“Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.” – George Bernard Shaw

This morning I woke up to find that my cat Roxy had stolen my dirty socks and was trying to bury them in her litter box. She could have been doing that because my socks were befouling her nasal passages but Roxy is known for stealing things and taking them to strange places. Case in point, she has stolen many things from around the house, from action figures to stuffed animals, a Soren Kierkegaard finger puppet, and feminine hygiene products. My wife once discovered that Roxy had left the toilet brush on her side of the bed.

Waking up to the sound of my socks slowly being buried in kitty litter should be strange. It was certainly unexpected, but unfortunately, at least around my house, it wasn’t really all that strange of an occurrence. For those of you that know me personally, you know how bizarre my everyday life is. No matter what I do, or how innocently I try to do something, almost inevitably, something strange or weird happens. Those occurrences have become so common place with me that my family and friends call them “Shaneisms”, as in “that could only happen to Shane”. And these things happen so often to me that when it came time for me to think up a blog title, I couldn’t come up with a more fitting name!

I know what you’re thinking: “Come on! Everyone has strange things happen to them! How strange can your life be” and so I offer up the following:

I was in Toronto and finished up my business early so I decided to go down to the Air Canada Centre to see if there where any tickets for that night’s Toronto Maple Leafs game. As I was in line for tickets, a man in full military fatigues asked “Are there any single people here?” and I said “I am”. He asked if I needed a ticket and I said “Sure. How much?” “It’s free. It’s Armed Forces night tonight and we have an extra ticket. It’s yours if you want it, courtesy of the Canadian Armed Forces“. I gleefully and gratefully accepted and thought to myself “hey, this is great… now I might actually have money left over for those overpriced hotdogs they have here”. I discovered that the ticket wasn’t for a seat, but rather was for a private box the Armed Forces were given for the night.

As the night went on, not only did I end up in the box with members of the Armed Forces, but during the second intermission, the Commander in Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces at the time, General Walter Natynczyk, came to the box to meet and greet those in attendance, myself included. After the game was over, which the Leafs lost (I’m used to that by now…), all Armed Forces personnel and “their guests” were invited to go down on the ice and meet the entire Leafs team. The final icing on the cake is a very strange and weird coincidence: the person singing the anthem that night was Alan Frew, lead singer of 80’s rock band Glass Tiger. It so happens that my sister went out with him a couple times way back when.

While the above is one of the most surreal Shaneisms, it’s not even remotely the only one. For example, I was working on a small film shoot in Toronto during Pride Week. We had finished shooting and were moving to our next location. While the rest of the crew moved equipment, I stayed behind and finished cleaning up. When I was done I started to make my way to the new location, only to find all the streets in the area blocked for the Dyke March.

After surveying the situation, I decided the best way to get to my destination was the parade route, so off I went. As I walked I was getting many strange looks from parade onlookers. It finally dawned on me that I was the only guy I could see walking along the route and that I was surrounded by literally thousands of lesbians. I thought to myself “Meh, why not?” and eventually made my way to the new filming location. When I met up with the rest of the crew, they very quickly realized I had just come from the Dyke March, which led to many of them trying to hold back the giggles as we all got down to work. Or at least tried to.

Some of the Shaneisms are my own fault. I do have a love of the absurd and a sense of humor that has been described as “off the wall” and “strange”. Case in point, when I was in the hospital battling kidney stones, I had to fill out a sheet of personal information. Part of that information was what title I prefer to be called (Mr, Mrs, Miss, etc) and I chose “other” and wrote in “Your Holiness”. Showing a great sense of humor, the hospital staff referred to me as “Your Holiness”, asking “Do you need anything, Your Holiness”, “How are you feeling today, Your Holiness” and on like so. This lead to some laughs for the other patients (and their families) in the same ward as me as some of them would peek out their doorways as I walked by. They wanted to see this person the nursing staff kept telling “it’s good to see you up and about, Your Holiness”.

Not all the Shaneisms that are my own fault are done with on purpose. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivty Disorder (ADHD) does tend to make me a little “spaced out” at times. I tend to zone out into my own little world and not notice things around me. This happened recently while I was availing myself of the washroom of my local library.

I entered the bathroom, which I thought was empty, and started singing to myself the song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen“. When I was done my duty I went to wash my hands only to release I wasn’t alone after all. One gentleman started to burst out laughing as soon as I looked at him, while another, using the sink beside me, kept giving me awkward sideways glances, slowly moving his body away from me. It then dawned on me that the lyrics of “Let It Go” can take on a completely different meaning when coming from a bathroom stall:

“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore

Let it go, let it go, turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway”

When I tell people about my adventures, I often get a reaction of “you’re making this up”, or “pics or it didn’t happen”. I totally understand why people have that reaction. If I had to sum up my life in one sentence, it’d be a quote by Robin from the 60’s Batman TV show: “The way we get into these scrapes and get out of them, it’s almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations, guiding our destiny”.

For a long while my father-in-law didn’t believe the strange stories constantly being told me and my wife. That all changed when we were coming home from a trip to a car dealership. We were driving down one of the access routes that separate the Hamilton mountain area from the lower city, where I live. As we did, we had a bodybuilding dwarf, all covered in tattoos, long hair flowing behind him, go by us on his bicycle, giving us the middle finger as he did. We stared at him, somewhat disbelieving, as he sped away from us. Without saying anything else, my father-in-law turned to me, looked me right in the eye and said “All those stories… I believe you now”.

I’ve been asked why these things keep happening to me, and I can only offer up two explanations. The first is that this is all learned behavior from my dad. I believe this is partly right. He is a very friendly fellow, who sometimes doesn’t have the social decorum he should. Case in point, when he tells people, including complete strangers, the story of his heart attack, it always ends with “And I never did my underwear back”, at which point my mom tries to pretend she doesn’t know him.

There is something to the theory that the Shaneisms are learned behavior in that once we tried to get rid of a wasps nest under a tree but used way too much gasoline, prompting an explosion much larger than anticipated, and leading to my mom to come running out of the house wondering why she just saw a fireball outside her window.

The second theory is that these things happen because I simply tend to notice more things than normal and jump at opportunities that present themselves, even if my actions follow no discernible, logical process. I can admit this most likely the case. Having ADHD causes me process everything going on around me, whether I want to or not. It also causes me problems with impulse control. This causes opportunities that either would or should fall by the wayside to suddenly appear to me and I have to go for them, even sometimes against my (somewhat) better judgement.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw, in saying “everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough” was getting at the idea that the longer we live, inevitably, the more varied experiences we will either have happen to us, or will have the chance to happen. Those experiences, both good and bad, can sometimes only be known if we make the conscience choice to know them.

At the end of the movie “Ever After“, the Brothers Grimm ask the Grand Dame about the fate of Cinderella, if she really did live happily ever after. The Grand Dame responds “while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived“. That line expresses the idea that the journey is just as important as the destination, that life is about seizing opportunities and seeing where life takes you.

The adventure I had at the Maple Leafs game started just out of me not wanting to go home to Hamilton yet and wondering if there were any cheap tickets available for that night’s game. I walked to the Air Canada Centre thinking “they’re probably sold out, and even if they’re not, Leafs tickets are always really expensive” but I went anyway.

I’ve had friends ask me “why do you get to have all the fun”. I tell them “just go with it… it’ll be fun!” and there have been many times  they’ve ended up having an adventure of their own. My wife has said many times “my life has gotten a lot more interesting since I met you”.

I won’t even try to predict what Shaneisms might happen to me next… that’s part of the fun, but I do encourage you to be on the lookout for “Shaneisms” of your own. In the words of Auntie Mame, “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

Now, go on… live! It’s time for me to get back to living, myself. That and I should probably make sure Roxy hasn’t buried anymore of my clothing in her litter box…

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“Pics or it didn’t happen.”

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Democracy without Secularism

As avid followers of Shaneisms will note, one of my closest friends is Daniel Mullin, he of The Unemployed Philosopher fame. In wanting to keep myself in his good graces (mostly so I keep getting birthday and Christmas presents from him) I’m shamelessly promoting several projects he’s been working feverishly on and that are now available for public consumption.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! I present to you, straight from Dr. Mullin’s mind to your eager eyeballs, these wonderful events that will engage your mind, excite your heart and enchant your very soul!

First up, the good Doctor’s doctoral dissertation, Democracy Without Secularism. Follow the link to read a critique of Jürgen Habermas as you’ve never read before! Don’t know who Jürgen Habermas is? All the more reason to read this attractively bound volume!

Next on the list is Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia. Dan wrote one of the chapters about his often tumultuous time in the world of post-university Academia and will give you some sense of what the very-quickly-changing world of higher education is really like.

And finally, if you live in the Toronto, Ontario area and are interested in philosophy, Dan is starting up a philosophical cafe, where people can gather together and discuss philosophical concepts from Plato to whether or not the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence.Who knows… I might show up to one myself! Follow his blog to get the latest updates.

And please… support his writing efforts by buying his book. You’ll be doing me a favor as well since it means more money for my future birthday and Christmas presents!

