100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #18.

You know, while it’s great to have dreams and goals to strive for, to help keep us on the path of life rather than the road to ruin, it occurs to me that sometimes we may reach a point where the best thing we can do… is simply stop trying.

No, I’m not switching tracks and taking the “Not” out of this series’ title, I’m going to ask you to ponder this:

What if this is it for you, pally? What if your existence has reached its maximum potential?

#18: Accepting Your Fate.

I am a (almost) fifty-year-old white male who, in spite of having a lifelong dream of being  a professional writer, has been a Niagara Falls bellman for over twenty years. (My God, that number really lands with a thud in my consciousness when I ponder it.) I have fought to be recognized by innumerable publishing houses, agents, fellow bloggers, the CBC, and even the odd celebrity or ten. I write a blog and I even self-published a book once.

In every instance I have failed. I have failed like Nancy Pelosi trying to be gracious at the State of the Union.

And the worst part? As a (sometimes) taxpayer, I help fund the damn Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and they still took eight months to respond to my last pitch, so that really stung. To make matters worse, I’ve been watching dozens of my fellow bloggers gain ground in their fight to realize their dreams while The Hook stays behind.

And IBS has become a cinder block strapped to my neck, weighing me down and impacting areas of my life that I never could have dreamed would be disrupted. My worries range from failing to be an inspiring father to surviving the early morning walk to work. (Those horny skunks are deadly, man.)

But who gives a shit?

It’s no big deal, Jack.  Trust me.

 

I am a (almost) fifty-year-old white male who, in spite of having a lifelong dream of being  a professional writer, has been a Niagara Falls bellman for over twenty years. So I’ve had the same job for over twenty years. In Justin Trudeau’s Canada that makes me a winner!

I have fought to be recognized by innumerable publishing houses, agents, fellow bloggers, the CBC, and even the odd celebrity or ten. I write a blog and I even self-published a book once. So I’ve learned all about rejection and how to survive it. (Of course, I’ve been learning that lesson ever since Cindy Day started turning me down in elementary school. And junior high.)

And IBS isn’t that bad. Okay, so it is. But at least I have constipation IBS and not the other, ridiculously-messy variety.

So I’ve failed. I’ve lost. I’ve been rejected.

Big whoop. At least I’m alive, goddammit!

And I intend to stay that way. Until God decides otherwise, of course. And at least then I’ll see Ronnie again so it won’t be all bad. (Fair warning, Ronnie: I intend to kick your ass for leaving me so soon.)

Accepting one’s fate is freedom. I have friends, a hot wife, a cool kid, and a crazy-ass dog (Yes, I realize even homeless people have dogs. Don’t take this away from me.) Sure, I miss my hair and my IBS has given me a gut but I’m not completely bald (yet) and my bellman’s uniform is basically a tent that hides my gut, so it’s not completely hopeless. I’ve been told I’m quite amusing when there isn’t a camera aimed at me and (most) guests find me hilarious once they accept that that they’re not drunk/high/hallucinating and I’m really saying the things I’m saying to them.

I am battered, bruised and certainly broken. But so is America and it keeps going. My life is too small to change the world and that’s a good thing; who needs all that pressure?

A home. A family. A fully-stocked fridge. A reliable wi-fi signal. What else does a man really need these days?

Celebrities lead glamorous lives – on the surface. The rich are usually more tortured and screwed up than any of us “lower class” folk. Power corrupts. A big life brings big problems. A supposedly-small life is more manageable. So take stock of your blessings and hold ’em close to your heart, kiddos, they’ll give you a reason to keep living.

Dreams are for suckers. Reality sucks worse than a two-dollar prostitute but just like the prostitute, at least you know what to expect so you really can’t be too disappointed.

See you in the lobby, friends…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #19.

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender immediately calls the Humane Society while wondering how the horse got the doors open in the first place.

Okay, so I may have told that joke incorrectly but there’s an 18% chance you’re still laughing as you Google the correct interpretation of that timeless bit of mirth. Either way, it’s a good start to this installment, right? Okay, it’s a start. Shut up.

#19: Humor.

(Or if you’re Canadian like me… Humour.)

 

My buddy, Rockin’ Ronnie (rock on, brother!) loved to laugh. I mean, he loved it. All my best memories of Ronnie involve his wide-as-Wyoming smile that inevitably followed his constant recycling of the same-old-but-still-awesome jokes, followed by his signature, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!”

