Hell, Frank…

We were an unlikely trio, the doctor, the lumberjack and I, but we were the 3 caballeros, or more appropriately, the 3 stooges. The lumberjack was Shemp, always Shemp.

He came from a long line of Pacific Northwesterners, a hearty breed of wilderness stock, a flannel man. I teased him about it incessantly. Well that and the fact he played drums in a polka band. It was an unusual bond that we shared, with no limits to our good natured cyber taunting and ribbing. Often on the receiving end of our antics, the Oregonian took it like a lumberjack, with a chuckle, a witty comeback, and the threat that he would come visit me one day.

We were connected by our love of writing, music, and poutine. Really good poutine. We talked about everything under the sun, sharing opinions, music, and the ever popular woodsman insults. He encouraged and challenged me to be a better writer and a better person. Had I known when we chatted last week, albeit through the magic of the webernet, that I would not speak with him again, I would have liked to have told him just how much it meant to call him my friend, and remind him that he owes me a beer. And as I sit here  trying to digest and process his leaving, I am secretly wearing a flannel shirt, drinking Canadian beer, and eating pulled pork poutine, in his honor.

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Changing The World.

by Fielding Goodfellow

Every now and then, as the scheme of things moves quietly along on its merry way,  a switch turns on in the cosmic consciousness giving rise to yet another infestation of sociopaths with the power to charm, and insanely bad haircuts. The universe shudders at their collective stupidity, as they rise from the primordial ooze to positions of leadership, wandering around in the dark hopelessly looking for the switch to turn on the lights. Long thought to be products of in breeding, these uber morons, created in what was left of a relatively thin gene pool, open up the doors of deceit, secrecy and a septic tank full of other bullshit, while closing all of the windows making it impossible to air out the stench. In the days when I engaged in protests against the corrupt establishment, fueled by assorted pills and potions and bare breasted co-eds, we marched for social justice and human rights, steadfast in our cause to change the world. I had always walked and talked the way of a radical political activist, but as I learned through years and years of psychotherapy, I was only really in it for the nudity.

The pressures of trying to change the world, if only in a small way, were immense. Organizers of protests met in secret, plotting their agenda and creating memorable slogans that would entice the general public to join the cause. There wasn’t enough time to join every one of them, so the process of selecting the cause that mattered most was arduous and painstaking. There were protests for longer library hours, better pay for teaching assistants, and lower food costs on campus, none of which appealed to any of my sensibilities. There were demonstrations for racial equality, and social justice, which tweaked my interest, until I saw the notice for an upcoming event sponsored by Women For Freedom Of Choice. Their mandate, seemingly pro abortion, was in reality nothing more than a woman’s right to wander around topless. I had always been a supporter of topless women, and found my cause.

Surprisingly, these women, protesting the societal norm that women must keep their shorts on, were all wearing shirts at the meeting I attended. Strange really, I mean the pro drug protesters were all getting shit faced at their meetings! I sat quietly in the back of the Cock & Bull Tavern as the apparent leaders of the movement laid out their strategy. The plan was to march to the administration offices, and deliver their message from the courtyard in front. There were speakers, and a band had been arranged. It all sounded wonderfully uplifting, but I was beginning to doubt the groups commitment to the cause. Not one word was mentioned about shirt removal. Regardless, I joined the cause, presumably with the hope and prayers that on the day of the protest, these 20 year old breasts would be allowed to come out and say hello.

When D Day arrived, I waited patiently at the starting place. Small groups of women arrived a few at a time, and began the selection of signs they would carry, and organized themselves in marching groups. Once everyone was there, and the organizers were about to begin the long march to the administration offices, every single woman present removed her top, revealed a collection of breasts, of assorted color, size and shape, that even 40 years later is still clearly etched in my brain. There were tits every where, as far as the eye could see. A veritable sea of tits, that moved and with gentle precision, like waves slowly rolling into to shore, and then rolling out again only to repeat this process over and over again until the end of time. Not to be an outsider, I removed my shirt as well, and off we went to demand the right of women to expose their breasts whenever and where ever the mood struck them. For me, well, I hoped that the mood was going to strike constantly., if only to make a point.

