Tuesday, April 28, 2009

National Lampoon's Tin Pan Vacation - Part 2

Editor's Note: This is Part 2 in a two-part blog entry chronicling the dysfunctional family adventures of my family's most recent vacation. Part One - Tin Pan South - can be found HERE.

I awoke Sunday morning on the couch at my sister and Blake's place with a screaming hangover and a cold fried egg sandwich thrust in my face, the words "we're leaving in 10 minutes if you want to come with us" playing the part of fingernails to my pounding head's chalkboard. When I opened my eyes, Bubba's panting tongue was less than 6 inches from my face as he sat there half-expecting me to just hand him my breakfast. Little did I know that this would be the high-point for me on this day.

I stumbed out of the house just as Blake was pulling into the driveway. Having been back in Guelph for his Grandfather's funeral, there was no way he would be able to join us in Florida because he couldn't afford to miss any more time at work. There was little doubting that it wouldn't be the same without him, but we assured him we'd see him on our way back through Nashville the following Saturday. We gave him a big hug goodbye and set out for the 14-hour drive to Cape Coral, FL.

Let me just tell you a little something about The Cadillac of Minivans: the discrepancy in comfort levels between sitting in the diver's seat while in control of the radio and the air conditioning and sitting as the 6th man in the back corner, completely buried in garbage and gear whilst hungover and wanting to kill yourself is absolutely apalling. Ronnie was driving on this morning, and about an hour in I told him that, in all likelihood, I was going to puke. Everyone just laughed and we kept driving. I have a great family. I held a plastic bag in my lap for the better part of an hour, just in case. It was awful.

Not much to tell about the drive other than the fact that it was excessively long and that in the state of Georgia, there are more "massage parlours" for truckers than I ever imagined possible. And not that I would ever question the legitimacy of these highly reputable institutions, but if you're going for a legitimate massage, does it matter whether or not that particular medicare-endorsed facility has "AMERICAN GIRLS-LATINO GIRLS-ASIAN GIRLS!!!"? I'm just saying.

To tell you the truth, I don't even know where I took over driving. The entire day is kind of a blur. That's what a night spent throwing back Velvet Elvis's will do to you. All I know is that my parents were following behind us in the VW, and I was about 85% certain that they would be getting a divorce as soon as the vacation ended. We took 20 minute detour in search of a Starbucks (I am officially a coffee snob - I now know that for a fact), and instead had to settle for a Dunkin' Donuts, which more than sufficed.

Again, the details of this particular drive are clouded in a DT infused haze, but I'm pretty sure that as soon as I took the wheel, the rest of the passengers in the Cadillac of Minivans began drinking heavily. A bottle of Grey Goose was prominently involved, as were some coolers and Diet Buds. At one point, while stuck in an inexplicable midnight traffic jam on a lonely stretch of Florida highway, the need for a "rest room" arose in a hurry, prompting a poor man's makeshift two-girls-one-cup reenactment in the back seat of the van. Believe me when I say that this was not the high point of my life.

In any event, we eventually pulled into Cape Coral around 2:00 am. Ronnie had rented a beautiful house backing onto a fantastic lagoon in a gated community, and we were miraculously allowed inside the gates of said community. After the hellacious 14-hour drive, we had finally arrived. There was nothing I wanted more than to crack an ice cold beer in our beautiful vacation property, to be engulfed in all of the comforts of home, and to then go to sleep in my very own bed...

But when we pulled up to the house, something was awry. To begin with, there was a van in the driveway with Ontario plates... Maybe just to scare off any potential intruders, we told ourselves; you know, with the bad economy and all... But when Ronnie went to find the key in the agreed upon hiding place, there was no key to be found. So the logical means to handle such a situation, obviously, was to begin pounding on the door so as to find out exactly what the fuck was going on... Did I mention that it was 2 o'clock in the morning, that we had been driving for 14 hours, and that we were in a gated community?

When the poor people occupying their/our house refused to answer the door, Ronnie began calling the home phone, resulting in what one can only assume was one of the 10 most awkward conversations of all-time, recreated in a fictional account here for your enjoyment:

Squatters: "Ummm... What the fuck?"
Ronnie: "Yeah... Ahhhh.... We're like... right outside the house right now?"
Squatters: "No shit. My kids are screaming right now becuase they're terrified of the crazy dysfunctional family on the front lawn. What the fuck do you want?"
Ronnie: "I think we're supposed to be staying here this week..."
Squatters: "Well, we're leaving at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning... Why don't you try coming back after the maid leaves at noon..."
Ronnie: "Ummm.... Ohhhhh-Kaaayyyy... I guess I'll get things straightened out with the owner..."
Squatters: "Do whatever the hell you want... The police are on their way..."

And so it went. The next thing we knew, we were exiting the gated community with a cop car riding my bumper, in search of the appropriate play. My parents were less than thrilled. As we drove through the deserted Florida night past endless Walmart, Target, and Publix parking lots, my dad eventually pulled up beside us and announced that he and my mom were, under no circumstances, paying for a hotel. Instead, they would be pulling into one of the deserted parking lots and spending the night in the car. Again, how this family vacation did not end in my parents' getting a divorce is beyond explanation.

Ronnie somehow convinced them that sleeping in the car was not the best course of action, and they eventually followed us to the Days Inn where Ronnie was gracious enough to pay for the rooms. As my dad elucidates in the following video, if forced to describe the situation in two words, he would have to go with: FUCK UP.

Poor Ronnie. He just wanted for us all to enjoy some good old fashioned Griswold-style family fun, and it wound up resulting in one of the all-time clusterfucks, proving once again the old adage that no good deed goes un-punished.

