Monthly Archives: December 2013

just being boys

my sleep sucks.

again.

need to write.  writing helps.  it’s an escape at the very least.

anyone still reading this blog since the beginning (almost 5 years) knows that sleep has been quite elusive in my life.  shift work in shelters and group homes doesn’t probably help much.  having a couple sleep disorders doesn’t, neither. sleep apnea and insomnia combine to wreck most of my attempts to sleep.

right now i could use two days straight.  i’m just getting home from doing a back-to-back shifts.  first shift was at the rebuilding, a transitory, harm-reduction building housing men from the main men’s shelter in the city, metro turning point.  i recently go hired on as a client support worker.  my second shift was at the group home.  11-8am.

now it’s time for bed… if i can fall asleep.

ugh.

it’s not all bad, though. i like to believe there’s some positive in all the negativity my sleep problems bring to the table.

i get more time to read.

maybe you don’t see that as much of a trade-off.  i guess i’m odd, then.  i’m a big fan of reading. always have been. history, religion, politics, psychology, philosophy, etc, etc.

it all fascinates me.

my addiction.

my escape.

my mom was a single parent growing up. dad lived far away, at first, because he played pro football in other cities, and then because he remarried an american woman. mom and i often lived with a roommate to make things cheaper.

that’s how eric entered our lives.

eric was an old man who had served in world war 2 with the canadian airforce. he was there on d-day peppering the nazis on normandy’s cliffs with gunfire, trying to give his fellow soldiers a fighting chance when they hit the beaches.

he was a hero.

he told me lots of stories of his days in the military.  some were really funny stories of jokes they played on each other, while other stories were more serious. some times he cried after telling me one of the more serious one. i would cry, too. i could tell by the expression on his face that he was really hurting inside.

at first, eric was just a friend of a friend who needed a room for rent, but eventually became a part of our family. kind of like a surrogate grandpa.

and i loved him like a grandfather, too.

he would teach me how to take things i found in the forest behind our house and make all kind of different tools and (to my mother’s dismay) weapons.

eric would teach me how to find the perfect stick to bend into a bow with some string. in a matter of minutes we would be shooting arrows at targets in my backyard.

i became a pretty good shot from what i remember.

though, maybe it’s selective memory.

when the hit cartoon series teenage mutant ninja turtles filtered into my life, eric showed me how to make another weapon: nunchucks.

nunchucks

in case you aren’t sure what those are, i’ve provided a picture for you here.

we were just being boys.

unfortunately for me, as soon as mom found out i had made them she took them away. she wasn’t too impressed with the nunchucks and probably figured i’d crack someone’s head open.

or my own.

probably for the best.

eric would also read to me at night. but instead of reading me books for my age group (5-6) he would read me war books or aviation manuals full of physics equations and flying jargon.

ya know, typical little boys books.

my mom asked him one time, “eric, why are you reading him books that are way over his head? he’s only a little boy.”

“darlene,” he said. “children can learn to understand much more than we give them credit for. besides, he asks ME to read them to him.”

eric was a loner. he didn’t really have any family or friends left.  he covered his tv set so “they couldn’t watch him” (he had pstd from the war).  he walked all over the place, collecting nuts and bolts and other thingamabobs he would find on the road. he had dozens of containers for everything he found.

a very organized pack rat.  everything had its own, particular place.

except his books.

i’ll always remember the giant book shelf in his room.  it stood like a triumphant trophy case over his small abode. i could see books with pictures of planes, tanks, ships and soldiers scattered all about his room. i can still see the influence he had on me then when i look around my apartment and see my books all over the place.

monkey see, monkey do.

i credit eric with not only my love for reading today but helping my mom to educate me and develop my young mind.  young single moms need that sort of help from their communities.

everyone wants to help in ways that are big.  end poverty.  end homelessness.  end world hunger.  end war.  end slavery. all these are great but i got one better:  help a kid read.

i’ll be so bold to say that there’s nothing more impacting on our society and future than helping others read.  you get the next generations to read their history books, maybe they won’t repeat history over again like us and our parents and grandparents.

maybe then we won’t still be plagued by homelessness, starvation, war, poverty, slavery, because they won’t wilfully remain ignorant of the world around them.

confucius, the ancient chinese philosopher and wandering sage, said it best. “no matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

eric died when i was 6.

i don’t really remember that time very well. either time has stolen it away from me or i’ve simply blocked it out. i’m not sure.

i do remember feeling a deep sadness. like i had lost my best friend.

i guess in many ways i had.

miss you, eric.  thanks for the support and love. i hope you’re resting in peace.

bedtime.

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the lies we buy

greatness

greatness awaits.

that’s the new catch phrase being used by sony playstation to promote their new gaming console. a series of scenes showing men  in medieval times battling each other with swords and battle axes, racing fast cars and leading futuristic armies against one another make up the bulk of the commercial. the men sing the late lou reed’s ‘a perfect day’ as they do all this, adding a bit of humour while alluding to the ‘connectedness’ of the on-line gaming culture.

i get it. its smart advertising on sony’s part. men have a natural inclination towards exploring and conquering. it seems to be in our genes. so in one fell swoop, sony was able to portray a product that enables its users to explore new worlds, save humanity from an alien invasion and score the winning goal in fifa world cup.  and you can do it all in one afternoon with your buddies, if you like.

smart.

i don’t want to critique video games or even the people who play them, though i must admit that’s my first inclination. i used to play video games when i was younger so i’d only be a hypocrite if i took that approach. i’d prefer to critique the motto driving this current product – greatness awaits.

video games used to be for kids and youth. today, the demographic has shifted to men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. with the demographic shift has come a shift in content for games. video game companies focus more on marketing to the older crowd using war, racing and sports.

again, i get it. it’s smart to go after this demographic since they have both the money and time to invest.

smart business.

what gets me is that men are more willing to spend their hard-earned money on, invest their precious time in and build community around/within video games when real greatness awaits them outside of all this.

i agree with sony that “greatness awaits”, but i disagree where we will find it.

i like the quote by martin luther king, jr where he says, “not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”   instead of entertaining ourselves with great things, shouldn’t we be employing our gifts, talents and resources in great service to those that need them?
issues to give your gifts, talents and resources to:

a growing movement of people are standing up against all the forms of slavery in our world, but more are needed.  human rights groups estimate that anywhere between 12.3 million and 27 million people are enslaved in forced or bonded labour, child labour, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude at any given time.

world hunger and poverty still needs a lot of hands on deck. the united nations food and agriculture organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.

how much does a video game console cost? this latest sony product is pushing $1000.

there is still a large need for big brothers or sisters everywhere. many youth are growing up without any positive role models to help them navigate their lives – education, employment, health, drugs, etc. mentoring can go a long way in the life of a child.

i could also mention the unnecessary wars being fought with corporate profits and not people in mind, or the environmental degradation and exploitation happening all over the globe, or the racism, sexism and prejudice that need people actively working against.

but these things don’t get the sexy commercials and airtime that sony money can buy.

great things do await us, but i don’t think it’s found in the escapism of video games (or any other things – alcohol, sports, tv, politics – we use for escapism) but involvement in the real issues that affect the communities we live in, the countries we inhabit and the world we must leave to our great-grandchildren.

true greatness awaits us, if we choose to pursue and sacrifice for it.

/rantover

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