The Huffington Post Canada Hates Me.

(It’s not really a title. Just a statement of fact.)

How about…

“The Most Anti-Valentine’s Day Post Ever”?

No? Well that’s all I have. Let’s get this sucker started, shall we?

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…

It’s the same old song and dance for yours truly.

Let’s begin with a memorable Valentine’s Day quote in the form of a piece of advice I felt compelled to bestow upon a young man who was…. well, the quote speaks for itself, but I’ll elaborate in a moment.

“As a man, self-punishment is always going to have its place in your daily regiment… just keep it away from my hallways and you’ll live a happy, long, productive life, son.”

All right, so the obvious question is, “What the hell was that all about, Hook?”

The answer to that query lies, frustratingly enough, in another quote, one uttered between ragged gasps, and at full volume.

“YES… YES…. YES! I’M THE BADDEST… SEXIEST… BITCH OF ALL TIME! YOU’RE…. NEVER…. GOING BACK… TO YOUR… WIFE… AGAIN!”

And now, some context.

I arrived on the twenty-eighth floor this morning at 9 am, fully prepared to retrieve luggage for a stereotypical family, but when I emerged from the service area the aforementioned second quote filled the hallway.

And was repeated several times.

I dropped my head in a mixture of glee and disgust when I first realized just what I was listening to, and so I was still moving when I lifted my head, glanced down the hall and saw him.

He was a mere waif of a lad, attired in rumpled, stained clothes, with greasy hair and giant running shoes that cost more than my entire uniform. Just picture any of the lily-white boys from “Leave It to Beaver” after they’ve been cross-bred with any of the lads from “Malcolm in the Middle” or Oliver Twist.

Now picture any of them engaging in self-pleasure.

(Upon further reflection, don’t do that… you may wind up incarcerated.)

The act in question took place in the middle of the hallway, specifically, outside the room in question.

There was a housekeeper’s cart four rooms down, but otherwise, the hall was vacant save for us two. Fate wouldn’t have had it any other way, right?

 Any other bellman would surely have turned tail and ran. Or called security. Or swiped a bottle from room service and drank the memory away. But not me.

Not that I didn’t think about it. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t approach the situation with professional courage.

“Hey… uh… sir? Could you not do that here? Please?”

I know, I’m an animal. But the horny beggar carried on… carrying on, despite my bellman bravado.

“Little fella? I really need you to put away your…. ‘little fella’ away and move on. Okay?”

More silence. With the exception of the looped “sexy” declaration and the worst copulating soundtrack ever. Just imagine trying to get down and dirty to this tune…

Yep.

But back to Dennis the Horny Menace; he was so entranced by the sexy shenanigans unfolding on the other side of the thin press-board door he simply turned away from me without missing a beat. Literally. And so I did the only thing I could.

I went into service area, grabbed a spray bottle of “green mystery cleaning fluid” (the trademark is pending on that, so back off!), and sprayed the sticky little devil down until he snapped out of it. Once he calmed down – and zipped up – I escorted him to the elevator and dispensed my sage wisdom.

He then boarded the elevator and flipped me the bird as the doors closed.

And that was my first call of Valentine’s Day 2015. After that, it was one of those “Yes, that really happened”-type of days.

1)  I brought in a couple who are, at this very moment, no doubt defiling a life-size teddy bear. Seriously, the way they were eying that teddy bear would make Charlie Sheen shudder. And Charlie’s done things they outlawed in Tijuana decades ago.

2)  An older guest was seeing red for all the wrong reasons as I loaded his bags up. He muttered something about being misdirected while parking but sometimes it’s best to not to indulge a raging guest when you’re not in a position to actually resolve the situation. So I let him vanish into the hotel while I stored his bags and five minutes later, he’s in the lobby ranting and raving to a manager about the poor service he received. (Not from me, fortunately. Though to be honest, I wouldn’t have dropped to my knees in despair if I had been informed that I had failed to meet this schmuck’s expectations.)

3)  A gentleman answered the door dressed as Little Bo Peep. He had hired two escorts to be his sheep. (I can only assume his bags were filled with shears and sheep feed.) The worst part? This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this scenario.

Obviously, I’d be a fool to try to follow that, so I’m going to wrap things up here. I’ve had a strange day; I’ve found myself humbled, and to be honest, enraged by another writer’s success. Don’t get me wrong, this was the first day I became aware of the writer in question, but they seem to be completely deserving of their success.