But I have to say, no family deals with adversity quite like my family. Where others might turn on one another, we simply turn to the bottle. And instead of bitching and moaning about the fact that some of us had to share a bed with my vader-machine-sporting and three-quarters naked father (I was also three-quarters naked, for the record; and you could have landed a 747 in the space between us on that double bed), we just laughed hysterically about the fact that it wouldn't be a family vacation without some kind of boderline-foreseeable disaster. The Fort Myers Days Inn is clearly a locale that will go down in family lore along with such distinguished vacation hot spots as Lincoln Park, Michigan, and Birdsnest, Virginia.

We awoke in the blazing heat of a South Florida Monday morning and proceeded to hit up the local Denny's like a poor man's Phillip Banks. It was probaby one of the 5 dirtiest restaurants I've ever been in, but what do you really want for $4 a pop? After breakfast, we loaded up on groceries at the local Publix (wine, vodka, tequilla, Diet Buds, Yeungling... and some food as well) and then attempted, for the second time in 12 hours, to garner access to our vacation rental. No problems whatsoever this time... Funny the difference in reception you'll get arriving somewhere at 2:00 am as opposed to 2:00 pm...

But I have to say that the place was well worth the wait. A fantastic house with beds for everyone except me (Lisa and I were the only ones sans date, and the twin beds in the "Unicorn Room" just weren't working for us - I think it may have had something to do with my propensity for snoring like a locomotive after a night of throwing back cans of Yeungling); a ridiculously glorious screened in pool; and a backyard overlooking a wildlife-filled lagoon. It really was the perfect homebase for a week's worth of dysfunctional family fun... Which we proceeded to take advantage of with gusto.

The first few days were spent pleasuring... errr... pleasing ourselves. Ronnie and Little Buddy went fishing, the girls went on shopping expeditions, my dad stayed home and complained... It was what each and everyone of us had envisioned when we signed up three months earlier. I was actually working for the week, which meant that I was essentially tethered to the place for four days, but believe me when I say that I wasn't complaining. If I could work poolside every day in nothing but trunks and a Bosh jersey, cranking the tunes in the sunshine all day and partaking in happy hour at four o'clock every afternoon, there'd be no need for weekends. It really was the Life of Reilly.

Our evenings went a long way in substantiating a suspicion I've long had: that my family, when we get together, essentially revert to a state of functioning alcoholism. Seriously. Every single afternoon, it was an endless stream of Diet Buds, Margaritas, Red Wine, good bourbon inexplicably mixed with Diet Dr. Pepper... We'd eventually find time to eat something, and then we'd stumble down the street to the local Starbucks for a second wind. As darkness set, we'd usually slip into some kind of a family (drinking) game. One night it was Euchre. The next it was 1980s Trivial Pursuit. The girls put together a little cheerleading routine one night and Little Buddy taught the toddlers next door how to say the work "FUCK" in a variety of different contexts. There was even a riff on charades one night (with my dad thowing out obscure movie titles from the 1940s as a means of stumping us), something that I'd never seen my family partake in. Eventually, people would start to fade off, I'd make a couple of ill-advised drunken phone calls, and then I'd wind up passing out on the couch only to be awoken a few hours later to my dad and Little Buddy watching John Wayne movies at full volume at 7 in the morning.

And so the days and nights passed... Until Wednesday. On this particular day, with most of the family long gone, Lisa, my dad and I (well, Lisa mostly) decided we would spend the better part of the afternoon doing a shot every half-hour. 3:30 was Tequila. 4:00 was Bourbon. 4:30 was straight Vodka... You get the idea. By the time the rest of the family returned, we were three-quarters in the bag. How Ronnie and I managed to make dinner that night is beyond me, but I believe it's more a testament to how foolproof BBQing hamburgers is than any indicator of our culinary proficiency. And if there were ever any doubt as to how drunk the two chefs on this night actually were, at one point we found ourselves in the bathroom completing the killer-crossover like a couple of 7-year olds at summer camp while the burgers were grilling... Sorry family.

So it should come as little surprise, then, that by about 10:30 that night, the entire household was completely green. Some were passed out on the couch. Others were watching YouTube clips on their laptops in their respective rooms... It was a pretty sad sight to behold. It was at about that time that I decided to deal with a minor emergency by getting on the phone out front of the house. There I was pacing back and forth, talking away, not really paying attention to anything. I'd probably been out there for a solid half hour when a large and rather imposing figure came walking down the street. I had no idea that it was Blake until he was about 5 feet away from me.

Imagine running out of Grey Goose at an Italian wedding, and multiply that level of surprise by 1,000. In the words of Rob Goldenburg: I was shocked. I could barely muster anything beyond a cursory "what the fuck are YOU doing here?". Blake was giggling like a schoolgirl and he asked me to go inside to get Lisa, but not to tell anyone because he wanted to surprise her. Fair enough, I thought, and went into the palace of green to see if I could track down my sister. I don't even know how I managed to coerce her outside without raising suspicion. I just said that I needed to talk to her about something, she assumed it was girl trouble, so she followed me without thinking twice. We walked outside the house, and I assumed that Blake was on the other side of the garage. I said to Lisa, "Hey, do you know who's dog that is around the corner?" It was the best I could do under the circumstances. I she walked around the corner and I walked back into the house, not wanting to stand in the way of romance.

Inside the house, everyone was still completely greened out and in various states of recline. I was kind of half-giggling to myself, anticipating how the party vibes were about to pick up with the addition of Blaker. I had no idea just how much those vibes were about to change.

Two minutes later, Lisa walked into the house with tears in her eyes, and to no one in particular, announced: "Ummm... Blake is here... And I'm getting married..."