And stay tuned here… there’s plenty of edutainment coming up for 2014!

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” – A. Bartlett Giamatti

Baseball: say that word to yourself and think about the images it conjures up. Like when you learned to play catch with your dad. Or your first Little League game. Or a trip to a big league ballpark. Or just sitting around listening to a game on the radio.

I have loved baseball for as long as I can remember. I remember going to see the Toronto Blue Jays on many occasions with my dad. I remember spending many a summer afternoon playing ball with friends and deciding who would have to climb the fence of the houses backing on to the field when one of us would inevitably hit a homer. It was usually me who got picked to climb the fence and I would scramble over it, grab the ball and then scramble back over, praying to God all the while the home owner wouldn’t see me and take my baseball away as punishment for trespassing.

I remember the time my oldest brother Kevin watched me play a Little League game and I got hit in the head with a pitch, the ball hitting my helmet, sailing over the backstop and promptly landing right at his feet. It was the only Little League game he ever came to, possibly out of fear of somehow causing me to get hit with the pitch in the first place.

I remember the glory days of my beloved Blue Jays, when the names of Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar were said around Toronto with almost reverential awe. I remember when they won the World Series in ’92 & ’93, the second time on Carter’s Series-ending home run. I feel old realizing that was twenty years ago and can’t believe how fast time as passed.

Going to a Jays game is still my preferred way of spending my birthday and there’s something that takes me back to my childhood when I spend an afternoon in late September at the ballpark. I still love raising my hands in triumph when the Jays win and throwing my hands up in despair when they lose. I love the sights and sounds of the ballpark, even if I do find myself thinking that the 10 year old in the row behind me needs to settle down because screaming “Go Jays Go!” at the top of his lungs whenever a Blue Jay gets on base isn’t necessary. And then I find myself wondering “was I ever that annoying when my dad brought me here as a little kid?” and instantly hearing that voice of wisdom in my head saying “yes, yes you were”.

If I have changed and grown up, so has the game itself. After the Blue Jays won the World Series two years in a row baseball had it’s infamous strike, sadly culminating in the cancelling of the 1994 World Series. In the years afterwards the game struggled to find its footing again, but there were bright spots, such as Cal Ripken Jr breaking the record for most consecutive games played, or the magical summer of 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went after, and ultimately both broke, the single season home run record. But it would turn out later that things weren’t as magical as they seemed as both players became embroiled in the steroids scandal that would dominate the baseball world for the next several years.

Looking back now the steroids scandal changed the baseball landscape forever. No longer were the superstar players mythical men capable of superhuman feats. Instead many saw them with suspicion and a weary eye, questioning if they had really earned the 100 million dollar contracts that were threatening to quickly become the new salary expectation. And I, unwillingly being forced to leave my childhood and face adult responsibilities, saw the new business of baseball engulfing the purity of the game I saw as a child. The Boys of Summer had seemingly grown into men and left me behind.

Joe Carter moved on from the Blue Jays and Carlos Delgado took over as the Jays’ superstar. Eventually he gave way to Vernon Wells, who’s since given way to Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays themselves have gone through changes, being bought by Rogers Telecommunications and being re-branded as “The Jays”, black tinged uniforms replacing the familiar blue and white. Even Skydome was re-branded as the Rogers Centre, even if no one I know ever calls it that. Ticket and concession prices steadily went up to the point where seeing a game was something I could afford to do only once or twice a season, and even then I’d be up in the nosebleeds thinking to myself “I can almost make out the players from here”.

I still go if I can, spending time with friends, reacquainting myself in the process with The Grand Old Game. Maybe while I’m at it I can reacquaint myself with that little kid who my dad took to the ballpark during the glory days of the Blue Jays. He made his presence known this year when I saw a game with my best friend. It didn’t hurt that my baseball heroes are back to being called the Blue Jays and are wearing an updated version of their classic look, with not a tinge of black in sight.

I look forward to one day teaching my kids to play baseball, watching them pretend to be Babe Ruth or Ted Williams or Jose Bautista, or whoever the star player is by that point. I look forward to taking them to see the Blue Jays, even though by that point the tickets and concessions could cost so much that I might have to choose between taking them to the ballpark or sending them to college.

Former baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti was right when he wrote “The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

That my birthday inevitably comes at the same time the season ends reminds me far too clearly that another year has passed and that I’m that much older. That spring as turned to autumn and that it’s going to be a few more months before I can break out the bat and glove.

In those months in between I thank God there’s hockey season. Even if I do inevitably finding myself cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs.