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Thursday, April 24, 2014

We Stand on Guard For Thee (cartoon)

We Stand On Guard For Thee

This is a story I wrote for the paper. It's in regard to Chinese only signs that have started to show up on our streets.
Where I grew up and live 57% of the city is now Asian. I'm a visible minority in the suburbs of Vancouver BC. It's a beautiful city. I'm in no way complaining, just playfully cautioning.


We Stand On Guard For Thee


"Oh Canada we stand on guard FOR THE E E E E."
"What in the name of Saskatoon Saskatchewan is going on out there!" bellows my now awake wife.
"I'm singing 'Oh Canada' cause I'm writing a story to the paper"
"Not again! Not another over the top piece of fluff of your troubled life"
"No, I'm writing about the language issue on billboards." I defend.
"That's worse! You wrote something about that last year. What are you some kind of language bigot?" she questions as she walks past me to the bathroom.
"Yes I wrote a piece of fluff, as you call it, already on it but I started thinking..."
"Okay good....started thinking. First for everything."
"No I was thinking that when we sing 'Oh Canada' we sing 'We stand on guard for thee' three times. It's the most used phrase in that song. As a Canadian I stand up when the anthem starts, and with puffed chest, hand on heart, other hand holding food or beverage from the concession stand, proclaim to stand guard for Canada. I am guarding Canada for my kids and their kids kids."
"Wow Spiderman you really got your work cut out for you." says the bathroom door.
"And if I stand up to guard, to look out for problems or question, as a guard would, I wind up being some weirdo on the TV."
"And newspaper!"
"There is something about an all foreign sign in Canada that sets my teeth ajar."
"Why's that Spiderman? You probably never have or never will shop in that store. It's a product they figure you're not interested in cause if you were it would only be hurting their business by not including the English. And it's probably something you can't do in sweatpants."
"Well I'd like to think that I'm standing on guard for Canada, it's something we all attest to do when we proudly sing our national anthem. And a sign with no English or French language in Canada.......well it just taste funny. Something's not right here."
"Come in here and look in the mirror and I'll show you what's not right."
"Humour me here," I start with raised finger, "Let's say I'm the kind of guy that takes our National Anthem to heart. I live in a quiet Canadian city that's prospering with foreign businesses and workers. Now lets say one day a sign pops up, selling, let's say toothpaste. It's a brand I recognize and have bought for years, but the sign is all in a foreign language."
"And you, Barney Fife, believe that this toothpaste is sending out some secret message to the foreign community threatening the Constitution of Canada and you've got to run and tell Andy." adds the wife as she waves her cavity fighting toothpaste in front of my face.
"Remember I'm a guard here! I doing work for your kids and grandkids. It may sound trivial to you but not to Sitting Bull."
"This isn't the first time you've brought up bull."
"Remember the people that use to live around these parts? Well not these parts, but you know what happened to them. The white man came in with their fancy English signs and flashing lights and the next thing you know...no Sitting Bull or his people."
"Oh my goodness! You're comparing a foreign language sign on a bus stop to the white man coming to America with his foreign customs and language that resulted in the destruction of the Indian tribes of North America? And now you think this is what's happening here?" (I think that's what she said. She had her toothbrush in her mouth using the alleged constitutional threatening paste)
"We'll you might be overstating it a bit here. But I bet if they could turn back the clock there would of been a lot less all English signs around. It would of been a lot more inclusive of their language and understanding. Including them in everything even if it didn't apply to their wants or needs. As the Lone Ranger, said to Tonto and I to my neighbour, he to the advancing war party, me to the influx of all foreign signs; 'Look how many they're are! We've got a big fight ahead! And as Tonto placed his hand on the Lone Rangers shoulder and my neighbour placing his hand on the same location of my body both look out to the setting sun and say.."What do you me WE white man? "

Bob Niles






bobby did this

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kentucky Chocolate Bunny (cartoon)

