Thursday, August 28, 2008

All About Wine

I’ve discovered everyone in the Okanagan is an expert on wine and wine making. I’ll include myself in that robust, earthy, full bodied, oaky group as well, thank you.

First some background.

Wine was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus when he landed in the Napa Valley. In later voyages he also discovered the drunk tank, Australia, potatoes, chocolate, coffee, lattes, syphilis, fungus, the Tijuana Brass and bubonic plague (same thing really).

Back at the start though, Columbus took the wine plant home with him to Spain or Portugal or Italy someplace, where monks used the delicious fruit to make raisins. Some of the raisins stored in jars fermented and exploded – thus creating Pop Tarts. This has nothing to do with wine really – I just made that part up.

Anyway, wine plants produce grapes in all kinds of flavours and varieties. There’s Champoo, Cabriolet, Infantile, Riceling, Pie-note Blank, SovietMignon Blank, Blankety Blank, Merlin, Baby Duck, Moody Blue, Dire Straits and many others.

There are also a lot of wineries in the Okanagan. Some of the more popular are BrokeOrchard, Flooded Basement, DamnTheALR, TaxSchloss-Carry-Vorwart, and Concussed Defenceman.

The reason there are so many wineries in the Okanagan is because there are so many places where grapes are grown here. Sheesh – work with me here.

So wine is pretty popular hereabouts, as you can tell from the number of boating accident reports that include the phrase ‘alcohol may have been a factor’.

If you have just moved here from Alberta (and really – who hasn’t?) you probably think wine comes from holes in the ground and you are no doubt desperate to fit in. The fluid in the lake is not oil by the way.

All this means you should go on a few winery tours.

Winery tours are great for learning about wine and alcohol related bus accidents. You’ll learn things like what ‘delicately balanced’ means, or how the term ‘fruity’ can be used in a sentence without causing offense.

You’ll also hear things like “Try this one”, “Off the floor”, “Hand me your fat wallet”, and so on.

Really serious wine snobs actually spit out their wine on these wine tours instead of drinking it, if you can imagine.

When it comes to spitting out wine, I had lunch with a guy once who breathed instead of swallowed and actually sprayed wine out of both nostrils and I think his ears. He put on quite a geyser show – I thought he was pitching some sort of fit in a blatant attempt to get out of paying for lunch, the devil. I managed to wrestle his VISA card from his twitching clutches and got it to the waiter in time, but it was close.

Turns out everything was fine – he paid for lunch.

By now if you’re still on a winery tour you’ll have purchased several cases of fine wine, or some cases of maple syrup in Mountie-shaped bottles, depending on how drunk you were when entering the gift shop.

Now it is time to pair the wine with the appropriate food. Official wine people will tell you that correctly pairing wine with food is essential to achieving orgasms or something.

Being a family with young children, we frankly don’t care. At the end of a hectic day, all Mom and Dad really desire is getting as much plonk into our empty bellies as will fit in a short period of time, and if it goes well with Kraft Dinner and wieners then so much the better. Red wine is good with burgers, white goes well with Cheerios. There. Consider yourself paired.

As to specific wines and wineries, tourists in the Okanagan and other wine-producing regions of Canada should pay particular attention to the Tim Horton Estate’s 2008 Zesty Apple Fritterweine, which is available at many of their popular outlets.

Incidentally, their brewing division also has a great tasting beer this year called…wait for it…Tim Bitters.

Thank you. I’ll put a cork in it now.

Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony

As memories of the Beijing Olympic Games fade to memory, I have to admit their opening and closing ceremonies were pretty good. Naturally, ones’ thoughts turn to “What are WE going to do?”

Inside sources indicate that instead of having a single guy run around the edge of the stadium like the Chinese did, our BC Place will be re-shaped into a huge Tim Horton’s cup and the entire crowd will get to roll up the rim. The world will win a donut.

This will be accompanied by an innovative government-sponsored multi-cultural extravaganza of dancers flitting about the field singing maple syrup-themed native music performed by Mountie fiddlers from Cape Breton, Anne Murray conducting.

