Six Oranges and a Parisian Girl

it's a long one, and it doesn't explain the title. Years of procrastination, worry, and I admit, indifference, led to only ever hearing stories of one of my favourite people to ever be around: my uncle Pete. He lived six hours away - spoiler alert: using past tense - but only two hours from all of the other people I'd ever visit west of Ottawa, so the opportunity was always there. But for years I didn’t know what I would say if I went there; It'd been too long and too much had happened. One night I tried to pop by and he growled through the screen door at 11 o'clock saying he was too sick for visitors and to try again next time I was in town.

Nearly ten years had gone by since the better days.

One year after the screen door growl incident I gave him a call and learned that his little house on the old side of Guelph was just too messy and he was embarrassed to have me see it and judge him for it. That wolf was really just scaring me away from his self-consciousness. I heard dozens of other strange, but oddly comforting things over the next few hours and it reminded me of what it was like to be around Uncle Pete a decade earlier. Just being a kid and having him casually swing by Grandma and Papou’s house for a family dinner. He'd be out having beers on the patio with the other uncles and aunts’ boyfriends, and us young ones were all down in the pool seeing who could dive the furthest and laughing about the Playboys we’d just discovered under the couch in the den. ‘I’ll take the 40 over 40 one cause it’s got way more pages.” I was always a logical thinker. And a trailblazer, since this was probably before MILFs were a thing..

Papou and Uncle Pete c.2003

Papou and Uncle Pete c.2003

A week later I was sitting in Pete's apartment - lovingly, Rathole #5 - a rather large downgrade from the house I'd last waded my way through, learning about all of these things after I'd finally decided to make a visit, half-confident that he'd be around anywhere from 2-20 more years. I didn't know what we'd actually talk about; there'd been a lot of family tension in the recent years and I'd hoped to stay out of it more than I actually did. Pete kept apologizing for saying the news anchor was a babe, or for saying “God, man, they’re good people, but fuck they’re crazy sometimes, y’know? Sorry, I shouldn’t say that. But it's true. That's family. Sorry. Don't repeat that." Hahah, I loved it, and had to keep reminding myself that he was still trying to filter himself a bit because he mainly remembered me from being in early high school, and forgetting that now I was probably thinking “man, that news girl is a 10, and I oughta show some memes of dirty movie screenshots really get him laughing. He eventually realized a filter was just unnecessary around me – I was glad but surely wouldn’t let him roll the joints after that.

We managed a two hour conversation with nearly zero talk about family, and spent most of the time telling stories of what our twenties were like (and still are..thank you to everyone who thinks otherwise, ya dicks). Then we had to run down the list of who was with whom and whether they still are and – for the most part – why they aren't. We laughed at fools forever. He’d made his mistakes and he was still paying for them by having kids who didn’t want to see him, fading health, other family who weren't allowed to know he was sick, and old friends who dismissed him with the “yeah, that’s Pete; he lost his way a long time ago.” I was proud that a few of those people had an August change of heart. There's always time until there isn't, and I was lucky to share some of it.

Except for when he casually mentioned aliens and I had to check to make sure I wasn't stepping on his oxygen tube. I wasn't, but he couldn't tell anyway because he's blind in one eye. That's how I ended up getting two thirds of our pizza. Placed it in the periphery.

I left thinking, thank god I came here (lower case "g" to spite whoever took him), because I wasn’t too late and I knew I could keep coming back to relive his old times and learn all the things that made him who he is. This was a promise I made to myself after my Papou died in 2006 and I'd never asked him to tell me one single story. Luckily when Pete's nervous he tells all the stories, so I got a good taste of what my shyness had cost me years before with his dad.

I only saw him one more time. The day before he died.

Uncle Pete.

Uncle Pete.

It would've been the very day he died, but he went through half the hospital's morphine supply. Each new syringe seeping in for a quiet minute before "oooh, theeere it is! Now how 'bout that. Oooohhey, Kary, you know what I really couldn't stand about you?" The room erupted. 

I found myself wondering how he could be so cast-aside for so long, yet I still wished I’d lived some of the times that he had, and he really didn't regret that he did it his way. Sure, I take 20% off the top for storytelling liberties, but he still takes the cake as the most lived life I've known. "Why'd you love Vancouver so much?" 'Ah man, the fresh air! Well, and the great pot and the nude beach I'd always walk home from hammered while the hookers chirped me for stumbling around, but then said 'nah, just kidding, we love ya Pete, get home safe!'"

I snapped back to my last visit as he coughed and laughed like he did when he ate his pizza too quickly while chirping the Jays for blowing a lead against the Red Sox. I snapped a pic of the screen to remember exactly when we had that conversation. It meant something. He tried to pay me for the pizza later and I first said no, but then said hell no, because he was trying to give me $100. I said Pete! I scammed you and ate 2/3 of that pizza on account of your stupid eye!

He said brother, I want you to take your girlfriend somewhere nice and make her feel like I do now.

Uncle Pete.

Uncle Pete.

As fate and fuck the world would have it, I booked time off work a month later for a bachelor party weekend and panned to make a little detour to say hi and smoke catch up again. It turned out that I'd booked off the wrong weekend for the party, but the right weekend to say goodbye to Pete. On my way down the 401 to his house I got a text that said he'd relocated to the hospital. "Serious condition" they told me. "Hot nurses," he told me later. I changed the subject. “So Pete, those ten guys in that photo who all came to visit last time, were they all high school friends?" “Hell yeah, we used to run from the cops together all the time. It was a thrill. Except for Scott who got caught. Boy he took a beating.” But those were the days. We’d be slingshotting snowballs at cars and running through the streets. A few bloody noses, but fuck was it worth it." 

These were stories I never heard. I'd only gone from being a kid and asking him for his beer bottle caps for my collection - back when he was the first one to call me "Dude" - to wondering why he stopped showing up at family gatherings. In just over a year, several people died and disappeared from the kitchen poker table. And then that was it; it was never the same. People got married and had new families to be with, we changed locations to ease the burden of hosting, and it just all faded out. Luckily I've still got my cousin Kyle. He reminds me a lot of Pete and he refused to let things get in the way of us getting together, no matter how many people left or gave bullshit excuses. Even if there were just four of us. He's the new anchor of our family yet forty years younger than the last. Wouldn't Pete would be proud.

Back when things were good, at my favourite family gathering I was fifteen and had finally become a regular invite to the poker table, a few months after I’d started learning to play guitar. Pete brought his whole drum kit to jam with me. He was the most patient and encouraging leader ever. He backed me up for hours. And afterwards he gave me his drum sticks and pissed my mom off by saying, practice on anything. Hit whatever sounds good. Just play.

And man could he ever. He’d beat those things as revenge for the snowball-throwing bloody noses and the people who shut him out as a dropout, a user, and a shitty father. Which he was. He knows that. I’m not sure how long that has to affect things for, but if it’s one week or one lifetime, I still get it. But sitting on those old leather couches beside the drum set in Rathole #5, it didn’t matter. I loved him. I just wanted to carry him to his stool and put the sticks in his hand and say "Muddy Water, Champagne and Reefer, lead us in, Pete." Don't lead us out.

May 6, 1955 to August 15, 2017, and forever.



*all photos provided by friends and family

Uncle Pete.

Uncle Pete.

Here I Go Again

Another opportune time to update the world as I wait for the domestic dispute to settle down outside my apartment so I can get to the gym. I was tempted to pop out to see if the girl was alright, but as soon as she screamed "I bet yo baby mama's hidin' in there!" I was like, hah, nope, that sounds like a stalemate. Then I watched through the peephole as the most innocent looking man jovially strutted by with a beer in his hand and said "hey what's goin' on?" Ugh, that poor guy was out there for nearly an hour getting the story all the way back from when her friends were first like "hey he's cute, go talk to him." And I was too scared to even toss him a fresh beer to ease the pain..I left a man hanging that fateful day. What poor form. Maybe I should move. Fast forward a week. I moved.


I guess I just missed the cold and uncertainty of life in the capital city, which was much more alluring than the mild cold and uncertainty of life in London.

Photo 2016-03-19, 10 48 16 AM (1)

So happy to have me back.

All this fun put me in the mood to write; call it Judy Glume. Also because I wrecked my sleep schedule again and need to burn a little time till I can nod off, though this time the sleep-in wasn't on purpose. I had a dentist appointment last week - do not go to my dentist unless you have perfect teeth (but why would you? Look, I'm not here to give advice, do what you want.. but I guess that's advice. I digress.) or if you were hit on your bike when you were eleven and the shady guy gave you a Blank Cheque. Anyway, the dental assistant gave me a sort of worried look and asked if I felt light-headed. I said look, I know you're beautiful, but all my blood is where it should be and I feel fine. Then she said my resting heart rate (yep, they do this now) was 43. Now that isn't particularly low, especially when you've been consistently torturing your aerobic system for over a year, or as a girl recently described it, "oh my god, don't tell me you sit in a canoe in one of those forever-pools and paddle till you can't anymore..." "Technically, yes." And I never saw her again.

Now, actual fit people are often in the 30s - as in beats per minute, not age, or I'd be on track for success by Tokyo 2020. But since I hadn't checked my resting rate in years I figured last night I'd throw on my chest strap so when I woke up I could check it on my watch without ruining it by having to get up to put the thing on, although my kinky side knows I can definitely strap things on without affecting blood flow. So I woke up and turned my watch on, then tried to stay relaxed for a minute to get a good reading. An hour later I woke up, so I turned my watch on and tried to stay relaxed for a minute to get a good reading. An hour later, well it was noon and all I had was a foggy head, a jacked heart rate because the alarm scared me, and a terrible indent of a chest strap that looked like I'd been wearing a maxi dress (had to google that) with that useless sub-titty skinny belt that girls love so much. As if something that secured to your body could just fall off out of nowhere! (Lorena Bobbit anyone?)

On the whole, it was a waste of time and not a lot of real science ended up taking place; an uncanny resemblance to my Masters. But unlike my Masters, this post is finished. On time. With no hidden costs and a moderate amount of dignity intact.

Plus, if I walked around demanding to be called Master Rob, well that just wouldn't fly these days, right? So let's just say I left in the name of social progress.

Photo 2016-02-07, 12 26 43 AM


You Reap What You Row

For those who aren't quite as extensively informed on the techniques of enhanced interrogation, the two-kilometre test on the rowing ergometer might be the ultimate window to the soul. And while it does help a coach gain insight into the mindset of the athlete, as well as their physical potential to move a boat, it's much more effective as an introspective endeavour. Hundreds and hundreds of tedious kilometres narrowed down to 5 (hah!) to 8 (likely) minutes of validation. Like driving across the prairies for a booty call. Is it worth it? Let me work it.


This post is timely since CIRCs (Canadian Indoor Rowing Championships) were held this past Sunday and I kept refreshing my browser (we're all nerds about something) to see the results and how disgustingly fast some humans are, namely from my alma mater, where the only thing I knew of the sport at the time was that some douche bag named "Smart Guy" (but taller and whiter than the kid on TV) liked to tell people he was a rower and future doctor. A few years later sources confirmed the latter but laughingly discounted the former.



Anyway, it's pretty typical for sport in general that hours spent training are disproportionately greater than those spent competing, but at least some have a little more fun: in volleyball you get like 30 high fives in one game, and in snowboarding you get high like 30 times at the X Games. But in this sport the return on investment is certainly much lower; nearly 99% of metres rowed are during training. Fortunately, instead of waiting until you're on your deathbed to reconsider every choice you've made in life, you only have to wait till the 1k mark. But I guess that's more of a quirk than a perk. And about as useful as that assonance. (#datassonance)


The soul leaving the body; jumping ship, as it were.

What's so intriguing about this endeavour then? Well, not all that much, especially in relation to its more popular counterparts. One (Rob) sometimes feels as if they (he) aren't (ain't) (*isn't) (**sorry mom) training for a sport, rather training as a sport – hold your horses there Crossfit, two can play that game - and while we’re at it, high five for injured backs!

So if nothing else, the 2k is a very well-defined challenge.

Grace under fire.

How flawless can your form become, and how close to flawless can your form remain while your body is nearing complete exhaustion. And will you poop your uni in the last 300 metres? These are some of the greatest philosophical questions in sport, specifically the latter.

But at least when you finish you can physically tell if you gave it your all, and you can't externalize your failure. It wasn't the biased ref, it wasn't the home crowd, the weather, or the guy beside you. Unless he farted (final 300m?). Or, if any of this took place on the water, then yes, it was completely because of your lane assignment. I know, it’s ok, there there, yes, I saw the wake.

I guess it’s good timing to end this here as I’m now coughing on a piece of tin foil-covered easter chocolate that was on sale at the grocery store today – how ironic that it was given the bad lane a.k.a. trachea. I realize it might seem a little pre-emptive to celebrate easter, but at this point we all know that Jesus is coming. For, as a great man once wrote (on a bumper sticker), “we can tell because he’s breathing heavy.”

Apologies to christians.


Spoiler alert.


Meatballs and Alfredo's Sauce

I'm not sure if this counts as an improvement over last week, but I just barely survived a third workout and am now staring down a bowl of brussels sprouts. Dinner time again. And the most exciting part of my day was finding out that there's an 's' in brussels (rather, a third one) (thanks spellcheck, and google). I was wondering why my fridge had such an odeur nauséabonde, until I realized that I'd cooked them the other night and put them in the freezer with no lid so they could cool down. Needless to say they were somehow worse tasting than they normally are. But like an orgy with the lights out, you just have to tell yourself they're meatballs. IMG_8512

And as if that needed a challenger for highlight of the night, two hours earlier I had to tap on the Tim Horton's drive-thru window to get the dude to give me my change. *cough* ten cents.  I said "uh, hey, how 'bout that dime?" and the look he gave me made me wish I could've crawled right back into that unlit orgy. Now, I didn't actually care about the change - given that it'll soon cost an even $2 for a coffee anyway, and the fact that it fell in between the seat and the door like always - but it was the principle of it. The principle that no one should be able to make my days even less exciting than they currently are. Par example, yesterday morning I was told I'd been given a raise, and when I asked what the new number was, it was less than I thought I'd already been making, which is almost as annoying as my unnecessary use of french terms in depressing blog posts. So I'm going to make up the difference by cancelling my Penthouse subscription and instead selling them all these tantalizing stories of the hardened athlete in sweat-laced spandex alone at home cooking dinner by candle light, and then slowly being penetrated, albeit by Shame.

And as the candle flickers and dies, and a smokey haze fills the room, I think back to that orgy, taking solace in the notion that tonight I'm Flint Cockwood, and it's cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

Sweet dreams.

I'm not sure what you just read either.






Life as an Apartment

It's 3:44 am and I'm washing down my peanut butter and banana sandwich with two mugs of freshly ground joe. For dinner. coffee-beans-grinder

Conservatives rejoice, this is the only Grindr I'll ever put my beans in.

I'm not too sure when I first stepped into the 14-hour time machine, but it's a lot less cool than Marty McFly made it seem. And to make things worse, by drinking standards it's still saturday night and the PB sandwich wasn't purchased at a sidewalk stand, so there's a depressing element to it. Why am I not intoxicated? Other than from the liquid plumr fumes coming from the clogged kitchen sink, or the occasional waft of funny-plant coming from down the hall - but that's less likely from the Western arts majors and more likely from Betty's glaucoma regimen; given away by the muffled screams of joy from someone winning the Showcase Showdown.

I can recall four or five events over the past few years that made me think, damn, I'm adulting now. But after a little more thought - forced upon me by a twenty minute "tea" visit with Betty - this turned into, damn, everyone else is adulting, except for me. My undergrad soul is still as fresh as Betty's stash (God bless the medicinal strains) and when the boys from the Ottawa crew get to having a few wobbly pops and regatta talks, it makes me wonder why I left town in the first place. But my other grad school boys had all moved on last year, so surrounding myself with the new crop of boat-moving beauties was a bit of an adjustment, and I was never sure if my presence was grand, or grandpa, so things never really took hold. But that was completely my doing, and made clear to me a few times (a good coach can tell when your technique is shit, in and out of a boat). But props to Big Simon, who reminds me of me and wouldn't take no for an answer. Luckily he's about 6'3" and 215, so when people were naturally drawn to "the statue" it made it easier to sneak out of the house and avoid the bar.


Big Simon motoring 2-seat at the top of the frame, along with seven other good humans and Mr. King's left arm.

And now that I'm seven tedious highway hours away in a frosty apartment taking a "dinner" break from work to siphon java and plot my rise into the Nat Geo payroll system, I'm feeling rather explicitly in a chronological grey zone. Shit's getting real. I've nearly made a living out of narrowing down my options, and while if I look at it in isolation it seems completely logical, the concern comes when it's juxtaposed with Normal. Nine-to-five, water coolers, beer leagues, pants. Ew. I still refuse to trade in my grey hoodie and visible dangly bits to find love at the Christmas party. (Truly no offence intended for anyone who lives that life.) But now that I've put in the years of work to earn the desk job, yes, I honestly feel entitled to decide if I want it.

Welp, I just went to refill my mug and I lost my train of thought - probably a good thing. I blame the wilting effect of Betty's plants. So excuse me while I meander down the hallway for leaves and root for the beauty who bids $1 on the bedroom set.


Back to work!

(or goodnight, or good morning and good luck with that steady state erg. (I promise I won't tell if you "have car problems" and show up late so you don't have to do the whole 19-minute warm up.)





New Year's Eve, Shootin' 3s

What better place to celebrate the new year than a Detroit Pistons game, especially for a guy who knows nothing about basketball. And better yet, getting to sit in the nosebleeds, which after twenty minutes could be any seats, whence I punch myself in the face for being at a basketball game in the first place. And from that high up the court is so far away the players all look, well, normal. According to me they were playing Milwaukee, so I'm glad that when the border guard asked I just admitted I had no clue, and then when he asked to see my ticket I said I didn't have it, and then when he asked why I was traveling alone I just pursed my lips and winked.

I'm surprised he let me in, and a while later, let me cross the border.

The beers were a ridiculous $9.50 USD, fittingly, at the "Palace" of Auburn Hills. So I must've spent a pretty penny that night in order to (seriously) wake up with a note in my iphone saying "Gloria was a Goat."



A slight case of the unawares. Or maybe petting Gloria.

Anyway, I guess my resolution this year is to avoid border guards and goats. And attempt to pay rent. But likely in that order.

This is all after I find a theme for my second blog, because the kids say it's the way of the future for photographers, as is, apparently, videography. So now I have to talk about relevant things on there without the vulgarity and digression and uselessness - aka, the essence - of this one. And then learn video.

Luckily found a collection of cheap tutorials online. Though so far they only seem to film downwards, and with no soundtrack other than whatever the actresses are humming along to....


