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It was while working at a Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario, Canada that the author met many American contractors who specialized in nuclear contract work within North America.

These men and women jokingly called themselves Nuclear Whores and the website in which they found work was called

According to the online ‘Urban Dictionary’, a Road Whore is defined as: “A temporary worker from out of town. In engineering and construction, road whores seek out and find massive bonuses, high pay rates, hazardous duty pay, per diem, housing allowances and any form of premium remuneration”.

These new friends taught him the ways of the contractor and he soon began a life as a nuclear contract engineer, moving from project to project around Ontario.

Soon after beginning his life as a nuclear contract worker, the author met and fell in love with a news journalist while doing improvisation at Second City in Toronto.

Three years later they got married. A year after that they gave birth to a son.

Unfortunately their love was short-lived. It ended two years into their marriage while living in Kincardine, Ontario while working under contract at the Bruce Nuclear Facility and she was home with their son.

One day, she packed everything including their son and moved to Oakville leaving the author in Kincardine, all alone.

Like many parents who suddenly find themselves inthis position, the author was surprised when told he was not an equal parent of his 1 year old son, but was what his divorce lawyer referred to as a “Secondary Parent”.

As such, he was not allowed to talk to his son whenever he wanted or to see him whenever he wanted. He had to fight to see his own son, and this took time.Without his boy in his daily life, he couldn’t eat, sleep or work. He was absolutely devastated.

After a few days, he went to his family physician who was immediately concerned for the author’s well‑being. This country doctor suggested a personal remedy of his for overcoming difficult times; he told him to concentrate all his thoughts away from the negativity of the present to the funny, happy stories of his past. He suggested trying to relive these memories, by recollecting them through painting, writing, songs, etc...

So, he wrote.

Each day, he concentrated on one funny, true story from his past. He would think about it for hours at a time, sometimes all day, and then would write it down. It took 42 days for the author’s lawyer to get visitation permission to visit his son in Oakville and in that time he wrote the stories that compile this blog.

To Dye For

It is a few minutes before the clock hits midnight. At that time I shall turn 40 years of age. Rather than celebrating the new decade at the local bar with shot glass in hand, I find myself staring into the mirror of my washroom, counting the grey hairs on my head.

I have come to the realization that it will be far easier for me to count the hairs that haven’t turned grey….I’m half expecting that at the stroke of midnight my hair will suddenly turn sheer white and my man-boobs will drop to the floor.

I am 40.

I am now old.

Perhaps I should start to consider dyeing my hair.

I shouldn’t fret about the thought of dyeing….it’s not like I’m a novice at colouring my hair. In fact, I have dyed my hair 5 times before…yes indeed, 5 times…of course it is important to note that all 5 times were in a 3 day period.

I was sixteen years of age and it was the summer month of July. It was a Monday afternoon and I had the day off of work from my job as a cook in a restaurant called Bar B Que Heaven in the nearby town of Brooklin, Ontario.

Each day at 4pm I’d find a reason, any reason, to go outside and walk to the front of my house. For across the street Kendra Martin worked at the Prince Albert Community Centre where a kid’s day-camp was held. 4pm was when Kendra got onto her bike each work day to go home and I always made every effort to catch her attention and say hi to her.

Kendra was tall, with blonde hair, blue eyes and had the face of a goddess. A mere smile from her in my general direction would be enough to cause my legs to wobble from being weak in the knees. Whenever I saw her I would instantly hold my breath…by the time she rode her bike over to say hi my head would be a little light-headed and I’d have trouble making coherent sentences because my tongue suddenly felt as if it was too big for my mouth.

“Heyth Kendra…whath up?”, I’d barely manage to say. A trickle of sweat slowly moved down my face…

I first met Kendra when we were in Grade 4 and we became fast friends. But even then I knew she was way too good looking for me…I remember distinctly deciding at age 9 that I could not have a crush on Kendra for her looks made my stomach too anxious with nerves.

Needless to say, not much had changed at sixteen.

She stopped her bike in front of me, as she usually did and looked at me, kind of in a funny way, as if examining my face…which made me certain she somehow knew my tongue had swelled inside my mouth. After a few seconds of looking…which to me lasted years…she began, “You know, I was thinking…”

Instantly my imagination raced…was she going to tell me she liked me? Was this the moment of which I’d dreamed? Oh my god!!!….dontfaintdontfaintdontfaint…

“Yeah…you’d look a lot better if your hair was just a bit darker in colour” she simply said…and with that, she smiled and started peddling her bike down the street.

“Thankth Kendra for the advith! I’ll conthider it!” I yelled to her as she drove away…my tongue still swollen and unable to form real words.

Right there and then, on the side of the road, was when I decided that I was going to dye my hair.

My friend Justin Miller came over about an hour later and within minutes he and I were walking to downtown Port Perry to go to the drugstore.

“What are we doing? Where are we going?” asked Justin as we walked.

“I told you, to the drug store!” I replied, not knowing how to tell him I was going to dye my hair.

“Are you getting condoms? Do you NEED to get condoms?” he asked with curiosity, thinking that maybe somehow in the past 24 hours since I had last seen him I was now sexually active.

“No. No. No. That’s not it.”

“Are you sick?”

“No. No. I’m not sick”

“You have VD? And you NEED penicillin, right??”

I had to tell him, or I was going to continue to hear things like this the entire way...“I was just thinking of maybe dyeing my hair…I think I’d look a little better if my hair was just a bit darker”. I never mentioned that my entire decision was based on Kendra’s suggestion.

There was a bit of a pause as Justin thought about this…he had a funny look on his face as if to say “What the hell are you talking about?”…but all he did was shook his head and said, “whatever” and we continued our walk downtown.

At the drugstore, we slowly walked back to the area on the shelves that held all the hair dye. All the boxes had women’s faces on them…making it very clear that only women dyed their hair. I took a death breath…this was for Kendra. The lady who worked at the store saw Justin and I looking at the shelves with very confused looks on our faces and came over to ask if we needed help. She was about 50 years of age, with greyish hair and had a nice smile.

I panicked…“Just picking up some hair dye for my mom...I forget what she told me to get”

The lady smiled, “I can help you. What colour is your mom’s hair now?”

“Uh….pretty well the same colour as mine”

“Okay. And would she like to change the colour?”

“Uhm…yeah, she’s thinking about going just a touch darker…just a little bit”

I could hear Justin snorting with laughter as he turned his back away from the lady as I gave him a dirty look.

The lady smiled and handed me a container with the words Maybelline across the top and said, “Just tell your mom to follow the instructions inside”.

“Ok. Thanks. Bye.”…I walked as fast as I possibly could to the cashier and paid while feeling the need to explain to the cashier that this purchase was for my mom. I was soon outside walking away as quickly as I could.

Justin had already left the store ahead of me and was now waiting for me on the sidewalk with a big smile on his face…I don’t even remember the walk home…my only thought at the time was that I just wanted to get this over with.

By the time we arrived at my parent’s house, their cars were in the driveway and they were in the kitchen making dinner. As I walked into the house I could hear my sister, Charlene, in her room on the main floor...Justin and I said hi quickly and ran upstairs to my parent’s room and right into their ensuite washroom.

I tore open the hair dye package as quickly as I could.

Looking back, I probably should have read the directions with a little more care…or at least talked to my mom about it first…but, no. At the time I thought the best way to handle this was half panic, full rushed.

I took the plastic gloves out of the box.I wasn’t sure why I would need them and Justin laughed when I held them up…so I just chucked them in the garbage.

The bottle of hair dye fell out of the box and I picked it up off the floor and looked at it…it seemed the right colour…With one hand, I motioned to Justin to wait outside of the washroom and with the other I closed the door…

I poured the dye solution into my hand and started mixing it into my hair as I continued to read the instructions.

It said to wait twenty minutes…I barely lasted 10 before my eyes began to water and my hands started to burn. The itching of my scalp was unbearable and the horrible smell started to burn my nose hairs…

Suddenly, this didn’t seem like the great idea I had thought it was.

I quickly washed it all out as fast as I could. I dried it with two rubs of a towel, slicked it back with my hands and took a deep breath before looking into the mirror.

It seemed darker.

I did a couple of poses in front of the mirror as I tried to determine whether it looked okay.

I opened up the washroom door to Justin’s face…his mouth and eyes went wide open as he saw me… a laugh slowly built across his face.

“You look like Roy Orbison!!”

“No I don’t!!” as if trying to desperately convince him that I looked good…but my voice gave me away as it cracked with fear, gasping in mid-sentence.

“It is so dark Max! You seriously look like Roy Orbison”.

I ran to the mirror above my mom’s dresser…“Oh God! What am I going to do?” Time seemed to stand still as I looked at myself in the mirror…I did kind of look like Roy Orbison.

That’s when I looked at my hands.

They were black from the hair dye…it suddenly made sense why there were plastic gloves in the box.

Justin did his best to control his laughter but it wasn’t easy for him. He did manage, “Perhaps your hair just looks darker right afterwards…by tomorrow it will probably look lighter…right?”

“Yeah, I guess”…I didn’t sound convinced at all.

I continued to stare at myself in the mirror…“don’t tell anyone about this, okay?” I pleaded.

We decided the best plan was for me to call in sick to work tomorrow and stay home, out of sight. When Justin got home from work we’d walk back to the drugstore and I would wait outside while he bought some new hair dye for me to make it lighter.