As we moved along past the Ross Building, I found myself staring, well more like ogling the spectacular smorgasbord of silicon free boobs that were dancing all around me. The march itself was difficult, as I had to stop and adjust the erect soldier in my pants who was now standing at attention and desperately trying to salute. There were these 2 girls, beside me as we marched, identical twin sisters, who were seniors, completing thier degress in music. Melanie was a violinist, while Marnie played the cello. The thought of Marnie sitting with that instrument between her open thighs while topless, had me right on the cusp of an emotional orgasm. I told her I would love to hear her play, and she invited me to watch her and Melanie practice their craft later that evening.

At the courtyard, the chants of catchy slogans began in earnest, with ‘Look At This, They’re Just Tits’, ‘Free The Breasts’, and ‘My Tits, My Decision”. I was in total agreement, I mean breasts should be set free, and I truly believed that if a woman wanted to show me her tits, she has the God given right to do so. What idiot would deny that very basic human right? Not me. Most importantly though, I did look at them, and they were indeed just tits. Nothing more. Just wonderfully, perfect tits. Hundreds of them. And being fucked up on peyote and a shot or two of Tequila, they were everywhere, smiling at their new found freedom, gloriously free, and I noticed that they all seemed to move in perfect unison, synchronized if you will. A crowd had gathered around the protest, which seemed to make the demonstration appear much larger that it actually was, but it was evident that the predominantly male observers, and perhaps a few lesbians as well, were, much like me, only there for the tits.

I walked with Melanie & Marnie back to the dorm room they shared to enjoy the rehearsal. They were still topless, and remained that way all the to their room. I offered them some peyote and they eagerly accepted. Melanie stood with her violin perched on her left shoulder, as Marnie sat in a chair, legs spread to permit the giant instrument space, while the neck of the cello ran up her torso and settled quite peacefully directly between her boobs. They played something I had never heard before, and then followed it up with a rousing rendition of ELO’s ‘Showdown’. It was brilliant. I spent the rest of the evening with them, listening to and talking about music, getting messed up and enjoying each others’ company. They were amazing, astonishingly beautiful, complete with short skirts, knee high boots, absolutely no inhibitions, and even less of a gag reflex. I visited with them often, up until their graduation, and we continued to free our minds, and their boobs whenever we had the opportunity.

I gave up my social protesting, I mean it seemed to me that I didn’t give a shit about much, other than women, music and drugs. Many years later however, I fell into the cruelty to animal protesting, and have been a supporter of this movement since. It is worth noting, that the majority of the people involved in my local group are women and so, I will be suggesting that at our next demonstration, purely in order to garner significant attention, we should all march topless. It is currently being taken under advisement.

 

Maniacal Max

by Solomon Tate

 

Maximilian J. Botswager, who had been called Max since he was a 3 year old running around the family farm near Shanty Bay, Ontario, sat cuffed and shackled, as the case against him began to unfold. Witness after witness testified, and with each account, a collective gasp rose from the observers eager to see justice served. After 2 days of his trial, Max stopped listening to the testimony. It was all bullshit to him. He had proclaimed his innocence since his arrest, and offered alibis, however erroneous, in an attempt to prove that he was falsely accused, but Max was out of his fucking mind.

In the summer of 1982,  when I was working as a freelance writer for an upstart, left wing socio-political magazine, men and women began disappearing from communities near the sleepy, little town. The Police investigation had few clues, no bodies, and no leads.  Curfews were put in place but even this seemed to have no effect, and by the end of summer 1984, 9 people had gone missing, leaving towns from Barrie to Orillia in disheartening fear. The usually sparsely attended churches were filled to capacity on Sunday mornings, as people reignited their hope that a superior being would keep them safe. And every Sunday, following church, many of the parishioners would attend Baskin Robbins, for a scoop or two of Raspberry Ripple or Tiger Tail ice cream.