Kentucky Chocolate Bunny

Kentucky Chocolate Bunny


Easter.
It means so much to so many people. It can be the holiest time of the year to hundreds of millions of people. And at the same time its a celebration of chocolate bunnies that lay eggs and hide them throughout your yard for countless boys and girls.
I grew up in a house that celebrated Easter from the religious point of view. There were no chocolate rabbits running around in our yard plopping eggs in low trees and under bushes. All of the neighbors would suffer from such a plight though. Every year on both sides and directly behind our home all our school friends would find poorly hidden nests of creamy, sweet chocolate delight.
As they ran around their yards looking for treats we drove off to church for Easter service. Our nose and hands were stuck to the rear car window like we were being pushed from behind, as we witness all our friends celebrating their newly found chocolate pleasures.
"There's no such thing as an Easter Bunny" my dad would claim as he drove past house after house of sugar enriched celebrating children.
"Its all just a way the big companies get rich and take away and distract from the true meaning of Easter." mom would testify to her belief in her Christian faith.
"But dad,....mom, you say that about Christmas too but we still get presents. How come we don't get chocolate bunnies or eggs at Easter?" I'd question forcing my face away from the window.
"Wait till tomorrow after work." Dad said. "I'll bring home a bunch of chocolate bunnies and eggs for you then."
Tomorrow? That's a long time for a kid to wait after seeing all his buddies and every other kid in the world walking around with a chocolate mustache. It's a long time for a kid to wait after hearing about how tall your school buddies chocolate rabbits were. But, that next day after school waiting ever so not patiently for dad to get home from work he finally came through as promised. A big plastic bag of Kentucky Chocolate Bunny's!
Well that's what we called them.
We never got a whole bunny, perfectly intact with all it's limbs connected. Or a perfectly formed egg in it's shiny wrapping. We got more of a Humpty Dumpty egg. And the chocolate bunnies were broken and cut up with dark and light chocolate limbs from many bunnies of different sizes. Just like a bucket of the Colonels. Long bunny ears, bunny legs, breasts, arms, bunny noses connected to chocolate eyes and stubby tails all broken away from its full form. Dad would buy all this by weight from the Sears Candy Dept. the day after Easter Sunday. It was all the broken Easter chocolate that they couldn't sell. The stuff other kids didn't want.
"It's a lot cheaper, it all taste the same, and you were going to break it off anyway. I just saved you the time of doing so. And you didn't have to hunt around the yard for it!" Dad would proclaim as he held high our bag of Kentucky Chocolate Bunny's. "Now who wants chocolate?"
True enough what he said, but it's like having Christmas with unwrapped broken toys.
