Saturday, February 27, 2016

Boom Boom

I started to listen to podcasts in the summer of 2012. I'm not sure why I avoided them, but they became  keen interest of mine very quickly after that. The podcast episode that popped my cherry was an interview with Colt Cabana done by CM Punk for the 100th episode of Cabana's podcast The Art of Wrestling. At the time I was at the peak of Punk markdom, which is what drove me to check it out. I guess I went in expecting a typical interview between the two, but got something completely unexpected in the greatest way. Cabana is a wonderful interviewer and the hour or so episode was instead a fun conversation that showed the close friendship between the two. This wasn't a typical press interview. It was two friends speaking with each other the way that only friends do.

This is what can be so great about podcasts. At their worst, a podcast is a typical interview or a lengthy editorial. At their best, they're an engaging, singular thing that tells you great stories and things you didn't know and completely engrosses you in a small world.

The Art of Wrestling is a conversational podcast in which independent wrestler Colt Cabana hosts a guest and talks about their experience in the world of professional wrestling. I guess it's sort of an interview, but it's very informal and sounds a lot more like two people shooting the shit than an interview. Cabana started it after being let go by WWE as a way to work through losing a job with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, so that is a theme that returns often. It also focuses on what the performers think of their craft, how they got into professional wrestling in the first place and the ups and downs of life on the road. Cabana was early to the podcast game and as a result The Art of Wrestling is the most popular and significant podcast about professional wrestling.

Though the show is obviously made for wrestlers and wrestling fans, it contains amazing life stories that are sometimes funny and sometimes sad. If you aren't into pro wrestling, you might not recognize the names, but you will definitely love the stories. I thought that I would give a few examples of the type of episodes that occur on The Art of Wrestling and what makes them so interesting and special.

Allow Me to "Shoot From the Hip"

Episode 226 CM Punk

This is the most significant episode of the podcast and made a pretty big stir in entertainment news when it was released. In pro wrestling, the terms "shoot" means to speak candidly about backstage goings-on in the pro-wrestling world and break character. This is what's referred to as a "shoot interview", where CM Punk opened up about the various factors that lead to him quitting WWE. WWE seems to be one of the weirdest companies that exists in the world, and Punk tells a ton of ridiculous stories that almost impossible to believe. Due to its nature, The Art of Wrestling is sort of a "shoot" podcast and this episode is the best example of that. It also is also the best representation of a huge story at a particular time in the wrestling  world.

Personal Interest Stories

Episode 138 Tamasso Ciampa, Episode 255 Justin Gabriel

These two episodes are examples of the amazing human interest stories that come out through conversation on the show. Both of the wrestlers open up about struggles they've had in their personal live, Ciampa with mental health and Gabriel's experience growing up in apartheid South Africa. It can be very hard to speak about problems you've had in your life, let alone bringing it up somewhere where it will then be heard by millions of people. Both of these episodes are instances of pro wrestlers making themselves vulnerable and stuff like this is evidence of the great humanizing aspect that is often present in the show. It's crazy the shit that happens in the world.

Wrestling Comedy

Episodes 263-266 Live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Something that Cabana often speaks about in his podcast is his keen interest in stand-up comedy, as it's something that he sort of works into his wrestling. He's created a niche in entertainment that hones in on the intersection of stand-up and wrestling and that crossover is a lot bigger than you might actually think. Every year he records episodes live from the Fringe Stand-Up Comedy Festival in Edinburgh and invites an assortment of wrestlers and comedians up on stage with him. There's an atmosphere of excitement and eagerness that comes across in the recordings which are a non-stop celebrating of the sillier and dumber parts of professional wrestling.

Guys You Wouldn't Like Otherwise 

Episode 206 Mason Ryan, Episode 160 The Miz

I listen to the podcast more or less every week when it comes out on Thursday, which leads me to hearing about guys that A. I don't know anything about to begin with or B. I do know and don't like. Both of these episodes fall into the latter category, as I was familiar with the two of them from seeing them on TV, but thought they were both big-time knobs. However, through both of their interviews the guys come off as fun and endearing when they're just being themselves and relaxed and not all oiled up and serious on TV. Again, this is that great humanizing element that is present on the show. My opinion on a person did a complete 180 in the span of 40 minutes just because someone is being honest and I can relate to that.

