pizza” (its raw fish people, it’s got NO place on a pizza pie!) or criminalizing the sale of skinny jeans everywhere (I don’t care how small and cute you think your butt looks, this “human sausage look”, where I can visibly count the small change in your pocket, looks good on NO one!)
I must say I do find the whole idea of the “Kiss In” as a form of protest rather amusing.  Who wants to join me in a big ol’ same sex make out session at the nearest KFC so I can protest those artery clogging halcyon days of my youth?
Although don’t be fooled….I’m really just there for the 2 piece and the neon green glowing coleslaw.  With a side order of  jabbing elbows and wet willies of course!

PS I “borrowed” the title “Chow Down at Chick-Fil-A  from a video by Willam Belli, a FIERCE queen and star of RuPau’s Drag Race.

As she notes, “if Drag Queens endorse Christian owned Chick-Fil-A, is it still an endorsement?  NOPE”

Check it out. It’s FUNNY!

Music Notes

Music Notes

In random conversations lately, just twice this past week, that age old question was raised:

“So…what insturment did YOU play when you were a kid?”

Now, when you stop and think about it, that’s one of those questions that can truly define a person…if not who they are, at least who they were. If you played guitar, you thought you were emulating some rock god you’d recently discovered on this strange channel known as Much Music (even if you were really just using it as an excuse to dance around in your underwear. Well, let’s hope it was YOUR underwear). If you played drums, perhaps your only passion was to make some really loud noise and look cool doing it (and maybe impress a girl or boy in the process.) If you played piano, you were perhaps driven (by your mother, sitting primly in the driver seat) to be a serious musician of sorts, and to be taken very serious like. If you held a fiddle and bow, then perhaps you felt some mysterious pull….a connection to your traditional Celtic roots, passed down from generations and generations (or maybe you just liked the idea of the breezy comfort a kilt might provide). And if you chose the French Horn, then maybe you mistakenly saw it as an easy way to get some good passing grade in music class (because, let’s be honest, a D- is still better than the torturous sound THAT instrument can bring!)

But I didn’t play any of these things. Instead, I was a singer. Of sorts. And my instrument was my voice, and one that I took pretty seriously. And practiced often, driving along in the back of the family car on those long drives to Baddeck to visit my great aunt, and singing along at the top of my lungs, knowing Every Single Word that was played on the radio. And never fear….when we’d inevitably lose reception over Kelly’s Mountain, I’d just keep the tunes coming, uninterrupted, a capella. Now, I won’t pretend I had the raw talent to ever be a “professional” singer (trust me, not even close!), but, truth be told, during those early years, I was good enough and, gosh darn it, cute enough, to get featured in those painful school concert pageant fiascos that only the unconditional love of a mother could stand behind. And a father if he’s forced to go. One year, our choir from Jamieson Elementary was featured on the local “Christmas Daddies” telethon, and being small for my age and wearing glasses much bigger then my incredibly round head (they didn’t call me Charlie Brown for nothing!), with a stubborn cow lick that simply couldn’t be licked no matter how hard I tried, I spent three eternally long minutes in a continuous close up, with a large camera looming in my face and the cameramen barely stifling their laughter in the background as I sang, at the top of my lungs, in my most earnest and over the top way, my very own interpretation of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (And let’s not even talk about my acting skills. I mean, who would’ve guessed the third wise men – not the first, not the second, but the third mind you – would ever take such a lead, starring, show-stopping role in the Christmas play that year? Yeah, I wouldn’t have guessed that either).

Read More

Bus People

I watched as the pretty blonde girl with the heavy eye makeup and the strategically ripped and overly tight rock t-shirt searched frantically through her oversized purse, with an ever increasing look of panic on her face.

“I know I put it in here somewhere” she muttered, just under her breath.  “For real?” asked her raven haired friend in the fishnet gloves.  “You know what you’re like when you’re rushin’.  You ALREADY forgot the mix!”   “No, no,” said the blonde girl, slumping back in her seat “I thought for sure I’d packed it.  For the concert.  You know, just in case!”

