The Happiness Report: Shantelle Bisson.

She’s written a damn good how-to tome for parents and humans in general.

She owns a freakin’ marina. (That makes her the Canadian Aquama- er, Aquawoman, in my books.)

She’s helped to raise three daughters, been part of a successful coupling for three decades, been a devoted philanthropist, and while she’s the first to admit that she’s not perfect, she’s perpetually positive while online, something most of us can only hope to do on a regular basis.

Shantelle Bisson is the name, building a media empire of TV appearances, acting credits, writing shows and reviving beloved historical marinas (among other things) is her game. Today she’s here on my humble little blog to raise the world’s collective spirit by sharing five things that make her happy even as the world appears to be imploding.

ONE)  While living during these sci-fi Covid-19 days at our LA home I have to say that the #1 thing that makes me happy currently is being Canadian. I’m proud of how not only our government has handled the virus, but also our banks and how both entities that typically take so much from us have quickly stepped up to the plate to offer aid in every way.

Let’s just say that’s not happening so much down here. Now, I’m aware that nothing is for free and this money will be taxed, but so would any income people would be making, so to me it’s fair; and it makes me happy and proud!

As a recipient of the Canadian CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) program, I wholeheartedly agree. The Canadian government has really come through for its citizens.

 

TWO)  That I’m quarantining with two of my three daughters who LOVE to cook. This is forced labor that I happen to dislike very much, with the exception of cooking for large gatherings! So the fact that I’m stuck eating at home meal after meal after damn meal, I couldn’t be HAPPIER that they’re doing the lion’s share of the work!

 

THREE)  Maybe this should have been number one…but I’m insanely happy for my health and the health of my family and my circle of special important peeps. This is an incredible gift that is seldom lost on me, but especially right now.

It’s true; if you go out to a store for essentials al you have to do is cough to clear the aisles. Good health is a superpower right now.

 

FOUR)  I’m completely blown away at the positive feedback I’m receiving about my debut book, and that despite the weird time in history that it was released my team and I are finding creative ways to connect with readers. I’m deeply happy that people give a single fuck about it, never mind they actually LIKE IT!

It’s actually really good. I’m not the target demographic for some of the chapters but I was intrigued by the section  on “dirty electricity” (it’s not, as the name implies, about coitus involving electrodes).

 

FIVE)  Tequila and Netflix are keeping me seriously happy these days!

I don’t drink alcohol, but Netflix is a lifesaver.

 

Shantilly’s Place: The freakin’ afforementioned marina.

There you have it, folks, another round of inspiring shares from a great mom and Canadian designed to boost morale for my ten readers. You’re welcome and stay safe, you hear? My eternal gratitude to Shantelle Bisson for being so accessible and generous with her still-invaluable time. FYI: You can find her work with regards to her first book: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Cool at Indigo, Amazon, both Canada and US, Barnes and Nobles and Target.

The follow-up, Parenting Your Teen Without Losing Your Cool, will be available, well, I don’t know when (I’m not her agent, people!) but it’s sure to be kick-ass.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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It Ain’t Easy, But Don’t Worry… Be Happy!

My best friend killed himself because he was sad.

It was a sadness that infected his very core; it may have been neurological or psychological, I’ll never know from where it emerged. It’s the same sadness that I see permeating our society today. We have been told that in order for society to move forward… we must all stand still.

On the surface, it’s a small sacrifice but people are creature sf habit and as such, tend to react badly to change.

So I thought I’d ask some people, some of whom are Canadian icons (and yes, that still counts) to share what makes them happy. That’s it. I’m hoping this simple act will make us all reflect on what makes each of us happy.

I know what you’re thinking and yes, I feel my genius is unrecognized as well. 

My first victim, contributor is the other divine Miss M, I mean Ehm, specifically, Erica Ehm, the noted Canadian writer, actor, songwriter, entrepreneur and TV host. And to be clear, she may even be a demi-goddess; the chick just doesn’t seem to age at a normal rate.

She is best known to Canucks like myself as a pioneering video jockey at the Canadian cable television station MuchMusic, which used to be the coolest music network on any continent. And most importantly, she’s a good person.  