Dignitaries will then enter the field - Gordon Campbell on the right, Prime Minister Stephen Harper negotiating the centre, and Stephane Dion, slightly left of centre and carrying English subtitles of his English translations, will be one step behind the Prime Minister. Note: this portion of the ceremony may change.

The President of the United States (and Mr. Palin) should be in attendance, although it is unclear if Secret Service helicopter gunships will be able to maneuver inside the stadium as they circle to prevent terrorist attacks. Plan on them circling to the left. The gunships that is.

Former President Bush will also attend, with contingency plans ready in case he goes to the wrong location, for the wrong reason, and doesn’t leave promptly.

Next, 26 school children, gaily decorated to represent the sockeye salmon run, will swim ‘upstream’ into the stadium. Plans are for thousands of kids to be doing this, but all the costumes may not turn up as forecast.

Enormous symbolic hockey players will then be lowered from the ceiling onto the field, their teeth falling out and transforming into magical fairies that will pull each other’s wings over their heads and artistically thump the crap out of each other, to the old Hockey Night in Canada theme.

In a bid to recognize regional culture, plans call for enormously bright lights to descend from the ceiling, with brilliant white duct work and fans emerging from the sidelines. Beneath this apparatus, a huge green plant will sprout and grow, like the world’s hopes and dreams. This ‘Growth Operation’ as organizers call it, will symbolize action on climate change and also upholds our province’s carbon neutrality.

Upon reaching full height, bags of this enormous plant’s leaves and buds will be distributed by colourful bikers to a crowd of snowboarders at the top of huge ramps.

As snow falls from the ceiling, these boarders will then ‘ski’ out of bounds and be saved by a multi-ethnic rescue team. This team will then align themselves with the dreams of the people of Vancouver and hurl the ‘out of bounders’ into an enormous, beaver-shaped wood-chipper.

When the athletes enter, the roar of the digitally enhanced crowd will be overwhelming, mercifully drowning out the sound of Rita McNeil and Celine Dion singing Ave Maria, accompanied by bagpipes.

Finally, the moment the crowd and the world eagerly awaits – the entrance of the Olympic torch.

A mysterious shape will emerge from the far end of the stadium. At centre field on an artificial ice surface, the head of the Canadian delegation, Trevor Linden, will shoot a flaming puck at the object, now revealed in all its glory.

There, burning brightly in effigy, is –

Jerome Iginla – the Eternal Flame.

Let the games begin!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic Observations

I have been watching with keen interest the Beijing Olympics – and not just women’s beach volleyball. Honest.

I have some relevant observations which I think should land me an analyst position with the CBC in short order.

  • How is it the divers can enter the water so gracefully (like me) and not lose their swimsuits (like me)?

  • I cannot help but comment on the scandalous amount of makeup our synchronized swimmers are wearing. I think it is shameful - they look like tarts and this practice must be halted immediately. Shocking – these are young women! And those swimsuits! Don’t they have anything more revealing?

  • I admit I watch javelin throwing mainly to see if one of the judges gets skewered. I’ve seen a few of those videos on the internet which I find quite darkly entertaining. I personally think the judges should be tied to stakes out at the world record mark and see what happens.

  • I think the best commercial so far is the gas station one where the guy comes in with a briefcase full of money and meekly says “Pump number 3?”

  • I’m also intrigued by the Bombardier commercial where everyone in the world is humming Oh Canada – very amusing. Where does a guy get one of those face massages? Do I have to travel to India or are they provided locally? I also think giving one of those massages would be entertaining, especially if you don’t like your customer.

  • Those canoes don’t look like anything I’ve ever paddled in, let me tell you. Where do you put your sandwiches?

  • I would enjoy meeting Michael Phelps and, after appropriate introductions, wrestle him to the ground and closely examine the back of his head. I suspect there is a blowhole there and I would like to confirm this hypothesis.

  • I am also curious if Michael Phelps is any relation to Jim Phelps of Mission Impossible fame.

  • I keenly observe that taekwondo participants appear to be dressed like hockey players sans skates. I think the NHL could benefit from this and should immediately allow kicks to the head from here on.

  • Conversely, I suppose taekwondo participants might benefit from being able to pull an opponents jersey over their head prior to kicking the bejeesus out of them.

