Tattoos (And What They Really Feel Like)

Standard

I’m tattooed.

Not heavily – though I have some larger pieces – but my collection is starting to add up. Of course, as they do begin to pile up so do the questions.

Did that hurt?
Aren’t you worried about finding a job?
How are they going to look over time?
Aren’t you afraid of regretting them when you’re older?

And my personal favourite:

But what does it mean?

Ah yes, the age old question of what a person’s tattoo(s) mean(s). I suppose that comes with the territory when you’re (mostly) permanently modifying your body; I just always thought it strange that people would be so wrapped up in what someone else is doing with their own skin. I find it quite amusing when the explanation doesn’t match up with their expectations – as if your own personal thought process wasn’t the most important in the decision. Seemingly, tattoos are to impress others, not be an extension of your own expression. As I’ve come to get used to this, I’ve developed silly backstories and meanings for my tattoos – if they’re already going to disappoint I may as well have fun with it. I thought it would be fun to share a few of them, as well as the real reason I each piece was chosen.

Bindrune – left inside forearm
1930986_45952371631_6496_n

Made Up Meaning:
One that I’m particularly fond of is “fish bones”. It’s a common interpretation that I usually take a step further by suggesting that his name is “Adam” and that is in fact why he is missing a “rib”.

Real Meaning:
The very first one! One year at the Edmonton Heritage Festival, I came across the jewelry company Alrun. They take Icelandic words, convert them into Nordic runes, then combine them into one symbol – a bindrune. This particular one translates as “Tónlist” or music. Music has been a really big part of my life, whether connected to growing up listening to tunes with my dad, attempting a band in high school, or it’s ability to settle me in my worst of times. I like the more abstract representation, rather than the typical clefs and notes.

Dada Motto – right outside forearm

1148907_10152161325656632_817312855_n

Made Up Meaning:
A lot of times people don’t believe it’s a real tattoo; they think it’s just ink stamped on. I think that’s a tribute to how well my artist Dave Phelps did this piece. Often times I’ll humour folks and just agree, especially at work: “Oh yeah, it’s been a slow day, I got bored…started playing with markers and ink.”

Real Meaning:
It took a good long while before my next tattoo. This one is pretty straight forward. “Destruction is also Creation” is the motto of the Dada art movement. I’ve always been fascinated by the movement and their paradoxical nature. It’s a motto that has served well as a personal mantra over the years as I’ve had many beginnings and ends.
Bee with Initials – left thigh (directly above knee)

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.11.17 PM

Made Up Meaning:
I usually say PEM is an acronym for a host of ridiculous things and that the bee is that “club’s” logo. Some examples:
Pretty Erect Men
Prickly Elephant Members
Post Erection Menstruation
Pregnant Enraged Masturbators

Real Meaning:
Most people will tell you that getting a “tribute piece” for a friend is a bad idea. Mostly, you just really never know when you may have a falling out with that person – just ask my sister. I don’t particularly feel worried about this one. We may not talk very often or be as close as we once were – possibly less so SINCE I got tattooed – but my friend Paege has meant so much in my life, that she is one of the few people I could conceive getting a tattoo for, that isn’t family. The bee stems from my old nickname for her: “Honeybee”.

Egg Diagram – back of right bicep

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.09.37 PM

Made Up Meaning:
I don’t really get questioned on this one as much as you would expect. I haven’t really come up with a very good story for it. Usually, I just recount it’s real meaning, or fib something like: “I used to work for the egg council.”

Really Meaning:
Honestly? I just really love breakfast. This is the first of several that will depict different breakfast/brunch items in a medical/lithograph style.

Fennec fox with Rose – right outside calf

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.08.35 PM

Made Up Meaning:
This one is fairly new. Some people have thought it was a cat – my sister for one. I’ve rolled with that and told them that it was a cat that came to me in a dream and tried to steal the Beast’s rose. Then I beat him up and with each punch a million different colours spewed forth – I work well under pressure.

