Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Turns out I ain't ain't afraid of no ghost!

VOID: That's not only what the experience is called, it's also a
medical verb that came to mind when I was ascared.
"You were really scared, weren't you dad?" my daughter Ev asked me yesterday, at about 6:05 p.m.

"Maybe," I answered.

Except there's no maybe about it.

Just minutes before she put the question to me, I had been standing high above a major metropolitan city on a very flimsy platform with nothing but a few thin planks separating me from the dark abyss. Worse, the rickety platform was being shredded away--plank after plank--by an explosive thunder-and-wind storm.

A bucket fell off the platform and I watched as it sank into the darkness.

I really wasn't sure what my next step should be.

Which is really weird because where I really was was a small ground-level room in a downtown-Toronto restaurant entertainment complex called "The Rec Room"  wearing a virtual-reality headset. Ev had purchased a pair of tickets for me and her to check out the Rec Room's Ghostbusters VR experience. The official name of the ride is "The Void".

So after being outfitted with VR gear that included a very cool phaser-style gun that fired ribbons of sparks, we spent 13 minutes travelling around some rickety old building looking for and blasting, to pieces, ghosts.

Busting ghosts consumed 13 of the best minutes I've ever spent and it was one of the most memorable birthday presents yet and I've had my share.
MEET EVATAR: My daughter Ev presented me with this great birthday gift.  

I won't go into a shot-by-shot account of the adventure.  I simply recommend a visit.

But I did learn a few things in the process.

1) Let's deal with this one out of the gate. It's a good thing for everybody that fate made me a journalist as opposed to, like, a paramedic or search-and-rescue guy, because I'm a fraidy cat.

2) As sophisticated and as realistic as it is, the version of VR that we played with yesterday is still early-days stuff.  In the not-too-distant future--I'm thinking sometime later this afternoon--Ev's and my Ghostbuster adventure--with fancy headgear and almost lifelike avatars--will be viewed as quaint and nostalgic, about the same way we view steam engines now.

3) Speaking of steam engines, I actually remember where I was seated back in university when our professor Patrick McFadden told us the supposedly true story about a crowd running in fear from a movie theatre 100 and some years ago as they watched the silent film "Arrival of A Train at  La Ciotat." McFadden said moving pictures were so new people thought a real train was coming right at them. Last night, I joined that audience.

4)  After our 13-minutes of VR, Ev and I exited, exhilarated. My adrenaline was still pumping and heart pounding. The experience seemed so real it might as well have been. This VR stuff could be a game changer in several rilly rilly significant areas of activity, if you catch my drift. (On another occasion, Ev and I held a related discussion and agreed that anyone who says you can't fall in love with a machine has never owned a motorcycle.)

THE FALL HAUNTING SEASON: (Don't tell anybody but blasting
ghosts to smithereens is super childishly fun.)
5) If that's not scarier than standing on a disintegrating ledge high above a dark city I don't know what is.

6) Daughters can read your mind. At the height of our battle, after a screaming virtual reality elevator ride to the top of the pretend building, we found ourselves out in the "open air."  Ev bravely led the way and I tried to play Joe Cool and hang back near the wall. And even with headgear that made it impossible to see my real face, Ev sensed that I was really scared of falling to my death. I had to keep telling myself, "it's only pretend." Problem was, I wasn't believing myself.

7) Some part-time jobs are better than others. The following just occurred to me:  One of the rules they tell you before you suit up is, "If you find yourself having a hard time for any reason, just raise your hand and an attendant will help you." The thing is, once we were ready for battle, the only thing we could see was the pretend world. So...for the next 13 minutes, the two pleasant young men who helped us get ready must have been killing themselves as Ev and I flailed around an empty room like a couple of hallucinogenic-ingesting ravers. We were twisting and ducking and yelling things like  "Watch out!" "Quick shoot! and "Oh man this is nuts." I wish I'd seen us.

8) I'm hands-down the most dupable person I've ever met. And for that, I blame each and every one of my older brothers and sisters. And if you have more time on your hands, you can read why here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why Saints Alive! is more than just talk

When I was a kid, we pronounced the capital city of what was then Czechoslovakia as if it had a long-A.

We called it "Praig."
called on the Infant a lot

I actually remember when the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, there was some talk of World War Three and I was worried that my older brother Tommy would have to go fight--in "Praig."

