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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Year Twenty: Glengarry Glen Gone

Well, if my nineteenth year was considered the ultimate high of my life so far, year twenty was the year in which everything came crashing down.

And, really...I can only blame myself for it.

I have to say, I turned twenty years old at a rather turbulent time in the world.  This was the year that 9/11 happened, the year in which people became afraid to open up their mail due to anthrax concerns, and the year in which the world that I knew was completely changed forever.  And, was also the year that I learned the hard way that sometimes things happen for a reason.

Before we get to that though, we'll take a look at what was big in pop culture.  Sorry that I don't have any photos of me to share.  I was pretty camera shy in 2001.  But I have other things to show you.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2001

The second of two Janet Jackson songs to hit #1 the week of my birthday, and this one is okay...but it's not my favourite.  Though, some would say that her 2001 album was the last great album Jackson recorded before her career derailed due to "Nipplegate" three years later.  Though she does have a new album coming out later this year, so time will tell.


This movie was released on my actual 20th birthday, and it didn't take long for it to reach the top of the box office.  But, I have a confession to make.  As awesome as this movie was...I liked the second one the best!


Well, it only took eight years for the show "Friends" to become the most watched television show of the season, but I will say this.  "Friends" was one of those shows that actually got better with age, and certainly the ratings reflected that. 

Okay, so when we last left off in this retrospective, nineteen was great, nineteen was good, nineteen was the year that I finally found happiness, friends who liked me for me, and where I enjoyed what I was studying.  I had high expectations that as I turned 20, things would be even better.

My expectations were crushed.

Yes, my friends and I had a brilliant year together, but the following year saw all of us go our separate ways.  Thaila and Dominic lived in a different dorm, and Tasha had transferred to a different school closer to her hometown.  Kitty and I still hung out together every chance we got, but it just didn't feel the same.  It was different without the others.  I still thought the world of Kitty (and still do even though we haven't seen each other in about twelve years or so), but I guess I was feeling a bit lonely.

You see, I opted to stay in residence again (after staying with the family of the twins that I befriended the year before while I waited for a place to open up in residence - thanks again, girls, and I still think the world of you even today), and I ended up in Glengarry House - the disgusting, overheated, original residence building where the elevator got stuck, flies died all over the place, and where my roommate was some protein shake addicted narcissist who was more in love with himself than anybody else.  Needless to say, I shed no tears when he moved to a different dorm.  It was times like this that I missed having Grant around, even though he opted to live off-campus with Kris and Gabby.

I mean, I tried to make the most of my stay on the fifth floor of Glengarry House - and the fact that I was in a suite made it a lot easier to deal with - but the truth was that I was on a floor with a bunch of freshmen who I had nothing in common with.  It's not that any of them were bad people, it was just...different.  It was the exact opposite of the joy that I went through when I was at Stormont House.

But I suppose I should be lucky that I even got a spot in residence in the first place.  You see, residence living was designed mainly for first year students, and the school basically encouraged off-campus living for second year students and up.  But with rent in Ottawa being extremely expensive (even for 2001 standards), I couldn't afford to live off-campus, so I had to re-enroll in residence.  But there was a waiting list for second year students, and those with high GPA's were given first choice.  It makes sense, you know.  Providing incentives for keeping grades up.  I totally understood that.

It's just that my grade point average was just a couple of points off of being 80% - which meant that my name was at the bottom of that list.  If it wasn't for the fact that a first year student dropped out of school before he even began, I would have still been on that waiting list.

But even though I had gotten into residence, I soon discovered that my 79 point whatever average was not enough to keep me in the program that I had enrolled in.  Turns out that you needed an 80% to stay in the class.  And with a 79 point whatever average, it wasn't enough for me to continue learning about mass communications.

I appealed it.  Oh, you better believe that I appealed it.  I offered to do extra credit assignments, and I even begged them to reconsider, as if you technically rounded my grade up, it would be eighty per cent anyway.  No dice.  They told me to either change my major, or repeat the entire course again.

And, since I didn't have the money to redo the class (I was already $14,000 in debt and couldn't afford to add any more to that), I decided to change my major.  I briefly considered changing my major to film studies, but when I discovered that there was no part in the curriculum where we actually got to make our own movies, I opted not to pursue it any further.  Instead, I kept film studies as a minor, and chose to major in English.  I always liked English, and I thought if anything, I could go through to be an English teacher.

But the longer I tried to go through second year as an English major, the sooner that I came to a conclusion. 

I made a huge mistake.

I didn't want to admit it at first, but I think that it was a mistake to even enroll at Carleton University in the first place - at least at the time that I began as a student.

Yes, the first year I was a student was fun and I will always treasure it.  But I was also 19 years old, and I thought I knew it all.  I thought that I would just leave home, graduate in four years, find the perfect job, and life would just be perfect.

Did I mention that I was a little bit naive at 19?

