January 30, 2015

Walter Did It

I arrive at daycare after work. Everything seems normal, but I am about to discover that I'm wrong. Dead wrong.

I see Scout playing in the back of the infant room with Walter, often the only other kid who's there this late in the day. Scout sees me, and races into my arms. Such a happy cat. Nothing in the world is amiss. Her caregiver hands me a slip of paper, and a pen.

"There's been an incident," she says slowly and quietly.

Confused. I glance at my daughter, double-checking. She's moving. Breathing. She inhales and exhales. Like any honest parent, my next instinct is Scout, what the hell did you do. She is not yet even two years old, so I do not say this out loud.

The paper lays bare a clinical retelling of the incident. That another child took his/her teeth and sunk them into Scout's upper arm, that the act itself was not seen but the fallout was loud and immediate. No blood or punctures, but there were tears, and an application of the proper salve. No names. I look at her arm and there it is: a perfect little horseshoe of teeth marks. The caregiver sees the wheels creaking in my head, and offers instruction. Sign the form.

Heading home, everything seems normal. "Scout, what did you do today?"


"Walter? You played with Walter?"


I cut to the chase. "Scout, did someone bite you?"


"Who bit you?"


I begin naming names. "Walter?"


"Walter bit you?"


"Walter did it?"


At home, Scout dishes to Kerry. WALTY DID IT. Neither of us can believe what we're hearing; Scout and Walter have been daycare mates for almost a year, and are as good a pair of friends as children this young have a concept of. Walter, always smiling, always helpful, passing me Scout's diaper bag as I nudge her boots on. Walter's a biter. He bites little kids.

The next morning I joke with daycare staff about their no-names policy, explaining to them how Scout outed her assailant. "Walter? No. It wasn't him. Walter's such a good boy. No, it's one of the newer children; we always have to keep an eye on this one."

Scout, you lied to me.

That evening, I ask her again. "Scout, who bit you yesterday?"


"Who bit you?"


January 29, 2015

Coming To A Boil

Scout came home recently with a swath of hair stained red from a cooperative artistic venture gone awry. I dug it though, it was kinda punk. But with an unprecedented city-wide boil water advisory in effect, the best effort we could muster in doing away with it was Kerry squeezing Scout between her legs and wiping her with a damp cloth. Our child guzzles bathwater with a quickness – like any opportune almost-two-year-old does – and her nightly bath ritual was suddenly a no-splash zone.

Now in the advisory's third stupefying day, a cavalier attitude I inherited as a kid regarding water quality – combined with a disdain for the cultural and generational shift that effectively bubble-wraps children – has my childhood definition of common sense butting heads with 21st-century common sense.

I ate snow. I sucked on icicles plucked from back-alley garages. I drank from the garden hose. I dipped my metal cup in and glugged tea-toned water from rivers in the Whiteshell (only swift-moving water; no bogs or lakes with motorboats). Tumbling mountain streams were fair game during a family vacation to the Rockies, despite the posted warning signs. I'd seen enough beer commercials in my time to know that if cold, crisp, glacier-fed water was good enough for Labatt Ice or Old Vienna, it was gonna be good enough for a growing boy. 

As the popular saying goes, I turned out all right.

In 2007 Kerry and I set out on a road trip that touched on four of the five Great Lakes, and during a muggy day-hike we came upon a pristine, postcard-worthy stretch of Lake Superior coastline (see photo above). I splashed my face with the cold, clear water. Then I chugged it. Kerry was aghast, but it just looked so good. Beer commercial good. I recall my defense: I wouldn't do this in any of the other Great Lakes. There's no science behind my decision-making, mostly gut instinct. So long as my gut doesn't rot from lake pollution or cryptosporidium, my gut is usually right.

I know our water's OK. You know it, too. You know it. I know you know it. (Breaking news: the City knows it too, as of 3:30PM CST.) But I'm a parent now, and I need all the arms of Vishnu from keeping Scout from tasting that sweet, tepid bathwater. Young children know not what they do, E. coli is a bitch and fortunately enough, boiling water has only become easier in this high-tech day and age. So yes, I did boil up some mighty pots of water. But I also gulped from the tap after brushing my teeth.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: If you're gonna drink straight from a Great Lake, make sure it's Lake Superior, and you'll be golden. Probably.

January 27, 2015

The Birds And The Birds

A couple of years ago some co-workers of mine engaged in a Big Year challenge, which for bird-nerds like myself is the nerdiest, birdiest, bird-nerdiest thing a bird-nerd can engage in and OK, you don't care anymore. But I joined in, and for a year in which my daughter was born and my birding time fluttered out our drafty chimney, I tallied 122 species. Many days were squandered in a zombie-like state, and I probably wouldn't have been able to differentiate a black-backed woodpecker from a three-toed woodpecker even if a rep from each species was woodpecking right into my eye sockets.

