Anything I write that has to do with writing will be in From Pico's Pen, my author's blog. Everything that doesn't fit any of the sites I write on will be here. This is my practice. I could have kept it private and farmed out the good stuff but I found my readers like too much of it to do that. It isn't a diary because there are things I keep to myself but you can learn a great deal about me from the randomness you will find here.

Monday, 22 February 2016

I Have a Filter

Believe it or not there are stories I can't tell on my blogs. There are a number of reasons that might prevent me from telling.

I'd say the number one reason for not telling a story has to do with friendship. If I think something has the potential to damage a friendship it doesn't get told. Even if I think something is really funny, I won't embarrass or humiliate someone on purpose. That isn't to say I might not inadvertently do that. I've had to apologize for stupid remarks of mine in the past. I don't like hurting people and I really don't like having to tell people I'm sorry.

Another filter is avoiding something that might get me in trouble on the job. That would include things that might close doors to future employment. I've seen some pretty stupid things get said on social media. To date I have not been a casualty of my own writing. I don't intend to start.

Those two filters conspired yesterday to keep me from writing anything. I could not think of a single story that wouldn't have some negative impact somewhere. I finally gave up and went to bed.

Those two areas aren't my only filters. I tend to stay away from politics and religion for the most part. It isn't that I haven't got opinions, I just don't desire to cross swords with people over those views. I see plenty of that online and I'm not tempted to participate.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Building a Boat

This was one of my all time favourite projects. I used to subscribe to a magazine called Wooden Boats and in its pages at one point they had an article on the “Peace Canoe”. At the end of the article you could order full size plans and build one yourself.

Well I'm a legendary cheapskate. In the magazine was a picture of the plans. All the measurements were there except for one. The missing measurement was an important one but I figured I could calculate out a good approximation. So, do you think I was going to shell out some hard earned cash for full size plans? Not a chance.

Bit by bit I bought the material needed and in some cases made substitutes. The main substitute was the piece of wood used for the bow and stern stems. I am not going to trim an expensive piece of wood down to the exact size of a regular two by four before final shaping. I just used a couple of pieces of two by four. I'm all for using quality materials but swapping clear pine for stud grade spruce where it makes no real difference is a choice I'd make anytime.

I pre-assembled the seats, sides and bottom in the basement of our house at the time. From there all I needed was a good weather day coinciding with a day off work. The whole thing came together well except I didn't have enough hands myself. Pulling the ends together and screwing them into place took help from the rest of the gang. When we were done, I told the gang the guy in the article said he performed that feat all by himself. Mieke exclaimed, “No way!!”

We painted it white. This was a mistake made with some thought. If you've ever sat on a surface that absorbs sunlight during the summer and accidentally branded yourself, you'd understand. Didn't burn anyone but we were going snow-blind paddling around in it. Halcyon has since been painted a darker cream colour. We have considered painting it up like a dragon boat, but just haven't got around to it.

The boat still exists but it is in need of some significant repairs. I would be more enthusiastic about getting her back into the water but we don't have a lot cash to do so. Besides that while we were stranded in government housing someone broke into our camp here and stole all our life vests amoung other things.

Maybe this year we'll fix her up and take her for another run.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Weather Yo-yo

From extreme cold at the beginning of the week, to an early spring like thaw and now freezing hard again tonight. Sunday it's supposed to rain some again. Not quite sure what's going to happen next as far as the weather goes.

One of the older gentlemen customers told me the other day that winter was over. I'm not confident of that. We usually get something around the Passover and that's still quite far off. In the meantime my main concern is still getting dry enough firewood.

The thaw and then refreeze made our road a really slick icy hazard. Walking back from the truck after work I laid down on the roadway for a few moments, not voluntarily. I wiped out in slow motion so I avoided injuring myself. Brandon and Francine wisely refrained from trying to help me out. They probably would have fallen down on top of me. After that we stuck to the edge of the road, where there was a little crunch to the snow and some traction.

Next thing to do is go lay down in my bed and get some rest. I'm a little over tired. When Francine came to pick me up at work, I didn't even notice that we had a couple passengers in the back at first. Usually I'm a little more with it than that. Better turn in while, I'm still making sense.

Monday, 15 February 2016

This is the NBA

I've been reading the fuss over Nelly Furtado's rendition of the Canadian national anthem and I just had to go over and have a listen. I was primed to hear something absolutely awful. After listening to the whole thing from beginning to end, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. I'm surprised that people are getting this upset about it all.

