aMMusingly Appropriate, Appropriately aMMusing

Last Saturday or Sunday night, the Mackay Bridge — one of the two suspension bridges spanning Halifax Harbour — looked exactly like the illustration in the banner of aMMusing. I remember choosing this WordPress template because I had many times seen either bridge look like that. But seeing it again last weekend, conversely, made me think about aMMusing. Funny that.

The Momma’s Boy’s Perspective

Never have I denied being a momma’s boy. I don’t even see it as an accusation or a failing. I think a lot of it stems from the fact I admire how that individual, who just happens to be my mother, operates.

For one thing, she isn’t one to hold a grudge. Oh sure, she gets pissed off and she doesn’t mince words when she is pissed off, but once it’s off her chest, it’s over. Vindictiveness is not part of her vocabulary, and that’s something I admire very much in her. I see it as a virtue that I wish to hold as well.

But another thing about her I admire is the tenacity with which she immediately searches for the positive within a very bad situation. In a life-altering situation like my father’s death last year, the positive she immediately found was, “Thank God his suffering is over.” In a more trivial, day-to-day event like getting locked out of the house, which even the locksmith had trouble getting into, she concluded, “Well, kids, you don’t need to worry about my safety in this house, ’cause it’s like a fortress!” Perhaps it’s her survival instinct or her sanity checker that kicks in, but she always looks for a positive angle, even if that angle is a little flip, for at least it injects a bit of humour to defuse the bad situation a little tiny bit.

I’ve just lived through one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life, which I’m not going to get into here. Aside from the very real turmoil I felt, I could choose to also take into account the work I didn’t get done this week. But I’m not, because I figure that I’ll just rebound from that, as I always do. Instead, I’m looking with a high degree of amusement at how the stress of the last week has made me reach an unrelated goal I’ve set for myself about three months ago. And that is: in a single week, I’ve lost the last five pounds I wanted to lose.

Yeah, I know that’s flip in view of the turmoil of the last week, especially since that’s the least important and most unrelated outcome of said turmoil which, in the final analysis, has yielded numerous and far more significant positive outcomes. But I can’t help thinking right now how that’s the kind of thing my mom would notice and comment on, with a little, badly concealed smile revealing that she’s aware that the observation is both absurd and just on the line of inappropriateness. And here I am, like mother, like son…

The Dare

In 1987, Halifax used to have a big party on Argyle Street on Hallowe’en. That was the year I moved from Moncton to go to university. A few of my friends came to Halifax from Moncton for the party; we got seriously shitfaced. I went out as the Devil, drawing in a beard and moustache with some makeup pencil one of my friends had. I had cute horns and a red tail we sewed onto my pants. And every time I would see another guy posing as a devil, I would go up to him, point my finger at him and declare, “YOU …are an IMPOSTOR!”

At that point of my life, I had never given any thought to sporting a moustache or beard for real. I had assumed it wouldn’t come in full enough on the then 22-year-old Maurice. But I had liked the look of the makeup beard, so I thought I’d give it a try. And by November 11, I went for a quick trip to Moncton, sporting a very full beard. Moustaches, beards and goatees weren’t as “in” back then as they are now, which is part of the reason why I decided to keep it.

The only time I ever shaved it off was spring of ’93, and I let it grow back right away. In the spring of 2000, I decided to try a goatee instead of a full beard, as I’m one of those guys whose hair turned silver in his 30s and my beard was more silver than dark. I returned to the full beard that fall — regrettably I had it when we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in March ’01 — but I returned to the goatee a few months later and never returned to the beard.

In the context of making changes, I’ve been toying with the idea of shaving everything off for the first time since ’93 — 12 full years ago! But before going ahead and doing something totally silly, I thought I’d ask BeeGoddessM‘s advice. And she was quick and categorical: “Yes! Do it! Do it! Do it!”

I don’t know why I’m making such a big deal out of this. As BeeGoddessM said, “It’s only hair!” and, if I don’t like it, I can have it all back in about 3 weeks. Now’s the time to do it, though — before the summer sun…

Well… I think I might do it. It’s just that, after 18 years, I can’t picture myself without facial hair. I think I have reasons to want to cover up… 😉

UPDATE
Okay… Click if you dare

AIM Conversation with BeeGoddessM

TextStyleMan: I can’t believe you bothered to take a picture of me washing the dishes tonight.
BeeGoddessM: i just couldn’t believe it! i had to take a picture of that!
TextStyleMan: Funny thing, noticed how fast I am at it when I finally decide to do them?
BeeGoddessM: yeah
TextStyleMan: Well, you’re not going to believe this, but when I got back to the apartment after driving you home, I washed the few that were left.
BeeGoddessM: omg
TextStyleMan: And then…
TextStyleMan: I swept the kitchen floor.
BeeGoddessM: OMG!
TextStyleMan: But that’s not all.
TextStyleMan: Then I figured, “What the heck”…
TextStyleMan: …and I mopped the kitchen floor, too!
BeeGoddessM: fuck off!