I identified 133 species during the second year of keeping track, including three I'd never spotted before (brown creeper, long-eared owl and Nashville warbler). I also saw a harmless black-backed woodpecker, pecking a tree. Three dozen or so of these birds passed directly by my office window, merely requiring a crane of my neck and a subtle shift of my duff (a Harris' sparrow ambled onto my ledge and peered in one blustery spring afternoon – I opened my file and dutifully typed Harris' sparrow). I'm sure I've mentioned before that I work in a marsh – otherwise my annual list would consist of 1) pigeon, 2) house sparrow and 3) Toucan Sam.

These types of numbers wouldn't impress the hardcore, or even above-average birdwatcher. I'm no Claes-Göran Cederlund. I can't tell my thrushes apart, let alone my confusing fall warblers. And hawks? Empidonax flycatchers? Forget about it/them. But I'm keeping a log once more this year. It always starts off tremendously slow, when it's just us and the resident hard-asses and crazy-asses holding court until spring when the migrants return. I've listed 11 species this month, and that likely won't change until the snow and ice begin to ebb. A Northern hawk owl has been the lone standout so far, and that was actually pretty cool.

January 24, 2015

What The Cat Saw

I often see these two, passing by the window of the bookstore – the dad and the little girl. On their way to the bakery on Saturday mornings for a morning glory muffin. Sometimes just the dad, racing to meet his carpoolies. When he's not in a rush he taps the glass, and I let out a majestic yawn. He likes that. The kid loves it. She'll squeal, or hide her face in her dad's chest. I can hear her through the glass. Kitty, she'd exclaim back in the day, but lately she says Hi, Dos. She knows my name. Her dad must have taught her that trick. Once they came through the door and she touched my nose. I wasn't so keen on that.

Friday evening they stop by, and I hop from the counter by the cash register and meet them at the window. Looks like a pleasant night out there, really too warm for this time of year. The dad's wearing a different jacket, a nice one, and a black flat cap. Not his usual grubby toque and parka combo. The little girl has her pink winter coat on, speckled with tiny white hearts. Her hat with the chinstrap. A neck-warmer.

Something's a little off with her tonight – I don't think either of them realize it. I squeeze through the tchotchkes and get right up to the glass and blink. I could let out a majestic yawn, bare my fangs, but she might get too excited for her own good. Dad's trying to get a rise out of her. He points at me. He grabs her arm and waves it. Hi, Dos, he says, hoping she'll do the same. But her eyes glaze. She tucks into his neck.

He should get her home. I think he's enjoying the hug, or what he thinks is a hug. He gives her a little boost, securing her in the crook of his arm. She looks at me. Poor thing, I think. She lets loose a torrent of barf, down the front of her coat. Beige stuff. Looks like muffins and apple pie filling. Dad's eyes balloon, but neither of them make a sound. It keeps coming, and coming. On both their coats now, and their pants. They should get moving. It's a block or so to their house, but dad's feet won't work. My stars, it isn't stopping. Someone passes by. They face me to hide the spectacle. Dad looks around. Looks like he has his wits back. About time. They bolt, and veer sharply into the back lane.

January 23, 2015

The Watershed Moment

My city is bruised, declared Canada's most racist by Maclean's this week in response to a spiraling series of events that has now, more than ever, pit residents against the city's burgeoning indigenous population. And I have spent the past hour scouring the house for the evidence that I helped perpetuate this label – a diary post from 1987 I wrote after an incident when I was eleven years old. I couldn't find it, but I can paraphrase. It's not hard. It sticks with me to this day.

It was in the winter, or early spring; I remember that. I was a paperboy for the Winnipeg Free Press, pulling my load of newspapers on a sled from my house to the start of my two routes on Walnut Street. Across from Sam's Payfair at Chestnut and Westminster I was tracked down by a pack of "Native kids", as I posted in my diary that night – some older than me, some younger. I was aware of them coming, but I knew enough to plod on and try to ignore what I sensed was inevitable. One kicked the back of my sled, and it knocked the backs of my boots. I kept pulling. Another kicked the papers onto the snow. There was laughing. I stopped and went to gather the papers. I knelt down, was pushed over my sled. I know I said something then – it was more than likely, fuck you. I was kicked in the face, and I lay on the frozen sidewalk. I wasn't knocked out, but I figured if I stayed in this position they'd likely consider the whole thing over with. I was right.

Laying there for a moment, I looked up at the trees. This was in the dying days of afternoon delivery, and it was dark already. A woman crossed the street to check if I was alright; I told her yes. My lip was swelling. I got up, found the rope for my sled and headed for Walnut Street. A short time later, a police cruiser stopped alongside me and an officer asked me to hop in. It was really cold. That woman must have called the cops. There wasn't much to tell, tears welling in my eyes; I remember one of them trying to cheer me up by making a crack about my lip. I told them I needed to finish my route, that I was OK. They would watch out for these kids. Nothing became of it.