Shanty Bay was an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe, where everybody knew everybody else. It had been a haven during the Underground Railroad, and many  fleeing slavery south of the border, settled there. It was quaint, and quiet and peaceful. In August of 1985, all of that changed. A young couple on their way to Gravenhurst to attend a friend’s wedding, passed through the town and after stopping at the Baskin Robbins, disappeared. The couple never arrived at the wedding, and when friends were unable to reach them for several days, the Police were notified. Investigators moved fast, back tracking the couple’s movements using credit card receipts, and witness accounts of their metallic dark blue Ford Thunderbird. Pictures of the couple appeared in newspapers and on local newscasts across South-Central Ontario. The town was overrun by reporters, investigators and curiosity seekers as the hunt for the missing couple continued. The police, who had questioned everyone living or working in Shanty Bay, had brought in the canine unit to search the wooded areas near the town, while the marine unit divers searched the lake.

With all of the people roaming around the area, business was booming for the shop owners. There was  a constant and steady stream of patrons intent on shoving frozen dairy products in their faces in an ultimately futile attempt to obtain some relief from the oppressive summer heat visiting Baskin Robbins. Business was so good, that Max had called in several of his employees to help out. I was in the Baskin Robbins when one of the young girls went to the back of the store to retrieve some Burgundy Cherry ice cream for one of the police officers. Shortly after she disappeared, a blood curdling scream resonated from the back of the store. The officer raced to her side, and shortly after brought the trembling and crying girl back into the store front, with his arms around her. He called for back up, and evacuated the customers from the store, leaving me without my 2 scoop, sugar cone of Rocky Road, and Max at the cash.

Upon opening the storage freezer in the back of the Baskin Robbins, the young girl had inadvertently uncovered body parts. Human body parts. The Police statement to the press indicated that there were numerous bodies that had been cut into pieces and stored in the store’s freezers. The Police suspected that all of the people who had been missing from the area, eleven in total, were more than likely within the freezers that housed my Rocky Road. Max was taken into custody for questioning, and subsequently charged with 11 counts of 1st degree murder, 11 counts of indignity to a human body, and several charges under the health code for storing body parts next to the ice cream.

A psychiatric evaluation was ordered, although it was obvious as fuck that Max was deranged, and while he was found to be a sociopath, displaying Antisocial Personality Disorder, he was quite capable of knowing right from wrong, and by virtue that he had hidden the body parts, he was in fact fully cognizant of what he had done. Max denied any involvement in this, and at his bail hearing, the case was held over pending the arrival of the big city lawyer he had retained. The entire region was shocked. They had known Max for most of their lives, and he had always been polite, kind, and seemingly happy. At the same time, they were relieved at the prospect that the guilty party was incarcerated. The grizzly details of the story filled newspapers and newscasts across the country. People from all over the region would attempt to drive up to the town and catch a glimpse of the store at the centre of it all, only to find the area around the Baskin Robbins was blocked off by police. Just before the trial was set to begin, lab results arrived, indicating that almost all of the ice cream in the store had human elements in them. According to the Crown Attorney, after killing and mutilating the bodies, Max would grind the body parts up in a wood chipper, and mix them in with the ice cream for sale to the general public. His plan, it seems, was to have his customers eat the evidence. Again, Max refuted the theory, and continued to profess his innocence.

The trial lasted just under 3 weeks, with a barrage of evidence, witnesses, and the metallic, dark blue Ford Thunderbird found at the bottom of the lake near Beaverton. The defense contended that all of the evidence was circumstantial, and the witness accounts had been tainted by the incessant media coverage of the investigation, and Max’s arrest. Objections were overruled and sustained, and following instructions from the Judge, the jury was sequestered to deliberate and reach a verdict. The entire community was disgusted, not just by what Max had done, but the odds were pretty high that if you ate ice cream from the Baskin Robbins in Shanty Bay, you had also eaten someone. Unless you ordered Vanilla. It seems, based on lab results, that only the Vanilla Ice Cream was free of human elements.

The jury deliberated for less than 1 hour, and returned a verdict of guilty of all charges. Max was sentenced to life, and was transfered to the Prison for the Criminally Insane in Penetanguishene. He served 12 years of his sentenced, and died while asleep in his cell in 1998 of a brain aneurysm. The Baskin Robbins store he managed for years is no longer in Shanty Bay, having been replaced by a Starbucks. All of the victims, once identified, were buried by their respective families, and immortalized in a small plaque near the site of their demise. Weeks after the trial, Shanty Bay was once again an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe where everybody knew everybody else. To this day, there is no ice cream parlor in town.