One of the comments from a patriotic Canadian felt that Americans would have never tolerated this kind of butchering of “The Star Spangled Banner”. I beg to differ. I guess most of these Canadians have never watched the NBA all-star with any consistency. Back in the day, I remember Marvin Gaye's version of the American national anthem at the all-star game. You think Ms. Furtado took liberties with the melody? Have a listen and you be the judge.

I prefer to be able to sing along with the national anthem myself but I not going to diss her for her version. This was after all the NBA all-star game and doing something really different with the anthem is par for the course. I don't think she brought any shame on herself or the rest of in The Great White North. Nobody is complaining about the fake basketball game where defense was eliminated from the building.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Perfect Drop Shot

Courtesy Pixabay

It was a thing of beauty. The opposing volleyball player who had just delivered the serve dove uselessly to the floor in a gallant attempt to reach it. The blocker opposite me backpedaled, leaped high reaching for the ball but not quite touching it as it passed over his head. The player in the center of the court also made a desperate lunge for it to no avail. The ball landed just a little inside the line marking the edge of the court. A beautiful side out in our favour.

Just before that play. Two of my friends were on the sidelines razzing me about my flashy metallic blue gym shorts. I'll admit they got to me and I was busy jawing back at them. I wasn't even paying attention to the game anymore. Seeing that I was distracted the server fired the ball right at me.

“Pico! The ball!”

I spun dropping into a ready stance just in time for the ball to hit me right in the forehead. Nobody on the other team was expecting it come back. My friends rolled on the floor laughing. When they regained their composure they told me my facial expression while I made the play was the best part, at which point they lost it again.

Those were a great pair of shorts.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Gangsta Bluff

Courtesy Pixabay

For country bumpkin home-schooled children, my gang are not easily intimidated. Some city kids once found that out and the story is a bit amusing.

We were attending church services in a rented hall because the group we were visiting had no building of their own. It wasn't in a bad neighbourhood but some of the local kids thought they were pretty tough.

My children after the service was over would go outside because there was no one else their age there and hang out by the family minivan and talk or listen to music. Used to do the same thing when I was younger only the others our age would come out with us.

Out in the parking lot some of the local kids showed up and started to harass them. They strutted around, quoting tough guy lines from various movies they'd seen. My kids were unimpressed and the taunting got a little more aggressive. Finally my boys had heard enough.

Andrew gave his brother a scowling nod, “That's it! Brandon! Get the gun!”

Brandon reaches behind the back seat of the van and pulls up the jack handle. It's a piece of pipe with a small metal pin in it that could be mistaken for the bead sight on the business end of a shotgun. He stuck it out the door of the van making sure they could only see the last six inches or so and shouted, “Andrew grab me a cartridge!”

They proceeded to make a few realistic sounds and the local wannabee gangsters hesitated for just a few seconds and then fled in terror. Never came back. Never bothered them in the parking lot again. My gang found the whole thing hysterically funny.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Twenty-Five Years Today

We'll have to kick some junk aside to dance today.

I could spend my entire day writing about the experiences we shared over the past twenty-five years and still only put a small bit in words.

We took our vows in front of our families and a whole herd of deer trophies. You didn't marry me for my money because we didn't have much of that... still don't. The hunting and fishing lodge in Farnham was free for us because your brother was a member there. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

My mother gave me the best marriage counseling when she told me to find a woman who wanted to build a life with me. You were that and still are. Married twenty-five years and we're not finished yet. I'm expecting the next twenty-five to be even better because I intend to keep working to make it that way.

I'm done writing for now because the rest of my time outside work today is yours. I still love you Francine as much as ever.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

We Were In Stitches

Courtesy Pixabay

Knowing how to hand sew is not one of my better known skills. It has come in handy on many occasions.

It started in the sixth grade after splitting my pants. I was sitting in the school's home economics class on recess in my gym shorts painstakingly imitating the back stitching already existing from when my mom made the pants on her sewing machine. Recess was burning up faster than the split was closing and finally the teacher had pity and intervened. She took my pants and showing me a quick running stitch and had me decent for class in no time. When I got home, my mom wasn't too impressed with the quick stitching and pulled it all back out. My back stitching was just fine.

When one of the guys in college asked me to do some sewing for him, I offered to loan him the needle and thread and provide lessons. He declined and went whining to one of the ladies on campus to do it for him instead. I'm all heart aren't I?