Premier Indie Cred

Episode 145 Prince Devitt

Cabana is known as the unofficial "king of the indies" because he has wrestled almost his entire career on the independent wrestling circuit, covering more shitty venues than you can probably imagine. One cool thing about this though is that he has his finger on the pulse of the underground wrestling world and knows about the next big thing well before anyone else does. Case-in-point, this episode. This wrestler is now known as Finn Balor, who seems to be primed to be the next biggest thing in the world and is part of the hottest thing in pro wrestling right now, NXT. This interview takes place well before that, with Cabana singing his praises and telling the listener to watch out, because he knows that, before long, Prince Devitt will be on top of the world. Low and behold, he was right.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Moments From Toronto Ska, 2004-2010: The Last Makeshift Heroes Show

The more I listen to Damian Abraham's podcast Turned Out a Punk, the more it makes me think about the specific music scenes that I've been a part of. These communities are constantly changing, as one scene slowly morphs into another, but certain instances of a few of them are well-defined in my mind and really important to me because of the role they played in turning me into the person I am. While listening to the podcast, I always think about what I would talk about on it if I were a guest and what my favourite memories of going to shows are. Something that would figure into this in a big way is my involvement in the Toronto ska scene during high school, because that is basically the main thing I did.

Through this, I came up with the idea for a series in which I would describe specific shows or events or nights that were significant to me while I was a part of the scene.

So yeah, Moments From Toronto Ska, 2004-2010: Episode 1

There was an obvious first choice for this series, because few things stick out to me as significant to Toronto ska like the break-up of the Makeshift Heroes. "Makeshift" were a really big deal for my friends and I during the later part of high school and were accepted by pretty much every person I knew in the scene as the best local ska band. They were vindicating as a teen-aged ska fan because they were young and poppy ska band, but were clearly in-tune with ska's first wave, which lent them a ton of credibility with genre purists who deride the genre for what it became in the 1990's. They basically played first-wave or "trad" ska, but were great at fitting all the great parts of the genres, complex rhythms, extended horn solos, parts for everybody in a 7 or 8 person band, into a recognizable song structure. Being a bass player, I loved the way that bass parts would sometimes stay constant for the entire song, making them almost like a dub-influenced drone. The baritone saxophone is like a fucking bazooka in this band. They also had a very good lyricist, which isn't the most common in 60's or 70's ska music. Rather than drawing their influence from bands like Reel Big Fish or Operation Ivy like most of their contemporaries, they looked so much further back than that, which was extremely uncommon at the time and really set them apart from almost every band in the scene. It also made for much better music

What is odd about this though, is the band very rarely opened bigger shows, despite headlining loads of local shows. I remember them opening for the seminal first-wave ska band The Skatalites when I was in grade 9 and another time opening for the Planet Smashers, but most tours that came through favoured bands like The Flatliners (remember when The Flatliners were a ska band? To the point that they were in an Expos video?) opening, because they fit better with the sounds of the other bands on the bill.

While together, the band put out two absolutely excellent EPs, Not So Fast! and Last Call, which I would really recommend checking out. You can find them here:


During high school, there was a Toronto ska message board that all of my friends and I posted on called that was the nucleus of the southern Ontario ska scene during that time. Man, remember when posting on message boards was one of the most important parts of your day? I feel like in the grand scheme of things, they'll be forgotten because they were so quickly eclipsed by Myspace and then Facebook, but they were so important to my development as a music fan. 4thWave was my lifeblood in terms finding out about bands and show listings. Almost every show I went to in high school, I found out about through 4thWave. Just like every online community, there were a few bands that were almost universally endorsed on the board. It could just be hindsight, but I think that Makeshift was the definitive 4thWave band. Everyone loved them and eagerly anticipated the next thing they would do.

