Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Resolution

It was the golden summer of 2000. The new millennium had dawned the winter before and this was a summer of promise. Morgan, my best friend and I were returning home. We had just been to Ohio on a road trip and we were in the last half hour of our travels. We were in his parents’ station wagon and the breeze from the open windows was warm on our faces. We had dropped off all the other wayward travelers in our group and the Saturn wagon, which we had been shoe horned into at the beginning of our journey, was now blissfully spacious. Yep, just two friends on the road; local boys heading back to the small lakeside town where they grew up.

As with any road trip music was important and at this precise moment we were rockin' out to some mid-90's Michael Jackson, one of our shared favorites. Now, I don't bandy around the term "rockin' out" carelessly as some are in the habit of doing. When I say, "rockin' out" I mean just that. We were into it. The car was full of raucous outbursts of "oooh!" and "oww!" that are necessary to any official Michael Jackson rock out. If I recall correctly we were even dancing and gyrating to the beat as much as our seat belts would let us.

Eventually one of our favorite Jackson hits rolled around on the CD: a little gem called "Remember the Times". This song is sweet not to mention funky and it only amped up our mobile jam session bringing it to a new plateau of enthusiasm. Both long time Jackson fans we knew the words by heart and we were doing our best to follow along. All in all we did quite well. We only started to falter a bit at the end of the song when Michael, King of Pop that he is, does some vocal adlibs and improvised exclamations. However we had heard the song enough times that we were hitting most of the added stuff.
Now both Morgan and I are tenors so we tend to likes the higher pitched registers to begin with. However Michael is really more of an alto, and at times is just off the tonal charts all together. So, in order to nail some of those high pitched adlibs we were really forced to belt 'em out at the top of our lungs.

It was a thing to behold. Two suburban white boys doing 75 down the southwest Michigan highway screaming Michael Jackson, twisting in our seats to the beat, and loving every minute of it. It certainly wasn't the first time it's happened and I'm sure it won't be the last.

Anyway there we were absolutely howling out the last words of the song:

"Do you Remember the times?! Yeah, Yeah. In the Park, On the Beach. Remember the times!" we shouted together.

And then Morgan continuing to sing along with the song yelling louder still with heartfelt conviction "You and me in SPAIN!!!!!"

I looked at him and burst out laughing.

"Did you just sing "In SPAIN?"

"Yeah..." He said sheepishly.

"I don't think it's "In Spain". Why would they be in Spain? It's "it's FATE." I explained, enjoying this chance to for once know a lyric his sponge-like brain hadn't absorbed.

We had a good long laugh and from then on I'd kid him every time we heard that song and we'd revel in his confident and fortissimo "You and Me in SPAIN!!!!"

In fact just the other day Much Music a Canadian MTV-esque channel was airing a special on the King of Pop himself. I watched and silently hoped they would show some clips from "Remember the Times". I wasn't disappointed. "Listen to this Jacqui. This is the one Morgan thought was ‘In Spain’.” I said to my wife, as the famous last stanzas approached. I listened and waited for the fated lyric. Finally I heard "You and Me—" and then wonder of all wonders I heard what sounded just like "—in SPAIN!"

I was incredulous. I raced to the all-knowing Internet and looked up the lyrics...Sure enough it was "In Spain". I went to still more lyric sites and again found site after site: "You and Spain".


In light of the New Year I thought it would only be appropriate to clear my ledger sheet of burdensome faux paus, unintended misdeeds and past grievances.

So Morgan I'm sorry. You were right. From now on when “Remember the Time” cues up on your iPod (as I'm sure it will) know that you can sing with confidence the words that you heart first recalled that golden summer day and bare no more the mockery that I have levied upon you.

I know it's all for the best but truth be told I'm a bit sad that the joke has to end, but I suppose I'll be consoled by the fact that whenever I hear that catchy tune I'll still think fondly of you and know that in my heart we'll always have our time "In Spain!!"

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pickles wrapped in Bacon

Being married is fun. One of the best parts of being newly married around the holidays is that I get to experience the 20 plus years of traditions that are backing Jacqui's experience of Christmas.

When Jacqui was a kid growing up in frigid interior B.C. Christmas Eve would finally arrive and her family would get bundled up and head out into freezing night. Jacqui is one of five Dutch kids so after I'm sure a lot of shuffling and fighting over seat belts they finally all wedged into the family car and drove to the Christmas Eve service at her church. After church they would pile into the car again, snug and warm and drive around to all the local "hot spots" for viewing Christmas lights. They'd ooh and ahh at all the shining snowmen and blinking lights and then they'd turn around and head home. Jacqui's mom is an accomplished baker (a skill I'm lucky she's passed on to Jacqui) and days before she would have finished all the piles of Christmas baking. There'd be a plethora of Dutch goodies waiting: mountains of speculaas, a Dutch spice cake, piles of jan hagel, almond cookies, and mounds of Nanaimo bars, a west coast delicacy named after a Vancouver Island town.

This was just the baking.

There were party mints, the ketchup chips flowed like wine, and most importantly the crowned jewel of what eventually became known as "The Spread": PICKLES WRAPPED IN BACON!!!! I had never heard of this delightful combination before but in the Deboer household a Christmas Eve without Pickles wrapped in bacon would be like a Birthday Party without the cake--it's integral. Seriously. The love for this sacred hors doeuvres has reached the point that there's even a ceremonial dance and song created by the Deboers that accompanies the eating of the first bite of the season. It is a thing to behold.