We had seen in the stores, the few weeks leading up to Easter, the beautiful presented boxed rabbits. Some three feet high! Some detailed with different colored chocolate features, holding baskets of even more chocolate. Eggs that looked like huge gemstones that sparkled in the stores lights. Box after box piled high, beautifully presented to lucky girls and boys. Brown smooth shiny bunnies sitting behind clear plastic forms of themselves, with a beautifully painted box that made you think that that chocolate bunny lived in a happy meadow with real bunnies.
And all I had were dismembered bunnies jumbled in a plastic bag that I had to share with my three other brothers.
Next year was going to be different! My brother and I got up early and looked for bunnies in the neighbors yards before everybody else beat us to it. We did pretty good until Mr. Horlacher caught us and brought us home to our sleeping parents. Which resulted in no Kentucky Chocolate Bunny's for us that year.
It wasn't till next year, and then every year after for as long as I was a kid we again got dismembered bunnies.
I never new the pleasure and pain in breaking off the ear of a perfect rabbit. I would never know the guilt that was involved in eating a bunny lower and lower into it's beautiful boxed meadow till it was all gone. I would never know what it was like to cave in a perfectly egg shaped jeweled egg of chocolate. Nor would I ever know the experience of having a complete bunny that had a name and a home inside a beautiful box. And never would I experience the joy as a child to search for, and then eat chocolate found from under a bush. Okay,..there was this one time, but it wasn't chocolate!
Now I'm a grandparent of four kids under the age of eight. My wife this Easter has bought boxed bunnies, boxed eggs filled with tiny chocolates, toy racing cars and Barbie dolls to hide in the yard, (because just candies are not enough). The house is decorated with colorful paper, plastic, and tin eggs? Streamers in pastel colors draped across the ceiling. And then a center piece created from an Easter basket flowers and colored hay. I have to put on my Easter rabbit costume and directed the little darlings around the yard so that they can find their selected toy. Then the big family dinner after church which produces mountains of dirty dishes that are all done by hand. The noise, preparation, cleaning, cooking, and the incredibly hot rabbit suit fill the day from start to finish.
The house is now quite. The kids and grandkids have all gone home. And here I sit chomping on what's left of Hoppy the meadow bunny thinking Easter ends pretty much the way I remember it to be as a kid. Dad had it right I think. Kentucky Chocolate Bunny taste just as good as a boxed meadow bunny, and with a lot less work! Maybe next year I'll follow the example dad laid out for me.
"Alright Kids!" I would bellow as I take my pirate stance, one hand on hip, legs stretched apart and plastic bag held high filled with dismembered sweet, brown, creamy bunnies, "Who wants Kentucky Chocolate Bunny's?!"

