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The Games I Play

This blog contains my personal written work, fiction and non-fiction. Please don’t steal any of it from me (you know the rules) or I'll have to hunt you down and whack you senseless with a heavy, wet newspaper. I started this blog because I was looking for a place to post my stories. I have come to find it's a good place to "spout off." As they say in the introduction to WWE’s Monday Night Raw, ‘Some material may be offensive to some people. Viewer discretion is advised.’

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Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada

In the never-ending search for ever-elusive happiness, a small semblance of stability, hair-stand-on-end adventure and distant travel, the ultimate physical conquest, the perfect meal, a peaceful moment to end a harried day, a dream that doesn’t need to come true but simply must keep returning, and certain lurid things my mom wouldn’t want anyone to read about here or anywhere else, I try to find my unique and distinct place in the world through honest and forthright means of communication. In 1997 I authored and self-published a novel about a belligerent and spirited young man in the process of meeting and ushering along his adult fate. In the advertising I created for it, I wrote a little something about myself that I'd say still applies today: "Most of all, I am prolific and dedicated ... My work expresses an intense imagination and street-wiseness. It is usually reality-based, alternately amusing and poignant; often laden with my deeply facetious sense of humour. At this point in my life, I find myself drawn to tales of misguided youth and people on the brink of insanity, and stories of folks struggling to make peace with themselves and their environment."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Icy Relations

The last month has helped me see clearly that the people of my neighbourhood are not nearly as considerate as I might have thought, or hoped. As ice and snow have coated their sidewalks and made walking a hazard, many – but certainly not all – of these apparently friendly people have been embarrassingly slow to respond with any more than a half-assed snow shoveling. I’m taking this opportunity to remind them, and everyone, that a little salt on the sidewalk goes along way to maintaining a positive relationship with those of us who like to – and have to – traverse across their portion of slippery cement.

My dog Sydney doesn’t enjoy walking herself and on weekends I really have no choice but to take her around the neighbourhood until she gets tired enough to let us have peace. In the summer, this is a pleasure because the weather is nice, people are out and the walking is always safe. But in the last while, those same people who I said hello to in the sunshine and who admired the little white fur ball on the end of the leash have had their common sense frozen by the outdoors. They are forgetting that while they are inside getting fat and watching the idiot box, others of us enjoy being out and, unbelievably, like the feel of a chilly winter. But we don’t like getting our tailbones smashed on their ice.

So without further ado, I’m telling them to get off their lazy warm asses, go to the store and buy a bag of road salt (of the organic variety if they’re worried about the environment), and sprinkle it generously across the sidewalk. I don’t even care if they don’t want to salt their own bleeping driveway.

Adding to my aggravation is the fact that I have a knee injury right now and can’t bend my right leg much. If I begin to slip, this leg will offer me scant little support and any tumble I take, even a small slip like the other day, invariably aggravates my aching knee further and makes me even more pissed off that people can’t think a little less of themselves a little more often.

And neighbours, don’t bother trying to convince me that a little salt now will ruin your prospects for yet another previous perfectly green lawn come springtime. Frankly, even if you have scientific evidence, I don’t care. Saving my body from long-term disrepair is far more important than your grass. And it should be more important to you. Hey, I’m only 39. What if a 75-year-old lady – a neighbour of yours that you adore, perhaps – falls flat on her backside right in front of your house after losing her balance on ice she didn’t see, because it was covered by snow that you haven’t yet bothered to shovel? What if she broke her hip and couldn’t look after herself any more?

Are we supposed to stay inside all winter because you are cold, inconvenienced, lazy, busy, uncaring, irresponsible…? And what about the kids in the neighbourhood who you know perfectly well aren’t going to stay inside no matter what? I guess they’re supposed to know better than to put a foot down anywhere near your property because you are a self-absorbed wienie.

In closing, I say a heartfelt thank you to my neighbours who – like me and my wife – have shoveled earnestly, iced responsibly, and even cleared the snow and ice for the elderly near them who couldn’t make it outside. You did your bit and saved others from injury, and you braved the cold and wind to boot. (It hasn’t really been that cold or windy for very long, by the way.)

