Thursday, July 12, 2012

An Incredible Yarn

As some of you know, I have taken up a new teaching assignment at Heritage Christian School for September where I’ll be teaching the seventh grade.  I was there a few weeks ago for a meeting and got a chance to tour the building.  Since graduating from HCS, I hadn’t really been in the school besides the gym and front foyer.  I was surprised at how huge the place had become.  The hallways especially seem impossibly long.

Me in Grade 6 at HCS
A lot has changed at Heritage since I was just a young padawan.  We were an adventurous lot back then.  We dreamed big and lived life wide open.  We fearlessly wore our bright red HCS cardigans with their shiny red oversized pearly buttons as if we were one great red army (in hindsight red probably was not the best choice as the Cold War was just ending).  Because the proletariat, I mean the students, came from a collection of other schools at the beginning, we were initially a fractured bunch.  We needed school spirit!  We needed some great effort – a great march if you will – to unify us!  One of the teachers came up with an amazing idea of breaking a world record as a school body.  What record could we break as a student body?  We all put our minds to work and thought over some possibilities.

Someone suggested trying to break the record for the number of students that could be squeezed into a school bus.  Since our buses were already filled way past capacity anyway, it didn’t seem like this record would be that hard to break.  The plan was scuttled however due to the fact that the fire department did not have a ‘jaws of life’, or some other lame reason.

“What about hotdogs?” someone asked.  Hot dog records are usually pretty popular.  We could put ourselves in the record books, get great publicity, and have the opportunity to eat some delicious hotdogs.  We already ate hotdogs for hot lunch, so in a way, we had already trained for this record.  After consulting the record books however, we learned that the record holder ate 69 hotdogs in ten minutes.  It took me ten minutes just to eat one, and then I was full!  The death knell to this idea (and coincidentally the end of hotdog hot lunch) came when someone researched what hotdogs were actually made of.  

My favourite idea for setting a record was to see how many days PD days we could have before the government shut us down.  The teachers and parents were not very receptive of this idea however – they came up with some nonsensical excuse about it negatively impacting our education.

After many more ideas, one of the teachers came up with the ultimate record setting idea, which was soon announced at a special assembly.  We all sat with bated breath as the idea was explained.  It was completely original and had never before been attempted, but it would require hard work and dedication from everyone.  The student body was on board though and determined to set a record.  Finally the big announcement came.  The students leaned forward in their seats as the teacher proclaimed “We are going to set to set the record for corking!”

Stunned silence.  The teacher waited expectantly for a standing ovation or other adulations, but none came.  Instead confused whispering began.

“What is corking!?”

“My parents don’t let me have wine!”

“Maybe corking means punching!”

“Did she say ‘corking’ or ‘courting’?  Girls are yucky!”

The teacher cleared her throat and said “Maybe I had better explain what corking is.  Corking is sort of like, um.... it’s sort of like knitting.” The teacher looked nervously over the astounded group of students and continued.  “I know what you’re thinking – ‘corking does not sound very exciting’.  I know it seems like that is true, but I think you’ll be surprised.”

As so, all of the students were given corking spools and picks, and were taught how to cork.  The corking soon caught on but not because of the prospect of the world record, but rather it caught on when classes began vying for the longest corked strand.  A few students began to compete with each other and toiled over their corking spools long into the night.  If there were any spare moments in class, we would reach into our desks and begin to cork madly.  We quickly became corking experts in respect to our technique and swiftness.

After a couple of weeks, there was no longer any doubt that we set some kind of record for corking.  We also knew that there would never be any effort like this again.  We kept on corking though – urged on by class competition and because the person with the longest strand would be rewarded with a corking trophy (a giant corking spool made out of cardboard and spray-painted gold) and with the satisfaction of knowing that you were a big deal.  

The problem with corking was that the end product of corking was completely useless.  I had corked a couple of feet, but had no idea what it could be used for.  At the end of the competition we had a couple hundred feet of knitted cork.  It was like a great pile of knitted intestines.  I was glad when the competition ended.  My fingers were starting to feel arthritic and carpal tunnel was setting in.  Some of the students had a tougher time letting go.  They continued to cork long after the competition – idly corking on the bus, at recess, or at home.  Sadly, some of the corking spools had to be pried out of their hands and destroyed. 

