Friday, December 29, 2006

10 Obvious Millions

I find it is significant that if you ask someone what they would do if they won 10 million dollars, the answer is often: travel the world.

Why is this the most common answer, I wonder?

A wild guess would be that travelling is a wonderful experience, but it is expensive, so people would want to do it more so?

I have some friends who squirrel away some money to take a cruise once or twice a year. This is what they really like and they don’t wait for a million dollar windfall to act upon fulfilling this desire. They invest in the opportunity for themselves and enjoy it to the fullest.

This is a wonderful example to follow, really.

So why don’t more of us do this?

My hypothesis is that people who answer the question thusly, don’t really want to travel all that much. Furthermore, I submit that they might travel if they got out of their own way right now! Lack of money notwithstanding.

So I believe the basic problem is that people want to get away from their otherwise unsatisfactory lives. Travelling to far-away and exotic places seems like just the ticket. And this is the illusion.

I don’t know that very much thought is given to this, but travelling for more than a month, maybe two, is extremely difficult for most of us, even with an expense account. So what gives that people would want to travel for the rest of their lives? This simply lends credence to my hypothesis.

One possibility is that the answer isn’t really well thought out in the first place. Disbelief that a million dollars will actually land in our lap warrants no further investment of mind share. I’m entirely with that.

But if the dream is pushed on regardless (notice proper use of the term regardless…) then often the true answer will come out, to wit: I would travel for a month, or six, then I would return and blah-blah.

AH HA! The blah-blah is what the situation is really about. Upon hearing this, I inevitably start to pay attention. The answers are as diverse as the people I talk with.

Some will start their own business, others will actually travel for a few months out of the year and plan the next trip, even buy an outfitted bus and take in the country for a couple of years, others still will semi-retire to a similar job but only part time, rebuild an old car, volunteer for a good cause, invest in the market - privateers or stock, build houses, work with wood or steel, get involved in full-time leisure like motocross or racing or horses. The list goes on.

In effect, travel is the default position, it’s like saying, “I’m fine, and you?” in answer to the obvious greeting. It may be true, but it may also hide something worthwhile.

So the question becomes why aren’t we pursuing our desires as a goal, instead of abysmally hoping for the million dollars. And then not driving for it anyway!

The person who answers “I wouldn’t do anything different than I am doing now” is truly the happiest among us. Or maybe this person suffers from utter lack of imagination. Regardless (see? again, proper use) this person is already living the dream.

All I have said above is obvious and has been debated over many a coffee or beer. What is not so obvious is that we systematically deny ourselves that which we truly want to do for no good reason.

If one truly dreams of something then why is this not pursued? Money is an obvious roadblock, but again I submit there is much deeper issue. Either the dream is unconscious or it just seems plain impossible, or one is deemed unworthy of the dream (that’s awful), maybe we are punishing ourselves (more awful), or maybe we actually don’t have a clue how to attain our dream. In any case, the pursuit is stopped short and it shouldn’t be.

And so we use the excuse of lack of money, far too often, to keep ourselves away from what we really like or want. This has also been debated over much coffee the world over.

This is starting to sound like a new year’s resolution essay. Gawd!

Anyway, to answer the question, with 10 million dollars, what do I really want?

I would continue to lose weight and take care of my health. Umm, no, wait, I’m doing that anyway, for 8$ a week.

10 millions dollars would publish my writings. Umm, well, I’m not even trying to be funny here!

Let’s see, with 10 million dollars, I would certainly have a bi-weekly lunch at the Lone Star with my buddy. Umm, I’m already doing that, but, oh yeah, I would pay for both our lunches though!

With 10 million dollars, I would watch movies all tangled up on the chesterfield with my wife. Umm, no, wait, we already do.

To be honest, now that I’ve thought about it, the list could go on for pages and pages, so I think my new years resolution is to be thankful for that which is worth tens of millions, to me.

And for this, my friends, I don’t need a single damned cent.

Wishing upon everyone a wonderful & merry New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Searching for a Levi's advertisement

(with soul and a fast beat)

I bought a pair of Levi's,
They really been around.
I taken 'em camping
and I laid 'em on the ground.

I've taken 'em to parties
And climbing up a tree,
Why they been to school so often,
They' nearly smart as me!

And after years 'n years of wearin'
My Levi's in and out,
I couldn't help notice
That the knee wore out.

So I sewed on a patch,
A flower here and there,
And they look so good again
I could take 'em anywhere.

I'm usin' 'em as cut offs
And flying through the air.
Now I really think it's time
That I bought another pair.

You can live in Levi's.

(The lyrics are from memory, so I'm not 100% on accuracy. Let me know if you find it. While we're at it, here's another for, well, you'll figure it out.)

Imagine, a too-cute, round faced, little girl, sitting atop a counter gripping a hamburger about twice the size of her hands.

Remember ME? I chose Burger King.
Remember why? 'cause Burger King serves Pepsi now.
'cause they think Pepsi tastes better, and soooo do I.
Flame broiled hamburgers and Pepsi, Burger King, you've got great taste!

Ice the Season

‘Tis The Season,

I don’t know why I like that phrase so much, maybe because it is popular and exceedingly rare at the same time. The use if ‘tis is not seen often at all, but it has a certain magic.

And of course, being Canadian, the word “season” has special meaning, as do all terms relating to weather. It is a mystery to no one that we are passionate about our weather. As a case in point, yet again last week, there was a weekly comedy series on a French channel (Radio Quebec) that expounded on the hardships of 400 years of Canadian winter to an exchange professor from Rwanada, no less.  

Even on good days, Canadian weather is right there, in your face, all the time.

So it was on the eve of December 23rd. There was a forecast of freezing rain - the dreaded, for the afternoon. My wife and I were planning our trek to Montreal in the afternoon, to visit with family and friends. Upon hearing the freezing rain advisory, we decided to pack up the ice-tire shod SUV and leave in the morning.

Yes, our 4Runner can get through anything, which is the main reason we bought it, but freezing rain? Well that’s just something else entirely. Ask any Canadian driver who has been forced by circumstance to drive in that shit, and you will immediately get a sombre thousand-yard stare and rush of hatred.

Nothing so completely takes away any illusion of control over your own life quicker than a mere ½ centimetre of freezing rain covering the countryside.

You can’t see the ice, but you can feel it in the pit of your stomach. You tread on it, and you hope all is well, but in the back of your mind, you know full well that your purchase over ground is nil. In fact, any depression or incline will send the back of your mind splattering to the front. In a vehicle, the stability afforded by four rubber pylons will actually become a liability when trying to stop before hitting the curb, or the city bus in front of you.

We scraped the windshield and fired up the rear defrost. Keep in mind that we are in a 5000-pound juggernaut equipped with the best-money-can-buy full-on ice-tires. None of that all-terrain crap, none of that 4-season-which-are-actually-only-2-&-1/2-season tires either, I am talking the best ice tires that engineers at Yokohama could come up with.

We left my in-laws place at around 8:00pm, hoping that the main roads would be salted. We returned at 8:10 after thrashing our way around the block. This is in east-end Montreal, where a block is maybe 100 yards long. So we travelled some 500 yards in 10 minutes, and by the time we got back inside, my nerves were shot and my hands already crisp from the grip-o-death on the steering wheel.

For those uninitiated, a 4-wheel drive can launch off a corner, even an icy one, but it won’t stop any quicker than any other vehicle on the road.  On glare ice, I never gear-up the 4-wheel drive feature anyway and leave it in rear-drive only, as I did this time as well.

The 4Runner is equipped with off-road ABS, which makes them hyper-sensitive to back pressure, such as you would get on slippery mud or wet grass. Freezing rain is actually so slick that there wasn’t enough pressure for the ABS to even kick in, not that it would help anyway. So we had 4-wheel lockup as soon as I would touch the brakes.

“Enough of this shit”, I though to myself, and turned back to sleep over at my in-laws. Even with my bad back, the carpet in the living room would be better than trying to confront this mess outside. We managed beds for all.

It was safer to check out the road in the truck, rather than walk the 150 yards to the main road if you can believe that. Each incline in the sidewalk will have you smashing a body-part against ice-covered cement, if you are lucky.

I’m assuming the salting trucks never made it out of their depot.

So we waited it out overnight. The next day was pissing rain, but the temperature had risen a couple of degrees, just enough to wash the ice and turn it to a thin sludge. We call it “slush”, yes, just like the sugary drink that will give you a brain freeze if you drink it too quickly. Freezing rain gives you a whole other type of headache.

It is against Quebec law to equip your tires with studs, which would solve the problem of course. Also, the use of chains is proscribed. I guess their reasoning is better to stay home and wait for it to pass.

So this was the opening to our Christmas celebrations. Every year we get at least one day of obtrusive road conditions, at some point, during our holidays in Montreal. We felt fortunate that karma took care of it on the first day, and left us well enough alone for the rest of Christmas.

We are back at home now, safe and sound, for a couple of days back to work.

And the New Year family celebrations are starting in 2 days.

I wonder what the weather is going to be like?