There Was A Time

 

I grew up in Suburbia, middle child of a middle class family, living in the middle of nowhere. There were eight of us; my parents, myself, and my five siblings. It was an okay childhood, filled with family events, vacations, and I seem to remember feeling okay. We would take these long, family road trips to relatives spread out across Canada and the Northern Unites States, ranging from Winnipeg and Montreal up here, to New York, Cleveland, Chicago, and Washington. We loaded ourselves into the old man’s Ford Country Squire, the one with the cool wood paneling, and headed off, at dawn, down the road to perdition, and all stops in between.

I spent the first two years of my life in the ice covered tundra of Sault Ste. Marie, nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, after it had eaten the Edmund Fitzgerald, with my ass firmly frozen to the metal rails of a crib. I have no idea what the hell we were doing up there, but I was informed that the old man had taken a job in the vast wilderness of Northern Ontario. According to my mother the family next door were drunken hillbillies, albeit Canadian hillbillies, with little hope for neighborly chit chat. Survival among the wild animals, and somewhat wilder neighbors began to take its toll and after two years, she had enough. We loaded up and high tailed off of the ice floe we had called home, settling in the big city. My mother often told the story of how she was sure that those filthy, drunken, ignorant people next door would, sooner or later, bring us to some kind of horrific end.

I was, as a child, somewhat accident prone and spent a great deal of time at doctor’s offices and hospitals, being treated for a myriad of  injuries that included hazel nut shells in an eye, gashes on my arms and face from running through a closed glass door, a spike protruding through my foot, and broken bones caused by falling off of the roof of the house. To be fair, I did not fall off of the roof. I was flying. I was 6 years old and simply miscalculated wind speed. In any event, I suffered scars to my eye, stitches to my arms, received a wagon load of tetanus shots, and wore a cast for a large part of those formative years. And so, as we traveled, I was under strict orders not to move. As a super hero however, I was bound by an oath to not sit idly by. I was sworn to take action whenever I was needed.

The Ford Country Squire had really cool seats in the back that faced backwards. I sat there a lot, usually with one of my brothers who didn’t really travel well. He would throw up regularly, shortly after complaining of being sick. He kept a stack of paper lunch bags with him in order not to infect the Country Squire. In order to ease his distress, we would regularly stop to allow him to get out of the car and walk around until he was feeling better. These designated puke stops slowed down our progress, and really drove the old man crazy, as they almost doubled our travel time. We would often have to spend the night in a motel, usually a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge with a restaurant attached. The old man liked Howard Johnson. We would eat, get 2 rooms, and settle in for the night, getting up early and departing first thing in the morning. With all of the complaining about how long the trip was taking, and the added expense of motel rooms and meals, I was never really sure why they didn’t leave him at home with my grandparents.

My all time favorite family road trips were the ones we took to Washington, well actually Silver Springs, Maryland, to see my great uncle Nathan and his family. Nathan was my grandfather’s youngest brother, and I looked forward to seeing him with wild abandon.  We would always tour around D.C., as I sat in the front between Nathan and his wife in his Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a really cool glass roof about halfway back. My family followed behind in the Country Squire with a couple of his kids. I suppose Nathan was one of my all time favorite relatives. He encouraged the super hero that lived inside of me, and when I was 8, he got me a real cape to replace the towels I had been using. I really felt like a super hero then, standing tall with hands on my hips, cape blowing in the warm breeze, proudly displaying the t shirt I had made, emblazoned with the letter ‘G’, waiting to spring into action.

When I was 9 we took the Country Squire to Winnipeg. it took us three days to get there, as we overcame inordinate amounts of wrong turns and vomit. Uncle Sid, my other favorite relative, and aunt Francis were always fun to be around.  We attended events at the Pan Am games, and I went to my first CFL game, enjoying the blue and gold of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I have no idea who won as I was quite busy, scouting the stadium for crime. It seemed that there was no crime in Winnipeg. This was no place for a super hero crime fighter.

