Monday, October 22, 2012

The Grating Outdoors

Was' Happenin', Outdoorsy Types?

I've talked at length before about hating this time of year.  As soon as it starts getting dark around 7 pm and the temperatures drop below 20 degrees Celsius (that's 68 degrees Fahrenheit for all you non-Metric types), I feel as if I'm waiting for the winter boot to drop.  Sorry, but I don't care that much about colored leaves.  If it's color you want then just take a hit of acid and break out the Crayolas.      

I already miss being outdoors.  Hiking.  Swimming.  Soakin' up the rays.  Between October and May (or September and June in a really bad year) I feel myself slowly becoming more and more pale and sedentary every day.  Since I've got the circulatory system of a ninety-year-old shut-in and my significant other is deathly allergic to the cold, things like skiing, snowshoeing and sledding don't happen very often (read: at all).  As a result, by the time Spring rolls around, I'm usually more out of shape then your average toll booth operator.

Ergo, I need one of these three things to happen this winter:
  1. I need to purchase an alterna-home in either Florida, California or Costa Rica.
  2. OR I need an extended vacation in Saint-Martin.
  3. OR I need to begin construction on a giant indoor terrarium which accurately re-creates a pristine lakeside environment.
Now, I've since been informed that all of these plans require copious amounts of cash so the odds of any of these things happening soon is about as likely as Paul Ryan tearing up his nude wallet photos of Ayn Rand.

I wasn't always like this.  During my early teens I'd think nothing of frittering away the hottest, sunniest days in July sitting indoors working on my latest D&D magnum opus.  Usually my folks would have to root me out of my bedroom with a rake, which they'd then promptly hand to me with an express order to make the front lawn look presentable.  Remember, this was back in the Mesozoic era when parents had kids expressly for the purpose of procuring cheap labor.

Besides raking, some of my other despised childhood outdoor chores included:

(1) Fence Construction.  Immediately followed by fence painting and a routine schedule of fence maintenance.  Putting this Skull-Island-sized gate together in the first place was traumatic enough, since the raw lumber attracted swarms of these charming critters:
"Oh, hai!  Im a horntale wazp an eyed lik to sting youze repeetedlee now, pleez!"

(2) Roofing.  This one was great since it combined my distaste for the outdoors with a stark fear of heights.  As if being perched up on top of the garage wasn't bad enough, often I'd be on top of a ladder on top of the garage.  Hooray for vertigo!

(3) Lawn Maintenance.  When I was first assigned this task I tried the whole "Hey, if I do a really shitty job I'll never be asked to do it again" tactic!  Yeah, that didn't work.  After mowing the lawn like a spider whacked out on PCP, I was soundly chastised and then forced to go out and fix this "embarrassment to the neighborhood".  Eventually I started to enjoy lawn mowing 'cuz at least it produced immediate and gratifying results.  Which could explain my current adult fetish for vacuuming.  Plus, what fifteen year old kid doesn't like to be armed with a weed whacker?

Sometimes basic outdoor chores just weren't enough of a system shock.  So, whenever Dad got the impression that I'd been cooped up for too long or I was getting so pale that I was verging on transparency, he'd stick me on a bike and then force me to chase him all over town.

During one of these Premium Rush outtakes, I was barrelling down Minnesota Drive trying to keep up with him when he suddenly decided to hook an Automan-style, ninety-degree turn right up onto Maryland Drive.  I only had a millisecond to react and by the time my brain told my body what to do, I ended up splitting the difference (as well as my cranium).  

Maryland Drive had just gotten new sidewalks, so the curbs were about as high as the West Bank Barrier.  The front wheel of my bike hit this concrete monolith and sent me pitching head over heels like that crazy mid-air pinwheel / cannonball stunt in The Road Warrior.

Just as soon as I was airborne I knew that I wasn't going to stick the landing, so I took great pains to come down on a non-vital body part: I.E. my face.  Needless to say, it was a real treat digging pebbles out of my cheek and prying my mangled eyeglasses out of my forehead with a flathead screwdriver.

"How bad is it?  It's really startin' to sting now..."

Fishing trips were my alternate punishment.  Before I go any further, I need to establish that I was a really weenie kid.  Even more of a weenie then I am as an adult, which is really saying something.