Damn it, now I want to cry. I hate irony. Time for some more jocularity!

Apparently the Sumerians were the architects of the world’s oldest recorded joke in 1900 BC: “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

I know. I too am shocked that Sumerian culture died out.

What about this 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru: “How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish.”

Who doesn’t love a good human trafficking joke, right?

And finally, the oldest British joke dates back to the 10th Century and gives us some idea where Monty Python got their inspiration: “What hangs at a man’s thigh and wants to poke the hole that it’s often poked before? Answer: A key.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to rely solely on comedic history to make my point; I’m going to turn things over to the pros.

She’s smart as a whip (whatever the hell that really means), she’s as gorgeous as someone who isn’t ugly, and most important of all, she hasn’t blocked me (yet) on Twitter so she actually responded to my pathetic pleas for quotes. She’s a sentient being who tells better jokes than The Hook so people pay her to do it, she’s Erica Rhodes and she actually started her entertainment career at age ten as the voice of  legendary humorist and writer Garrison Keillor’s conscience on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion. I won’t tell you what I was doing at age ten but it’s safe to say no one would have put me on the radio to do it for the public.

At any rate…

“I think laughing is a really important coping mechanism for all of us, but especially for people suffering in whatever capacity. And that’s why I try to write jokes about somewhat dark topics, because I believe there is an actual healing component there.

My Dad is in a wheelchair and we have to laugh at that to cope with his struggles and our struggles watching him struggle. He’s one of the funniest people I know. And a hero to me for dealing with an illness with such grace and humor.

I think dark topics are really important to cover in comedy. Literally during the Holocaust people were telling jokes to survive. So humor is actually a method for survival during dark times. That’s why I get nervous when we get too PC with comedy, because sensitive topics are even more important to laugh about.

I sometimes try to explore dark topics or the dark corners of my own psyche because I think there’s a lot of discomfort that needs release there. And if people relate they feel less alone in this universe that can feel really lonely sometimes.”

Ain’t she great? I couldn’t agree more with Erica on the PC thing; I grew up watching Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son, so I truly don’t understand this movement to neuter comedy.

Gail Simone is an award-winning comic book scribe (or as one of my non-Caucasian friends likes to say, “Bitch is more decorated than a Christmas tree!”) best known by non-comic fans for her work on the Birds of Prey comic, the movie version of which is currently setting movie screens on fire all over the world. Her work on Crosswind with Cat Staggs is a thing of beauty.

Anywhoo, here’s her two cents on the power of laughter:

“Aimed properly, humor is our way of spitting at fate, mocking the powerful, and keeping ourselves from getting just a little too insufferable. My advice is, aim well. It’s a big part of what makes life joyful.”

Told you she was brilliant.

No post on this subject would be complete without a few (extremely insightful) words from everyone’s favorite Modern Philosopher and professional humorist, Austin Hodgens.

“Writing has always been my escape. When I was a kid, my stepmother would not allow me to follow my dream of joining the Rebel Alliance to fight the Empire. Writing allowed me to have the adventures I was deprived of by an overbearing parent.

I went to Film School, not Medical School, but I believe that laughter is the best medicine. With healthcare costs today, it’s also one of the few medicines people can still afford.

I love to sit in the audience during a taping of The Nite Show, and listen to the crowd laugh at monologue jokes I’ve written. It makes me feel like I’ve done my part to make life a little more tolerable for people, who just like me, are sometimes struggling to get through the day.”

It can be said that life is the greatest thing that ever happened to the Grim Reaper, so many of us feel overwhelmed by life’s many challenges and look to death for some sweet release from our suffering. But humor can be a life jacket as we feel ourselves metaphorically drowning. Comedians, and even “regular folk” like myself use suffering and pain as fodder while exposing their own vulnerabilities.

And on that note, here’s a screen-grab from my untitled short film that’s sure to make you laugh (and say, “Oh, that Hook!) and cringe simultaneously. No one, especially me, noticed this wardrobe malfunction once in a six-minute segment. But my unintentional dumbassery is your gain.