Real Meaning:
The fox is a character in the book “Le Petit Prince”, as is the rose. It is one of my two favourite books and is filled with so many wonderful, quotable moments.

Beetle-Dagger – left shin

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.36.40 PM

Made Up Meaning:
This is the newest of the bunch. I haven’t had the opportunity to tell an epic fib. If I had to guess, I imagine I’ll assign it some deep cultural significance: “The beetle is a symbol of power and defiance to my people…”

Real Meaning:
It’s. A. Badass. Beetle. Dagger. Need I say more? I plan to get a bunch of creepy crawlies on my left leg to go with this and the bee. When I visited my good friend in Montreal recently, her man-friend tattooed this excellent piece off his flash sheet for me. I had been talking about doing a beetle with a dagger for it’s “horns” and he happened to have a piece that matched!

So there’s the list as she stands now. As you can see, I’m not totally hung up on deep significance. I feel like each tattoo is representative of a period in your life. At varying times you’re going to have art that you want to depict on your body because it means something special. Other times, you’ll come across art that just looks way better on your body than on a wall. I know that seems like a bit of a frivolous way of looking at tattoos and doesn’t necessary answer the question of regret.

The way I look at it, we’re only here for a short time and it’s best  to mark those moments in the ways we see fit.

-DFP-

Post-Season

Standard

This started off as a Facebook status, but started to get way too long. Religion also somehow, like a typical YouTube thread, got tangled up into this. Then I remembered: I HAVE A BLOG!

If you know me, or have read an older post or two, you may know that I’m a huge baseball fan. It’s October, which means it’s playoff time. Specifically, the League Championship Series have both started. If you’re not a baseball fan, this one’s not for you…

For those out there complaining about seeing St. Louis and San Francisco in the NLCS, AGAIN…

Suck it up.

These are two exceptionally run franchises. They aren’t the typical big market teams that everyone is so apt to cry about. Even if they were, remember: every owner has the equal opportunity to spend money. Some choose NOT to. So ask yourself, why are you cheering for a team, if the ownership group is not committed to winning? For that matter, why are you even cheering for a team at all? I find I typically come across two rationals, behind longstanding fandom.

Regional Ties
People always want to have some sense of civic pride; or at least they do in the sense of: “I can bash my city, but you can’t, ’cause you’re not from here”. The same seems to carry over to sports teams. People will lament their woeful squad, until a non-fan express the same opinion.

“Whoa back off man! They’ve been drafting really well, and we’re right on the cusp. You just like because you’re a bandwagoner man!”

Well, newsflash: you didn’t really have any say in where you were born. So supporting the team of the city you were arbitrarily born in, it’s kind of a weak platform. You can argue that was responsible for shaping your young mind, and contributed to the person you are today, therefore giving a strong reason for supporting civic pride. Except that, that pride is relative to the fact that you were born in that city. If you were born in a different city, you would be tied to a whole different team. Ergo, you’re a slave to the forces that conspired to place you in that city. Now you can make a case for people who have, of their own free will, moved to a city. Those folks are usually just caving to peer pressure; trying to fit in amidst the common-folk in their new town.

Family tradition
This is usually is born of civic pride (descended from your folks). Even if it’s not, it’s still something that was not a result of your own critical thinking. You’re cheering out of blind faith, for the team your family supports the most vocally, because it’s the only team you get exposed to. Or more aptly, it’s the only team you’re exposed to a reason to cheer for. Kind of like religion…except your mortal soul isn’t invested (well, that’s a matter up for debate to some). Conversely, some people cheer out of spite for their family ties. To be the black sheep, the antagonist (hello atheists); usually a major rival. It’s all very petty.

These are the two major arguments that I seem to come across most, when people are trying to explain why they’ve supported a team for so long. They also seem to be generally accepted logic to argue a “true allegiance”. People who use these rationales, typically like to harp on those with what they consider, “less legitimate” reasons. These include:

-Team colour
-Team Name
-Traditionally good team
-Recent Champion

The last two are typically labelled as “bandwagon fans”. Before I touch on those, let’s tackle the first three.