I was into my second route, on Purcell Avenue near Maryland, when I crossed an alleyway and came face-to-face with a kid walking alone, about seven or eight years old. My eyes went wide; he was one of them, from earlier. I can remember us both stopping in our tracks, staring at each other – I wanted to cold-cock him something awful. He was scared. I pushed him. I yelled. Get the fuck out of here. He did, and he ran.

That night I wrote in my diary. I seethed about those Natives, using a laundry list of expletives. I was eleven years old. I wrote, those Natives have ruined things for themselves. They only have themselves to blame. My writing was like buckshot, aimed at the sky. I now wonder if I tossed this diary. I know I didn't finish it, that the entries petered out after a few months when I was on the verge of beginning junior high.

I grew up.

The sentiment passed. I had the benefit of living in a diverse neighbourhood, gaining friends of all stripes, learning in schools downtown rich with culture. As a teenager I took a job at a drugstore, delivering prescriptions in one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods. All of this gave me empathy, and there are thousands of people in this city who could stand for some themselves. I am not the biggest optimist, and I do not think the Maclean's article has positioned my city at the watershed moment it is seeking. It has stirred a necessary reaction. It is top of mind.

Very few people change, but generations do. Slowly, and I feel it will happen here. We will grow up.

January 21, 2015

In Deep

Scout and I arrived home from daycare in record time yesterday. There was still a scrap of daylight left (huzzah for mid-January), and the air was warm, hovering about zero. Sliding the key into the front door, I asked Scout – perched in my free arm – if she'd rather stay outside, figuring she'd opt instead for CRACKERS or GO-PISH or BABIES (i.e., YouTube clips, don't ask).

She said YEAH. I asked again: You want to stay outside? YEAH.

I plop her on our sidewalk, anticipating the inevitable request to be lifted back UP-UP (she's not been the biggest fan of walking in the snow thus far this winter). It doesn't happen, and she ambles down to the public sidewalk, and looks back at me watching.


I ask if she wants to visit Dos, the neighbourhood bookstore cat.


Do you want to go see the neighbour's snowman?


She picks up some snow in her knitted mittens and tosses it towards me. I jump in feigned fear. Giggle giggle giggle. This is repeated five or six or a few dozen times. It's the most fun I've witnessed her having in this, her first real winter so far. She kicks at the deep snow, wanting to venture in. HOPE? HOPE, DADDIE.


I grasp her curled-up hand, and lead her so far as I can without filling my shoes with snow. She shows no hesitancy. I'm beaming. O COMING, DADDIE?

She was hesitant to take her first steps in life, waiting until she had full confidence that her feet would work for her. Then, once mobile, she did not enjoy taking that act from smooth surfaces to grass, or snow. She's yet to find a relaxed state in the pool, curling like a bug over floating like a starfish. A thought would sometimes bubble up inside me, that she was watching me closer than I imagined, that she was absorbing my own habit of reticence.

She tramps through the fresh snow, coating her brown cords. She's so happy. Squealing. Her woolen mittens are a patchwork of crusted ice. I know it's seeped through by now. Scout, let's go inside and get some proper mittens on.


Do you want a cracker and some milk?


It's dark now. OK. Let's go inside. We'll come outside tomorrow.


January 19, 2015

Me Write Gud

The point of all these recent postings has been a reinvigorated desire to practice my writing. I like doing it, even if it's only, you know… fooling around. I feel the need to note this, as Kerry and her writer friends presently sit downstairs and discuss their writing. Their published, passionate, professional writing. Their writing careers. Me? I'm just tinkering with my hobby. Having a good time.

I wanted to be a writer once. A journalist – to the chagrin of my lifer journalist dad who, sensing a great change coming in the field during the sunset of his career in the late 1990s, subtly asked me if I was sure. I steered myself into college, surprised as anyone that I was accepted into Creative Communications, and proceeded to become a solid C… er, C- student.

But my best marks came in the journalism portion of the program, largely due to a lack of spelling errors of names and places – a crime that came with an automatic assignment fail. (Even that achievement came with an asterisk – a classmate once flunked an assignment for not writing Portage la Prairie in full, yet I somehow escaped using the more colloquial "Portage".)

My journalism career ended soon after, before it even started. Tasked one day to attend a police newser and file a story by day's end, I was let loose with two dozen other student scribes to cover the mop-up from an armed North End standoff. Pounding on neighbours' doors, ambushing locals, describing a depressing scene. I can't remember what I even came out with for a story. But I didn't want this.

At the same time, we were filing scripts for radio ads in advertising class. I penned a 30-second scene in which an ad agency used a finicky gorilla to help sell beets (tagline: Manitoba beets, deliciously pink). There was slightly more to it than that, but I earned an A and basically, that was that.