Bob Niles

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Telegraph, Telefax or Tell-a-Kid (cartoon)

Telegraph, Telefax or Tell-a-Kid

Telegraph, Telefax and Tell-a-Kid
(are 3 poor ways to communicate)

Talking to a four year old on the phone is about as productive as teaching the family dog seven words. And then after his moderate verbal skills are achieved go on to teach it to laugh and say in audible mumblings. Then give that dog a phone in the shape of a ball and ask it to hold it to its ear all the while waving a doggie treat in front of its face. Then open the front door of the house, start the car, and say 'here boy get in the car!' The last thing that dog will want to do is talk to that ball.
My granddaughter who is in India for a three week vacation is that dog. The very same child that sits in my lap four breakfasts a week and watches George the monkey with me. The same child that has something to say all the time! She and I are 'Buddy's'!
Charlotte (my granddaughter) and her mom have lived with us all her life in a suite in our basement. I love that little girl so much. We spend many hours together and I know, or thought I knew, she loved me very much too. That was until I talked to her on the phone from India.
Now in her defense the modern phone, the all new one they came out with this week, has become almost everything but a phone to a child. Children don't use phones to talk to people they share interests with....other children, they use phones as a source of entertainment.
Phones are magical things to a four year old. One minute they're games, then music, then dancing picture books and then they can become a TV.
"Here hold this to your ear.... it's grandpa.......say something.....anything!" pleads the parent while trying to matin the phones proximity to the child's ear because if she sees it's the magic rectangle all she wants to do is see what's on the screen. Oh sure you could use speaker phone but if the magic phone is on, and here it's any 4yr. old, all they want to do is play hair salon, or dress up princess on the device. So you have to keep it at their ear so they hopefully won't know that it's the magic phone. It would probably blow their little mind if they knew that it had the capability to do boring things like having to listen .... then respond.
"I miss you. Are you having fun?" Silence. "What was the plane ride like?"....Silence.."Is it hot?".....Silence..."What are you going to do today?"..........Silence......"Do you know it's supper time here and your just getting up"...................(here boy get in the car.) I tell my not so magical black rectangle that might as well be a block of wood.
"Grandpa guess what." followed by laughter then something about perhaps flying baby horses, then maybe something about a kid named Dora then more laughing. Then the phone drops,...she recognizes the phone as the plaything it is,... and then there's demands by he parent, tears, concessions made, tears stop,....."Say something to grandpa...anything" the parent pleads. "Grandpa guess what."
"What.....what........ .......what!"
"Daddy can I play hair salon? I'm all done." she whispers into the phone perhaps thinking that if said quietly into the phone it won't reach all the way to Canada.
This was my first momentous phone call to India and all I get is 'Grandpa guess what'. This from a child whom I can't shut up, that talks all the time even when no one is in the room. A child that began verbal communication at a very young age ahead of other kids her age. And then when I do guess 'WHAT' three times, I get dumped for an app. And they say verbal communication is dead.
Maybe I should of made a movie of myself at a beauty salon having my hair washed, cut, coloured, dried and then I try on silly hats and different mustaches and beards. Then jumped up and down and lite my pants on fire to try and fit into her attention span long enough to get verbal communication of some kind.
When I was a kid we would almost have to dress up in our Sunday finest to use the phone. We would have to sit at the phone, because of the cord, and carry ourselves in an adult manner. I loved using the phone because using the phone proved that I was more important than my other brothers because I knew people who could also use a phone.
As a kid if the home ever got a long distant phone call the whole house had to come to a stand still, and silence reined, because it was probably news somebody had died. Phone calls were important!
My 90 yr. old mom will almost break a hip trying to get to the phone still to this day. "It might be important." she maintains as she agrees to answer another questionnaire over the phone.
Now it's been almost two weeks since my last phone call to India to try and communicate with my granddaughter. Two quiet weeks of no sticky messes or toys all over the floor. Fourteen days with nobody to ask me 'Guess what'. A fortnight of no crying, wanting, needing, have to have or things that aren't fair. One half of one month watching what I want on TV and not having Mac-n-cheese every day for lunch. And after all this time, after all the things I don't have to clean up, or do or decide, answer, or justify my decisions,.... if all she said to me was 'Grandpa guess what' it would be the best thing I've heard in two weeks.
For after a period of time it's not what they say, it's just that they're there. There, being in a movement of time with you. In a moment where pouring out your heart, telling them how much they're missed is not the right thing to do. You want them to have the best time possible. You don't want them missing home, with all it's familiar comforts and tired old you. You just want to hear that personality on the other end of the line having fun. Being themselves. And then you know all is right in your world.
'Here boy get in the car!' And she's off. That's not what she heard or saw but it had the same effect. I hang up my block of wood and smile she's having the time of her life.