Sure, team colour/name seem frivolous, but at least they have some sense of personal attachment. I mean, you’re cheering for your dad’s team because why? Why not pick your team based on your favourite colours, favourite animal, or coolest sounding name? Especially for folks like me in the Great White North; outside of the NHL, there really aren’t many options for local ties. Plus, inevitably if you really enjoy the sport, you’ll get to know the players, the history, and all that fun stuff; it comes with time regardless of how your allegiance formed. Of course, if you’re a casual fan, it’s a built in defence mechanism to shut-up over-zealous fans, hellbent on proving their team loyalty.

Back to the bandwagon. I really don’t mind the casual bandwagon fan. I mean, let’s face it; don’t you want to share in the excitement cheering for a champion gives, rather than the dejection of a perennial loser? Especially when you’re young, it’s easier and more likely, that you’re going to gravitate to the most successful team of the day. Eventually that might lead to a longer standing appreciation for the team. My own favourite baseball team for example, the Minnesota Twins, gained my loyalty in the 90’s because they were really good. They were the best and most exciting team to watch, when I first started watching the sport. There’s a deep sense of nostalgia associated with the team; I may not have liked baseball as much if say, the New York Mets were the team du jour.

Now I’m not trying to say people should stop cheering for their teams. What I’m getting at with all this is, it’s a sports team. Your allegiance is probably trivial at best. Relax, appreciate when a great franchise has sustained success. After all, entertaining games are really what should be at the heart of the fan experience. With the fluidity of the market; players being traded and signing elsewhere, why should your fandom be restricted to a team? I mean, sure, I have my favourites, but I find myself gravitating all over the place due to the vast amount of talent across the leagues.

In any case, if you somehow made it through all this, I hope you at least can ease off the gas-pedal when it comes to extolling what a “super fan” you are. Just relax, grab some snacks, and enjoy the games. After all, this is prime sports time. Hockey has started, college and NFL football are in full swing, there’s NBA pre-season, FIFA football, and of course, the best of all: the MLB playoffs.

May the team that sports the best, get all the sports glory!

The Final Frontier

Standard

13 years ago, I faced a border that everyone inevitably crosses:

Crossing from Life into Death.

I was reckless in my youth. I did things merely out of contempt for authority. I liked to blur the line between moral and immoral. I was a loose cannon.

When I was 16, I ran drugs for a guy named Joe. By no means was this guy a role model. In the same token, he wasn’t some low-life taking advantage of a naive teenager; I knew what I was getting into.

At least, I thought I did.

Heatherington is a particularly scummy area in Ottawa. Nowadays it’s home to a lot of gang activity. In my teens, Heatherington Park was a major pick-up/drop-off site for drugs. Now, let me make this clear: I wasn’t doing work for some big gang or cartel. Which, if I had of thought about it harder back then, should have been a red flag.

The big guys don’t want little fish in their pond.

Long story short, I was doing a regular drop-off in Heatherington. As I got close to the park, I noticed some guys from the bus were following me. I started to get anxious, and before I knew it, 3 guys were chasing me across the park.

Bat to my lower back; I was down immediately.

I went numb momentarily, before the pain radiated through every inch of my body. The assailants were on top of me in no time. Rifling through my pockets, tossing me around like a rag doll.

Then they put a knife to my throat.

I didn’t dare move. They emptied my pockets, then patted me down; they wanted to make sure they got everything. I didn’t dare move. I tried my best to focus my attention anywhere but on the person holding my life in his hand.

Then our eyes locked; I recognized him.

We went to middle school together for two years. He often found himself in trouble for beating up other students. He was a nice guy in general, but his temper always got the better of him; he was prideful.

I thought for sure that was the end for me. I was looking death right in the eyes. I was convinced he recognized me and would not leave it open to chance, that I would turn him in.