You cannot imagine the scene that unfolded. It is no secret that everyone in my family already thinks of Blake as being part of the family. You really couldn't ask for a better brother-in-law, and I'm not just saying that because he knows how to fix things that Ronnie and I can't, because he's a better hockey player than either of us will ever be, or because he routinely prompts Ronnie to drink himself beyond oblivion. He's just a great guy, and we all know how lucky we are to have him. Couple this with the fact that my sister's engagement officially took all of the pressure off of Ronnie and I (let's just say that my mom's grandmotherly biological clock is ticking...), and you could say that there was some minor jubilation in the air. We looked like a bunch of sunburned, unathletic white guys celebrating a World Series clinching dinger. My sister was crying. My mom was crying. We were pouring Blake drinks and shots and trying to wrap our head around how the fuck he managed to get down there without anyone knowing. And all the while, my dad was just sitting there smiling. He'd known all along. I have no idea how he kept this to himself. Good on ya, big guy.

(It turns out that Blake, wanting to ask my dad for his blessing in person, had been unable to do so because of his having to return to Guelph for his Grandfather's funeral. So as it turned out, he'd called the night before on the pretense that there was something wrong with the car. When he got my dad on the phone, he told him that he had a pretty important question to ask him... You get the idea. After they had discussed the issue - I'm assuming this took about 15 seconds - Blake said... "Alright... Well, I'll be there tomorrow at 10..." and my dad said "Great. See you then", and then hung up, as if Blake were stopping by to help chop some firewood or something. Pretty much standard procedure for Deeve.)

Anyway, as you might well imagine, Blake's arrival re-ignited the party, and we basically stayed up all night drinking, taking photos of Lisa's ring, and rehashing the story of exactly how Blaker was able to pull it all off. It turns out that after all of the secret details and unforseeable detours involved in getting to Cape Coral, he hadn't accounted for my staning out front of the house and talking on the phone for half an hour, meaning he'd spent that entire time hiding in a bush... Sorry about that.

It should be noted that while Blake was getting ridiculously drunk with Ronnie, Little Buddy and me, Lisa was updating her Facebook status and making a list of everyone she was dying to call first thing in the morning, highlighting once and for all the difference between guys and girls.

We spent most of Thursday hanging around the pool, but ventured out of the house to play a game of beach volleyball at the community center. As you might well expect, security stopped by to check in on us (I'm trying to decide whether it was the drinking of Keystone Lights in public or my climbing a Palm Tree to retrieve the ball that did it...). In continuing her hall of fame week, my sister absolutely dominated at beach volleyball. I have no idea how this happened. As if it weren't enough that she got the looks and the musical talent... I think I need counseling. Also, my dad made his beach volleyball debut on this afternoon. He could easily pass for an All-American.

We spent Good Friday like true Christians and hit up the IHOP for country fried Steak and Eggs, and then made our way to Fort Myers Beach. The beach itself was absolutely beautiful. Powder white sand, hot sunshine, warm water... It was also spring break... High School spring break. Let's just say that if I ever have a son, I will be bringing him to Fort Myers for his 15th birthday. It obviously would have been rude for us not to partake in the spring break fun, meaning that my mom hooked us up with some classy T-shirts which read: "SPRING BREAK 2009...WASTED!!!". Good times all around.

We figured we'd take it pretty easy Friday night, seeing as we had to be up early Saturday morning to drive back to Nashville. As you might well imagine, the first step in taking it easy on your last night is stopping in to the local liquor store on your way home from the beach and buying 36 beers and proceeding to drink a large percentage of those in the parking lot while Little Buddy and Jess were in buying steaks for dinner. We ate like kings that night, and managed to get the hot tub cranked to an obscene temperature, sitting around and drinking until the wee hours. It was the perfect end to a fantastic week, and just when it seemed like things were beginning to wind down, Little Buddy decided that he would put on a show for us. I think the following video pretty well speaks for itself. But in Cavan's defence, there were $5 on the line, so it's hard to blame him:

We went to bed sometime after 2:30 am, and my dad woke me up at 5:19 am. I wanted to kill myself. We packed up as best we could, and then piled into the van. As you might well imagine, Little Buddy was in fine form. It probably didn't help that he polished the remainder of that Jagermeister while the van was running in the driveway at 6:30 am, but to each their own. We loaded up on caffeine at the local Starbucks, and then hit the road for Nashville. Ronnie bet Little Buddy $60 that he couldn't shut up for 4 hours, leading to one of the most hilarious attempts at improvised sign language I have ever seen. Blake had piled into the car with my parents and had left about an hour earlier than us, and at one point we exchanged the following text messages:

Blake: Hey, what mile marker are you guys at?
Sean: Mile marker: HELL

It was a fairly accurate depiction. Eventually, the riff raff in the back fell asleep, and Lisa and I spent the next few hours listening to tunes and planning out her wedding. When we got back to Nashville, it was about 7:30 at night, we were beyond exhausted, hungover, and sick, and the entire group of us were essentially not speaking to one another.

Yep, I'd call it another perfect dysfunctional family vacation.

Thanks so much to Ronnie and TVB for making it happen, to my parents for keeping it together, to Blake and Lisa for allowing us to crash at their place in Nashvegas and for providing the highlight reel wedding proposal, and to Little Buddy and Jess for the laughs. Looking forward to doing it all again... Well, sometime soon...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Texts From Last Night

Wow. This might be the greatest website of all-time. And let me tell you, if you go through this entire list, you may just stumble upon some of the beauties that I've sent in my day, the vast majority of which originating from the couches of various friends in foreign cities (I'm looking at YOU leather full-length in Flats' North End living room).