  • When did the spelling of Tae Kwon Do change to alloneword anyway?

  • This reporter is actively investigating, on behalf of my male comrades, how to fake fireworks in our nation’s bedrooms. I will get back to you.

  • My children have helpfully suggested that pole vaulters get jabbed with spikes if they hit the bar.

  • Those TV cameras mounted to sleds beside the running track are pretty cool. Can you imagine the great footage you could get for your home movies with a few of those babies?

  • Same with the camera that plummets at the same speed as a diver and into the water. I suspect the camera guy gets extra pay for the constant dunking, trudging back up, dunking etc. Consult your union manual brother!

  • The Decathlon is a grueling event, which comprises several different sports (collectively called a ‘thlon’ – hence the name). The sports include running, jumping, fencing, decking, shoveling and raking. Weeding was removed from the list after complaints from the Russians.

  • Hurdling is amusing to watch, as it consists of Free Tibet protesters running through anti-riot barricades in the fastest time possible without being shot.

  • Watching the Olympics for the first time in High Definition is pretty swell. I can now see every bead of sweat, every blemish, every wrinkle, and every ounce of determination visible on every TV hosts face. The athletes, not so much.

  • These games are perpetuating a tired cliché. I watch them for hours, only to find myself hungry for more just a short time later.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Inventions We Need

Once again humanity is about to benefit from my intellect (which I humbly submit is considerable), having just created a list of brilliant inventions which will make me even wealthier than I am today. Admittedly, this will not be difficult.

First, I envision a radio intercept/broadcasting thingy which will allow me to broadcast my voice on a narrow band in front of or behind my vehicle, out to a range of several hundred meters. This device will allow me to interrupt any sound broadcasting inside the vehicle of drivers who annoy me or who do rude, inconsiderate things. It is not a loudspeaker – my voice will only be audible inside other vehicles.

Imagine being able to yell “Hey you in the white truck! Yes you! You’re a jerk! Stop cutting people off! Ha! Ha! Thank you – please resume speeding”.

This device will be immensely satisfying, as you can imagine. The ability to vent uncontrollably, and actually be heard by the target of your wrath (instead of your kids in the back seat) will be GREAT!

Now I can unleash my wrath upon those whose driving skills do not measure up to my high standards. Or upon those whose masculinity seems to be entirely encompassed in their automobile.

There they’ll be, not advancing into the intersection during a green light like they are supposed to (and you know who they are), when my irritated, blustery voice will magically boom into their automobile and bellow “Advance into the intersection! Immediately! It’s OK – don’t worry about it. You won’t die! Go ahead! Muhahaha…”

Now I won’t have to pull up beside Porsche drivers and ask them if their little sister knows they are driving their Miata? I can challenge them right in their own vehicle.

It would also give one the ability to broadcast something wonderfully Canadian like “Oops! Sorry! Didn’t see you there!”

In the U.S., one could gently ask the other driver to put that gun down. You could really annoy people by asking who this Obama blowhard guy is – completely anonymously!

You could interrupt the fatty in the McDonalds drive-thru ahead of you and make sure they ordered a diet Coke this time.

Investors – line forms on the left.

Next on the list of priceless inventions would be my Virus Identi-Swab. A simple swab inside the mouth will identify exactly what is ailing you, and where or from whom you got it. You would be able to say that what you have contracted is definitely not ‘that flu bug that’s been going around’, but instead say “Yes I have a new strain of malaria, given to me by my cubicle mate 3 days ago – see this?”

Now and forevermore, there will be no controversy or guessing as to what ails you. Is it a flu or just a common cold? Does your employee really have an illness or is she merely hung over? Where DID your teenager get that cough from? This new swab will tell you.

I suppose this miraculous device may shake up health care a little bit, such as the complete elimination of doctors - but we can discuss that minor detail another time mmmkay?

Lastly, I’d like to introduce my Personal Annoyance Forehead Timer. This is a fairly large display unit that is gently implanted into your forehead. By activating a discreet switch on the inside of your left wrist, a bright, fluorescent clock appears prominently above your eyebrows, counting down from 10 seconds.