Yep, she’s met some cool folks over the years…

 

Seriously, she reminds me of my daughter; they both care deeply about making sure our society recognizes women for the kick-ass, take-no-prisoners warriors and leaders they really are. Can you imagine how this current crisis would’ve unfolded or been handled if more women were in positions of political power?

But enough of this sappy stuff. Here are five things that make Erica Ehm happy. Read the list, then make your own. That’s an order.

ONE)  Being creative. Making something from nothing. 

My creative engine isn’t as efficient as I’d like, but I have started my first-ever fictional novel so there’s that. It’s all about a  man who battles hordes of slack-jawed zombies to seize the ultimate prize. I call it, “My Trip to Shoppers Drug Mart For Toilet Paper.”

 

TWO)  When my kids are happy I’m happy. Same goes for my husband.

Personally, my wife is happy when she’s teasing me mercilessly.

 

THREE)  Going for a run and feeling healthy, strong and powerful.

My idea of a workout these days is waking up before ten am. Bu that’s just me.

 

FOUR)  Working alongside like minded women who know how to get it done.

I actually miss the motley crew of bellmen I work with. The guests, not so much.

 

FIVE)  Being at my cottage away from responsibility.

I don’t own a cottage but writing is a great escape from responsibility and reality in general.

 

And there you go. This one’s short and sweet but powerful and effective. (I hope.) Take what you will from this and stay healthy, friends.

See you in the lobby again someday, kids…

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Self-Quarantine Tips From The Hook.

So the whole world’s gone mad with Corona fever (metaphorically speaking, of course) and you’re in self-imposed quarantine.

Now you’re thinking: “So what the hell do I do now, Hook?”

I’m glad you asked.

ONE)  Sit down and examine your finances with a fine-tooth comb. Most of us humans never plan for this sort of thing so if we’re off work for an extended period we’re basically screwed. But if you have a few pennies in the bank that you can use to keep yourself occupied, you can continue reading.

If not, then you better see which family members you can lean on until this storm passes. And I’d be breaking out the brass knuckles and seeking out any friends that owe you a few buckies.

 

TWO)  See if your pot dealer (stores are still too expensive, or so I’m told) is willing to make deliveries in bulk. And see if he’ll pick up a skid or two of Doritos and Mountain Dew in multiple flavors for you as well.

Note: The Hook does not endorse the use of recreational drugs. However, The Hook knows some people use them and always will, so…

 

THREE)  Don’t, and I cannot stress this enough… BUY MORE TOILET PAPER THAN YOU ACTUALLY NEED!  COVID-19 DOESN’T ACTUALLY GIVE YOU DIARRHEA, SO BE REALISTIC, YOU ANTEATERS!

 

FOUR)  Get yourself a shit-ton of Popsicle sticks (you can buy them without having to gain a hundred pounds in water weight now) and build a big-ass cottage or even a whole wooden community – which will be empty because everyone in it is forced to self-quarantine. Still, you can build a little hospital that will be overrun with hypochondriacs, an unemployment office that will be set on fire by angry residents who can’t get relief fast enough, a Walmart that will be out of toilet paper in minutes, and any other building you see fit to create.

And then you can blow it all to high heaven with a few firecrackers.

 

FIVE)  If you’re stuck indoors with your offspring of various ages it may be difficult to take advantage of the most obvious way to pass the time with your partner.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Various excuses that you could employ include:

  • “We’re going to be moving furniture upstairs so just sit here and watch Disney Plus for two hours like good little rugrats, okay?”
  • “Here are the keys to the liquor cabinet. Stay downstairs and have fun!”  (This is for older kids, obviously. Unless your little tikes are seasoned drinkers, that is.)
  • “Mommy and Daddy are going to be conducting a seance upstairs. Don’t open the door, no matter what you hear, or you’ll release spirits into our world that will consume your souls like you consume Skittles. Disturb the rainbow, die by the rainbow!”
  • “Daddy and Mommy need some ‘alone time’. Need I say more?” (They’ll be too horrified/scarred to give you any lip.)

