Speaking of feet, if you go to my gym I will be leading the Monday afternoon runfit class for three months starting January 7. It was bit of a crazy year (I dropped my spinning class last winter), but I'll be trying to lead more classes in '08.
Great list counting down the 50 worst Americans of the year:
41. Chuck Norris Charges: Only famous for knowing Bruce Lee. Churning out puerile "action" bilge for 30 years. Skill as martial artist greatly exaggerated. Kitsch value wearing thin. Total Home Gym®. Walker, Texas Ranger once let a little girl battle armed gangsters, because she had the power of belief in God. Doesn't understand evolution, despite access to mirrors.
9. You Charges: You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism -- it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you're going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.
In 2002, the first year I had this blog, I fell into some rocks and broke my big toe. It became infected and had to be drilled by the doctor to relieve the pressure. Eventually, my toenail fell off.
This year, to celebrate my 5th year of blogging, I smashed the big toe on my other foot. Now that toenail is almost ready to come off. It's history repeating all over again.
So ... here's the contest: guess the date the toenail comes off. The winner will be the person who guesses closest to the date it falls off. I will mail the toenail to the winner as a PRIZE! Odds of winning are pretty good because only 20 or so people visit this blog anymore.
EVA ASKS: Are you going to dig up or link to your mall Santa stories again this year? Christmas is all about watching the same Christmas movies every year and reading the same Christmas blog posts every year!
We watched The Grinch last night, so I see your point.
The events described in this Santa Story happened fifteen years ago on December 6, 1992. It was my first and worst year as Santa. This tale was originally posted in 2002 in four parts and Laura, my girlfriend from that time and primary victim, helped recall events:
Laura always managed to duck out of tough scrapes. Here she is surrounded by thugs in downtown Cleveland.
Part 1: A Santa is Born
BLAMB: In the fall of 1992, I'd finished university and was wondering what the hell I was going to do with my time, besides eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Laura and I were living above a store at 711 Mt. Pleasant, just south of Eglinton and I was making ends meet by borrowing large wads of cash from my parents and doing papier mache projects. I had a little room at the back of the flat where I would work until the early morning hours slapping strips of paper together to make masks and other stuff. It was the height of the recession and jobs were scarce and my credit card was like a gasping baby bird waiting to be fed, so I took a job at the GAP at First Canadian Place. University had been four years of fun and now life seemed bleak and hopeless.
LAURA: Gee, thanks! I don't think it was that bad. My sister moved in to help with the rent. And the Sopranos next door were on your side ...
BLAMB: Oh, it was that bad: the GAP. The GAP! They paid minimum wage so, when the opportunity to top up the cash tank appeared, I jumped at it: five weeks of Santa at the Woodbine Centre Mall in north Etobicoke for $12 an hour. I'd worked with kids, I'd been a swimming instructor. It seemed like the easy money.
My aunt had pitched the Santa gig to me over Thanksgiving dinner. I set up a schedule so I could work at the GAP in the mornings and Santa in the afternoon/evenings. My parents lent us their blue Volvo to help with the long commute.
The week before the Santa season, we had a crew meeting to get set up. The elves were college beauty-school students and the other Santas were older, unemployed guys doing the job to pick up some cash. At the meeting, the veteran elves remembered their favourite Santa from the previous year, "He was so sweet. Remember how he used to have to go into the Santa House and pee in the bucket! Poor guy. Too bad he died." The elf explained that one night after his shift, Santa went home, went to sleep and never woke up. He must have been pretty frail, I thought. How hard could the job be?
All of the Santas had to suit up to make sure their suits and beards fit and we were given a little booklet explaining how to be a "good Santa". A good Santa never says, "I", a good Santa always refers to himself as "Santa". It's similar to the Bob Dole instruction book [sorry, dated joke].
On my first shift, I learned that beards we were wearing were HOT AS HELL. They were exceptional high quality beards and wigs ... full, finely-crafted $100 wigs. I never saw fake Santa beards like those again after that year. But because of the fine weave, they were the most painful.
Playing Santa was physical torture. The suit was hot and the beard itched and gave me a rash around my neck and the wig was causing my scalp to go numb. Not only was the beard uncomfortable, I also wound up sucking strands of hair into my mouth and sometimes swallowed long strands of plastic fibres. Under the suit, I was drenched with sweat. You have to understand, I worked three more seasons as Santa and nothing compared to what happened at Woodbine.
Even though the job was knocking the stuffing out of me, others couldn't take it. One mall security guard spent a half-hour puking after working a sub shift when a Santa called in sick. One of the other Santa’s started getting headaches from the camera flash (that happened to me, only mildly, during my final year as Santa). Despite everything that happened later, I was the only Santa to finish the five week season. I was the only Santa to last more than two weeks at that site.
The pain was slowly wearing me down, but every morning I checked in at the GAP and every afternoon I did Santa.
LAURA: Note: Brett was not his usual cheerful self during this time. Quiet, moody, and slightly sad. Just what you want your boyfriend to be at Christmas time. Brett was also susceptible to any and all colds, flus, and runny noses passed on from the snotty kids on his knee.