My question to you is, would you remember how you pronounced the name of a foreign capital that had nothing to do with your lives? And my answer to you is, you sure would if you had the same mom as I did, and her name was Huena.

And here's why: That city is home to a little statue of Jesus,  known as The Infant of Prague. And in the Carter household, the Infant of Prague was as alive as, well, a real baby. And she pronounced it "Praig."

My mom had Infant of Prague statues and/or pictures in, I'd wager, every second room of our three-bedroom house.

Huena prayed to the Infant of Prague and recommended we do likewise, whether it was in an effort to make sure one of my brothers didn't land in too much trouble or to help get a passing mark in high school. (I inched through grade 13 calculus with 51% . The I-of-P might well have helped.)

Turns out not everybody shared my kinship with the statue. Last year, when my wife Helena and and I found ourselves in Prague--and by now pronounced "Prog,"--I got all excited and said we had to go see the the statue that my mom had so adored, Helena was like, "infant of what?"

She did, though,  concede to visit the cathedral where the real McCoy was and I'd have to say, as my mother might, "she's no worse for the wear."

I learned something, too. When I  told one of the priests in Prague that my mom was a huge fan, he asked if I'd been raised in an Irish Catholic household.

My answer was of course "yes" but my answer should have been something like: "my mom had statues and holy pictures in every room in the house. She had us go to church on many days beyond Sunday and we prayed the rosary regularly and even if you weren't Catholic if you were visiting our house the nights we said 'the beads' as we called it, you'd be joining us. My mom brought all of the good things about being Catholic into our lives and as far as I can tell, none of the not-such-great things. So, yeah you might say I was raised in an Irish Catholic household."

We had lots of books in the house and more than one of them was called "Lives of the Saints."

Some people know their hockey players; Huena knew her saints. And she put them to work for her.

Like I said, when we were kids Huena sometimes wanted us to attend Mass in the mornings, even when it wasn't Sunday.

"Alex, Eddie and Peter," she would call  from the bottom of the stairs up to the bedroom room where I and my two brothers lay in bed, hanging on to our blankets, pillows and mattresses as if they were life rafts and leaving them would mean instant drowning.

"It's the feast of Saint FILL IN SAINT'S NAME HERE! Get up for Mass!" Eventually and almost always in the following order--Peter then Alex then Eddie--we would cave and get up.

In the Catholic faith, every day is some saint's feast day. It's usually the day they died or maybe the day they were canonized. There are more saints than days so sometimes, a day belongs to a small group of them.

Today, Thursday October 12 is the feast of St. Wilfrid and I'd be very surprised if my second cousin Wilf Stacey doesn't know this because his mother Mary was as big a saint fan as Huena.

Speaking of moms named Mary, tomorrow,  October 13, also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the sixth time Jesus's mom appeared to six Portuguese kids in Fatima. We had several Our Lady of Fatima statues in our house.

Tomorrow also happens to be Friday the 13th. And here's something you may not have read before--a Psychology Today article on "Why Superstitions work.  But I digress.

In the house I was raised in, saints were as much a part of our lives as aunts and uncles cousins like Wilf from three paragraphs ago. And they were a very helpful bunch.

If you were going travelling, you'd want to have a little statue of St.Christopher, patron saint of travelers nearby.

Even non-Catholics know that St. Anthony helps you find stuff.

Get this.

Last Wednesday,  I misplaced my new glasses.

This morning, I texted my wife with this:"Good news! I found my glasses."

She texts back: "Where?"

I typed,  "Er,  St. Anthony miraculously put them into a little-used pocket of my denim jacket." And Helena, who calls me the most superstitious person she's ever met, responded with, "Very thoughtful of him."

Just occurred to me. I've been  looking around for more than my glasses last week. And it wasn't until Tony came good with my specs that I realized I'd also been looking for something to blog about. 

Another couple of saints got a lot of attention chez Carter.

 For some reason I remember mom praying to St. Maria Goretti,whose name I always found euphonious and then very recently, I checked out her specialty; she keeps creeps away from young girls.

Sometimes, saints are so good at what they do that they graduate from heaven to having a secular job here on earth.  St. Francis of Assisi is one of those guys. I blame the hippies for that one.

And I just learned he's not the only Assisi. My daughter Ev Frances has a pal named Aaron and he has introduced a marvelous new product named after St. Clara of Assisi.  The product? Gluten-free water.  

Gluten-free water.  I tell ya. Some people will believe anything.