But I’m tired of failing at everything I set my sights on. I’m tired of sites like the Huffington Post Canada ignoring me; rejection isn’t as bad as being ignored, truthfully. I’m tired of seeing some of the most inane drivel imaginable make it to television while executives and publishers continue to deny my existence.

I’m just tired.

So from now on, I’m going to accept that a large portion of the world thinks I blow harder than a porn star… on any given day, really. I’ll write for myself and the world can suck it.

And in that romantic note, I bid you all farewell.

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Valentine’s Day Through The Hook’s Eyes.

So they tell me something called “Valentine’s Day” is around the corner. Personally, I’ve always assumed this “holiday” was an urban legend like the female orgasm or a period in human history without the deliciously horrific taint of the Kardashians.

But apparently it exists and it’s wonderful.

Women get enough ammunition to last forever if their partners fail to honor them in a fitting manner. Men spend copious amounts of cash in displays of affection directed at a single date rather than a lifetime. Restaurants are jammed tighter than the door to Sia’s sanity. And the retail sector? Well, the retail sector makes so much money manipulating the public it burns half of it during a Pagan orgy of decadence and sacrifice involving virgins (a rare commodity these days), midgets, whip cream, horses, and duct tape. 

Or so I’ve read. Somewhere.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about romance. Most of my attempts at wooing the fairer sex have resulted in comments like…

  • “Don’t be ridiculous, where are we going to find a riding crop, a small pool filled with Cool Whip and midgets at this time of night?”
  • “I’m sorry, pal, but the service said your card had been declined.”
  • “I’m pretty freaky, but even I have limits.”
  • “Are you nuts? I don’t even know you! And we’re at the DMV!” (To be fair, I was just trying to kill the three hours we were going to spend in line.)

So you can understand why I’m not about to regale you with tales of my past romantic exploits, right?

However, as the chronicler of the exploits (in this case, the sexploits), of travelers of all shapes, sizes and mindsets, I am uniquely qualified to share a few Valentine’s Day epic fails with you. You see, long before EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey took the world and soccer moms everywhere by storm, people were trying to spice up their lovemaking by exploring their steamier side. Some succeeded, but those individuals have no place here; there are many bloggers/scribes who are better suited to share those tales on their sites. 

I’d rather focus on the sexual misadventures of my guests. Let’s begin, shall we?

1) Spiderman, Spiderman, Does whatever a spider can… 

Except attach a sex swing to his room’s ceiling and strap his “Spider-Woman” in for a night of web-slinging. Oh, he can try, but unless he’s an engineering wizard, he’s going to seriously underestimate the hotel’s structural integrity and send his “prey” crashing to the floor. At the most inappropriate time off all, to boot.

The best line to emerge from this super-heroic debacle? That belongs to the young lady who suffered the most from her paramour’s shortcomings.

“Ugh, that’s the last time I play “Spider-Man Saves Spider-Woman! I’ll never get this ‘web-fluid’ off my face!”

spider-woman-avengers

 2)  The “Great Outdoors” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Especially when you take a tumble from a second-story balcony while making the beast with two backs.

Many years ago, my hospitality career began when I accepted a position with a two-property company on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls. One of their properties had a wing that sat atop a hillside across from the Falls; the balconies in these rooms inspired more than one adventurous couple. One such couple took their amorous acrobatics too far.

By about a foot, I’d say.

One thrust too far (and the arrival of a frisky raccoon looking for a cross-species threesome), and they both tumbled over the balcony like an X-rated version of Jack and Jill. Even Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey would have had the wind taken out of their sails after a trip to the ER while completely naked.

Or maybe not?

3)  Getting “down ‘n dirty” can be fun. But literally? Not so much.

As we’ve discussed before, some guests feel the need to forgo the bed they paid good money for in favor of supposedly-dirtier pastures. I can understand this, (to a point), but using a set of cold, cement stairs to do the deed? That takes a special kind of sexual innovator.

It also takes a couple that is truly dedicated to their mutual orgasm to enure the risks that come with such an undertaking. Risks like…

  • Staff members who walk the stairs as part of their midnight rounds. (A tip of the hat to the staff member who simply stepped over the copulating couple in question, rather than disturb their rhythm.)
  • Drunken gamblers who have no idea where they are or what exactly they’re witnessing.
  • Smokers who take refuge in the stairs and who are known for flicking their butts down the stairwell. (In this case, one particular butt made its way down the stairwell in a straight line, until it became a “magic bullet” of sorts and bounced off a railing before landing directly into the nether regions of the world’s unluckiest female. Try explaining that burn to the paramedics.)