Justin left to go home as I scrubbed my hands…I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my head and walked downstairs to my room. I yelled to my mom that I was feeling a bit sick to my stomach and was going to lie down. As she started to walk towards my room to see if I was okay, I screamed, “Don’t come into my room mom! I’m okay! I just need to sleep!”

Somehow that worked and she didn’t open up my bedroom door. I turned off the light and quickly got into bed.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I just listened to the clock ticking as I stared out the window at the moon, wondering to myself what I was going to do…Oh God! I couldn’t go back to school in September looking like Roy Orbison! I couldn’t go to work looking like Roy Orbison!

The next day was the longest day ever.

I just stayed in bed. My mom was working and my dad was away the entire day; luckily my sister didn’t bug me so I just laid in bed with my thoughts until Justin showed up around 3pm.

I put on a ball cap to hide as much of my hair as possible. We walked down to the drugstore; passing cars must have thought I was speed-walk training as I was going as fast as I could. Justin and I didn’t talk much; we both understood that it was just best to concentrate on our task at buy more hair dye that would fix this mistake.

As per our plan, I waited outside of the drugstore while Justin went in and bought some new hair dye. He came out a few minutes later carrying a bag filled with a few different things. We went behind the store and he showed me what he had bought. He had another box of hair dye that was a blonde colour and he had a bottle of ‘Sun In’ which was a bleach for hair to make it lighter in colour…it made sense to me to use this one as I just needed my hair a bit lighter.

We broke all speed walking records travelling back to my parent’s house; we walked in the door and right up the stairs to my parent’s room. My parents hadn’t arrived home yet and I had thought my sister was gone…but as we got to the top stair, she was right there in front of us. She could see the hair that was showing under my ball cap and let out a yell, “What did you do??”

I didn’t answer her…but I didn’t need to. I ran into the washroom carrying the bag from the drug store and closed the door. I decided to go with the ‘Sun In”. My thinking was that if I just left it in a little while, the bleach would lighten the colour and it would look less black and more the colour that Kendra had suggested. Somehow, this made total sense at the time.

The ‘Sun In’ box was quickly opened and I poured the contents directly into my hair; using my hands, which were still a little dark in places from the dye job yesterday, worked the solution into the hair. I waited 5 full minutes and then washed it all out.

Once again, I turned to the mirror.

Patches. My hair was now spotted in patches of a bright colour, not blonde but more of a weird green colour.

I opened the door of the bathroom. There sitting in chairs in front of the doorway were Justin and my sister, each with a drink in their hand as if they were spectators watching a game. Their shocked faces indicated immediately that my spotted look was not what they were expecting…but much worse; or rather much more entertaining to them.

I just sat on the lid of the toilet, not sure if I should laugh or cry so I kind of did both at once.

After their laughter subsided a little, Justin suggested that I try the other bottle of hair dye he had bought…the one that was a blonde colour. To this day, I have no idea if he was trying to help me or if he just wanted to see if I would dye it again…but at the time, I just figured I had nothing else to lose at this point.

So, I opened the box, made sure to put on the plastic gloves this time, poured the liquid into my covered hands and carefully rubbed it into my hair. My scalp was really starting to sting. For those that have never dyed their hair, this stuff is toxic…the smell burns your nose and it also burns the scalp as it sits there. It is not a fun process. I waited the full twenty minutes as per the instructions, which I read in full this time.

I washed it out and once again faced the mirror, which had become my nemesis.

It looked a little orange now and there were still some patches of the bright green colour but overall it did look better…if only a little. At this point, I’d take what positives I could get. It did look less “patchy”…which at this moment was a positive thing. Justin and Charlene seemed to agree as their laughter was not quite as loud this time as it was before.

After conferring with Justin and Charlene, we decided the best course of action was to use the blonde hair dye again to see if it would make my hair more blonde than orange. If using it once helped a little, then using it twice should really help.

So, I put on the gloves again, poured the solution into my hands and rubbed it into my hair. My scalp was in such pain by this point as it was completely burnt. I waited the twenty minutes sitting on the side of the bathtub. It had become a familiar routine by this point.

Upon waiting, I washed it out fully, the water hurt my scalp as it washed over my head. I knew this wasn’t a good sign.

Orange…bright orange. My hair was now a fairly consistent bright orange. My scalp felt on fire.

Apparently as I was washing my hair, my mom had arrived home and walked in the house. I hadn’t heard her with the water running. When she heard my sister yell something along the lines of, “MAX! YOUR HAIR IS BRIGHT ORANGE!” she ran upstairs to see what was going on.

“Oh God Max! What have you done?” was her only response as she slowly sat down on the edge of her bed and just stared at me.

After gaining back her composure she quickly told me that she was taking me downtown to the hair salon…I pleaded with her not to take me to Port Perry…I begged that we go to Oshawa, which was the nearest city to Port Perry, about 20 minutes south.

So, off we went…leaving Justin and my sister in tears of laughter. My mom had a worried look on her face as she concentrated on driving and I held my ball cap lightly on my head, as the weight of it hurt my burnt scalp.

We soon arrived at a salon in downtown Oshawa; the light was still on and I could see a man inside. I ran to the door and tried it…locked. The man inside turned to me and waved as if to indicate he was closed. I took off my ball cap, showing my bright orange hair and held my dark hands against the glass of the door…the man gasped in shock and quickly indicated that he was now open for business. He unlocked the door and quickly ushered us in, locking the door again behind us.

The man was in his fifties, had a dark moustache which twirled upwards at the ends and he had dark curly hair, was slightly overweight and looked Italian. As I sat in the salon chair I could hear him on the phone behind me telling his wife that he’d be late coming home due to a “hair emergency”.

As he mixed the hair dye, I told him of my tale. He seemed to understand and be sympathetic when I told him of Kendra Martin’s role in all of this.

He told me he first had to strip my hair of the existing colour. He put some gel into his hands and tried to work it into my scalp…I winced in pain as a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Oh, your scalp is bleeding!” he exclaimed. More tears ran down my face as he tried to comb it. “You might lose your hair!” The man didn’t really make me feel better with his ‘casual conversation’.

After finishing the stripping of my hair, he was ready to put in the hair dye that he had mixed earlier. He told me it would be a brownish-red colour.

Words can’t possibly do justice to describe the pain of the hair dye on my scalp. This was the fifth dyeing of my hair in three days.

I swear I could feel each inch of every strand as he combed it out…and every little bit of it hurt.

My hair didn’t end up falling out but I did get the worst case of dandruff in the history of hair. Skin came off of my scalp in large chunks. I wasn’t able to wash my hair for a week due to the pain.

I only ended up missing one day of work. Although when they heard my tale of woe they teased me for weeks afterwards.

As for the final colour of my hair after the five dyes…it was indeed a reddish brown, slightly darker and redder than my original hair. I intentionally kept out of sight from Kendra for two weeks, until my scalp healed and I was able to wash my hair again. When we did meet up one day on her way home from work, she stopped her bike once again in front of me and stared intently at my reddish brown hair, pondering it for a few seconds;

“I think it looked better the way it was before”.


My Mother The Sex Worker

My name is Max Ryan and I have two confessions to make...

First of all, my mother is not, and never has been, employed as a "sex worker".

She worked as a family planning nurse.

I now understand that I took slight pleasure in telling naive friends that my mother worked in the sex industry when really she advised and taught people as a medical nurse about sexual health.

I guess I found this so funny because my mother was 4o years old when I was born so by this time she was in her mid-fifties. She is a devout Christian and the most moral person I know or have ever met. So to me, she is the last person that would ever work in the sex industry and that is why I found it funny to tell people that she did.

And in my defence, it wasn't entirely a lie...for when friends would come over to visit they would find wooden dildos and anatomically correct dolls and other crazy things lying around our kitchen.

What I did not explain to these friends was these items were used by my mom to teach young kids and mentally challenged youth about sex education and things like putting on a condom.

I now admit, that perhaps I spun all my answers to paint a picture that was not entirely accurate...for example, when my friends, aghast at what they were hearing gasped, "Are you being serious?" I now know I shouldn't have responded with, "Yeah! She gets a hundred bucks an hour. How do you think we can afford this house?"

Second confession: To all young ladies who made appointments with the family health clinic at the Oshawa Centre and ended up speaking to my mother about anything sex related, she never once breathed a word to me about anything at all. Nothing whatsoever. No names. No conditions. Nothing at all.

The reason I feel I must make this second confession, is that once or twice or at most ten or fifteen times I may have indicated to young ladies that I knew much more about their private lives than I actually did. In fact, I never knew anything.

For the record, it was the girls themselves who told me everything. If they hadn't been so worried what I knew and what I didn't know I never would have known anything.

Every situation started out the same way. A girl would walk up to me very nervous and say hi. She'd start up a conversation about something totally unrelated and she'd nervously laugh a couple of times before turning to leave. A few steps down the hall, she'd stop, turn to the side and quietly ask with a nervous smile that was starting to twitch, "By the way, did your mother happen to mention that I spoke to her recently?"

What was I supposed to do? I mean really?

How could I possibly resist, "Yes, she called you a bad girl."

And if I got the reaction that I wanted, which I always did; a look of pure shock and fear, I kept going...and the conversation would always go something like this:

Girl: Seriously?

Max: It's okay. Don't worry. I'm just not supposed to shake your hand or drink from the same cup.

Girl: What?

Max: It's nothing. Compared to most of the girls at this school you are totally, almost innocent."

Girl: What?