After everyone piled a plate full of goodies they'd retire to open their gifts. Now, in the world there's a pretty big debate among families when it comes to gift opening: Christmas Eve vs. Christmas Morning. My family was always of the Christmas Morning Persuasion. Jacqui's was always a Christmas Eve Clan. You can't even imagine the issues we're working through these days...We're seeking some professional outside help to reconcile our difference. In her defense it's hard to fight Dutch cultural conditioning which seems to prefer the Christmas Eve opening time slot. It's a force to be reckoned with. In any case, their bellies full of goodies they'd retire and watch the wrapping paper fly.

When I, a Christmas Morning boy at heart, asked her family what they did on Christmas Day they looked at me incredulously and said "Play with all our new toys! What else?!"

So this year being out West smack dab in the middle of DeboerLand I got to experience a Dutch family Christmas in full force. The Pickles Wrapped in Bacon were devoured (seriously I watched an entire platter disappear in a matter of seconds) and as the newest family member, Ryan, Ryan himself, fried the smoked bacon.

Over 2 pounds of it. Good Times

Pickles + Bacon = Christmas Fun!

We love and miss you back home so much! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Accident Prone

We were walking home from the theatre with our in-laws the other night when right in front of us two cars collided. It was a shock. We were coming up to the intersection of 12th and Fir, talking, laughing when suddenly time stood still as we watched a blue car slam into a red car that was headed East on 12th. It felt like movie. There was a tremendous noise and then silence. All this happened about 10 feet in front of us.

It was scary and I was shaken up a bit. (For anyone who knows me this shouldn't come as too big of a surprise. I jump when the phone rings unexpectedly. As phones often do.) The police and fire trucks were there soon after and we were all trying to remember exactly what happened. Not that anyone wanted our opinion really. The police were busy enough talking to the drivers and the other people who were in cars at the intersection, but on the way home a debate ensued. Who's fault was it? Who ran the light? Which way were the cars traveling? It was as if all the salient details had evaporated and all we were left with was a vague memory of violent sound and motion.

It was so weird to be debating the facts of the accident when two people's nights were just ruined and we had just stood feet away from what could have change so many people lives for the worse. Just after the accident as Mike, my brother-in-law, picked his way through some of the debris and tried to see if the drivers were hurt. As he was walking across to meet one of the smashed vehicles he was almost hit by another car speeding through, impatiently trying to get past the scene of the crash. This struck me: In the face of a dangerous and nerve-wracking situation people didn't even have the patience/compassion to drive slowly around the wrecked cars.

Thankfully everyone was alright, but the memory of the crash is staying with me; making me think about people, the impatience of the modern driver, and mostly my own need to cover the harsh and difficult things in life with the inadequate band-aids like facts, information and descriptions.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Walkin' in a temperately mild wonderland.

Back in Michigan when Jacqui would tell people she was a Canadian she'd inevitably get two responses. The most knee jerk reaction was for people to say cleverly:

"Canadian, eh?"

These people were a real laugh riot.

After this the second most popular response was:

"Oooh pretty cold up there. Brrrr"

In order to make their point at just how cold it was up there people would often rub their arms together and sort of shiver on the "Brrrr." As if we might not understand without the visual.

Sometimes people would combine the two responses in an amalgam of clever hilarity.

"Canada! Pretty cold up

Would the wit never end we asked ourselves?!

Of course I can't judge these people too harshly because callous American that I am I think I said these exact things to Jacqui at the beginning of our tentative courtship time. Jacqui, a fiery Canadian and more importantly a British Columbian, mistook what were in fact the initial forays into the complex world of international flirting as uninformed criticism. After a good stern talking to, in which she delved into the climatory and linguistic phenomena of my North American neighbors, I soon saw the error of my ways. "Not everyone says 'eh?', Ryan. That's mostly just people from Ontario." She'd say derisively. "And where I'm from it doesn't really get that cold and we hardly get any snow at all." I smiled a superior American smile and nodded my head but looking back I don't know if the lesson on weather really sunk in. "No snow?" thought I. "Come now, it's Canada!"

Things are sinking in now.

After living in the tundra-like waste of Southwest Michigan my whole life( along the shores of Lake Michigan, no less, where the dreaded phenomena known as "The Lake Effect" blanketed the lower left of the state in slippery, freezing whiteness from November until March. There's a reason Michigan looks like a mitten...) I had a hard time envisioning any place that wasn't a frozen expanse when the winter months rolled around. Well color me converted. It's only snowed twice since we've been here and that was only a light dusting that didn't last more than a day and made everyone sort of wistful "Look at the snow!" they'd say. "Isn't it pretty?". Of course there's always a trade-off. October was pretty miserable here. Rain, rain, rain every day and because it doesn't get cold fast enough there was no spectrum of majestic hues to paint the autumn leaves. But since winter has officially begun things have been quite beautiful. All the grass is still green for goodness sakes! I could definitely get used to this.

Narnia Mania

Is anyone else incredibly excited about this movie? I'm really looking forward to it. I find myself inexplicably drawn to the Narnia website about once a day to watch the latest trailer. Last night I spent a good long while puttering around the website and watching all the mini-featurettes they have about various items of interest: the director,the story, locations used, special effects, etc. Good times, friends. Good times.

I think I read the books when I was a kid, but I know that I was too young to see any spiritual significance in them. About a year ago I was compelled to read them again and I was blown away. Really they are quite amazing. The language is so simple and beautiful and the way everything fits together as a picture for something even bigger than the story itself amazed me. I was sad that I hadn't read them sooner.

So yeah, I'm quite enthusiastic about the film. At this point all I have left to describe my eagerness is scattered word fragments organized alphabetically. Here goes: Aslan, exciting,lamp post,
Narnia, opening night, swords, tomorrow, spiritual metaphors, WETA workshop, whew!