This timer politely shows your conversation partner exactly how much longer you are willing to put up with them, or how much longer you are willing to listen to their time-wasting drivel. Other visual clues include turning to ones computer or picking up the phone, or rustling the pages of your newspaper just prior to turning the page.

Ah – and there goes your timer now. Good day.

Pontoon Lampoon

A new floating bridge has been built in my city, and everyone is fretting about what to do with the old pontoons. The current plan is to clean them up and sink them in 320 feet of water in the deepest part of the lake. I have other ideas...

I have been giving the old Kelowna bridge pontoons the benefit of my considerable insight and have come up with several practical and wonderful things to do with them. Some of them don’t even involve gunfire or explosives. I may have to take more medication.

Those of a historical bent could re-model them to resemble destroyers or battleships. We could use them as huge landing craft and have history buffs re-create D-Day by invading Penticton twice per day for the tourists. Perhaps Naramata could be dressed up as Caen and Summerland as Cherbourg for added realism.

I have this all worked out with the cities involved except for the paratroopers and the softening up aerial bombardment.

But then I had a better idea. We could moor the pontoons in the middle of the lake and bring in the Canadian Navy, and their gun, to use the pontoons for gunnery practice. For such a large body of water we are chronically under-served by naval forces in this region and I have written to the minister of defence on this matter several times. I’m sure his reply will be here shortly.

No military ships here you say? Well – let’s establish a large shipbuilding industry and build one! Vernon could be a new Belfast or other famous ship-building city whose name currently eludes me! I think a pocket battleship or aircraft carrier would suffice as a starting point (one that could fit under the new bridge of course)(perhaps in several sections that could be re-joined after passage underneath)(I am not a naval engineer).

Talk about tourism! Imagine sitting on a beach, binoculars to eyes, observing the shooting by our naval comrades. We could get the ships (well – ship) of the navy to circle around the lake on goodwill tours when they are not blasting the pontoons to bits. See? Efficient use of taxpayer dollars. I may have to run for office.

For added enjoyment, we could tie useless and annoying celebrities (sorry – redundancy there) to them and pepper them (the celebrities) with naval gunfire (preferably large caliber cannon). Imagine Britney Spears lashed to the side of a large pontoon, being blasted with grapeshot from passing frigates! Ahoy! Wouldn’t that be great?

OK OK – I know the sailors would probably untie her and hit her up for cigarettes and liquor – but it is still a pleasant visual, isn’t it?

In the same militaristic vein, the pontoons would make great anti-aircraft barges for aerial defense. In case of, you know, an invasion or something. Americans are starting to get twitchy about our water again – and this water is worth defending! Everyone to the battlements! Excuse me while I wipe the foam from my lips. No officer – I’m not finished yet. I promise I’ll calm down.

How about a real Exile Island for ourselves? We could use it as a destination for individuals who annoy us (well – annoy me anyway), starting with drivers who cannot merge properly, or annoying co-workers, or cabinet ministers, or people who chew with their mouth open – the possibilities are endless. Given the pontoons size we could accept annoyers from other municipalities too for added revenue.

Since drinking and boating seem to go so well together – why not a floating winery? If the vintage sucks then float the barrels out into the lake and let the Navy have at them with machine guns (see above). Better yet – let ME at the machine guns. I’d pay for that.

Do you sense a certain amount of aggression here? I’m terribly sorry.

Let’s put affordable housing on top of them and rent them out to hippies as waterfront property. Even better would be to attach the pontoons to a single cable and have them spin around (the pontoons, not the hippies). This would be an excellent drug re-hab program.

Let’s pile dirt on top of them, anchor them in the middle of the lake, and make gardens out of them. The Floating Gardens of BabbleOn!

Meh - I give up. If you are really going for highest and best use, lets look at them for what they really are – large grey slabs of concrete. The answer is obvious:

Government office buildings. Done.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rites of Passage

I got an email the other day from a girl I hadn’t heard from in years (I think Facebook is replacing high school reunions rather nicely. Thank goodness – I have nothing to wear). I’m afraid she probably won’t remember, but what I recall the most about her was that it was she and I and several other neighbourhood miscreants that had coerced a new kid on the block to eat handfuls of dirt.

I wasn’t a terribly vindictive child or anything – just curious really. And this new kid, whose name thankfully escapes me, was really quite dim when I think about it. He would do anything we asked of him. Anything. So being of creative spirit, we got him to eat a handful of sand, then a handful of dirt, and then we arranged for him to pull his hair out.

We were intrigued that a kid would want to fit in and be liked so much that he would scalp himself with his own hands. He would grab a handful of hair and rrrrrriip it out like you would a handful of grass from your lawn. It was horrifyingly disgustingly great to witness! This kid was unreal.

Through tears of shock and laughter we would goad him on to new feats of derring-do, until his mother came along and wisely ended the proceedings, much to our dismay. Her poor son’s head was beginning to look like Friar Tuck’s of Robin Hood fame, albeit with more bleeding around the edges.

The vividness of this memory is quite disturbing to me to this day. I wonder if he grew up with any hair at all, and how much counseling he needed to overcome his psychological trauma.

When it comes to disgusting childhood talents I had a few of my own, of course. For a small fee I was able to belch most of the alphabet. I also still have an intriguing mole between my toes which is available for viewing Saturdays between 1 and 3pm.

My friend Darren would steal baby bottles from his sister’s dolls and use them in the bath tub to inflate his foreskin with water to enormous, balloon-like proportions. Now that’s entertainment! I can recall howling with laughter at witnessing such feats. Thankfully, these were the days before YouTube and cell phone cameras.

It was my neighbour Sheldon Mancher who enjoyed what can only be called idolization in our area. Sheldon had the unique talent of being able to make the fart sound with not only his armpits and knees, but his EARS! Imagine that! My kids are just learning to do the armpit and knee versions (surprisingly it wasn’t me that taught them either), but an ear? This was truly amazing. We were in awe.

It wasn’t until grade six, when I ‘cleaned’ Darryl Bossert playing sixes at crystals ** that I came remotely close to enjoying such fan adoration. There I was, the school bell having rung, the disputed final shot replayed, the last crystal plopping into the marble pot like it had been putted by Tiger Woods.

My heart soared as, with wet pockets bulging, I swaggered into the school. I was a lousy marble player for the most part, and here I had cleaned out the best player in the school. I think it was the first (and last) time I was almost cool.

These things are important to kids obviously. I could still point out the location of the snowy marble pot at Pine Grove School where my triumph took place. I could still dig a decent marble pot too for that matter.

I guess maybe that is why parenting is such a challenge. We grown-ups are fondly remembering our seemingly innocent times and triumphs, while our children are sweetly blowing the heads off of computer characters.

I think I’ll teach my kids the finer points of marble-pot making this weekend.

** We used to play pee-wees, marbles (or cats-eyes), boulders and jumbos. Crystals were clear boulders. We also had steelies, pretties, and round, rolled-up balls of clay we called mudders. Nobody played much with those. I think we should have a marble tournament for old-times sake.

David Crawford lives in Kelowna. Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Sheldon Mancher should contact this newspaper immediately.

Green Acres Lawn Maintenance

It seems I have become a true urbanite now that I have a lush green lawn that is the source of much envy in our community. Having become something of an expert, allow me to offer a few friendly words of advice as to your lawn’s care and maintenance.

First, lawn-type grass is made up of various forms of annoying plants with names like Festus, Kentucky Banjo, Bendover, Herniation, and Dandy Lion. These can be grown from seed, or arrive ready-made on trucks. How they get the grass to grow in nice, neat rolls like that is still being researched by scientists.

Anyway – before planting your rolls of grass you must first hire illegal immigrants to rake rocks into your soil. Another important preparation is to make sure the soil is sloped such that water will pool in small ponds throughout the lawn area during heavy rain storms, light rain storms, and intense sunshine. This is important for your mosquito breeding program which we’ll discuss in a future column.

Now I seem to be getting ahead of myself a little here, since I forgot to mention that grass needs a great deal of water in order to grow weeds properly. This water is provided by a system known as irritation. Irritation consists of expensive computers mounted to the outside of your home, the directions for which are on decals that burn off in the first rays of sunshine they are exposed to.