Ideally what I should have done was waited to go to university.  Stay back and work for a year or two to save up some money, and then applied.  I probably would have had the motivation to stay with the program if I knew that it was my own money that I was investing, and not the student loans that I had taken out.  Truth be told, if I could do it all over again, I never would have taken out student loans to begin with.  The second year that I was in school, they didn't give me enough to even buy textbooks.  I was photocopying materials from the library to even attempt to catch up!

In fact, if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone to a community college, or a trades college - places that didn't seem like such an obvious money grab.  Granted, I know that all post-secondary schools seem like this, but college would have been a lot more affordable.  Plus, having taken a couple of classes at a community college over the last few years, I like the way that they are set up.  You actually learn by doing, not by listening to a middle-aged guy in a bowtie and tweed jacket enjoy hearing the sound of his own voice for three hours every Tuesday afternoon.

I guess that could explain why I ended up dropping out of university at the end of my second year.  It was just as well though.  I had become so disenchanted with the university system that I never really bothered going to many classes towards the end.  By the end of my second year, I was already on academic probation, and honestly, it was my own fault.  But, I suppose you could at least say that I never got kicked out of school.  I made the decision to leave before that happened because I simply wasn't enjoying it.

And I suppose looking back on it, that was because of my own immaturity and a lack of being prepared for the major commitment of being a university student.  As much as I told myself that I was old enough and responsible enough to handle the responsibility of being a post-secondary student at that age, I wasn't.

But it took me YEARS to make peace with that.  Nobody wants to ever admit that they were a failure at anything, and I certainly didn't want to admit that I couldn't cut it as a university student.  But the truth is that there are millions of people who came to the same conclusion that I did.  Just because it is encouraged to go to the top-ranked universities in the country doesn't mean that it is a perfect fit for everybody involved.  Believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I also learned that just because I don't have a university degree that it doesn't make me any less of a person.  I know that my guidance counselors were trying to make me apply to universities because they told me that I wouldn't be happy at a college, but I wonder why I even took stock in their opinions at all.  I should have listened to my heart and waited before making a huge commitment like a post-secondary education.  It would have made things a lot easier in the long run.

In the end, I was left without a degree and a $14,000 debt.  Not exactly the parting gifts that a contestant would ever want on "Wheel of Fortune".  And while it would take me forever to pay off that debt, I did over a twelve year period, and as of now, I'm currently debt free.  And who knows?  Maybe the opportunity will come again that I get a chance to go back to school.  But this time, I'm going to do it my way and stick with it.  I have the maturity and the drive now.  More than I did when I was twenty.

And, in the continuation of this retrospective, I spent my twenty-first year doing a lot of reflecting about life...and what the hell I was going to do with it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

457 Stormont House - Where I Spent My Nineteenth Year

It's time to say goodbye to the teenage years as we continue this month long retrospective of personal tales - one for each one of my thirty-four years of life.  I hope you've enjoyed the ride so far.  From chicken pox and library cards to playing volleyball and getting lost in the streets of Montreal, it's been fun reliving a lot of fond memories.

It's actually amazing how my fondest memories have taken place in three of Canada's largest cities.  I visited Toronto when I was fourteen, and visited Montreal when I was seventeen.

At age nineteen, though.  I saved the best for last.

You see, at nineteen, I had bid high school goodbye after five...tumultuous years.  I was more than willing to leave not just high school behind, but my hometown goodbye as well.  I wanted to get as far away from all of it, so I applied to as many schools as I could that were far away from where I was currently living.

Or, rather, I applied to as many schools as I could afford to.  The fact that colleges and universities charge you to send an application in is criminal!

Before I tell you where I made my final decision, I will show you a few things.  First, a snapshot of me, taken at my graduation dinner in June 2000.

And, this will be one of the last images you see of me in here.  For whatever reason, I have no pictures of me between 2001 and 2005.  I guess I really didn't like having my picture taken between that time.  Though, don't I look snazzy in my rented tux?

And for pop culture tidbits...have a look!

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2000
"Maria Maria" - SANTANA f. THE PRODUCT G&B

I suppose the Latino music craze expanded into the year 2000 as well.  Though in this case, I had no objections.  I've always liked Carlos Santana and think that he's one of the greatest guitar players ever.


I suppose that it was one of the biggest movies of the year, and I know quite a few people who saw it and loved it.  But to be honest, I found the film to be not as good as other people made it out to be.  That's not to say it was a horrible movie, but it's not a favourite.


When the show premiered in May 2000, nobody predicted how huge it would become, and many people see this show as the one that sparked the reality television movement - whether they like to admit it or not.  I will say, scheduling the second season premiere after the Super Bowl?  Genius.

So, the biggest event of the year 2000 was heading off to university, and my choices that I had applied to were the University of Guelph, Ryerson University, and Carleton University.  I never applied for any community colleges because I was misled by a couple of guidance counselors who told me that I would never find a good job if I didn't go to university, so I felt pressured to apply.

You'll learn in a couple of entries why I wish I never listened to them.