Uncle Sid took us horseback riding one afternoon. I watched as my eldest brother mounted his horse, and disappeared at full gallop through the brush and the trees, screaming for the horse to stop. Finally, someone in need of help! I sprang into action, and tried to ride after him, too afraid to fly after the mishap from my parents’ roof years before. Several other people were able to corral the horse, whose name by the way was Daisy, and save my brother from impending doom. I fell in love with horseback riding that day, and realized that I could be a horseback riding, crime fighting hero. All I needed was a sword, and a black mask, and I could follow in the footsteps of Zorro. My brother has never been near a horse since then, and breaks out in  cold sweats whenever he gets near a bouquet of flowers.

The family road trips stopped by the time I was 12 or 13. We were all getting older, and my parents had taken to leaving us with my grandparents while they went away on their own. The Ford Country Squire was long gone, replaced by a Buick LeSabre.  I suppose that was the end of my super hero crime fighting, although over the years I have continued to visit various emergency rooms across the city for assorted accidents and injuries, most of which required stitches, tetanus shots and xrays. Uncle Nathan passed away when I was still a kid, as did the relatives in Cleveland and Chicago. The cousins in Montreal moved to Houston, Texas, and Uncle Sid, well he has been living here for 50 years or so, and I try to visit with him whenever possible. Many of the details have faded now, but I still have some clear memories of those family vacations. To this day I can’t look at a station wagon without detecting a subtle scent of vomit.

 

 

Passed Over

 

The celebration of a holiday steeped in tradition and family was pre-empted this year due to several family crises. My wife suggested that we do it in a week or so. “We can do it then, right?”, she asked.

“I don’t think we can.”, I informed her.

“Why not?”, she asked.

“I think that a Passover Seder must be held on Passover.”, I answered.

“Who says?”, she queried.

“Well”, I replied, “6000 years of history and tradition, and several bus loads of Orthodox Rabbis en route to a Hassidic convention in Monsey, New York.”

“Are you sure?”, she inquired.

“Pretty sure.”, I told her.

“Well”, she said, “that sucks.”

“Indeed.”, I agreed.

So, with all of the preparation, the cooking and cleaning, the purchasing of seder specific foods, and the table being set, one of my sons, the chef, called to let his mother know that he could not attend as there was an emergency at work. I had no idea what a kitchen emergency could be, short of a fire, but he was clear that was not the case. I suspect that either the sous chef burnt the beef wellington, or some one screwed up the marinara sauce, so he had to go and rectify the problem. “Well”, my wife said, “everyone else will be here, so it will still be okay.”

We headed out to the store to pick up a few final items for my vegetarian/vegan son, and had to visit 3 different supermarkets to obtain the specific foods he would eat. With the morning gone, we began the final organization of food, seating, and Passover paraphernalia. There was another call, this time from my vegetarian son, stating that he was in the E.R. at a local hospital. It seems that he was experiences chest pains through the night, and had been transported by ambulance to the hospital. I went down to check out what was going on, being asked to bring him an orange juice and a chocolate chip muffin, and upon my arrival I found him in a room, not hooked up to any piece of equipment whatsoever. ‘What the hell is going on?”, I asked him.

“I don’t know.”, he said. “I was having chest pains, and my arm felt kind of weird, so I called 911.”

“What did the doctor say?”, I asked.

“Nothing really.”, he replied. “They took blood, and did a chest x-ray. We’re waiting for the results.” He asked if I could go to his place and pick up his boots and socks, as he arrived only with his slippers. I suggested that he get his wife to bring his stuff over, as I was not delivering his shoes.

When the doctor arrived, he was very sure that it was a cardiac event, but more than likely anxiety, or perhaps a pulled muscle. He was discharged, and I gave him money for a cab home, and I headed home myself. At home, I informed my wife that neither he, nor his wife would be attending the seder, as he was going to sleep as he had been up all night. I was told that while I was at the hospital with my son, one of my daughters called and, since neither of her brothers were attending, she didn’t think it was worthwhile coming down, and with my wife’s assistance, put a plan in place to conduct the seder within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, there was a fridge and freezer filled with food. The pantry was bursting with items to be served along side the main courses. There was chicken and brisket, roast potatoes, candied carrots, soup, fricassee and meatballs, gefilte fish, and a host of Moroccan dishes that my wife had grown up with. “What are we going to do with all of this food?”, I asked as I surveyed the abundance of food that had been systematically organized and arranged in the kitchen.

