100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #74.

In case it hasn’t become apparent yet, allow me to enlighten you with an irrefutable fact: We are living in a digital age.

No duh, right?

Nevertheless, the online world rules our everyday existence. You can’t stroll down a city street or through an airport or a mall (especially a mall) without seeing hundreds of cattle glued to their devices, their eyes glazed over as droll collects at the corners of their mouths. They tweet (I certainly do) blog (guilty as charged, obviously) post photos, look for lust and even risk bankruptcy on Amazon, among a million other activities.

The digital age has, of course, also led to online bullying, shaming and harassment that has led to many a suicide.

But there is much about the digital age to celebrate.

#74: Virtual Allies.

The best part about this selection is also the worst, sadly. The fact is, I have too many virtual allies to list here (the digital version of me is more appealing than the flesh and blood copy, apparently) but I’ll do what I can. We’ll begin with Mehm67one of the sweetest, most genuine souls I’ve never actually met in the so -called real world but who has had a big impact on my life regardless. We’ve connected on Twitter (it’s not just Trump’s playground, kids) and this young lady never fails to lift my spirits when I need it most.

Mehm67

In fact, M (I call her “M”, because, you  know, we’re so close) sent me a virtual animated bunny with an encouraging, “You can do it!” message after reading that I was hitting a metaphorical creative wall that felt all-too real while working my way through this series. Staying positive has never come easy to me so taking on a blog series that requires me to list one hundred reasons to avoid suicide has proven enough to drive me to, well…

But friends like M make it easier to keep fighting the good blogging fight. An ounce of encouragement, even in the form of an animated woodland creature, can help remind us there are good people in this world. These people have lives and challenges of their own to deal with but they’re still willing to take the time to help a stranger stave off the darkness.

And this is where it gets tough for me, as tough as the first steak I ever cooked as a young college student who soon realized he couldn’t afford to eat steak anyway. yeah, even I have to admit that one was a bit wordy…

At any rate, I really do have far too many online pals to list here and that’s an embarrassment of riches I’m happy to accept, though I have no idea how I earned any of them.

Shantelle Bisson is a parenting/relationship expert, an actress, a blogger, an author, a mother and wife, and possibly even Batwoman in her spare time. And in spite of all this, she’s still found the time to be a good friend to yours truly. You’ve seen her appearances here but there have been moments, one in particular, when my life was enshrouded in darkness, that she’s seen fit to reach out and help me raise myself out of the muck of self-pity and depression. And I will be forever grateful.

John W. Howell, Susie Lindau, Courtney Wright, Loretta Hassler, the list goes on, and I feel if it does, I’m just going to feel worse for leaving people out. I have over three thousand followers and while that number may be small compared to the fanbase of some online personalities, it never fails to astonish me.

The genie’s out of the bottle and we’re never going to go back to a world without digital avatars and online lives, so take my advice and make the most of it. Mine social media for it’s positive aspects while living in the real world as much as possible. Of course, you don’t have to dive into the digital ocean but if you’re willing to exercise caution it could provide you with a lifeline or three thousand.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #75.

When I was a kid trying to survive my childhood in St. Catharines, Ontario, we didn’t have many customs or traditions that were fit to be discussed outside of family court.

With one quasi-exception.

My parents, like most barely-middle-class folks in the Seventies, were hamstrung by budgetary concerns when it came to meal choices. In other words we were broke, though I never really noticed that, unlike other kid’s homes, the milk in our house would blow away if someone left the front door open while you were opening the package. (Think about it or consult the Google, kids.) However, there were times that we managed to scrape together enough dough to afford to eat outside of the home.

To be clear, when I say, “eat outside of the home”, I don’t mean we crashed a wedding (we were doing that long before Vaughan and Wilson) and when I say we “picked up a meal”, I’m not referring to a dine and dash. No, I mean we occasionally walked a few blocks to a neighborhood establishment where we retrieved a delicacy that we carried home and ate in the comfort (and insanity) of our own dining room. And by “we”, I mean me. And Dog help me if my young legs didn’t get me home before the food cooled…

#75: Fish ‘n Chips.

