I put up a piece on Huffington Post last week. A hard-hitting bit about Christianity, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered persons, education, the legal profession. It swells with sexual, religious and professional tension. Some of you may have read it. Sadly, like most of my HuffPo efforts, it failed to attract much attention, despite my tireless promotional efforts. So, maybe a few of you who might have missed it will have a look at it now.

Have a nice day.



High Maintenance

I have always been responsible for the upkeep and repair of the household appliances – except when that responsibility has been violently ripped from my incompetent hands by my loving wife.

For a few years, I had a guy I always called. I forget his name. His company name was A-1 Appliance Repair – or some other name that would get him at the front of the line in the yellow pages. My A-1 guy had an easy life. The first time, I called him because I’d been told by Cynthia, the woman who, for many years, took care of our kids, that the dishwasher was leaking. A-1 came the same day to have a look. It turns out Cynthia had been putting too much soap in the dishwasher. A-1’s policy was to charge eighty-six bucks just for showing up [95% of life after all]. That’s a good policy.

The next time I called him, it was for the oven. It was a fuse; a fuse that I am quite certain I checked before calling him because, Jesus, it is embarrassing to pay a guy eighty-six bucks to tell you that you need to replace a fuse. I kept a few fuses in the cupboard above the stove – in case one ever burned out. I installed it myself, thus avoiding any labour costs.

The next time I called him because the dryer was not working. It was a breaker. The fuse was less embarrassing. Just to get my eighty-six bucks worth, I made him flip the breaker.

Months later, the dryer stopped working again. This time, I was very careful. My A-1 guy was probably starting to think I was an idiot. I made sure the dryer was plugged in and that the breaker wasn’t flipped. I also ensured that I was operating the dryer in accordance with the instruction manual. [Parenthetically, I had once been told by a service guy that my warranty did not cover “customer education”, once he had determined that the only problem with my new dishwasher was that I didn’t know what I was doing. If there was a warranty that covered that sort of issue, I’d buy it.] When I was absolutely certain that I had an appliance actually in need of repair, I called A-1 Appliance Repair. He came to the door [that’s eighty-six bucks] went downstairs, took the top off the dryer and, about three and a half minutes into his visit, told me that the thing could not be fixed. I’d have to buy a new one.

Four service calls. No repairs.

I lost  A-1’s card and couldn’t find him in the yellow pages, so that was my last encounter with my no-repair man. God knows how much money I’ve saved by not having him drop by and not fix my appliances anymore.

I have had appliances repaired. Our Maytag fridge, for example, we had fixed many times both under warranty and after. It never quite worked the way you expect a fridge to work. One day it stopped working entirely. I unloaded everything, reloaded it all in the old fridge in the basement, and called a repair guy. It started working again. I called off the repair. Yes, it was a lot of trouble carrying all that cold stuff downstairs, then back up, but it was a great opportunity to cull things, I thought. It’s something you should do from time to time. This “looking on the bright side” attitude of mine is vexing to my loved ones, one in particular. “Fuck you Pollyanna,” she said quietly through her teeth, like a maniacal ventriloquist.

I was just happy to have a working fridge again and not terribly curious about what had happened. A while later, it happened again. And, like before, it started up again on its own, after I’d moved everything downstairs. A repair guy came to look at our on-again-off-again-but-currently-operating fridge and found nothing out-of-order.  He declined our offer of potato salad.

One afternoon, while I was out, the Loved One bought a new fridge. Not a Maytag. We had the Sears people take away the Maytag, even though it was relatively new and working perfectly well on the day it left us. Perhaps it was purchased at a second-hand store and is now ruining the marriage of some other lucky couple.

I’m sure everyone has heard the expression “to repair it would cost more than the thing is worth”. Am I wrong to believe that expression ought not to apply to everything in my house, including the cat?

We have a gas stove. A five-burner. Part of our Dream Kitchen. A wire came off one of the igniters and fell into the body of the unit. No problem, I’ll just take apart a few things and retrieve it. Nope. No matter how many screws I unscrewed, nothing was opening up. I’d have to call someone.

Troy, the authorized repair guy for this gas range, was a busy guy. When I was able to get him in, he oozed competence and professionalism. We wouldn’t be able to get at that little wire without breaking some corroded parts on the range, which we’d have to replace. He had a blue tooth device in his ear and he was immediately calling Ohio or some such place, ordering parts. He told me he’d be back when the parts came in and warned me this was going to be expensive. I didn’t mind. I had confidence in Troy. Eight weeks later, I hadn’t heard from him, so I called. He told me there had been some issue at the border and the parts had been sent back to Ohio, or wherever. No problem, though. He’d reordered them. Another eight weeks passed. I called. His explanation this time sounded less secure and cocky, so I pressed him more than I normally would – so frightened am I of confrontation. It emerged indirectly that Troy was engaged in some kind of pissing contest with the courier company that was to deliver the parts – he was refusing to pay some fifty dollar fee, so they refused to give him the parts. It never occurred to him to call me and let me know.

I fired Troy and hung up quickly, so as to avoid being drawn into a confrontation.

It only took me a few months to find a new guy authorized to work on our dream range. Dustin came in, looked it over, told me he’d order the parts as soon as he got back to the shop and he’d get back to me. Eight weeks later, I called him. He’d forgotten to order the parts. In fact, he’d forgotten the entire incident. I told him that I perfectly understood. I forget things all the time. Coincidentally, the top drawer of our snazzy two-drawer dishwasher had stopped working, so he could come and fix that and have another look at the range. He arrived, looked at the dishwasher and – good luck – what it needed was a little inexpensive part he happened to have on his truck. But – bad luck – he couldn’t get the old part out without breaking a bigger, more expensive part, which he did. No worry. He could just order that part, if he remembered.

As for the range, the breadth of this project vexed Dustin on this visit, in a way it had not the first time he came. He’d have to go back to the shop, look over some manuals, talk to the range people in Ohio or wherethefuckever, and get back to me with a price. A big price. It was likely going to cost as much to take the range apart and retrieve the wire as it would cost to buy and install a new range. I was willing to take that chance.

Summer came. We went on vacation and some of us were able to forget all about our appliance woes and just enjoy time with our family. When we got home, there was a voice message on the phone from Dustin. He’d decided to pursue a different line of work and would not be fixing my dishwasher or my gas range. Helpfully, he gave me Travis’s number.

Travis has worked out very well. I like him. I trust him. After a three or four visits, he has advised that neither is worth fixing.

Meanwhile, as we have done for many months now, we make do with half a dishwasher and four fifths of a gas range. It is not a great hardship, especially when one considers the harsh kitchen conditions faced by the early inhabitants of the prairies. They’d have loved half a dishwasher and four burners.

If you make do long enough, you sometimes forget that you’re just “making do”. So it is with the washing machine. It is twenty-three years old. It has never let me down. About a year ago, the main knob broke off. I was able make do using a pair of pliers. No problem. After a while, likely because of abuse by one or other of the boys, who do their own laundry but lack my patience with machines that almost work, the metal shaft that worked the timer got stripped a bit. It would still work with the pliers, but you had to kind of pull the shaft to the side a bit to catch the mechanism to get it going. It always took quite a few tries. I’m quite sure that this new, trickier, requirement for getting the thing to work drove my oldest boy nuts and he just yanked the shaft right out. He’s a strong lad, and often angry.

I briefly thought of calling in a repair person. But I was able to get the thing working by jamming a little Phillips screwdriver on the dial and pulling it over to the desired setting. It was hard at first, and the water turns on and off again as I work my way around the dial, but eventually I could do it without any trouble at all. No one else in the household could do it, however, so I found myself of necessity involved with every load of laundry loaded into that machine which has never let me down.

I consider that the washing machine works just fine. It washes clothes, which is the normal standard by which one fairly judges a washing machine. I continue to tell others that, in twenty-three years, this thing has never let me down. My Major Loved One has a different view. Not having developed my expertise with the screwdriver, and not being blessed with my sunny outlook, she believes that the washing machine really doesn’t work at all. She thinks it needs to be fixed – that the problem is with the washing machine, not with her. And, my unwillingness to accept this truth suggests that, in fact, the problem is with me.

Last time Travis was here I had him look at the washer. Oh yeah, he could still get a part for that old thing. It would cost three hundred dollars. He recommended just making do.






In pursuit of my mission to become a significant cyber-presence, I opened a twitter account last summer. My Sister-in-Law, Patti [her real name], assured me it is an essential social media component of my online profile, or something. Patti was my first follower. Within a few hours I had a second, when I was picked up by a  woman who operated a personal porn website. After a few weeks, the porn lady dropped – or “unfollowed” – me. No explanation. No goodbye. Such is the harsh world of the tweet. One day, you’re being embraced by a porn star, the next it’s just you and your sister-in-law.

I think I sent out two tweets. I didn’t need to, really. Patti was right there across the table from me.

After a few months of neglect, I lost touch with my twitter account. I forgot my password or my twitter name, probably both. I made periodic unsuccessful efforts to get reconnected with my account and my one follower.  Eventually, I gave up, believing that my twitterdays were over.

But, you know, you’re allowed to have more than one account. And, they’re free. So I opened a new one. I’m back in business.

Twitter, as everyone knows, is the fruit fly of literary forms. If you follow a healthy number of twitter tweeters, you will have innumerable short, bursts of brilliance scrolling past you on your mobile screen – all day, all night. It’s length limit make it the ideal platform for aphorists, less ideal for those of us with epic pretensions.

Most tweeters fire ‘em off casually, almost thoughtlessly.