Anyway, Ryerson rejected me, but Guelph and Carleton accepted my applications.  And I had my heart set on enrolling in Carleton's journalism program, but my GPA was slightly below the cutoff point.  So, I settled with mass communications as my major with film studies as my minor.  That way, I would at least be able to do something with the media, which interested me at the time.

And, well...I will say that during my first year of studies, moving to Ottawa, Ontario, and meeting a whole bunch of people who I had never met was a little scary, but exhilarating at the same time.

Funnily enough, I ended up sharing the same dorm floor as a girl who I went to high school with named Jenna.  Jenna and I weren't particularly close at all, but she was far from being a mean girl.  We just didn't cross paths that much.  Of course, now that we were on the same floor as each other, we got to know each other better, and I ended up liking her by the end of the year.

Truth is, I found it surprisingly easy to befriend people at Stormont House (the name of our dormitory).  My roommate, Grant, was an awesome guy - and we were one of the only pairs of roommates who stayed roommates during the whole year.  Everyone else swapped rooms at least once!  We had our own course load, and went our different ways, but when we were together, we always got along with each other.  I also got to know Grant's pals, Kris, Gabby, and Brooke, and it was amazing how all four of us clicked with each other, even though all four of us were so different.  They certainly helped me make 457 Stormont House feel like home away from home.

We got along so well that we crammed into a car and cranked up the Little Mermaid soundtrack (that somehow Brooke had in her possession), and sang along to "Under The Sea", cruising down Bank Street towards the Rideau Centre.  Sigh.  You had to be there, I suppose.

I also befriended a few of the students who lived off-campus - in particular a couple of twins named Mandi and Meredith.  I can't say enough about those two girls, and they were both fantastic people.  I haven't seen them in years, but I hope that they are well.

I also reunited with an old classmate of mine.  Remember Orijit, the guy who moved away when we were in high school?  We were reunited at Carleton University after years apart!  I think we spent a lot of time together catching up.  Good times!

But as close as I was to Grant and his pals, and to Mandi and Meredith, I soon found my own group of four friends who I hung around with during the whole time I was in first year of university.  We went to the on-campus bars to celebrate birthdays, we hung out in each other's rooms, and we ate lunches together almost each and every day.

(Oh, and one thing about our dorm cafeteria.  They were divided into two sections - green and gold.  My group ALWAYS ate on the green side.  Let's put it this way.  Would you feel better eating in a room that was the colour of celery, or a room that was the colour of urine?)

So, the four people who quickly became my Stormont posse were - in alphabetical order - Dominic, an engineering student who was very quiet for the most part, but when he had something to say, he said it with so much eloquence that he wowed us.  We had Kitty, a Hong Kong born ball of energy who was always bouncing off the walls, but had a keen sense of helping cheer you up when you were feeling down.  Tasha was probably the one out of all of us who always seemed to have a smile on her face, even if things weren't really going well for her.  And Thaila...Thaila was probably the very definition of bohemian.  Marched to the beat of his own drum, played in a band, and definitely very open.  In fact, Thaila was the very first person I befriended in our group, followed closely by Kitty, Tasha, and Dominic.

But here's the difference between high school and university.  In high school, groups tended to hang out by themselves.  In university, everyone was welcome.  Dominic had two engineering friends named Gillian and Lynne, and they quickly became close.  Kitty and I befriended a guy named Revin, who also started hanging around with us.  I saw "The Exorcist" remake with Tasha and a mutual friend of ours named Jon.  Dominic and I took film studies together, where we befriended a girl on our floor named Rebecca, who was incredibly wonderful.   Sarah and Jan became popular because we all hung out in their room which was literally twice the size of ours (lucky ducks!).  And our 27-year-old graduate student of the Stormont House 4th floor, Joseph, also worked at the cafeteria, so he was friends with everybody!

(True story:  Whenever Joseph worked on the build your own sundae station on Sunday evenings, he always used to sneak in an extra scoop for us 4th Stormont people.  Thanks for that, Joseph!)

Really, the experience of dorm life at Carleton University could have been disasterous...but all in all, it was such a great experience.  Everyone was so mature, they treated me with respect.  I had never experienced anything like that before in my life, and it was something that I had to get used to. 

But because of having so many people who really liked me for me really made me come out of my shell.  I helped paint our floor mural.  I worked for the residence newspaper (which had a bit of a unhappy ending, but not everything could be perfection), and yes, I even went to classes and found study buddies to help me with midterms and exams!  What, did you think that all I did in university was socialize?  I did learn a lot as well!  They were also there to help me celebrate the birth of my third and final nephew...and helped me deal with the loss of my grandfather in April 2001 (My other grandfather died nine months earlier in July 2000).

Of course, in life, there are always going to be people you don't get along with.  I had some verbal sparring matches with one of the girls who lived in the dorm next to me, and honestly, I have no idea how I even developed a beef with her in the first place, but she reminded me a lot of some of the snotty girls I went to high school with - thinking that she was Queen of the World, and how nobody could measure up to her.  No loss there.

(Though I was friendly with her roommate, Candice.)
And, I certainly had no nice things to say about the guy who tried to incite a race war against the school by posting some racist memorandums on the walls.  I'm amazed he didn't get kicked out of school.  And considering that his roommates were African-Canadian, I'm amazed he didn't get his ass kicked!

If I could have, I'd have lived in 457 Stormont House for the rest of my life.  Not because it was the nicest place in the world - let's face it, metal beds and concrete walls are never a good look - but because for the first time in my whole life, I found people who really got me, and who really understood me.  It was such a wonderful feeling! 

Even now, I get really misty eyed thinking about it.  It's been fifteen years since I have seen any of these people, and I don't even know where they all are now.  But if any of them happen to be reading this now, I want to say thank you for the friendship you showed me.  Thank you for making me feel alive for the first time...ever.  You probably may not even know who I am, or how much you helped me, but you all made a huge difference.

After's been fifteen years and I STILL KNOW YOUR NAMES!!!  That's how much of an impact you had on me!

Yeah, nineteen was a fantastic year.  One of my greatest years ever.

Which makes writing the story of my twentieth year all that much harder...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Eighteen - The Running of the Red Rams

18 til I die - gonna be 18 til I die
Ya it sure feels good to be alive
Someday I'll be 18 goin' on 55!

      - Bryan Adams

I can't believe that my teen years are almost over!

Well, okay, they aren't really.  I haven't been a teenager in quite a number of years now.  Though sometimes I feel as though I have the energy of a teenager.  And the sarcastic and acerbic wit that teenagers seem to possess 24/7.

But in this month long retrospective of tales from the crypt (a.k.a. my 10,000,000 GB memory that I call my brain), the teen years are almost a wrap.

Today is the day that I tell you the story from when I legally became an adult.  Age eighteen.  And despite the fact that I contracted pneumonia that year - in the summer, no less! - eighteen ended up being a great year. 

Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.  Let's back up this train for a bit before we derail somewhere around the Y2K portion of the year.

So, would you like to see a picture of me back then?  It's quite...hideous.

Okay, yearbook committee.  What the hell did I do to you for you to choose this monstrosity as my final yearbook picture?  This was my worst shot!  Oh, and keep an eye on my little blurb there.  Yes, my nickname was "Turkey" (which I hated), yes, I did mention the locker fires (which I did on purpose to leave a blemish on my "perfect" high school - bwahahahaha!!!), and one of the pop culture references will make more sense as you take a look at the hottest music, movies, and television shows for 1999!

(And, no, it's not RollerJam.  I am ashamed to admit that I actually watched it back in the day...)

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1999
"Livin' La Vida Loca" - RICKY MARTIN

Certainly 1999 was a year in which Latino music thrived.  Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, and Carlos Santana all had hits during this year.  But I would say that the true leader of the Latino wave was Ricky Martin, whose self-titled English debut topped the charts that year.  Talk about shaking your bon bon to success!

"The Mummy"

Which fell off the top pretty quickly once "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace hit the box office!

"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"

This one shocked me!  I have to tell you.  The show only aired a handful of episodes during the whole year, and it still was the most watched program of the year!  Then again, I did mention the show in my graduation blurb.  And I did try to become a contestant on the Canadian version.  Alas, no luck.  I do find it ironic that our Canadian version was hosted by Pamela Wallin, who allegedly stole millions from Canadian taxpayers!

So, I have entitled this piece "The Running of The Red Rams".  And it's symbolic.  You know how in Spain, they have the Running of the Bulls?  Where you have a bunch of wild bulls running through city streets and you had to try everything to escape from them or face serious injury?  Well, our school mascot was the Red Ram...and as far as I was concerned, I felt like I was participating in a "Running of the Bulls" event my whole high school career...only with high school students.

But by the time I turned eighteen, I came to a conclusion.  I knew that I was never going to be friends with most of the people in my high school, so I simply stopped trying.  I stopped stressing out over trying to dress the right way, act the right way, pretending to be somebody that I wasn't.  Really, who needs that aggravation?  Ultimately, all that it did was cause me a lot of depression.  Depression that peaked...or is it ebbed...anyway, it came to a head right smack dab in the middle of my 16th year.  And I swore to myself that I would never allow myself to let people make me feel that way again.

My eighteenth year coincided with my OAC year of high school - which I suppose you could consider Grade 13.  Ontario did away with the Grade 13 year in the early 2000s.  But either way, the year signaled the end of high school.  And while I was nineteen when I graduated high school, most of the good stuff happened when I was still eighteen.

And what do I classify good stuff?

Well, right around my eighteenth birthday, I had finally found what I had been looking for my entire high school career.  I had found a group of friends who I felt comfortable to be myself around.  Now, David (who I told you about last entry) was a part of that group, and he had befriended another boy named Clement.  I didn't meet Clement until the beginning of my OAC year, but after David introduced us, we became friends almost instantly.  And at the same time, I met someone in my sociology class named Erik (not the same Eric who was on our Montreal scavenger hunt team), and we worked on quite a few assignments together and became friends.  I introduced Erik to David and Clement, and I think from that moment on, the four of us became extremely close. 

I never really had a group of friends that I had bonded with so closely before that, and you know...I don't know if I ever told any of them this, but they were the main reason why OAC year was so much fun.  They kind of gave me the courage to try new things, to live life, and to not be afraid to be myself.  I don't even know how I can repay those guys for their kindness, so that's why I made a special mention here in this blog so that there will always be a permanent reminder of the sincere friendship they gave me.

Now, that's not to say that David, Clement, and Erik were my only friends in high school (even though in a way, they were).  I also want to take the time to thank a few other people who were there for me during that last year of high school.

I want to start by mentioning a trio of Grade 12 girls who sat with me in sociology class during the first part of the semester.  Even though they only sat down at my table because it was the only one available at the time, they got to know me and I got to know them, and they liked me for me, and I liked them for them.  So, Dana, Melissa, and Wendy, thanks for sitting at my table.  And thanks for signing my yearbook too! 

I also want to throw a thank you to a girl named Laurel, who I met in my American History class.  She was such a sweetheart, and she eventually started hanging around David, Clement, Erik, and I.  She was in Grade 12, so I don't know what happened to her after graduation, but wherever you are, I hope that you're happy.

And, Eileen, you've been my friend since sixth grade, and you were still my friend when we graduated high school.  Believe me, your friendship was very much appreciated.  Remember when we had a little reunion dinner at that restaurant with Clement five or six years ago?  We need to do that again sometime!

While I'm thinking of it, I'll also show some gratitude towards Cary-Lynn, Becky, and Leah, who always seemed to work with me on school projects, and treated me kindly while we worked!

There were also a few people in my class who while we never really hung out together after school, they at least treated me with some respect.  I can't say I can remember all of your names, but I do remember your faces.  Believe me, I know who was kind to me and who wasn't. 

And, let's just say that when it came down to those who weren't, or who ignored me simply because I wasn't good enough...well, I don't really have anything to say to you because...well, I don't know you.  We had five years together at that school, and not once in those five years did any of you make an effort to get to know me even though I tried to get to know you.  But I suppose that life is like that sometimes.  You can't be friends with everybody.  Though, I wish that I could have gone through high school without feeling like such an outcast.

But then again, looking at it through their perspectives, maybe their lives weren't as perfect and carefree as I believed them to be.  Maybe they were going through issues that I never really knew.  Perhaps they were latchkey children who never had parents around to take interest in them.  Maybe they had to deal with a bitter divorce with custody battles and it made them angry.

And, maybe some of them were genuine jerks and got happiness through other people's pain.  But either way, by the time I got to my last year of high school, I was actually quite relieved that I would never have to see any of them ever again.  It was finally over.

I never had to see the four boys who made my life miserable in elementary school and followed me to high school.  Though, I will say that of the four boys, one of them and I patched things up during our last year of high school, and we left school on a good note.  Two of the four boys simply backed off and ignored me when they found their own group of friends.  The fourth one - the ringleader of the group - never really changed.  He was rotten from the inside out.  I hope that I never see him again.  He was trouble.

"Cory" and "Will" also reached out to me and apologized for their part in the bullying of me in eleventh grade, and well...I forgave them.  And at least when it came to "Will", he seemed genuinely sincere about it.  I wanted to say the same for "Cory", but he purposely kept the fact that "Sparks" had torched my stuff a secret for three years, and after that, I decided I couldn't trust him any longer.  I haven't seen those three since graduation, and honestly, I am fine with that.

But the ultimate epitaph of OAC and year eighteen?  I said goodbye to the meek and timid me, and embraced a more confident version.  Believe me, during the first four years of high school, I became less and less open with people to the point that I basically stopped living life and I became a soulless person who just took up space.  But befriending a group of people like David, Clement, Erik, Laurel, Dana, Melissa, Wendy, Eileen, and a couple of others...that gave me the courage to take back my life and cram the four years of fun that I should have had in high school into the final year.

I sang karaoke at the grad dinner.  I crawled through garbage and popped water balloons with my butt at Grad Goodbye Day 2000.  I put on an insanely creative independent study project in my English class (which David, Erik, and Clement helped me with), and I even had the courage to get up on stage and get hypnotized in front of the whole school.  The sixteen year old me would have NEVER done that.

I suppose that the only regret that I had about high school was the fact that I wish that I had the courage to be myself a lot earlier than my final year of high school.  But I wasn't exactly in the right frame of mind to be able to do that.  At my lowest point, Grade 11 (age 16) was the year in which I felt completely alone and isolated from everyone.  I trusted nobody, and I spent most of my time hiding in my bedroom as that was the place where I felt the safest.  How could anyone find the effort to change their lives when everyone in the world seemed to either be against them or chose not to care?

Fortunately, David, Erik, Clement, and all the others who were there for me during my last year of school...they made me see that the world wasn't as bad a place as I believed it to be.  They helped me come out of my shell a little bit more.  And they showed me what true friendship was during my teenage years.

I'll never forget that.  And that's what I will remember most about being eighteen.  I didn't care what they thought of me.  Instead I focused more on the people who I cared about.  That made the difference.  And because of that, I survived the Running of the Red Rams in one piece.

And as we look at the final year of my teen years, I'll tell you why nineteen was one of the greatest years of my whole life - well, so far anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Year Seventeen - Perdu à Montréal

Well, after a brief break from the retrospective part of anniversary month, we are back with another story from another year.

And fortunately, today's year was a hell of a lot happier than the previous one.

Yeah, sixteen wasn't quite so sweet.  In fact, it was one Sour Patch Kid shy of being a completely bitter experience.  But thankfully, the experience, as horrible as it was, didn't leave me with bitterness at all.  I suppose that in a way I'm strangely glad I went through it.  It allowed me to be more cautious with people, and it made me realize that I didn't have to rely on toxic friendships just for the sake of having friendships in the first place.

Sixteen was a real soul searching year for me, and I remember spending lots of nights thinking about what happened to me while watching David Letterman on late night television - I still can't believe that tonight is his last show ever!  My, how time flies. 

But here we are at the edge of seventeen - a much better year indeed!

Seriously!  Seventeen was a year in which I completely stopped trying to impress people and just focused on those who I knew would have my back.  Let's face it - I had walked the same hallways that they had walked in for three years and they wanted nothing to do with me.  Why bother, right?

But don't you think that this was a defeatist attitude.  Far from it.  And, I'll explain what I mean in today's tale from the teen years.

First things first, a picture of my big, bad 17-year-old self.

Now, this photo came from my yearbook, and I have to say that I really liked the layout of our class photos that year.  Instead of having our photos in the traditional rows, they were placed in little Polaroid picture frames with our names written on the bottom of them.  Props to the yearbook staff who actually spelled my last name correctly!  You wouldn't believe how it's been butchered over the years.

And, what was happening in pop culture the week I turned 17?  Have a look!

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1998
"Too Close" - NEXT

Aside from their 2000 single "Wifey", does anyone else know what other songs they had out?  I'm stumped.  But after a quick search on Google, they apparently released a new single on iTunes in late 2014.  I should check it out.

"Deep Impact"

There were two films about space junk potentially destroying the entire world as we know it - "Armageddon" and this one.  Unfortunately, I liked "Armageddon" better. 


Well, after a brief hiatus, "ER" comes back to being the #1 show of the year.  In this season, Kellie Martin ("Life Goes On") joins the cast and George Clooney takes his final bow as a main cast member, choosing to focus on a big screen career.  I don't think that decision hurt his career all that much.

So, what happened at seventeen?  Well, I became an uncle for a third time!  See, both my sisters were expecting the same year.  One nephew was born in May, and the other was born in August.  My family was becoming bigger, and that was always exciting to see - even though birthdays and Christmases were beginning to leave me broke all the time.  And my ceiling in my bedroom was patched up.

But I think the most defining moment of my seventeenth year was the time that I went on a field trip, got lost in the city, and held the bus that brought us there up for nearly an hour behind schedule! 

Hey, the way I saw it, we did the rest of the class a favour.  They had a whole extra hour to see the sights of Montreal, Quebec!  Sure, the teachers didn't see it that way, but I still maintain that getting lost in Montreal was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Especially since I was sharing the experience with a couple of friends.

It was the tail end of eleventh grade - the year in high school that I gladly would have skipped if I had the chance to.  And approximately three weeks after I turned seventeen (which would make the date sometime between June 8-12, 1998), our French class was scheduled to take a class trip to Montreal to test our knowledge of the language and to experience some of the sights and culture of the city.  The trip was for students enrolled in the Grade 10 and Grade 11 classes (for some reason, my school never offered French in twelfth grade), which meant that three classes of students would be going on the trip.

Now, as part of the trip, we had to embark on a scavenger hunt throughout Old Montreal, where we had to answer questions based on historical landmarks and shops in the area (for instance, the question would be something like "Which church did Celine Dion get married in?", and we would have to write down our answers - in French, of course.  The team that answered the most questions correctly won a prize.

Now, had French been a part of my schedule for first semester, I would have had a really difficult time finding a team.  With all that was going on, I didn't trust anybody, and I avoided group assignments like the plague because of it.  It probably caused me to get dismal grades (my marks in Grade 11 were really poor due to all the stress that I was under), but let's face it.  My goal at that time was to survive high school no matter how badly I did in it.

But in second semester, I befriended a guy who had become a new student in September of 1997.  His name was David, and for some reason, we never shared any classes at all first semester!  But then again, I wasn't really paying attention to anyone in any of my classes, as again - trust issues.

But David was different.  He knew nothing about what I had gone through over those three years.  He was impartial.  And even if he heard some of the stories about me, he really didn't care.  All that he knew was that we got along great, and I think that by the time the Montreal trip came around, he had become one of my closest friends. 

(It actually makes me sad that I've lost touch with David since high school.  Wherever he is, I hope that he's doing well.)

Anyway, David and I shared English and French together, and he easily agreed to be on my scavenger hunt team.  To be honest, I wouldn't have chosen anybody else but David to be on my team.  With the exception of a couple of kids in the class, the majority of the students in my class were people who either never bothered with me, or who were completely against me.

(Remember the story I told you about "Cory", "Sparks" and "Will" in the Year 16 retrospective?  One of them was in my French class that semester.  Enough said.)

But our teachers insisted that all the scavenger hunt teams had to have at least four students.  Though that actually ended up being a good thing, as no rule was set that we had to pair up with kids from our own class.  As it so happened, one of the kids in the Grade 10 class was John, one of my roomies from the Toronto trip that I went on for eighth grade graduation, and he and his friend (I think his name was Eric) became the final two pieces of our team of quatre

So, we took a highway coach to Montreal on a four-hour trip, and it was probably a good thing that we had tinted windows because we pulled up in front of a bench where two people were making out with each other.  In the middle of Old Montreal.  In broad daylight.  I think some kids even took a picture!

Once we got off the bus though, the scavenger hunt was on.  We had two hours to go around Old Montreal, taking our sheets of paper and pens to find as many things as possible.  And from what we could tell, most of the teams gathered around the same areas and traveled in a huge blob - my guess is that they were all working together to try and win the prize.  But our group of four went off in the opposite direction, and we opted to take our time to see the sights and answer the questions slowly.  

And right until we found the church that Celine Dion tied the knot, all four of us stuck together.

But then somehow David and I got separated from John and Eric, and they went one direction and we went the other.  And somehow, David and I got completely lost in the middle of the streets of Montreal.

And we absolutely LOVED it!

Seriously, this was the opportunity that we both had waited for.  We had made the plan to ditch the rest of the class at the first chance we got and see Montreal our own way.  And David and I did exactly that.  Besides, we figured that John and Eric were doing their own thing as well (which they later confirmed was true), so we took full advantage.

We went into the various souvenir shops, trying our best to speak French and getting really nasty looks from the shopkeepers (believe me, in Old Montreal, they judge you for even using one word of English - at least that's how it was back in 1998, anyway).  Despite this, I brought home a set of pencils, a cat puzzle for my niece, and a stuffed turtle for my nephew (the other nephew hadn't been born yet).  We took a trip down every side alley in a half-assed attempt to complete the scavenger hunt, but really we only wanted to take in the ambience of the city and couldn't have cared less about the scavenger hunt.  And, admittedly, we spent the better part of twenty minutes hiding out inside of a Harvey's restaurant because we got caught in a torrential downpour during our adventure.  And I imagine that this rainstorm must have happened towards the end of our Montreal adventures because when I checked my watch, we were a good 30 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet up with the rest of the class to continue our tour of Montreal!

We both raced towards the highway coach where John and Eric had been waiting for us - along with sixty-six other cranky and angry students and teachers.  Our French teacher flat out told us that they were just about ready to call the police to look for us!  I don't know whether she was serious or not, but one thing was for sure...David and I were the last ones to arrive - with only a third of the answers completed on the scavenger hunt!

On top of all that, on our way to New Montreal, we got in traffic on our way, and it took us another half hour to get to our next destination (a shopping plaza).  So, essentially, David and I held up our bus for an hour if you take into account the crazy Montreal traffic.

Here's the thing.  It's not as if our failure to get to the bus on time destroyed our trip.  We still got to see everything that was planned on the trip.  We just got back home an hour later than we should have.  Besides, even though David and I ended up lost in Montreal, we still had a great time and made the best of it.  To this day, Montreal remains my favourite memory of high school.

The funny part?  David, John, Eric, and I ended up winning a prize anyway - for coming in DEAD LAST in the scavenger hunt.  

I didn't care though.  I ate every single one of those Smarties that day with pride!

So, that was year seventeen.  Coming up next - year eighteen - and in that year, I once again do some shout-outs as my high school career approached its final stages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19, 1996

It's time for the third scheduled break in the retrospective that I've had going on all month long.  It's another regularly scheduled Tuesday Timeline entry, and the only clue that I will give you is this...

Think you've figured it out yet?  Well, we'll get to that in a second.  In the meantime, today is the nineteenth of May, and I found that a lot of things happened on this date in history.  Have a look!

1499 - A marriage by proxy takes place when 13-year-old Catherine of Aragon marries the twelve-year-old Prince of Wales, Arthur

1536 - Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery, incest, and treason

1568 - Queen Elizabeth I orders the arrest of Mary, Queen of Scots

1743 - The centigrade temperature scale is developed by Jean-Pierre Christin

1780 - At 10:30 in the morning, heavy cloud cover and thick smoke causes complete darkness to fall over New England and Eastern Canada

1911 - Parks Canada is established as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior

1925 - American activist Malcolm X (d. 1965) is born in Omaha, Nebraska

1941 - Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron (d. 2012) is born in New York City

1951 - Singer-songwriter Joey Ramone (d. 2001) is born in Forest Hills, Queens, New York

1962 - Marilyn Monroe sings "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York

1963 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is published in the New York Post Sunday Magazine

1984 - Michael Larsen appears on the game show "Press Your Luck", where he won over $110,000 in cash and prizes, thanks to his memorization of the light patterns on the game board

1986 - The Firearms Owners Protection Act is signed by President Ronald Reagan

1998 - Four months after his death, Sonny Bono is awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along with his former wife, Cher.