Well, that and my journalism instructor explaining to me one morning while sitting side-by-side on a transit bus that I wrote solid lead paragraphs and that "maybe I should try advertising". Ouch.

January 18, 2015

Dear Diary: January 7-19, 1985

January 7, 1985

Today is the first day of school after the holidays. Jacob got mad at me. I hate Jacob, he is a inconsiderate bumb. Sorry I have to leave now. Bye!

I know Jake and I had better days in 1985; there's one near the end of January I'll expand on another time. I was an ace speller and grammar stud, but the word "bum" was a nemesis. I'm sure I was thinking along the lines of crumb, dumb and bumb. Jacob is a dumb crumb-bumb. That sort of thing. Why would bumb be different? I'd still like to argue this, but society and the dictionary have moved on.


January 9, 1985

I scored the only goal for our soccer team. The score was 3 to 1 for the other team. They like scoring overtime, but they do it for fun. They still agree about the score. My team was very proud about me. I didn't even know I would score a goal. Anyway, I had a good day.

I'm spacing, but I believe this was Tuesday night open gym pick-up games at Mulvey School, and not during phys-ed class or recess. I was a pipsqueak – I didn't reach 100 pounds until I was thirteen – and wasn't destined for footy greatness by any stretch of the imagination. Even though I can't visualize this moment, I know how much it would have meant to me.


January 14, 1985

I got to use the computer today. It was exciting! We used it in enrichment. We had that instead of gym.

A year later, our school had a MODEM and sometimes we were permitted to type messages to kids at other schools that had MODEMS. My friend Addison and I messaged with kids at Cecil Rhodes during one lunch hour because our teacher trusted us with the machine. We asked them if they were a BOY or a GIRL, and if they were a GIRL, if they were CUTE.


January 15, 1985

It is Monday and sorta warm. It was boring today, so I don't have one thing to say today.

I still don't.


January 17, 1985

I had a nice day. We got a new telephone today. It is burgundy purple. On the news a teenager was found since November 30th 1984.

Suspicious. I have a feeling my mom snuck in later and slid in that purple reference using my handwriting. She was deep into purple. Our house had purple trim, purple window frames, a purple porch. I can walk by the place even now, and some of the purple is still there. I know that phone was burgundy, skewing red. I know it. I cleaned and wiped it every Sunday.

The teenager found was Candace Derksen, found frozen and bound in a shed. Her death was a cold case for years and sadly, her story is still very much alive and in the news again this year.


January 19, 1985

It is very very VERY late. It is 2:14 a.m. We watched two movies, 9 to 5 and a other movie. I am going to read my book now. Good night!

Friday night with sweet, confused dreams of Dolly Parton bounding through my nine-year-old head (that second movie must've been a pile of puke; I wish I remembered what it was). And this Jeope, 30 years later, is reeling at the notion his younger self needed book time to achieve sleep at 2:14 in the morning.

January 16, 2015

Pain In The Mouf

Look. Listen. I've got my phone at the ready; I'm calling the waaaah-mbulance. I don't care if your sinuses are acting up, or if you have a splitting headache from ear to ear and here to Kingdom Come. Don't bother me with the dripping details of your six-week-old cold. The epic of your eczema. The continuing saga of your swollen sacroiliac. I don't care if your trick knee can tell if a storm is coming, and it won't faze me if your ankle's twisted, your arches have fallen, or if your dogs are barking. Don't beak to me about phlebitis, arthritis, gingivitis, cirrhosis, halitosis or your Zemgus Girgensons. I don't want to hear about your back pain, migraine or any insanity in your membrane. I don't care if you're dizzy, woozy, sniffly, whiffly, jiffly, itchy, scratchy, shaky, achy, breaky or achy-breaky. Suck it up, Buttercup.

Because I have a canker sore, on my tongue.

January 14, 2015

Lost Horizon

There's something equal parts Zen-inducing and terrifying about a scene like this, a snippet of the winter drive near where I work (shot last March as a passenger, but entirely representative of my trip home this evening). The pros, if you can call them that – that the road itself on this day (and today) is dry, and mercifully straight – take the edge off the countless potential cons lurking in that low visibility. It's the city side of the commute I dreaded today, the 40 minutes it took to cover the initial 40 kilometres undone by the 50 minutes spent completing the final six klicks. 

I am thankful, however, there were plenty of tunes, grapes and other distractions for Scout, who handled that sluggish final hour strapped into her seat and coat like a twentysomething-pound boss.

January 13, 2015

Where In The World Is A Good Night's Sleep?

There's a teenager deep inside me that still views going to sleep as a defeat, who wants to rock-and-roll all night and a gradually decreasing portion of every day. To combat this cagey party animal, I match his dimming wits with my equally defiant inner geography nerd. The two wage battle on most work nights as I lie in bed attempting to find sleep. 