Trust me, kiddies, stay in the room. Your naughty bits will thank you for it.

4)  Engaging in vehicular maneuvers that aren’t covered in the driver’s handbook. 

Like frolicking in the front seat of a classic automobile. With your wife’s best friend. During a couple’s weekend retreat.

What could possibly go wrong?

Finally, an easy one.

Flailing limbs could easily strike the gear shift, sending the vehicle moving whilst the occupants are otherwise occupied. (Don’t laugh; I’ve had some experience with this. It’s easier to accomplish than you think.) In this case, the car headed straight down the ramp bridging the first and second floors of the hotel’s parking garage – while the philanderers within no doubt did the same.

Rolling karma, anyone?

But wait, there’s more!

Not only did the “Rolling Car of Cheating Death” (the trademark is pending, so don’t get any ideas), travel a good distance, it slammed in to a vehicle that was backing out of a space. And that vehicle? It was a van containing four of the biggest, blackest citizens to ever inhabit Harlem.

And they weren’t exactly pleased with, and I quote…

“The two crazy-ass crackers who busy bustin’ it while their white-ass, old car busted up our wheels!”

Needless to say, I love my job.

5)  Cosplaying couples.

To be clear, not every cosplayer looks like this:

I’ve seen some who look like this:

You know what? I can’t do it. A quick Goggle Images search for “ugly cosplayers” revealed some sights that only intense shock therapy will be able to clear from my mind.

I refuse to subject my readers – all ten of you – to that. Now, to clarify, I don’t have a problem with cosplaying in general. If it works for you and your partner, go for it. But folks who are a disaster in their real lives have no business dressing up to engage in fantasy play while staying in my neck of the woods. And if someone is going to dress up, they should at least pick an outfit that works with their specific body shape.

So I guess this one isn’t really an epic fail so much as my opinion. But so what, right?

My blog, my rules.

That concludes my Valentine’s Day offering, friends. I know its not sweet or fragrant, but it won’t fatten you up or wither with age.

Beat that, corporate marketing machine.

Posted in Hotel Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Not Your Average Valentine’s Day Post…

So Valentine’s Day is around the corner and blogging social convention dictates I share my infinite wisdom concerning love and romance (the wife is shuddering right now like a Jedi who feels a disturbance in the Force), but there is a problem with this peer pressure-induced route.

We’ll always love each other, but the wife and I barely have the time for romance these days.

So I guess I better write about my “other life” instead. Namely, how being a bellman of 17 years qualifies me to dispense travel tips for those individuals who find themselves in a hotel on Valentine’s Day.

They say you should let your writing voice flow organically. To that point: As I write this, a young couple is ascending the staircase to the lobby’s second-floor washroom. Their hands are roaming freely as they disappear from view but the smoldering look in their eyes tells the tale.

My instincts tell me they’re headed to the men’s washroom, specifically, the second floor of the men’s washroom (our lobby washrooms appear as though they were designed by Salvador Dali), for a little slap ‘n tickle.

Told you I was out of practice when it came to romance.

On with the show.

RULE #1:  Location is everything; pick your “love nest” carefully.

Some couples travel to escape the everyday tedium of their lives. Some couples travel on Valentine’s Day to escape the tedium of their sex lives. (Personally, I think the word “tedium” should never be in the same sentence as “sex”. Even supposedly-bad sex is still sex.)

But most couples don’t share my optimism and as a result, they attempt to spice things up by coupling in new and exciting places, such as…

  • Alcoves.
  • Restrooms.
  • The folding table of the Laundry Room.
  • On top of one of the industrial dryers in the Laundry Room.
  • Inside one of the industrial dryers in the Laundry Room.

And yes, the last two incidents required medical attention, hopefully after completion of the act. Let’s continue, shall we?

  • Guest elevators.
  • Service elevators.
  • On benches in the lobby late at night.
  • On benches in the lobby in the middle of the day.
  • Housekeepers’ closets.
  • In front of my desk.
  • On my desk.
  • On dirty staircases leading to service areas in the basement.
  • In-between giant industrial fans on the roof.