By this time in the conversation, the girl's face would usually start to get red and twitch a little.

Max: I do think you should follow my mom's instructions to the letter and take those pills regularly as instructed.

Everything is about pills when you go to the family health office. They first see my mom and then the on-staff doctor who prescribes birth control pills or antibiotics or pills for whatever they came for...whether it itches or scratches or pusses I just figure there is always a pill for it. Based on their reactions, I was right.

Girl: She told you about the pills?

Max: Of course! She's my mother! Hello?? I'm not going to say anything...just be careful out there. Frankly, we're all more than a little worried about you."

Girl: She told you about the pills? (Obviously in shock at this point and stuck on the same question)

Max: Hush. We shall speak no more of this. Just for God's sakes, be safe! I'd hug you...but I'm not allowed.

Then I would turn in the other direction and walk away...leaving the young lady standing there still shaking and uncertain about what had just transpired.

You have to understand, I was just really bored in high school. So...again, it's not really my fault when you think about it that way.

In hindsight though, I probably shouldn't have played that game with girls that I was close with...who were my age and those with whom we hung around the same group. This made it much worse for those girls because they naturally assumed I told everyone else in our group about their private business.

One such friend, whom I do love to this day, and respect I might add...was a little pissed at me for a period of time in high school.

She did come to me and ask me if my mother had spoken of her recently, and of course we had the same conversation that I did with all girls who asked that question.

However, it stewed within her much more than with the others.

Not for long, just a couple of days, but it must have been intense stewing for she was absolutely certain that I was telling everyone her private business. And I should have been more in tune with that, but I wasn't. I didn't notice that she was no longer sitting with us at lunch, that she was sitting by herself. I didn't notice that she would glare at me when I was laughing with friends. I didn't notice anything at all I'm afraid.

So, one lunch hour a few days after we spoke, I was sitting at a table in the library laughing with friends and I didn't notice that she was sitting at a cubicle just watching us.

I guess she just stared at us thinking we were laughing about her.

So, she finally had enough. She got up and slammed her chair against the desk, stormed over to our table and just stared. Immediately I knew, based on her expression that something was wrong but I honestly had no idea she was upset at me.

"Fine asshole!" she began, looking straight at me. "I see you guys laughing and talking about me. Fine! All of you! I had the clap! Gonorrhea! Are you happy?? Cause I sure as hell am! Thanks a lot Max! Asshole!"

And then she walked off.

There was a long moment of silence; and I do mean a long moment of silence.

Finally a guy at the next table broke the silence with, "You gave her the clap?"

Totally confused at first I responded with, "I didn't give her the.....oh!" Like a light bulb turning on in my brain, I finally understood what had happened and my role in this. Oops!

Everything turned out okay....well, at least for me. I ran after her and explained everything. Although she was absolutely embarrassed after announcing to the library that she had gonorrhea, she has now lost all of the anger she had with me...of course, it took therapy and it's been twenty-five years now.

The best part about a naïve person is that...well, they're naïve; and this girl was definitely naïve. Her friends at the library table, including myself, told her repeatedly that we couldn't understand a word of what she had said in the library when she was upset with us, so no one else could have possibly understood that she had gonorrhea. And she believed it.

You might be wondering why then, am I writing about this now, to betray that lie for the sake of a good story and some cheap laughs.

Well, much like my dates, I take what I can get.

Comrade Max

When I was 5 years old my name was 'Comrade'.

My parents still called me Max, but every other adult was calling me Comrade...other parents, teachers at school, high school kids all did.

I guess I didn't really mind as much as I just found it confusing at that age.

It did seem to make everyone happy as they were always laughing and smiling as they said it. But I had no idea what they were laughing at.

The year was 1976, and I was a 5 year old boy living in Port Perry, Ontario and going to Kindergarten at Prince Albert Public School.

My neighbour, Jay Sterling, who was my age and in my class at school, had enrolled in Beavers, which is the first level of the Boy Scouts club, and I was begging my mom to allow me to do the same.

And she agreed.

The next day on her way to work as a nurse in Oshawa, she drove to the Scouts headquarters, which was in downtown Oshawa and paid the enrollment fee.

This is when she found out that she would also have to pay an additional $10 for a Beavers' uniform. This consisted of a summer shirt, a thin scarf and a ball cap.

You see, attached to the Scouts' headquarters was a store for parents to buy all the clothes and accessories, and this how they made their money. Understand that $10 back in 1976 was a lot of money.

My father worked as a school teacher and as I mention, my mom worked as a nurse, so while my parents didn't have an excess of funds, we never found ourselves wanting.

For my mother though, having grown up during the depression era, it was the principle of being required to pay so much for a summer shirt and ball cap hat that made her so upset.

She rarely got upset, so when she did, she fumed.

My mother let it be known to whoever was working the counter that she refused to buy the clothes.

When the Scouts representative told her that it was mandatory for me to have a uniform, she fumed even more. I can only imagine how she looked to the person working the counter as I've seen my mom really mad only a couple of times, and it is not pretty.

When my mom sets her mind on something she sticks to it. And she was committed that she would not be buying the regular uniform for $10.

Instead, she decided to buy me the winter Beavers' uniform instead. This way, she figured, she'd be getting more value for her money as I could wear it all year round.

Don't be too surprised if you didn't know there was a winter Beavers' uniform. It wasn't exactly a big seller.

The piece-de-resistance of the winter gear was the large faux-fur hat.

It looked almost exactly like the large Russian Ushanka military fur hats, thus my new nickname of 'Comrade'. Everyone has seen these hats; of course, usually they are reserved for the bad Russian guys in old cold-war era war movies.

I remember it well. The hat had long faux-fur flaps which hung down, covering my ears and most of the sides of my head. The whole thing seemed to weigh about five pounds, my little head pressed down into my body as I wore it.

The accompanying winter vest was a thick brown cotton material that had a lining of the same faux-fur which poked out the sides. It was very heavy and very hot. There was also a thick scarf which had a Beavers' emblem sewn at the bottom and was wrapped a few times around my neck as it was so long.

As dumb as I may have looked, proud was I to wear the Beavers uniform. I was 5 years old. At that age, joining Beavers felt like I was joining the war; I was just proud to serve my country.

I was a bit surprised that I was the only kid I knew to have this uniform. I asked my mom and she quickly replied that the store had run out of the summer wear. It seemed reasonable to me.

It was early September when I started wearing it and we still had a few very warm days left.

I wore my uniform everywhere I went; as did the other kids wear theirs. I wore it to school, after school, everywhere. I was so proud to be in Beavers, just one of the local boys fighting the good fight.

By wearing that outfit, the local residents above the age of 15 took to calling me Comrade.

As far as I know they didn't all get together in a town meeting of some sort and declare that this was my new guess is it just seemed an obvious choice given that I looked very much like a Russian soldier trying to survive the Siberian winter.

"Hello Comrade".

"Comrade! Power to the People!"

These are the things I heard as people passed me.

My first knowledge of the word Vodka arose from asking for a glass of water, and the reply was "Comrade, you mean Vodka, da?" in a thick, fake Russian accent.

I had no idea what was going on.

In 1976, they introduced an exercise program for all students at our school. Some days we began the morning with the Health Hustle, in which we did exercises to songs like 'King of the Road' and the 'Popcorn Song'. Other days we'd spend a half hour running laps around the field in the back of the school.

On one of the days we ran laps around the field, it was late September and it was a hot, muggy day, one of the last ones of the year.

I was absolutely exhausted as I wore my full winter Beavers uniform and tried to run. Sweat was pouring down my little face from under the giant hat. My winter vest seemed to be overheating. I was tripping on the scarf as I ran. The more I ran the more I was feeling uncomfortable and sick.

As my head started to spin, sweat now began pouring down my face. When I reached where the teachers were standing I went to tell them I was feeling sick, but instead I just threw up at their feet.

Then I passed out.

Yes; apparently heat stroke.

The Russian Comrade had fallen.

I was quickly taken inside and my mother was called. She drove like the wind from Oshawa to come retrieve me and found me quietly lying on a bench in the secretary's room. I didn't say anything when I saw her; I just looked up at her with sad eyes, like a wounded puppy.

It was obvious she was feeling guilt like no other. This probably wasn't alleviated when the Principal took her aside and suggested she refrain from dressing me in winter clothes during the hot days.

Da Mom. Da.

Shanty Town

"Can I try out your guitar for a bit?"

It had become a common question from strangers.

It was May, 1993, and I was with Karen Gillis on the ferry from Vancouver, B.C. to the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Only a few weeks before I had finished my third year of engineering at the University of Western in London, Ontario and upon finishing my final exam, I made a decision to never go back. Those who know me understand how much I hated school at that point and while I did in fact finish my engineering degree at Western, at that moment in time I was very confident my engineering education was over.

I didn't have the courage to tell my parents or let the university know. Instead, I decided to run away. I called Karen Gillis who was working at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta. Karen and I went to high school together and she was always the one person that would skip class with me without me ever having to twist her arm.

And this was no different. I asked Karen if she wanted to travel around Canada for a few months and she said okay. It was as simple as that. Karen gave her notice at the hotel and I met up with her a week later.

After spending a week in Vancouver we decided to head to Victoria. Karen and I looked like a couple of runaway hippies. First of all, we both looked 15 years most people over the age of 40 thought that we were runaways. We wore ripped, dirty jeans, old ponchos and t shirts. We both had long brown hair that went down to the middle of our backs...yes, me too. Our faces were tanned and we looked a little dirty, as if we hadn't showered in a couple of days…which was probably true.