Bob Niles

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Better Buy a Brita......

Better Buy a Brita......or......Move the Pump Further From the Outhouse

"Honey! What are you doing?" she shouts out the back widow. "The men are here to install the water meter in the front yard."
"I'm digging a hole,(pant puff wheeze) and I know, I already talked to them!" I attempt to shout back but with very little breath to do so.
"Be a dear and dig a few holes along the fence for my begonias would you." ( not bothering to ask why I'm digging a hole in the yard) "Oh and my sisters coming to stay with us for a few days. Her and Dereck are at it again."
Well now I've got a second use for this hole if the whole outhouse think doesn't work. But I'm sure it'll be okay with the city. I'm saving water! I'm building a no-flush toilet. And by building this structure I can do something I want to do without paying the government to do so. The government always has their hands in my pockets! And now with the water meter measuring every flush, they now have their hands in my pockets even when their around my shoes on the bathroom floor!
It must be my dad coming through that makes me the miser that I tend to be at times. I could hear his voice every time I told the kids to 'Shut the door! I'm not paying to warm the world ya know!' 'Hey princess you've been in the shower ten minutes now!' Or the all so popular 'When you leave a room, shut off the lights!' 'Only three squares of toilet paper are needed to....' well you know he rest.
I think all dads are, or become a little crazy when it comes to paying utilities.
My ex-father-in-law would go in the bathroom, leave the light off, and take a bath with the use of a flashlight. He would run the tub or 30 sec. Then he'd get in and squeak around for awhile...drain...another 30 sec. of running water, followed by more squeaking around on the bottom of the tub.
I'm not that crazy yet, but I catch myself, now that I pay for water by the volume used, doing some pretty weird things. For example when I pour a glass of water I'm always pour too much, because I like my glass half full, I pour what I don't drink into the dogs water bowl. I now only use two ice cubes in a drink instead of the four cubes I used when I was living the high life. No longer is the courtesy flush rule used during the use of three squares of toilet paper (if you know what I mean). And if there's left-over coffee in the pot.....? I pour it in the dogs water bowl. He's never been so active!
Habit after habit that I had developed as a child in the use of H2O is going down the drain! Water was abundant as a child of the sixties. I could brush my teeth and run the water the whole time doing so. I could lather, rinse, repeat, then lather again, rinse, apply conditioner, rinse and not feel guilty. Now the wife and I ( I've got her on the program too) walk around with our hair looking like we were on the episode of Seinfeld when they put in the low flow shower heads! We are looking to maybe follow the old bumper stickers advice of 'Save water shower with a friend'! And as ecologically sound as that may appear my buddy Jim didn't want anything to do with it.
It was the first couple of weeks on the water meter that were the toughest. I did things, devised ways, and brought into practice, as household law, ways to limit the wanted waste of the once endless supply of running water.
1. Never wash the car until the neighbors have gone out for the day, then use their hose.
2. If by luck the neighbors should leave you in charge of their house when on holidays, (because last time they did their cat died and all their patio furniture was stolen, but it's actually at your sisters.) all bodily functions and personal hygiene is carried out at their domain.
3. Have a key cut for the Husky gas station washroom at No. 3 Rd. and Blundell.
4. Try at least three new public washroom every week.
5. Eat more cheese and less fiber. Learn to accept constipation as the norm.
6. Dig a hole in the backyard deep enough to for an outhouse and then one more for a well to use for household water.
7. Buy a Brita. (maybe this should be 6 and 6 should be 7).
8. Clean out and repair the reservoir you built three years ago. (it became a mosquito pond that then resulted in killing many of the birds in the neighborhood so you buried it)
9. Every time you leave McDonalds fill your drink cup with ice to bring home as free water to brush your teeth with.
10. Bathtub water is to be used for at least two baths and then dirty dishes are done in remaining water with three extra squirts of Mr Bubble. (do not dry the dishes with the bath towels as body hair has been found in my Orange Pekoe Tea).
As I mentioned that was what I tried to adhere to the first couple of weeks on the water meter. I had successfully dug the two holes (and the begonia holes) to the required depth, and we're operational. All ten of my by-laws had been achieved and practiced. And I don't know if it was the hospital stay (should of brought the Brita first!), or angry neighbors, gas station management or the constipation complicated with all the scratching from mosquito bites but I've pretty much given up on my manifesto. I'm back to the way it was, but being much more aware of how much I use.
Most of us born here grew up taking for granted our endless supply of fresh clean water. It's funny how a valve and a meter buried in the ground becomes such an education as to how to effectively use this precious resource.
"Honey are you in there? The lights not on. Are you in there with the flashlight taking a squeaky bath? Sis needs in to put on her makeup...she's going out on a date." the wife taps and asks the bathroom door.
I squeak down and turn off the flashlight. Two cups, two saucers and assorted cutlery shift about my feet in my inch and a half bubble bath. No ones going to rob me of my soak!

Bob Niles

Better Buy a Brita......cartoon

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I Hate Glasses!

I Hate Glasses!

