Kicking Some Ice

At a glance, luge is sort of boring. Get on a sled, zoom down a track, try not to crash. Before Pyeongychang 2018, I always felt luge was the equivalent of getting into an inflatable tube and launching yourself down a frozen water slide. It was the kind of sport that made me scratch my head and wonder about the lengths very rich, very bored and very winter-bound people will go to enjoy a season that isn’t always kind to humans. But that was then, and this is now, thanks to CBC’s livestream of the Winter Olympics and my recent acquisition of a foldable, amplified, indoor antenna (Philips, $19.99 + tax. Cheap!).

I am neither rich nor very bored (this part is debatable), but I am definitely very winter-bound right now. My way of coping with the weather is the way almost everyone born in the tropics does it: pure avoidance. Oh sure, I’ll do an occasional bit of ice skating and maybe even do a little sidewalk shovelling, but actually playing in the snow day in and day out and going as far as saying I love winter? Nope. When forced to confront it, I will dress like the Michelin Man. Judge all you want, when it comes to snow, I’ve long since given up style over substance because I like having ten fingers and ten toes.

Anyway.

Thanks to the wonders of free TV channels and closed captions, I’ve been getting a crash course on winter sports for the past fortnight. Prior to this year, the most attention I’ve ever paid to the Winter Olympics is to watch figure skating, I’ve learned that the Dutch dominate long distance speed skating, the Germans are lugers par excellence, the Norwegians own skiing, and Canadians claim hockey as a matter of course (although the USA always begs to differ).

I also learned that lugers use their shoulders, calves and tightly controlled shifts of body weight to control a sled that’s speeding down a track going at least 120 km/h, a helmet their only protection from a tremendous amount of g-force, fast reflexes the only thing standing between success and total annihilation. I’ve been on the freeway, clutching my seat at a lesser speed than that, and that’s riding in a car with airbags. Definitely not like a waterslide. Luge is a badass discipline.

I’ve gotten emotional watching lugers lately. Hell, I’ve been getting emotional watching Olympians lately. There’s something about watching people get recognition for years of hard work and discipline, in an arena where only the best of the best get to compete. It’s hard not to get emotionally affected by their obvious pride and joy when they know they’ve done a good job, and represented themselves, their sport and their own countries as well as they ever could have in a sport that’s already difficult to master on its own, not to mention it being set in the harshest season of all.

Compared to the online Olympics we all live through these days, a steady onslaught of one-upmanship to see who has the most perfect life, Pyeongchang 2018 is something I can get behind a hundred percent. I like watching these athletes succeed. It’s great to see people overcoming the sheer adversity of winter. To turn a season that is at best uncomfortable and at worst, deadly, into an opportunity to have fun is something I find inspiring. And I don’t usually gush, but it’s been such a crappy winter, I think I needed to be reminded that fun can be had no matter how harsh the conditions, and that the harder the struggle, the sweeter the reward. That’s true #goals.

 

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Not Gonna Fly

Someone tried to fly United with a pet peacock. Just when I thought attempting to fly with a mini-pig couldn’t be topped, this lady buys a ticket for her pet peacock, goes to the airport with it and claims it’s an emotional support animal.

I get it, flying is stressful. The long lines, random spot checks, being treated like a potential terrorist, limited leg room, three hundred passengers and only four common toilets, turbulence. It’s usually a manageable sort of stress, but some need a lot more help coping. Mostly it’s Benadryl and an eye mask, but the really special cases need an emotional support animal (ESA) – not to be confused with a service animal – along for the ride.

To fly with an ESA in tow is not an easy process. There is paperwork involved, including a note from a licensed mental health professional and the ESA needs to be registered with the airline at least two days before the flight. The animal is expected to be calm and well-behaved and United Airlines had warned her three times  that she and her stupid peacock would, for obvious reasons, be denied boarding. She showed up at the airport anyway.

The peacock in question has its own Instagram account and is named Dexter. Its owner is an artist, who specializes in performative tableaus, mostly about beauty. Dexter is a pet, not an ESA, and this incident highlights cases of people abusing the system by pretending they have a mental or emotional disability just to get their pet to fly with them for free.

Is this what we get for encouraging our children to dream big by telling them they’re special beings who can be anything they want to be?  Because this kind of delusional jackassery is a load of hooey. Just because you can be anything you want to be does not give you license to bring a giant peacock on a plane, even if you went ahead and bought it a ticket. It’s a fucking bird. If it needs to fly, it has wings. Emotional support peacock, my ass. Emotional support poppycock is more like it.

When it comes to ESAs, reaction is mixed. Some don’t believe they’re necessary, while others say the animals do help with anxiety  and depression. I think it depends on the person, but I’m not going to have a lot of understanding for you if you claim to derive some sort of emotional stability from a peacock.  That is bullshit. Go hug puppies like the rest of us. Hell, get a cat if you’re secretly masochistic, just don’t be a showy little shit who refuses to follow instructions or heed warnings  because you’re different and special and the rules don’t apply to you.

Why does everyone seem to either come from the Planet of Woe is Me or the Galaxy of Here I Come these days? I could just be old(er) and a little less hip, but can we please stop indulging people who’ve jumped on the bandwagon marked Free Rides for Wannabe Unique People Who Love Being Extra? It’s indulgent and symptomatic of a culture that relies on too much validation to get through the day. Can’t we all just stiffen our upper lips, straighten our spines, pop a few pills and knock back some scotch like they did in the fifties? People may have been alcoholic and chemically dependent back then, but at least they kept their messiness in check.

Sometimes it feels like people have forgotten how to be considerate. Can you imagine what it would’ve been like if United Airlines hadn’t stuck to its guns? The clucking, the spontaneous showboating, the threat of  random bird poop. What a nightmare. I am so annoyed by this. It’s all a stunt and a bid for attention because this was clearly done by a fame whore with absolutely no shame, and I’m mad at myself for falling into the trap of talking about it.

The Darwin Awards

Forget about ghost peppers, it’s all about detergent these days. The Tide Pod Challenge is the latest in a long line of weird things humans do because they’re bored, enjoy putting strange things in their mouths, and have completely lost their minds.

Tide Pods are pillowy little sacs of ultra-concentrated detergent that are designed to be thrown in the wash. They’re pre-measured, so not only do they save time, they also save money – no more over-scooping laundry powder, or laundry liquid, which can affect the efficiency, and longevity, of your washing machine. It’s less garbage, too. The plastic that encases the detergent is completely dissolvable, so this can also be good for the environment.

One little sac, or pod, contains enough concentrate to clean a light-to-heavy load of laundry; some come with a little spurt of bleach for extra stain removal, some have a bit of fabric softener, some have both. The pods are cute, very colourful, and smell amazing, like a clean mountain breeze, or flowers after a spring rain.

And teenagers are eating them on a dare. Not babies attracted to bright colours, not mentally challenged children unable to distinguish between the edible and inedible, not senior citizens with poor eyesight. Teenagers. Even better, they’re documenting themselves eating said laundry pods for posterity and uploading the evidence online, all in the name of fame and clicks which, hopefully, gives them a sense of accomplishment and validation before they’re carted away to the ER and scheduled for a nice, cleansing stomach pump.

Side effects of ingesting laundry concentrate include burning of the throat and lungs, seizures, loss of consciousness, and yes, death. Procter & Gamble came out with a public service announcement, essentially begging  teenagers not to eat Tide Pods. If you have to be told via PSA that eating detergent is bad, it’s too late for you. We don’t want humans with poor life choices and faulty mental wiring to spread their genes, do we? This is a positive thing, people. It’s just human evolution at work, Mother Nature finding new ways and means to weed out the stupid.

Of course teenagers know when they’re doing something dumb. I say let them. Some things can’t be taught, and some people wouldn’t listen anyway. Lessons that have been learned as consequences of stupidity are usually lasting ones. You can bet they’re never going to undertake stupid eating challenges again, mostly because of the giant hole in their esophagus, but let’s just focus on the positive, shall we?

A huge part of  humanity is obviously not going to go all in and start scarfing up laundry pods like there’s no tomorrow, because I don’t know, most of us actually want to keep living.  But then you have the outsized reactions, people panicking, with the PSAs and the finger pointing and calls to “ban Tide pods.”

It’s not time to ban Tide pods. It’s time to rediscover the principle of common sense. Keep laundry detergent away from babies and toddlers. Help your child understand consequences. Stop buying your children Unicorn frappucinos. Explain that not everything bright and beautiful is meant to be put in one’s mouth. Inform them that once upon  a time, eating a soap bar was considered punishment, not a one-way ticket to internet stardom.

Nature isn’t safe. Nature isn’t harmless. It is a jungle out there, and we can’t just keep protecting our children from everything. Children need to be allowed to make mistakes. Children need to learn how to recognize warning signs, to know what’s dangerous and what isn’t. All we can do is try and ensure they grow up with good heads on their shoulders. The failure to parent is not a good enough reason  to deny the rest of us the convenience of concentrated laundry soap.  Why do we have to be suffer? We’re not the ones eating the damn things.

 

The Things We Leave Behind

Funerals make me feel awkward.