Karen did not have any luggage; she carried everything she owned in white plastic grocery bags. I had a backpack my parents had bought for me. Karen owned a sleeping bag and I had a few blankets. We had no tent or cooking equipment...or much of anything really. We weren't so much hitchhikers as we were vagabonds, and we loved it.

The best thing we had with us was Karen's guitar. Not only did it separate our social status from the homeless of B.C. but it was a wonderful tool to meet people. And meeting people was key to our survival that whole summer.

Karen could play a few chords and she taught me a couple of songs. It never failed to attract people whenever we started playing. They would come by and listen or ask to play a little and would always engage us in conversation.

And on this Friday, May 28th it was no different aboard the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. We went up to the upper deck and sat on the bins that held the lifejackets. After soon bringing out the guitar we met a guy named Ken who told us he made his living driving a delivery truck on the island. Ken was about our age, which was 22; he wore a red ball cap and had about a week's worth of growth on his face. We talked about the last episode of Cheers which had just aired the week before. Ken also told us that we should hike the West Coast Trail which was in Port Renfrew. Ken wanted to grab some sleep before we arrived in Victoria so he gave us his phone number and told us to call him later in the week and he'd show us around Victoria.

After Ken left, a scruffy looking guy came over and asked to play the guitar. He introduced himself as Eric. Eric looked a little weather worn in his face and while he was at least in his fifties, it was tough to know how old he was. We asked Eric about the West Coast Trail.

But Eric just shook his head no. "Sombrio Beach is where you guys should head".

Eric explained that when he was in his thirties he used to surf down at Sombrio Beach. He told us there were people there who lived all year round without working. "They are real life hippies!" he said with a big smile on his face, and you knew if he was a little younger that he'd head there immediately.

"They've got goats and chickens and shacks that they live in....the kids don't have to go to school. They just hang out and surf all day. It is like heaven there! You'll absolutely love it!"

It did sound pretty interesting, and we didn't have any plans or a schedule, so why not.

"Just one thing", he said before he left us, "If you meet any guys around my age who are still living there, tell them 'Beer Can Eric' said hi".

Soon after Eric left us, the ferry pulled into the port in Victoria and we were on our way.

That night we stayed in Victoria at the downtown hostel, which was as eloquent as a hostel could be. We went to a jazz club and walked around the town, absolutely falling in love with it. There had to be a hundred large sailboats on the water which were there for an annual regatta. The atmosphere around the city was very artistic as opposed to Toronto which is business oriented. We agreed Victoria had to be one of Canada's most beautiful places to live.

The next morning we called Ken who we had met on the ferry and asked him about driving us to Sombrio Beach. He told us that he wasn't going that far but that he'd take us for breakfast and drop us off on the outer limits of Sooke District.

During our breakfast, Ken asked why we choose Sombrio Beach and we told him about meeting 'Beer Can Eric'. All Ken said was that he'd heard of the place and wanted us to call him when we got back to Victoria to tell him about it. It was his laugh that should have warned me of what was to come.

Ken also laughed when we asked if we could stop by the beer store to buy a case. The thought of us hitchhiking with a case of beer seemed to amuse our new friend but we did not allow his jeers to deter us.

Determined to start our journey. Ken dropped us off on the highway on the way to Sombrio Beach. He wished us good luck, and with another laugh and a wave he was on his way.

Karen and I, she carrying her white plastic grocery bags and her guitar and me carrying my pack on my back and a case of beer in my arms, stood at the side of the road like a couple of kids running away from home and stuck out our thumbs to hitch a ride.

The best thing about British Columbia is you never have to wait long to catch a ride, and it was true that day. Within minutes of Ken leaving us a blue beat up old truck pulled over to the side of the road and a couple rolled down the window and introduced themselves as Dan and Maranda.

They mentioned they lived fairly close to where we were, but were out for an afternoon drive. We told them that we were heading to Sombrio Beach. Maranda squealed aloud and Dan put his hand over his face. We learned that Dan had been before but Maranda had never been. This was apparently a bone of contention between the two.

"Ah what the hell, let's do it", said Dan. "Get in the back you two".

Now what Dan meant was the back of the pickup truck, for the truck was only a two seater. We quickly got in and sat with our backs against the wall to the truck cabin. Maranda opened up the window so we could all talk with each other.

Even with the back window open, it was difficult to communicate. This old truck of theirs put out a thick black cloud of exhaust, which had a very strong odour and judging by the deafening sound, it didn't have much of a muffler. For the most part we buried our heads into our ponchos.

In fact, pretty well the only time we raised our heads was to pass beer from our case in to Maranda and Dan, whom we had offered our beer with.

Although Sombrio Beach wasn't too far away from the spot that Dan and Maranda had picked us up, it was very difficult to find. Dan had been there once before so he knew the general area, but there were no signs that pointed the direction to take. Although it was called a beach, it wasn't a tourist area by any means. It sure didn't help that lining the highway every few feet was another logging road. For all we knew the road that led to Sombrio Beach could have been from any one of these logging roads.

It took well over an hour, and we had to stop a couple of times to ask people, but eventually we found the right logging road. From the highway it looked like any other of the hundreds of logging roads, built out of necessity and not to code. Dan continued to drive his old truck, following the windy bumpy path into the woods.

When we were really out in the middle of nowhere, we couldn't even hear the traffic on the road or see any lights or signs of civilization. That's when Dan stopped the truck and turned to us saying, "You do know that we could kill you right here and no one would ever find the bodies".

This followed by a really scary, awkward silence while Dan just stared at us.

The silence was probably only seconds, but it seemed to last forever. It was finally broken by Maranda's laughter, "He's just kidding! Pay no attention to him!"

I looked over at Karen and she was obviously thinking the same thing I was, Dan was a scary guy and we needed to part ways soon.

Another kilometer and we came to a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Once Dan saw it, he immediately remembered which path lead down to the beach and helped us get out stuff out of the back of the truck.

It was at this time that we learned that both Dan and Maranda were fairly wasted. They had each drank three of our beers which isn't very much, but as we got closer to them we realized they both reeked of marijuana. Karen and I didn't notice that they had been smoking pot the whole time we were in the truck. The smell of the truck's exhaust had consumed any hint of pot smoke so we really had no idea until we stopped.

Dan was a bit taller and older than me. He had reddish hair and tanned skin with a stocky build. He was obviously a guy who didn't work behind a desk. Maranda was short with long black hair, she was overweight and liked to laugh, and did so often.

The path from the parking lot to the beach is a full ten minute walk into the middle of nowhere. Karen was wheezing, exhausted from carrying her plastic bags and guitar and my arms felt like they were going to fall off from carrying the case of beer.

As we walked, Dan told us that Maranda didn't work and he made a living by climbing trees and cutting the large limbs off. I didn't understand there was so much involved with cutting down trees. I just figured they'd stand at the base of the tree and fell the whole thing at once; but apparently there is a lot more to it. Dan said his job was to scale the trees and cut large sections of it down. He said the work was extremely dangerous but he'd get $100/hr for every hour he worked. He said he only needed to work a couple of hours each week. You could tell by his smile he loved what he did.

He slurred his words as he spoke, "You got a hundred bucks and a tree? I'll climb up the fucker and cut the fucker down!" He should make commercials, I thought to myself.

Maranda's cell phone kept ringing again and again as soon as we left the parking lot. Each time she'd have to drop what she was carrying and answer the phone. Each conversation was a quick one, her saying that she was indisposed that day and would not be able to help the caller. In those days not many people had cell phones and so it quickly became clear that Maranda did indeed work and that job was selling pot. She must have been good at it because the phone kept ringing non-stop. I was happy when she wasn't able to get a signal for the phone anymore as we walked further into the woods.

After what seemed like forever, the path opened up to a large cobblestone beach on the Juan de Fuca strait across from Washington State. The United States was close enough here that we could just make out some of the large industrial buildings on the other side.

By this time it was 4pm and it was still warm and bright.

Beer Can Eric had been right about a lot of what he told us; there were indeed chickens and goats running around. But it didn't seem like how I pictured a hippy colony.

The definition for the term 'shanty town' is a slum settlement, often illegal or unauthorized, of impoverished people who live in improvised dwellings made from scrap materials often plywood, corrugated metal and sheets of plastic. Shanty towns are not known to have proper sanitation, electricity or telephone services.

Yes. Sombrio Beach was not a hippy colony. It was a shanty town.

I got a bit nervous. I sure didn't want to go back with Maranda and Dan. At this point, Dan could barely walk. He mostly just kept pointing to trees, telling us how much he'd make from cutting down each one. Maranda could not stop laughing. The last thing I wanted to do was drive with them anywhere.

But the second last thing I wanted to do was stay at Sombrio Beach in this shanty town. I was getting more and more worried as we walked down the beach.

That is until we met Rivermouth Mike.

Rivermouth Mike was in his fifties, with a long salt-and-pepper beard. When we came across him he was starting to build a fire near the water on the cobblestone beach. Behind him was a shanty-styled cabin with a sign in front that said, 'Surf Boards For Sale. Surf Boards Fixed'.

He greeted us with a smile, as if he had been waiting for us. He welcomed us to the beach and asked us where we were from. Maranda and Dan grabbed a couple of more beers and went to sit on a nearby log to watch the water. Karen and I stood with Rivermouth Mike and told him of our travels to date.