My sewing did lead to a bit of real fun on campus. One of my female Canadian friends was looking for the perfect practical joke for one of her American dorm mates who was away visiting family. We borrowed a great deal of the young lady's clothes and sewed little Canadian flags all over them, sitting in one of the student lounges. We had an absolute blast. She'd finish sewing a little flag on the back of a pair of underwear. “Look at this!” and we'd be all but rolling on the floor. We entertained each other for several hours. The prank was a great success. The poor woman was finding flags for weeks.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Made From Rubber

Courtesy Pixabay

I'm sure a lot of us men admire a certain amount of physical flexibility in a woman, but sometime we see something that just scares us.

I don't remember how I got in on this because I didn't know the guy who rented the boat very well. A group of us young adults at a church convention went water skiing in the Sacramento River in Sacramento, California. No the water wasn't very clean back then either. The other two guys convinced one of the young ladies to come and one of the girls I was hanging out with came as well.

We had a blast. With me on the end of the rope the guys ran the boat all over the place trying to get me to wipe out. They came close. One sequence over some wakes from another boat had me doing weird things with the rope to try to keep it from going slack or jerk me off balance. All the while those two guys were in the boat just laughing their heads off. When my turn came to an end they told me how impressed with my skill they were.

Once all of us guys had our turns, we tried to convince the ladies to give it a try. The girl they brought with wouldn't have anything to do with it, but Debbie was ready to go. Never water skied in her life and we were having a tough time getting her started. I ended up in the water floating with my life vest on trying to get her into the proper starting position. When ready the guys would hit the throttle and she'd wipe out before ever getting out of the water. I'd swim a few hundred feet to catch up and we'd try it all over again. She was determined so this went on for quite awhile before she finally gave up. I admired her effort but one of the failures had all of us guys wincing.

Her ski points were sticking out of the water in front of her perfectly positioned and the guys opened the throttle. One ski went right and the other went left. She went full splits and beyond. Jean Claude Van Damme eat your heart out. I swear those ski points were still sticking straight up when they were almost all the way behind her. I'm sure her feet twisted in the bindings so it probably wasn't as bad as it looked. It looked like her legs screwed all the way around in their sockets. The guys in the boat all wore an expression that I'm sure reflected my own: If-that-was-me-I'd-never-walk-again.

We never said anything to her and if she reads this, it'll be the first she knows of it. Yes, she's still a friend of mine on Facebook so she just might. I stank like the Sacramento River for days (that stuff doesn't just wash off) but it was a lot of fun and a great memory.

Friday, 5 February 2016

That Had to Hurt

Not Manu but you get the idea. Courtesy Pixabay

I love basketball and frequently read the latest from the NBA. Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs is out for a month with a testicular injury requiring surgery. Poor man. What amazes me is that they spelled this out without blinking. I watched a clip where an NHL player caught a slapshot in the groin and he left the game with “a lower body injury”. Sports journalism seems to have changed. They seem to be willing to call it what it is now.

In honour of Manu and because some people really seem to find this kind of sports injury funny (just watch America's Home Videos a couple of times), I will recount a few of my sporting unfortunate moments. If you're a guy and this has never happened to you, you've never lived.

First one I'll tell comes from water skiing at SEP (church summer camp). I'd already succeeded in achieving second class skier status and was trying for first class. One of the things I had to do for that was drop a ski and slalom across both wakes. I managed to dump the ski and while I awkwardly tried to get my skiless foot into the rear toe loop on the other ski, I crossed my first wake. Pelican lake was a little choppy and I couldn't pull myself back across. I hit the water fully extended. I didn't know that it was possible to square yourself on a wave. The angle and position have to be just about perfect. Thankfully the life vest allowed me to float in the fetal position. The boat whipped around to pick me up.

“Why didn't you make the signal that you're alright?” came the admonishment.

“Because, I'm not okay,” I replied through clenched teeth.

“What happened?”

“I got hit right where it counts.”

The old journalism was still in effect back then. The guy in the boat understood and thought it was funny and asked, “In the face?” The young lady just didn't get it. They hauled me out of the water. By that time I was just fine. One of those just-smile-and-it'll-go-away kind of incidents.