BLAMB: If a kid was sick, I caught it and sometimes felt like I had several overlapping colds and flus. By the second week, I was a mess. In no condition to drive.
At least things couldn't get worse.
Part 2: Things Get Worse
BLAMB: A couple of weeks in, my schedule and the grueling Santa shifts began to take their toll. At first I expected to build up endurance but instead I was getting sicker and sicker and more worn out each day. My parents felt sorry for me and arranged a family visit to Santa – the family, my grandma, a couple of aunts and a few cousins all came and had their pictures taken and after my shift, they took us out for dinner.
December 6, 1992: the relatives visit. Hey, it's young Merv!
That evening at home, Laura and I went out on our holiday cat chore. We had two cats and both were nervous in the car, so to help them prepare for the trip home at Xmas, we took them out for a short drive around the block every night.
That evening (a Sunday) we drove down Mt. Pleasant with the cats in the back and at the intersection at Davisville, I simply blanked out and drove through the red light. I remember flashes of what happened … seeing the car outside the right-hand window, maybe seeing smushed metal … and then everything moved in slow motion for a second after the impact. Everything not bolted down became airborne and I realized that we’d been hit and that we were airborne and we were rolling over. There was a bit of a thud when the car landed on its roof and then the sound of the pavement scraping on the roof. And then everything stopped.
LAURA: The car was broadsided, but we didn't roll. The car was thrown in the air and flipped in mid-air. When we landed, upsidedown, the impact was really immense. We then skidded kitty-corner through the intersection, sliding into a bus shelter.
BLAMB: I was strapped into the seat by my seatbelt, hanging upside down and I look over to see if Laura was okay and her seat was empty. I realized she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. I looked down and saw her lying on the ceiling and she wasn’t moving. I undid my seatbelt and dropped down and froze because I realized that it was possible she was dead. I asked her if she was awake and after a long, tense pause, she began asking what happened and I explained that we were in an accident. She said that he didn’t have time to be in an accident, she had too much homework.
LAURA: Didn't respond right away because I couldn’t breathe or talk. I could hear you frantically trying to get me to talk, but I was unable to move or respond. Finally, when a guy came to see if I was ok, I was able to whisper to him to tell you I was alive. I don’t think I started thinking about homework until later. By the way, it was exams, not homework.
BLAMB: I vaguely remember a guy at the window. A crowd was gathering outside but I don't remember much about what was going on, I was pretty worried about Laura and was focused on keeping her talking to get a sense of what kind of shape she was in. A TTC bus had stopped and radioed for help and soon the fire department and ambulance arrived.
LAURA: Luckily, the bus had been behind us and able to call for help right away. I was stunned and unconscious for a few minutes before opening my eyes. When I did, a woman who was standing there and looking at me, started to scream. "she’s alive, SHE'S ALIVE!" Then the guy came over to ask if I was ok. Dumb question, really. But it was really nice to have someone to focus on until the ambulance arrived. I was in a lot of pain, and very confused. Brett was wandering around, I think. Didn’t really know where he was.
BLAMB: My door was cut off and I stepped out of the car and an ambulance attendant grabbed me and put me in a spinal hold and shouted, "Holy crap!"
I said, "I’m not hurt, I’m okay."
And the attendant said, "That doesn’t matter! You don’t just let someone stand up after and accident like this! You could have a broken neck!!!"
And they stuck me on a board and loaded me into an ambulance. I started babbling at that point and a cop came to take my statement and I explained the Santa thing, the exhaustion, that I'd ran the light and blanked out … etc. The cop charged me with running a red.
LAURA: My exit from the car was not so smooth. They cut the door off, but I couldn't get out. I was lying on the roof of the upsidedown car. But I was having trouble breathing and couldn't move. So they had to find a way to get me out of the car, gently and safely. On impact most of the windows had blown out. The only window left was the back one, and that's the one they needed to drag me through. So they put a blanket over me to protect me from the glass, and broke the window. Basically over top of me. Then they had to cut off all of the headrests to drag me out.
Once out, they loaded me into the ambulance and took me to Sunnybrook, prepping me for trauma on the way.
Blue Volvo Precious and warm the memory Through the years And I still can see Blue Volvo Through my tears Part 3: Emergency
BLAMB: We went in separate ambulances to Sunnybrook hospital. And were a few stalls apart in the emergency room.
In the stall between us, a guy was being questioned by a doctor about his condition and the patient was mumbling about ‘space diseases’ and 'biofilters'. After lying on the stretcher for about half an hour, I was given the once-over and allowed to leave. I saw that the guy had wired himself up with car batteries and wires and duct tape to create his home biofilter.
Laura was in the end stall and things weren't going well. She wasn't allowed to have painkillers until they'd fully assessed her injuries and the intern who took her blood was having a difficult time and there was blood splattered on the wall.