Posting this pic terrifies me but it’s damn funny and I have no ego to speak of, so…

 

So to sum up: The world can be bleak and dark so try to look for a reason to smile in every situation. It may not be easy or seem appropriate in any way at all, but humor can buy you one more day and who knows what that day could bring?

See you in the lobby, friends…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #20.

I, Robert “The Hook” Hookey, am a people person.

I hope you weren’t drinking coffee, or anything else for that  matter, as you read that opening line – because now it’s no doubt all over your phone, screen or tablet. And you, most likely. But it’s true, after decades as a Niagara Falls bellman, a dad, a husband, a college student, a journalist for a time, and a devoted attendee of countless comic conventions, there’s no way I would’ve been able to survive if I didn’t have a few personal interaction skills.

But…

Just because I’m good at making with the talkie-talkie with my fellow human beings (my daughter loses her sheep when we’re out… anywhere, and I run into someone from some point in my life) doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, if there’s one thing I crave above all else (yes, even that) it’s…

#20: Solitude.

Yes, this entry flies in the face of everything I’ve been touching on so far in this series. Yes, I’ve been extolling the life-sustaining virtues of being a part of this world rather than pulling yourself away from it. Yes, I’m a complicated bellman. (Geez, I haven’t used the word “yes” this much since my honeymoon.)

But the truth is, I’m around people a lot. All. The. Time. In. Fact. With the exception of my walk to and from work, I’m surrounded by humans 99% of the time. I work with hundreds of people. I serve thousands of people every year. No  mater where The Hook turns, he sees people.

Don’t bet me wrong, my wife and daughter are amazing, and while our dog is nuttier than the proverbial fruitcake, she can lift your spirits just by being in your presence.

But as everyone I work with can attest, with the exception of punching the time clock at the end of the day, the best part of my day is when I’m sitting by myself at lunch, lost in thought. Even my dear departed brother-in-arms, Rockin’ Ronnie, understood how important a few minutes of solitude is to The Hook. In fact, check out this exchange between myself and an old hotel superior from just last week while I was enjoying a quiet evening supper break at the casino near the hotel:

JP:  Mr. Hookey, how are you!

THE HOOK:  Well, you know…

JP:  Don’t worry, I won’t keep you. I’m more than familiar with your “eccentricities”.

I’m not so sure I’d call my need for solitude an “eccentricity” but we never really know how our lives appear to others. Unless they’re brutally honest that is. But the truth is, a few minutes and even the all-too-rare day off from work while my family heads out to Toronto for a show, helps keep me sane.

Or as close to sane as I’ll ever get, that is.

Superman got it. We all need a Fortress of Solitude.

 

I’ve lost my father-in-law, Ronnie, my mother, and even a bit of my zest for life the last few years and it shows. I tear at the drop of a hat sometimes, which my daughter refers to as a result of my “dark and twisty” side. Being around friends and family and even some of the less wacky guests I serve helps remind me why life is worth living but being alone with my thoughts (and a newspaper or a movie on my phone) can be just as important.

There’s a fine line between measured solitude and becoming a loner, but you’ve gotta disconnect and recharge those batteries every once in awhile, kids. It could save your life.

See you in the lobby, friends…

(But if you spot me having a meal on my own at a food court somewhere, maybe just let me be, okay?)

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Blue Monday Can Go Duck Itself!

(I promised my kid I’d curse less. But it’s duckin’ hard.)

So anyway, it’s Blue Monday, the name given to a day in January deemed to be the most depressing day of the year. And who do we have to blame for this bullship? In 2005 a  press release from travel company Sky Travel claimed to have calculated the date using an equation that took into account weather conditions and only applied to the Northern hemisphere.

The idea is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsensical, which means Gwyneth Paltrow sacrifices eighty virgins and bathes in their blood on Blue Monday.

Maybe.

(I use pseudo-facts to write my posts.)

So it’s Blue Monday, a day dedicated to  misery and mental suffering, which, coincidentally, can only be alleviated by booking a trip you can’t afford with Sky Travel or some other schmucks.

Screw that.

 

Don’t let Blue Monday get the better of you, my friends. I sure don’t. Here’s why:

 1)  I have IBS and spend several hours a week locked in a bathroom engaged in physical exertion. It has never been fun. Not once.

2)  My IBS has given me a distended stomach so it appears that the only beverage I ever consume is ale.

3)  I’m mostly bald.