Kerry finds it odd that, rather than tune out with books or whale-song, my approach is to instead force my brain to perform overtime. Fortunately this brain is a great deal like the rest of me; when challenged, there comes a likelihood it will zone out. It's like listening to that womp-womping teacher in a Peanuts cartoon.

Geography is a passion – commence your own womp-womping now, if need be – and on a typical night, this is how things go down. OK brain, I say – typically not out loud – tonight we're going to name ten U.S. cities that start with each letter of the alphabet. And because you were such a smartass about it the last time we did this, an added rule: only one per state. Go.

Anchorage. Astoria. Austin. Albuquerque. Anaheim. Ann Arbor. Akron. Albany. Augusta. Annapolis. Easy peasy, Albany-zy.

Bellingham. Boise. Billings. Bismarck. Berkeley. Baton Rouge. Boulder. Biloxi. Brainerd. Birmingham.

Carson City… Cheyenne… Zzzzzzz… *snork*

… Des Moines… Zzzzzzzzzzzzz…

The next night: World cities. But nothing in Canada, the United States or Europe, big guy. Go.

Adelaide. Auckland. Agra. Amman. Algiers. Abidjan. Ankara. Acapulco. Aomori…

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. The lights go down in the city.

January 11, 2015

The Word

We are raising a child who loves books. It's so rewarding, to see her interest in the library, in bedtime readings, the written word in general. Here are five stories I like to parade out at naptime or bedtime:

5. Bus Stops (Taro Gomi, 1988)

This book tracks a bus around a vaguely San Francisco-esque city, letting riders off at various stops. Nothing fancypants. But it teaches Scout to learn how a bus functions – useful for the fantastic years to come when it becomes her only post-apocalyptic option to avoid the C.H.U.D.s and get to the nearest hover-mall.

4. Lost And Found (Oliver Jeffers, 2005)

"Once there was a boy, and one day he found a penguin at his door." Thus begins a fantastical tale that will forever lend Scout the impression that penguins are mute, idiot navigators and she's free to push off to sea in a rickety rowboat every time there's some minor penguin-related incident on the home front. Scout's interest in this book got a second wind when I started calling the boy Avery, her cousin whose name she loves to sing-song.

3. The Golden Egg Book (Margaret Wise Brown, 1947)

A rabbit stumbles upon an abandoned egg, kicks it around, throws rocks at it and rolls it down a hill – but fails to destroy the life inside. Eventually it grows tired of trying, falls asleep and accidentally incubates it, giving birth to a vengeful duckling who turns the tables on its dozing tormentor. But because ducklings are also suckers, it imprints on the bunny and they become friends. By changing every second adjective to 'sleepy', it gets Scout in a snoozy way right quick.

2. This Is Not My Hat (Jon Klassen, 2012)

A simple story, in which a pipsqueak minnow pilfers a bowler hat from a slumbering fishy behemoth and tries to justify its decision-making to the reader while on the lam. It's fun to know the thieving snot gets his just desserts off-page – though not likely in as bloody a fashion as the shifty-eyed bunny who dares poke the bear in its companion piece, I Want My Hat Back. Both books feature fabulous life lessons. Don't take what's not yours. Pick on someone your own size. If you're a crab, don't be a snitching rat. I like to read this book in the voice of a snooty Victorian-era aristocrat.

1. Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak, 1963)

I will never tire of this book. It's wonderful. I started Scout on it while she was really young, unsure of what effect the presence of so many monsters in her head just before bedtime might have. But she's been cool with it. There's a spread in which brave Max instructs the Wild Things to BE STILL, knocking them to their butts in fear – and Scout leans in on these pages and shouts BOO (translation: "Yeah, you bunch of clowns, be still"). She also used to like how Max would chase his dog down the stairs with a fork, but lately not so much.

January 10, 2015


Drawing Night I
Time out from writing. I spent last night sketching instead, with friends – and their incredible burgers – at The Tallest Poppy (my stars, so many good things right there in one sentence). A fluctuating crew over the course of perhaps a half-dozen outings in the last couple of years, it's been decreed we amp up our number of events. Hopefully, the next one happens sooner than three months away – we'll make it so. We've now been labeled "The Draw Mob", so the pressure is now on to live up to the moniker.

Drawing Night II

I drew a pair of quick jobbies during the beers and banter. One sketch, entirely inspired by current weather patterns. Another, purely for the sake of drawing a dude chowing on a chocolate bar (and decidedly non-seasonal). These were completed with a black brush pen and some grey markers in my minuscule 4X6 Tintin sketchbook.