Anyway – this computer thing is what tells the water where to go, through mysterious white tubes that grow around the outside of your lawn. These tubes occasionally sprout heads, which have been known to periodically have water dribble out of them.

So – your grass is growing! Great! Now what?

Well, ongoing maintenance means controlling weeds, fungus, algae, coral, mushrooms, sea cucumbers, bugs and dog poop. Most professionals employ a snobby ‘green’ approach, using organic fertilizers, ‘natural’ pest controls and no doubt feeding their lawns granola.

I also utilize a ‘green’ approach, by carefully reading the ‘green’ printing on the side of my ‘green’ Roundup ‘Kills Everything but Concrete’ barrel, and spraying it liberally.

You’ll also need to trim the grass in some fashion. Most people call this ‘mowing’ their lawn, ‘mowing’ being defined as ‘The act of creating large volumes of noise, smoke and vibration while wearing headphones that make you look like a dork’.

In fact, lawn mowing is the art of shaving the tops off sprinkler heads with fine precision.

The mysterious machinery used for mowing requires fuel, so remember to keep your siphon hose handy for use with neighbourhood vehicles.

To mow, simply walk around with the noisy machine until either your grass is shorter, or you’ve lopped off several toes or, in my case, both.

Next, you’ll need a trimmer – or ‘Weed Whacker’ in professional parlance. Using a trimmer is an excellent method of embedding fine gravel and plant material in your shins.

It is called a trimmer since it is so good at ‘trimming’ the bark off of your new, expensive small ‘trees’. This device also has a satisfyingly loud gasoline engine, and a pull rope which is used for shoulder and arm exercise. This rope is commonly called the ‘DamnStupidThing’ for some reason, and serves no purpose other than strengthening the musculature of the upper body. Starting the machine should be left strictly to professionals or passing, manly neighbours.

A clean, healthy lawn is a great way to show off your home. As with all gardening, patience is a virtue, and one doesn’t necessarily have to resort to late night sprinkling of rock salt on the neighbours’ lawns to make yours look that much better.

Or so my probation officer tells me.

Barbery Characters

I was delighting in some of the stories my former terrorist/freedom fighter hair stylist was telling me the other day when I realized the longer he talked the shorter my hair got.

This can be an issue for those of us whose follicle fallout seems to be on the increase. For the record let me just say that I’m not really going bald, it just takes me longer and longer to wash my face every day – that is all.

Anyway, my rakishly handsome barber, who separates me from my hair and $14 every couple of weeks, was regaling me with his tales of derring-do in 1970’s Nicaragua. I cannot recall what the rebel forces were called there – Sandynasty’s? Contrasts? Anti’s? Hezbollocks? Something like that. Anyway – he was apparently one of them, and had his fair share of close shaves (Ha! What a writer…) during his short-lived terrorist career.

We didn’t get into too much detail, fearing that lobbing grenades or shooting down low-flying aircraft may not carry any statute of limitations – and we can’t have those pesky roving death squads making messes in the Mission now can we?

So while the increasing exposure of my alabaster cranial skin was somewhat disconcerting it was, at the same time, interesting to learn something I had never suspected about my friend – so it was worth it.

Contrast this pleasant salon experience to my long-ago adventures with Bert The Alcoholic Nazi Barber. I’m not kidding – he was a German fellow who grew up during the war, was an admitted brainwashed Nazi who served in the Hitler Youth, and who, after the war (and presumably some Spandau Prison time) emigrated to Canada and became an alcoholic barber, although I’m not sure which of those qualifications came first.

Visits to Bert were a matter of careful timing. Arrive too early and he had the shakes so bad from his previous nights’ bender that he couldn’t hold anything in his trembling, sausage-like fingers. Arrive too late after his liquid lunch and he would be hopelessly staggering about the shop singing the Horst Wessel song or Lili Marlene, unable to hold on to any of the razor sharp Implements of Death he wielded with considerable enthusiasm if not skill.

With careful timing learned from bitter experience, I would try to arrange my encounters with Bert for around 12:30pm.

Unfortunately, I was not the only customer to have noticed Bert’s afflictions, and so inevitably I would be tenth in line for my ear-lowering instead of first or second. Given that Bert would often duck to the Bavarian restaurant next door for a fast stein or two during my waiting period (no doubt sending secret messages to Martin Bormann I thought), I was frequently faced with an internal dilemma.

Should I go scruffy-looking for another day and call Simon Wiesenthal with a report of Bert’s whereabouts? Or do I bravely submit to the worrisome ritual of a drunk Nazi waving a straight razor around my head while telling me lurid stories of his wartime exploits?

Usually, I would summon some pluck and resign myself to the experience, which was akin to a terrifying cab ride in some backwards third world country (like New York City). I believe fighter pilots call this a high pucker factor mission, and I’ll leave to your imagination what portion of the anatomy is doing the puckering.

Oh sure, I could have gone elsewhere for my bi-weekly sheering, but I enjoy living my life of high adventure with flair and elan. Going to a normal, less potentially lethal service provider just would not fit my public image.

While the mind fairly boggles thinking about the life and times of my next hair cutter, I think I’ll stick with my reformed freedom-fighter for now.

Call me boring.

Waterslide Wildman

This column/post was the first one published by the Kelowna Courier newspaper (fame at last!). I started writing it after a family trip to Salmon Arm and a visit to the waterslides there.

The newly hired young lifeguard had not yet estimated the physical characteristics of the enormous bow-wave of water hurtling towards her. Nor had she figured out the physics of several hundred pounds of sun-burnt blubber achieving terminal velocity down an inclined plane, landing in the shallow waterslide pool before her.

In short order, the shock wave and explosion of water was upon her – a surprised look on her face as if to say “How could something that big go that fast?” I’m fairly certain this was her last conscious thought prior to being rolled sushi-like down the edge of the pool. I cannot be sure though, since I was the ‘meteor’ which was about to cause the ‘crater’ in the water and, as such, I was completely out of control, whooping with joy and blowing water out of my nose like some sort of thrashing aquatic dragon.

The inspiration for this merriment came as I was teaching my children the finer points of biological vandalism by helping them place pine beetles on our neighbours view-blocking trees. There we were, tweezers in hand, when it occurred to me there were perhaps better things we could be doing as a family (never let it be said I am an uncaring or uncreative father).

Now when it comes to watersliding I have to tell you – I’m good. None of this ‘sit up and go slow like a wuss’ behaviour. Not me. I tuck my feet under my butt, lift my back off the slide, and with my friction and drag thus reduced I hurtle pool-ward at truly enormous speed. Luge-like, I sail high into the banked corners, sometimes graying out from the enormous g-forces acting upon my body.

Exposed skin of knees and elbows occasionally rubs the dry portions of the slide – causing intense pain and billowing smoke until I either plunge the blackened limb into the water trough alongside me, or reach the soothing safety of the splash down pool. Ahhhh.

The heat of these burns has, on occasion, forced the pool maintenance staff to lower the temperature of the water for a few hours to compensate – but no matter. The pain and smell are worth it. Seeing the wide eyes of my dripping admirers – kids who have never seen such speed except at airshows, and who never dreamed they would see such daring up close – this is what sustains me.

As I await sponsorship on the professional circuit, my thoughts wander to the possible benefits of mask and cape, or perhaps shoulder-mounted spoilers for greater down-force. Apparently professionals shun these enhancements, which tend to take away from the purity and unspoiled nature of the sport. I will carefully assess their concerns, let me assure you.

Likewise, I am aware of some participants using performance enhancing lubricants like tanning lotion and baby oil on their shoulders and feet. These miscreants should be punished by the appropriate regulatory bodies, let me tell you. I admit I tried these substances once (supplied by my trainer) and they scared me so bad I never touched them again. The feeling of speed and power was almost overwhelming. That and going so fast I bashed myself unconscious in the first turn may have had something to do with my shunning of these fluids.

And so, as you bask in the hot Okanagan sun, the sound of ravenous pine beetles felling trees in the background, think about introducing your children to this graceful and fun pastime (watersliding – not beetle placing). Don’t let us more experienced sliders intimidate you. Let your kids enjoy watersliding for what it is – a playground activity with a healthy dose of speed and danger to excite the senses.

And a way for middle-aged fat guys to embarrass their wives sitting at poolside.