4)  As a Niagara Falls bellman I get to slave away for serve travelers from all over the world and every level of Hell.

I cannot stress this enough: serving the public in this day and age is an exercise in the self-mutilation of one’s soul. Most people are great, but there is a small-but-growing-every-day percentage that should be beaten to death with frozen wolverine carcasses. This job will chew you up and spit you out like a piece of fifty cent street meat if you let it.

5)  I walk to work every day. Most of the time in the freezing Canadian cold. And sometimes I get chased by wild animals like horny skunks and half-blind possums and the occasional rabbit. And there are drunks and people who stand in driveways that aren’t theirs and pee on strange cars. (True story, it happened yesterday.)

6)  One of my best friends took his own life during a week that three other souls did the same in the same manner. (But there’s no problem with people plunging into the Falls, according to local authorities.)

7)  I have a bad knee. Granted, it’s from falling off a sawhorse when I should’ve used a ladder… but that’s beside the point.

8)  I once dreamt of writing for a living. But life beat that dream out of me. Now I just dream of waking up every day.

9)  Being a father means you have to hope you’re setting a good example for your kid. You want said child to see you as a paragon of humanity. Who needs that kind of pressure? (But I love my daughter.)

10)  My wife won’t let me eat KFC anymore. I love KFC. See my first-world problem?

And yet, all evidence to the contrary, I’m a happy guy, I swear! So if Blue Monday can’t touch me, you should be golden.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #21.

Death is not to be feared.

Sure, dying can be quite painful if you don’t experience it while in a coma or within seconds, like if you’re slowly crushed under an overturned oxcart or some other equally slow, painful fate.

(Sorry, I just finished the first season of The Witcher on Netflix. It’s far from perfect and it’s no Game of Thrones, but it’s a ridiculously-guilty pleasure.)

But death itself is nothing to be afraid of.

It sucks for those you leave behind, unless they gain some perspective on the whole situation, that is. I would’ve fallen into a seemingly-endless pit of despair if my family and all of you weren’t here to keep me grounded

Personally, I believe death is merely a doorway to the next level. If the Fates are kind we’ll take our last breaths on this plane and find ourselves in a lush field of green beside a riverbank, the warm sun shining on our faces. It won’t be so sunny that you need sunglasses, but enough that it’s not overcast. And it won’t be humid or sweltering (no one should have to go through eternity with swamp ass) but rather just warm enough that you won’t need a sweater or a light jacket.

You’ll walk to a dock that’s been properly treated so the wood doesn’t crack or split where a boat with plenty of room to walk around and stretch your legs on is waiting. I have no idea how long the journey will take but maybe they’ll be a nice buffet laid out. But eventually you’ll see it: The most breathtaking forest ever conceived where everyone you’ve ever loved will be waiting.

Of course, if you divorced several times or had multiple partners things may get messy… But let’s hope not. And I’m not certain if you’ll see everyone you ever loved, like that puppy you dogsat for two weeks when you were ten, or that uncle your mom kept away from you as much as possible (he gave you sips of his beer and let you look at his Playboy collection so you loved the guy, naturally) but the people at the top of your list will definitely be there.

How do I know any of this, you ask?

#21: Faith.

To be clear: I’m not talking about religion, especially the organized type. I’d rather experience Chinese water torture while Mariah Carey Christmas songs blare in the background than spend a nanosecond at a church service. Religion has toppled nations and led to more human suffering than the Trump presidency.

But faith is where it’s at. Faith will keep you going when the walls close in and you doubt you’ll make it through the night. God. Buddha. The Kardashians. Family. It doesn’t matter where your faith comes from as long as it comes from somewhere.

Faith isn’t simply a person or a place; it’s a feeling, one that reminds us that our lives have value and they’re worth fighting for. Always.

See you in the lobby, kids…

You can trust her.  She’s a Doctor.

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself #22.

I think that even though humanity is pretty much tearing itself to ribbons theses days over impeachment, whether or not Trudeau is a douchebag, and the Peloton commercial, humanity can still agree on three things:

  1.  Moving to a new living space can be ridiculously-stressful.
  2.  Working for a living can wear your soul to a nub. (Yes, the metaphor works. Shut up.)
  3.  Cats are evil.