And the silly ladies forgot their underpants!


The Mountain of Youth.

I'm over it. I'm all grown up now, chronologically and peniley speaking. I even have carpeted floors. Though I've had those before..they were subsequently shat upon when someone woke up dazed and confused at 4am and went dog-with-an-itchy-butt all over the room. My living room looked like the movie Holes.

So I vowed then to only have flooring, and to better screen my guests for food allergies that don't mix well with alcohol. But that's neither here nor.. well here, since it did happen over there just down the street.

Yet it's so far so good I suppose. I'm finally back to the grind and miraculously already a month into winter training at the new club with only a minimal amount of soul-searching. That means there's a chance I'll get on the water in the spring and be fit enough to win a seat race ... against myself ... for the only seat on the senior men's crew ... provided I purchase a boat to create that seat.

What have I done.

I thought clubs were supposed to have members.

This city's one third of the size of Ottawa, so I mathed hard and deduced that the club here might be somewhere between 1-99% of the size of the old one. And while I was within 1% with my guess of 1%, a true student-athlete, I was just outside the margarine of error.


The sad reality is that while some of the best oarsmen in Canada are training just down the street, they're off-limits to graduate goons like myself. And as much as I'd like to Billy Madison my way back in there, I've already checked and the profs aren't sexy enough to bother.


And despite all the junk mail I get from Alumni Relations begging for donations, they only take cheques, even though I offered an arm and a leg. And another arm, leg and torso, all with rowing capabilities. I considered offering them other parts as well, but I didn't want to be escorted off the campus. Not again.

So for now my dreams of being Western's David Wooderson are on hold until the spring.

Who woulda thought I'd come full circle and have to find a fake ID to say I'm younger.






Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 7

Today was unique in that not only could I not find my boat, but I couldn’t find anyone else’s boat either. Maybe that’s because I got to the Henley course after all the races had ended. I did have thirty minutes of sleep for every Canadian medal, so I felt like I was at least still a part of it, but I was late out of the gates and there was an accident on the DVP so as soon as I got there it was already time to leave. With no offence to Team Canada, I was more frustrated with my own boat situation rather than missing out on theirs, because I knew they'd been rowing daily since they arrived and I hadn't taken a stroke on the water in three days, unless you count last night's happy bath. It was a short day at the course anyway, finishing around 10:30, so I rerouted to Mississauga for noon to catch some Judo. I’m not sure if that was out of convenience, or as punishment for my slow start to the day, but twelve hours later I was still sitting in the same seat and starting to contemplate pretending to be a competitor so I could go in the back room and sleep on the warm-up mats. The only thing I could think about was the 20-pack of Chicken McNuggets sitting in my car and how long it might be before I could be reunited with them and ketchup-stain my shorts in ecstasy eating them on the drive home. I was already pretty hungry when I first got there, but you couldn’t bring any food in - presumably to avoid any homicides by the people who had to make weight and could smell the trans fats from a hundred yards away.

The gold medal matches eventually got started at about a quarter past scurvy, and in between fits of delirium I got to see an dominant Canadian win gold. The women's 75kg final was an absolute clinic, and later at the press conference when people were asking if I was her boyfriend - who had just won gold for the men - I was honoured to lie to them. I just told them it was complicated (in that we hadn't ever met) and that I'd hit my head on the mat so I couldn’t remember the score, let alone my opponent's country, but yeah, it felt great to win, gotta thank my team, oh of course yes, I'll sign your boobies.


This is what the press thought I did for sport. I found it silly because I would never go around in my bathrobe only wearing one sock that I'd made out of tape. Somebody please fund these athletes. Plus, if it's a bathrobe-appropriate situation you can bet I'll just be naked. And now that I think about it, in a public setting I could probably use that one sock.

I just got back to the hotel - and yet again had that awkward "Hi Mr. Valet, enjoy my mediocre car and no tip" chat. "Hm? Oh yes, that's a ketchup stain. Yes, it was worth it." Say that again? Oh, yes, I'm naked, yes. See they were all wearing robes and I don't like those. Okay, yes, I'll let you know if I find the other sock."

Anyway, I've still got a couple of hours ahead of me to spend sorting through all my photos, so I'll just keep this post in an old man's pants; brief.

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 6

(July 12) This boat dream is now seeming less realistic than, well, most of my happy dreams; but at least they sometimes end up coming true.

If I weren’t having so much damn fun at the Games right now, I’d probably be furious at both the lack of boat, and the lack of time to get in one. I've barely been on the water and, well, you've already read about those *interesting* sessions. Now I've had to call in a favour from my accommodating physio friend and spend a few days on the stationary bike to let my ribs recover, which sadly ended up reaffirming my taboo love for the erg. It's not so bad that ergs don't move, but being on the bike in the hotel gym was just a new level of blah. I felt like I should have been in a full sweat suit sipping a smoothie with a towel around my neck. I hoped I could achieve at least a speed of three metres per hour so by the end of my session I could have ridden right through the window of the 17th floor. My arms felt about as useful as Raquel Welch's when she walks. (Go watch some damn Seinfeld while I continue to fume.)

At least I had some cool events to check out afterwards..I saw the Canadian women go 1,2 in the 3m springboard finals: DSC_3046_good_pamware

Pamela Ware on the 3m springboard. Well, not on it. she's in the air right now on her way to the water. Well, she's probably back in her hotel room right now, but at that moment she was in the air. As you can see in the picture. I guess I'm not sure what captions are really used for.

And then my vertigo kicked in when the men started the 10m platform.


We're both thinking the same thing: why the hell is he up on the high one when he could be down here and likely saving money on his life insurance premium. That's money he could spend on waxing! Or at least a bigger bathing suit.

It was a long day at the aquatics centre, and we just got home (11pm) so I only have a few minutes of cable TV time to clear my mind of all those Speedo'd Men before I fall asleep and risk ambiguous dreams. Hence why I'm desperately cycling between CityTV, Showcase, and TLN for some of those special late night shows that got all of us young boys through high school.

Found one!

Look at me showing off, typing with one hand!

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 5

(July 11th)  I finally made it to an event with Canadian athletes, and all I ever saw was their feet. Some call it synchro, some call Rex Ryan and tell him to turn on his TV, but I call it underrated. Sure, there’s lots of make-up and more one-piece sequin suits than Richard Simmons’ closet, but the skill was incredible - especially from the Canadians today who won gold just twenty feet away from me, which is approximately what I watched; twenty feet, away from me.