I don’t recommend ascending to a hotel’s roof to form the Beast With Two Backs. It’s dirty, gravelly, and the noise from industrial fans will drown out your partner’s amorous declarations, such as: 

“Before we go too far, I think I should mention we’re actually first cousins.”

“These stones are digging into my butt and shoulders.”

“I think we’re going to suffer permanent hearing loss, but I LOVE YOU!”

“On second thought, the bed in the room looked quite comfortable.”

  • Between cars in the parking garage.
  • On rows of banquet chairs in storage rooms.
  • In the walk-in cooler in the kitchen. (Seriously. “I thought it would make my nipples look much bigger.”, was the young lady’s explanation.)

Incidentally, if you’ve never suffered cooler-induced frostbite on or in your nether regions, I don’t suggest you rush out to experience it firsthand.

If you’re under the assumption I’m passing judgement on the frisky folks in question, nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m no prude; decorum – and a wife with an extensive collection of frying pans – prevent me from sharing the details of my own amorous past, but suffice to say, I’ve done things.

Though, truth be told, I’ve seen way more than I’ve done.

But getting back to the sexual matter at hand, there’s no reason you can’t indulge your frisky side in a supposedly-plain-Jane hotel room. Let’s examine the Pros and Cons of a few scenarios, shall we?

1)  THE BED:

PRO:  The beds in my hotel are unbelievably comfortable (you’ll want your form to be properly cushioned at this moment, right?) and spacious.

CON:  The headboard is attached to the wall, thus preventing you from lashing your partner’s arms above their head. But many guests are clever enough to use the legs to secure their lovers whilst they perform a series of erotic acts upon them, each one more taboo-shattering than the last, until, finally, their partner erupts with indescribable orgasmic pleasure….

Drat, I fogged my glasses up again. But you get the point, right?

2)  THE SHOWER.

PRO:  This is the ideal location in which to feel simultaneously clean and dirty, but as you are doubt aware, many a lover has literally fallen victim to the dangers of upright aquatic coitus.

CON:  Call down to the Housekeeping department and request a shower chair. That should even the odds.

3)  IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW.

PRO:  Passersby and guests in nearby buildings may be able to see you, thus heightening the thrill factor while still providing some anonymity.

CON:  People will be able to see you. (Which is more of a Con for them than you, I suppose.) Additionally, you may wear out faster. Employ a chair and slippers to keep you in the game longer.

4)  THE DESK: 

PRO:  It will allow you to play out various fantasy scenarios, such as…

  • Boss and secretary on a late night mission to “crunch”… numbers.
  • Naughty librarian finally tracks down overdue book scofflaw. 
  • Teacher and student. (A creepy classic.)

CON:  You have to be sure you’ve moved the phone a safe distance away. I’ve seen many an embarrassed  guest answer the door after Security receives a frantic phone call from a switchboard operator who has misinterpreted a series of moans and gasps from the room phone after the receiver has fallen off the hook. Boy, was that pastor’s face red….

To be honest, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the naughty possibilities one can explore while safely ensconced  in a hotel room, but my lenses keep fogging up and so I’m going to leave you with four options.

You’re welcome.

In closing, in love, one must always be open to new experiences. Just bear in mind that these new experiences must be equal parts danger and sexy. Not everyone is cut out to play Anastasia Steele and her ridiculously kinky billionaire paramour. Though that hasn’t stopped many of you from trying.

But that’s for another post, kids.

See you in the lobby… you horny devils.

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18 Things You Never Knew About Niagara Falls, Jimmy Fallon.

I know you’re busy unveiling covers for magazines men love to “read’ with one hand, Jimmy, so I’ll cut right to the chase.

The people of Niagara Falls want you here, whether it be for one show, a week, or a lifetime. The choice is yours. Now, this would be a major undertaking so I understand if you’re on the fence. To help sway you, here are a few little nuggets of info about my hometown you may not have been aware of. Enjoy.

1)  In addition to translating to “Land of Fallon” in several ancient tongues, Niagara Falls also means “Land of Perpetual Tonight (Show)”, “Land of Late-Night Talk”, and Land of Tax Incentives”. (Granted that last one will appeal only to NBC’s number-crunching monkeys, but it’s still worth mentioning.)

2)  Niagara Falls has plenty of water. You know, for pouring on guests? Just sayin’…

3)  We’re not above going viral for you, Jimmy. Literally, if necessary. But before it comes to that…

 4)  The water in Niagara Falls is said to have remarkable healing properties. Why else would thousands of American college students visit here every weekend, consume copious amounts of Canadian beer and then down bottles of Canadian water as quickly as possible on Sunday morning? It’s not in a desperate attempt to regain their sobriety, I can tell you that much.

5)  Niagara Falls has the largest vampire population in North America. People always assume New Jersey would hold that record, but no, it’s Niagara. 

6)  Our mayor, Jim Diodati, was the original principal on “Saved By The Bell” but the other cast members rallied together and had him ousted. Mark-Paul Gosselaar was afraid of being upstaged. Hollywood’s so political…

7)  Niagara Falls is in Canada. William Shatner is Canadian. Need I say more?

8)  Niagara Falls is a city of underdogs. Its true. Niagara has been taking a beating in the media lately. I mean, the media knocks us around more than Bruce Jenner these days. And since everyone loves the underdog…

9)  Niagara Falls was the birthplace of your best pal, Drew Barrymore. Technically, her actual body was delivered in Culver City, California, but spiritually, she was born in Niagara Falls. (To all of you Poindexters out there; you won’t find these facts in any so-called “books” or the interweb, but that doesn’t make them any less possible.)

10)  Lorne Michaels, is Canadian. You owe him. Do I really need to keep spelling it out for you, Jimmy?

11)  Barry Gibb once declared his deep affection for Niagara Falls in a little tune called “How Deep Is Your Love For Niagara Falls”. Record company weasels felt the title was a little long so it was shortened. You won’t find that fact in a Bee Gees bio, Jimmy.

12)  History tells us Troll dolls were originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam, but what historians fail to mention is that Dam visited Niagara Falls right before carving the first doll for his daughter. Coincidence? I think not.

13)  The citizens of Niagara Falls often gather in dimly-lit factories after hours to discuss modern films. These groups have all reached a consensus: the decision to cut a young actor named Jimmy Fallon’s single line in the film Father’s Day was the single greatest blunder in cinematic history.

14)  More children were conceived in Niagara Falls after 11:30 pm on Saturday nights between the years 1998 to 2004 than any other period. (Condom sales took a beating.) Coincidence? Yeah, right. Still not convinced, Jimmy? Consider this next fact…

15)  Female citizens of Niagara Falls will immediately ovulate when they hear the name “Jimmy Fallon”, regardless of where they are in their menstrual cycle.

16)  Canadian beer has mystical properties. Even Carson Daly is less of a tool when he drinks Canadian alcohol.

17)  “Late Night Snack” ice cream is the preferred dessert of Niagara Falls citizens, who are fed the tasty treat (which doesn’t taste like fecal matter at all), in the womb. Or so I’ve heard. I think.

18)  Niagara Falls audiences truly are the greatest on the planet and the raw power generated by their raucous laughter can be harnessed and used to replace all conventional forms of energy. Unfortunately, hydro companies have buried this truth for decades. Just imagine what an industrious late-night talk-show host/comic could do with such power, Jimmy. Colbert would be quaking in his hipster loafers…

That’s all I have for you today, Jimmy. My wife always tells me not to overstay my welcome (of course, we’re in the bedroom at the time, but this wosdom applies to many situations), and so I bid you good day for now.

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I Know You’re Busy Watching Football, But If You Have A Minute…

I’ve seen it all today.

Psychotic strippers-turned-escorts.

Maniacal rugrats on sugar-fueled rampages across the lobby landscape.

The biggest, meanest, bully I’ve ever encountered in seventeen years in the hospitality trenches.

A colleague who bent over like a two-dollar hooker for said bully by giving him his own luggage cart. (In his defense, my colleague just wanted to defuse the situation, but he lost more than one cart for a few minutes. The jackass in question will be back now that he’s seen how easily Niagara Falls bellmen fold.)

As many of you know and will attest to, I’m a pretty linear guy. I don’t have many secrets (not anymore, at least), or an agenda. I’ve tried to live my life by a simple set of rules; this is especially true of my professional life. So to say this angry jackass got under my skin is like saying Marshawn Terrell Lynch has had some minor disagreements with the press.

This guest infuriated me. I’ve suffered unimaginable horror at the hands of bullies in the past. This guest’s behavior struck such a deep chord with me that I didn’t stop vibrating inside (in a bad way) from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon. I have one rule that applies to both my worlds:

Never, ever, ever, ever give into bullies.