I was such a pathetically sheltered little dweeb that I'd often use a black felt tip pen to scratch out any "naughty" words that I came across in my sci-fi magazines and replace them with family-friendly alternatives.  I didn't know it at the time, but I seemed to be preparing myself for a high-profile and lucrative career as a prime-time television network movie sensor.  

Anyway, I distinctly remember one particular time when Dad asked me to go on a fishing trip with him.  Actually if you replace the works "asked me to go on" with "auto-enrolled me in", that would probably be a helluva lot more accurate.

That day we peeled off the highway onto a dirt road and drove for what felt like two-hundred and forty-six kilometers.  Then, with absolutely no discernible cue, he suddenly pulled over by the side of the road and declared with one-hundred percent certainty that "this was the place".  After descending a precariously steep rocky bank we plunged into a thicket of woods that made the Black Forest in Germany look like the Montréal Botanical Garden.

As if navigating through this Amazonian underbrush wasn't bad enough I had to contend with  ravenous clouds of miniature, winged, bloodsucking stirges.  And let me tell you, Kind Reader, black flies and mosquitoes consider me to be nothing less then a "nummie treat".   Although I was "lucky" enough to inherit my Dad's protuberant, bullet-deflecting knee caps I certainly wasn't born with his blood type, which appears to be lethal to insects.  In fact, if I ever make the mistake of wandering too close to a copse of trees or a tiny puddle of still water I tend to get swarmed.  To these marauding midges, I must smell like a bucket of KFC in a trailer park.  


Arms flayed by thorny branches, boots half sucked off by boggy sinkholes, and marinated in enough DEET to poison the water supply of a half-dozen Vietnamese villages, I forged on, struggling to keep up with Dad, who was drifting through the woods like a wendigo.  It was then when I realized, to my horror, that my fishing line had gotten caught up on a branch about a half-a-mile back along the non-existent trail.  By the time we located the source of the snag we could almost see the car.

During this interlude all of those verboten and previously-excised magazine swear words all came back to me in a gloriously cathartic rush of unadulterated profanity.  My Morman-like moratorium was over. Honestly, I probably would have made Louis C.K. blush.

So, yes, I didn't have a great track record with the Grating Outdoors, but being a Canadian (not to mention a Newfoundlander) I knew that, deep down, I must have some affinity for the wild.  This hypothesis was eventually proven correct when a tentative series of successful camping excursions as an adult proved to be both relaxing and enjoyable.

But the thing that really turned me around was when a former co-worker asked me: 'Hey, did you ever check out all those lakes that are up around where you live?'  At the time I had no idea what he was talking about but I never forgot the question.  Then, a few years later, I did some Google map research and spent an entire day trying to find these mythical places.

The first site was rife with teenagers and broken glass.  The second place was cleaner but still overpopulated.  But then, just as soon as I crested the rocky apex of the third spot, I knew that I'd discovered a little slice of Paradise mere minutes away from home.  Bonus points: there were barely any miniature flying vampires anywhere in sight!

I quickly made up for lost time.  If the forecast was sunny and temperatures in excess of twenty degrees were predicted, I'd work feverishly all morning to electronically transcribe the previous day's longhand and then spend the rest of the day ensconced in my unconventional but tastefully decorated exterior office.  No cubicle.  No recycled air.  No oppressively claustrophobic ceiling.  No sickly florescent lighting.  It was the perfect environment for inspiration.

Subsequently, I fell madly in love with Mother Earth.  The only problem is that I'm completely addicted to this ritual and when I can't be with her I become sullen and depressed.  Like Lancelot in Excalibur; I've come to rely upon Gaia to heal my spiritual ills.  The long, dry, dull, monochromatic days of winter days do absolutely nothing to assuage me.

So, how's this for a deal?  If I can get enough people to buy my book I'll funnel the profits directly into constructing an indoor, all-season pleasure dome which every one of my sponsors can visit!         
Fine print: sufficient copies of the book must be sold in order to finance the construction of the preciously mentioned Xanadu.  One visit per customer per proof of purchase.  Offer void for douchebags.         
EPIC POEM  One of my all-time favorites.

EPIC STUNT  Wanna see a re-creation of my infamous bike crash?  Check it out at the 2:24 mark... 

EDITED FOR T.V. FAIL  Man, am I ever glad that I dodged that particular career path.  Half of this is gloriously NSFW, the other half is spectacularly lame. 

No comments: