London Elect: You’ll all look swell when you’re sworn in. Thankfully only the mayor will have to pull something over his swollen head.

I’m a little perturbed by our local politicians. Elected, incumbent and future. As I have stated earlier, I enjoy being alone and I am slightly agoraphobic. I like it out there but I am more at ease between my own walls. That being said or in fact re-said, I don’t often poke my head far from the perimeter of my property. For others it may seem odd but to someone who has spent a few days in cells of confinement, it is endless acres to stride and stretch about 200 feet by 75. I can run a marathon with such dimensions.

This is my present and most thought out excuse for not getting out to meet the candidates. It makes me wonder how many citizens with disabilities that make “getting out to meet the candidate” more difficult than my anxieties, were accommodated in some way?

I hope it happened. It must have. It did! My mistake. It must have been in the small print on the thousands of signs I saw posted about the city. My windows were rolled up when they were shouting and waving from street corners to tell me the number to call if you have political and or municipal concerns you want to share with a candidate but are somehow disadvantaged.

I’m sure the city has accessibility plans for people with disabilities but how many candidates had that as part of their mandate and operating platform?

It does seem a stretch to accommodate someone politically who has a disability. Sure, you’ll pick me up and almost cast my vote for me but what about what I think? What about my ideas? Disabled may be a political disadvantage but it is rarely an intellectual challenge that would preclude being listened to. I know a man who uses a computer to speak and his wit is unquestionable. Did anyone take the time to listen to him? He is a citizen of this city. We can make voting accessible for him but democracy is lopsided when a citizen does not have the opportunity to speak. Asking questions and making your ideas and feelings known is what gives flesh to bone. Maybe my vote won’t count. Maybe my candidate won’t win but if I should be able to voice my ideas and concerns.

It would be a double stretch to accommodate let alone seek out a community advocate. I don’t have enough cash to propel a politician but the sadness is that none of the candidates had enough cents to question my questionable self.

I know many first thoughts will be: “the vanity of this fool.” I won’t argue vanity (though my baldness is a statement in itself) but this fool has been fairly front and center in the London community when it comes to mental health. It wouldn’t be impossible to overlook me but it could be argued that not a single candidate paid much attention to the citizens of London who have or do suffer from serious and persistent mental illness. I think it’s safe to say none were sought out and queried as to how to best serve them on council.

Can this city influence, progress and promote better mental health for its citizens?

I’m a fool for this page so I shall step on my tongue as to how but possibly one of these politicians elect can make up for not considering people who are marginalized and stigmatized; in their political vision.

Catherine Zeta Jones

An anti-stigma campaign I follow on Twitter sent me a message that “Actress Catherine Zeta Jones has been living with bipolar for several years and rejects any stigma attached to it.” Easy for her to say. It was further Tweeted that Catherine Zeta Jones says there is “no shame in seeking help.” For someone with fame and finances this might even be true.

For Catherine Zeta Jones, mental health stigma and treatment are vastly different from the experiences of many who also suffer from mental illness. For her being open about her diagnosis and experiences is at least unintentional personal publicity. As they say: There is no such thing as bad press. In the case of celebrities a personal persona and public appetite is created and nourished by being a news story. It would appear that Catherine Zeta Jones has thrown herself in front of an oncoming car for the benefit of many but I would argue that the car has already driven by. The lack of blood and guts, spell evidence.

Catherine Zeta Jones is portrayed as some patron saint of bipolar but what has she really risked? Stigma is at a point that it is rarely rolled out for the famous. I am not inferring that there is no such thing as stigma but little if any cuts through fame and favour. Call me cynical but these revelations don’t seem to affect these individuals beyond increasing their brand, public persona and popularity.

If I’m depressed in bed or manic at the mall, am I apt to seek help or find relief in Catherine’s revelations? The rubberneckers look but the rest of us are too busy trying to survive. These celebrities don’t give interviews in their underwear next to dust bunnies; they follow a loose script in their personal libraries in Bermuda. Speaking of which, what meds do I take to find myself in Bermuda with a maid?

I think “Catherine The Great” has been a source of conversation around mental illness but I would argue that her battle with stigma is similar to Don Quixote who mistakes windmills for giants and charges at full speed. My suspicion is that stigma is a word, for Catherine Zeta Jones. For many stigma is no windmill but a true giant. It affects self image, personal and family relationships, employment and status.

When I think about bipolar I don’t envision a person like Catherine Zeta Jones who uses overpriced shoes for bookends because they’re too cute for closets. In my world people with bipolar have their shoes taken away so they can’t asphyxiate themselves with the laces.

I imagine Catherine’s experience with mental illness has been challenging and difficult but in the scheme of things we are talking about First World problems in comparison to Third World problems. Did she have to wait six months to see a psychiatrist? Were the chairs in the waiting room plastic or leather? Did she have to wonder if she could afford her medication? Was she worried about missing work? Did she have to resort to disability assistance to feed herself?

I’m waiting for one of these famous sacrificial lambs to tell us about their hemorrhoids. That experience is the same for us all and if I knew Catherine Zeta Jones used “Preparation H” I could actually hold my head higher at the pharmacy. There’s little fame in swelling so I shall suffer in silence.

Sorry Minnesota

It is with great sadness that I issue the following apology to Minnesota. Flushing in my case could be considered a felony.

The issue of medications in drinking water has been with us for a decade though some would say “poo, we knew it in the 60’s.” Like every other ignoramus I never thought what I swallowed made it further than the local sewage treatment facility. Apparently, they have pipes leading out of these places as well.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) I am responsible for “widespread neuro-active compounds including antidepressants, anti-seizure compounds (used as mood stabilizers), and mood stabilizers in 24 Minnesota rivers.” My anti-psychotics must be stuck on a rock somewhere.

More than 165 individual pharmaceuticals and personal care products have been identified in water samples. I know I am deflecting but who asked anyone to drink my pee? Note to self, it’s called the hydrologic cycle.

There may come a day when we have to ask our doctors and pharmacists if our prescriptions will interact with water. I can see the little stickers on my containers of pills, “Do Not Take With Water.”

Possibly this news will shine a light on our other activities that we assume have no earthly relevance. Contrary to popular belief the earth is not a toilet that God will flush after we do our thing. It is more so a bubble that we need to consider finite, cyclic and closed. We can keep moving the outhouse but eventually someone is going to step in one of the holes. It will probably be N.I.M.B.Y himself.

The pharmaceutical soup we drink and let fish swim in is creating “intersex” fish, with males developing eggs in their testes. This is not a good thing and may eventually lead to the long term extinction of the “Fillet O Fish” at Mickey D’s which in my short term intestinal opinion might be a good thing.

I know it is selfless but let’s for a moment consider two or three generations down the road of ruin. I long ago suppressed the question of what these pharmaceuticals do to me personally at full strength but as much as I like science experiments I’m not sure I want to find out what they do to fish and infants of any generation in any concentration.

Doctors might be the most alarmed as it won’t be long before prescription pads are obsolete. “Take two glasses of water and call me in the morning.” I too will stick my head in the sand and hope this cocktail will be a cure for cancer rather than a cause.

The CBC tells me that the risk is minimal but also that no one studies it. That sounds like an answer from the Prime Minister himself. We are told the trace amounts found in water are so low compared to a therapeutic dose that there is no cause for worry. So, as long as an unborn fetus is absorbing just a little acetaminophen, codeine, anti-biotics, hormones, steroids, antidepressants, anti-epileptic compounds and dozens of other chemicals we can ignore fish who have eggs instead of sperm. I don’t want to dwell on the past but such idiocy was surely on the lips of scientists before we had a hole in the ozone layer and glaciers became sea levels.

Like all humans I prefer to proactively ignore an issue until it becomes presently problematic but we might want to think about the billions of people who urinate. Researchers have asked whether this cocktail can cause cancer but they have yet to ask about behavioural changes, hormonal changes, reproductive toxicities and immune system compromises.

I consider myself mentally fit but I might be further ahead to filter my own urine so I don’t have to ingest whatever swims in the bladders on my block for which I have never been prescribed. It may also be the socially responsible thing so I don’t deform fish or my neighbour’s cat.

Again, sorry Minnesota.

It’s Not About Bullets, It’s About Bull!

As a writer one dreams of putting their pen to a national headline with a national news service. I stumbled out of bed yesterday and for a moment I thought I had done just that.

“Stephen Harper takes big words, small stick to NATO summit”

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Thank you Terry Milewski. With my foot close to illiteracy others would discount such words coming from me.
I’m not sure how Prime Minister Harper chooses his ministers but it can only be from physical attributes since they lack all others.

“We need a Minister of Science and Technology” says Stephen.

Everyone slides down in their chair as we know conservatives have an aversion to information, knowledge, statistics and studies. Scientists are suspects.

“Worry not children, I don’t expect you to listen to, let alone understand science. Is there anyone in the room who looks like Einstein? Ed Holder; you have glasses and an out of control perm. Fantastic! It says here your background is insurance sales. Fantastic! You must have a knack for convincing people they need unnecessary policies. Hell, you should be Prime Minister.”

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“While I’m nominating nincompoops we need a Foreign Minister. Everyone show me their best scowl. Now shout, sweat and wave your hands. Beautiful! John Baird here’s your map. It’s not tainted blue like the ones you’re used to but just keep giving us your ‘ugly’ look and I will feed you with politically provocative phrases.”

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John Baird was the first minister no one had to ask to swear on the Bible.

The prime minister and John Baird liken the Russians to Nazi’s all the while doing the Goosestep themselves. People don’t refer to the conservatives as the “boys in short pants” for no reason.

Big Bad Baird tells us “no other government has ‘stood’ up more forcefully and aggressively against the Russian aggression in Ukraine.” Possibly that is the problem itself. We have nitwits like John Baird who can’t order French fries without being forceful and aggressive. Shouldn’t a Minister of Foreign Affairs be a statesman rather than a belligerent statement?

Stephen Harper and John Baird stand proud of their phrases while Greece and Estonia contribute more muscle to NATO than the conservatives. For the conservative government it’s not about bullets it’s about bullshit.

The Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) has different numbers for Canadians. They aren’t trying to get re-elected so their statistics are no doubt suspicious. The CDA concludes that “the Canadian Armed Forces’ operational readiness is dropping, its purchasing power is being eroded, and future military capability is being reduced.”

Do you think Vladimir Putin listens to John Baird’s bull or does he see the same things as the Conference of Defence Associations? I’m sure Putin trembles at photos of the prime minister and his wife on a ship in the arctic. He laughs because it’s one of the few we have.

As Terry Milewski says “if words are needed, Canada stands at the ready.” If this government wants us to consider Russia invading our sovereign arctic, frigates are better ideas than phrases. This government is identical domestically and internationally. They have more sentences than sense.

If Vladimir Putin watches Canadian content he must be convulsing in the Kremlin watching the Three Stooges. If he lived here he would realize its 39 stooges.

Laying Eggs, Lifting Lumber and Other Painful Moments

I went to visit my mother and step-father today. Being a quadragenarian makes one susceptible to the company of septuagenarians. I don’t know about others but such terms make me feel like something with a pin through its back on a specimen board. Earning my grade 12 diploma in my thirties obliges me to borrow obtuse and pretentious phrases but in my heart I mean forty and seventy.

My mother mentioned she had a couple of errands in town and since I had ingested a meal I felt obliged to assist. Our first stop was a TSC store which is a farm store. I like TSC stores. My roots are rural and I have pleasant memories when I can browse work boots, pellet guns and fencing. Mom wanted to pick up some chicken feed for her several hens. I was there just to check things out but I found myself next to a 50 pound sack of chicken feed. It suddenly became clear why chickens produce more poop than protein. I’m fairly logical and literal and I stood in disbelief at the size of the bag. I was expecting something about the size of an egg carton. If what goes up must come down then it stands to reason that what goes in should come out. Apparently I had failed agricultural arithmetic.

I looked at my mother. I looked at the feed and again looked at my mother. I waited for what seemed like minutes expecting her to grab the bag and get on with it. She didn’t budge. She mentioned that she usually uses one of the carts which were in the vicinity. It was a subtle challenge and I grabbed the bag and awkwardly threw it over my shoulder. It became a bad idea about halfway to the checkout. I struggled with the weight and my legs were wobbling. I bumped into the display of garden seeds and frantically searched for my mother. I have never wanted to pass an object as much since I was running down the football field in high school with fierce athletes on my heels. Like then I was on my own. I suddenly didn’t want to be at TSC. Normally I would be cursing but I kept telling myself there are eggs in butter tarts and biscuits. My mother is an exceptional cook. I wanted to explain she could obtain the same results with store bought eggs but I needed to save what little breath I had.

I made it to the checkout sweating profusely. I wanted to ask the cashier why the damn batteries were near the door but the 50 pound sacks of cat, dog and chicken feed were in the back corner. Fighting back tears of frustration I asked the woman if they guaranteed that my dog would lay eggs if I fed this to her. Not missing a beat she retorted with “not in writing.” It seemed she was trained to deal with difficult customers.

I was spent but we had to make a stop at the local lumber store. I like lumber stores. Trees are one of the few things that smell good when they’re dead. I entered the store without trepidation as I know they have employees who load your larger purchases.

We backed up near the loading bay with our slip of dead tree which is used to inform the yardman that you want more dead tree. I turned the car off and looked at my mother. She didn’t budge. I flung open the door. “Seriously?” “This is ridiculous and repetitive.” I met the yardman with curses on my lips and we nearly ended up with lattice and a bag of cement. I finally sputtered darn board and he clued in and climbed the shelving to fetch some barn board. I couldn’t quite understand why he was making money sliding two boards off a shelf while I had to drag it across the parking lot to the car. I pinched my hand between the boards which sent me off on a tirade. “She probably wants me to cut and nail this crap as well…I’m in hell.”

Joking aside and as lazy as I am there is a degree of defeat in doing favours for my family. I give up on any sense of balance when I look back at all the jail visits and court appearances. I can’t compete with lawyer’s fees, canteen money and a roof over my head. There have been so many meals and forms of love that can’t even be logically listed.

Chickens are like children. We put bags of food into them and usually end up with more crap than accomplishments but love isn’t logical. Like an egg it forms naturally and sustains, fortifies and is often made into something nearly as wonderful as my mother’s butter tarts.

Birthday Beliefs

I wanted to thank my friends and family for the multitude of birthday wishes I received today mainly through Facebook. It was closer to a baker’s dozen but even the ostracised are prone to projecting popularity.

I received more wishes than on any of my other birthdays which is ironic considering that at 11:48 pm last night I became a Jehovah’s Witness. I was brushing my remaining teeth before bed and the mirror itself was a religious revelation I could not ignore. With hair poking far beyond my nose and much of my receding hairline coating the sink I saw a sudden flash. Possibly it was the bathroom light reflecting from my forehead or off the grey throughout my head and unkempt beard but I fell to my knees and converted. Like Lot’s wife I looked at the mirror and my age become a pillar of salt. I was and always will be 45.

God is good, God is great, thankfully I have a fiancé for I could never find a date.

It feels good to deny my life the opportunity to dip into another decade. I have found the fountain of youth in faith itself. For those who are alarmed at my new religion fear not. I did a little research and my “present” plan is to denounce my denomination on Christmas Eve. As devout as I am I am not stupid. Birthdays can be manipulated to manage my mortality but Christmas is a season of gifts more than Wi-Fi wishes and that I will endure.

All I wanted for my birthday was to sleep in but my “dumb”phone started dinging at 6:30 am to inform me I was 46. I smiled at the first few beeps but they soon conspired to penetrate my late night devotion of denial. “DING…you’re 46” is all I heard all morning. “No, I’m not damn it…I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. You heathens can age but I will not!”

Thanks for the birthday wishes and if any of you are more Jehovah than me I apologize for borrowing your beliefs and fashioning your faith into humour. I’ve already been to hell so save your breath.

The Hands of Hell

I have had a toothache for a month now and I made the mistake of calling my dentist. The receptionist being part of the torture team gladly fit me in right away. It took everything I had to calmly read the newspaper in the reception room. “Brett?” I suddenly considered a name change. “No, I’m Jack you have me mistaken for someone who wants to be here.” Never make a last minute late afternoon appointment. It was an innocent call that was written on the bill as an emergency procedure. I waited a month but the dentist’s mortgage must be due tomorrow.

I recounted my painful moments from the past several weeks to the dentist never expecting them to be amplified. I thought they were concerned about my sperm count as they immobilized me with their lead blanket. As near as I can tell the blanket is a ruse to make you feel like they are concerned about something.

I could see the x-rays on the computer screen but his keen eye or lean wallet seemed to see a cavity below an old filling, AKA ordeal. Regardless, fillings are easier to put in than take out. Trust me.

“I can’t freeze you locally for this” and he said the freezing has to penetrate the marrow. Frozen with fear I wanted to explain I was there for my teeth not my damn jaw bone. “You won’t feel your tongue so be careful not to bite it. Easier said than done, I thought. I had been biting my tongue ever since his beefy hands entered my mouth.
After he froze me he scurried to a female patient in the next cubicle. I could hear him conning her into several procedures and she was foolish enough to mention that she wanted some work done now that she had insurance coverage. That’s like giving him a blank check in return for a prescription for pain. I didn’t think much more about her; I had my own problems. I’m sure she was regretting her words after he returned to me. She must have been terrified listening to a drill for 45 minutes; I surely was! If I heard anyone having half as much work done I would run home and see what I could accomplish with my own pliers and drill.

He mentioned that I should brush and floss more and I held back from mentioning the dust bunnies next to the computer tower on the floor which did nothing to inspire confidence.

“Is the freezing working?” “Ya, I can’t feel my nipples.”

He and the dental assistant had their own language and referred to things with letters and numbers. I now know that C-68 means the big damn needle. I’m not sure if he hooked his two fingers into the side of my mouth to let more light in or to control me if I actually reacted like I should have. It was bearable until he started reaching for implements of torture somewhere I couldn’t see even though my head and half my body followed him to the far away tray. I’m a tradesman and had I fewer fingers in my mouth I would have recommended a tool pouch like a compassionate carpenter might use, but what’s the fun in that. I’m considering giving up fishing as it is in fact traumatizing to be pulled by the mouth in any direction.

I can understand needing an assistant but surely she doesn’t need to get her paws in my mouth as well. I had two sets of hands which is something like 12 fingers, 2 suction tubes, a drill, a makeup mirror, some laser light that beeped and that sharp pointy steel implement he had no compunction about sticking into my tooth and wiggling my whole head with. This was all infused with something that blew dry air and a jet of water, like make up your mind! I think the first thing they teach dentists is that lips will stretch without tearing.

“You can’t close your mouth from here on.” OK, I nodded, oblivious to his perception of time. He mentioned something about acid and my leg started twitching uncontrollably. Is there not a code word you can come up for something like that?

They kindly let me sit up to choke on spit, tooth filings and irrigation. I coughed on and off for 15 minutes in an attempt to signal my distress at things trickling down my windpipe. They really should have a diagram board with images of choking, unbearable pain or loss of consciousness a patient can point to.

“Chomp, chomp on this. No, chomp harder!” By this point I couldn’t feel my ankles so I had no idea what I was doing with my mouth. I could smell some sort of epoxy. My eyes were closed because dentists seem to need more light than a proctologist but for a few brief moments I thought he might be making a model airplane.

The dentist shook my hand twice when he was done. The first I assumed to be for the small fortune he just made torturing me and the second must have been out of respect for not screaming at what I endured for over an hour.

It was my first visit to the dentist where I came out with a diploma. My fiancé said it’s only a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers. I was still proud. It was like one of those ski hill tags people keep attached to their parka zippers. Look where I’ve been! I wanted to bound into the pharmacist but he’d have thought I was drunk as I deliriously smiled with more saliva than recognizable words. I like my pharmacist. He has a better sense of time and he keeps his hands out of my mouth when he picks my pocket. With him I know the value of 15 minutes. My dentist just keeps saying were almost done which really means its 15 minutes until he says it again. I should take the pills that I paid the pharmacist to count and the dentist to spell but I had a wardrobe change with my first sip of water so I will delay further humiliation.

I don’t mean to whine. It’s a confused sort of pain presently. My neck muscles hurt from extending the opposite direction of my jaw for far too long. All I can smell is ground tooth that has permeated my shirt with the rather large armpit stains.

As painful and traumatizing as a trip to the dentist is, it is good for my health. I’ve been trying to smoke a cigarette for an hour now and I’m finding them difficult to ignite when they fall at my feet. I have a slight tingle in my left nostril so there is hope.

Now that I can feel my tongue I have figured out how dentists get repeat business. I may be simple but if I was building a new tooth I would make it flat so black licorice has no place to anchor. I could lose a Chicken McNugget in the crevice he filled then reground out.

There are lessons in all this. Brushing twice a day is a gamble. Eating candy is a risk not worth taking and toothaches are easier to endure than dentists.