January 09, 2015

The Frontier

There's a scene I like from Dances With Wolves in which Kevin Costner's Lieutenant Dunbar, presented with the choice of serving anywhere in the country, stuns his superior with a request to be posted to the American frontier. "Before it's gone," he bemoans. Sometimes I feel his urgency, in experiencing something still unbound – and his disappointment in knowing that it won't last.

When I was a boy, I couldn't swim. I still don't like it unless I'm suited up in goggles and flotation devices. It didn't stop me from enjoying the water. My brother and I surfed inflatable mats at the beach and coasted far from shore in our dinghy. At 11 years old I slipped while fording Pine Point Rapids and slid backwards in the slippery torrent in a frenetic downward-facing dog, finding footing in a divot in the rock and halting myself before reaching the deep water. I then made it across to explore the woods on the other side. As a teenager, I waded from Victoria Beach to Elk Island, tip-toeing the parts where the water lapped at my neck.

My mom allowed me to attempt all of this, because she believed in a rule of common sense. This permitted me, among other things, to self-govern – to walk to the library at a young age by myself. Go downtown on the bus. Explore the banks of the Assiniboine, looking for birds and poking clods of cracked mud with sticks. I knew, as she knew, I wouldn't be rash. I'd use the underpass instead of blindly bolting over Maryland and Sherbrook. I wouldn't dick around with the river during flood season (or that I'd search for a longer stick).

A crackdown on tobogganing in some Canadian cities this winter leaves we contemplating the austerity of a future in which my daughter won't be able to careen down the hill at Omand's Creek. Won't climb trees, won't dangle from monkey bars, won't jump from boulder to boulder at the beach like I did. Won't be able to try, and maybe fail (and try again). Won't explore. Won't know to explore. As much as I appreciate having been able to experience the "frontier" of a simpler time – of hopping from rock to rock or poking at things with sticks – I worry about the unrecognizable scraps of these experiences that may or may not remain once Scout gets older. Or that they'll be allowed under law.

January 07, 2015

Bimbo Nebo

The 15-minute drive to and from daycare is where Scout and I often get some serious talking done. She'll plead for me to recite an animated Sesame Street clip in which a gorilla with a penchant for the letter G looks for a job at an employment agency. And I comply, repeatedly. I plead to her to keep her boots and socks on; she refuses, daily. I ask about her day. We scour the streets for buses and 'diggers' (any type of construction equipment). This week's conversation revolves around who can shout HELLO the loudest – easier done in winter with the windows rolled up.

Scout hit me with a knuckleball yesterday that took the duration of our commute home to untangle. At a red light, while glancing up at an idling bus beside us, she spoke thusly: BEE EMBO NEBO. 

A second time. And again. Once more, this time a questioning tone. She's burning a hole in the back of the headrest. I need to say something. Seconds tick by. I try my best. I turn it back on her: "Nebo?" Smooth one, Dad.

NEBO. BEE EMBO NEBO. She begins to repeat it, in a sing-songy way. BEE EM BEE O! BIMBO NEEEBO!

Traffic is molasses on Portage; I'm aching to get home. She's rolling over the line like it's gospel. It strikes me, with moments left before reaching the house. Bingo Was His Name-O. I sing the line to her.

YEAH, she says. AGAIN.

January 06, 2015

Crossing The Line

Few things baffle me – and now, as a father, terrify me – as highway accidents on the bald prairie on which I live and drive. Those ever-present two- or three-graph news reports of a driver who crosses the centre line and lays terrible waste to a life, or lives. No reason why, and never is one granted. I will save for another time those who careen, not braking, into the rolling thunder of mile-long freight trains.

A September weekend in 2013. We're leaving the city to visit the Cornell Creme operations as part of Open Farm Day. Navigating is one of my finest skills – I'll navigate circles around you and your GPS unit using the sheer power of my brain – but the directions to the farm are convoluted. The highway is ramrod-straight as we near our first turn, but it does not present itself among the hay fields and thickets.

A truck is approaching in the distance. I have time to look over at the map in Kerry's hands, pointing out the road we're traveling on. Peer up. The truck is two metres across the centre of the road. A nanosecond. Lock eyes with the driver. His eyes become saucers, and he corrects his course without a screech, a honk, any noise. No time to swallow my breath – and it's finished. I blink twice – and Kerry, head still in the folds of the map, asks me if we've passed highway number this-or-that. Scout, in her rear-facing bucket seat, bats at a dangling toy, sees the power lines swoop down and up, down and up and down. I say no. I say nothing at all.

January 05, 2015

Skills, Set

"Nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills… girls only want boyfriends who have great skills." – Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Are you looking for an ever-evolving career in a fast-paced environment on the vanguard of the creative industry? Great. That's super. Me too… once in a while.

I wage a daily internal battle with my chosen career path. I absolutely adore its bare essentials, its sense of order. Structure. Hierarchy. Common sense, unless not needed. I realize now, sixteen years in, that's never going to go away. Neither is the push/pull of constantly nagging change.