They’re like smoke rings – and let me tell you, I produced some extremely impressive smoke rings in my day. [Now that I think of it, I should start smoking again, just to blow smoke rings, it was something I was very good at. And smoking really was great. And so cool.] A tweet is like a smoke ring – no matter how really cool and interesting and well-crafted it is, a tweet’s brilliance is short-lived. A tweet has its moment, and is gone.

Some people, however, can make great use of the tweet. Kelly Oxford is often called a “Twitter Sensation”. She’s a mother of three young children who blogged, then tweeted from her home in Calgary. She has more than half a million followers. Her twitter musings launched her writing career. She has moved to L.A. and writes screenplays. She has published a book – Everything is Perfect if You’re a Liar – which I understand, is a “best-seller”, though I don’t know how many books you have to sell to get that designation. More than I’ve sold, I’m sure. She is also extremely hot. Being good-looking is essential to success in any field of endeavor, I’ve come to believe.

The Dalai Lama [@DalaiLama]  has over seven million followers of the twitter kind – but follows no one.  Eminem, with fifteen million, also follows nobody, though that’s less surprising. He doesn’t appear to like anyone. The same can’t be true of the Dalai Lama – maybe he just doesn’t know how to click “follow”. Conan Obrien has eight and a half million and follows one person – a woman named Sarah Killen in Michigan. I have no idea.  Jim Carrey has over eleven million, also follows one – his daughter, I assume.

And, of course, the little crown prince of the Twitter is the Biebs – with over forty two million hanging on his every digital eruption.

I have ten. Eight are people I know personally, two of whom actually live right here in the house with me. Only two or three of my followers actually ever read a tweet. I can reach as many people talking to myself, as long as I speak out clearly, as I can tweeting.

So, when Justin Bieber tweets “U gotta work for greatness. Take nothing for granted”, as he did the other day, more people than live in all of Canada read and are enriched by it.

When @rossknows writes “I think I saw that Snowden guy at Safeway this afternoon” it is seen by four people, at best. I know all their phone numbers. I could just call.

Mostly, in the twitter world, I’m a consumer, not a producer. I scroll through it a few times a day. I get most of my news from it. I follow all the news and magazine twitter feeds – and most of the Canadian political pundits. I love my twitter.

But I want more. I don’t want to be just a passive observer, like so many millions of Beliebers, I wanna be a player.  Twitter is a way of speaking to the entire world – without having a lot to say. The twitter is perfect for a guy like me, who can’t put two thoughts together, but can handle one thought at a time with ease. However, you need more than ten followers to be a twitter force.

One way of expanding one’s reach is to be “retweeted” – where one of your followers,- preferably someone with more and different followers than you have, sends out your tweet to all his or her followers. I remember very proudly the day of my first, and only, retweet. Ed Kapp a friend of my son’s, retweeted a line I sent out in response to the scandal surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s drug use – “Does this crack video make me look fat?” That tweet was actually one half of a twitter set – the other being “Does this senate resignation make me look fat?” [an obvious reference to Mike Duffy’s departure from the Tory caucus] – but Ed retweeted only the first. And so, with a little flick of Ed’s fingertip on his smartphone screen, my tweet was sent out to his 250 followers – thus potentially expanding my twitter empire twentyfivefold.

It was a short-lived glimmer of hope. None of Ed’s followers picked me up. I blame myself. Fat jokes are mean, I guess.

Another way of attracting attention is by replying to the tweets of others. It’s easy. You just click on the little “reply” arrow and your pithy comment gets broadcast to your followers and to the person who sent out the original tweet. If the first-tweeter is impressed with your reply, it could pay big dividends.

Well, I had some success with this method. I replied to a tweet sent out by Steve Murray. He works for the National Post. His profile says he does “cartoons and columns and junk for the newspaper”. He’s a very funny guy and a prolific tweeter [25,000 tweets sent] with a substantial following [13,200]. He sent out a tweet responding to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had, essentially, opened the legal door to gay marriage. He wrote, “If we allow gay marriage we’ll soon have men marrying dudes and bros marrying guys and fellas marrying joe blows and gents marrying chaps an …[he ran into the 140-character tweet limit]

There was a lot of twitter activity on this subject that day, so I decided to weigh in with a particularly “Saskatchewan” take on the subject by replying to his tweet with this: “One thing that gets forgotten in all this celebration is the increasing threat of the ‘double mullet’ wedding.”

To my surprise and delight, Mr. Murray replied – “we must draw a hairline in the sand” and he became my tenth follower. With a nod of approval from  this heavy twitter hitter, things would take off. No doubt.

That was a month ago. Nothing.

Yes, this is becoming pathetic.

But more pathetic has been my unrequited tweet-obsession with the Sun News Network. As you may know, Sun News is the Canadian cable news channel very much in the style of Fox News in the U.S., with the same mission: to make their fevered viewers feel threatened, pissed off and smugly superior, all at the same time.

SunNews tweets incessantly. Because I have so few people to twitter to – I thought I’d twitter responses to SunNews’s offerings and see if I could get any attention that way. Perhaps begin a constructive dialogue. Maybe get myself invited on Sun News to be grilled by their chief agitator Ezra Levant – who would no doubt kick my leftist ass around the block.

So far. No.

Sun News has been ignoring me. Like the rest of the world. The more they ignored me, the more determined I became. Sadly, most of my efforts were of the “you suck” nature, though never that crude or straightforward:

SunNewsDancer kicked out of Royal Winnipeg Ballet for doing porn.
RossOh. You are my Sunshine. I love the trash. Never change.

SunNews Woman who hid loaded gun in vagina gets 25 years.
Ross Thank you my sunshiney friends. That was a story others were not covering.

SunNewsBaby left in car while parents shopped for sex toys: Cops.
RossSo true to the Sunshine credo to take a tragic story and make it trashy. Stay classy Sunshine  News.

SunShineNewsHow did Jesus get banned from the Calgary Stampede?
RossOnce again, the Sunshiners pursue the stories the lamestream media won’t touch. No wonder Jesus loves you. You’re awesome.

This is just a sampling of my near-pathological engagement with Sun News Network, with, so far, nary a peep of a tweet in return.

Most of the time, SunNews tweets speak for themselves, they can’t be improved by snarky commentary. I leave you with this one that I saw last night and immediately retweeted, delighted by its timeliness:

SunNews – SICK: Registered sex offender accused of flashing genitals at boy in Walmart.

Say no more.

I encourage everyone to get on the twitter and view my fruitless SunNews stalking for yourself. See how I descended from promising new-comer to mere troll. And, for the love of God – follow me.


The Bicycle Tour, Part 4: Alvin and George

This next bit, I wrote in the middle of the night before Scott and I went up to Saskatoon the first time. I liked it, so I put in the rotation.

Alvin Cote and George the Homeless Guy

Many of you probably heard the news in the last few weeks that Alvin Cote died. Alvin was fifty-nine years old and had been living on the streets of Saskatoon for many years. It was reported that Alvin had been arrested for public drunkenness 843 times, more than anyone else in the City’s history.

I remember hearing the story on CBC radio in my car as I drove my son to school one morning and it struck me as somehow very “Saskatchewanian” that we’d know about Alvin’s arrest record and that we would acknowledge his death on the province-wide news. According to what I read, Alvin was an alcoholic of the most persistent kind. He was very drunk every day. He was a sort of violent, difficult drunk at times. He’d get himself kicked out of homeless shelters because of his behaviour and his refusal to stop drinking while he was there. He’d end up in the custody of the police – the shelter of last resort.

Alvin had been physically and sexually abused for years as a child after being hauled away from his parents and placed in residential school. More recently, Alvin had suffered brain damage from a fall down a flight of stairs.

His family could not handle his drunken rages. He lived on the streets of Saskatoon  and in the city jail for a couple of decades.

It was a sad story of the end of a sad life.

Then, the other night, I was cruising on my iPad and looking at one of my favourite news and opinion magazine websites – Slate. It’s an American publication and, like most American publications, is generally pretty well focused on America and things American. But there was a picture of Alvin Cote, from far-away Saskatoon Saskatchewan, sitting on a park bench, smiling broadly – looking very much the homeless alcoholic. The story, written by Slate’s crime blogger Justin Peters, begins in this way:

In America, homeless drunks are routinely ignored, or despised, or given one-way bus tickets out of town. In kind-hearted Canada, homeless drunks become local celebrities.

Okay, that’s a wildly inaccurate generalization. But a positive one.

Peters goes on to describe how Alvin had developed personal relationships with police officers and other members of the community. Although Alvin was often belligerent – “a fighter” he’d say – the cops looked out for him, bought him food, found him eyeglasses, kept him from freezing to death. When he did die, he was eulogized on the official blog of the Saskatoon Police. Officers admitted to shedding tears at the loss of Alvin.

The Slate blogger found this story both incredible and refreshingly hopeful. He quotes the Saskatoon city police chief saying, “It can be hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. In situations like those, all you can do is offer empathy and kindness”.

“… all you can do is offer empathy and kindness.”

Well no kidding. Let’s hold on to that ideal for as long as we can in this hard, cold tough-on-crime country we’re becoming – because the Americans are looking to us for inspiration. We have a responsibility to live up to their inaccurate but positive perception of us.

The Alvin Cote story reminded me of a personal story of mine – I was thinking just the other night that I should write it down before I forget it.

For many years, while I worked for the provincial government, I was Saskatchewan’s Official Representative on the Federal Provincial Territorial Continuing Committee of Officials Responsible for Human Rights – something too lengthy to include on my business card. We just called ourselves “The Continuing Committee”. Yes. We did. We were a Committee that defined itself by its aspiration to “continue”.