2001 - Jazz singer Susannah McCorkle dies at the age of 55

I hope you're ready for a long list of celebrity birthdays too, because it seems as though a lot of them are celebrating May 19 birthdays today!  Happy birthday to David Hartman, James Fox, Bobby Burgess, Tania Mallet, Peter Mayhew, Pete Townshend, Grace Jones, Dusty Hill, Archie Manning, Jimmy Thackery, Victoria Wood, Phil Rudd, Steven Ford, Bill Laimbeer, Gregory Poirier, Sean Whalen, Maile Flanagan, Jodi Picoult, Polly Walker, Kyle Eastwood, Jason Gray-Stanford, Jenny Berggren, Dario Franchitti, Kim Zolciak, Jessica Fox, Eric Lloyd, and Sam Smith.

So, as I explained in the last couple of Tuesday Timeline entries, my idea was to have all the Tuesday Timelines in May and the first part of June fall between 1981 and 2015 - as those are the only years that I've been alive.

And, we're going to be going back in time one day after my fifteenth birthday.  The date?  May 19, 1996.

Now, you probably might have figured out that based on the "General Hospital" credits that I posted up above, you're thinking that the Tuesday Timeline is linked to that show.  And, certainly it is.  The show's been on the air for fifty-two years, was the show that had the number one watched wedding in television history, and it's also one of the few soap operas to film an episode completely live (as the show recently did for the May 15 and May 18, 2015 episodes). 

But, May 19 isn't the actual anniversary date for the show.  The show actually debuted on April Fools Day, 1963.  But May 19, 1996 was a very sad day for cast members who were on "General Hospital" at the time, as they had to bid a permanent farewell to one of the show's original characters, as well as the actor who played him.

Here.  I'll show you an updated version of the "General Hospital" credits - these ones aired between 1993 and 2004.

Now, I want to draw your attention to the very first cast portrait shown, as well as the scenes which show a doctor bringing a patient into the emergency room.  That man was John Beradino, who for thirty-three years played the role of Dr. Steve Hardy.

Dr. Hardy was one of the show's original characters, and during his time on "General Hospital" he saved countless lives on the program and experienced the same things that other standard soap opera characters did including romance, betrayal, secrets, and scandal.  He wasn't the longest serving character on "General Hospital" - his 33 year record has since been broken by Jackie Zeman, Leslie Charleson, and Rachel Ames.  However, during his tenure, he was nominated for three Daytime Emmy Awards, and appeared in approximately 4,300 of the show's episodes.  And, he was also one of the few soap actors to earn himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, receiving the honour in 1993.

But to simply dismiss John Beradino as a daytime soap star would only be scratching the surface.  And while he eventually carved out a permanent place in "General Hospital" history, he did much more than that.

Giovanni Beradino was born in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 1917, and graduated from Belmont High School.  And, one thing that Beradino was very interested in from an early age was sports.

In particular, baseball.

You see, John Beradino didn't start off as an actor.  He began his career as a baseball player.  Don't believe me?  Have a look at this!

I'm not exactly sure when this photo was taken (and yes, his name was spelled incorrectly - and reportedly was for several years!), but if this isn't proof of Beradino's baseball past, I'm not sure what is.  And to Beradino's credit, his baseball career lasted quite a long time.  Aside from a three year break between 1942-1945 (Beradino served in the United States Naval Reserve during World War II), he played as a major league baseball player between 1939 and 1952, and played shortstop and second base for such teams as the St. Louis Browns, the Cleveland Indians, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

TRIVIA:  Believe it or not, Beradino was part of a team that won the World Series.  He was a part of the Cleveland Indians when they emerged the victors in 1948.  Now that would have been such a tale to tell!

Now, it was right around the time that the Indians won the World Series that Beradino began to take an interest in acting.  And he did appear in a couple of bit parts in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  But it wouldn't be until he had suffered an injury on the baseball field that he made the decision to act full time, as Pittsburgh had released him from their roster because of the injury.

Now, if you watch the films "Suddenly" and "North by Northwest" very closely, you might be able to spot Beradino.  He had cameo roles in both movies.  He also made guest appearances in various television shows and dozens of B-movies, but nothing really made him stand out.

At least, not until he landed the role of a lifetime.  Dr. Steve Hardy.

And, I imagine that during his time on the show, he made an impact, not just with his co-workers and crew members of "General Hospital", but with the fans who watched "General Hospital" every weekday afternoon.  And, well...sometimes videos say it best.  Here's the tribute that an awards show gave him the same year he passed away.