Ok, I guess there were some hands too, but that's how most things start isn't it...?

For the record, I don’t watermark these images as a business thing, I do it because I’ve seen them turning up in odd places, much like myself in undergrad - oh how I miss Sunday mornings. (Technically I would go to church, but only because I was stumbling down the street squinty-eyed and willing to do anything for bread and water, even if it was holy and I had to sell my soul for it...the perk of being raised Anglican was that I also got some hair-of-the-dog to wash it down - and confession? hah! sorry Catholics, but that stays between me, the hookers and the blow.)

Oops.. and Wordpress.

Anyway, the downside of the aquatics centre was that it was about an hour away on transit. The upside was getting an hour of story time with the guy next to me drinking Popper’s Hard Ice and reminiscing about his time in Ottawa playing the organ and dodging debt collectors. We then weighed the pros and cons of buying a new or used distortion box for his organ. It was a potential savings of $15 four Hard Ice tall boys, so serious debate was vital. We came to a mutual agreement on his best option for balanced auditory, financial, and alcoholic outcomes. He said he’s stick to it, so I’m taking him on his word.

Looking back, I’m not entirely sure that man was a musician.

I’ve had several people ask me for advice before on whether or not a certain box was worth pursuing for their organ.

Luckily my advice worked for both situations; I based it the frequency of their solos.

Cue the outro. See you tomorrow.

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 4

First thing this morning I got a free upgrade to my coffee. Second thing this morning I was told I owed them another two dollars. Third thing this morning I cried. They gave me no warning, just a friendly question essentially asking if I wanted a normal Boring Brew or a Dark-Roasted Orgasm. Which would you pick? I was told they use a special Clover machine that digitally controls the temperature and pneumatically sucks the money out of your wallet. The worst part was that it tasted so damn good. I don’t know if I told myself that to justify my subservience, or because it actually made my underpants go from tall to venti. Either way I’ll just let it slide and next time I’ll be sure to ask up front whether or not it will be more expensive for my bank and expansive for my dank.

I was hoping to save half the drink for later since it was so potent but we ended up not going back to the hotel afterwards and I needed my hands on the camera, so I had to down the whole thing right away. Within thirty minutes I was so shaky and jazzed that if I held a pickle I’d have to charge it for a happy ending.

We headed for a little side-event down the street for some of the volunteers and corporate folks and I managed to control my case of the shakes for a few minutes while Lights played:

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Photo 2015-07-10, 11 07 44 AMI wasn't not turned on. But that was because of the magical coffee from earlier, so this just made things worse. When she looked at me all I could do was try to mouth the words "no no, it's just a tripod."

After the show we grabbed some all-day breakfast and headed back for a meeting and a session on the erg. Surprisingly, no one wanted in on the workout part. So it was just me, the erg, and a few concerned hotel guests who thought they heard bulls having sex in the gym.

I was just about to start my cool down when I got a text saying we had to leave for the next event in fifteen minutes, so I ran to my room and had the coldest ninety second shower possible. As I was getting dressed I received another text saying that it was a more formal event than originally suggested, requiring dress pants, long sleeves, and … good lord … no hats. I was devastated. The sweat still hadn’t stopped and now it was getting worse. I get my hair from the Greek side of the family and I didn’t bring anything goop-related to tame it when it was unleashed from a hat into the humidity of TorontFro. I just had to hope for the best as I rushed out of the hotel, that maybe when it dried it would just know what to do. But like the end of a dirty movie, it went everywhere.

My heart rate was still over 150 until about three ice cold drinks and an hour into the event. And then I realized the sauce on the hors d’oeuvres was sriracha. Gee willickers, Batman, this kid's having a tough day.

Sweat: everywhere. Heart rate: climbing. Simon Whitfield: rather frightened.

I somehow survived my blackout condition for another hour until we headed to the opening ceremonies. I was worried I would be walking in circles, confused and delirious, but it turned out Charmaine Crooks had that covered. The third leg of the relay turned into a leg and an arm while she searched for her teammate and then stopped for a look-around when the journey became suspiciously lengthy. It was like watching over someone’s shoulder while they play Pac-Man at an arcade and you just know that ghost is gonna eat him and there’s nothing you can to but cringe.

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All in all the ceremonies were amazing. Cirque du soleil left me speechless, no one at the podium could speak french, and near the end someone's south american grandpa wandered onto the stage and we all used his full twenty minutes to guess which language he was speaking. Autopsy reports of the audience suggest they died listening to broken english.

So that's that. The Games are officially on.

There were a few more hours left in my night, but since my good man Eric thinks these posts are too long, I'll leave it at that.

Hope you made it to the end buddy.

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 3

Morning practice and mosquito mayhem.

My uncle Spiro used to call me kounoupi, which is Greek for mosquito, so I imagine that's why I was such a target for them on the docks this morning. I guess that's the price you pay for flat water. And it must be some sort of training technique; kind of like blood doping, but they're sure taking a long time to bring that high-red-cell goodness back to me. I think I got ripped off. But as Monty Python would suggest, always look on the bright side of life, and in this case it's that next time I'm schmoozing with the rich businessmen in the hotel bar I too can say that I got sucked dry on a boat in the wee hours of the morning.

Now I have about 30 bites on me, including 29 from mosquitos and one from my double partner who wasn’t too keen on constructive criticism. Luckily I play well with others, even when pulling 4x2k time trials moments after shaking hands for the first time and learning that he’s been rowing for about as long as the average queue in a Wal-Mart check-out. (I couldn’t be rude and avoid the handshake so I decided to just turn my hand over to hide the fact that I’d accidentally rested it in goose turd.)

Since I didn't scope out the venue before I joined, I missed a few details, like the lack of running water. And by the end of practice my mouth was as dry as a Hugh Grant quip. I forgot my bottle at home and during the sprints I felt like, and probably looked like someone’s grandpa eating sour grapes without his dentures in. Luckily (or unluckily) for me, they club is of town for a regatta this weekend so I can saturate with hotel water and avoid all the traffic. But, the gods of torture did put a rower in the hotel gym so I have that to look forward to. Plus it’s a different model than usual (nerds: Concept II Model E), so it sits about twice as high off the ground and feels like you’re riding a horse but doing all the work. Knowing I’ll be doing Concept II Equestrian all weekend is a little daunting, but it’s unhealthy to go about your day without a minor sense of dread.