“Hmmm..” said fishnet girl, clearly brainstorming, although from the look on her face, this heavy thinking was causing her a great deal of strain.  “Well, my cousin’s girlfriend’s sister’s best friend works in the Shoppers pharmacy.  Or is doing some placement through Compu College or something.   Maybe she’s got some pull and they can call over to your pharmacy back home and you can pick up some up there?  Or loan you one at least anyway?  If you explain it all.  You know, just in case?  I mean it IS Metallica!”

“Yeah, maybe,” said the blonde girl, wide eyed, a serious look crossing her face “Cuz I remember that time my sister went to one of these concerts without HER birth control and”  shaking her head “NOT good.”

Wow, I thought, Who knew Metallica were so well known for their baby making?

That’s  just one example of a not so unusual conversation one might overhear as they traverse the wilds that is our public transportation system.   A social experiment to the nth degree, riding the bus is not for the faint hearted or the easily disturbed.  In fact, one needs tolerance, understanding, and a damn good sense of humour if they choose to face their fellow Haligonians on this battlefield on wheels.

Growing up in Whitney Pier and partaking in that community’s twisted version of a “school bus”, you might say I was born ready to take on any challenges HRM Transit could throw my way.  Back in the day, we’d be crammed into these small overcrowded and noisy buses,  long past any hope or prayer of ever passing a safety inspection, and shuttled off at breakneck speeds towards our falling down school of destination.  Halifax has its own big boy version of the Pier Bus.  It’s called the #80, and it makes a slow, plodding journey from Downsview Mall in Sackville to Scotia Square downtown, and back again.  The #80 is almost inevitably the oldest bus on the road, with heaters that won’t work in the winter and windows that won’t open in the summer.  The seats are often covered with graffiti and have large rips and a faint unpleasant odor.  But that’s when you can find a seat, as it’s often full to capacity with many people standing and the driver constantly screaming “Move to the Back! Move to the Back!” like some crazed mantra only he knows.  It’s passengers truly come from all walks of life, so as you look around you’ll find guys in suits and ties while others wear ripped jeans and dirty hoodies, and girls in high heels and high fashion, while others sport  pajama pants and dyed purple hair.   And retirees, lots of retirees, usually hard of hearing yet eager to chat to anyone in their vicinity, yelling things from “Back in my day, we used to have to walk 10 miles to a bus stop” to  “:Hey you!  Yeah you over there!  Are you a boy or a girl under all that!  By the Jesus who can tell anymore!”

I figure if you’re taking the #80 without looking at any and every other mode of transportation, including walking, bicycling, carpooling, and at least one serious attempt at sprouting wings and flying, then it’s likely you’ve almost certainly given up on life and are now very open to the concept of hell on earth.  Yes kids, it’s that  bad.

Now the #81, another frequent ride of mine, exists on the opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s buses are usually shiny and new, at best a half full maybe, mostly lorded over by young urban professionals making their way from the burbs.   Most are equipped with blue tooths, so although there’s often the low murmur of conversation, it’s not happening ON the bus, but rather with whomever’s speaking on one’s ear.  And let me tell you, it’s a bit unnerving to see all those talking heads talking at once.

The #17 is the Saint Mary’s bus, and like your typical college student, sometimes it’s all eager and attentive and on a precise schedule, other time’s it’s quite late with some poor excuses, and still others it doesn’t bother showing up at all.  Waiting for the  #17 therefore is usually reflective on how badly you want to get somewhere, because it’s arrival and departure is often truly a guessing game.  Riding it throughout the year really allows you to relive some of those college days.  The kids are usually pretty raucous and loud – possibly even quite drunk before breakfast -in September, but when reality hits, or the student loan runs out, and the exams and the papers  and the hard work begin, they tend to look all hollow eyed and vacant as they move about their day.   Kind of Walking Dead, SMU style.