It turned out that the record keepers were not interested in corking records, and so we never officially made it into the record books.  It did turn out to be exciting in a very odd way, and Heritage became tightly knit together by this corking odyssey.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Restaurant Not Taken

I was confronted by a young reader of my blog who demanded to know why I hadn’t blogged in a while, and when my next blog entry was going to come.  I didn’t want to bore him with excuses about buying a house, moving and all of that fun stuff that tends to suck up your time like a hoover.  I told him that there was a blog post in the works, which seemed to appease him.  

My wife Courtney’s birthday is coming up, which also means that the yearly struggle of trying to impress and surprise her slides onto my shoulders as well.  Last year was a semi-success in that I surprised her, but failed to impress her.

Courtney wanted to go out for dinner on the night of her birthday and she wanted me to pick out the restaurant.  I was happy with that arrangement, and began ambitiously searching online for restaurants.
Perhaps I should preface this story by telling you that my wife only likes one restaurant, and only one thing on their menu.  I, on the other hand, love trying different restaurants and different menu options.

I certainly didn’t want to go to that restaurant – we had been there so many times; they were about to rename Courtney’s favourite dish after her.  I wanted to find a restaurant that was ethnically authentic, had an original menu, a memorable interior, and a warm atmosphere.  

After a lot of searching and reading various reviews, I settled on a real beauty.  It was a European themed restaurant in the heart of downtown Hamilton.  It is from this point that our experiences began to go their separate ways.

The drive to the restaurant


Ah, I love downtown Hamilton!  So much character!  There is so many interesting people and cozy little shops.  Oh, I can see the European restaurant up ahead.  I’ll just park beside this group of nice young people.


I do not like downtown Hamilton!  I wonder where Greg is taking me.  I wish he would keep his eyes on the road instead of looking at all of these dumpy shops.
What is he doing now?  Why is he parking beside that street gang?!

Inside the restaurant


Wow – this place is oozing charm and character!  Look at their coo-coo clock collection – beautiful.  Everything feels so European too – from the unfriendly service, the outrageous prices, to the lederhosen – I feel like I am back across the pond.


Where am I, and why is that guy wearing those funny shorts?  Who does he think he is – Heidi’s grandfather?  If I hear one more coo-coo bird, I’m outta here.  I am not sure what Greg was thinking, but I guess I trust his judgement.  
Oh no, the guy with the weird shorts and accordion is leading us to the table underneath the deer heads.  How am I supposed to eat when Bambi and his extended family are staring down at me?  I better steer clear of venison…

At the table


These menus are great – the owner of this restaurant must have brought them with him when his family immigrated after the war.  Too bad they scribbled out all of the old prices and sharpied in the new prices.
There is so much to choose from!  Snitzel, croquet, frikendel, and venison – just for starters.  Hmmm… Venison is oddly appealing for some reason.  This menu is an embarrassment of riches.


Are these menus handwritten?  Look at all of the food stuck to the pages – what is this scratch and sniff or something?  I can’t read a single thing in these menus either.  Why did I let Greg choose the restaurant?  Leave it to him to find a place like this.  He’s taking a long time with his menu too – at least I’m not the only one who can’t read this decrepit thing.

The Order

“Ya, vhat vill you hebben?”

“I will have the snitzel!”

“Ya, goed choice!”

“I will have the uh, the um, the… the fish dish.”

“Ya, de fish are fresh from de Hamilton harbour!”

Greg & Courtney

“Ya, I make a yoke!”

Great service here.  Charming servers and funny too!

If those deer heads looming over our table did not kill my appetite, surely the thought of eating a fish from the harbour did the job.

As you can see, Courtney and I were not on the same plane.  I felt like I was in the heart of the Bavarian black forest, and Courtney felt like bolting.  In hindsight, it wasn’t the best place to bring Courtney – I should have stuck with our usual digs.  The coo-coo clocks, deer heads, and lederhosen should have tipped me off when I was looking up the restaurant online previous to our visit.

Then again, it was a very memorable birthday dinner – one of which we still laugh about today.  If we had gone to the same old place with the predictable menu options, would we have remembered that evening?  Not likely.

Now that her birthday is approaching, I am in the same bind again.  Should I go for the safe, predictable choice this year, or be creative and choose the restaurant on the path less traveled?  I think I’ll take my cue from Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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