As a devout Whovian (that’s a Doctor Who fan, though I did grow up to eventually move out of my parents’ basement in order to finally kiss a girl who wasn’t under the influence of cough medicine) who was obsessed with all things British, I fell in food love with this dish instantly.

 

Just the name alone makes my stomach growl with hunger…

 

And it was served in newspaper! My young mind was boggled.

To clarify, in my day fish and chip restaurants traditionally wrapped their product in newspaper, or, if they were wimps, with an inner layer of white paper for hygiene (like we cared about hygiene in the Seventies!) and an outer layer of newspaper or blank newsprint for insulation and to absorb grease, which, incidentally, was the best part. Nowadays the use of newspaper for wrapping has almost ceased on grounds of “hygiene”. There’s that dreaded word again; I shower twice a day (more if I watch too much political coverage) so I understand the need to be clean, but dining should be an experience, not a a clinical trial!

Answer me this, could there be anything cooler than delicious food that’s wrapped in newsprint featuring comic strips? The first time I had fish ‘n chips and saw that greasy image of the Spider-Man comic strip? Let’s just say that it was the only thing that even came close to resembling how I felt about seeing Cindy Day in a training bra and leave it at that. 

Fish have always been considered “brain food” and French fries are a connection to childhood, so combining them allows one to be both grown-up and childlike simultaneously. I’d like to see a salad beat that.

I’m now grown-up (ish) and have a family of my own that I am happy to report is nowhere near as messed-up as the one I barely survived. It’s taken decades but we now have a family tradition that makes me feel like a kid again every Friday night. The fish ‘n chips aren’t wrapped in Spider-Man comics but they’re every bit as delicious and they make me happy to be alive.

What more could you ask for from your supper?

See you in the lobby, kids…

Doesn’t this take you back, friends? Go, Spidey!

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #76.

When it comes to suicide there is often one inciting incident that tips the scale just enough to push a person over the edge, sometimes literally.

When one of my best friends made the decision to end his life he did so after a disastrous afternoon that was supposed to give him answers about his troubles but that ended up leaving him more in the dark than he had ever been. I’d elaborate, but Ronnie would want me to respect his family’s privacy and feelings so I’ll only say this: My friend was one of the most joyful souls I’ve ever met but for whatever reason he simply could no longer recognize the joy in the world around him.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.

We all need to learn to take notice of life’s simple pleasures, folks, even when they’re hidden in the strangest of places.

#76: Office Dave.

Everyone has a Dave (or a Steve or a Chuck) at their office, factory, whorehouse, black-ops safe house, whatever. Dave is the office weirdo, the one who always seems to microwave fish in the lunch room.

After two decades in the Niagara Falls hospitality industry I can honestly say I’ve seen every form of Dave the world has to offer, though I know fate’s always hiding an ace up it’s sleeve…

There was the midnight bellman (definitely a Dave if ever I’ve seen one) who kept a stash of various varieties of booze pilfered from gift baskets left over from a corporate shindig. He hid them in our luggage room and proceeded to drain them slowly over the course of a week. Of course, he was terminated by the end of the week, which was a shame, as his personality improved with every bottle. Sure, his story had an unhappy ending, but he bounced back. Eventually. I’m guessing.

 

This was the only logical choice, really. Enjoy.

Daves are the sort of mammal who elicit more eye rolls than a flurry of Trump’s tweets. They amaze us with an innate ability to go to places we’d never consider exploring unless we suddenly decided to down a few paint thinner cocktails. 

I once knew another midnight bellman (who actually was a Dave) that decided the best way to kill some time during an otherwise mind-numbing shift was to slide into a room under renovations and “unlock” the adult films. His masturbatory adventures continued for some time; until someone switched his hand lotion with Gorilla Glue.

What a sticky situation, indeed.

It may be a masculine name but Daves come in all genders. There was a female Dave at the hotel who insisted on drawing pentagrams on all her  lovers, of which there were many. Fortunately, she always used a hotel pen and most of the time those suckers don’t work. How she got away with her amateur tattoo jobs is still a mystery to me (she didn’t look an accomplished seductress but somehow she managed to become a black widow extraordinaire) but her reign ended after a few years, though they were certainly memorable years at that.