LAURA: No painkillers. I was in excrutiating pain. It would later be revealed that I had 5 broken ribs, all along the back. And I was lying flat on my back in emergency. I was dizzy from the pain. The intern was funny; she was trying to get my blood gas, but couldn't find the vein or something. She kept stabbing me over and over, getting more frustrated. I tried to lighten the situation by noting the blood on the ceiling, which wasn't mine. Asking her if it belonged to the last guy she took blood gas from. She was not amused. And left in a huff. Later, when she came back and informed me she was giving me a rectal exam/probe to make sure I didn't have a rectal puncture, I refused and told her to find someone who knew how to do it. This made her reallllllly mad. But she didn't do the probe, and no one came to do it. Kind of makes you wonder ........
BRETT: I was kicked out of emergency and had to go wait in the lobby, so I started making phone calls. My first was to Johnny O, and I explained what happened. Then I called my parents and after that I was allowed back in to see Laura again. She was about to go get x-rays and they were about to give her painkillers.
LAURA: I told Brett not to call my parents until we knew if I was ok. Brett called many people that night, freaking most of them out.
BRETT: I didn't remember being told not to call them, I felt guilty that I didn't.
I waited in the lobby some more and then I was informed that Laura was coming back down from getting x-rayed. As they wheeled her down the hall towards me, I could see that she was laughing … painkillers?
LAURA: No painkillers yet. Just delirious from the pain. Scared and trying to make myself not scared.
BRETT: As they wheeled her past me, I asked meekly, "How are you feeling?" and she blurted out with a big smile, "WHO’S THIS GUY? I’VE NEVER SEEN HIM BEFORE IN MY LIFE! HAW HAW HAW!!!"
LAURA: I did not laugh. I was teasing, but you didn't know I was teasing. You looked so scared and freaked out that I didn't recognize you. I felt a bit bad about that.
BRETT: Early that morning I took the early morning bus to Eglinton and then walked home. It was snowing, big fluffy flakes and everything was covered in a warm, white blanket. It was silent; the city was just waking up, Laura was stranded in the hospital and the cats were gone. And Santa and the GAP were still waiting for me ...
Epilogue The cats? As you know, when the car was hit the windows blew out so when it came to a stop, they took off. The evening after the accident, I put up a bunch of 'lost cats' posters but no one responded.
About two weeks later, Laura was back after spending a week at her parents and she had this sudden urge to go to the Humane Society. She recruited a few of our friends to take her (since I was still playing Santa) and despite being in great pain from her five broken ribs, hobbled to the animal shelter (it should be mentioned that she also went to the Xmas party that year). There, in one of the cages, was Legsy, who was less than a year old at the time. Laura broke down and started blubbering. We never saw the other cat again.
Where are they now? The cat still lives with Laura's parents up in Bruce County. Laura sometimes appears at the Duff. Santa Claus still appears in malls across North America. Sometimes drunk, sometimes sober. Three months later, I escaped the GAP and started doing the art with the kids. This story has a funnier ending that happened exactly a week after the crash, but it's not something I can post. Next party, give me a drink and I'll tell it to you in person.
This digital single uses one of my images for its cover. It's a "progressive house" track. Isn't it weird that there's still a music genre called "progressive house" after all these years. Maybe history really did end. If it did, I think history ended right when that movie, The Truman Show, came out. That was a really bad movie. And Jim Carey was never funny ... but that was the moment when he turned into Tom Hanks. You know who else was never funny? Adam Sandler.
The damn laptop we have running Vista is working better than it was six months ago thanks to various updates (and we've turned off the effects and the sidebar thing that was always crashing), but Vista is still a lazy, stupid piece of software.
But it would run even better (esp faster) if we upgraded to XP.
Mexican culture is populated by all sorts of devils & saints & gods & monsters, the result of the fusion of Catholicism with countless ancient, indigenous religions. But one character stands out; a living nightmare creepier and more bizarre than any of the others ...
The ADO Bus Guy
Whenever you travel on an ADO bus in Mexico, the first thing you see is a safety video featuring this computer-rendered character. He's damn ugly with bulging eyes, thick eyebrows, a Kermit-the-Frog mouth and a spiked hairdo. On top of that, he moves in a wooden, unnatural way and speaks in a deep, monotone baritone that doesn't match his face. The awkwardness is made even more obvious by the kid in the video, who overacts with generous enthusiasm.
What makes the character so disturbing, I think, is that he gives safety advice in a stern voice while wearing that cheap orange shirt and spiked haircut. It sort of suggests that he's one of those "do as I say but not as I do" people ... someone who is probably a bit of dick.
But the question you really need to ask is: why a cartoon character? You create a cartoon character if you want to make something fun and light. You know, like Kirby. If you're going to go through all the trouble of animating a character for a safety video, why would would you create this monster?
I tried googling ADO Bus Guy to see if I could find out anything else out about him. Does he have a name? A family? A job? But I wasn't able to locate anything. If you have any extra info, send it along.
We flew out of the brand-new Terminal 2 at the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City yesterday. It's big and white and clean and the paint isn't dry yet (they opened a little over a week ago).
The dominant element of the architecture is ... holes! Portholes. Lots of them. Everywhere. The whole building is a huge, semi-permeable giant concrete fabric swatch.
Right now it doesn't have the bustle of Terminal 1, but some life should come to it once the stores open up and more airlines move in.