As he made the fire, he explained that the secret was to light the paper first, and then to place wood around the paper. Otherwise, he explained, if the wood was built up before the paper was lit, there wouldn't be enough oxygen to keep the flame on the paper going.

He must have known what he was doing, because even though there was a bit of a wind coming in from the water, Rivermouth was able to build quite a large fire in a matter of minutes.

Talking with Rivermouth seemed to alleviate both Karen's and my concerns. He remembered Beer Can Eric and laughed when we mentioned that we ran into him on the ferry.

Dan stood up from the log to grab another beer. He was a complete wreck. Immediately upon standing he fell backwards over the log, falling on his back. Maranda laughed even louder, pulled Dan up to his feet and announced, "It's time to go!"

Dan and Maranda walked over to the fire and asked us if we were going back to town with them. I told them that we were going to stay and camp on the beach. Karen nodded in agreement.

Maranda's face and expressions suddenly turned from pure laughter to sadness. Her slurred words indicated that while perhaps not as far gone as Dan, she was well on her way.

"Listen kids, I don't know what kind of trouble you've gotten yourselves into, and why you're on the run. But I know a thing or two about trouble. I got into trouble almost 20 years ago and I've been running ever since. That's why I had to come to Canada. Take my advice, please, go back home. It's not worth running your whole life."

Karen tried to alleviate all concerns with a smile, "But Maranda, we're not running from anything. I just don't own any luggage".

But Maranda wasn't believing a word of it, "I helped an old boyfriend rob a bank years ago and I've been on the run ever since. And I am telling you that if I had to do everything over again I would have just turned myself in then when it happened. Please listen to me."

Karen tried again to convince Maranda that we really weren't running from anything but Maranda just kept telling us more and more details of her life on the run, stuff we really didn't want or need to hear.

Finally I just said, "You're right Maranda. We are on the run. You've given us some good advice. Let us think about what you've said and we'll meet up with you tomorrow".

Maranda readily agreed, writing down her cell number, her pager number, Dan's home number and address...everything. She put a folded up $20 into Karen's hand as she left and gave us both tear-soaked hugs.

It was an emotional moment. Maranda wiped her tears and took Dan by the arm and they started to walk away, Maranda turning every few feet to wave goodbye.

It was then we noticed that Dan had defecated in his pants, probably when he fell backwards over the log. That kind of ended the emotional moment for us...I guess it was more of an emotional movement.

And there we were, in the middle of nowhere, in a shanty town, around the camp fire of Rivermouth Mike as we watched our ride and the only people who knew where we were, walking away, shit-pantsed and all.

Rivermouth explained that there weren't too many tourists that came to the beach, only the die-hard surfers. He said something about this area being the best for surfing on the whole island. Rivermouth said he was able to get a few clients for his surfboard shop each summer and that allowed him to make enough money to live on. I'm guessing it didn't take much money at all for him to survive as he told us the only money he spent was for a bag of rice each month and to do his laundry.

As Rivermouth cooked over the fire, he explained he mostly ate clams from the ocean and wild mushrooms mixed in with rice. It seemed healthy enough. He offered us some but we just couldn't. He only had one spoon that he kept licking and no plates and...well, it all seemed a bit gross.

The three of us sat by the fire, as Rivermouth ate his dinner and the dusk slowly began to fall. The chickens had become quiet and there was just a nice silence.

That is when we saw two others walking towards us.

"Oh God, it's Blue", muttered Rivermouth.

We quickly learned that it was really three people coming towards us, a man with a long white beard and dirty white hair who was least in his sixties named Blue and his 30 year old wife Wendy and their little 6 month old baby named Chelsea who was being carried in a car seat.

Blue did all the talking for them. Wendy looked...mentally disturbed as she quietly muttered to herself. Blue saw Karen and I having a beer and asked if he and Wendy could have one too. We told them to help themselves, which they did quickly, and many times throughout the night.

We mentioned that we had come from Victoria this morning. I shouldn't have said that as it set Blue off. At the mention of Victoria he said that was where those "sons of bitches" child-care workers came from and took their other four children away from them. Apparently Chelsea hadn't been born yet when this happened. Blue said they gave their kids to his sister who lives in Victoria and he and Wendy were not allowed to see them.

As Blue spoke, Wendy continued to mutter to herself and fiddled with Chelsea's seat. We learned Chelsea was 6 months old and barely 15 pounds. She didn't cry much. In fact, the whole time we were there I don't think I heard Chelsea cry once. I had no experience with babies, but this didn't seem normal behaviour at all.

"Sure I was born with schizophrenia! Everyone knows that! But I have cured myself through the study of Buddhism, and the government won't acknowledge that!"

"Blue's a Zen-Buddhist", Wendy piped up, her first words to us. Then she went back to fiddling with the baby's seat.

That is when Rivermouth Mike swore under his breath and said that he had to go. I yelled out to him asking when he was coming back. He replied soon and kept walking to where the huts were located, back in the forest.

Both Karen and I were a little concerned now, but the fact that Blue was in his sixties meant that we could probably defend ourselves if he did something scary and crazy. I wished Rivermouth had stayed but obviously he had grown weary of Blue and decided enough was enough.

We never engaged Blue in conversation, but he didn't seem to notice as he continued talking the whole time.

And yes, Blue saw himself as a Zen-Buddhist. The more he drank our beer, the closer he became to God, at least in his own crazed mind.

I also think the night had something to do with his behaviour because as the bright full moon rose and the sun sank, Blue's behaviour became more and more erratic.

I went to grab a beer but saw that our whole case of twenty-four was gone by that time. And Wendy, while quiet, had surrounded herself with beer cans. Now I could start to understand what she was muttering to herself;

"He beats me you know, he beats me; and one day I'm going to kill him. I will kill him. He is crazy you know; crazy."

We had left shanty-town and entered crazyville.

It was about then that Blue noticed the lights from the industrial buildings across the water in Washington State. He was convinced that the large industrial building with the lights on was a prison. At first he yelled out across the water, somehow sure that they could hear him, which was crazy in itself as we could barely even see the lights as it was so far away. He yelled out across the water that they imprisoned only poor people for the sole crime of being poor.

The more worked up he got, the crazier he became. Suddenly he turned to face Karen and I, the first time he had done so in a couple of hours. His eyes wide and crazy looking, he yelled, "Do you see the lights from the prison? Can you see them? Look at how they reflect over the water, coming directly towards me!"

Yes, Blue was now convinced that the lights from the prison were being sent directly to him as a sort of beacon or message.

And Blue was not happy with this at all.

"I am one with God and I will make sure you all suffer for this insolence!!"

I turned to Wendy who was still muttering, "he beats me you know, he beats me. and one day I'm going to kill him. I will kill him. He is crazy you know; crazy."

Okay, I understood Blue was an old man, but he was honestly scaring the shit out of me. I was totally frightened at this point.

I grabbed Karen's hand and we started to walk backwards to where the forest was thick. Although the moon was full, it was pitch dark in the forest. Perhaps it seemed darker because during the time Blue had been yelling out to the prison, dense rain clouds had started to fill the sky blotting out the stars.

When we got far enough from Blue, and close enough to the trees, we turned and ran into the woods. It was pitch dark; we maneuvered ourselves into a dense thicket and sat in it, still able to watch Blue and Wendy.

Blue didn't notice at all that we had even left. He just continued yelling across the water. He had now started to grab stones and throw them towards the lights as if he were a god throwing a lightning bolt.

Pretty soon Wendy passed out by the fire, as much from the beer she drank as from being tired. The baby Chelsea was still silent in her car seat as the smoke from the fire billowed around her.

As if to touch God itself, Blue raised both of his hands into the air. That’s when it started to rain, hard.

All of our stuff, Karen's plastic bags, her guitar, my backpack, everything, was still by the fire and was now being drenched in the rain.

This whole time, while Karen and I sat in the thicket, we didn't say a single word. Not a peep.

We were afraid that if we spoke, Blue would somehow hear and would find us and kill us.

So there we sat, in the rain, and in the dark, for hours.

The rain became too dense to see Blue or Wendy anymore. This frightened me more as if any second Blue's face would appear in the thicket ready to kill us.

However, when the rain finally cleared, Blue, Wendy and Chelsea were nowhere to be found.

We slowly crept out of the thicket. The sun was just starting to rise over the water and the clouds had cleared to allow the full moon to shine.

We were drenched, and cold, and miserable; but alive...and being alive goes a long way.

We quickly grabbed all of our stuff that had remained untouched by the fire. Everything was completely soaked. Karen got choked up at the thought of her guitar being out in the rain all night. She didn't say much though, holding everything in. We both did, still afraid of Blue and that he could somehow hear us.

And then we walked; and walked; and walked.

We probably walked for 4 straight hours. Back up the path to the parking lot; and then from the parking lot back up to the highway. Then we walked along the road until we finally got a ride from someone. He looked at us, dirty and soaked and wouldn't allow us into the cab of his truck but instead offered us the bed of his truck which we gladly accepted. He gave us a lift into Port Renfrew and dropped us off at a local motel. We needed a room with a bed and a bathroom...especially a bathroom. One with a really hot bath.

The man behind the counter laughed when he saw us and exclaimed, "You hiked the West Coast Trail dressed like that?? And carrying all of that?"

"Nope. We were at Sombrio Beach".

He paused, his expression becoming suddenly serious, "You know they are all crazy down there on Sombrio, don't you?"