I’ve been laughing at that “fuck off” for a week now. 🙂

You see, I never claimed in this blog that I’m anything but a domestic disaster. Some would even say I’m a slob when it comes to my apartment. Do notice the emphasis on “apartment,” as I don’t think anyone would consider me a slob in any other respect, because I’m not.

Something changed, however, when I moved downstairs last month. The place was so fresh and clean when I moved in that I felt as though I was literally given an opportunity to start on a clean slate — pardon the pun. It’s also brighter in here, plus I got rid of my ratty sectional sofa and bought myself a new, queen-size bed. Cognitively I’ve always known that the trick to avoiding “domestic disaster” status is not to let anything pile up, but, for some reason, I’ve never been able to put that trick into practice. Until now.

Overall, this move has definitely been a good thing. Losing the fans from hell has been great — so much so that I’ve been overlooking the deficiencies in this new place, of which there are several.

I feel the move’s a milestone of sort, which is appropriate in the context of how I’ll be turning 40 in August. During the move, I quite literally threw out my 30s. Out went all the material (except one file folder) I created and used while teaching. I also threw out a forest of paper I’d been keeping. I think the reason I accumulate so much paper is because it is the only tangible product of so much hard work over the years, and I usually can’t bring myself to throw out work.

There’s no need for all that paper now. For instance, I don’t intend to ever go back to teaching. I had been keeping my teaching-related material on the thought that maybe I would some day; I knew it would all need serious updating, but I kept it so that I would have a base to start with. But fuck it! I won’t go back there, so what’s the point?!

I’m also seriously thinking again about quitting smoking. (Oh no, here he goes again!) This time I’m thinking about giving hypnosis a shot. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. When you think about how I’m already literally burning away $250 a month on cigarettes, why not give it a try? If it works, I’ll be off nicotine cold turkey; if it doesn’t, I’ll give the patch another whirl.

All of this seems to be part of a reinvention of Maurice, the guy who’s turning 40 this year and knows that (a) he’s in a bit of a rut and (b) he can’t live through the next decade as he did that last one. It’s a small thing …but I believe losing those 25-30 pounds since this time last year has been the trigger mentally. I had grown to have a fatalistic attitude with regard to my weight, assuming it just goes up and up and up with most middle-aged guys. The fact I was able to disprove that to myself has led me to believe that other good changes ARE possible.

So here’s to making good changes in life!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash that dish and mug I left in the sink… 😉

When Governments Are the Addicts

VLTsI might as well state my position up front: I have never liked Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), nor the provincial governments’ involvement in them as so-called regulators. We’ve had casinos in Nova Scotia for over a decade now, which mostly house VLTs. I can’t stand the noise in casinos — the constant *ding* *ding* *ding* coming from all over the place — a dislike all my friends are aware of.

One time, much to his surprise, one of my friends spotted me in the Halifax casino on a Sunday afternoon some 12 years ago.

— I never thought I’d see you in this place!” he said to me.
— Well …I’m not really here …or not for what you think.”

I turned to the VLT next to which we were standing, stuck a $10 bill into it, and pressed the button to cash in …and out came $10 in quarters. “Nothing except the casino is open in this blasted province on Sunday, yet I need to get a few loads of laundry done,” I explained. “This is the only place I could get quarters.” My friend laughed, thinking my little scheme quite ingenious.

Provincial governments rake in big bucks from VLTs, which, in this province, can be located in bars as well as casinos. VLTs have become one of the province’s largest sources of revenue; consequently, governments like VLTs a lot because they’re an alternate to taxation. But of the millions of dollars governments earn each year from VLTs, only a tiny fraction is redirected towards gambling addiction programs. Yet the number of people who have become addicted to gambling is staggering. Some, after digging themselves into a hopeless debt hole, have even committed suicide.

Now the Nova Scotia government is thinking about reducing the number of VLTs in the province, but some members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) are calling for a plebiscite so that Nova Scotians themselves can decide if VLTs should be banned. However, I think that, based on how Nova Scotians rejected the idea of Sunday shopping last fall and how citizens in neighbouring New Brunswick voted again a VLT ban a few years ago, they would vote in favour of keeping them. Moreover, it’s clear the biggest addict of them all is the provincial government, for in its consideration of reducing the number of VLTs in Nova Scotia, it has largely ignored the recommendations of senior advisors on problem gambling.

Where I become conflicted, though, is that, in wanting a ban in VLT, am I tacitly supporting a nanny state? Am I subscribing to the idea that ordinary citizens are incapable of determining what’s good or bad from themselves? In other words, am I encouraging an encroachment on free will because of a (sizeable) minority for whom gambling has become a problem?

In all of this, though, I can’t help but find a great deal of irony. In Nova Scotia, you can’t shop on Sunday; however, you can do anything else, including gambling. So it’s painfully obvious to me that this dichotomy is the result of the government’s own addition to gambling, where Sunday shopping, unlike gambling, would likely have little to no effect on the provincial coffers.