The Continuing Committee is responsible to oversee Canada’s compliance with its international human rights obligations – especially those obligations flowing from the United Nations conventions Canada has ratified. There are a lot of human rights standards Canada has signed on to – political rights, equality rights. Anti discrimination rights. Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Rights specific to women and to children. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Rights rights rights.  I don’t think Canadians appreciate how committed Canada appears to be internationally on the human rights front.

As Saskatchewan’s Official Representative, I was responsible to write reports on measures the Saskatchewan government was pursuing to fulfill Canada’s obligations. I was also the point-person for inquiries coming from the United Nations on human rights issues specific to Saskatchewan.

One day, my phone rang.

It was a fellow from the Federal government, the Department of Canadian Heritage, which was the lead department on these international human rights things at the time.

He was new. I’d never spoken with him before. He was an earnest young guy, a Francophone Quebecois. Very polite and respectful – like I said, he was new. He was calling because there had been a request for information from some United Nations human rights agency responsible to investigate and report on the issue of homelessness in Canada. This fellow was compiling information by talking to provincial representatives, like me. So, he asked me if there was any information I could share with him about extent of the problem of homelessness in my province and how our government was addressing it.

“Oh, he died.” I said.

“Pardon me?”

“He died.” I said again.

“Who died?” he asked.



“Yes, George.”

“Who is George?”

“George was the homeless guy.”

There was a pause.

“George was the homeless guy?”

“That’s right.”

“There was only one homeless person in Saskatchewan?”

“Well,” I said, “He was the only one I knew.”

And it was true. It wasn’t true that there was only one homeless person in Saskatchewan. It was true that I didn’t know any of the others. It was also true that George, the homeless guy, had died a couple of weeks earlier. For many years, he could be found most days sitting on the planter in front of the coffee shop across the park from my office. Everybody knew George or knew, at least, who George was.

I talked to people with the Department of Social Services who told me that no efforts were spared trying to get George into social housing of some kind. George wasn’t interested. I guess he was stubbornly independent, as a consequence of his personality and his mental illness. He preferred to sleep under bridges and overpasses and spend his days wandering the streets, having coffee and talking to anyone who walked by, or to himself. After he died, the coffee shop hung a portrait of him on the wall above the planter.

I like how stories like this about George and Alvin give names and faces and personalities to the failures and limitations of our social policy; that people who fall through the cracks don’t necessarily fall out of sight. I love how Saskatchewan, despite its growth, wealth and development, remains small enough that we can know at least some of  them, respectfully mark their passing, and miss them when they’re gone.

The Bicycle Tour Part 3: Faith and Bible Bit

As is documented in Part 1, my initial effort to deal with spiritual matters did not go well, due to my temporarily having lost my mind, or at least my judgment.

But I wasn’t comfortable just abandoning it. This tour was, after all, entitled “Faith is a Bicycle”, which is also the name of the CD that my sacred songs singer/song-writer friend, Scott, was promoting on this tour. His songs are, like, “sacred”, eh? We were performing in churches – places where people of faith gather for religious purposes. It would seem terribly incongruous in that atmosphere if Ross were to avoid faith matters entirely. Right? “What’s he afraid of?” people would ask themselves.

Scott was perfectly happy to handle all the spirituality and leave goofy, secular, though blessedly inoffensive, story-telling to me. “What’s he afraid of?” I asked myself, afraid of the answer.

But I was determined. I looked over the faith/spirituality/religion stuff I’d done and picked away at it. Cleansing without sanitizing, I thought. I can do this. Really.

What I came up with was what we called “The Faith and Bible Bit”. Despite Scott’s misgivings, I performed it a few times. When it worked, it worked pretty well. It didn’t always work.

The Faith and Bible Bit

The things Scott and I have done together over the last couple of years have involved what I’d call “faith talk”. We did a couple of events related to Lent and we performed together on an Advent Sunday worship service. When we started this project – this “Faith is a Bicycle” Tour – I think we both had in mind that our show would be like those things.

Well, I’m hardly the guy for this task. I’m no theologian. I’m an out-of-work lawyer,  stay-at-home father of adult children and writer of profane blog posts about family life. But, it is worse than that. I’m not merely unqualified; I appear to be hostile to the whole idea. As I began writing little bits for this, it emerged that I am sort of cynically non-spiritual and crabbily anti-religious and deeply troubled by the place of religion in public life. As a result, as Scott and I discovered during the first stop on the Faith is a Bicycle Tour, when I talk about faith matters – I put people off.

At our first performance, a few weeks ago at Eastside United in Regina, I did a whole series of faith bits. It fell so flat that Scott and my wife insisted that I scrub the whole thing and start over. Which I did.

But I’m going to try again.

I have a deep affection for my United Church of Canada, our earnest and faithful efforts to apply our religious values to contemporary problems and our instinct to look out into the world and be inclusive rather than look inward and be insular. I’m not cynical or crabby or deeply troubled about the United Church. Just everybody else in the religious world. That doesn’t sound very inclusive, I know.

But faith talk is difficult anyway – even when it’s done well. It makes people uncomfortable.  In any social setting – if you want to make people cringe, squirm, avert their eyes and suddenly have somewhere else they have to be – talk about your faith. For a more dramatic effect, ask about theirs. People don’t like talking about their faith any more than they like talking about their sex lives. And they definitely don’t wanna hear about yours. It is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” of social existence.

Faith is personal. Talking about it leaves you vulnerable. And it is serious – solemn. We treat it with Reverence. It’s not funny. Joking about it is dangerous. You can offend people without meaning to – as I have learned the hard way on several occasions.

Especially dangerous is joking about the Bible. The Good Book. So let’s do that now.

We Christians loves us our Bible. We recite it every Sunday. We have favourite passages we use on special occasions. We marry people with it. We bury people with it. You can’t be well read, educated and cultured without at least some familiarity with it. There are allusions to it in all the great literature. It has inspired some of the greatest music ever composed, and a lot of country music as well. It has been the subject of great works of art, and of fluorescent paintings on black velvet cushions. With tassels.  It has given us some great big fat terrible epic movies. We put bits of it on fridge magnets, greeting cards, coffee cups and granite slabs. We actually prefer our Bible in little aphoristic bits. Snippets of bumper sticker enlightenment. We get lost and confused if the passages get too long.

Despite the fact that most culturally Christian homes have several Bibles in them, they never get read. That’s why our Bibles last so long. We don’t handle them – except maybe to look up an obscure literary reference; and, now that we have google, we don’t even do that.

I’m comfortable with that. I think the Bible gets better reviews than it deserves – and I say that without having read it. I’m not going to let my lack of knowledge prevent me from expressing the definitive opinion on the subject. I know enough to notice that, for some reason, this confounding, contradictory, and frankly dangerous book gets a kind of magic dust sprinkled on it so that, regardless of what it actually says, it’s always steeped in wisdom, profoundly meaningful and, above all else, “good”.

Well, it can be good. As long as it doesn’t fall into “the wrong hands” – as it so often does.

Scott’s song, Seven Times My Soul [it’s on the CD – so, like BUY it already] – a wonderful song – is about dipping one’s self in the Jordan River seven times. It is about healing, about being revived and refreshed, becoming one with the Sacred River – being immersed in the divine – wrapped in the spirit. Tranquility, peace, comfort. Soothing water as a metaphor for God’s love and care. It’s a very nice image – an image Scott’s song evokes beautifully.

In Scott’s manuscript of the song he notes that it comes from the second book of Kings, Chapter five.

So I got out my Good News Bible – who doesn’t like good news?  The chapter that inspired Scott’s song tells the story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. He’s a brave and mighty soldier and strong leader. He is troubled by a terrible skin condition. Some sources say he had leprosy, that very Biblical affliction, but the Good News text just calls it a “skin condition” that turns his skin white and flaky.

Naaman gets some advice from a nameless little girl who is a servant to his wife. This little girl, we learn, was abducted by the Syrians during one of their raids against Israel.

So, right at the beginning of this story, we’re confronted with the kidnapping and enslavement of a little girl. She’s a key character in the story, but she isn’t named and her abduction and slavery pass without any critical comment. This little captive slave girl, for some reason, wants to help out with Naaman’s skin condition – which she apparently takes more seriously than her own situation. “Yes, I’m facing a lifetime of involuntary servitude, but look at you. That must really itch.”

She suggests that Naaman go see the prophet in Samaria, a fellow by the name of Elisha, who has been named by God as the successor to Elijah.

Naturally, he accepts her advice and trundles off to Samaria and to the home of the prophet Elisha, where he is greeted by one of Elisha’s servants.

The servant tells Naaman to go dip himself in the Jordan River seven times. Seriously.

Naaman is angry that he doesn’t get to deal with Elisha directly – that he has to deal with one of Elisha’s “people”. And, really, he was hoping for some more dramatic and miraculous cure than washing himself in dirty water – something a bit more Abbraca Pocus Shazzam and Pow “Yer Cured, Hallelujah!”.

He eventually does what the servant recommends and, after the seventh dip, he’s completely cured – and in the process becomes convinced that there is no god but the God of Israel. Hard to imagine that the clearing up of a skin condition would be enough to cause a religious conversion – but it’s in the Bible, so it must be true. I wonder if the Clearasil people know about this.

Naaman is of course very grateful to Elisha for curing him and he offers him money. Elisha refuses the money. Naaman leaves, heads back to Syria.

Into the story steps Gehazi – another of Elisha’s servants. [See? So many characters with odd names, no wonder this book has never caught on.] Gehazi sees an opportunity. He chases down Naaman, and tells him that, in the last few minutes, there has been a change in circumstances and Elisha would now like three thousand pieces of silver and two changes of fine clothes as payment for the cure. Naaman is happy to pay – in fact, he feels so good in his new skin that he gives Gehazi six thousand pieces of silver. Big haul for a servant.

When Gehazi gets back with his ill-gotten loot, Elisha confronts him. Gehazi lies, denying that he’s taken any money from Naaman. Big mistake – you shouldn’t try to lie to a prophet who sees all and knows all. Nor should you play cards with him. Elisha is very angry. He throws Gehazi out, saying “and now Naaman’s disease will come upon you, and you and your descendants will have it forever”. Sure, enough, as he’s leaving, Gehazi notices his skin was turning white as snow.

That’s the story.

Am I the only one who thinks that, maybe, Elisha over-reacted here; went a bit overboard? Gehazi is afflicted for the rest of his life. All of his descendents – forever – are cursed. Come on. I think even Stephen Harper would have trouble being this tough on crime. Just imagine, you see a guy in the shower at the Y – “Hey, Young Gehazi, I see you have a nasty white rash there.” “Yeah – great great great great great great great Granddad made a big mistake.”

I think if you have to power to mete out that sort of punishment, you ought to pause, take a deep breath, before exercising it. You don’t want to act rashly. [Yes, that’s a pun. Don’t you think that puns are just the edgiest form of humour, next to spoonerisms?]

So, it’s a nasty story. What do we take out of it? Well, we focus on the healing, soothing waters of the Jordan River. That is accentuating the positive. We don’t sing songs about child slavery, skin diseases or multi-generational curses.

Last week, in Sunday School at Sunset, the kids were making arks – for Noah’s family and the animals. That’s a great story about God getting angry and killing every human being on earth not related to Noah. Kills em all. By drowning. And all the animals except a pair of each. Only the fish are spared from this Godly murderous rampage. And, I suppose, very fit birds.This is a story we tell our children – because, I suppose, it would be just so much fun to spend some time on a big boat with all those animals. A floating zoo, as the Irish Rovers called it, with all those green alligators and long necked geese – also known as “the only survivors”.

So, it doesn’t matter what’s in there – we’re going to call it Good News. We are going to blip over all the death, destruction, rape, mayhem, genocide, boils, skin rashes and icky discharges as simply details of “historical, cultural context” and we are going to take from the book what we like – what conforms to our view of the world – then insist that our view is properly “Biblical”. And I think that is just great. We will fight Bible thumpers with Biblical niceness. Sure, our Bible is the same Bible that Bill Whatcott reads. And the Westboro Baptist Church. But the Bible, like religion generally, is a vessel. We can, I suppose, pour into it prejudices, hate, anger, division, superstition and fear. And many do.  But I’d prefer we decant our highest aspirations, our most noble virtues, our most tender sensibilities. And maybe, if we work on it faithfully, we can make it funny.






The Bicycle Tour. Part 2. It’s Really Great to Be Here

[Warning: This one is a bit long. Helpfully, however, it is divided up into manageable pieces, with headings. You can read it over several days. Pretend it is five different blog posts, if that helps.]

At one of our coffee meetings to plan our tour – which I was beginning to refer to as “The Tri-Province Mid-Life Crisis on Wheels” – Scott had an idea.

“I think it would get the audiences positively engaged, more “on our side” right off the bat, Ross, if you started each show with a story specifically about the town or city or region in which we’re performing. You know, like Stuart McLean does on his tours. People just love it.”

“Great idea, Scott. And will you also be composing special songs for each stop on the tour?” I [should have] said, earnestly.

“I’m pretty sure Stuart McLean has some kind of intellectual property claim to this ‘appealing to the locals’ idea. We don’t want a lawsuit,” I also [might appropriately have] said.

“Okay, Scott,” I [actually] said.

So, what follows are the charming bits I said at each of our stops in an effort to get people to like us. I’m not sure how well it worked, though I know it was more effective than starting with an expression that had become my signature opening – “According to my notes, I’m delighted to be here.”

I really had nowhere to go but up.

Maple Creek

My first intensive exposure to this town came on a cold, wet spring thirty-six years ago. I was working on a road crew for the Department of Highways and we were camped in ugly yellow bunkhouses at the gravel pit north of here, half way between town and the Number One highway. I don’t know exactly why we weren’t allowed to set up in town – I’m sure they knew what they were doing.

We camped out there for about six weeks that spring, while we worked on Highway 21.

We worked all day, then ate usually at the Gulf out at the turnoff, which is long gone. We drank beers and “rye presses” and played pool at the Jasper and the Commercial hotels most nights. We mostly stayed out of trouble. I never got into a fight. I never won a game of pool. I don’t know if those two are connected. There were a few Maple Creek guys on the crew – Trent Curry, Grant White, Harold Palmer, the loader operator. In later years, Blair Watson joined us.

I worked on that crew for a long time and we spent a part of each season in this town.

It was out on the 21, and the Red Coat Trail and all the other endless stretches of highway in the southwest, that I found Home.

I’d always been a town kid or a city kid growing up – my Dad was a banker and we moved every couple of years. But, until I spent those interminable hours out there in the sun and the wind, I’d never felt truly connected to a landscape, never felt like I was where I belonged.

It is, I suppose, a cliché to talk about how big the sky is. Until you experience it. There is nothing cliché about it. It overwhelms you. You want to take it all in. But you can’t. The land spreads out in front of you, seemingly forever. You can see everything. And, much of the time, you can’t see any people. You can feel like you’re the only person in the world. When I’m out there, I am so at home and so comfortably alone. Not lonely. Just alone. Complete, in solitude. Out there, if it’s not too cold or too windy – you never want to give it up. You never want that sense of awe and wonder and timeless peace to end.

I have all sort of other connections to this place, of course. My sister, Heather, and my sort-of sister, Lou Ellen, married guys from here – older guys, but nice guys – guys that are probably peculiar to this region. And they raised their kids here – about fifty of them, I think. I’ve been in this church on Christmas Eve a few times, and last year when we said goodbye to Peter’s Mom, Irene. Over twenty years ago, my parents moved to the Park and  attended this church – my Mom still does. I’ve brought my family here countless times to visit their grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins. My kids can’t go past the Red Hen without stopping for five-cent candy. I learned to downhill ski at the Park. I have been on a float in the Cow Town Parade.

My sister, Heather, as you all know, is a very talented musician and organizer of musical stuff in this town. She’s always telling me about these great musical events she puts on – not just the kids’ musical plays, but the concerts where the Dazzlers and others perform. As you know, they are real family affairs. Heather plays and sings, as does her son Andrew and her daughter Christine. Let’s not forget Chelsea, who is, for tax purposes at least, a member of the family. Heather’s  mother [my mother] Jean, plays the piano. Oh what a talented family Heather has.

Well, I am her brother. When we were growing up, it was pretty clear to me, at least, that I was the talented one. And yet, year after year, Heather puts on these evenings – and never once, ever, has she invitee her brother to come to Maple Creek and perform.   Did she just forget how talented I am – just slipped her mind? Or was she afraid? Chicken? How many of you even knew she had a brother?

So, although Scott and I are here in Maple Creek to have fun and see the country and share his music with you and flog his CD – we’re really here because I just really needed to share the stage with my sister, at long last.


I have a personal recollection of Eastend – a story that does not involve dinosaurs or Jack’s Café, or Sharon Butala or actually the town of Eastend, really

I first came to Eastend thirty-eight years ago. Because of a family connection, I was able to snag a summer job with the Department of Highways. That was pretty unusual – highways didn’t usually hire high school kids. All the guys on the crew – and there were about twenty of them – were older than me, and quite a bit, let’s say, “rougher”. I was just out of grade eleven, seventeen years old. A sensitive lad – school choir member, church goer, non-smoker, keen student. No criminal record.

The first night out in the bunkhouse in Eastend with my new colleagues involved a road trip to the next town – Shaunavon – to take in the festivities at Shaunavon’s annual summer fair. I wanted  to appear to be a team guy, wanted to make the right impression. I had to establish that I was not the fresh-faced little mommy’s boy dweeb that I appeared to be – and was, in fact. So we all loaded  up into a crew-member’s big black car with a case of beer and off to Shaunavon we go. I decided it was important that I appear to be drinking, but it was essential that I maintain a firm grip on my faculties. I was anticipating trouble. And there was. A lot of drinking. And fights. With drunk guys. With drunk girls. I remained in the car through much of it, avoiding eye contact with the locals, while mayhem surrounded me.

Finally, having had just about as much fun as can be had on a drunken fair night in southwest Saskatchewan, around three in the morning, we loaded back into the car – a little more crowded now, because one of the guys had fallen in love over the course of the evening and had his soul mate in the front seat with him, and headed out of town with another case of beer, maybe two.

The Mounties stopped us, because this perfect evening just wouldn’t be complete without the involvement of law enforcement officials with guns. As soon as we stopped the car, one of my fellow highway guys got out of the car and ran off. Since this was my first day, I didn’t know his name. I only knew him by his nickname – Herbie. The Mountie in charge,  immediately recognizing me as the weak link in this criminal enterprise, questioned me aggressively about the identity of the escaped Herbie. I was relieved that I lacked sufficient knowledge to betray my new friend – so was spared that particular moral dilemma – but I was concerned that my insistence that I did not know Herbie’s real name was frustrating this Mountie to the point that I might find my young self in jail for the night. Oh how I longed to be in my bunkhouse back in Eastend.