"Yup", was all I could muster.

Max the Slut

There is no better place to pick up than a wedding.

Everyone is dressed up, looking as good as they possibly can. Romance and true love are in the air. People are liquored up and dancing up a storm.

That is the recipe for easy pick ups.

And understanding that I do need all the help I can get to meet women, I used to take full advantage of weddings to try and meet lovely ladies whenever I was single.

However, this is not a romance story, nor is this a wedding story. This is a story of pure embarrassment; not exactly my finest moment in life.

It started when I met a lovely lady named Carine at the wedding of my friend Antony and his girlfriend Colleen many years ago.

Antony's wedding was held at a country resort about an hour or so, north-west of Toronto. Carine and her family had a cottage near Antony's parents and had become life-long friends of theirs.

I had actually met Carine once or twice prior to the wedding. She seemed very nice but there were no sparks at that time. In fact, I don't even remember if we had even spoken much before the night of the wedding. But that night, everything seemed to change. She looked beautiful, she was was magical. We danced all night together in the resort's ballroom and afterwards we had more drinks on the lawn chairs by the outdoor pool. We talked and flirted and drank. It was great.

I asked where she was staying at the resort. The manager of the resort had made arrangements so that those attending the wedding were staying at the one end of the hotel. However, Carine had made her arrangements late and as such the only rooms available to her at that time were away from the rest of us.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing. We went back to her room and because we knew we were away from everyone else, felt less inhibited to make some noise.

And noise we did make. The room shook. The walls shook. And Carine had chosen to use this new-found freedom to express her enjoyment vocally. Very vocally as it were.

Which was fine with me, I just laughed. I mean, I didn't know anyone around us.

Or that is what I had thought.

Very early the next morning as we were stepping out of the hotel room door to leave, we heard the door of the room beside us open.

I felt an instant twinge of embarrassment as I heard the door because of all the noise we had made throughout most of the night. However, I just took a deep breath and told myself that I didn't know them and was never going to see them who really cared.

That's when I lifted my head to see the couple coming out of the room beside us.

It was Carine's parents.

Apparently, they had told Carine that they were not going to stay the night at the hotel and were going to leave after the reception. I guess they changed their minds and got a room later in the evening. Out of sheer coincidence, they got the room next to hers.

Everyone just froze upon seeing each other.

Her parents looked exhausted, hair rumpled, and dark circles under their eyes, which were wide open at this point and red in colour. It was obvious they didn't get too much sleep during the night. Their expressions made it clear they understood who was responsible for keeping them up.

You would think they would have concentrated their disgusted looks upon their daughter...but, The father looked like he was going to kill me where I stood. All that I remember about her Mother was that her lip just quivered as she stared at me.

That's when I ran.

Yes, I ran away from them. I don't know why. I mean I was almost thirty at this point...we were both legal and we really did nothing wrong.

But yes, I ran; down the backstairs and to my room as fast as I could travel.

As I first turned to run and had made it almost to the stairwell door, I heard Carine say with a happy voice;

"Morning Daddy! guys decided to stay the night?"

Why I'm Not A CokeHead

I was born with two cute features; a cute ass and acute pseudocholinesterase deficiency.

This in medical terms is an inherited blood plasma enzyme abnormality.

Not the cute ass part, but the other.

In laymen's terms this condition can result in severe respiratory difficulty during surgery if the muscle-relaxing drug succinylcholine or other ester local anesthetics are used.

To put it in layman’s terms, if I get these anesthetics, I will stop breathing. My respiratory muscles will be immediately paralyzed and I will no longer have the ability to breathe on my own. I will die within seconds if left unattended.

But that is the key; if left unattended.

In a hospital, hooked up to a heart monitor that has an alarm, I would not be in much danger at all, especially given that a doctor of anesthesiology and the surgeon would be right there the entire time.

So, to be honest, I've never been much concerned about my condition. I don't even wear a medical alert bracelet. The only place I could ever come into contact with these anesthetics would be at a hospital, and I'd be safe there no matter what happened.

Or that is what I thought until a few years ago.

Melissa and I had gone to Aruba on a vacation where we met Kevin and Trish, a couple from Dundas, Ontario which is near Hamilton. Both are medical doctors, Kevin a radiologist and Trish a doctor of anesthesiology.

As we all hung out together by the pool in the hot sun, the four of us talked for a long time together. They loved talking to Melissa about her job as an on-air news reporter in Hamilton and I loved hearing both of their medical stories.

We learned Trish and Kevin met at McMaster University at medical school; Kevin was Trish’s instructor. They started dating after Kevin had taught Trish so there was nothing inappropriate about them dating, although for years afterwards I would go to great lengths to tease her about how she earned her mark in his class.

Kevin is the youngest fifty year old ever, and Trish was just thirty years old when we met in Aruba. A wonderful and interesting couple to say the least.

I happened to mention my allergic condition to Trish. I thought it would be interesting to talk about it with an expert. How many times would I have this opportunity again?

All was good, until Trish said with a laugh, "So, I'm guessing you were left out of the experience of ever trying cocaine".

My expression was obviously a little shocked, which seemed to disturb her.

"They did tell you never to use cocaine didn't they?" she asked hesitatingly, as if afraid of the answer.

"Why?" I asked, still confused.

"Uhm…because your heart and lungs would stop functioning and you could die?"

You think this would have been an important safety tip for me to learn at some point while growing up.

Trish explained that cocaine is part of the family of drugs that my body cannot process. She reminded me that cocaine had been used as an anesthetic in the early days of medicine.

Now, I have never tried cocaine...I guess that is obvious as I am able to write this story today. I've never even had any interest to experiment. However, I certainly have been around it many times and know many people who have tried it before.

I kind of just sat there quietly afterwards with my feet in the pool and the sun on my back, trying to process what I had just learned. I was thinking of all the times I was asked to try cocaine over the years...and wondering exactly how close I had ever come to making a choice that would have killed me.

It was more than a little scary to think about.

I decided to call my Mother from Aruba to ask her about it. My Mom explained that I had an eye operation when I was just a few months old and that was where I was exposed to the anesthetic that my body could not process. I stopped breathing on the operating table and that is how I was diagnosed.

The anesthesiologist involved with my eye surgery put a breathing tube in me and after almost a whole day the anesthetic wore off and my body was able to function on its own again. There was never any damage to me and never any real concern for my health at that time.

I asked my Mom, "Did the Doctor ever mention anything about the fact that I would have a bad reaction to cocaine?"

"Oh yes, you mustn't ever use that", she quickly replied, "That would be very bad"

"Why didn't you ever tell me about this Mom?"

That's when she started to laugh, "Oh how silly. Why on earth would you have ever used cocaine Max? It's illegal for one thing, Mr. Sillypants."

Thanks Mom. Thanks.

David Green Has Rabies

"David!" "David!"

It was a fall afternoon as my family drove down Jeffrey Street in Port Perry to our home after a weekend away at a family friend's house in Georgetown. The trees which lined the street were overloaded with colourful leaves, some of which had already started to fall.

As always, we drove fairly slowly down our street as there were usually kids everywhere, especially on nice fall afternoons like this one. We passed Mr. Green, our neighbour, walking down the street towards Trans General Store. Charlene and I waved but Mr. Green didn't seem to notice as he seemed very preoccupied, looking all around as he walked, as if he lost something.

Behind him was Mrs. Nicks, the neighbour on the other side of the Greens, who also seemed to be looking for something or someone.

As we passed the local town hall across from my parent's house, there were Kelly Green and Dora Nicks looking in the trees by the parking lot fence.

That's when we heard it, "David!" "David!"

"Ah", we all thought together.

"David's lost again"

David Green and his sister Kelly were my neighbours in Port Perry for the entire time I lived there, from the day we arrived when I was barely 4 years old until the day I left to go to university. Kelly was my sister's age, a year older than me, and David was a year younger than me.

Being 5 years old, I had known David and Kelly for just over a year now and David hiding from everyone had become a fairly regular event. At that age I felt much older than David, for I spent each afternoon school day in Kindergarten. I enjoyed being in a real school rather than the daycare David went to.

On the other side of David’s house lived the Nicks. Annie Nicks was also 4 years old, like David, and the three of us used to spend each morning playing together. Every morning about 9am, the three of us would meet by the old tree on my parent's property where the trunk was a little horizontal near the base and the three of us would climb up on it and sit there and talk. I used to love telling them all about what school was like; what I was learning each day, I'd talk about new world open to me by reading and I’d describe learning to tie my shoes as though it was a course on quantum physics. I enjoyed being older. Of course every now and then I’d make it a point to remind them that I'd be passing by the corner store on my way to school so I'd probably be getting myself some candy.

On this particular Sunday afternoon, everyone was home and out looking for David, which as I mention, was not totally unusual...David wasn’t a bad kid, he just loved to wander around the neighbourhood and had no sense of time.

"David!" "David!"

My family soon joined the search, spreading out and yelling for him every few feet. I travelled over to the church and then the graveyard where we used to go and play, without any luck. Back to my parent's house, through the field and down to my grandparent's house where we looked all around the bushes and trees, yelling David's name as we searched.

Nothing. No luck in finding him or a trail leading to David whatsoever.

After about an hour of looking, which was much longer than it normally took I decided to go home to get something to eat. I was hungry. We hadn't eaten since lunch and by this time it was about 5:30pm.