So can you imagine combining the stress of a move with the already-soul-crushing chaos of the workplace? I can, because I’m living it. And so here we are.

#22: Workplace Chaos.

The hotel is in the midst of the biggest renovation since Odysseus decided to turn a Greek child’s hobby horse into a hangout for him and his pals. Among all the other (greatly delayed) projects going on throughout this building we’ve moved into a brand-spanking new lobby that reminds me of the Northern Pikes tune, “She Ain’t Pretty” (She Just Looks That Way).

I’m not suggesting our new lobby is a disaster; it’s bright, shiny and has many smooth, sleek lines and cool features. I wish it was my high school girlfriend.

But like many a high school hookup, we moved too fast and now we’re facing the consequences. Of course, in this case the consequences aren’t a bouncing bundle of joy and full diapers. Instead, we’re dealing with desks that aren’t as user-friendly as possible, darkened corners (like where my desk sits, naturally), construction workers drilling through floors without consulting blueprints and a gazillion other minor issues that when combined, make you want to find another version of yourself in the Multiverse whose life you can co-opt.

Any move has it’s challenges. It takes time to acclimate oneself to a living/work space, and let’s face it, most of us consider our workspace a second living space, even though a workspace drains your will to live rather than enhancing it.

But I  just worked against my own premise, didn’t I?

Please allow me to recover if I can. Serving the public in any capacity isn’t easy to say the least. People can be rude; they’ve actually spit on me. (And I wasn’t ablaze at the time.) People can be sneaky; I caught a guy creeping into the hotel through an employee door yesterday so he could steal a luggage cart – even though he had already requested the doorman fetch him a bellman.

In short, people are nuts.

So trust me when I tell you no one survives for over twenty years in the hospitality industry without being able to process a steady diet of chaos. You even learn to savor the flavor eventually. (Even bad pizza is still pizza.)

I observe. Then I mock.

The other day I sat back at my desk and watched as every manager, administration-level worker, construction worker and even a guest or ten, stood around our new lobby and scrutinized every detail from the placement of flashing ceiling lights to whether or not our luggage carts should be chained up to prevent guests from absconding with them. (Guess how I voted?) Workers were scrambling back and forth, managers and owners were discussing just how much all this aesthetic beauty actually costs (the figures are staggering). People with no authority were ordering others around. There were no evil cats around but it was still mass hysteria dialed up to eleven. The cacophony of voices built to a deafening crescendo and all the while I thought: 

“Ronnie would’ve loved this.”

And he would’ve. Ronnie lived for those moments of complete and utter human madness. We’d sit at our desk and drink it all in like a fine wine. I’d return from a luggage call and he’d be all, “Hook, my brother Hook, you should’ve seen it. So-and-so was down here throwing her weight around, slinging orders like a crazed waitress at a greasy spoon. Three bus tours have shown up at once. It was nuts! I love every second.”

You really do get used to the challenge of surviving wave after wave of interoffice political battles, guests on a tear about the simplest of issues, and every other surprise the universe has in store that you could never see coming. In fact, you learn to see that such situations can help us grow, they can even make us stronger if we process them correctly. 

It’s all a matter of perspective, kids.

Ronnie had the right idea. Until other factors became too much to handle he knew the score and we had ringside seats for the never-ending stream of  hotel donnybrooks.

Ronnie’s gone but the chaos remains.

Thank Dog.

See you in the lobby, friends…

 

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Random Thoughts On A Winter’s Morn.

The hot cleansing water feels good against his skin, washing the grime and sweat away from his weary form.

His body aches as the rigors of age set in once more.

An irrefutable truth dawns : There are fewer days behind than ahead.

But still he walks on.

He walks through the darkness of a slumbering city to reach his destination, its neon lights shining upon him, beckoning him to enter.

He walks the halls of this grand hotel, his long arms pushing a tarnished brass cart across it’s worn carpets, a series of squeaks and knocks the only proof of his presence.

Around him travelers sleep, make lust/love (mostly lust), insert poison into their veins, splash fire and ice against the back of their throats, their lives a mixture of fleeting pleasure and pain.

He gives them little more than a moment’s thought as memories of a fallen friend, one of his best friends, return with the power of crashing waves on the shore.

Ronnie walks beside him.

Always.

And so he walks on, the thinnest of smiles measurable on his weathered face.

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