And my colleague violated that rule for me.

But the moment has passed. The damage has been done. The reverberations will be felt for some time but you can’t live in the past and survive long enough to enjoy the future. So let’s look at another moment that has come and gone today, a moment in which I was the coolest I’ll probably ever be.

He was a trippy-dippy, New Age hippie who bore more than passing resemblance to this guy…

And when our paths crossed he may have been riding a chemical-induced wave, or he had smoked some really powerful weed, or he may even have enjoyed a drink or ten, but either way, he was waxing philosophical… and I was to be his student.

Whether I liked it or not.

FAUST GUEST:  There are two types of people in this world, Robert. The hunters and the hunted. Which are you?

Unfortunately for my “mentor”, I was in no mood to be lectured to.

ME:  Neither, I’m afraid. I am a chronicler of both the predator and prey. I’m something all-together different.

(Dramatic pause worthy of a feature film.)

GUEST:  What are you, mate?

ME:  I’m The Hook.

To attempt to follow this would be folly, so I’ll see you in the lobby, kiddies…

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An Open Letter To Shaun Majumder.

Mr. Majumder,

You’re a world-class comic and not a psychic, but surely you realize what this post is all about, right?

Your “This Beautiful Country” segment on this week’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes has not won you any new fans in my hometown.

“Niagara Falls is such a beautiful, beautiful landmark, surrounded by the grossest, grossest city,”

Nice.

But wait, there’s more!

“I was in the souvenir shop the other day … and I saw this sweatshirt and it had a bear and a moose on it and it said Niagara Falls.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bear or a moose in Niagara Falls, I’ve seen some cougars,”

“If you want to do a T-shirt or a sweatshirt, here’s what you should put on it: You should have an old lady in a wheelchair, not because she’s disabled … and she’s just pouring all of her money into a slot machine just crying her little eyes out.

“Niagara Falls, It’s more accurate.”

To be accurate, Mr. Majumder, you performed at Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort during a comedy show in 2013. I’m guessing you weren’t paid in T-shirts or sweatshirts? Our money was good enough for you but that’s where you draw the line, apparently.

1297657567083_ORIGINAL

When I first watched your segment I thought, “I used to love this guy’s work but now I hate him as much as Rob Ford hates to tell the truth.”

Then I remembered a few things:

  • You’re a comedian. A very good one with a good heart.
  • You were born in Burlington, Newfoundland and Labrador, and raised by a European-Canadian mother from Newfoundland and a Bengali Hindu Indian father, both of whom appear to have done a bang-up job.
  • CBC believes in you and I love the CBC. In fact, anyone who has been fortunate enough to find themselves working with the CBC is my hero.
  • Its your job to poke fun at the world around you.
  • Comedy can be biting.

And so I looked at your segment with objective eyes and you know what?

I still hate you.

Not “hate” like a Kardashian hates TMZ, but “hate” like a cat hates water or hairballs. Your segment was lazy and infantile, Mr. Majumder. I know these words hurt, considering they’re coming from a blogger, but you’ve been a working comic for years, you can take it.

Were your words entirely false?

Of course not! You won’t see a bear or a moose in Niagara Falls but as you pointed out, there are plenty of cougars. We’d put them on T-shirts but they move too fast while hunting; no one can get an accurate description of them for an artist to recreate.

Is Niagara Falls home to more toothless individuals than a carnival? Absolutely! But that’s only because many people are too busy watching CBC programming like This Hour Has 22 Minutes to stop and tend to their oral health.

Does Niagara play host to millions of casino-going seniors who occasionally use wheelchairs even if they don’t truly need them? Do these same seniors cry and even wet themselves on occasion? Sure! But they’d do that anyway, regardless of where they were.

Does our mayor bay at the full moon while covered in move popcorn butter? I have no idea, but anything’s possible.

Is the city of Niagara Falls gross at times? You work in Toronto, right, Mr. Majumder?

You do realize every single metropolis on the planet has its gross side, right? You can’t build and maintain a city to equal the majesty of the Falls unless you remove/slaughter every living thing in the vicinity and frankly, as Canadians we’re too nice to do that.

The citizens of Niagara Falls are no different than the citizens of any city, Mr. Majumder. We enjoy hockey, ridiculously copious amounts of beer (in moderation), eye-straining amounts of television, bashing the Leafs, illegal gerbil fighting rings, considering cheating on our taxes (but never dong so), pizza, Tim Hortons coffee, dark magic, you know, the staples of Canadian society.

But what we will no longer abide is individuals such as yourself who mock us in order to meet a CBC-mandated laugh quota.

To clarify, I’m still a fan, Mr. Majumder. I just wish you’d save the knives for targets that truly deserve them. Like the government, Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, Target Canada, people who shame their pets online, the fallout from the Timmies/Burger King merger, the Fords, Hollywood and cats.

Tell you what, Mr. Majumder, come to Niagara Falls and Mayor Jim Diodati and myself will take you out on the town. We’ll even spring for bail when things inevitably go off the rails.

What do you say?

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Let’s Talk.

Never mind cowardly, impotent terrorists or overrated, ungrateful celebrities, the buzz this week is all about mental health.

Mental health. Those two seemingly-harmless words evoke all sorts of images, don’t they? A group of sad sacks gathered for a therapy session. A trembling hand reaching for a bottle of pills – or a glass of liquor. A figure huddled in a corner of a stark white padded room. This is how the world-at-large feels about mental health issues. 

But the truth is, every single one of us is at risk when it comes to the state of our mental health.

We work harder then ever before – for a smaller reward. (Most of us anyway.) We spend far too much time worshiping/envying the rich, as though monetary wealth and fame are the key to true happiness. Society tells us we deserve everything and if we don’t get it? Well, we should consider ourselves doomed to perpetual unhappiness.

So what do we do?

Well, most of us ignore our fears and insecurities while others swing in the other direction and are consumed by them.

The solution? How the hell should I know? I carry luggage for a living. Personally, I think the answer lies in the simplicity of Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign currently unfolding on social media.

Pain shared is pain halved. Period. Then again, we’ve already established the power of the stigma of the words “mental health”, so again, what do we do?

We move past the stigma, just as we would any obstacle in the path of our happiness. Easy for me to say, right?

Fine, I’ll go first.

My name is Robert. (You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.) I’m a forty-something, Canadian white guy. I’m a smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls. Scratch that, I’m THE smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls.

I am also a rape survivor. (I hate the sanitized, civilized nature of the term”sexual assault”. Why do we use “clean” words to describe savage acts?)

It happened when I was a boy and in the time since that fateful afternoon, I’ve allowed the details to blur in my memory. I remember the knife against my throat, the sweat on my face, my fingers reaching through the long grass and into the dirt of an open field behind our house. As for the pain, I severed that connection years ago; its buried in some dark sub-basement of my memory, and that’s where it will remain. I refuse to be haunted by the past, though it creeps up through the layers of protection I’ve placed above it from time to time. I’m only mentioning  it now because I feel stronger about the Let’s Talk campaign than I have about anything in a long time.

My secret? She’s standing a few feet away from me as I scribble this post into a notebook, preparing dinner, while Murdoch Mysteries unfolds on a small television in the background. Our daughter is safely ensconced in her room, devouring season two of Saving Hope. They are my secret. They are my salvation.

Do I believe in therapy or pharmaceuticals? Yes and no. Therapy can move mountains of pain but only if one is wiling to surrender fully to the process. As for medication, I have a loved one who has become addicted to prescription medication, thus eradicating my objectivity, but I’m willing to acknowledge the power of pharmaceuticals in the battle for one’s sanity.

That’s all I have to offer. Now it’s your turn. I’m not suggesting you bear your soul as I have. (Truth be told, my stomach is in knots. I’ve shared this truth once before on my blog but never so plainly. I’m actually afraid to hit the “publish” button.) The important thing when it comes to mental health is to share your fears, anxieties or horrors. Doing so will lessen their hold on your soul.

And if you don’t have anything to share. First off, that’s great! Secondly, don’t underestimate the value of being someone’s rock. You don’t have to become an instant psychological expert, just be a steadfast friend. The darkness only holds sway over us because of our innate fear of the unknown. But when we recognize and share our demons the light begins to pour in and suddenly the dark isn’t so terrifying anymore.

I stopped being afraid of the dark long ago but only because I was willing to acknowledge exactly what was waiting for me in its depths.

The rest is up to you.

Reach out as an individual and become part of a community. Let’s stop being silent on the issue of mental health.

Let’s do away with the stigma.

Let’s talk.

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