They were mostly known around Toronto for doing a cover of "Mad World" by Tears for Fears, which is well-known for being covered and included in the movie Donnie Darko. Now that movie is what is, and I feel like a lot of people might look down on it for being a self-important male teenager experiencing existential thoughts for the first time, and Gyllenhal can be a little too much in it, but when I saw it for the first time in high school, it certainly had a profound effect on me and after watching it, it gave me a feeling I hadn't gotten from a movie before. (Honestly, I could certainly do an entire post on Donnie Darko, because it oddly was a huge thing for me at one point in my life. My brother was obsessed with it in university and basically forced me to watch it.)

The Makeshift Heroes covered "Mad World" very shortly after I saw the movie for the first time and I was like "Yo."

The Makeshift Heroes broke up like all bands do. I'm not entirely sure why. University maybe? It didn't seem like there could have been any personal conflicts in the band, but there was no way I could have known. They certainly ended too soon though. On 4thWave, the break-up of the Makeshift Heroes was a pretty major event. It was bittersweet, as up to this point the band had only released one EP, Not So Fast!, and they announced they would release the EP they had been working at their final show. Everyone was pretty bummed about it and in the months leading up their final show, the anticipation got so huge that it essentially became impossible for the show to not be a pivotal event in the scene at the time. The only way to get the new EP, which was eagerly anticipated by fucking EVERYONE at the time was to go to the show. As a ska fan in the city at the time, you felt like it was imperative that you were there. My friend Erik, who drummed in both of my high school bands, asked me in advance to pick him up a copy of the EP because he knew he wouldn't be able to make.

The final show took place near the end of August of 2006 at The Funhaus, which was an amazing all-ages punk venue in Toronto that isn't active anymore. I know that Buda Funk Munk and the Cheap Suits opened, but I can't remember what other bands from the local Toronto scene played this show. Added bonus, before this show was the first time that I had Taco Bell, starting a lifelong romance.

The show had a weird energy, as all farewell shows do, because nobody really wanted it to happen. Everybody there is at the same time very excited because they know that they're at a show of some social importance, that in the future you'll be able to say "I was at the last ____ show", but at the same time, you know that it means the end of something you really like. Every band who played shared stories about how much the band meant to them and how much they would miss them.

I think that both Makeshift Heroes EPs do an excellent job of showcasing the amazing musicianship that went on in their music. Everyone there knew that they would play a long set and Makeshift absolutely delivered. I'm fairly sure that they played all of the songs off each release, as well as a myriad of old ska covers, including "Shame and Scandal" by and "Confucius" by the Skatalites and, of course, "Mad World". The set was everything that everyone had hoped it would be and by the end of the show the venue was a sweaty mess from everybody dancing.

When the band's set ended, all of the kids spilled out on to the street in a emotional mob. As Pat, Parks, Haleigh and I (I think that's who I was with? I can't be sure) were getting ready to leave a kid near us said

"The ska scene died tonight."

At the time, we all dismissed as hyperbole that was tied up in the emotion of the moment, but in hindsight he kind of bang-on. Not so much that the scene is dead, as I'm sure it still exists in some form, but it was certainly the death of the specific scene that I was involved in.

When that school year started, some friends and I started a band called The Pragmatics that heavily indebted to the Makeshift Heroes, to the point that we threw around the idea of including a Makeshift cover in our set, like four months after the band had broken up.

The last Makeshift Heroes show is a huge deal for me because it closes a specific time in my life where I was a teenager in Toronto and really involved with ska music. It happened near the end of high school, so not long after I was moving away to Guelph. It's not as if I stopped listening to ska and going to shows after it happened, but I started to listen to a lot of different music, got into hardcore and metal.

I can still remember the way the street looked that night, how my sweaty shirt felt sticking to my skin and the weird ethereal "that just happened" feeling all of my friends and I felt taking the subway east that night.

