Sunday, October 28, 2018

Where we bring back the True Meaning of Hallowe'en!

before cameras were invented.
Here's how old I am: When I dressed up as a hippie for a Hallowe'en, I didn't even know what a hippie was.

I was probably five, maybe six.

The costume idea came from my older-by-15-years-or-so brother Tom.

Believe it or not, the word "hippie" was not yet a household word.

But Tom always seemed to know about stuff before the rest of us. My older-by-29-months brother Ed and I have discussed this mystery many times. We've no idea how Tom managed to stay ahead of the curve.

We grew up in the dark ages in a mining community called Sudbury, Ontario, with two TV stations, and two maybe three radio stations, one of which was French. We had no FM radio. Yet somehow, Tom was the hippest guy in our universe. He brought home Argosy magazine and Bob Dylan and Smother Brothers albums. He told us about hippies.

My best guess is that he received--and still gets to this day--messages from outer space. But I digress.

Like every other costume of the time, the hippie one was decided at the next-to-last minute. Tom fashioned a wig from one of  my mom's mops (a.k.a., he sawed the handle off) and made a protest flag with "MAKE LOVE NOT WAR"--whatever that meant--on it. The only thing missing was the requisite pillowcase for the loot, and I was good to go.

Back then, almost everyone's costume was made on the fly.

resolved--"Two Eds are better'n one."
Hallowe'en was completely different. We  may have had jack-o-lanterns, but they were all the same.  Nobody decorated their houses. And no kid with any dignity would have gone trick-or-treating with--gasp--parents.

And you know what?

Hallowe'en, when it was a simple and unplanned affair,  was way better.

I mean worse.

That's right. Hallowe'en--more than half a freaking century after I donned that hippie mop--has morphed into one of the only annual obligatory holidays that I look forward to.

And here are half a dozen reasons why.

1) Adults get to play along! My mom and dad thoroughly enjoyed candy and beer and parties and would have leapt at the chance to be involved in Hallowe'en all those years ago. But they were too busy. My mom had 10 children.No microwave. A wringer washer. You don't think she'd have given away her jewelry and her youngest child to join in a mid-week party like lucky young parents nowadays do?

BE IT RESOLVED: "One side effect of
Hallowe'en decor is it likely keeps the
J.W.'s at bay."
2) People go to great trouble and expense trying to make houses look haunted. We're no slouches in that department neither though a few years back, Eddie said we could save ourselves a lot of trouble; if we really really wanted to scare the kids, he and I could just shell candy out from the open side door of our minivan. Did I ever tell you Ed's a brilliantly funny man? I thought not.

3) Speaking of, most Hallowe'ens, Ed comes over and we along with my wife Helena and whoever else is visiting, have a front porch party. The street turns into Mardi-Gras lite.We average more than 150 trick-or-treaters plus they drag all their parents along and everybody's in great moods. Best of all, it ends nice and early.

4) Nobody ever talks about "the true meaning" of Hallowe'en. That's because the true meaning of Hallowe'en is having fun and eating candy.  End of story.

5) Well, almost the end. Another thing about Hallowe'en is you don't have to cook and clean for it. And it's not like Valentine's, a day designed to make half the population feel miserably lonely and another quarter of the population feel guilty and a very very tiny part of the population feel stupid for forgetting to buy his Polish wife a gift until the last minute so the only thing he comes up with is the equivalent of an airport souvenir.

6) Or St. Patrick's. Talk about offensive. As somebody whose roots are in Ireland, I take considerable umbrage at this annual ritual. Around the world, millions of non-Irish people think it's perfectly appropriate to pretend to have roots in Ireland, so what do they do? They put on goofy hats, drink beer and make fools of themselves. Is that what they think Irish people do? Well, now that you mention it, that's exactly what Eddie and I will be up to come Hallowe'en.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

One man's recipe for 'Winning at Life'

DAD AND KISENYA:  (I copied this picture from the Red
Deer Advocate website. I'd give the photographer credit but
there was none.)
Four years ago, the following paragraph appeared in the Red Deer, Alberta, newspaper, The Advocate

"He has undergone tongue reconstruction using arm and leg muscles, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He had a second surgery to remove his tongue, and a reconstruction again using his own muscles. His lower jaw was removed. He has had to learn to walk again because a bone from his lower leg was used to reconstruct his jaw."


Medical staff took some man's shin bone and put it where his jaw used to be. They rebuilt his tongue with muscles from who knows where.

The things doctors do. Me, I have a hard time moving words around a page...

Elsewhere in the story, and why I'm even talking about it,  is the fact that "he"; namely, Jason Kom-Tong, a 35-year-old husband to Bambi, 32, and father to Zak and Kisenya, had stage four cancer of the tongue and had only been given a few months to live. 

Cancer of the tongue. A few  months to live. For the love of God...

Although Jason had started some experimental anti-cancer therapy in Vancouver, the former oil-field business-minded Albertan was unable to work or talk; he was getting nourishment through a tube that went directly into his stomach.

Here's the thing:  I know this Jason guy.  

And his story is worth nothing short of yelling to the world about. Never mind for a moment that I say that about everybody.  This story's different. 

Here's why.

The day last year that I first met Jason, after  he told me he had to eat through a tube, I dumbly asked, "what's that like?" And  you know what he did?  He joked! "It's f'n awesome," he said. This was my kind of guy!  

Turns out the Kom-Tongs moved here from Red Deer in 2017. Bambi found a fast-track dental hygienist program here that she could complete quickly so she’d be able to support the family. Jason continued the treatments in Vancouver; and by the time we met, it seemed that the treatment was helping.

He was well beyond the few weeks he’d been given three years earlier.

Last time I heard from him was Halloween, 2017

Until this week. The following text showed up on my phone: “Hello Peter. It’s been a while.

“The reason I thought of contacting you is, I officially beat cancer and want to give back.

 “I was hoping to get some news coverage but every time I emailed CTV they don’t respond back.  Which I can see why because my email sounds like I’m a crazy person.”

Then I read the text again. “I’m giving away cases containing many silver coins.”

In their celebration of his new lease on life, Jason and his family have taken to filling little pirate chests with real silver coins and holding impromptu treasure hunts. Some in public places like a park in Niagara Falls; and some in less public places, like the dental hygiene school Bambi’s attending.
X MARKS THE SPOT: ish. This is the letter the Kom-Tongs
give to the treasure hunters

They’ve put a whole lot of work into it. (See the photo of that letter that they hand out? These people are detailed!)  The next one’s somewhere in Toronto October 17.

Then….. I thought, “Well Jason. You’re giving boxes of money away to complete strangers.  Some might say that’s a bit odd.”

If I, on the other hand, just got pulled back from the edge of hell the way Jason just was, I’d be like Scrooge on Christmas morning after the big conversion — dancing in the streets and giving stuff away too.

Turn out, Jason is more like Scrooge than I knew. He says his health scare made him reengineer his priorities. Before this, he told me, “I rarely took my family anywhere. Work and money were all the mattered. I was blinded by my career.”

But now?

“Life should be enjoyed.

“I just want to rock the dad thing and write my book and tell my story. The silver [treasures] may entice people go out with their families to view some of our beautiful nation; or maybe will sway them just a bit into helping out a student or someone in need.”

See why I like this guy?

Finally, what do you suppose a really handsome ambitious chap who has had his face and life ripped apart by tongue cancer call his life story?  “Winning at Life,” of course.

I sure hope he gets the attention he deserves.