Eventually, Herbie returned. I don’t know where he went, or why he came back. I suppose he figured it would be a long walk back to Eastend, so he might as well face the music. The Mounties gave us two liquor tickets and sent us on our way. No hard feelings. I never did learn Herbie’s real name.

Another thing I think of when I think of Eastend, besides Shaunavon and Mounties, is the Redcoat Trail. Highway Thirteen.

My parents bought a place in the park at Cypress Hills back in 1991. So, every holiday weekend, from the Victoria Day to Thanksgiving, my wife and I load up our kids and head out to the Park.

Back in the early days, the TransCanada from Webb to the Maple Creek turnoff was single lane. I cheerfully referred to it as the “Ribbon of Death”.  It was always a busy, dangerous stretch, but more so on long weekends when there would be an endless stream of menacing trucks and cars  from Alberta carrying people home to Saskatchewan to visit family. Add some darkness, maybe some rain …

The trip was very tough on my sensitive wife, who was raised in Toronto, where people do not drive both ways on the same highway – because they value human life there, especially the lives of children. So, to avoid the trauma of a return trip on the TransCanada, we would often take Highway 13 back home.

What a relief. It’s a bit longer and slower, but it’s a more peaceful, less death-defying experience.  You can’t hurry, so you settle in, relax. You notice that there are people in those cars and half tons you meet and pass on the way. It’s more personal.  When you’re on the Redcoat Trail, you’re not on a highway – you are part of the landscape. You’re not riding above it, you are immersed in it.  The fields and weeds and livestock and the farmers are right there at eye level. And the highway is so soft, especially on hot days.

When it’s over, you feel like a traveler, not a survivor. You’re happy to be home, not grateful to be alive.

Now that the Number One is twinned the whole way – we don’t take the Redcoat Trail anymore. We get home faster. The kids’ whining and complaining and fighting is over sooner.  We feel safer. But I think we’ve lost something in our haste. The Redcoat Trail makes it easier to recognize the truth of that old expression, that it is not the destination that matters, even if that destination is home – it’s the journey.


Scott and I both live in Regina. We’re very happy to be in Saskatoon tonight.

I know you’re all thinking – well, of course – anyone who lives in Regina is happy to be in Saskatoon. Saskatoon is just way better. The weather is better – especially this time of year. The wind doesn’t howl all the time, blowing dust and garbage and small animals all over the place. Saskatoon has better weather generally – it’s practically “temperate” here – like it’s intended that people would live here and not just animals with hides – like buffalo. The winters are less lethal. The summers don’t bake things till they turn brown and crack.

Saskatoon is also a much cooler place – not “cool” as in temperature, but “cool” as in attitude. It’s a hip, happening place, compared with buttoned-down, uptight, dorky Regina. Saskatoon has this big University – so it’s full of smart people. Regina has the government – politicians and bureaucrats – a different, less cool kind of smart. Saskatoon is big picture. Regina is painful details. Sure, we dress better, but we’re less relaxed. The Birkenstock store can barely make a go of it.

Scott is from Nova Scotia – so he hasn’t grown up with this Saskatoon/Regina thing.

I’m from Swift Current, the second coolest city in the province. In Swift Current, we believed quite strongly that Regina was near the worst place on earth – not just the worst place, but the worst place imaginable. We knew this without ever having spent any time in Regina – or anywhere else for that matter. We knew it with a firm though ignorant certainty. Regina was a dark ugly and dangerous place, to be feared and avoided.

When it came time to go to University, well, duh.  Swift Current kids headed up North to the U. of S.. Saskatoon was a magical place, with a shopping mall downtown, lots of relatively safe bars like the Hop House and the Pat and the Apollo Room at the Ritz, the big beautiful University campus, the river, the bridges, the Bessborough Hotel, Broadway Avenue, Homestead ice cream.

I came here in the last half of the seventies and first half of the eighties. This was before Saskatoon had a jazz festival, but you had to know that if anyplace in this province were to have a jazz festival, it would be Saskatoon. Saskatoon is a jazz place – off beat, improvised, swingin’, cool.

If Saskatchewan were a high school, Saskatoon is the guy who wears skinny black jeans, rolls his own smokes and grooms himself in public with a rat-tail comb. Yes. That cool.

Now, I have lived in Regina for twenty-five years and raised my three boys there. I love Regina and have no desire to live anywhere else. But, nonetheless, in the Regina Saskatoon rivalry – Saskatoon wins, hands down.

Sadly, however, almost out of spite, Regina refuses to participate in this competition – a competition it is so clearly losing. In fact, Reginans don’t appear to be aware that there is a rivalry. Saskatoon is nice, sure, but it’s not Regina. Regina doesn’t compare itself to Saskatoon, any more than Rosthern compares itself to Maple Creek or Medicine Hat compares itself to Brandon. Actually, it is worse than that. Reginans don’t address their minds to the question of which is the better city or which is the best city. Other cities, other places – other people – simply do not exist. Regina defeats the whole idea of competition by being utterly insular and inward looking. Regina is not the best, it is the only.

Sorry, Saskatoon. Smug beats Cool.

I lived in Saskatoon only as a student. I was here for seven years, though only during the last three did I live here year-round. So, my experience of Saskatoon was, and my enduring perception of Saskatoon is, bound up in that time of my life – youth, coming of age, undergrad enthusiasm, the excitement of limitless potential, of the future, of new independence.

Saskatoon’s historical role has been to take custody of the young people of this province at a crucial and impossible stage in our development – that stage where we have seemingly outgrown our hometowns and any and all adults who live there. We are all placed into the hands of your city by our parents, who are confident that this city will finish us off, one way or another, and turn us into adults.

I have been back here countless times over the thirty years since I left, but every visit evokes a flood of feelings – as it does for thousands of graduates all over the world. Saskatoon was a place and a time of innumerable “firsts” in our lives, many of them accompanied by the declaration “I am never, ever, doing that again.”

Saskatoon is the site of our most dramatic transformations, of youthful indiscretions, excessive enthusiasms, earnest inquiry, lost innocence and the seeds of wisdom.

I often think, if I came back and lived here – if Saskatoon became my home –   would I walk around this city with that sense of wonder and hope and faith that falls over me every time I visit?

I hope that I would.

Fort Qu’Appelle

Almost a year ago there was poll published, declaring Saskatchewan to be Canada’s Ugliest Province.

To be completely accurate, the euphemism used was “least beautiful.” And, the designation referred to Saskatchewan’s scenery, not its people.

To celebrate Canada Day, some outfit called Abacus Data invited Canadians to rank the provinces in a number of categories — taxes, government management, friendliness, scenic beauty, business climate, etc. And now, thanks to this hitherto unknown company and its cruel poll results, we are the butt of “your province is so ugly…” jokes.

It’s not a big surprise. If you ask us what we love about Saskatchewan, we’ll say “oh, it’s the people” or, “it’s a great place to raise a family” or, “there’s such a sense of community” or “I got a job and had to move here.” For most of us, then, Saskatchewan is charitably described as “the girl with personality,” the kind of province for whom friends have trouble finding a blind date. We’re the province who took her dad to the prom.

Stubble-jumpers reacted defensively on Internet comment boards, listing all the very beautiful things to be found here. The saddest, but most frequent comment was this: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Right. So is ugly.

In a special betrayal, it turns out that Western Canadians, including Saskatchewanians themselves, were more likely than anyone else to rank Saskatchewan as least beautiful.

How can we expect others to love us if we don’t love ourselves?

How did this happen? Surely, people from Fort Qu’Appelle asked this question more than the rest of us. When you get up in the morning, look out the window, go for a walk or out for a drive, “ugly” is not what you see.

I think we all know the problem – It is the TransCanada Highway.

The really distinctive thing about Saskatchewan, what makes this place so different from the rest of “Oh-So-Freakin’-Beautiful Canada”, is that the southern third of province is dominated by the Great Interior Plains. If you drive through here on the TransCanada, which is all anyone ever does, it’s all you see.

I like the prairies – but eight hours straight of nothing but straight and flat – that’s just too much. The engineers who designed the TransCanada weren’t looking for a challenge. Straight and flat appealed to them. It wasn’t their job to showcase Saskatchewan’s beauty and diversity.

When people responded to this Abacus survey and objected to its conclusions about our lack of beauty – the most common reference was to the Qu’Appelle Valley and how beautiful it is and how, if people just spent more time here, their view of Saskatchewan’s beauty would be entirely different.

It’s true. If the TransCanada just meandered a bit more, dipped through the valley then up through the parkland, into the shield and down through the Great Sandhills and the Cypress Hills – yes, it would take five or six times longer to get to the Rockies, but they wouldn’t be calling us ugly.

Calgary and Edmonton

This is the first trip out of Saskatchewan on this tour.  And, it is fitting that we come to Alberta, because Alberta is where everybody from Saskatchewan goes.

Scott is from Nova Scotia, so he’s not as acutely aware as I am of this cultural demographic phenomenon. I’m from Swift Current, sort of a breeding ground for Albertans. Virtually everyone from Swift Current moves here as soon as he or she can. We drove by Swift Current yesterday – I’m surprised there is anybody left.

I went to law school in Saskatoon; it was the same thing. All the good students moved to Alberta when they graduated. We have our University of Saskatchewan class reunions here in Alberta.

It’s like Saskatchewan has a maximum legal capacity – there can’t be any more than one million people there at one time, or the province loses its liquor license or something. Mostly, it is about opportunity. If you don’t have a job in Saskatchewan, you leave, immediately. Saskatchewan may be home, but it’s not a place you want to be sitting around waiting for something to happen.

We don’t expect people to stay in Saskatchewan and we’re surprised when they do – and slightly suspicious. If you don’t leave home, something is wrong. We don’t even require our Senators to live there. We always swell with pride when we watch football games on t.v. and notice that, everywhere in the league, half the people in the stands are wearing the green and white. That’s right, we swell with pride at the idea that most people from Saskatchewan leave so they can cheer for the Riders in someplace with better weather.

And, it is an easy transition, moving to Alberta. We feel at home here. The people here are very similar. Albertans are really just Saskatchewanians with confidence and money.

Like Saskatchewan, Alberta has the two main cities. We have Saskatoon and Regina, you have Calgary and Edmonton. Naturally, there’s a rivalry. You have the Flames and the Oilers. The Stampeders and the Eskimos. The Dinos and the Golden Bears. We wish we had rivalries like that in Saskatchewan. There isn’t enough people nor enough stuff for a two-city rivalry in most things. No NHL. One CFL team. One big university. We do have a lingerie football league franchise in each city – the Saskatoon Sirens and the Regina Rage – but that rivalry hasn’t caught our imagination just yet.

We can’t really decide what the rivalry is – Saskatoon wants the rivalry to be about which city is more scenic and beautiful. Regina wants the rivalry to be about which city really cares the least about what the other city thinks of it. Regina wins that one hands down.


The Bicycle Tour, Part One: A Rough Beginning

As you will know, if you read the last post, I have spent the last month traveling around the prairie with my friend Scott Anthony Andrews, hawking his CD “Faith is a Bicycle” We had a couple of gigs in Regina, another couple in Saskatoon. Maple Creek. Eastend. Calgary and Edmonton. Selkirk and Winnipeg. And Fort Qu’Appelle. Mostly, audiences were small; sometimes tiny. I’m pleased to report that, at none of our stops did we outnumber those who paid to attend. I believe that is the generally-accepted standard of success for things of this type.

We performed at United Churches in these places – except in Fort Qu’Appelle, where we appeared at the Qu’Appelle Valley Centre for the Arts

To review: We were performing in churches; Scott was performing sacred music; Our Scott Sings / Ross Talks things had always been around religious themes. This Faith is a Bicycle Tour project was steeped in religiosity. So, in preparation for our first gig at Eastside United in Regina, I set to work writing pieces about faith.

I am not religious. I was raised in the United Church and have been involved in the church for much of my adult life – Sunset United Church in beautiful south Regina. When it comes to the United Church, I’m an insider, but with respect to faith matters generally, I’m on the sidelines. I don’t have a detectable spiritual pulse. I am interested in theological issues and have great affection and respect for many people of faith – some of my best friends are religious – but I would characterize myself as a practicing non-believer. When I write about these things, I write observations about – not expressions of – faith.

And. I try to be funny.

Sometimes, this combination of religious outsider perspective and attempted humour works. Sometimes, it does not work. Sometimes I sound like an earnest, respectful but amusing, fellow-traveller on the journey towards enlightenment. Sometimes I sound like a smug asshole.

I’ll let you guess which Ross appeared at our first gig at Eastside United.

Despite my good and respectful intentions, I delivered a performance that leaned towards offensive. I appeared to be mocking the faithful, ridiculing religious belief and suggesting that to be “spiritual” was to be, well, flaky. I dismissed much religion as “goofy” and “nonsense” and “toxic” and noted that “people who appear to be perfectly normal and rational can have a lot of whacky religious silliness rattling around in their skulls.”

I made fun of the notion of sin and the idea that Jesus DIED for those sins [“like we didn’t feel bad enough” I said]. I suggested that the reason that young people aren’t drawn to religion is because most churches prohibit sex – you’re not allowed to do that thing you most want to do. I used the expression “The Church of the Unscratched Itch” to characterize this self-defeating phenomenon. I belittled the difficult struggle the United Church has waged towards becoming inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities – saying that our discomfort with the subject was based, not on any religious principles, but on the fact that the United Church is very WASPy and uptight. We are  uncomfortable talking about sex AT ALL. We just wanted the conversation to end. “Okay  fine – gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons – you’re all in. Now, can we please talk about something else?”

I also appeared to dismiss strongly-held views of church members on social issues and environmentalism – saying that “we’ve dispensed with religious things that make us feel bad, like sin, and replaced them with a leftist political and liberal agenda – one that emphasizes inclusion, feeling good and sensible shoes.”

Now, all of this might have worked, had I done a better job at first establishing that I was actually a nice, likable guy and not an asshole – or had I been working towards some over-arching unifying view of spirituality that somehow justified all these cheap shots.

But no. I died.

I felt bad. Especially for Scott. This was the first stop on our nine-performance tour. Was he going to have to watch me die another eight times? His performance was great, by the way, as always. [If you haven’t bought the CD yet, let me know.] Scott was gentle in his assessment, suggesting that I could perhaps shorten things up, be a little less “preachy”, maybe stop calling the audience stupid, that sort of thing.

Our next stop was six days later at our home church – Sunset United, in beautiful south Regina. Blessedly, my role was somewhat reduced for this one, because we were sharing the stage with a swing choir called Cadence. I would do just a couple of bits and otherwise just act as M.C. for the event.

In the days after Eastside and before Sunset, I despaired. If only giving up were an option. It wasn’t. Scott was counting on me to accompany him on this three province tour. I had no choice but to pull it together somehow.

I had to figure out why I’d so badly bombed. After a lot of feverish, late-night ruminating, it came to me. I suck. I’ve always sucked. My big mistake was thinking otherwise.

It was in that “I suck” state of mind, that I composed a piece that I delivered as my first offering at Sunset.

It is called “Janet’s Story”, for reasons that will become evident:

For most of my life, I didn’t do much public speaking. I didn’t have any confidence – for good reason. Any time I did speak in public, the response was tepid. Polite at best. At worst, annoyed and vaguely offended. I have a sense of humour that is not always funny.

That all changed about 16 years ago, right here in this sanctuary. It was the spring of the very first Benefit Concert for Regina’s Anti-Poverty Ministry. Somehow, I found myself on the planning committee. I am terrible at planning anything and worse at being on committees – so being on a planning committee was a special kind of nightmare. But church is where you do things you’re not very good at. I wanted to contribute in some substantive way, so when it came up that there would be a reception after the concert – well, I jumped at that. How hard could that be? Get people to bring baked goods, get the Church ladies to make coffee. A breeze.

The weekend before the concert, I got up at announcement time and I made a request that congregation members bring some goodies for the reception. I wanted to make the announcement entertaining, tried to play on the word “dainty”

That announcement changed my life.

That was the first of what became known as “The Dainty Speeches”. People loved my announcement. They thought I was just the cleverest, funniest guy. I became known to everyone as The Dainty Guy. Many people did not know my real name. Many still don’t. On the strength of that first announcement, I became the go-to guy at Sunset for anything that involved talking. I did about six more Dainty Speeches. I pop up at announcement time, whether I have anything to announce or not. I’ve MCed retirement parties and farewells and tribute nights. I’ve spoken at weddings, during services, at faith gatherings during Lent. I even gave a sermon. I write a couple of blogs now. I quit my job. All of this can be traced to that fateful morning when I asked for your dainties.

It was because of the reputation that grew from those dainty speeches and the confidence I gained from it that I agreed to partner up with Scott for this Faith Bicycle Tour.

Well, we had our first stop last weekend at Eastside. Scott did a wonderful job. The songs are great and he performed them well. My part went okay – but something wasn’t quite right. For some reason I wasn’t connecting with the audience quite the way I’d like.

In the following days, this vague sense of unease grew into a frenzy of self-examination. What has happened to me? Have I lost my Dainty Guy mojo? Forever?

Then, I sat down this morning and wrote the first draft of this monologue. That first draft outlined my early triumph in the baked goods procurement business and how I’d gone from that to what I was now describing as a humiliation at Eastside. I suggested that perhaps I had misinterpreted the response to the Dainty Speech – maybe it was all a terrible mistake – I’m really no good at this.  I wrote a heart wrenching tale of existential crisis. It ought to have been entitled From Dainty to Disaster. I thought it was beautiful, though dark. Personal, yet universal.

I read it to Janet, my wife, and awaited her praise – both for the quality of the work and for my courage in telling my story.

“Are you out of your mind?” she said.

That wasn’t the response I was expecting.

“You don’t like it?” I asked.

“You absolutely cannot do that piece. People will think you’re crazy.”

As she was describing in detail how I could not possibly deliver my pathetic and self-indulgent, mid-life induced idiocy, I had an epiphany. I love it when that happens. I realized what had gone wrong last week at Eastside. I had worked very hard on my pieces for that night – and, like today with the first draft of this thing, I was very pleased with the result.  But, last week, I had not run my script past Janet – because she’s been laid up by a concussion and I didn’t want to bother her.

I have always run things past Janet and she frequently saves me from myself – because, although I’ve been blessed with many gifts, judgement is not among them. It turns out that Janet is my Mojo. I can’t be Dainty without her.

So, much to Scott’s relief, I have jettisoned most of what I worked so hard on, and I have started from scratch. Janet will henceforth have the final say. The future of this project is now safely in the relatively competent hands of a woman with a head injury.

You just sing and play, Scott. We’ll be fine. Really. Trust me.