The Spring Garden route, the #1, tends to be all  business.   Much like the 80 with its cross section of people, the #1 seems to exist to solely get people from A to B, as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  (Which, in theory, all transit systems should be,  but if you think that, you don’t know Halifax Regional Municipality Transit).  People have no time for pleasant chats or leisurely neighborhood detours on this route.  Just take me on the lean mean streets and get me there.  Fast.  But despite it’s business like demeanor, I’ve found over the years that the #1, over all routes,  has the majority of personnel problems.  For one, it’s often home to a small number of first year sorority girls making their way from the Halifax Shopping Centre to the residence at Dalhousie, and almost inevitably when these pretty girls gather so too will some  late twenties out of work still living in their mama’s basement and yet still doesn’t know how to wash dude comes along and starts hitting on them.  Hard.  Because, you know, that’s just who these girls would want to take home to their mamas.  Uusally it starts out friendly enough.  Sometimes one of the girls might be even a bit flirty.  But eventually the ick factor kicks in as these old enough to know better “grown men” won’t take no for an answer from these not so worldly but playing hard at being a grown up little girls.  One late afternoon last winter I had to hop off the bus near the university with these two tearful and shaken young ladies as these Prince Charmings  that had targeted them had decided their version of flirting would involve “hey baby, how’d you like to lick my lollipop?.    As one girl burst into tears, the men started laughing and I heard the other say in a shaky voice as firmly as she could “you better stop following us!”   Standing as tall as I could (I’m only 5’9″, so it’s an effort), crossing my arms, puffing my chest out,  and pulling my Ray Bans down just a little, I said in as deep a voice as I  could muster “Is there a problem here?”  I watched as the stupid one exchanged glances with the even stupider one, and said “um, no officer, no problems at all!” before they ran off in the other direction. Yeah, that’s what I thought.   (Hey!  If the crew cut and the sunglasses and the stance say police officer to some, and perhaps keeps ’em from being a menace to society, who am I to judge??)

Of course, as much I wanted to shake those guys in that situation, sometimes I want to shake the girl.  But by that I mean in the “what the hell are you thinking? category.  I watch this young couple get on the bus most mornings, the girl saddled down with a backpack and a few bags while he chats on his cell phone.  The girl is model thin and well dressed, with shiny straight brown hair and a small smattering of acne across her otherwise pretty face. The guy is bigger, a bit sloppily dressed, with a bad haircut, wearing possibly the thickest glasses I’ve ever seen, making his eyes huge and round behind them.  After laughing much too loudly with the person on the other end, he snatches one of the lunch bags and proceeds to criticize everything packed within.  “Who packed cheese and crackers?  I hate cheese and crackers”  he growls.  “I didn’t realize I put it in there, sorry” she says, in a small voice.  Not even hearing what she says, he goes on “well if it’s only the two of us and I didn’t pack it, then clearly you did, right?  Right?”  Because, you know, this clearly is and important point to argue.  As she tries to change the subject and talk about something interesting she’s learned in her last biology class, he ignores her and launches into a diatribe about how his job at the call centre makes him more valuable and contributing member to society then her wasting her time at school and “sucking on the government tit with those student loans”,  instead of working an honest job like he does.   Besides, he says, once he gets that promotion it’s all  “smooth sailing” for him from here on out,  as he waves his hand in front of her face to signify his sailing ship.

It takes every single ounce of strength I have not to send him sailing out the window.

Worse, I have to literally sit on my hands and bite my lip HARD to stop myself from grabbing her by the shoulders and shouting “Dear God Woman!  You’re beautiful, you’re smart, you can do soooooo much better!  I mean never mind just listening to the idiot, but have you SEEN him????”

I’d share more stories, but I think I better run and catch the #17.  IF it decides to show that is…

But never fear, I’m sure I’ll return to this subject.  Buses and the hearty folk who ride them provide endless opportunities for story telling.  We’re talking ENDLESS.