The next incident occurred in a college basketball game. Carlos on the other team ran a lot of track. He had beautiful high knee action form. Well I'm pretty fearless about taking charges and in the heat of battle I saw someone coming with the ball and I set to take the charge. Then I recognized him, I saw the knees, my life flashed before my eyes, my mind thought, “this is really gonna hurt” and then impact. Carlos lost the ball and nothing was called. I got up and tried to run with the break before doubling up. My best friend saw the whole thing and almost lost the ball from laughter. I smiled and this one went away too.

Finally playing a church softball tournament and I'm on first. The opposing team hits a potential inning ending double play my way. Just before scooping the ball up it hits a pebble in the infield hops over my glove and hits me square in the crotch. I fold up on the ball and can't make the play.

We ended up losing that game and it really all came down to that stupid embarrassing play. My two younger brothers were on the opposing team and have no real sympathy for me at all.

So Manu were with you. I watched the tape. It didn't look that bad from there, but if you weren't alright minutes later and need surgery we feel for you. Get well soon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

I Can't Help It. I'm a Dad

When I was a teenager/young man, I had more mothers than I could count. Something about me brought out mothering instincts all around me. I could not walking into church with my collar messed up. I would get part way into the building and one of the ladies would stop me and straighten it up. Thankfully in the days of leisure suits, I didn't have a tie to straighten out as well. Pointless sneaking past my biological mother because someone else was always there.

Well now the shoe is on the other foot. I recall working in a call centre and getting a call from one of the regular perverts (ladies hated him with a passion). He rarely talked to male agents but he was in a chatty mood. He went on how great it must be for me to work with all those young sexy women. I refrained from telling him what I thought of him (I could get fired for that). It all got me thinking though. I did have a lot of sexy young co-workers – all about the same age as my own kids. As I got to know them in the work environment, that's how I interacted with them as well. They needn\'t fear the lecherous leer from me. I offer something far more insidious. I give sage advice, they didn't ask for, tell stories of days gone by and tell clean jokes from a couple generations back (one of the guys where I work now calls my humour “dad jokes”).

In truth, I can't help it. I am a dad after all. I'm too old to be a big brother, too broke to be a rich uncle and too young to be a grandfather to them (which would probably be worse). While I try to keep myself in check, if I accidentally act like a parent, I'm sorry that's the best I've got.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Ankle of Pain

Courtesy Pixabay

It was a heroic rush down the basketball court after making a steal. We were losing and I was brought in off the bench to replace one of the starters. I don't remember who. At any rate this was a chance to get two points back. I had two guys to beat and both of them were off balance. The first one bought a head fake at half court (like I was really going to shoot it from there) and my momentum was going to get me past the second, except opponent number one landed on my foot as I streaked past him. My ankle didn't roll, it dislocated and popped back. I hit the floor. I jumped back up but couldn't even take a step. I hopped off to the locker room where the junior coach helped me get my shoe and sock off. Evidently they didn't know what I'd done because that's not what you're supposed to do with that kind of injury. We watched my ankle inflate right there. By the time we got ice on it, it had ballooned. That injury pretty much finished the season for me. Doctor said I should be able to start playing again a week later but I couldn't push off with it for the next six weeks.

The following season we were playing against a group of alumni stars to give us some strong competition. I fired off a hook shot over Paul Treitz and landed on the side of his leg. Same ankle rolled and I rode the side of that leg all the way to the floor. Bad sprain, torn ligaments, bone chips and of course a great deal of pain. Incidentally “Tripes” starred several years earlier taking the league scoring championship over Jay Triano of Welland High former coach of the Toronto Raptors and current coach of the Canadian national team.

My best friend took me to the hospital for x-rays. In the waiting room I dropped something on the floor and managed to tip my wheelchair up on the foot rest. Some other emergency victim rescued me, while I was trying to figure out how to get out of that without getting another injury.

I suffered two minor sprains of that same ankle in college. Once on the basketball court again and the other time running across campus just before a costume ball. People thought I was limping at the dance as part of my costume.

After college, I slipped in the muck on a landscaping job site. That was a nasty sprain almost as bad as the initial injury. The company I worked for did bring me to the hospital but badly bungled everything from there. I never worked for them again.

Finally when I thought the curse had ended, I was playing Frisbee with my kids in the yard. One of the boys let fly with an errant throw across the township drain, which ran through the middle of our property and I leaped gracefully after it. On landing my foot skidded on some slick dirt and the ankle rolled where the mud ended. This time the bone cracked and I ended up with a walking cast.

Hopefully, writing this chronicle doesn't jinx me and I'll never injure it again.