A few of my personal favourites include the following:

(817): My mom caught just caught me jerking off...in her room.

(713): Hope the move went well! I'll miss you!
(832): you are a cunt and I hated living with you and your skeezy boyfriend.Just thought I'd get that out there.

(212): guess who was drunk and crawling in the middle of the road and got brought home by the police last night? HINT: ME

(908): i may or may not have been spotted by tourists while getting head in the vicinity of the jefferson memorial

(870): do you think it i'm gay because i was in a 3 way lastnight?
(1-870): well not if you dont touch the other dude and concentrate on the chic
(870): what chic?

Happy Inebriating and Merry Texting!

Thanks to Browner for the link.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Putting Them Out of Their Misery...

This will undoubtedly be the last time we will have to listen to those select few fans who choose to boo the American National Anthem, an act so despicable that I won't even justify it with a clip. And obviously, I know that it is only a few (thousand) people that give the rest of the fan base a bad name, but it really is a disgusting display when it happens (every year), and it leaves a black eye on the entire country.

So if anyone is going to the game tonight, take a page out of the good people of Edmonton's book, and make a name for yourself by doing something that your entire country can really be proud of:

(I have probably seen this clip 300 times and it literally never gets old)

And this one ain't half-bad either:

On a side note: if it weren't for sporting events, would we even remember the words to our respective National Anthems? Think about it... When was the last time you sang your National Anthem at an event that didn't involve some kind of a game?

See, dad? I told you I'd be able to come up with a reason for you to appreciate sports!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Billy Bob Thornton is a ReeeeaaaaL DICK

Seriously, what did my good friend Jian Ghomeshi ever do to anybody aside from falsely proclaiming that he was once the king of Spain?

I really didn't think that BBT would ever be able to sink lower than his whole AJ-blood-vial fiasco, but I think this definitely gives that little phase a run for it's money. These are 13 of the most painful minutes you're ever likely to come across; think of the Letterman-Phoenix episode, minus the humour.

But as is the case in most instances, bad chemistry makes for fantastic unintentional comedy. Cudos to Jian for keeping it real, and for submitting my second favourite moment in Q's short but glorious history, coming a close second to the time he had the following exchange with Barbara Walters (10:30 mark):

Babs: "Where are you from, Iran?"
Jian: "Yeah...Well... I'm from Thornhill, actually..."

Thanks to Micah for the clip

A Picture of The Future

I had a great little entry all ready to go about how this particular painting was the ideal work of art for me. How it was the perfect mix of abstract design, literature, and politics, and how the artist was gracious enough to allow me to acquire it despite the fact that I'm in no way even remotely close to being able to afford it.

But in light of the events of the past 24-hours, I think I'll simply let the piece speak for itself.

We'll miss you, Argi.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Lampoon's Tin Pan Vacation - Part 1

Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part blog entry chronicling the dysfunctional family adventures. Part One includes The Tin Pan South Festival; Part Two will include debaucherous tales from Cape Coral, FL, and can be found HERE.

I have a dysfunctional family. And I know that all families are dysfunctional in their own unique ways, and that it takes a certain amount of dysfunction in order for a family to be able to function in the day-to-day grind of modern life, but still... My family is ridiculously dysfunctional. And nowhere is that dysfunction more apparent then when we attempt to go on vacation together.

The mishaps and disasters of vacations gone wrong are accumulated in the McCallum family lore in the same way that other families collect fridge magnets or key chains from the places they've visited, and they run the gamut from moderately inconveniencing to outright calamity: the car breaking down and leaving us stranded in some place we'd rather not be (this seemed to happen on every vacation throughout the 80's); the new family dog snapping and biting my sister; camping through tornadoes; having my aunt back the car over my baby sister's car seat while my baby sister was strapped into that car seat; my brother falling into the fire; my dad almost drowning; the family motorhome catching fire on the outskirts of Detroit... You get the picture.

They're the things that happen when you spend a lot of time together with the people you love, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Because really, what the hell would I have to write about if not for my family?

It is with this mindset, then, that my family embarked upon our most recent vacation: Nashville, TN for Tin Pan South, and Cape Coral, FL for some fun in the sun.


This particular adventure began on a sad note, as the McEwen family (my sister's boyfriend's family) lost a legend in Ken McEwen. I attended the funeral Friday morning with my Aunt Vicki, and it was a beautiful and fitting tribute. It's never easy to lose a loved one, but having such a close group of family and friends certainly helps to ease the pain. My sister sang a gut-wrenching rendition of Amazing Grace (it is such a cliche to say so, but there literally wasn't a dry eye in that church), and Blake delivered a beautiful speech on behalf of the Grandchildren, the highlight of which was Blaker explaining how his grandfather taught him how to back up a trailer (something I will never be able to master), and Blake describing his grandfather drinking beer from a wine glass by simply stating: "That was how he rolled". Fantastic stuff.

After returning back to Toronto in the afternoon, I basically just sat around and waited for Ronnie and my cousin, Little Buddy, to pick me up. The plan was to pick up the minivan we had rented (from the conveniently located airport location), then pick up TVB and Jessica (my brother and cousin's significant others) from their respective workplaces, then come back to my place to drop off my brother's car, and then venture out on our 12-hour drive to Nashville... This particular tasklist involved crisscrossing the City of Toronto 3 times... Did I mention that it was 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and that it was pissing rain? The term "clusterfuck" really doesn't do this scenario justice.

By the time we actually got out of Toronto, it was after 7:00 pm and I wanted to kill myself. But we were driving the Cadillac of Minivans, we were hopped up on fast food and caffeine, and a week's worth of fun in the sun awaited us, so the vibes were relatively top-notch.