I can accept change, pick and choose morsels of it I can use and enjoy. I wouldn't say I naturally embrace it. I anticipate it, but I have a pace I like to maintain. I'm a clinical thinker; I weigh and consider options before proceeding. I wish that was still perceived more as a benefit, and it may be in some circles. Just not mine, where expediency is fast becoming king and thinking things through can be a luxury. It's only with as much experience as I have, that I manage this balance and produce as quickly as can be required on any given day, from years of learning how the rules can be bent and shortcuts discovered and followed.

Look, I have discernible skills. I can differentiate vocalizations of a red-breasted nuthatch from a white-breasted nuthatch, eight or nine times out of ten. I can make pretty authentic farting noises by squeezing my palms together. I've made French toast. But it took time to learn those skills. Time that today's lifestyle doesn't often wait around for to develop – and that's not always fair.

But I also appreciate consistency, or a semblance of it. That can be the death knell for someone in my field. I think of my sister (the dentist) and brother (the teacher) and think, there's always going to be teeth and students. Probably even roughly the same number of teeth and students, year in and year out. I think, during sourer times, why didn't I think of that. There's so much variability in design, so much flux. Differences of opinion: paper is dying, paper is dead, paper has never been more in demand. Here's the Next Big Th… wait, here's the Next Big… wait, here's the Next Big Thing. 

Technology trickles into all careers. Certainly mine. It's a bitch goddess, giving with one hand and taking away with the other (I can't take credit for that nugget; it's an old Kids in the Hall line). Too much of the change in design is change for the sake of change. Chasing technology, as opposed to using it smartly. It's easy to get swept up. Even I do, on rare occasion. I have a cellular 'I-Phone 5-S' that I like to play the video games on. But I also take comfort in that those bare essentials of design, the skeleton, the nuts and bolts – will never change. And so long as they don't, I'll have a place and relish in it.

January 04, 2015

Dear Diary: January 1-4, 1985

When I was nine years old I got a diary in my stocking for Christmas, which I then used to half-assedly document the year 1985. A lot of it was spent chronicling the lives of my ookpiks and other plush animals, likely a case of suppressing traumatic moments in my childhood. I stuck with it for the whole year, which covered the back end of Grade 4 and the first months of Grade 5. I present to you, a curated look at This Day in Jeope, 30 years ago this week…

January 1, 1985

Dear diary: Today I read my book from page 104 to 131. My book makes me fall asleep. Brian Adams song was at 11:53 p.m. That is the song that was on when I was writing to you. Tonight I will read from page 131 to 151. Good night diary. See ya tomorrow!

I'm not positive what book I was reading; books were awarded in my Grade 4 class for acing pop quizzes. My best guess is either Underground to Canada or Anne of Green Gables. And I'm not sure which Bryan Adams song I was listening to, either. I'm hoping it was "Run To You" because damn, that song kicked ass. With the video? Of him running through the woods, finding his guitar under a pile of autumn leaves and then just laying into that solo? Come on. Kick ass.

January 2, 1985

Dear diary: It is the second day of 1985. Today was very busy. It is 11:35 p.m. We went to a movie called "Dune". We had hot dogs for dinner. It is warming up. It is minus 14°C today. Tomorrow it is minus 5°C. I will read from page 151 to 176. See ya tomorrow!

Dune was the only film I ever saw at the Met when it was a functioning movie theatre. My mom took us; she was a fan of the book, and though I felt it was just the best movie, what with those giant worms, and a greased Sting in his underwear and all, she thought it was an abomination. A year later, a friend and I snuck into The Living Daylights there and promptly got the boot. We went to the North Star to watch Adventures in Babysitting instead.

January 3, 1985

Dear diary: I almost fainted over vacuuming. I hate vacuuming. It was very warm. It is 11:51 now. I am wide awake. What should I do? Good night.

My brother and sister will tell you I never had to vacuum. I was usually tasked with wiping down the bannister and cleaning telephones and my mom's ashtrays.

January 4, 1985

Dear diary: Today was very warm. We deserve warm weather Sharon says because it had been freezing. Jacob made me feel terrible today. Sometimes I could just pound him. Bye! Good night! It's 11:41, see you tomorrow night.

Sharon is my mom's name. She preferred we called her that, until I got old enough to think it was weird – probably early in junior high or so, I'm guessing.