I was a little worried at this point. David had been known to be accident prone. It was only the week before that while David and I were playing cars in my basement, my father, who was doing laundry in the next room, yelled out for me to help him and David jumped up instead yelling, "I'll help you!"

Soon, my father had loaded David’s arms with clean laundry in a pile that went way over his head and then sent him upstairs to drop it off on one of the beds. David was struggling to manage the load and the stairs and he didn't climb more than a few stairs before he turned his head to me, head jammed against the wall of sheets, and with a big smile said, "Look Max, I'm helping your Dad!"

That's when he fell off the stairs.

Yes. He fell. Headfirst too!

There was no railing or wall on either side of the stairs at that point in time. And David fell off.

Luckily, and I can’t imagine how this was even possible, David fell headfirst into the dirty clothes bin which was against the side of the stairs. He fell head first right in. All around was a cement floor and he picked the one spot in the whole room with a soft landing.

Have I mentioned that David was also the luckiest kid I know?

With nothing more than a scrape and a few tears, he was back to playing in minutes.

As I ate my banana, I wondered what could have happened to my friend.

Maybe an animal had gotten him, I thought to myself. I had just learned in school about rabid animals and how if someone got bit by a rabid animal they’d instantly get rabies and them would have to get something like sixty needles right in the stomach. Of course I told David and Annie all about it during our morning talks. Every animal that we saw for the next few days we examined closely to see if it was frothing at the mouth. Frogs didn't count, not having teeth, but everything else we saw as having the potential of a frothing rabies threat.

After thinking about all these things, I decided I better keep looking for David, just in case. But first I needed my magnifying glass, which was in my bedroom, just in case there were any clues that needed close examination.

I ran to my bedroom and opened the door.

There was David. Fast asleep on my floor, mouth wide open, snoring away and covered in cookie crumbs. Toy car in each one of his hands and the cookie bag was crumpled to the side of him.

"David!" I screamed.

We never locked our front door. No one did during those years, and I guess David went into our house that morning to play with my toys and fell fast asleep.

David awoke quickly and I told him he was in trouble for being missing. I grabbed my magnifying glass before following David out of the bedroom and out the front door of my house.

"I found David everyone! I found David!", as I held up my magnifying glass high in the air as if it was my deduction skills that had accomplished this feat.

With David found and another mystery solved, everyone let out a sigh of relief and trudged back to their homes. Just like that, another weekend was almost over.

That night, after our weekly game of hide-and-go-seek with all the kids on our block, we were playing in the leaves at the front of my house. We'd make a big pile of leaves and run and jump in them.

After a jump from David, he yelled out "Mouse!"

And yes, there was indeed a mouse running right by him...the mouse must have been hiding in the leaves and when David jumped, the mouse made a run for it. As quick as the mouse itself, and without any fear, David reached out to grab the mouse but missed and the mouse ran over David's hand.

David started to laugh, showing us where the mouse had scratched his hand. I guess he thought it was cool...that is until Annie and I started yelling to him that he now had rabies and needed to get sixty needles in his stomach. Then he started to cry. We weren't joking though or trying to mean, we actually thought this was how one got rabies.

We started screaming for David's mom who came outside soon after and we informed her, while David cried that David had been bitten by a very large mouse. Yes, we told her, very large and very mean.

Mrs. Green took David inside to wipe away his tears. There was indeed a tiny scratch on his hand so they cleaned that up too and decided to take him down to the hospital emergency just in case.

That's when David's crying stopped and sheer terror set in. His eyes and mouth opened wide and he knew, as did Annie and I, that this meant sixty needles in the stomach.

We yelled out "Rabies!", "David's got rabies!"

And while David's parent's assured us all that David did not have rabies and they were going to the hospital just for a check-up, it didn't do much good to alleviate our collective fears.

So, they shooed us away, and away we went over to my parent's front steps, too afraid to step on the grass for fear of rabid mice. There, we talked about how David might die.

I still remember to this day David's red face, wailing as he held his Mom's hand as she literally dragged him to the car.

"It was only a frog!" he screamed. "IT WAS ONLY A FROG!!!"

Ty's Bum

Prior to recently becoming an equal parent, I used to only see my son Ty every Friday and every other weekend. As such it sometimes was difficult to gauge safety and health issues as I didn't see him enough to get a proper baseline regarding what is normal.

For example, when I had him for a weekend soon after he turned 3 years old, and he did not go poop for a couple of days, I got a little concerned.

Erring on the side of caution, I decided to get some child suppositories to aid him in his release.

He had no problem with it at all. I guess I really shouldn't have been surprised given his, when I explained that I'd have to put a little pill in his bum he simply nodded and got into position, bending over with bum held high.

And that was that. Simple as anything.

Right afterwards, Ty and I walked across our street to the grocery store. I figured we'd get some groceries and also kill some time while the pill worked its magic.

For those who have never used a suppository, the pill melts inside the anus which softens up the stool, and in turn causes the user to poop. It usually only takes an hour or so to start to work.

At the grocery store, we walked around for a little while, picking up a few needed items, and soon went up to the cashier to pay. The line at the cashier was packed of people even though it was the '8 items or less' line.

As we arrived at the register, Ty started doing a little dance from one foot to his next. The cashier, a grey-haired woman about my mom's age and obviously a mother and grandmother herself, asked Ty if he was doing the "pee-pee dance".

Ty replied loudly, "No. My bum feels weird. Daddy put something in it"

The woman looked absolutely startled and had a look on her face as if she was trying to convince herself that she hadn't heard correctly.

I looked around. Everyone within ear shot just stopped what they were doing. There was a sea of open mouths and wide eyes staring at us in every direction.

And although I explained the situation as quickly as I possibly could, and everyone eventually laughed, I still to this day, do my grocery shopping on the other side of town.

Our Wedding Night

I stood there waving at the bus as it pulled away from Dundas Castle, located near the Edinburgh Airport in Scotland.

Only a few hours earlier at the Castle, Melissa and I had said our vows of marriage in front of our family and friends to become husband and wife. After a long, exhausting day, things were finally coming to an end. Our wedding dinner was now over, the speeches were all over, the dance was over...and most of our sixty guests were on the rented bus I was waving goodbye to as they headed back to the houses we had rented in downtown Edinburgh.

Dundas castle didn't have that many rooms for guests so unfortunately there was not enough for all. Standing with me waving was Melissa and those remaining with us at the castle, namely; my parents, Melissa's sister and brother in law, their two young children, our minister, his wife, my best friends Justin Miller and Jeff O’Hara and Melissa's best friends, Tonya Jones and Tina Reid.

We had hired a celtic band to play our dance at the castle and they were busy inside packing up their gear.

As the bus drove out of sight, I let out a sigh of relief. At that moment, life was good. It was very good.

I've probably had only two or three moments like this, of pure happiness, one when Ty was born, and this moment here after my wedding.

I had just gotten married; we were in a castle…a real life castle! Our duties were done for the day and now the place was all ours.

The whole day I was so busy preparing for and taking part in the wedding, the photographs, the dinner, the speeches, etc... I had absolutely no time to enjoy the fact that we were in a castle.

As much as I say that we got married there because Melissa wanted to be a real princess that day, which is very much true, I have always loved regal looking castles. Maybe everyone does.

And this one was indeed regal. The Auld Keep of Dundas Castle, which is the oldest part of the building, a stone tower located within the castle walls, was built in the early 1400's for the purpose of being both a home in times of peace and a fortress in times of war. That is where our wedding ceremony took place. In the early 1800s the main castle was built around the Auld Keep and that is where the dinner and dance took place on the main floor and where the guest rooms were on the second floor. The castle part is exactly what you'd expect a King and Queen to live in...And for that night anyway, Melissa and I were that royal couple.

We even had our own butler. His name was Smith and he was an elderly man dressed in a tuxedo. His job was to be on call throughout the night to ensure the guests of the castle were looked after and taken care of. And he did take care of us; very much so.

The first thing Smith did was ask if we wanted to move into the library for drinks. I loved the fact that this place had its own private library…it made it feel like we were in a real game of ‘Clue’. At the back of the library, there was a small bar for our use and Smith offered to make us all something to drink.

The five band members came in to have a toast with us before leaving. We all had one drink together of scotch and they made a toast to Melissa and I and our life together.

After they left, most of the others went to bed. Within a short time all that remained in the library was Melissa, myself, Justin, Jeff, Tonya and Tina.

There we sat, sipping our drinks. Everyone was fairly quiet at this point, I think because the day had been so exhausting and we were just enjoying the calm of the evening. Myself and the other two guys were still very much sober at this point but the three ladies were feeling no pain as the three of them were enjoying celebration shots just prior to the bus going.

Melissa knew Tonya and Tina from Calgary, Alberta where the three of them attended high school together and where Tonya and Tina still lived.

During our past week in Scotland, Justin, Jeff and I didn’t get to know Tonya and Tina very well, compared to the other members of our group. While the rest of our guests had stayed in Edinburgh, Tonya and Tina decided to stay their week in Glasgow which was just less than an hour’s drive away. So, we didn't get to spend as much time with them.

I had met both Tonya and Tina a couple of times before when Melissa and I were visiting her parents in Calgary. Both seemed very nice and Melissa had nothing but good things to say about them. I had been told that when Tonya drank, she became a bit rough and opinionated, but I had never seen that side of her. Although she was drunk at this point, she was just sitting quietly.

As we sat and sipped our drinks, someone decided to break our silence. The conversation started innocently enough. Justin was asked what he did for a living and he mentioned he worked for the United Nations in Thailand. This led to some questions about the United Nations and international politics in general.