What can you say about a 12-hour drive through the dead of night that hasn't already been said? We stopped at the Windsor Duty Free to load up on Grey Goose and Diet Bud, and then Ronnie took us into Ohio, which is where I took over somewhere around midnight. After Ronnie and Little Buddy indulged in a few neat Grey Gooses from the bottle, we eventually settled into a pretty solid rhythm, with Jess on her iPhone, Ronnie and TVB asleep in the back, and Little Buddy... well, keeping me awake in shotgun. If there's one thing my cousin is good at, it is verbal jousting. To steal a phrase from Springsteen's '78 tour, we had a lengthy discussion about my cousin's vocation, which involved a eureka moment where he admitted: "You know what? I really don't know what the fuck I'm talking about!", which led to a week's worth of "fact-or-fiction" postulations. All in all, a highly productive exchange of late night repartee.

With the mist rising off the rolling Kentucky hills in the early dawn, Little Buddy and I began speaking in unrhymed iambic pentameter as we commented on the beauty of the setting we found ouselves in. An hour later, our GPS machine went on the fritz at the exact moment we needed it, meaning that we were essentially left to our own devices to try to find my sister's place (I'd never been there before). After a quick phone call to my parents, we pulled into 1837 Loney Ave. just after 7:30 on Saturday morning. Unlike our previous all-night drives to The Volunteer State, there was neither cold beer nor a DVD-player full of porn awaiting us upon arrival. I guess my Mom and The Money Shot just have differing ideas of what hospitality is supposed to entail. Hey, I don't judge. But Mom, seriously... next time? Beer and porn. You can't mess with tradition.

(My parents had gone down to Nashville the week before for Tin Pan South, and when my sister and Blake had flown back to Guelph for the funeral, my parents had remained in town to attend the festival and to take care of Bubba the dog. Lisa was flying in Saturday morning for her show that night; Blake would be getting into town Sunday.)

After having been awake for more than 24 hours, I was more than ready for a mid-morning siesta, which I happily took, being awoken a mere 7 times by my parents coming in and out of the bedroom for God only knows what reason. I eventually gave up on the whole absurd notion of peaceful respite around noon, and joined what was quickly taking on the appearance of a party in my sister's front yard (on the drive down from Toronto, it was snowing as we came through London; in Nashville the following afternoon, it was sunny and 75 degrees). Tossing around the pigskin, sipping on a few Diet Buds, playing with The Money Shot's new son Aiden... We eventually went for lunch and to stock up on liquid provisions (The Money Shot took me to J. Barleycorn's where I was able to get my hands on some Dogfish Head Midas Touch {one of the finest beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting}, Raison D'Etre, and the 90 Minute IPA. In all honesty, if live near an outlet that has these beers, you're doing yourself a true disservice by not imbibing. Read this article, and I defy you not to try the Palo Santo Marron. Diet Buds will be a thing of the past. I was also able to score a jar of moonshine and a bottle of Russell's Reserve, which I would highly recommend to Bourbon lovers the world over), before returning to Loney Ave.

Let me just tell you that if you've driven all night and followed it up with 3 hours worth of oft-interrupted sleep, and then you begin to drink Bourbon and beer weighing in at 9% in the Tennessee sunshine, it doesn't take long for you to become intoxicated. We had the tunes blaring in the front yard, and eventually wandered over to the neighbours' house to sit at their picnic table they have set up on the front lawn (gotta love Tennessee). We offered Gerry and his wife some beer (they politely declined the Dogfish in favour of a few diet Buds), after which we began talking about travelling. I shit you not, the following conversation ensued:

Gerry: "Y'all 're from Canada... So I guess y'all must do some travellin', huh?"
Me: "Yeah. I actually just got back from Peru..."
Gerry: "Peru, huh?...Yeah, I used to travel all the time with my job... This one time I went to Michigan..."
Gerry's Wife: "Ya know? I just don't understand why people travel... Did you know that there are places in the world where it's NIGHT TIME right now? I mean...Why the hell would you ever want to go somewhere where it's NIGHT TIME right now...? That's just crazy..."

Again: you gotta love Tennessee.

But Gerry and his wife were true sweethearts, and it was great to sit at that picnic table on their front lawn in the fading afternoon sunshine, drinking beers and learning about just how different people can be.

Before we knew it, it was time to pile into the Cadillac of Minivans, road rockets in tow, and to head off to my sister's gig at The Listening Room. To say that the ride over was a little stressful for my sister would be an understatement (a van-full of drunken idiots yelling directions and spilling beer as she drove to her show at which we would surely make complete asshats of ourselves by uttering inappropriate comments at inopportune times...), but we eventually got the The Listening Room in time to scoop the reserved seats that were very obviously not reserved for the likes of us... As a wise man once taught me: walk in like you own the place and nobody will say boo... And yes, it often helps if you are drunk.

Tin Pan South is one of those music festivals; like South by Southwest and The New Orleans Jazz Festival; that I've been dying to get to for quite some time. The venues are always intimate, the talent is top-notch (my parents saw an acoustic set by Hanson the night before... Yeah, that Hanson), and there's that feeling of industry hipster cool surrounding every event that never gets old. And The Round at The Listening Room was no exception on this night.

Lisa McCallum; Michael Logen; Michelle Wright; and Lauren Lucas. There was literally more talent on the stage than anybody knew what to do with.

Some of the supreme highlights included Lisa's renditions of Chip On Her Shoulder, Simple, and Better (I would be lying if I said I didn't have a lump in my throat for the closer). Michael Logen did a beautiful song about his Grandmother (Ocean Floor). Michelle Wright is a Canadian Country Legend, and her presence on stage never ceases to amaze. She truly is the consumate professional. And Lauren Lucas absolutely dominated her guitar, and did a rockin' little tune entitled I'm Ready For A Ring (to which my sister responded, in a fitting piece of foreshadowing: "Amen, sister").