I guess that the cool thing about being into ska or punk or metal or rap or house or whatever the fuck you're into is that something as small as a local band breaking up can bring up these huge ideas in your mind and that is where the importance being involved in and caring about things lies. I guess my final, overblown sentiment that I'll leave you with is:

Give yourself over to something. Make something. Do something.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Na Na Na Na, Simulation

Yesterday was the official day that Toronto Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Dunedin, Florida. The day itself doesn't mean all that much, as actual Spring Training games, which is the first baseball you get to see as fan since the previous year's World Series, are still a ways away and many of the players have actually already been in Florida preparing for the season for a month or so already. At one time, Spring Training was actually the time that a player would use to get in shape for the upcoming season, and as such the time was a beacon of hope in a cold winter for baseball fans, but that has passed. Athletes are now finely tuned machines who work on themselves for the entire year and they don't rely on a month of sit-ups to get ready for their jobs anymore.

But baseball is a sport that has its feet firmly entrenched in tradition, so even though Spring Training, and to a lesser extent "Pitchers and Catchers", doesn't serve the same preparatory service that it used to, it still serves the same purpose in the hearts of baseball fans. Spring Training is more an ethereal "baseball is coming" feeling than anything else.

It also means that the 2015/16 off-season is officially over. As a Blue Jays fan, this was certainly one of the oddest off-seasons in memory. 2012/13 was weird because the Jays had never made a move like the Miami trade and at the time the feelings of optimism and confidence were SO WEIRD for Jays fans. This off-season was weird for the complete opposite reason, as there was a load of pissing and moaning from Toronto fans and media alike.

What's odd about all of this pissing and moaning is that it was rooted in the team winning the previous season. No, the team did not win the World Series, but they won the division, won the ALDS in dramatic fashion, and, in the words of my dad, for intents and purposes the ALCS served as the "World Series". I am, of course, biased in this, but I am sure that most baseball fans remember more moments from the see-saw, six-game Championship series than the five-game World Series.

By all accounts, this was one of the best Jays seasons ever. It is a time in my life I will never forget. Watching games by myself on a balcony in Guelph. The sweep in New York. Explaining Josh Donaldson to my girlfriend. Explaining to my friends that "I kind of have to go" to watch David Price's first start in my office and them saying "I'm surprised you're still here". Staring in disbelief as they clinched. Standing nervously in the nosebleeds during a heart-breaker in game 2. Standing, mouth-agape being showered with beer in game 5. What may be the best moment of my life. This is more than sports. These are important memories.

Then Alex left. Price left. This was somehow enough for the fanbase to completely turn on the team, but more specifically the team's ownership.

I don't think I can remember a Blue Jays off-season with this much pissing and moaning. I assumed that a lot of this was due to the Jays picking up a lot of fairweather fans through their playoff run. I figured this would happen, but the huge bandwagon was really new to me. I'm totally fine with a lot of people starting to come to games and most of them not really knowing what's going on, but I was not prepared for the inherent awfulness of most Toronto sports fans. I guess that since the Maple Leafs are in the midst of a hard rebuild, a lot of people shifted over to baseball and brought their shittiness and negativity and entitlement and lack of logic with them. The Toronto sports media is this odd little environment that focuses on a few little things so much that it ruins almost everything else.

The first target of these fans and the Toronto sports media, which is just as bad and knee-jerk, was the new team president Mark Shapiro. Most of this is just because he's not Alex Anthopoulos. It kind of reminds of the HBO series Show Me a Hero that I've been watching lately, where a leader is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course David Price wasn't going to stay. The Boston Red Sox are paying him $ 31000000 PER SEASON for fuck's sake. Do you want Josh Donaldson here? Do you want Jose Bautista here? Do you want Edwin Encarnacion here? For even one of them to stay, Price had to go.

What's interesting about Shapiro is that, unlike Anthopoulos, he is incredibly candid about his decisions and is completely comfortable playing the bad guy. In professional wrestling, the character who is supposed to be the villain is referred to as "the heel". This doesn't just consist of "doing bad things", it's more "doesn't care about their reception/reputation and will do whatever they have to". And this is Shapiro. His first major move of the off-season was giving Marco Estrada a qualifying offer, which kind of forced him to re-sign with the Jays and then he followed this by signing J.A. Happ. In the minds of misinformed  Jays fans who don't consider bigger-picture, these were somehow moves towards a rebuild, of all things, because they didn't match the huge splash moves made by Alex Anthopoulos during the season.

And this is true. Signing two guys who are, in all honesty, number-3 starters, is not the same as trading for one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball. But in November, Shapiro was faced with TWO of his starting pitchers returning and he had to fill out the team. The moves aren't as sexy as the mid-season moves, but they are equally as important to the team, to be sure. Instead of trying to spin every move to make it sound like the Jays are ahead of the curve or playing towards something bigger, Shapiro is straight-up. He said that they had to make the moves to fill up the team and its minor league roster after Anthopoulos did a number on them. He said that they can't just go out and spend millions of dollars just because the fans want to have the same team as last year. Shapiro just seems to not care what you have to say.

This is very new for Blue Jays fans. Shapiro doesn't care about marketing the Jays as Canada's team or playing up '92/'93 fanservice. He is clearly here to run the team his way.

This is reflected in a trade that almost happened last night, sending Michael Saunders as part of a three-team deal to receive outfielder Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds. In the relatively small social sphere of Blue Jays twitter, which consists of the, for lack of a better term, "smart" fans, everyone hated the trade and was confused by it. Nobody wanted Jay Bruce. I was very confused by it and kind of frustrated. When I reflected on the last few years of Blue Jays transactions, I couldn't really think about any specific deal that I didn't like or didn't understand the logic of. Maybe I just had grown accustomed to having a smart GM. Or maybe I was just more comfortable with Alex Anthopoulos.

What I realized though, is that I'm just going to have to get used to it. Mark Shapiro is going to do what he's going to do. Even though I would like to act like I am perfectly in-tune with the baseball world through my daily reading of stories, stats and blogs, Mark Shapiro knows much more about baseball than me. Any fretting I do over how things are going to work out, before the season even starts, is pretty silly.

I suppose I should just sit back and enjoy the pictures of baseball players practicing infield drills in shorts because that does a lot more for my head than fretting over the Jays employing a player with bad stats when that didn't even happen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It's a Zany Action, A Crazy Contraption

I have had a few larger writing projects on the go for a while now. The most obvious one is my thesis, which I am almost done with. It has been my main project for the last two years of my life and I am so happy that I've nearly finished it.

I have two other things that I've passively worked on over the last few years on as well. I'm not really sure how to classify them. I will admit that I have tried (maybe 'started' would be a better term) to write a few novels. One was a teen coming-of-age story I started writing after a break-up. Guess what that one was about. Another was about a minor league baseball player being called up to the Major Leagues. It was AWFUL.

I have two that I'm reasonably happy with. It's not that I've put a ton of work into them or that they're even close to being done, but that I still think the main idea behind them is pretty good. One is a Sci-Fi serial called Hands in Space and the other is called The Waterpark.

Many of my friends enjoy my stories that I tell about my old summer job and Party Pat in particular encouraged me to write them down. I did just that. I wouldn't say it's a novel at all in its current state, as it's just a collection of stories that might not be completely true, but are 100% based on real happenings.

With that, I present you with one of my stories from this thing:

Mouse Trap

The main reason I could get away with so much shit was my friendship with my supervisors, specifically George, and specifically because we smoked weed together regularly at and out of work.

One morning the two of us were opening the park; him being the supervisor and me being the head guard. Once we sorted everyone out and got the day started, we quietly snuck out for a wake ‘n bake behind one of the slides. We powered through a little joint and came back to a few of the employees waiting for us in a group.

“George, Ken, there’s a mouse on the slide.”

We both groaned internally.

Every day when you are an attendant and opening one of the slides, you are supposed to walk down it to make sure that there is no debris on the slide, since that could damage the slide when it was turned on. Or something? I guess? I never walked down the slide a single time in my four years of working there and while I’m sure a few sticklers did over the years, almost all the other employees didn’t bother either. There’s always a few duties you’re “supposed to do” at a job, but you just “don’t”, and this was one of them.

On this particular day though, the attendant did choose to walk down the slide and had apparently found a mouse on the slide. So, George and I had to do our compassionate duty and go and get the mouse off of the slide so that we could finish opening the park. While both high. And nobody knew that we were high.

We climbed up to the top of Rush River and started descending the long slide, keeping our eyes peeled for the mouse. I must admit, it felt a little surreal walking down a giant teal turned-off water slide at 8:30 in the morning while high.

We eventually spotted the mouse about halfway down the slide. To catch it, we had brought a dustpan with us, a big one like this, and our plan was to have one of us chase the mouse so that it would run right into the dustpan, held by the other person. Simple.

But we were high.

This proved to be much more difficult than we thought, because the mouse was very small and very quick and the slide was very big and we were very high. What we initially thought would take about five minutes was quickly moving pasts twenty. We were slightly worried that we wouldn’t catch the mouse in time for the park to open, but were honestly much more concerned with this mouse getting the best of us in our morning haze. A mouse can't beat us, that would be embarrassing.

We switched strategies a few times, exchanged multiple “Fuck this mouse”s, but were finally able to catch it in our dustpan. We shared a few glorious high-fives and cheers and descended the slide’s stairwell feeling like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum walking across the desert at the end of Independence Day, a feeling which was surely unique to us.

We let the mouse go into a bush and then went to turn on the park. The day started normally, with the two of us chuckling to each other all the while. For the other employees this must have just been a minor nuisance at the start of a regular work day during a regular work week, but for me it was a very funny morning and something that I consider one of my fondest bonding experiences at the waterpark.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hard on You

I sure hope that people find the occasions when grammar and syntax just fucking fall off of a cliff here at IMU charming, because it happens so much that it has become a defining characteristic of the blog, much to my dismay.

Maybe I'll just try to own it, as we all should with all of our defeats.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Lukewarm Coffee Tastes Like Soap

For a long time in my early twenties, I prided myself on maintaining a positive outlook on life because I thought that it helped me make the best of any situation and be more enjoyable to be around. I guess it's also easier to be a more positive person when you are still in school and your biggest problems amount to an essay being due soon or wondering if you'll get the balls to ask out the girl you have a crush on. As much as you might try to be aware of things going on around you and try to maintain a somewhat decent worldview, there's just tons of things you've never experienced and can't relate to for that reason.

Lately I find myself getting really angry at people, things, and the world a lot more often. It's not even something supremely fucked up like the Jian Ghomeshi trial or the West's response to terrorism, I'm just slowly starting to find the world to be this fucked up, unfix-able place and everyone is stupid.  There just seems to be this never-ending of one-upsmanship and bragging and ego and stupidity. I recognize that me saying this kind of constitutes taking part in that, but how else am I to say it?

Not every day is like this. Most days are not like this. I feel like most days I'm able to maintain a good mood. I suppose that increased cynicism is something that develops as you get older. I don't want to be pissed. I don't want to hate most of what I see, but I fucking do.

I generally get sad, restless, and frustrated in the winter, but I wouldn't say that it's to the extent that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so maybe it's that. I try to put up with winter as long as possible, but by February I'm inevitably fed up with it and can no longer cope. Maybe I need baseball to start so that it can serve as a distraction. Maybe I'm directing anger about my dog dying towards this. Who fucking knows.


Whenever I get really into an album, I get scared that I might "over-play" it and ruin it. I try to temper my playing of it with breaks. I always end up wondering why I'm listening to in its place doesn't sound quite right, then when I end up going back to whatever record is dominating my listening habits, I realize that nothing else really sounds right at that time.

The album that is currently doing this for me is Fallow by the Weakerthans. I always thought that Left and Leaving was their best output, but feel like a fool for saying that now. Fallow is generally the least-cited among fans and doesn't have any of the "hits" like their later records do, but lord is ever wonderful. There's a sense of youthful yearning, loss, and complacency on every song and I find this extremely relatable at the moment.

Writing all of this out kind of made me feel a little better. Maybe writing more is what I need to squeeze all of these feelings out of myself.

I'll leave you with this great song:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Desperate to Hear You Make the Sound That You Found for Me

My family got a Border Collie when I was in grade 6. We named him Jack, after the Canadian painters Jack Bush and Jack Chambers.

That's me holding him the day we picked him up.

Though he was officially a "family" dog, everyone will admit that he is completely my dad's animal. Dad took him to work with him every day. Took him on hour long walks every morning and basically spent every waking hour with Jack. Jack loves him. He'll just walk all over the house a foot behind my dad, looking up hopefully at him for a command or something to do, because even though he spent his whole life in Scarborough, he never lost the Collie instincts that are bred into him. He would growl any time anyone came close to my dad, because in his mind there was no person on earth who was more important than my father.

While Jack was a puppy, his crate was kept in my room, so he slept with me. Like most puppies, he was a shit-disturber, so I would often wake up to the little white tip of his tail bouncing around the foot of my bed because he was finding something to either chew or shit on. I loved him for that. I still love him for that.

I like to think that because of the time we spent together in Jack's childhood/adolescence (hey, they grow up fast) we have a very special bond. A sort of unspoken "you're my second favourite" type of thing. I'm not sure if it's true in his mind, but it's definitely true in mine.

Jack is now 14 years old, which is already older than most Border Collies live to. My dad took good care of both dogs, (we got another one named Trixie when I was in grade 11) so they were very healthy, athletic, and smart for their most of their lives, but age has caught up with them and now they mostly lie around and sleep.

Jack in particular has really slowed down. He doesn't jump into the bed of the pickup or run full tilt chasing frisbees anymore. All of his legs are in pretty bad shape from jumping and running so much in his youth and he has a lot of trouble going up and down stairs now. Whereas he used to stand next to you and move his head under your hand for a pat, now he lies down whenever he can.

This past summer a huge growth started on one of Jack's back legs. I was in Guelph, but my family told me that he had been chewing on it a bunch, which seemed uncharacteristic. He was getting old, now being past the point that most of his breed dies, but I never seriously considered his death because he had always been so healthy and smart.

My parents were at church one morning, when my sister woke up to barking and yelping from downstairs. When she got to the kitchen, she found Jack in the middle floor, the growth burst open and bleeding and unable to move. She called Dad right away and he rushed home. My dad, normally jovial and level-headed, picked up Jack, sat with him on the couch and cried. I have never seen my dad cry and I believe that this was my sister's first time.

My sister drove over to the church to pick up my mom, since my dad had taken the car. On her way there, she had to pull over because she was crying so hard that she couldn't see.

My mom came home and they took Jack to the vet where they found out that the growth was a tumor. Jack was scheduled to have surgery. About a week or so later, my sister and dad took him and he had a successful operation. The vet kept the tumor to test it. Jack came home woozy from the anesthesia and had trouble getting around. My dad plopped him on the couch and Trixie came over to give him kisses. Hearing that twisted my heart into funny shapes.

We found out about a week later that the tumor was malignant. The vet said that they had gotten the entire tumor off of his leg and taken some skin around it just to be safe, so we could be optimistic.

To be honest, it is hard to be optimistic when your 14 year-old dog gets surgery done on a malignant tumor.

Jack seemed better and more energetic after the surgery, but still was moving around at a snail's pace. He started falling over sometimes on walks. One morning while he was out with my dad, he just wondered off and seemed to forget where he was and get lost. He started barking at random times for seemingly no reason. His nose is constantly a dry, scabby mess.

When I came home on Monday, I was petting Jack in the basement when my dad came to talk to me. He mentioned that Jack had been doing badly lately and falling over more. Jack started chewing on his leg a little bit and my dad showed my three small new tumors on the same leg where the old one had been.

I went upstairs, put on Fallow by the Weakerthans and cried. I cried yesterday too. I cried this morning.

Jack is dying right in front of me.

At this point, I suppose all I can do is try to make the most of the rest of my time with Jack. Jack is my first pet, so I've never had a pet die before. I don't know how to deal with this. Jack is one of my best friends. It feels like I'm going to lose an arm, but I don't know when it will happen. It's this giant, awful, black "thing" that is coming and can't be stopped. It looms over me. What makes it even worse is that Jack doesn't understand what's going on. He doesn't understand "cancer" the way he understands "Do you want to go to the lake?"

Whenever I was feeling shitty, Jack had a habit of coming over and putting his head on my lap, looking up into my eyes. It always made me feel a lot better and forget about whatever was plaguing my mind at that moment.

That is the way I will remember Jack.