To the rest of you, I hope that when I see you in the warmer weather, you don’t feign friendliness and forget all about your neglect. But of course you will. That’s just the kind of people you are. Apparently it’s easy to be nice but a lot tougher to go out of your way to do something that really helps people.

Oh, and don’t forget, in case you didn’t already know, when you bought your house, you bought the responsibility that goes with it. In this case, it’s not the kind you and pick and choose when to deal with.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mrs. Crocodile Hunter

One of the cool things about working for a television broadcaster – CBC, in my case – is that occasionally interesting guests drop by the building for an on-air appearance. And once in a while you get to see the segment before it airs. Today I saw an interview with Terri Irwin, widow of Steve Irwin, the famed Australian wildlife conservationist (“The Crocodile Hunter”) who died tragically last fall.

Much like I expected, Terri was astoundingly down-to-earth and even-keeled. She lost her husband and the father of her two young kids less than six months ago and here she was carrying on his work of promoting wildlife and his homeland (she’s American-born).

Terri explained to the small studio audience that everyone deals with grief differently and this was her way of feeling close to Steve. Though she acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard to put one foot in front of the other. She told an amusing story about how she, a young tourist from Oregon, met him years ago at the same Australian Zoo they later co-owned and she now runs. Terri related how Steve told her that when he used to ask girls to dance and they refused, he snuck an earwig into their hair and watched them freak out. It turned out that Terri likes earwigs and found the story funny. She also told of her late husband’s interesting perspective on ‘crocs’: (I paraphrase) “You know crocodiles always want to bite you and eat you, whereas with people some of them pretend to be your friends.”

Steve and Terri’s daughter Bindi was supposed to be on the show but this obviously wonderful mother let Bindi do something that caught her fancy upon arriving in the neighbourhood. Instead of sitting dutifully on the couch and being interviewed for the umpteenth time in recent months, 8-year-old Bindi got the sky high thrill of climbing up the CN Tower (right across the street) with her younger brother Bob and obviously an escort or two in tow.

Why exactly is this so cool? Before the show – The Hour – started, host George Stroumboulopoulos told the gathering that he’s interviewed many show business children and their parents, and said that the moms and dads who didn’t let their kids have a childhood despite the show biz pressures ended up creating screwed up young adults.

Terri evidently understands that the greatest gift she is giving now is to two little people who thought their daddy walked on water: she’s letting them live, the demands of TV be damned. She said that Bindi’s dream from early on was to do what her daddy does. To that end, this total cutie will soon be starring in a show called Bindi the Jungle Girl. I’ll be watching with my daughter.

Terri explained that if her children ever tell her they’ve had enough of the limelight, then that would be it – all cameras off. Strong lady it seems. There’s much to like about her.

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Is it possible?

My Canadian-American utopia, given those who are currently in the running to lead --plus a trio that may be most pissed off if my vision turns to reality:

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Here It Is!!

A handful of people may care somewhat initially, but as every aspiring novelist hopes, a few million people may eventually -- SOON -- hang on every word. Here then is the beginning of my new novel, subject of course to change at any minute:

June 15, 2001. A distinctly glorious date that is otherwise completely unidentifiable in the mind of even the most ardent intellectual.

Ten days earlier Tropical Storm Allison ravaged Houston, Texas with rain and left five billion American dollars worth of damage in its wake. Eight days before the Labour Party took the British election and Tony Blair won a second term as Prime Minister. Four days previous Timothy McVeigh was executed in Indiana for masterminding the infamous Oklahoma City bombing. Six days afterward a rare total solar eclipse obscured Earth’s view of the sun. On that same day, famed American actor Carroll O’Connor died and the legendary fictional bigotry of Archie Bunker passed on with him.

The attacks that changed Weltanschauung for a generation were 88 days away, and were still wholly malleable in the icy hearts and black spirits of the perpetrators.

Perhaps the most perfect place on the earth on this day, evening specifically, was a modern hospital in need of a good exterior paint job, which was nonetheless rather abounding with trained and experienced staff and the most modern medical equipment that could be bought or alternately obtained anywhere on the face of the planet.

The building stands at westernmost tip of Lake Ontario, which is picturesque from a well-aimed camera lens despite the nearby steel mills that predominate these shores.

The room of focus is just barely colourful enough to be considered off-white, though no one but the uncharacteristically nervous husband took notice. Even he was only aware of this for a few moments as he became progressively more distracted by the crucial goings-on, as the clocked on the wall above the omnipresent bed ticked ever so much closer to midnight.

Laughing gas was at work on the wife under the starched pale sheets. She had thus far endured several bouts of excruciating pain that required her to hunch over as she paced the halls with her spouse in tow. He comforted her however he could think of but felt rather helpless regarding her situation.

The contractions soon came ten minutes apart, at which point the recently summoned doctor ordered the nurses to ease the mother-to-be into as comfortable as possible a position. Her feet were soon in stirrups, easing the tension of an abdomen in the most progressive state of natural bloating. Still, her behaviour could soon become irrepressible despite her subdued inclinations.

Midnight passed and the culmination of the evening’s events turned into an early morning waiting game, with two nurses working happily past their usual quitting times, a family physician who never got bored with the celebration of birth, a man in his mid-30s soon to be exultant, or unconscious, and a woman – his bride of three years – feeling half way between the promised land and the front lines of a gun-less battle.

Everything sped up by the second at just before one o’clock in the morning. A glorious seriousness predominated all present parties. The doctor was in control with his hands busy between the stirrups and the nurses on either side doling out the required instruments. The husband held onto his wife’s ever-tightening grip. He tried to speak but was told to shut up.

“I need to concentrate,” Mom said between fierce gasps. Mom inhaled and exhaled repeatedly in rapid succession, seemingly too involved in the process to be aware of the pending outcome.

Dad stood back in awe as the doctor announced that he could see the head. Soon it was in his hands and then it came in contact with the air in the room accompanied by a shrill yet melodic cry.

A heavenly wail. Tender screeching.

A fresh new person exposed to nitrogen and oxygen, held up by expensive rubber gloves and experienced hands.

“Your baby,” the doctor said.

An apprehensive look.

“It’s a girl,” the doctor said with a smile, holding her out for Daddy to see.

Daddy gazed at the face longingly, seeing utter perfection and nothing else. Finding his composure, he redirected his eyes to take in the reassuring presence of five fingers on each hand and an equal number of toes on each foot.

“Well?” sweat-soaked Mommy asked as Daddy turned his head calmly and smiled at her.

“She’s perfect,” the doctor declared.

“Perfect,” Daddy added sweetly, looking into Mommy’s exhausted eyes that were brimming with relief. “A girl,” she cooed and exhaled a massive breath.

Daddy leaned over to kiss red-faced Mommy before baby was swaddled in a sterile blanket and placed between them, her umbilical cord still attached. The world was suddenly just three people.

Heaven, the one in the middle primarily. The picture of pictures. The harbinger of more endless possibilities than the Lord could ever promise.

In a minute there was the rather comical sight of Daddy cutting the umbilical cord. As he repeatedly asked if he was holding the scissors correctly and cutting in the right place, the doctor joked to Mommy that there should be a class for this. Mommy said Daddy wouldn’t pass anyway.

The otherworldly delight that began at 1:17am lasted another 40 minutes or so. It would have gone on longer if not for Mommy’s unrelenting need for sleep and baby’s need to be cleaned up completely and prepared for what was to come.

With everyone moving around Daddy was soon alone in the room, left to ponder. Then
came the problem. Not a physical problem of any sort and nothing that affected the birthing process or anyone involved. This was a problem due to foresight, a look to the future at what could – within the realm of mathematical calculation anyway – possibly happen if someone was inclined to be too brutally realistic at a time meant for great celebration and shared excitement.

Daddy, who was moments ago the physical embracer of this marvelous new gift, was overcome with an unspeakable fear that would soon grow into a wayward frenzy. Somehow it just occurred to him now, at what he was heretofore to call the greatest moment of his life, that he – along with his worn out wife – were from this point forward solely responsible for a fledgling person that couldn’t as much as move across the floor, or eat or drink, without their conscious action.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Base Camp Musings

If you never want to know what it feels like to be stuck indefinitely at base camp waiting for the weather to clear so you can climb the mountain of your dreams, then don’t write a novel. Don’t begin with an idea and don’t dream how it might progress or finish. Don’t even imagine your ideal protagonist or scribble a few notes regarding your plot.

That way you won’t have to feel your stomach churning endlessly and your mind numbing before you even complete a sentence. Consider yourself lucky that you now have the time, the brainpower and the freedom of spirit to go and construct a log cabin, train for the Hawaiian triathlon, become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or get married to a supermodel and raise five beautiful children from your castle in the Swiss countryside.

I don’t want you to get the idea that writing a great novel is that most difficult thing you can ever do. That’s just not true. In fact, for the overwhelming majority of accomplished writers, never mind published authors, it is the most difficult thing they tried to do -- and ended up failing.

This isn’t to say it can’t be done. I have to believe this. I know it’s true. Why? For one, because I have read a few novels that are considered classics and thought to myself throughout the reading that I could write something this good, and could have it finished and edited within six months. (A remarkable accomplishment with any real novel exceeding 200 pages (meaning not a Harlequin romance, second-rate paperback mystery, or something of the like).

Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case for most (98%) of the novels I consider great. These works of masterful artistic achievement take years in some cases to mold and fine tune. That’s a lot of time at the base camp before the summit is eventually, ultimately, within reach.

However, against all odds, come what may, no matter the mental anguish, this is my goal. There’s no use deliberating on it any further. I will summon up the wherewithal that’s within me and complete my masterpiece – even if it’s a masterpiece in my mind only –
even if I come to detest it in the years to come – even if it takes three or four other novels before I arrive at an elevated place of creativity that allows me to construct it.

With this drivel out of my mind, I give you an update on my new novel…


Or soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blogging The Novel's Progress

It lies steadily, somewhere between my abdomen and sternum, waiting to be drawn out from me by long hours of hard thinking and sustained soul searching. It is the well-stored but seemingly reachable dream: to create my own Owen Meany, Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, Rodion Raskolnikov, Duddy Kravitz or Mark Renton – or at least a well-though-out homage to their memory.

It begins with a vision of workability that simply isn’t possible: a mere eighteen straight months that I would do nothing but devote myself entirely to penning and then perfecting the greatest novel that I am humanly capable of conceiving at this point in my existence. (I’d still talk to my wife, play with my daughter, clean the house, eat, exercise and groom myself.)

It has a genuine hold-up: each time I have the opportunity to scribble a new page of my masterpiece-in-the-making, I instead catch myself assembling a fresh entry for my burgeoning blog. This, I deem, is a noble pursuit in the art of noting the weekly goings-on.

However, there is so much more at stake than capturing my opinion of what happened in any given 7-day period for the few people who can be bothered to sift through it. So, my blogging now will take the form of updating my progress on this new lengthy work.

I will try, starting immediately, to devote myself, in manageable increments, to this novel pursuit. To this end, I began a few days ago to jot down a couple of opening lines, which have since been transformed into a page and a half of what I deem decent work. Of course I retain the right to change, alter and edit it at any time and according to any whim I might have.

It has no title yet, begins with some notion of autobiography, and will blossom from there until it seems to be entirely about anyone but me. Without further hold-up, it begins like this:

The effervescent five-year-old girl with hair awash in long blonde and bushy curls skips and twirls on her way to her local suburban kindergarten class one early fall morning, her doting father in tow.

The charming little lady is rarely if ever overlooked by those she passes. She is so utterly unfettered of suspicion and shame, and so totally enamored with childhood exuberance that all parents and grandparents, and most young people, can’t help but take in her presence.

On this day, the tall, jaunty and quick-footed retiree who always walks to get his newspaper instead of having it delivered because he once mentioned he needs a reason to ‘get up and at it’; he smiles easily and says ‘hello young lady’ before nodding at the girl’s father and ambling on up the block.

The father and daughter eye each other and giggle, a soothingly familiar exchange for them. Daddy holds out his hand and his little girl cheerfully places hers inside. Anyone looking on would easily notice they are blissful in their early morning routine. In a minute he will drop her off at school, into the care of her teacher and the company of her classmates.

She loves school and always enters jubilantly and without fuss, after giving her father the kiss on the lips he rarely has to remind her about.