Accordingly, the hotel fire alarm is going off and we’re being told to stay in our rooms with a mere 26 flights of stairs between death and safety when they finally tell us the blaze is nigh, so that’s my dread for the day, no need to throw an erg workout in there too.

I blame Greivis Vasquez for being careless with his torch carrying:

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Two hands on the torch! Since I - incoming understatement – “know very little about professional sports,” I had to get someone to explain to me that he's a basketball player and former Raptor. Personally, I think he looks better as a human being. He morphed way more cleanly than Chris Bosh, who is clearly still a dinosaur.

As a small compensation for the scary moments, we’re sporting our tie-dye shirts today, so I can fearlessly eat messy food - and probably a tab of acid to keep with the theme. My guess is that with my current streak of luck I’ll get all the ketchup and mustard on my white shorts instead of the shirt, and then I'll look down at the shirt and freak out at all the trippy colours.


Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto. When the acid kicks in your first thought is, whoooaa brother, I wonder if someone gave this city to Ron, but then it went from Ron to someone..but to who?? ToRonTo…Who got the city next! I bet it was the the government mannn.

Mid-afternoon we made a trip to the Athletes’ Village to deliver some kits and see a few teams formally arrive.

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Team USA arrives at the Athletes’ Village.

While I was there I saw two young guys having a very smiley conversation that sounded like it was about nothing (sadly not a Seinfeld script), and then I realized a photographer was outside the window gesturing at to them to look natural for one of those “candid” moments, like in reality shows where they film the surprise at the front door but there’s a camera following them from inside as they answer the door. Suspension of disbelief is for fiction, frick-off-and-wait-for-a-good-moment is for everyone.

After a handful of other meetings and venue visits, I returned to reality and to my bed. So here I am now, trying to sleep but realizing it’s a fruitless effort (see, rowing does apply to life!). Originally I thought my body was too alkaline from that acid tab, but I just realized the thermostat says 82° so I guess I have an AC problem on my hands, like when Zack Morris had a crush on the same girl.

Have a good sleep, Preppy.

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 2

I love a good challenge. And today it was hustling to a meeting with a hot overly-peanut-buttered English muffin without letting any of that crunchy Kraft nectar drip onto the floor, or worse, onto something I wouldn’t lick it off of. It’s a hotel, they clean the floors daily, get over it. I knew today was going to be a good day. Primarily because I have a weather app and it told me so, but also because of my successful albeit grotesque licking of the rotating English muffin in the elevator. I got to the ground floor with no drips, a sense of pride, and a napkin with a cougar’s phone number on it.

The meeting went swimmingly and by noon I was on the road to Henley in St. Catharines to pick up my new boat. I’ll explain in a later post why I went there for a boat yet came back without a boat, but it could work out in my favour, or it could not, but that was inherent in my use of the word “could.” Until then I’m stuck as the Hanlan Boat Club seat filler/mosquito swatter, turning 2000m into 2300 with my skills in bow on a log ride of a race course.


This was the first thing that came to mind when they told me my boat wasn’t ready.

For those who aren’t cultured/aware/alive, Seinfeld references are more important than the ones at the end of a scientific article on vaccinations. So get used to them.

I left the course empty-handed and empty-boat-racked and headed back to the Fog for the afternoon row (yes, I do actually do work here) (here and there, that is.) I calculated the timing perfectly and made it just in time for practice at five six o’clock. Shit. Now I was so early that I had flashbacks of my prom date. So I toured around the mobile home (office) and the un-cattled barn (boathouse) and uncomfortably greeted everyone as they casually showed up and gave me weird why-are-you-at-my-club-I-hope-you're-as-socially-awkward-as-we-are looks.

Fun side note: as I write this, I’m wearing my “slim fit” khaki shorts that I bought because someone told me they looked good and were stylish – trust no one – but I keep having to get up and walk around because my legs are going numb. So this post is taking a while to finish (it's as if I'm thinking about baseball in bed). Luckily I don’t need a belt because there’s essentially one on each thigh holding these mini pantaloons up. From now on I’m all loose fit; no noose fit.

Once we got on the water I was made uncomfortably aware that the guy usually in my seat is a former Pan Am gold medallist. Thank you for that. Are you trying to say something? There are only two of us in this boat and I’m comfortable with my swimming skills if I decide we should get imaginative and pretend we’re in a submarine.

I always find it humorous how many angry thoughts go through my head while I’m on the water with someone, yet on the outside all you ever see is this:


The ambiguity of working hard or holding in angry rant. Also, not sure if this is a famous rower or just Tony Hawk in a boat. The Google search was rather lenient. Hopefully the hotel doesn’t flag me for searching “angry blow face.”

Anyway, I got home around 8:30 and the valet looked at me like I was clearly at the wrong hotel. Poor guy has never experienced the wonders of eating post-practice ju jubes in full spandex. I suspect the businessmen at the lobby bar were equally confused. Although one seemed like it may be up his alley. You know when you look at a wealthy man and you can just tell right away that he’s got a tickle trunk in his room? Well, it’s a thing. And my radar was beeping, fast.

Since the 4:30am unsleep cycle starts back up tomorrow after my few days off in Philly and getting settled in T.O., I suppose it’s bed time for me!

Once I swing by that bar in the lobby.

Curiosity kills.

Ask a cat.

(There’s one in the tickle trunk.)

Ta-ta for meow.

Pan Am Fun and Pan Am Games: Day 1

Day one of the Pan Am Games. At least for me. It’s day two for some of the athletes, and day negative-three for the official kick-off. Who’s runnin’ this show anyway? A bank, which ought to say enough. Leaving Ottawa our first stop was at the McDonald’s Adult Play Place, also known as the Pan Am Accreditation building, which, conveniently to most, deadly to myself, was colour-coded so you could follow pathways through the line-ups.. They also kept calling me Bob, so I’m not sure if my fake name has taken over as my real name, or if Wendy at reception had a case of lost spectacles. Either way, it all got sorted and I have my regular boring English name back on the access card, along with the first of 37 pieces of flair, acquired during my error-filled search for the exit, which was truthfully but inartistically, through the gift shop.