I have a chronic inability to deal with death, so I deflect. There are two ways I do this. Humour helps me deal with emotional upheaval because I find it goes a long way toward making the unbearable, bearable. My first step is to try and find a little levity. Note I say a little, because a funeral is obviously not the right time to be cheerful and gay and too much levity is disrespectful. There are other ways of processing trauma and my method may not be the most mature way of going through the stages of grief, so I can’t exactly recommend you kids do this at home. If it helps you with discomfort and pain, you’re welcome to try. Just remember to be appropriate about it. No one wants a crazy guest in the corner, pointing and laughing at a hearse.

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I blame Meryl Streep for my issues.

The second way I deal is to have takeaways. I note specific details to incorporate in my own funeral, i.e. open vs. closed casket, appropriate Biblical passages, whom I would want doing the eulogy, what to feed the guests. I never had plans for a dream wedding but it would seem I have plans for a dream funeral.

I met my aunt when I was much much younger, and I knew the basics: she was a nurse, had two boys, lived in Montreal. It wasn’t until her funeral that I found out she hadn’t just been a nurse, she’d been the head nurse of a prestigious hospital and a damn good one. So good, after she retired they named a hospital award after her. She was socially active, a woman who touched many, and had been, by all accounts, a pearl of a human being. For her funeral this week, I didn’t need very much levity. I am fortunate to have extended family in these parts and we were all together for the first time in a while, which meant stories of the misadventures of my aunts, uncles and cousins were shared to everyone’s delight. It also meant we were creating new memories just by being together again, catching up after a bit of time had passed. You can always make new friends and keep the old, but there’s nothing quite like the shared history unique to people related by blood. It seemed like a great way to honour her memory in a land far away from the place where she was born.

They say we take nothing with us when we die. I think we spend so much time making it a priority to enjoy the things we can’t bring with us, we forget to focus on what we actually leave behind. And this was my takeaway: while we take nothing with us when we pass on, we leave everything behind for others to deal with. And although we are by nature more forgiving when it comes to remembering someone who’s already dead, it does matter that we leave behind as many good memories of ourselves as possible because no one wants to be remembered as a jerk. It doesn’t matter if we’re no longer around to enjoy our own eulogies. It matters that others don’t struggle to write a decent one for us.

Night of the Living Undead

I wish I was one of those people who stayed attractive even when fat. Curves in the right places, a tiny face. But nope. We’re talking Judy Ann at her worst. And it sucks.

It sucks when Halloween comes around. On one of the very rare instances when wearing costumes in public is socially acceptable, sometimes it feels like the go-to costume is a variation on a sexy professional. Sexy nurse. Sexy firefighter. Sexy maid. Sexy nun. Sexy zombie. It wouldn’t do to just be professional, it has to be sexy because it isn’t Halloween unless your ass cheeks are hanging out.

Hallow – J.K. Rowling aside – means holy, and the hallow in Halloween has long passed its sell-by date. There’s nothing sacred about running around in stilettos, wearing thigh-high fishnets and a sexy nun costume but hey, we’re only young once. I’m not hating. Between you and me, that Halloween would totally be my Halloween if I weighed at least twenty pounds less and had a waist.  But it isn’t. So I end up looking like this.

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I’d decided if I couldn’t have my ass cheeks hanging out, I could at least make a statement, the statement being work sometimes feels like a penal colony so I felt like dressing the part. Which apparently made an impact, because the next year they decided to have a theme, and the theme was…

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The Guy and the Dragon Tattoo

When my feed turned into an intriguing pastiche of dragon tattoos, allegations Chinese Triad membership and myriad expressions of shared disgust, I had to ask: who is Trillanes and why does he seem like a waste of time?

“Failed mutineer, useless senator,” said Inah.

“Complete waste of oxygen,” said Michelle.

“One big idiot,” said Omar.

“Troublemaker,” said my Mom.

“At least he signed a waiver of bank secrecy,” said Liana.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is famous (or infamous) for his big mouth. He says what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and he is extremely skilled at causing a ruckus. He’s so good, he was sent to jail for it. To be fair, it takes more than a big mouth to get sent to jail. Plotting to bring down the government will do the trick, and he did it not once, but twice, damaging a historical hotel into the bargain.

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Jeepneys, Tramps and Thieves

The year was 1999. To a teenager on her own in a a big city, on holiday for the first time, Cebu was a magical place. It was all fun and games up until I needed a ticket home. Times being what they were and Google maps being nonexistent, I inevitably got lost searching for the ticketing office of George and Peter Lines. Directions were needed, nothing that a smile and a few words of thanks wouldn’t fix.

Or so I thought. Long story short, I asked an otap vendor. He  was so eager to help, he roped in a friend who had one of those trikes you see at piers, for ferrying people with heavy luggage around. The good news? I found the ticketing office. The bad? I came home with 500 PhP worth of otap and a lifelong distrust of strangers.  Clearly, the lesson here is that otap is evil. Oh, and get directions from someone who isn’t incentivized to benefit from your ignorance (like a policeman), and learn to say no.

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