It is 8:15 a.m. in suburbia and this is a prime example how days routinely unfold in the centre of this family’s universe. And they would keep going this way, according to Mommy and Daddy’s loosely conceived plan and barring harrowing incident, as long as someone from an evil-doing dimension doesn’t come along and screw it all up, or as long as…
…the whole family don’t all get swallowed up by the horrible monster that their dear daughter once saw in her worst-ever nightmare (which she never had again, after much soothing from Mommy and Daddy)
…an otherworldly ball of hail doesn’t smash through the car window as the family is on their way to pick up a new batch of groceries and assorted household cleaning items one Saturday morning
…Beatles records never stop playing on the FM frequency, and we can always count on being freed from small anxieties by the simple beauty of In My Life, Yesterday, Norwegian Wood and Yellow Submarine (but not the scary Piggies or Bungalow Bill from the While Album)
…God wants things to remain this way, because apparently he has the power to blast everything to hell in one fell swoop if he wants to, according to the crazy frizzy-haired lady who screams her nonsensical laments as she walks through the older parts of downtown
…Lula (real name: Luanda) and her Daddy Rolf keep loving each other in the simple, honest old-time way that’s seen him through the darkest days of a battle with cancer and has driven into him the impetus to take up what he deems a fabulous new hobby: creating his own line of dolls (for girls) and action figures (for boys). Making children happy through gentle movement and animation comes naturally to Rolf, and this new venture is the result of an epiphany he had on his darkest day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Requiem to the Amish

If anyone’s faith in humanity was on the wane last week, namely in light of the murder of several Amish children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, they needed look no further than that very Amish community for a heartrending tale of the kind of boundless charity we tend to call rare or nonexistent in our modern world.

Five, and possibly six, precious lives were lost after a deranged man transposed his misery on a rural schoolhouse on Monday. A few short and agonizing days later, newspaper reports showed the Amish community setting aside personal anguish – as they are routinely inclined to do – and reaching out to the family of the killer. Rightly, they deemed his wife and children as additional victims in the aftermath of the heinous crime.

As people from around the world mourned from afar and pledged money to help the families of the deceased and the Amish community as a whole, Amish leaders in turn set up a fund for the killer’s widow and her kids.

What’s more, the wife of murderer Charles Roberts, Marie, was invited to attend the funeral of at least one of the young girls, by the family of that girl. It’s not known whether she attended, but that’s rather irrelevant.

What is relevant is what we can all, as a society, learn from the Amish in their weakest moments. From their simple, unspoiled and work hard ways has come profound and life-affirming empathy and warm-heartedness.

I come from Mennonite ancestry and would like to believe that I am capable of such acts of utter selflessness. However, until I find myself in the same dire predicament – and hopefully I never will – I understand that I will not truly know the impact of their benevolence.

God bless these lovely people and I hope they will find at least a small bit of solace in the fact that millions of people the world over share in their pain and have shed a tear over the death of their young ones. May they somehow find the strength to celebrate the lives that were lost and retain their faith that there is much good in the world.

Given their loving actions in the most difficult of days, with the unwanted media attention forced upon them and hovering over their every move and expression, I doubt these people need my smidgen of support. But they have it anyway.

May they continue to show us their better world, even if we aren’t inclined to pay attention.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My letter to Peter MacKay about this Tie-Belinda thing

Dear Peter,

First of all, I have to admit that I don’t get it. Belinda had you and she evidently put little stock in that relationship as she jumped ship from your Conservatives to the enemy Grits last year. Okay, so she decided to swap political alliances and that meant she couldn’t be with someone of a different party. We get that. It’s old news. But what about her taste in men? Given the recent state of affairs (excuse the pun), the people of Canada may not understand. Can you offer any insight?

The way I see it, you’re a good-looking guy with brains, ambition and a bright future. Which ostensibly means you have four things that Tie Domi doesn’t have – well, at least not to the same extent as you. You’re the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, a reasonable step up in importance from Tie’s new gig as a sports commentator, fresh off his years-long tenure as a successful NHL pugilist.

Yet here Tie is splashed on the front page of all the papers with your ex-girlfriend, the fervent Ms. Stronach, being yanked mercilessly into the fray. It certainly seems they had a lurid affair, which is bad judgment running afoul on both sides, him being a married man with two kids and her a high profile Liberal Member of Parliament, currently unmarried but with two kids of her own. Don’t you think they’d know better than to not only allegedly have sex, but to be seen together, frequently? Surely they both realized the press would have a field day with them. No doubt they understood they couldn’t keep their wanton little tryst under wraps for long? I’m sure you’d make a wiser choice if you were in the same boat. Well, you probably wouldn’t have an affair in the first place, even though I’m sure you have the opportunity. You seem like too devoted a guy. I mean that in the best way.

I must ask if you have any opinion on why Belinda would be interested in a recently-retired hockey enforcer, a guy known more for pummeling his on-ice opponents into submission than more any intellectual pursuits, least of all politics? There’s also the fact that Tie’s not exactly Tom Selleck to look at: he’s neither tall nor handsome, he’s balding and he’s pretty mean-looking. Sure he’s popular with the Leaf faithful, because he’s beat up so many of their opponents. Although I don’t want for a minute to imagine it, maybe he’s also quite a force in bed.

And after all, Belinda does have more than a passing interest in athletes, one of her two former husbands being Norwegian speed skating legend Johann Olav Koss.

As an aside, I wonder what her two kids think of all this shameful press she’s getting? It can’t be easy to deflect among their peers at school.

I'm honestly trying to put this story into perspective as relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But it seems at least a little important in your corner of Canada. You and your Tory mates have to face Belinda and her party on a regular basis in the House of Commons and I’m sure you run into her on occasion. Though I understand that given your acrimonious break-up and the fact she couldn't bring herself to say goodbye face-to-face, you probably don’t speak much.

I wonder if, during the last couple of days when this story became big news, you felt any sort of kinship with Tie’s now ex-wife, Leanne, as she played the part of the scorned and betrayed mate. Perhaps you appreciated the upheaval she went through as she felt compelled to sue the man she once loved dearly and whose offspring she raised, putting aside her own career as a merchandising manager.

No doubt you’ve heard that Tie told her (according to Leanne) that if she kept the affair with Belinda quite, he’d give her a pretty decent payout but if she didn’t she’d get nothing. Tie apparently also said the press wouldn’t want to hear any of her weeping about her husband and his extramarital goings-on. Which forced her hand and made her go straight to the press. Now a court has decided that he gets to fork over for all of her expenses and the kids’. And he gets only limited access to them.

We don’t know the inner-workings of the Domis’ relationship and I wouldn’t want to go so far as to call him a lousy scoundrel. He’s done some good charity work here in Toronto. But maybe he’s been a bad husband all along. Or perhaps she’s been horribly mean to him for years. We just don’t know.

However, it seems (again, according to Leanne) that he’s been unfaithful before, notably with a certain TV Relic Hunter named Tia Carrere a few years back when she was in the Big Smoke filming. Oh, did you know her real name is Althea Janairo?

Back to Belinda. I wonder if you hear the flushing sound of her political career going down the toilet faster than Tie could deck a rookie goon. Well, at least she’s still got all her daddy‘s Magna money to fall back on. Okay, I guess she did actually run the company for him in recent years. I’ll give her some credit. It's clear she's an awfully good businesswoman. And, it’s not like many men who run these big companies don’t go off screwing women who aren’t their wives, or somebody’s wife and mother.

In wrapping, I should apologize to Canadians on this day for not aggressively dissecting your government’s new budget cutbacks, which, as one editorial noted, seem to be shoring up your Conservative base nicely while apparently having little to no impact on the federal economy – on the large scale that is. But since the rest of this letter has such a friendly tone, I won’t go on about how your buddies (surely you have little say in these money matters) are going to be seen as picking on women, youths, Aboriginals, jobless youth, illiterate adults, among others. I’ll refrain from going further.

Oh, I meant to ask: what’s going on between you and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice? You two seem to have spent a lot of time together while she was in Canada commemorating the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On second thought, you’re both single people with no kids, so whatever you do is your own damn business.

Much happiness to you, Peter.

And have a great 41st birthday. You don’t look your age.



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