“We’re going to eat it.”, my wife said. “And what we can’t eat, we’re going to freeze.”

It was a very disappointing evening for me. At this time of year, my thoughts dive headlong into the memories of childhood Passovers spent at my parents home. Being with family, the traditions, the food, and the hockey playoff games that inevitably were on at the same time of year, and how my brothers and I, feigning a need to use the bathroom, headed downstairs to catch just a few minutes of the game and to at least check on the score. And upon returning to the table, my father would inevitably ask “What’s the score?”. That too had become our family tradition. And when the seder was done, satiated with food and the story of the emancipation from bondage, we headed to bed, taking comfort in the Leafs’ victory over the Bruins.

This year, however, there was no family. There was no tradition. And as I get older, they both seem to carry increased importance to me. “We’ll have our own seder.”, I told my wife. “There’s you and me, and the two girls. It’ll be fine.”

“The girls won’t be here.”, she informed me. “When they heard no one was coming, they made plans to go out with friends.”

“I see.”, I replied. I didn’t really. I was quite dejected, wallowing in the disappointment of childhood memories that seemed gone forever.

“We can do it together.”, she said. “Just the two of us.”

“Its okay.”, I told her. “I just don’t know why its so hard for everyone to get together twice a year. They’re always too busy. How come we’re never too busy? They’re going to forget everything we taught them. But we should eat. At least I won’t have to put pants on.”  We sat at the table, and before we could begin to eat, my wife looked over at me.

“You are a good father.”, she told me. “We’ll be fine, and they’ll be fine. No matter what they forget, they will never forget what’s important. We did a good job with those kids.”

I felt better. She always made me feel better. “I don’t think I want to do this next year.”, I told her. “I think one of the kids should hold the seder at their place. And maybe, we should have a crisis and have to cancel.”

“If that’s what you want to do”, she said, “we’ll do it. It sounds like fun. Its about time we screwed them around.” At that precise moment in time I realized that this was exactly where I was always supposed to be.

 

 

 

 

The Secret

 

After a lifetime of marriage, my wife has made a startling discovery. It seems that our personalities are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with her being nice and kind, and me, well,  apparently I am just an  old bastard. I suppose she’s right, I mean she regularly reminds me that she almost always is. The revelation came after a phone call from one of my daughters.

“Well”, she said to me after she hung up, “that’s not good.”

“What’s wrong?”, I asked.

“I can’t tell you.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I replied.

“Don’t you want to know?”, she asked.

“Not if you can’t tell me.”, I told her.

“If I tell you”, she informed me, “you can’t say anything to anyone.”

“Don’t tell me.”, I said.

“But I think you should know.”

“Then tell me.”, I stated.

“But I don’t want her to stop confiding in me.”

“If she wanted me to know”, I said, “I suppose she would have told me herself.”

“She doesn’t tell you things because she thinks you’ll get mad.”, I was advised.

“If its going to get me mad”, I informed her, “don’t tell me.”

“I don’t know if you’ll be mad.”, she said.

“Don’t tell me.”, I said, “The less I know, the better off I am.”

“I think I should tell you.”, she declared. “But you can’t say anything. She doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“Don’t tell me.”, I repeated.

“No”, she continued, “I think I should tell you.”

“I really don’t want to know.”, I stated. “I just don’t care that much.”

“Well you should.”, she said rather loudly. “She is your daughter.”

“I know.”, I replied. “I wouldn’t be giving her all of my money if she wasn’t.”

“Its our money.”, she corrected me.

“Right.”, I responded somewhat sarcastically. “Our money.”

“See”, she stated, “that’s why the kids don’t talk to you.”

“The kids don’t talk to me because I don’t want them to.”, I replied.

“The kids don’t talk to you”, she stated, “because you can be such a sarcastic bastard sometimes.”

“Really?”, I inquired. “Only sometimes.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better”, she added, “now is one of those times. I’m not going to tell you.”

“Okay.”, I told her. “Whatever you decide.” And then she told me.