Suddenly, his comrades began yelling at him, in Somali (I recognized some of the words from former classmates in middle school.) They stared at him, yelling. He yelled back. And then in a flash, they were gone.

I got to the border, but was spared from crossing.

People often talk about seeing “their life flash before their eyes” in a near Death experience. I had no such moment. Perhaps because I wasn’t truly facing Death; only violence with no motive of killing from my attackers.

There was definite fear, which I am sure is shared with those who have shared near Death situations. Fear not necessarily of dying, but more of pain and torment.

Would it be fast?
Would I in-fact die?
If I didn’t, what would my quality of life then be?

Since that day, I’ve always wondered about why we fear Death. Why, do we put so much weight into something that is completely out of our control?

Is it the prospect of facing the unknown?

We face many unknowns on a day to day basis. Yet throughout human history, we persevere through them. Granted, most of these don’t have quite the finality that Death seems to impose. Since we have yet to find a way to scientifically measure, quantify, or even experience Death, it makes it that much more difficult to want to go through the process. Is Death a pure and simple finality?

Is there an Afterlife?
Will I be Reborn?
Is time non-linear? If so, am I just reliving a series of experiences? Am I stuck in a temporal loop?

Perhaps science one day will advance to the point where we can experience Death, and record empirical evidence. Until then, we are left with the dilemma that Death may in fact be, a finality.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why we fear it.

Many would say they fear Death because they lack a sense of fulfillment with their life. This is more commonly seen in younger persons, who have perhaps not accomplished the goals they’ve set in life. If this is the case, why are so many people complacent and inactive in filling this void? Does the nature of Death itself, not prompt a greater desire for living and learning?

One does not control their own fate; that is to say, whether they live or die. Even those who decide to end their lives, do so at the mercy of their own chemical imbalances; something which they have no hand in.

Since we can to a degree, control our actions on the mortal plane, why are so many of us apt to follow the path of an unfulfilled life?

We seem to hold on to the idea that you must live many years, to have lived a “full life”. Do years really equate to a life lived? I believe most would agree that it is the content of those years that determines this instead. One could live 100 years in a vegetative state, while another 25 years travelling the world, meeting people, trying new cuisines, and indulging in everything our planet has to offer. Who then had the “fuller life”?

Would it not be fair to say: “Collect experiences, not years”?

That’s a lot of questions in one night.

I’ve been taking a philosophy class, and it’s incited me to look deeper into existential questions. I’ve always had a curious mind, but have stopped short over the years addressing these types of topics. Taking this class (plus a fresh new notebook) is opening a new realm of thinking, that is really exciting. It also gives me a chance to put these thoughts into a concrete medium.

I’ve continuously said that I want to be active with this blog, yet seem to constantly hit a brick wall. I’m hoping that since I will have a hard-copy journal, that it will facilitate my blogging ventures. I know that the way my mind works, and catalogues thoughts is a bit messy. However, I hope this blog can become a vehicle for deeper thinking for those who read it, and expanded discussions down the road.

-DFP-

Tides

Standard

I grew up by lakes and streams
Simpler things
People were
Quiet and
Reserved
They didn’t pay you any mind
If you gave them no reason to

We lived
We breathed
We just
Were

Now oceanside
These tides are different
Everyone moves fast
Like all they care about
Is being noticed
They lack
In purpose
In intent
In sincerity

Maybe bigger isn’t better

The freedom of no horizon
Seems fanciful
But where do you go
When you feel
Lost?

-DFP-

Moonlight Spy

Standard

If this blog were a pet, it surely would have passed on from lack of feeding. I can’t seem to find my way back on here.

The ideas begin to bubble, before quickly cooling.

There has been so much on my mind the last few weeks; so little of it can I make sense enough to put into words. Someone told me not too long ago: “Keep at it” in regards to this blog. I haven’t done a very good job at that. I always imagined this would be a place of catharsis, or renewal. Instead, it creates more tangled knots in my head as I search for things to write.

So I’ll just dip into the vault…

 

♦♦♦

Bedtime visits
Remain my only solace
On these cold nights

Locked in your sanctuary
You wouldn’t dare
Show the world
Your face

You find it highly
Unprofessional
To allow outsiders
A glimpse
Of what you hide
Behind that mask

So I sneak up
To your room
Each night
A moonlight spy if you will
In hopes that
One day
I’ll be visible

For a single moment

-DFP-

Fresh

Standard

I’m sleeping on clean sheets tonight.

That is, if I manage to find sleep.

I haven’t blogged in a considerable amount of time. There are varying reasons, lack of topics being at the forefront. I had this vision of what I wanted to do with this blog when I started it. Simply, that there would be no vision, no structure, no purpose other than being an outlet to write. Posting would come when the mood struck. I felt at first that it was going well. Then it would tail off. I’d come back to the blogosphere, only to recently dive completely off the radar. I’ve been more forward and open emotionally than not, though I’ve managed to sneak the odd aloof post in. The problem is, I’m a critical thinker.

Critical in the sense that, I’m critical of the things I think about. Critical of the things I think I want to post about. There have been all kinds of things running through my brain, yet none of them seem to want to come out.

My heart’s been empty.
Sinking deep into despair, disbelief, impossibly lost and sad.

My heart’s been full.
Right to the brim. With love, happiness, laughter, delirious in the joy of that those around me have a knack of causing.

Because of those highs and lows, I’ve stayed away from the keyboard. Perhaps worried that I was too emotionally charged, or drained, to share anything…significant or otherwise. The spark to talk to the online world is back. For how long I don’t know.

Clean sheets, clean slate.

I can’t make any promises.

-DFP-

The Cities of My Youth: Bytown

Standard

I’ve been ignoring the blogosphere.

My thoughts are often in large knots. I imagine if you could extrapolate the traffic in my brain, into a concrete image, it would look something like a horrible tangle of Mobius Strips. This isn’t conducive to blogging. I typically end up going from one topic to another at such a rapid pace, that I end up with pages of blabber. On top of that, I haven’t seemed to be able to sit still and relax the last little while. I’m really glad I don’t have a large audience, I don’t think I could handle the expectations of regular posting.

Awhile back on my other blog, I did a series of mini-playlists relating to the various places I’ve called home. It was a fun exercise in nostalgia. It made me remember not just moments that I cherish, but the small things I miss about those places. Recently, I’ve been listening a lot to an old, middle-school friend’s album. In one of the songs, there’s a line that goes:

I’d return to the cities of my youth if I knew the youth’d come back

I’m a sucker for nostalgia, so for the next few posts, I’m going to reminisce about the things I miss about those cities. Starting with my hometown…

Bytown 

I couldn’t wait to get out of Ottawa growing up. I don’t think that’s an unusual feeling for anyone who has spent a lot of time in a city. Particularly if they haven’t travelled a lot. In my youth, we spent more time exploring what we had in our own backyard, than seeing other cities. It’s not like I missed out, I just felt that by the time I’d reached high school, I needed to do some exploring. It’s been a touch over 10 years since I left, but it will always be my hometown.

I would say Ottawa is an underrated city.

It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of a Montreal. It’s not a big, sprawling metropolis like Toronto. It certainly isn’t the diverse, internationally driven, city that Vancouver is. It’s definitely not a city, when mentioning your hometown, that really packs a flavourful punch. After all, Ottawa is just a quaint, little town, full of blowhard politicians.

I mean, it’s really only the Capital because it sits so perfectly in the centre of the Anglophone and Francophone worlds satisfying both sides’ need for representation…right?

Well that’s one way to look at it.

It’s a very balanced city. By that, I mean you get a little bit of everything, especially as a kid. There is no shortage of museums, galleries, and historical areas. It’s one of the perks of being in the capital, the national galleries and museums are all situated there. Nature, science/tech, civilization/history, art, everything is well represented. It’s probably the part I miss the most. Being able to just wile a day away, absorbing all the information. I’ve visited all the museums more times than I can count, and even though they have changed in some areas, I could still go back a hundred times and not be bored.

Sports are pretty well represented too. While the population isn’t large enough to support a bevy of teams, there’s still lots to go see. I was lucky enough to see the early stages of the Senators’ rebirth. I was also fortunate to be able to enjoy the Lynx, when Ottawa still had Triple-A baseball. CFL football has had ups and downs (more downs sadly), but it’s coming back with a strong ownership group, which is exciting to see. Outside of that, there are so many youth leagues, it’s impossible not to find sports.

Between all those galleries, and the athletics I was surrounded with, I’m surprised I ever had a chance to stop. I didn’t even mention the libraries, plus the great programs that were run out of them. I realize that a lot of this stuff was 20 or so years ago, and it may not be the same. I’d like to think a lot of it is better now, though. Of course, I’m looking at this all through rose-coloured glasses, I’m terribly biased!

Now, I have to talk about the seasons.

Yea, Ottawa actually has them! Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Many of the other cities I’ve lived in/visited don’t have such distinctive seasons. It adds to the charm, because with each passing one you can look forward to new things.

Spring brings the Tulip Festival. While it’s not on the same scale as the one in Amsterdam, it’s still a bright, colourful, wonderful harbinger of Summer. I miss seeing the rows of flowers livening up downtown when May rolls around. I get lots of Dutch customers roll through my store during high-season, and I’m always eager to reminisce. Once that snow melts, it’s heavenly. I think Ottawa Springs are my favourite.

Summer can be muggy and humid, that’s for sure. That’s about the only downside. Festivals! Festivals! Festivals! Ottawa is home to some pretty awesome ones. Bluesfest is probably at the top of the list. It may have strayed far away from being a true Blues festival, but it brings in some pretty big heavyweight acts. For those who don’t have the time/money to see the huge American festivals, this is a satisfactory substitute. Plus, there’s still plenty of great blues/folk acts to appease the purists like myself. Folk Fest is also a big one later in the season. Much like it’s cousin, it has become a bit more diverse than the name suggests. That doesn’t mean the quality is lacking though. Of course this isn’t mentioning walks by the river, questionable beaches, and best of all: PATIO SEASON. Ottawa has fully embraced the microbrew fad, and there is no shortage of suds in the Nation’s Capital come Summer.

Fall in Ottawa is one of the most beautiful seasons I’ve experienced. With all the oak, birch, and maple indigenous to the area, the whole cities is a mosaic of red, yellow, and orange. It’s particular lovely in Gatineau Hills Park. While that’s technically on the other side of the river, it’s easily accessible, so it counts as part of the Ottawa experience. The trails are perfect. They’re low impact enough to enjoy the amazing scenery, while still making you feel you’ve gotten a good workout in. The air is so fresh and crisp, it is my absolute favourite season in Ottawa.

Winter. Oh winter. Anyone who’s lived in, or visited the Ottawa Valley, knows how nasty it can get. The moisture, coupled with high winds, and bone chilling temperatures, who could love Ottawa in the winter?! Well…winter means Winterlude for one. It also means skating on the Ottawa Canal. The world’s largest skating surface, it’s a crime if you’ve ever visited while it was open, and you didn’t experience it. Not only is it a ton of fun to feel the wintery air bite your face as you zip your way from Dow’s Lake to Downtown, but there are plenty of BeaverTails and Hot Chocolate stands to make it an even more worthwhile experience. Besides, the snow is lovely when you’re not shovelling it!

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT miss winters in Ontario. While I do wish I could get a skate in on the Canal every year, I am quite content with my Pacific Northwest winters. Thankyouverymuch.)

See? Well rounded!

It’s not a perfect city, but it has the right mix of everything for young and old. While I may never call it my permanent home again, I will always think wistfully of my youth in Canada’s Capital.

-DFP-