And of course, throughout the set, the beverages kept flowing, meaning that by the time it was all said and done, Ronnie and I were talking fantasy hockey with The Moffatts (a couple of great guys and, by all accounts, phenomenally talented songwriters), and I was carrying around my sister's guitar case in an attempt to impress women... An act not dissimlar to walking around Hollywood and telling people that you're an aspiring actor: in other words, impressing exactly nobody.

From The Listening Room, it was off to 12th and Porter to catch a round which included one of the greatest living songwriters and SeanMcCallum.com favourite, Lori McKenna. Again, drunk and acting like I owned the place, I was able to convince one of the people working the door that this particular web-based forum constituted a legitimate media outlet, meaning that I was allowed in the door before anyone else. Much to my delight, then, when I walked into the bar and found Lori up on stage, doing her soundcheck. I said "Hello", she called for security, and the rest, as they say, is history... OK, she didn't really call for security, but she probably wanted to, wondering, as I was, how this idiot managed to creep his way into her soundcheck.

In any event, I grabbed the best barstool in the joint and began ordering White Lightning's and Velvet Elvis's like they were going out of style while awaiting the arrival of the rest of my drunken coterie... When the great unwashed were finally granted access, the place filled up almost instantly, as you might well expect.

This particular round included Lori McKenna; Grammy Award winner Chris Tompkins (Country Song of The Year for Before He Cheats); Liz Rose; and Jesse Walker. You'll have to forgive me if my memory is a little hazy on this one, but here is what I recall from this particular show:

Snapping a shot of the greatest photobomb in the history of mankind; Little Buddy and Jess not getting into the show and instead deciding to go barhopping on Broadway; being told to shhhhh on multiple occasions; having Ronnie and TVB not willing to shhhhh-themselves and instead choosing to go back to the Cadillac of Minivans for a wee nap; inducing a variety of Electrical Storms and variations on the form for anyone within 50 feet of me; buying Jagerbombs for the bartenders because I was "on vacation"; answering the question: "Tell me what this tastes like" with "That tastes just like a VELVET ELVIS" to the shock and amusement of everyone involved; being absolutely blown away by Lori McKenna; laughing my ass off at Tompkins' raucous piano version of Before He Cheats; having my sister and Steph request Make Every Word Hurt; Lori McKenna playing a heartbreaking version of Make Every Word Hurt; at the conclusion of Make Every Word Hurt, having my sister turn to me with tears in her eyes, saying "I cried through that entire song", the announcing of which apparently roused my dad from his momentary slumber as he announced "I slept through that entire song... what just happened?"; buying Lori McKenna a drink and having her accept it, thereby completing one of my lifelong dreams; talking to Lori McKenna after the show and telling her that she was on my Mount Rushmore of Songwriters along with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Waits (still undecided as for whom this was a bigger highlight: her or me); inviting Chris Tompkins back to my sister's place for the "Afterparty" (I term which I clearly use quite liberally); having Chris Tompkins accept on a condition that I'm not at liberty to print; asking for my bar tab and almost having an aneurism upon seeing the total...

Yes, it was one of those nights.

We all piled into the Cadillac of Minivans, and I honestly have no idea how we got home. One can only assume that my saint of a mother was behind the wheel. My dad had left the bar sometime before us, and we found him in the back seat of the van eating sunflower seeds, treating the apholstered floor like it was a little league dugout. By the time we got back to the house, Chris Tompkins was wailing away on my sister's upright piano in one of the most prolific displays of ivory tickling these eyes had ever seen. We would shout out a song, and he would play it. The absolute highlight/lowlight was the following rendition of Thunder Road, which was essentially note perfect on the piano, but bastardized by my family in a way that will probably see us spending eternity in a very warm place:

I can't believe that I messed up the words. The terrible singing voice I can live with. In fact, I take a certain masochistic pride in the disparity between my horrific pipes and the angelic ones of my sister. But screwing up the lyrics to one of the 10 greatest songs ever written is simply indefensible. I blame it on the Velvet Elvi.

I don't even recall what happened after that. I think I fell asleep on the couch with Bubba licking my face. By all accounts, it was the perfect conclusion to a perfect conclusion to Tin Pan South.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Friday Diversion

After a two week hiatus, the Diversion is back with a vengeance. Feel free to print some of these out and leave them on your boss's desk so he won't notice the fact that you've ducked out for a 3-Martini lunch on some hopping mad Queen Street patio as you soak in the sweet sunshine of the first spring-like Friday afternoon of the year. As always, here is some of the best reading I've come across over the course of the past... well... awhile.

Guy Walks Into a Bar Car
By David Sedaris

I have yet to come across anything by David Sedaris that doesn't make me laugh. Quite simply: he rules. Here is his tale of a chance encounter in the smokey bar car of a train taking him back home after breaking up with his boyfriend. Good times all around.

Economy Vs. Environment
By David Owen

Owen (author of Green Manhattan, one of my favourite pieces to ever appear in The New Yorker) uses Canada and the Kyoto Protocal to explain how the greatest threat to the environment, as always, is prosperity:

The explanation for Canada’s difficulties isn’t complicated: the world’s principal source of man-made greenhouse gases has always been prosperity. The recession makes that relationship easy to see: shuttered factories don’t spew carbon dioxide; the unemployed drive fewer miles and turn down their furnaces, air-conditioners, and swimming-pool heaters; struggling corporations and families cut back on air travel; even affluent people buy less throwaway junk. Gasoline consumption in the United States fell almost six per cent in 2008. That was the result not of a sudden greening of the American consciousness but of the rapid rise in the price of oil during the first half of the year, followed by the full efflorescence of the current economic mess.