I’ve encountered Daves that ate toothpaste for lunch, wore skirts to work (to be clear, this was a Dave with boy parts) when it wasn’t even Casual Friday, talked to themselves on a regular basis and generally made a mockery of conventional workplace behavior.

Were they nuts? Most certainly! Were they still worthy of my respect and in some cases, kinship? Absolutely. Judge not lest you be judged, pilgrims.

And therein lies my point: Daves may be a thorn in our side, they may sometimes make us dread punching in at all, but they’re just trying to find their way through life, as we all are. So look at them as a gift not a burden. There’s always the slimmest possibility they’re here to remind you of how good you really have it or they could be here to make you laugh so hard it hurts.

We just don’t know.

See you in the lobby, friends…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #77.

There’s a lot of attention these days around bullying; cyber-bullying, classroom bullying, prison yard bullying, hell, we’re living in a day and age where people are even getting bullied at Starbucks.

As if paying eighty dollars for a mocha frappé triple-soy latte coffee with an extra shot of MSG wasn’t bad enough, Starbucks employees will sic the cops on you if you’re a black guy that hasn’t sold a kidney to buy anything within fifteen seconds of walking through the doors.

William Arthur Gibbs (1865–1877) was a boarder at Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex who committed suicide by hanging on 4 May 1877 at age 12 after being bullied and beaten. This caused an outcry and the government subsequently held an official inquiry.

But bullying only evolved from there.

Bullying sucks.

But you know what really sucks? When the bullying comes from an authority figure that should know better.

#77: Bullies.

I know what you’re thinking: “Hook’s on the sauce again! He’s supposed to be giving us reason to NOT kill ourselves and he’s doing the opposite. Hashtag #BizarroHook!”

Don’t form the lynch mob just yet, folks. There’s a madness to my method, but it’s still valid.

Back in the 1970s, when I was a wee lad I had a soccer coach who immediately recognized that I was a super nerd who had only strapped on some cleats because his parents refused to feed him or give him anymore money for comics until he got out of the basement and got some sunshine and fresh air. And so he teased me mercilessly before each game

And then he humiliated me on the field.

And then he’d get hammered and drive by my house on weekends and holler, “Hey, Hookey? How’s your daughter?” To be clear, he was addressing my father. Who didn’t have an actual daughter, just a thin, pasty son.

Now, at the time, I was indeed a thin pasty kid who couldn’t even handle a soccer ball on a field, never mind a grown bully, so I had to let it all go. Just like my parents.

Never mind the naysaying… Stick with me here!  I have a plan…

You may be under the thumb of a bully yourself. Perhaps you’re too young to do anything. Or too isolated. Or too scared. You may be feeling that there’s no way out. Well, except for one.

But I’m here to tell you there’s hope. Always.

That soccer season was Hell for me, it’s true. I was weak, lanky, uncoordinated kid who got picked on by everybody, it made things even worse. But eventually I realized something that changed everything: As I got older, so did my adult bullies. However, in my case, growing older meant I’d become stronger (somewhat) while they got weaker.

See where this is going?

If you can find it in yourself to swallow the pain and you’re willing to play the long game by sticking around, time will eventually be in your side. Either that, or karma will put you into a position to strike back against your oppressors. Mind you, I’m not condoning violence per se, but consider what happened a few short years later, to the coach in question:

  •  His shed burnt down.
  •  Someone put an entire bag of sugar in his gas tank.
  •  His house was egged beyond recognition. (Seriously, it was Biblical.)
  •  His wife left him for a male gigolo.

Now, I may or may not have had something to do with three out of the four calamities described above, but I will say this: Make sure you shop around before hiring a gigolo. And be sure to get references.

You don’t have to follow my lead but you owe it yourself to seek revenge rather than an early grave. (Or, if any law enforcement types are reading this, what may have been my lead. Is there a statute of limitations on destroying a man’s life?)

At any rate, don’t let bullies rob of you of your future, fight back by remembering how GD amazing you are. And if that doesn’t work, let me know; I can recommend a revenge scenario or two.