Next stop was the ho(me)tel for the month located in the middle of all the people in the middle of all the Fog: downtown Toronto. Now, I think Ottawa is too congested, so this one will require an adjustment period precisely one day longer than my stay. On the plus side, there’s cheap valet parking, though the valet claims that it is I who’s the cheap one. Potayto potahto I say. I was under the impression he could buy a whole bag of Mary Jane with that dime.

He fetched my car anyway, for the third time this afternoon, so I could wander over to the local rowing club and accomplish nothing. (I do this at home so it wasn't much of a shock to the system).

Follow me here please … there now exist telephones and computers. It is possible to use such devices for phone calls and emails, respectively. Still with me? Well the rowing community isn't. These beautiful technological phenomena seem to fade as one approaches the shoreline. They are (or at least claim to be) regular turf-dwelling beings, albeit somewhat socially awkward variations of such. Yet I keep having to truck myself right up to their front door and just before I can claim squatter’s rights at the boathouse they open the door to say “Hi, there’s really nothing we can do.” And why didn’t you just email us? Oh okay. Okay now. Yes, noted. I noted that, what you said there. Thank you.

A door-to-door travelling oarsman has no place in this world.

I was at the last club within a reasonable distance in this big TOwn and it just so happened that their afternoon practice was cancelled, so only one water-pusher was present to inform me of the goings-on. I told him I’d return tomorrow and hope for better results. He asked me to bring some of those better results to his competitive crews. I laughed because it was I who actually said that.

He also told me to just email the club to save time. So I told him to get back into 3-seat and be less foolish with his mouth and the words it was making.

At the very least I can cross one item off the list: I finally located a boat to use for the summer, without which I would sink, naturally.

It was a surprise both to myself and eventually to my wallet. I’m heading to a different club in a different town tomorrow in search of said shell, as soon as I finish my meetings and fulfill my real working purpose here in the Big Smoke, which surprisingly to you, isn't to "sport." Alas, if I don’t work I can’t afford my lavishly stupid water-frolicking lifestyle in the wee hours of the morning.

It is much cheaper to stay in bed until breakfast.

Money-wise, I just last night installed a new roof rack on Lauren, my red Corolla, and now I need to affix a boat rack on top of that and then a boat on top of that, so I can drive the carbon fiber sandwich back to the Smog and knock on that unmanned door again hoping for a spot for myself and one for my new floating friend, which I’m convinced I’ll name Chapter 7, for bankruptcy. Then I can start looking for some oars, a thought that conveniently slipped my mind during the celebration of boat-finding earlier today, and later on Wednesday I can give up all hope in this sport.

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It’s now 10 o’clock and I’ve read enough about amateur athletes to turn pro, so I suppose now I can end day one as fruitfully as it began, by crawling into bed and kicking my legs until maybe, just maybe, one of the corners of the sheet comes untucked and I can feel a slight breeze on my foot.

A man can dream.

And remember, Lupé, that’s one tuck, one no-tuck.

P.S. I didn't get a chance to take any photos today (other than that grainy hotel room iPhony view, so here's one to keep you occupied. I call it "Nails for Days Yet None For Tomorrow"

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Formidable Joy (Whistler 2015)

The everchanging spectrum of a guy, for those who like subtle music references. Now, originally I was all excited to update you on the "Whistler 2015" trip, but it was more of a trip and fall. It's normally a great milestone in life when your dad shakes your hand and sends you off, but this time it merely transferred the stomach flu to my hand to my face to my butt to everywhere I stopped on the 35-turned-50-hour drive from Ottawa to 'Merica to Whistler. For those who liked the previous music reference.. it was like my innards wrote the song Your Hand In Mine. I decided to make the drive instead of flying because I was all excited test out the new Nikon in Yellowstone, among other places along the way, butt alas that was not to be. I also thought I was going to get some winter training in on the road so I brought along a Concept II rower and about ten sets of gym clothes. Lord, what fools these mortals be. erg-bc2015

I guess I still got a little fitness in by lugging this thing up and down multiple hotel staircases, all whilst clenching one's gluteus donutus muscle and holding a grocery bag to the face to prevent upcharles from plaguing the dizzying 70's modernity that is hotel accoutrement - and probably improving it, lest I charge them a decorator's fee.

But hey, I lost ten pounds.

By the time I made it to the chalet in Whistler I was pretty much ready to head back. Honestly it was a terrible feeling, since the whole idea of the trip was to celebrate finishing my thesis, and I neither finished nor celebrated. I did manage to hold down a couple beers though, which - based on entertainment value per dollar - were about $300 each. Stupid Canadian prices.

Of the little luck I did have, I found some sun down by the water in Seattle and up the bumps in Whistler. I stopped by the Conibear Boathouse at the University of Washington on my way north, having just read the Boys in the Boat and wondering if Husky crews still rowed in high-waisted shorts. Aside from the disappointment of only seeing regular unisuits on humans taller than I could ever hope to be, it was still a pretty classy looking place.

DSC_0086_2 DSC_0129_2Whistler_GP_11

You'd be surprised how fast you can fly down an icy black diamond when imminent danger is in your snowpants.


Maybe I was just sick of being the third wheel/cuteness photographer, but after one morning on the slopes I had to call it a weekend; I was dead to the world.

After another two days lying on the chalet floor watching the weather network, it was time to pack up and leave. So soon?

The rest of the crew headed to the city to catch the Superbowl, but I was thinking one thing: get as many miles marked off as I can. So I listened to the entire game on choppy AM radio as I drove through the Cascade Range, quite entertained by the old men commentating on the half-time show and how Katy Perry was "quite a pretty lady." At least we know a couple things weren't deflated in that moment.

The next two days looked a lot like this, so I tried to take it all in whilst trying not to let it all out. IMG_1964_2

The last day on the road was bittersweet, as most are. But this one was a mix of finally feeling like a normal human again, and some of the worst driving conditions ever. A snowstorm was hitting the midwest and I had nothing to do but stare straight ahead and grip the wheel like I was about to spin it for the Showcase Showdown. I passed at least thirty cars in the ditch and had to block traffic for a high school kid who got the spins in the passing lane in Chicago and smashed the guardrail. I proudly explained to him that his classes were indeed relevant to life, as his car was perfectly perpendicular to the rail and thus maximally protruding into the middle lane, causing the vocal chords of many a passerby to resonate, resulting in an audible "Yer blockin da whole fackin Kennedy road der! Get churself onta da Dan Ryan or fack off! And uh, go Cubs go."

So that was Whistler 2015. If you're jealous if this trip then you know you need to make some drastic changes to your life. Good luck with those. I'll keep you posted on mine.

And remember, hand sanitizer won't stop the flu. Soap and water and avoiding your family.

All my best.

MSc, USA: Grad Students Take America, Pt. VII

The last installment! Now you have your Body by Jake Ab Rocker all paid for! OK, so this will be the last piece of MSc USA; I just have to finish Whistler 2015 first. I’m posting these titles in advance to keep their spot in the blog so I can kitty litter the trip and keep everything clumped together.

MSc, USA: Grad Students Take America, Pt. IV

I swear I’m trying to wrap this thing up as quickly as I’d think I was prepping for sex or something. I feel like it’s time to get writing about current events in my lowly grad life instead of being on a six month lag reliving last summer. However, my thesis is pretty much on a six month lag, so I guess that works out. For this at least, it’s not working out for the thesis.

If I remember correctly in the last post we had just gone to bed…

… We woke up repeatedly with nightmares of horses. I’m assuming you caved and Googled that bedtime story I mentioned earlier. Shame on you. You’ll have to live with your decisions.

Sometime around nine we hit the road for Atlanta. For the record, the longer I wait when writing these posts the worse my memory gets, so bear with me if you’ve heard conflicting versions of these endeavours and I’ll send you a special note to say I’m sorry, which will likely be made of individual letters cut from different magazines..

When we got relatively close to Atlanta (likely within 300 miles) (of Mexico) we took out the clubs and hit the fairways. It was a decent day, but either they had just aerated the turf or they had a ridiculous midget gopher problem. We played a round of skins and lost almost every one to Snake, who by then had taken to calling himself Moil.

If you didn’t know, golf takes most of a business day, which must be why so many business men love it (if not for the cute beer cart girls and lack of physical exertion). So given my normal desire to eat every three hours, by the end I was famished. We checked online and found another hotspot from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. (I can’t recall, is there an oxford comma in the show’s title, or did Guy Fieri eat it?)


I don’t know what this was called but it was a nice change from McDoubles, which we simply saved for dessert. For the record, all the good toppings are hiding under the fries, presenting a rather stupid challenge..the meal turned out to be nearly as sporty as the round of golf.

Eventually we made it to Snake’s brother’s house in ATL, performed the obligatory and awkward get-to-know-each-other-yawn-I’m-tired-long-day-on-the-road-yeah-us-too-guess-we’ll-hit-the-hay-yeah-we-were-thinking-the-same-thing chat (great guys though). Then Cobra and I retreated to the playroom to get some shut-eye (yeah that’s right). But first we made a sweet fort and yelled at the kids for being too loud at their invisible tea party. We secretly questioned whether invisible tea was the source of all girls’ cooties. Then quickly confirmed it with our boy smarts, which we reasoned are never wrong, because we’re boys. All that being awesome really wore us out so we fell asleep pretty early. Actually Cobra didn’t quite go to bed right away, he submitted his thesis first. I mean, you can’t properly focus on academics until you’ve had some stolen cootie tea, right? Priorities. That’s why we call him a Master of Science, and why his supervisor calls him a Piece of Shit. Unfortunately I have the same supervisor, so I’ve recently taken over his Shit-Piece duties. (Is that redundant?)

Morning came early and it felt like it was going to be a good day! Sorry for the confusion, I sometimes call myself Morning. According to the itinerary it was another hiking day so we got dressed and ate one of those breakfasts where you’re not quite comfortable as guests yet, so you make conversation based on what you talked about the night before, or the décor of whichever room you’re sitting in. Then you wipe the crumbs off your face after every bite and make sure nothing escapes from the direct line between your mouth and plate, and never ask for seconds but always say yes after the third insistence, then offer to do the dishes even though you clearly see a dishwasher and don’t even know which annoying variation of a sponge they use to clean anyway. Phew. We made it. Honestly why do I even travel?

Oh right! Because we get to see cool stuff. Like Racist Rock! Wait, no, Stone Mountain! Just outside of Atlanta and my comfort zone. It was so confederate I’m surprised there weren’t segregated routes. We brought along Snake’s cousin and her mom, just so the whites wouldn’t think we were a “buncha gaymin.”


The carving is actually about 17,000 sq.ft. So like I say when I send Snapchats, trust me it’s bigger in person.


Safety first. Always wax your legs before hiking. This further contributed to the gaymin accusations. I was actually just taping Cobra’s ankle which took an unfortunate turn during a previous hike. I knew my degree would pay off one day. (I said, as I was providing my services for free…)


 Resting on top of the mountain a.k.a. trying not to succumb to my fear of heights.

On the way down Cobra split off and ran ahead because Kid #1 wanted to go faster than us, but looking back at it, we’re convinced most people on the mountain thought he might be driving a windowless van.


The Cobra attacks.

When we got back down we dropped everyone off at the house and went to pick up Snake’s brother to grab dinner and catch a Braves’ game downtown. We found a place called the Vortex so we could try their Triple Bypass Burger, because everyone wants to fill their insides with grease before sitting idly for nine innings of “sport.”


Nothing too big, I’ll just have a couple patties, some bacon and eggs, and I guess put it between a few grilled cheese sandwiches while you’re at it. And maybe add a few tater tots that’ll look identical before and after.

The game itself was pretty good, I believe one of the teams won.


The highlight of the night was meeting a fellow canuck in the stands, or as he said it, a “canook.” My skepticism rose. But since he was already a few brews deep it was a pretty entertaining conversation. You wouldn’t believe the antics a high school gym teacher gets up to when he’s on vacation. What a lovely, detail-oriented man he was. Plus he sent me a beer after we relocated down to some lower seats, since, afterall, it was a “good canook brew.” He was right. But after all of his talk I was kind of disappointed he didn’t send me a lap dance. Selfish. Quite uncanook.

Just after it got dark all the players’ moms said “stop playing catch and do your homework!” so they dabbed a couple sweat droplets off with hundred dollar bills and left the field. We left too, but after that burger I think I was sweating a little more than they were worrying about my Albert Pujols getting a little Babe Ruthless.

In the morning we hit the road once again, in search of better hiking.

Did the boys finally discover what they had been searching for? Find out next time on Rather Normal Vacations Hyped Up For Print.