Out of seemingly nowhere, Tonya, who had been silent until this point, yelled out “How can you sleep at night working for the United Nations??"

The room went quiet. Justin had a look of surprise, his eyes and mouth wide open.

I just smiled and tried to diffuse the situation by saying, "Perhaps we shouldn’t discuss politics here" as I took a deep drink of my scotch.

Tonya it seemed had now officially become the 'Drunk, Opinionated Tonya' that Melissa had once warned me about. She continued, "You do know that the United Nations kills babies don't you? Babies!"

Smith walked into the library to see what the commotion was and Justin got out of his chair and walked over to the bookshelf on the other side of the room, pretending to read the covers of the books.

Tonya followed him.

"These Baby-Killers use people just like you to wage wars and destroy governments for their own political objectives".

Justin held out his hands as if to indicate to her not to come any closer, "Stop talking. I don't want to discuss the United Nations with you. You are drunk and acting like a total ass. Stop it".

I whispered to Melissa, "She's loaded. Can you please take her for a walk outside?"

"Let's just all go play pool together", Melissa responded pointing to the billiard room across the hall. It was then that I noticed how red Melissa’s eyes were, a sure sign that she had recently been smoking pot, one of her favourite past-times.

"You are so gullible!" Tonya was now yelling at Justin. "The babies! They kill babies!"

"Just take her for a walk. Please!", I begged to Melissa.

"FUCK OFF!" Justin growled back at Tonya.

"Let's all go play pool!" Melissa said with a if pretending it was funny would magically diffuse the tension in the room. It did not.

At this point, I got angry.

Melissa wasn't listening to me. I was exhausted. It was supposed to be a special evening; our wedding night in a castle! Now, because of this idiot yelling at Justin, any chance of any relaxing, special memories were now gone.

"Fuck this!" I began. "Come on Justin, let's go upstairs to your room and have a drink", as I motioned to Jeff to come with us.

The three of us guys quickly got up and passed by Smith, who had been witness to the last few minutes and simply nodded understandingly. I had grabbed the bottle of scotch as we passed by the bar and we walked up to Justin's room at the top of the stairs.

Once the door to the room was closed, our tension instantly broke and the three of us just laughed.

I couldn't fucking believe what had just happened. What a crazy bitch, I thought to myself, shaking my head as I wore a little smile on my face.

We sat down and I re-filled our glasses. For a few minutes it was back to being good again.

That's when I heard the screech from downstairs.


It was Tonya. Impossibly even more drunk now, yelling at us from downstairs.

"Consummate your marriage! Consummate your marriage!"

"What the fuck is she saying?" Justin asked.

"Commiserate?" Jeff questioned.

Apparently, Tonya was concerned that I had not yet consummated my marriage with Melissa. Yes, she was now yelling to me in a house full of my relatives to come have sex with my new wife. Perhaps she was feeling a little guilty for her behaviour but this wasn’t helping anything.

I wasn't going to leave this room for anything. All i did was get out of the chair and lock the door of the bedroom.

The yelling continued, in this high pitched wine, "Max! Your bride is down here! Consummate your marriage!"

That's when I heard Melissa's little niece, Lila, cry from the next room where she and her family were sleeping. Lila was only just a baby. She had awoken from Tonya's screams.

I was now wondering if the minister and his wife had also heard...and my parents! "Oh God", I sighed quietly.

There was a knock at the bedroom door. It was Smith.

"If I might have a word sir?" he asked from the other side of the locked door.

I opened the door to Smith who asked that I go down and speak with Tonya so as not to wake the rest of the house. He was right. So, I left Justin and Jeff and the bottle of scotch and started down the stairs with Smith.

By this time, Tina had gone to bed. While I had been upstairs, Melissa had gone from slightly tipsy and stoned to total inebriation.

As I slowly walked down the stairs beside Smith and towards Tonya who was waiting for us at the bottom, I could see Melissa in the library, sitting at the end of the couch. Her once pretty Vera Wang dress was now crumpled around her. Her hair was mussed up. Her eyes were bloodshot from smoking pot. She just sat there stoned, drunk and very quiet. What had been my beautiful princess was now more like Queen of the Trailer Park.

Tonya greeted me with a very slurred, "I had to get the butler to get you because you wouldn't come!"

She continued, "Your bride has been patiently waiting for you to consummate your marriage! When it was my wedding night my husband took me right in the limo!...right in front of the driver! That's the way it should be Max! That's the way it should be!"

Tonya was wasted. I mean, really wasted.

As she stood at the bottom of the stairs, she barely was able to hold herself straight. I looked over at Melissa who was looking rough and thought the two of them made quite the pair.

That’s when Tonya burst into tears.

I really didn’t know what to do at this point so I hugged her in an effort to keep her from crying.

I don't know why I thought that would work. I guess I was just exhausted and wanted this night to finally end...perhaps I just didn't have the energy to fight any more.

Whatever the reason, I hugged her. And she hugged me right back.

That’s when she really started to cry. And I mean sob. As if her emotional dam had broken and everything just released at once.

We probably held each other for ten full minutes as she buried her face into me and just wailed.

When she finally tired herself out, I walked her hand-in-hand over to the couch to where Melissa was. I sat down in between Melissa and Tonya. My one arm was around Tonya and my other hand was on Melissa's knee.

Tonya again buried her face into me and sobbed. Melissa silently held my hand.

And that is where the three of us stayed, staring, silently. For what seemed like hours. Truthfully I really don't know how long we were there.

After a long while, Tonya fell asleep on my shoulder in mid-cry. Melissa had fallen asleep too, head back against the couch and mouth open, snoring loudly beside me.

I carried Tonya up to bed. Although she was quite the spit-fire I doubt she weighed even a hundred pounds. As I carried her up to her room, she was half asleep, completely drunk and I think she just liked the idea of being carried. I opened the door to her room, put her into the bed, covered her up, and left, closing the bedroom door behind me.

I noticed that the light in Justin's room was now off. He and Jeff had gone to bed. My night in the castle was over.

I went down to Melissa and woke her up.

Melissa and I were not staying at the castle. Earlier in our planning of this day, Melissa had heard there was a stone and log cabin by a pond on the castle grounds and had decided that we'd stay there that night instead of the castle.

We were told that the cabin was over a hundred years old and it was very nice, but we hadn't seen it yet.

Smith came over to us and asked us if we wanted him to bring the car round. We were more than ready. Smith had to drive us as we had no other car there, and Melissa sure wasn't in a state to drive even if we did.

The ride there was pretty quiet. The moon was bright and the gravel road to the cottage was pretty rough and we could feel each bump as we drove along it.

The cottage was a couple of kilometers from the castle. It was very nice. However, it was much like any rustic cabin. I would have preferred to stay at the castle but I was just happy it was finally the end of a very long day.

Smith wished us a good night and pointed out the roses and champagne beside our bed that one of our friends had ordered for our room. No thanks I thought. There was no chance I was giving Melissa any more to drink, and I just wanted to sleep.

The cabin was dark and smelled musky. It did have electricity but it was very rustic. There was only one light to the room and no running water.

But there was a bed; a nice comfortable bed. I think I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Melissa was still getting out of her dress as I drifted off.

I woke up in the middle of the night. There was a strange sound.

It was gasping.

I looked beside me towards Melissa but it was so dark without the light on I couldn't see much. I could hear her though. She was gasping for air.

Melissa has asthma. Although she doesn't experience many attacks, when it happens she requires an inhaler to help her breathe. She’s even had to go to the hospital on occasion.

I don't know what brought this one on; perhaps the muskiness of the cottage or her pot smoking earlier, or even the stress of the evening. Whatever started it, there she was beside me absolutely gasping for air.

I got out of the bed, turned on the light and went to her side. She was still able to talk, though barely, and only in gasps. The fact that she could talk meant it wasn't totally dire, but it was serious enough that I needed to get her the inhaler.

That's when she informed me that her inhaler was in her suitcase which was in Tonya's room at the castle. She had brought her suitcase there earlier in the day to get ready for the wedding.

There was no land-line phone in the cottage and my cell phone had no signal so we could not get ahold of Smith.

In a word, we were fucked.

I got dressed back into my tux, got on my dress shoes and started walking to the castle, which was, like I mentioned, a couple of kilometers away.

It was more difficult finding my way back to the castle because I couldn't see it and the road often split into different directions and I didn't pay close enough attention when we drove there to know exactly where to go.

But it was fairly bright because of the moon so I could make out at least fifty feet ahead at a time. Although I made a few wrong turns, I was able to quickly correct my path and make my way towards the castle.

But it was a long walk; my feet hurt and the road was bumpy and full of holes. My tux had now become uncomfortable as it was itchy and smelled like sweat. I was miserable.

Eventually though, I made it back to the castle and retrieved the inhaler from Tonya’s room. Smith was busy cleaning up and when he heard what happened, he offered to drive me back to the cabin.

The ride was once again, a quiet one, until the end. As we pulled up to the cabin, Smith turned to me and said, "You know what they say sir, a rough wedding night is indeed good luck for a long and happy life together". He smiled and gave a little laugh.

Then there was a long pause as his face slowly became more serious, as if he was about to pass on wisdom to a son. Perhaps he was thinking about everything that transpired over the evening.

"And even if that isn't true sir. That is okay too."

"Yeah Smith, that is okay too" I laughed, and got out of the car.