Coming Down To Earth: Barack Obama's Progress

The Economist takes a look at the first two months of the Obama Presidency.

Thanks to Browner for the link.

George Brett Shits His Pants
By George Brett

This video clip (NSFW language) is good on so many levels. The story itself, segwaying into an even better one. His readily admitting that he's good for that "at least twice a year". The guys inching away from him throughout the entire ordeal because they're genuinely disgusted and don't want to hear another word but aren't in a position to say anything about it because he's George F'ing Brett... But my favourite part has to be the end, after the 13-time All-Star has just finished describing in the most graphic detail imaginable his previous adventures in loose-bowel-mishaps, when he concludes by asking matter-of-factly: "Who's the pitchers in this game?"

That's what makes a true Hall of Famer.

Thanks to DJ Smitty for the link.

Glory Days: A History of The Horseshoe Tavern

I came across this one afternoon and found it fascinating. If you've ever seen a legendary show at the legendary Tavern, you owe it to yourself to know the history.

T.O.'s Best Brunch
By Steven Davey

A look at Toronto's best places to nurse your hangover, catalogued according to 'hood. SeanMcCallum.com highly recommends Aunties and Uncles at Lippincott and College, and The Get Real Cafe at 135 Ossington for the vegan in you. For the best cup of coffee in town, check out Cherry Bomb at 79 Roncesvalles Ave. (about a block north of Queen)

The YouTube clip of the week comes from TS in the 705, and it isn't even a YouTube clip at all. Instead, it's a CNN piece that highlights the various ways in which it is perfectly acceptable to be involved in a Bromance. Who knew that Guyland would be going mainstream so soon?

Click HERE for the clip.

For the complete history of Bromances, check out The Sports Guy's latest Mailbag, in which he tackles the following subject:

Q: Do you think the relationship between Rocky and Apollo could be considered the original bromance?-- Kevin McB, Oakland, N.J.

SG: No way. The original bromance was Lewis and Clark. I'd break down the others like this: Costanza and Seinfeld (funniest); Norm and Cliff (second funniest); Diggler and Rothchild (third funniest); Borat and Azamat (grossest); O.J. and A.C. (most controversial); the Rat Pack (most influential); Kimmel and Carolla (drunkest); Puffy and Biggie after Biggie died (most shameless); Flintstone and Rubble (best animated); Mike and the Mad Dog (most tragic); Kurt Warner and Jesus (most inspirational); Jules and Vincent Vega (most violently entertaining); McEnroe and Fleming (most one-sided); Kobe and Shaq (most destructive); Lincoln and Derickson (most suspicious); Damon and Affleck (wealthiest); Tom and Jerry (most psychotic); Cagney and Lacey (just kidding); Michael Jackson and Emmanuel Lewis (openly creepiest); Bob Crane and John Carpenter (secretly creepiest); Spade and Farley (best one-time chemistry that couldn't be recreated, even by them); King and Favre (most gushing); Lennon and McCartney (most successful); Parker and Stone (most creative); A-Rod and Jeter (most contrived); Clapton and Harrison (biggest backstab); Chuck D and Flava Flav (most unlikely); Siegfried and Roy (best romance bromance); McConaughey and Armstrong (most appearances without a shirt); Bauer and Almeida (most exciting); Wilbon and Kornheiser (most reliable); De Niro and Pesci (best mafia); Redford and Newman (coolest); Simon and Garfunkel, Malone and Stockton, Madden and Summerall (tie for "best fit"); Scottie and Michael (most titles); Hanks and Scolari (biggest disparity of talent); Rocky and Apollo, Daniel-San and Miyagi, Buck and Aikman (tie for "most uncomfortable"); Clooney and Pitt (most overrated); Kirk and Spock, Tango and Cash (tie for "most unintentional comedy"); McNulty and Bunk, Big Papi and Manny (tie for "most underrated"); T-Mac and Vince (least likable); Felix and Oscar (best contrast); and Red and Andy (the greatest bromance ever), with Red and Andy's beach hug in Mexico doubling as the single greatest bromance moment. Thank you and please drive through.

Playing for Change - Stand By Me

It is no secret that I'm a sucker for cover tunes. In fact, I have long been considering writing a definitieve All Time Top-10 Cover Tunes blog entry. Apathy and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned procrastination have prevented that particular entry; along with about a thousand other potential Pulitzer-worthy pieces; from seeing the light of day. But rest assured, when that little piece of uninformed opinion is finally put together, there is a very good chance that this rendition of the Ben E. King masterpiece will make the cut.

Not only is Stand By Me one of the 25 most beautiful songs ever written and the title of the greatest movie of all-time, but it was also the first dance at my buddy Foley's wedding this past summer. Those are dangerous waters to tread, to say the least. But even with the justifiably daunting and impossible-to-top history of the original, this version somehow managed to give me chills. Just a brilliant rendition.

Thanks to Deeve for the link.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Toronto's Proposed Green Roof By-Law

There's no doubt that the blog has sucked for the past two weeks. My most sincere apologies. Let's just say that the combination of a family vacation and the responsibilities that occassionally arise from having what some might consider to be a "real job" don't exactly make for ideal blogging conditions.

How to get back on track? Why not combine the latter with this particular entry, and follow that up with the dysfunctional play-by-play of the former?

Consider this the first step in the triumphant return.

