The Dikes

As a slang term, ‘dyke’ is the euphemism for a lesbian woman, thus ‘the dikes’ may imply a pair of lesbian women.  Not in this instance.  The dikes referred to a land mass located on the south side of town that served as a hedge for the Steele Park which was a short walk from my house, and the expanse of land on the opposite side, that served no particular purpose during the years of my childhood.  Steele Park had one lowly swing set, a hut that was used for the parks and recreation staff for arts and crafts in the summer, a picnic table, a tether ball pole and later a playground ensemble that no one could decipher or by what force of nature had put it there.  It was so convoluted an engineer would need instructions to figure it out. The summer park recreational program was fraught with arts and crafts sessions or latent walks to tour the local police station.  Touring the Chatham city police was always a highlight for the summer programs and it was especially great for those of us situated on the other side of those dikes.  Far enough to want a bus but close enough to force the kids to walk.  We were shown real jail cells with steel bars and given the speeches of crossing the street safely on a green light.  The highlight was always some kid getting invariably locked in a cell while the rest of us taunted him and debated his future prospects as aninmate.

 The park and rec staff took pity on us who attended the Steele park afternoon arts and crafts sessions, as our reputation for the ‘bad’ part of town preceded us.  Their activities were usually poorly organized since staff kept refusing to attend to our park out of fear or loathing or both. Those who did show up were ill prepared and we found them particularly boring, but they tried to engage as many of the smaller ones as possible.  Their ‘hut’ was a focus point for break-ins and more than once their supplies depleted by the wayward teens who found alternate uses for craft glue.

Filled with lush grass and large maple trees on the boundaries between the park and the adjacent houses, the park was a great sanctuary in the summer and a tobogganing heaven in the winter.  The dikes served as a nemesis for toboggan gods looking for the next big hill to conquer and conquer it we all tried. 

  Feathered with trees and spots of grass, the dikes was the perfect sledding haven with its slopey side rising at the end of the park, then reaching a steep pinnacle, only to incline haphazardly down the other side that, in the seventies, was inhabited by nothing but solid clay ground and dirt underneath a few feet of snow that had turned to a solid sheen of ice by the time the hundredth kid had taken his turn. The city later found that land as a perfect site to build a housing development.  New and upscale homes began to populate our favorite tobogganing hill.  Soon, instead of our sleds, inner tubes and crazy carpets sliding downhill to an empty expanse of hard land, if left unmanned or steered improperly, they now headed straight into some person’s backyard and newly constructed deck.  I’m not sure what housing developer saw large cash rewards for this stroke of genius, but I’m guessing his pie in the sky idea never took to the fruition he had hoped.  Those kids with the sleds landing in the upscale backyards of the new land owners, surely put a damper on the whole “paradise” idea.  Especially if a wayward kid had inexplicably managed to detach a fence post or garner a concussion from a flying Christmas decoration. 

One afternoon, a young friend who did not live in our neighbourhood asked to go tobogganing down the dikes with me.  Shy and new to outside invitations, I eagerly accepted.  I was wearing my quite unfashionable bright orange snow pants my mother had just bought that severely clashed with my dark brown long nylon coat that ‘covered your bum to keep you warm’.  As if I was worried about ass-warmth at the age of eleven. I was quite conscientious about my attire, and swore under my breath as I walked down to the park to meet her.  She was waiting for me when I arrived and I immediately noticed her matching skiing ensemble and the color rose in my cheeks.  Afraid she would notice my lack of fashion sense I steeled myself for a sarcastic remark.  She made no attempts at humor at my expense nor did she seem too concerned with the temperature of my ass.

The girl and I took to the hill with crazy carpets in hand.  Using a crazy carpet on a hill made of ice that sloped severely and littered with rocks and tree stumps, was something of a daredevil escapade about which we would later contemplate our sanity.  This journey into sledding horror proved a rite of passage, as it were, for the faint of heart and junior Evel Knievel among us.   It was also an excellent training ground for future emergency room medical staff and those destined to treat head traumas.