He’s Back

I  recently had a “for God’s sake, the Minister’s coming up the walk, put some pants on” moment.

First, some background.

I have a good friend, Dr. Scott [Let’s just call him Dr. Scott. His actual name is complicated.].  He’s a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. Scott writes songs – mostly spiritually-themed songs. He accompanies himself on the piano. The songs are very good and he sings them very well.

Scott and I go to the same church, Sunset United, in scenic South Regina [] A couple of years ago, our Minister, Kathy, suggested that Scott perform some of his songs on an evening during Lent. Kathy likes to do evening “events” during Lent. Scott loves to perform, but didn’t want to do something that looked too much like a concert. No problem, said the Reverend Kathy, Ross will speak. He’ll write up some reflections on Lent,  on your songs, whatever.

I was happy to be asked. It was fun. As much fun as a Lenten Event can appropriately be.

Since then, we’ve done a few of these “Scott Sings – Ross Reads – Kathy Presides Reverently” things, earning ourselves effusive praise from  the near dozen people who turn up.

Professor Scott is on sabbatical right now and has used some of his time to record a CD, entitled “Faith is a Bicycle”. It’s not out yet. The CD launch will be at Eastside United Church on April 20th, at 7:00 with an unofficial relaunch at Sunset United on the 26th.

Scott has planned a bit of a prairie tour to promote his CD. He’s invited me to tag along and do some “Ross Reads” bits. I’m in the process of writing those bits. Really. I am. It’s not the sort of thing you can rush, probably. You just have to be ready to write when the bit wants to be written. And I am.

Kathy, sadly, cannot join us for the tour, because she has a job. Very inconvenient. Yet practical. So, we’ll be taking off with only our Google maps and without adequate spiritual direction. Kathy will keep her phone on, in case we lose our way.

We’ll be all over the place –  Maple Creek, East End, maybe Saskatoon. Calgary. Medicine Hat. Edmonton. Selkirk. Winnipeg.

Scott has created a website: . You can keep up with the news there. His website is much flashier than this one. Most websites are flashier than this one. I’m all about “essence”.

If you would like a preview of what you might hear when you buy the CD or attend one of the “events”, listen to this: It is the song “I Say Amen to That”, which will be on the CD. Unless you have an ear of tin or a heart of stone, you will like this song.

So. Anyway. I was out for coffee with Scott the other day. He’d been exchanging emails with my Sister, Heather, who lives near Maple Creek. Among other things, Heather is the Cultural Soul of the South West. That is an unofficial title and, like “blogger” does not have any financial consequences. She and Scott have been busy organizing the concert at the Maple Creek United Church – May 4th, 7:30. I have tried to stay out of the “organizing” part of this, because I am a “big picture” guy and details simply don’t matter to me, insofar as I am even aware of them. Scott and Heather had been discussing the poster that would advertize the Maple Creek concert. My only contribution to the poster project was to suggest that my two blog sites appear on the poster – next to my name, preferably.

Yes, I have two sites; this one that you’re on right now, and the Huffington Post one: Having two blogs has doubled my blogging income.

Scott had put my HuffPost site on the poster, but he and Heather worried that, if we put up the web address of this site [] people might actually go to it and read what’s there. “We’re playing to a church audience,” Scott explained, “Your sister mentioned to me that the mcmacman blog has quite a bit of bad language.”

“What the …,” I began, then thought better of it.

“And another thing,” Scott said, somewhat uncomfortably, “I looked at the mcmacman site the other day. The most recent post is from December.”

“Yeah, well not having written anything lately is a characteristic I share with Charles Dickens,” I [ought to have] said.

So. I’m profane. Worse, I am “yesterday’s” profanity.

I think Scott and Heather worry needlessly. My Mom is a United Church Lady and she reads my stuff. Of course, she has a natural affection for me, having given birth to me and raised me to be the foul-mouthed fellow that I am. Others might not be so tolerant of my bad wordiness. Recall, however, this is the United Church. We’re pretty relaxed about many of the things that get other religioes agitated. Just as an example, it’s fair to say, in UCC circles, that denial of the divinity of Jesus is less controversial than the denial of global warming. Premarital sex is probably okay, so long as it is “scent free” and you go outdoors to smoke afterwards. These, of course, are not serious examples, but you know what I mean. Let’s just say I have always been comfortable in the United Church.

As for my neglect of this site, I confess that my efforts have been expended elsewhere and nowhere. I try to put something on HuffPost as often as I can, just because, well, come on, it’s the HuffPost – people might read my posts there. People I don’t know, I mean. People I have not individually contacted and said “hey, read this.”

Not only that – the HuffPo people take care of the site. I’m not good with technical details. You might notice that I have no interesting graphics or any other bells and whistles on this site. Every time I try to do something to make the site appear more interesting, I get confused and frustrated and I give up. As a result, this thing is like a great long Word document. Not so with the HuffPo – they know what they’re doing.

Also, you might have noticed that I no longer invite comments. Why doesn’t Ross want to hear what people think? Can’t he handle a little constructive criticism? Well one might ask. No. The answer is that I am inundated with things purporting to be comments on my blog posts but are actually just attempts by businesses to get their websites on my website. I have seventeen thousand pending comments. Seventeen thousand. I can’t sift through them to figure out what’s a real comment and what’s just spammity spam. I can’t even delete them all, there are so many. So, I’ve just turned off the comment invitation. If you really want to reach me – email me at Do not offer to sell me any product to enhance my manhood.

I’ve looked this over. Over eleven hundred words, not a single bad one. And, as soon as I click “publish” I will be have cleared up the troubling perception that Ross Knows has died. I’m clean. I’m current. Put me on that poster dammit.





Burning Love

It’s Christmas.

I have a Turkey Story.

I’ve been telling my Turkey story for a very long time. My story predates both Mr. Bean’s “Turkey on His Head” skit and Stuart McLean’s “Dave Cooks the Turkey”. I’m not claiming to have invented the Turkey Story genre, nor that I served as an example or inspiration to either Mr. Bean or Stuart McLean – neither of whom likely heard my story before creating his own. I am just saying, consistent with my hipster image, that I was telling a Turkey Story before it was “a thing”.

My Turkey Story, unlike the others, is a true story. Fictional stories, their characters and especially their turkeys, are free of the restrictions that bind true stories like mine. Not having to worry about details like factual accuracy, Stuart McLean could focus entirely on making his story interesting and funny. I can only be as entertaining as reality allows. Keep that in mind as you read this, and be gentle with your judgments.

As I mentioned, it was a long time ago. A simpler time – before the internet and blogging and the Vinyl Cafe radio show. My wife and I were relative newlyweds and this was the first Christmas in our first house together. And, we had a baby – Little Boy Number One [not his real name].

I was a young lawyer working hard to establish a career [had I known then what I know now …] and trying to make an impression [a favourable one]. When I started with the Branch, I was a single guy, maybe a bit irresponsible and unreliable. I wanted to show that I’d evolved, matured. What better way to introduce my colleagues to the “adult” version of Ross, than  by taking on one of the more substantial tasks of The Office Christmas Party? Other than hosting it. I’m not an idiot.

My father once told me that, in some cultures, their conception of hell is an eternity spent planning an office Christmas Party.

Office Christmas parties are catered. At our office Christmas party planning session, the question ought to have been: “Who will we hire to cater our Christmas party?” Somehow, that relatively sensible question became: “Should we have this catered or do it ourselves?” Even with the question framed so dangerously, surely, sanity would prevail?. It did not. One of my colleagues waxed wistfully about the traditional Christmas dinner – all homemade wholesomeness, warmth, sincerity, roasting chestnuts and figgy pudding. Madness. Sadly, this lone soul yearning for turkey and gravy, in addition to being much-beloved, was The Boss.

What a great idea.

Coincidentally, my wife, who was also a young lawyer at the time – and also working hard to establish a legal career, but with some success – had been given a turkey by a grateful client. It was a big athletic turkey from a Hutterite colony she had done some work for. We didn’t have any plans for this turkey because we were going out of town for Christmas. And, really, I don’t like turkey.

Serendipity – My colleagues needed a turkey; I had a spare one sitting in my freezer.

I volunteered to cook The Turkey. Yes I did. The centerpiece of the Christmas dinner. The focus of the event. The head liner. The most important character in the Christmas pageant, with the possible exception of the Baby Jesus, and the only one who gets eaten.

I had never cooked a turkey.

I’d seen lots of turkeys being cooked. It looked pretty easy. Put it in the oven. Some time later, take it out. Ooohs and aaahs ensue and Christmas is complete.

In case you hadn’t guessed – this is one of those “what could possibly go wrong?” stories. It’s a tired old thing, I know. But it’s Christmas. We celebrate old traditions, even corny ones. Just let yourself go with this.

I knew it couldn’t be as simple as it looked. I asked my wife. She also had never cooked a turkey and, despite her gender, had no innate knowledge of how to do it. She suggested I look in a cook book. I was hoping she would volunteer to take on the task entirely. I knew better than to ask. Again – I’m not an idiot. She didn’t even offer to help, so confident was she in my abilities. Or something.

In retrospect, I ought to have practiced – bought a flock of turkeys and cooked one every day until I’d worked out the bugs. Our mothers and grandmothers perhaps cooked turkeys so well because they’d cooked so many of them? No. Somehow, I figured I would cook this one turkey exactly right the first time. Working without a net.

The Day of the Office Christmas Party came. So soon. The plan was that I would cook the turkey at home and take it over to the party, which my Boss was hosting, conveniently, half a block away.

I used “The Joy of Cooking” – the essential basics cookbook. From what I read, it really wasn’t very hard. The Joy recommended, for a moist and flavourful breast [the turkey’s], that I place a butter-soaked cheese cloth on it. Oh. That sounded great. Who doesn’t love buttery breasts? I pre-heated the oven and melted some butter in a bowl. I set a cheese cloth in it – soaked it well. I put the turkey in the roasting pan [I can’t remember if I made stuffing. That’s something I’d probably remember, so let’s assume I didn’t. Remember – True Story]. When the oven was ready, I folded the buttery cheese cloth carefully and placed it on the top of “The Bird”, as I was now calling it.

The Bird was big. It filled the oven. It had to be big. It was shouldering a huge burden. Not only would it be feeding all of my colleagues and their spouse-like guests, it would be nourishing their spirits.

My wife had gone out for the afternoon with the Baby – the better, one assumes, to avoid any responsibility for this turkey.

About half an hour, forty minutes later, I  was washing up a few things. We had what I suppose one might call a “galley kitchen” – a narrow room with the sink and cupboards and counters on one side and the oven, fridge, microwave, smaller counter and some more cupboards on the other side. I was standing at the sink, across from the oven, when I noticed I was casting a dark shadow on the kitchen wall. I heard some crackling. I turned. There was a bright light shining from the oven door window. No, this was not a near-death experience. Not yet. My turkey was on fire. Somehow, the cheese cloth that was so butteringly moisturizing my turkey’s burgeoning breasts had ignited and had become the big fluffy wick to a huge turkey candle. Then, the heat and flame from the cheese cloth spread and the whole turkey was a ball of fire.

I opened the oven door, pulled the fiery rack out. This turkey was going to burn down my new house. But, even as I panicked and reviewed my limited options  – the fire extinguisher? baking soda? I paused: I have to save this turkey. It IS the Christmas Party. If I don’t salvage this flaming Hutterite free range and extremely flamable son of a bitch, I will be known forever as “a former colleague who ruined Christmas”.

Meanwhile, things are getting very hot.

I took the first thing I could grab off the counter – which turned out to be a large plastic fork – and I began beating the turkey with it. By now all the skin had burned off and the fire was restricted to the flavour-boosting cheese cloth. The smoke detector screamed in the background. I picked away at the cheese cloth, which had fused to the turkey’s breast by this point. I dunked the flaming bits into the fat at the bottom of the pan, which extinguished them.

I sat on the floor, exhausted, next to a big, black, smoking, skinless bird, its breasts littered with bits of charred cheese cloth. Eventually, the smoke detector went quiet. I looked in my hand and saw, to my horror, that the plastic fork was missing a tine.

The only good news was that, this being the Christmas season, there was plenty of rye in the house.

It had only been in the oven for a few minutes. It was still raw. Yes, it was now skinless. Who eats turkey skin anyway? Yes it was black. So very black. Let’s call it “seared”. I cleaned it off the best I could, got the ashes out of the roasting pan. I gave up trying to find the missing fork tine. I put The Bird back in the oven. I spent the afternoon nursing that bastard back to life. I basted it every few minutes. I basted myself more often. Within a few hours, it was done. And so was I. As I have so many times in my life, I assumed that a bad situation would magically be made better if I drank a lot. And, like always, it worked – as far as I could tell.

I took that beautiful black bird out, put the top on the roaster, put it on our toboggan and staggered to the party.

My coworkers were speechless. Sure, they’d all had burned or overcooked turkey before, but none had ever seen a turkey that had actually been set on fire. Nor one so very very black. I imagine they assumed the worst. I don’t know for sure. I was pissed. I declined the offer to carve my masterpiece. “Let the host do it,” I can imagine I slurred.

The turkey was beautiful. Moist and tender. The juices were sealed in, I guess. And, my aggressive basting paid dividends. I remember enough about the evening to report that my first turkey was a tremendous success. It was a turkey that they’d all be talking about many years hence.

I don’t know who ate the tine.




Family Supper

[WARNING: the usual.  Consider yourself warned. You have only yourself to blame. And, if pressed, I will claim that none of this is true.]

Surely, Ross is not going to trash the sacred Family Supper?

No. The inmates at  McMac Manor are habitual, almost daily, participants in that mythical ritual. Like the family itself, McMac family suppers are rarely pleasant and are frequently awful. However, it has never occurred to us to give up on the practice of gathering together for the evening meal – any more than it has occurred to us to give up on the “family” thing entirely. In the end, the only thing that signals serious family dysfunction  more than a fucking awful family supper is not having family supper at all. We may be losing, but we’re in the game.

Scientists have studied the family supper. To death. The results are good. Eating together as a family at least four times a week unleashes a shower of beneficial effects – lower risk of obesity, substance abuse and eating disorders. Increased chance of graduating from high school. Family suppering kids are less likely to get into fights or be promiscuous. They’re more well-mannered. They develop healthier eating habits. They feel like that have a more stable home environment.

Wistful websites describe the family dinner as an opportunity for conversation; family members sharing the day’s experiences, discussing current events; kids learning to communicate and to listen; parents making that essential connection with their children’s lives and passing on the value of their insight and experience. It is a rich, nurturing time, fostering familial bonds which will last a lifetime.

Perhaps this is the way family suppers work in the lab, where these families were studied by eager scientists searching for the magic secret of the successful family. Perhaps all those good things happen to family supper regulars who follow the prescribed suppering protocols. But, what about us? After a typical family supper, all I want to do is kill them, then myself, then do dishes. I’m not saying that we don’t  or won’t enjoy all the benefits the studies predict. I wouldn’t describe us as a family of fat, drunk, drug addicted, violent, promiscuous highschool dropouts with bad manners and poor nutritional habits – or, at the very least, I’d like to think it’s only part of the story. I’m assuming that some benefits will flow from our practice because all the misery and mayhem, violence and hate occurs at the dinner table every evening and we just don’t have the will or energy to get into any further trouble. And, I comfort myself by assuming that most families are like mine.

Like all parents, we care about our kids’ nutrition. Like most kids, our boys use that information to torment us.

Eat your peas.
No. You didn’t.
I ate most of my peas.
You hardly ate any. You ate maybe one pea.
You gave me too many peas. Why do you always give me too many peas?
Well, eat half of your peas.

Eventually, the kid is eating one pea at a time, claiming with each pea that he cannot eat even one more.

While the attention of two university educated adults is intensely focused on negotiating the one-at-a-time pea eating of a seven-year old, the middle boy has tossed his broccoli under the table and the youngest has wandered off.

Then, we move to rice or potatoes. Salad. Corn. Beef. Chicken.

Multiplied by three boys.

And on into the night. The food cools and eventually becomes inedible. The struggle threatens all evening plans. It is a battle of mutually destructive wills. As always: lose-lose.

This version of the food fight ruined most days for many years. But it wasn’t the worst thing.

Sibling rivalry and other family “issues” are at their most intense around the supper table, when we wholesomely force mortal enemies to sit facing one another and place sharp implements in their hands. The supper table is a cage: only one can come out alive – at most.

Worst is when there is a sibling truce, so the three can unite to focus on the real enemy.

My non-ex wife and I erred in showing them that we care that they eat. We compounded that error by exposing them to our political, moral and religious views and by demonstrating through word and deed that we care about those things and take them seriously. The next time I have kids, I’m not letting them know that I care about anything. Kids have few opportunities to exercise real power. Fucking with one’s parents is a  source of power. Showing contempt for everything that parents value, while refusing to eat your vegetables? Is  there anything more satisfying?

I can remember as a child denying my mother the satisfaction of having a child with good table manners. That’s how rebellious I was – I put my elbows on the table, didn’t use a knife and fork properly, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, chewed with my mouth open. And I laughed. I mocked her horror.

Whoa. Bad Ass.

If only things were still that simple.

My kids swear at the table. Swear? Are you kidding? Why would they do that?

Because, we don’t want them to.

We subscribe to all the “inclusive” political orthodoxies.

Our kids joyfully and profanely spew racism and misogyny, mock the poor and disabled, scorn the overweight and the unattractive.

We encourage empathy.

They loudly express angry misanthropy. They side with the bully. They cheer the oppressors.

The books say “lead by example”. We do. That’s how they know which buttons to push.

But perhaps the worst is their urge to shock us with graphic sex talk. I’m sure this wasn’t happening in those studies of happy families launching themselves into successful lives by suppering together. Our boys are constantly accusing each other of participating in all manner of wild, sometimes violent sexual activity – consensually or otherwise. This grotesque nattering began when they were young, long before any of them likely had any idea about what they were describing in such detail. I blame the internet and the school system. Most of the sex acts they described were homosexual – I suppose because this had the double impact of playing on young boys’ insecure homophobia while also frustrating their parents’ efforts to foster a home environment, free of those kinds of phobias. And, once it gets started, it escalates and they work themselves into a gay-pornographic frenzy. At least we’re not fighting about eating peas anymore.

Their mother tries to break through the chaos by leaving the table dramatically – “storming” is how I’d describe it – but I sit there, waiting for things to die down so we can get to all that respectful discussion and sharing of the daily news, all that nurturing, bond-forging bullshit I’ve heard so goddamned much about. Good luck.

Despite the Twilight Zone I find myself in, I continue to react like I’m Ward Cleaver, dealing with Wally and the Beave – “Now boys, if I hear one more reference to anal penetration, we’re not going to the Dairy Queen. I mean it.”

And I do mean it. We rarely go to the Dairy Queen.They know who’s boss.