Go Green On Top, or Face $100,000 Fine, City Proposes
By Allison Hanes

Toronto is poised to become the first city in North America to make green roofs mandatory on most new buildings and set standards for their construction.

A city committee yesterday considered a proposed bylaw that would require roofs on new buildings with an area of 5,000 square metres or greater to be 30% to 60% covered by vegetation. The bigger the building, the more planted space it would have to have--otherwise fines of up to $100,000 could be levied.

As drafted, the bylaw would cover mid-to high-rise condos, retail space and office towers, but exempt low-rise, large-scale industrial, nonprofit housing and public buildings such as schools...

To read more, click HERE

Let me begin by saying that I've been actively involved in the drafting of this proposed by-law, sitting on various consultation committees and offering my opinions to both members of City Council and those involved with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. And the fact that the City of Toronto is taking the required steps to move forward with this revolutionary by-law (the first such by-law in North America) just reaffirms my belief that I truly do live in the greatest city in the world. But by no means is this by-law the panacea for all of our city's various environmental ills. The fact is, this particular by-law has a loooooong way to go, and it leaves a great deal to be desired.

Is it a step in the right direction? Unquestionably. But it needs to have more than a few details ironed out, and it needs to have it's proverbial bar raised more than a few notches if it hopes to have any kind of appreciable impact.

You'll find below a copy of the letter I recently sent to Steven Peck, President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. It maps out the specific areas where I believe the by-law needs to be improved. Most of you probably won't care about the specifics, but for those looking to be able to speak intelligently about the by-law's shortcomings, here are your coles notes:

(To see the Draft By-Law, click HERE)

As a resident of Toronto and a firm believer in the benefits of vegetated roof assemblies, particularly in densely populated urban areas, I believe that it is of the utmost importance that, where green roofs are concerned, they need to be done right. That is to say, that they need to be specified with the aims of long-term sustainability and long-lasting durability in mind. Because in my opinion, the worst possible outcome for the green roof industry as a whole is to have institutions, businesses, and individuals sinking money into poorly designed and installed vegetated roof assemblies, resulting in inevitable failures that will invariably tarnish and damage what could otherwise be a magnificent step in the right direction for this city.

It is with this mindset that I have compiled the following thoughts for your consideration with regards to the City of Toronto's proposed Green Roof By-Law. I hope that you find these to be well informed, and of some use.

Important Considerations:

- Pertaining to Section 2 - Definitions

In Section 2, in defining the waterproofing membrane, the document stipulates that the membrane is the system “that resists hydrostatic pressure”.

I believe it is of the utmost importance that the waterproofing membrane in a vegetated configuration is one that is designed specifically to withstand hydrostatic pressure. In a vegetated configuration, the membrane should be a true waterproofing membrane, and not simply a water-shedding membrane. It is no secret that the membrane in a vegetated configuration will be under ponding water for much of its service life, and the membrane should be designed for these specific conditions (ie, if a membrane’s warranty is customarily voided when the membrane is under water for a period exceeding 48-hours, that particular membrane should not be considered to be in accordance with the Green Roof By-Law Standards for the City of Toronto).

- Pertaining to Section 5 – Waterproofing

When considering the type of membrane in a green roof system, I believe that the best possible system is a membrane in an inverted configuration, as conventional roofing membranes allow for water to saturate the insulation in the event of infiltration. Over a period of time, a minor breach in a conventional membrane will allow moisture to creep over a vast area of the insulation, thereby rendering that insulation ineffective and resulting in massive heating and cooling (energy) losses, eventually resulting in premature failure of the entire vegetated assembly.

I believe that the best possible membrane configuration for a vegetated roofing assembly is a fully adhered waterproofing membrane in an inverted configuration. A fully-adhered, inverted membrane will ensure that, should any water infiltrate the membrane, that water will have nowhere to run (provided that the membrane is fully adhered to a concrete deck). Furthermore, with a membrane in an inverted configuration, there will be no concerns regarding the saturation and subsequent ineffectualness of the poly-iso insulation in the event of a breach in the membrane.

- Pertaining to Section 5.3 – Water Retention

The benefits of stormwater retention in vegetated roof assemblies have been well documented, and I truly believe that there needs to be some kind of minimum standard for vegetated roof assemblies where water retention is concerned. There is little doubting the possible benefits of increased stormwater retention in densely populated, urban areas, and the proposed By-Law’s ignoring of these benefits, in my opinion, shows a true lack of priority and foresight.

- Pertaining to Section 6.1 – Growth Media

I am uncertain as to why the City of Toronto is choosing to follow the FLL Standard where growth media is concerned. By no means am I a Certified Professional Horticulturalist, but in my experiences, I have yet to come across many plant species that thrive more so in rocks and clay than in organic matter.

Furthermore, the FLL Standard growing mediums offer limited benefits with regards to stormwater retention, and in-turn oftentimes require irrigation for the survival of the vegetation over the course of the assembly’s life expectancy; a practice, it should be noted, which essentially goes against every plausible advantage a vegetated roof is supposed to impart.

It should be noted that I believe the City of Toronto’s attempt to implement minimum standards with regards to Vegetated Roof Assemblies is a noble one. I would just prefer that they raise the bar a little higher than they currently have it set, as doing so will benefit us all in the long run.

Sincerely Yours,

Sean McCallum

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

UNC: Franklin Street Celebration

Franklin Street: The Celebration from The Daily Tar Heel on Vimeo.

This is exactly what it was like last year after The Alfredo Griffins brought home their 4th consecutive Consolation Championship, right down to the girl in white dancing on the vandalized street sign.

By the way, can somebody remind me again why I didn't go to school in North Carolina?

Best. Photobomb. Ever.

Tin Pan South details to follow...