We made the journey to the edge of the park and tackled the dikes.  Our initial runs down the hill proved exhilarating and exhausting.  The long walk back up (which really, wasn’t that long it just seemed like forever with all that clothing on, which did keep my ass warm in case you were wondering) was taking an eternity and we decided to move to another portion of the hill to get more of an exciting and steeper ride, because nothing says ‘temporary paralysis’ better than flying down a hill at the speed of light with a slick sheet of bendable plastic under your ass and the wayward tree stump making you airborne for what seemed like minutes, then landing with a tailbone-crushing thump on a boulder the size of Quebec.   My friend took her turn and I watched first in joy, that later turned to horror as her crazy carpet hit a sheen of ice, propelling her down the hill at an alarming rate of speed,  beating her off a tree stump and soaring her out of my range of vision.  I took to my carpet and tried my best to keep my eyes open for the ride, but most of it was a blur.  I made it in one piece down to the other side of the hill to find her gasping for breath and crawling on her hands and knees. 

In school, we had taken some first aid lessons and learned the new procedure of the Heimlich maneuver.  A technique that was designed to assist a person severely choking on her ham sandwich or chicken bone and anything else she had erroneously decided to attempt to swallow.  This newfound life-saving technique was supposed to dislodge a wayward object from the victim’s throat by performing intrusive stomach-pumping motions with your fists as you bear-hug the victim from behind, whispering sweet-you’ll-be-all-rights in their ear as you pummel the shit out of them, thus, allowing them the ability to breathe freely once again.  Quite simple, really.

Seeing my friend crawling and gasping for breath, I suddenly remembered she had been chewing gum when we began tobogganing.  With the Heimlich presentation still fresh in my mind and thinking I could rescue my new friend with the greatest technique ever known to mankind, I took it upon myself to be her heroine. Rescue the would-be daredevil with precision medical attention and expert execution of a brand new technique.  I would be lauded as saving a young girl’s life.  Wait ‘til her mother finds out she was near-death, but with the life-saving Heimlich, I brought her precious daughter back to life and saved her from inevitable brain-damage or worse, death from the dikes.

I quickly darted for her and wrapped my arms around her so my fists were securely in her stomach and began thrusting in urgent motions.  She tore away from me and started yelling at me.  “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!!!”  Shocked, I backed away on the crunching snow and stared.  “I was saving you.  I thought you were choking” I replied a bit miffed that she didn’t appreciate my life-saving and quick-thinking first aid.  “I WASN’T CHOKING YOU DOPE!!  I GOT THE BLOODY WIND KNOCKED OUT OF ME.  STAY AWAY FROM ME!”  And with that, she took her crazy carpet and stomped back to the park.  I wandered home defeated, but still convinced the Heimlich could have saved her, if only she had let me.  No appreciation for the would-be life-saving first-aider in her midst.  We never went tobogganing together again.  I guess she was afraid of the whole ‘crazy girl with the orange pants thinks everybody is choking’ thing.  I hope somebody knew what he was doing when she found herself choking on her chicken wings one Friday night and I wasn’t there to put my mad stomach-pummeling fist-thrusting Heimlich-Maneuver skills to work to save her ass.  Meanwhile, my orange pants took a sabbatical and my crazy carpet was in the garbage the next day.  

I should point out Steele Park now looks nothing like it did when I was a kid.  Everything is gone but a climbing apparatus. The dikes look like a little incline with trees and a cemented path running through it and the ‘housing development’ spared the better part of the clay ground.  Instead, they covered it in sod and kept a field of green to have something pretty to look at instead of screaming daredevils careening towards their flower gardens.  Everything seemed so much more mountainous when I was four feet tall.   

 

 

  

Life Lessons I Learned From Poker

Never bet on these...proven bad luck.

Never bet on these…proven bad luck.

This weekend, SLS Couples Poker night was held.  Quite an ostentatious event complete with fake birthday cake and everything!  As I was sitting there drinking ma margaritas and playing some semblance of a poker hand, I realized one very important thing.  The stuff needed to play decent poker, is the same stuff one needs to wander down life’s little escapade into fundom.  Here are some of those deep life-affirming thoughts one has during a regular poker tournament among friends.   And the phrase  “No crying over spilt beer” should be embroidered on a pillow….

Bullies are everywhere.  It’s how you react to them that matters.  If you stand your ground, they tend to back down.  If you stand up and they still beat you, take heart.  Even if they win the battle, they don’t usually win the war.