Hey, I just realized something: Is the world ready for the inevitable baby boom this crisis is going to create? I think not.

 

SIX)  You can stream everything on every service available, from Rooku to Netflix to Disney Plus until your eyeballs bleed and your mind is reduced to cottage cheese. Have fun.

 

SEVEN)  Puzzles are a great way to pass the time. Unless you have a short attention span and a bad temper. In that case I suggest you advise other family members to do the puzzles but only after you’ve hidden at least one piece.

What happens inevitably will be the gift that keeps on giving.

 

EIGHT)  Clean out your house, and if it’s warm enough, your garage and yard. We’re all guilty of hoarding to a degree and of course, of putting off various jobs around the house. I’ve been married for a quarter-century and I have jobs my wife has requested of me that will never get done.

Don’t be me. It’s not as much fun as it looks.

Use this downtime to scrub those tubs, paint those rooms, clean out those attics or basements, and whatever else it takes to elevate your home’s appeal. DIY sucks if you’re not handy like me but it’s something to do, so have at it!

 

NINE)  Make lemonade!

Of course, in this scenario the lemons are a flu-like-virus… So I’m not sure this tip is worth following.

 

TEN)  Do whatever the hell you want to! Read a book. Write a book. Start a blog dedicated to cat herding. Take up knitting. The sky’s the limit (but you can’t actually fly) so let your mind free and see where it take you, people!

And that’s all I have for you.

See you in the lobby but not the toilet paper aisle, kids…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #17.

When I was a schoolboy in the Canadian public education system (yes, the same one that produced Justins Bieber and Trudeau, sadly) I wrote a gripping series of  stories about mythological heroes and superheroes of my own creation meeting in a multidimensional adventure that predated DC Comics’ Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Of course DC’s version was infinitely more successful and better drawn. But that’s neither here nor there. I was first, so suck it DC.

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, my glorious tale of heroes and villains of different eras and worlds coming together. In retrospect, it may have sucked but the point is this: I hadn’t discovered girls so my creative engine was humming at full throttle.

Then I blinked and it was February 25th, 2020 and I was fifty years old.

#17: Time.

It is our most precious resource. Next to Kraft dinner, of course. And like KD, we rarely savor it as we’re enjoying it. No, we just gobble it up and cry like babies when it’s gone. My mother was terrified as she lay dying from bone cancer and would’ve given anything to have more time. Though to be honest, we all know she would’ve wasted it; that’s what people do. Sure, we all say we’re going to make the most of our limited time here on this temporal plane but then we forget how limited our time actually is as we get on with the business of paying bills, trying to get laid, making dinner as the kids are screaming, and just trying to survive.

Even as I write this inspiring post I know it’s effect isn’t going to be lasting. How could it? People that make the most of every second of their lives tend to live very short lives. I’d rather waste a shit-ton of time working hard and providing for my family than gallivanting from one adventure to another as I burn out faster than a dollar store sparkler.

That’s not to say that I’ve wasted that much time over the course of my existence. Not at all. I’ve:

  • Read a buncha comics.
  • Attended more conventions than I can remember
  • Watched more television than human eyeballs should be able to tolerate.
  • Interviewed and met a celebrity or two. (Including O.J., who was unforgettable.)
  • Traveled a bit though not nearly enough.
  • Met and served tourists from all over the world who will never forget me.
  • Dated a young lady or two. (Though I’ve been rejected more than accepted.)
  • Conned the greatest gal in the universe into marrying me.
  • Had an awesome kid. (To be fair, my wife did all the hard work.)

And lest I forget, I met and forged a familial bond with my brother, Rockin’ Ronnie.

None of these things would’ve been possible if I had sacrificed my allotted time and dove into the seemingly-endless waters of Niagara Falls as a teen. No judgement here; I understand better than most what can drive a soul to want to end their time when it becomes too painful to endure another second but here’s the thing about time…

You never know what it holds in store for you.

Anything is possible in the future if you’re just willing to wait for it.

See you in the lobby, friends…

 

Unless you have a TARDIS, time is too precious to waste, kids.

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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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