They certainly don’t mean to, but bullies can help us rise above and draw on strength we never knew we had.

See you in the lobby, friends…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #78.

The odds were against you from the very beginning.

Your mom could’ve had a migraine that day – or decided she liked girls.

Your dad could’ve been shooting blanks.

But none of that happened, and here you are.

#78: The Fact That You’re Here At All.

Let’s face it, the fact life on this planet exists at all is mind-boggling; a simple change to the oxygen, gravity, availability of coffee beans or any other essential quotient and we’d all be wiped out immediately. But we’re still here, and against all odds, so are you. I’m no Big Bang Theory science nerd, but here’s my take on your existence: Out of the 200 to 600 million sperm normally found in ejaculate (this figure varies wildly, so don’t blame me if my figures seem out of whack) only one will stop and ask for directions along the  Fallopian Tube Highway, thus ensuring it actually reaches a mature egg. Then the egg in question has to hope it can remember the password, pay the cover charge, gain entrance and fertilize the sucker.

If all that works out then you’re off to the races! Of course, then you have to survive nine months of gestation and pray the MD in charge of your birth is sober. The doc that delivered my daughter left the hospital after inducing my wife in the morning and when he finally returned, we discovered he had enjoyed a couple of drinks at a friend’s house minutes before! That was a fun moment as we considered whether or not I could take charge of things myself; we soon realized I’m better at making deposits in that area (though I needed medical assistance via IVF) than withdrawals, and took our chances.

Again, it all worked out even though it probably shouldn’t have.

 

Every day people all over the world perish in simple-yet-unbelievable accidents that could befall any of us at any time. Just last month, a giant chunk of ice, believed to have fallen from an airplane (or a giant’s mixed drink) crashed through the roof of a Mississauga home, landing steps away from the bed of Mr. Tony Caccavo. I can only imagine that Tony let some pretty saucy Italian expletives fly before he realized just how fortunate he was.

But even if he had perished in a bizarre incident tinged with dark humor, at least Mr. Caccavo defied the odds by existing right up until that perilous and very wet moment.

And therein lieth the lesson. (Shakespeare in the park ain’t got nothin’ on me!) Every moment of your life, every second of your very existence, is a testament to the simple-yet-sweet victory that is the sum of your time on earth.

You’re here when you probably shouldn’t be.

So enjoy it.

Stay here for as long as you can and make the most of it because you never when the odds will no longer be in your favor.

See you in the lobby, kids…

 

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #79.

For some of us it’s our local tavern, for others, their mother’s kitchen (in Niagara Falls this mainly applies to Italians) but regardless of the choice, it’s vital to a have a safe refuge to turn to when things get too hairy in your life.

#79: Your Local Library.

Yes, I’m a ginormous nerd, thanks ever so much for noticing, but libraries are more than just the first place to be targeted whenever cities want to direct funds to raises for city councils, they are repositories of human knowledge and understanding. Some of the finest works of literature in history can be found in libraries.

And works by the Kardashians.

Of course, the Kardashian tomes are guidebooks for future generations; namely, how not to live your life like a soul-sucking succubus that contributes more to society’s demise than it’s enlightenment. 

But back to the benefits of your local bibliotheca. Modern libraries stock comic book trades and graphic novels. (YES!!!) Their shelves are stacked with guides to gardening (leafy!), home repair (noisy!), lovemaking (saucy!), politics (scandalous!) and every other subject under the sun including chihuahua cage boxing.

What? Can you prove they aren’t?

Libraries are also taking steps to ensure they don’t get left behind as society moves into the future. You can find mini-art galleries, expanded computer labs and multi-media rooms where you can use video cameras and musical instruments. And they’ll even provide all the editing equipment you’ll need to turn your dreams into digital realities. You can even rent space (free of charge!) at a library so your Three’s Company fan club can move out of your mom’s basement. (But she’ll still have to supply the cookies and juice.)

And guess what, kids? Your library even has ancient tech like record and tape players, vinyl pressings and tapes! History can be fun and soulful. And there even 3-D printers so you can design all sorts of doodads and whatchamacallits.

Knowledge.  It’s the best drug of all, kids.

 

The Niagara Falls Public Library system hosts speaking engagements, paint nights, back-to-work symposiums for those hit hard by a crazy economy, movie screenings, craft shows, touch-feely doggie sessions and even tax workshops. There are literally more offerings than i can list here (and not because I’m lazy) including a “How To Break Into The Assassin Biz” nights. These of course, became extremely popular after John Wick came out.

But the real reason I love libraries is simple: They’re quiet and peaceful. 

Sure, there’s a certain amount of background noise and the occasional nutjob ranting about potato salad and pink elephants but for the most part you can lose yourself in a library. My childhood was filled with some dark days and the St. Catharines Public Library was my equivalent of religious sanctuary. Solitude mixed with silence and knowledge equaled sanity for me as a kid.  

And even though I’m an adult now (apparently) and no one’s ever going to make me feel like I’m not good enough to be in this world ever again, I still require a place to escape life’s pressures and challenges.

And the comic book store drains my bank account too fast, so I’d rather read graphic novels for free at my library than go home and explain why we can’t eat this week. I’m funny that way.

So when the voices become too loud take a breath and drown them out with knowledge.

See you in the lobby and the stacks, friends…

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100 Reasons To Not Kill Yourself: #80.

As one resident I recently met told me: “The exteriors of the buildings are covered in a thick layer of filth, and the streets smell like cat piss… But there’s just something about New York that makes you love it and want to be there.”

That’s as good as a description, besides, “It’s the dirty version of Toronto!”, that I’ve ever heard of the Big Apple, so we’re going to go with it.

#80: New York City.

While there are certainly more enlightening, serene and geographically stunning locales on the planet, NYC is one of those places you just have to visit before you die (of natural causes, of course).

Schmackary’s Cookies (the best thing about Hell’s Kitchen besides Daredevil). NBC HQ. Midtown Comics. And of course, Broadway. For me these places define my New York experiences.

 

To be clear, no one told me that you really don’t need a police escort when visiting NYC for the first time…

 

But I’d never have visited the Big Apple in the first place without my daughter and her incredible passion for live theater. She was so overwhelmed the first time we strolled down 42nd street that she couldn’t string two words together. I’m still not sure if it was a commentary on my parenting skills or not but I’d never seen my kid that happy.

There’s usually a chemical inducement at play when a young person is that loopy but it was all about Hamilton the musical, baby! Broadway has helped my child to open up and be transformed by something so much bigger than herself. 

Granted, she’s never gripped my arm tighter (kid’s like a boa constrictor when she really needs to be) than when were making our way across Times Square and NY’s other pedestrian highways and byways for the first time. She eventually learned to accept that New York (and all big cities) are populated by individuals who wander about and spout colorful declarations like…

“Why did that tramp leave me for potato salad? I loved that bitch!”

“The Day of Divine Judgement is coming… So clean your socks!”

“Got any spare change, pal? I got a penguin to return home and I don’t have bus fare to Hoboken!”

That last guy was obviously a big Bugs Bunny fan. (Google it, kids.) But in all seriousness, if you’re a student of human nature you HAVE to go to New York someday. There are performers of every stripe and motivation; some actually care about the craft while others care only for the coin. You’ll encounter souls who were once kids who were full of life and dreams, but are now lost, some beyond saving. I actually began to cry as I watched a man many would regard as a hobo gently rock back and forth against a dirty wall on a dirty building on a dirty street. If you looked hard enough you could see a little boy playing in a field of green; the boy was long dead and the man was soon to join him.

Lovers, fighters, dreamers, two-legged animals, criminals, watchmen, politicians, they all congregate to this bustling metropolis for reasons all their own.

New York is a living, thriving (though it sometimes appears otherwise) organism. It has it’s own ecosystem (and yes, part of it does smell like cat pee), and tribes. There are towering testaments to glass and concrete beside enduring monuments to architecture of a bygone era when human beings actually cared about what they were building. If you can, take your time and really explore the seemingly-endless facets New York’s dual nature; the city is cutting-edge and retro all at once.

Seeing it for yourself, and seeing how it changes you, is certainly worth living for.

See you in the lobby, kids…

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