"Honey where are my glasses!?" I accuse and ask the wife hoping she'd seen them and at the same time blame her for moving them and hiding them somewhere.
"Use mine they're on the kitchen counter!"
I hate that, using other peoples glasses. It's that whole washing behind your ears and eyebrows and hair and stuff. Or perhaps they chewed on the ends of them like some sexy librarian? Other people have no problem borrowing your glasses, talking on your cell phone that you've spit all over, and writing with your pencil that you've hungrily ate the eraser and the top two inches off. Not me! No thank you!
"Oh here they are" I lie, to cover my phobia that she doesn't think I shouldn't have because it draws her kisses into question.
I now hunt for my glasses covertly and in silence. I start down the stairs...forget what I'm doing or looking for until my phone jingle buzzes to let me know I have a text. I reach for the phone and then remember what I was doing as I look at the screen. "I need my glasses!"
"You said you found them" shouts the house from somewhere.
Dang too loud, gotta remember she can still hear.
Never in the course of history has humankind been ever so needy of quality visual aids. Because everything you do now has some sort of screen that requires you to have vision equal to that of a young eagle. And my vision started to fail just as everything started requiring video screens. And what's bad about it all is I don't need glasses for most things. So rather than wear them all the time, I leave them all over the house so I can curse and fume for them later.
I only need glasses to read, or if I'm curious about something. I drive without glasses and, as they say, if you don't like the way I drive stay out of the kitchen.
My HD TV without glasses is more of a regular TV on rabbit ears. I can still watch Walter Cronkite every night on the news and keep up with current events. I watch a lot of ME TV, as I remember what all the stars looked like in the 60 and 70s. And now with my memory, as good as it is, they've started writing new shows again.
It's just the new things in my life that trouble me. Everything digital! And everything's digital! I can't make popcorn in the microwave or coffee in the 12 cup drip without hunting the house first. It's hunting,...then stopping trying to remember what I'm doing,..remember,...then hunting some more for the glasses before you forget again!
First thing in the morning and last thing at night I try and adjust the digital thermostat to living and sleeping comfort. So the first thing I say in the morning and the last thing at night to my wife is not 'Good morning honey or good night honey.' it's 'Where are my glasses!?'
This morning I went to the bank to withdraw $100 bucks from the cash machine. Forget my glasses and ask the nice skinhead (or he was wearing a nylon stocking?) man to punch in my password and withdraw $100 dollars for me. But he only gave me $60, saying the machine said that's all I could get before lunch.
After that I went to buy a bag of groceries. It came to $78.54, and now have to use my bank card as my $60 won't cover it. I then realize the nice man back at the bank forgot to give me back my Debit card so I have to use my Visa Card. I have no idea what the little grey box I'm suppose to put my card in wants of me. Why can't I just sign a big blank line like I use to!? (I do a lot of !? !? !? As I get older) Thank goodness the check out girl remembered my number from last time I was there.
On the way home I stop for gas but my card won't work in the pumps! And I don't know why! Well, I do know why, I have no glasses! I try to block the sun from the screen with my head and my hand stuck in a salute to my face as I squint and move my head from side to side trying to get a better angle to read the necessary information.
"Here borrow mine" says the guy on the pump beside me.
Awkward........are people this quick lending their toothbrushes? "Oh silly me! These special sunglasses I have on have a button I just need to push." I lie as I remove them and pretend to push some magical button. "Ah there we go..oops says its rejected. Guess I'm poor. Well gotta go!" So off I drive on gas fumes as fast as I told him my lie and with no idea why my card was rejected.
Hey look it's the nice guy from the bank coming out of the liquor store!
I drive to the next corner and cross four lanes of traffic and a big bump which I guess was the median to another gas station, realizing that they in a pinch will take cash.
Back home I place car keys and hat on expecting hooks right by he back door in the kitchen.
"I'm not sure if he purchased a trip for two to Bora Bora. Let me ask him, he just came through the door." my wife says then places her right hand over the receiver.
I mouth the word 'NO' as I turn my head in a negative fashion as my glasses fall from atop my noggin.
"Yes go ahead and cancel the card blah blah blah blah no I'm sure it wasn't stolen, he's not beat up but he soon will be!" she assures the phone as she makes a slashing motion across her throat and then points at me.
Well, found my glasses, they were under my hat the whole time. Yet another story about getting old you plan to keep to yourself. More and more these crazy stories fill your life with all the old people thing we do.
"Let me get my glasses and a pen to write that down" she says into the phone as she reaches in the mug with the broken handle for a pen then gives me the universal sign to hand over my glasses. Then again.....and again.
I hand her my glasses as a child would hand over candy he was caught with. Hesitant and crying.
" What's your problem? They're mine anyway! Yours are in the bathroom." she's says. "You took mine off the kitchen counter by mistake trying to read a text on your phone! And I had to use yours to.....just you never mind what I had to use yours for."
My mind runs wild with the things my glasses might of been used for in the bathroom. Now I've got to boil them without her seeing! She thinks I don't love her when I boil things after she uses them. My pants vibrate and do a ring buzz as I search for which pocket the phones in. Dang, it's a text! Where did she say she put my glasses? I hate glasses!

Bob Niles