Bluffing usually only works with people who don’t know you very well.  You can probably tell somebody anything and they’ll believe you just because they don’t have any prior experience or knowledge of you to look back on.  Once that’s established, bluffing/ lying is off the table. 

A good poker face goes a long way.  Keep neutral and you can pretty much get through anything.  Show your ‘hand’ and people will try to manipulate the shit out of you…well, some people will.

Thinking is a part of everything.  Always think before you act and try to think about what the other person is thinking.  Think about thinking and others will think of you as a thinker and will underestimate your ability to act.  It’s a bit confusing, but if you really think about it, it makes perfectly good sense.  At least it did after five margaritas. 

Go with your gut.  Usually your gut instinct is the best.  If the situation doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t.  If it feels like it could be the best case scenario, then go for it.  Your gut is usually right. 

Don’t underestimate the power of luck.  Some say luck has everything to do with success and I’m kinda in line with those people.  A little bit of luck can lead you in a very positive outcome…so can a little bit of alcohol and chocolate, but that’s a different story.

Strategy only goes so far.  A good strategic plan can set you on a goal-attaining mission that enables you to harbor success and fulfill all your wildest dreams…until somebody comes along and fucks it all up.  That’s when strategies tend to fall apart and you end up with an empty margarita glass and little left in your ante.  Strategies need to remain flexible and be ready for the unexpected pitfalls of the shit disturbers.  Stay the course and remain resilient.  Those SDs are only there to party and throw a wayward arrow at the bulls-eye on your back.  They got nothin’….

Most people think poker is a ruthless, merciless game only fit for the shrewd and sly among us…but throw in a bunch of drunk, carefree ladies and it’s up for grabs.  Tradition goes out the window and everybody scrambles to find the common ground and ANYTHING that remotely resembles logic, common sense or rationale.  Don’t miss the obvious and take it for what it’s worth…fun.  Play with gusto, take the risks and watch your back.   

It’s all really just a big poker game….

 

Wait...What?  Yeah, I don't get it either....

Wait…What? Yeah, I don’t get it either….

 

 

 

 

Swimming in the Past

I wasn’t going to post any creative writing junk on this site, but I had nothing else to say right now since everything is crazy and people are crazy and you’re out of order and I’m out of order and the vending machine is fucking out of order!!!  So, here is an excerpt of a story I have been working on. It’s a bit flowery, or something.    Read it.  Breathe it.  Live it. Lament the end of summer.  Send cookies. 

KJ

 

I can hear the rustle of the reeds outside my bedroom window.  The warm breeze sends them into a hazy dance of bent bodies and extended arms.  The darkness signals night, but I am too restless to sleep.  I snuggle deeper under the bedclothes in search of comfort, my eyelids becoming heavier every inch I delve.  I listen intently to the reeds, their music lulling me into a gentle song I know will eventually be my undoing.  I try to stare up at the beamed ceiling, its dark cedar creating ominous shapes in the dark, but my eyelids flutter in protest. I turn to look at my bedroom door, painted a faded white and chipping from the summer humidity and the daily lake- watered towels drooping from atop the corner. 

 The little cottage creaks with adult noises outside my door.  The wooden floorboards heavy with grown-up steps making their way to the glassed porch to watch the night sky turn a deeper twilight as the stars reflection bounce upon the lake water or the television declare an evening news program to be concluding for the night.  I imagine they are sitting together on the little settee, having their late night drink thankful the kids are finally tired and tucked in for the night.  I long to join them, my bare feet padding along the floorboards and snuggling in between them, my head resting on her shoulder, but I dare not move.  I know they will not be upset as much as they would be worried.  Are you sick? They would ask.  Do you have a headache? They would be concerned.  My fair skinned body out in the summer sun all day; in the rolling waves tumbling atop the inflated inner tube my brothers and I pranced and jumped day after day.  Sunstroke, they would think.  Fever, they would fear.  Sunburn, they would lament.  But no, even in the days when sunscreen was unheard of, they took expert care that my fair skin would not burn hidden furtively under a cotton t-shirt, and my face shaded under a sunhat placed securely on my strawberry blond head.  I remained sheltered from swarming mosquitoes, my little body hidden inside the concave of his jacket as we ran along the dusty path during a dusk evening. Saved from myself as I was shuffled hurriedly indoors following an invitation to a young skunk by a singing of ‘here, kitty, kitty, kitty’. 

Fast forward thirty years and I wish I could go back to those long hot summer days.  We would walk bare foot along the stones to the path leading us to the dilapidated shed where the bikes were stowed away.  We would run down to Lake Ontario, our bathing suits clinging to our bodies, the frigid water sending us into tides of joy and near hypothermia, blissfully unaware of any temperatures cooler than the hot sun beating down upon our necks or the dripping ice cream cones we slurped in an afternoon meant for laundry.  I remember being embarrassed that I had been stripped down to my underwear at the local laundry mat waiting for our clothes to wash, but treated to an air hockey game and ice cream at the local variety store as if to make up for the public display of my flowery pink underwear.  That was an Ontario summer.  Full of water, sand, sun and cool nights with the reeds outside my bedroom window singing me to sleep in the little cottage that held all of us tightly in its embrace for a few short precious weeks.     

cottage

 

This is How The Universe Repays Kindness, Apparently

The universe is enjoying my sudden generous spirit and has decided to kick my ass for it.  I thought I would dispense some good cheer early this morning by helping out a fellow coffee connoisseur, and this is how the program ‘payback-for-nerds’ works.

: I get a parking ticket…I could go into further detail but I would have to commit Hari Kari and that would be a Japanese faux pas.  Maybe.  I think.  I’m not up on Japanese faux pas, so I really can’t say.  I’m totally guessing.

: I had to cancel my dentist appointment that I had previously cancelled due to my being out of the country and all, only this time it was to escort D2 to an all important job interview with Target, who said the interview would last for like 2 hours, but really only lasted long enough for me to fly back to work, attain said parking ticket and fly back to get her.  Awesome, really.  And the lady on the Dentist office phone was kinda bitchy at me and all “why are you cancelling this time and on such short notice?” and I was all like “I have a really important meeting I can’t get out of” which really, was sort of the truth with a side of fries.  Kind of. Karate.  Thought I’d throw in a Japanese word to just confuse you and distract you from my obvious little tiny lie…I guess it could be classed as “white”.  Not sure why it would be white, really.  What if it was a little black lie? Or blue?  Or maybe fuchsia?  Yeah, fuchsia…definitely a pretty pink lie.  White is totally boring….who tells a boring white lie?  Ugh..if you’re gonna lie, totally commit to it and make it a vibrant pink!  I guess now, I’m endorsing lying…I’m an awesome mother.  All the kids say so.  What a role model!  “Kids, if you’re gonna lie, make it big, bold and beautiful!”   I think that’s my new motto/slogan/life credo. 

The pink hearts really bring home the 'lying needs commitment' theme

The pink hearts really bring home the ‘lying needs commitment’ theme

:  the air conditioning at work decides to be a temperamental menopausal bitch and work only if it feels like it and only if you say please and buy it cold caramel cappuccino with extra whip cream on top…. on this surprisingly humid day in September, which is odd for our province this time of year.  It totally throws a wrench into the obvious plan for the heating system to be booted up and ready to blast copious quantities of heat to every nook and cranny in the building, except of course, for my office.  I’m stoking firewood for the winter.  S’MORES!!  

: My digestive system decided to hit it into high gear sending me dashing awkwardly to the washroom every ten minutes…mid sentence or not, I was ‘on the go’….people were left baffled by my quick exits and others were wondering how I knew so much about the cleaning habits of the washroom attendant and which stall had an alarming lack of paper.  It was during one of these dashes that I spied the toothpaste splashes on my top and attempted the ill-fated water mark disaster.   See below….

: I erroneously decided to wear a deep purple top, which would normally be lovely except for the toothpaste splashes adorning the top portion of said lovely top.  It looked like I walked through a screen door that had been coated in white paint.  In my attempts to correct said Fashion Faux pas, I quickly smeared water over the dots which left a big dark stain that stretched ever so slightly downward, encompassing my entire right boob.  It looked like I’d been lactating for quadruplets.  I rock.

I should try to remember that wearing purple can be iffy

I should try to remember that wearing purple can be iffy