January 03, 2015

Not Safe For Work

We got this big-ass, arcing floor lamp years ago. Weighs a ton, costs a ton, that sorta thing. A couple weeks ago I used it to test whether another lamp's bulb was working, and the dealie – the housing, the goddamn whatchamacallit – goes right on ahead and snaps off in my goddamn hand. Like, right the hell off. And this thing, this fucking thing, it's just the flimsy aluminum doodad the bulb twists into, but it's like it's the fucking nexus of a whole goddamn million-dollar lamp. It's as if the International Fucking Space Station was held together by a goddamn 25-cent screw. Nothing functions without it. And so this doohickey, this thing in my hand, has a cracked hole-punched jobbie with a twisted little pellet-esque whatever missing. The socket – I know this word, at least – holds this fucking tinfoil housing with these custom pellet doo-bobs. Not screws – that would make too much sense. Not an adhesive. Not by twisting or clicking Part A and Part B together. No. It has to be a complete and total fucking jerk about what it's been put on Earth to do. Now we stand around like idiots in the dark because this bumblefuck whatzit refuses to be a sensible and inspired piece of engineering. A goddamn bulb-holding, tin-scrap, ass-faced… whatchamacallit… standing between us and a sufficiently-lit living room.

January 02, 2015

Resolve This

I hardly ever make resolutions. When I do, I'm certainly not going to be so cliché as to start them on New Year's Day. 

Resolutions so rarely eke their way into my consciousness enough to become regular habit – the lofty end goal of any Day-One promise to one's self. I think back to some of the few times I held myself to task for changing myself in one way or another. The first example, as I so often bring up, is this site. Go ahead: look back to the initial post on Jeopopolis and see. It was Resolution City. I made three, and would up with a solid C average, holding myself fairly well to one, and kinda sorta meh to the others (and if you could see me now, I'm wavering one hand side-to-side in a meh gesture).

A Twitter companion coaxed folks last December to perform 30 pushups, 30 crunches and 30 squats each day of the month. I did that. Scout would climb on me while I struggled with crunches in the early going. My shoulders would pop during pushups. But on New Year's Eve, I executed my final day's exercises at work – at the foot of my desk – when no one else was around, and whooshed through them like a warmish knife through a tub of margarine. On January 1, I stopped. Again, a solid C student, putting in the work required.

The best example of a resolution conquered would be a 365 photography challenge, which started inexplicably in mid-February of 2010. Everyone with a phone and an Instagram account does it now, but I'm proud of my mantra during that year of snapping a picture a day: No Crappy Photos. No shots of my feet. Nothing without forethought. And I survived days in which nothing eventful happened, days sick, days with my camera having been stolen.

OK. I make resolutions here and there, when I choose. It stems from one of my mom's fabled teachings: Just do it. But she'd never say it in the sloganeering Nike way. More of an exasperated, on the verge of cursing, I'm-telling-you-for-the-last-time way. It's how I would tidy my pig-sty of a closet, how I got my job as a paperboy, how I decided what to do after high school (since I'm not going to sit around on my ass doing sweet-tweet).

Later in life, my mom – the career smoker, sun-worshipper, red wine drinker, red meat eater – was sublimely impressed by a decision of mine to stop chewing my fingernails. In hindsight, perhaps moreso than my ability to land a good-paying job or father a child. She took my hand in hers and looked it over, saying – and I remember this clearly – "Jeope, that's amazing," and asked me how on Earth I did it. I told her I just decided to. I began with telling myself one hand was off-limits. Then, I allowed myself upwards of two fingers at any one moment; I could not have another until total nail regrowth was achieved.

I still don't do it. Kinda sorta.

January 01, 2015

Three Little Words

My daughter Scout is achingly close to telling me she loves me. I was fooled yesterday into believing she had spoken the words, while I clutched both her and a teddy bear and reading books before a nap. But it was there, in my mind, for a fraction of a moment: I LOVE YEW DADDIE. She said it. I heard it. It came out of nowhere. I had not mentioned first that I loved her. I was reading one of her stories (The Big Brag, the third of three tales in the classic Seuss opus Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories; she refers to it as BEARBUNNYBEARBUNNY, spoken in a pleading, read-this-or-I-freak tone).

But instant replay does not lie – she was talking to the bear. Like this: I LOVE YEW TEDDY. Nuts. 

But, because I often toss into our book-reading repertoire a hand-me-down tome called I Love My Mommy Because, she can now profess a love for Mommy – even if she is simply quoting a book (and so far, not to her face). She quotes a lot of books these days, and YouTube clips. Rote memorization. It's scary. She quotes her book Dude: Fun With Dude and Betty (HI DUDE WASSUP, DUDE WAY COOL GUY). She interjects her practicing of ABCs with random blurts of COOKIEMONSTER, like this Sesame Street snippet with Kermit the Frog and a girl named Joey. She quotes Cookie Monster (UMNUMNUM). She can sing JINGABELLS or OH BABY COLD OUSSIDE.

It's the beginning of that tantalizing and dangerous period in a family-with-a-toddler. It is fun to hear her beg for a HIGH FIVE, or echo a coaxed BUMMA DUDE. It will not be as fun to listen to her first GADAMMIT, or worse.

Well, it might be fun. The first time.