If I Die Young…

Often when I’m driving around Calgary, I find myself “accidentally” tuning into (pre-programmed) Hot Country 105 FM. Yesterday, a song came on that struck me. I had to go home and Google it to make sure I heard it correctly. The band is called “The Band Perry”. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re great. And too cute for words; I could figuratively chew the faces off all three band members. And it really is a beautiful song. What got me was the chorus:

If I die young, bury me in satin,
Lay me down on a bed of roses,
Sink me in the river at dawn;
Send me away with the words of a love song.

Beautiful.

But I guess I was in a pretty pragmatic mood when I first heard it. Sure, had this song struck me during an illogical/romantic mood, I would have (while poorly singing along through a contorted, ugly-cry face), thought, “ahwmmagawd, yes, bury me in satin… awwgawd, *cry-choke-cough* yes, on a bed of wild, wild roses…ugh, of course, only at dawn…to the words of a love song… Ahwmmagawd, my death is going to be so beautiful…” [Ugly-cry face.]

But no. I was feelin’ pretty logical. I still am.

I’m pretty confident that when the lead singer’s parents first heard the song, their initial reaction of pride and affection was whisked swiftly away and replaced by sheer horror. Not just at the thought of their daughter’s hypothetical, untimely passing (though that would be part of it, no doubt), but of her lavish posthumous demands.

A few weeks ago I was clearly going through a “how-can-I-make-my-room-look-more-like-a-porn-set?” phase and bought red, satin sheets (made from the purest of shiny polyesters claiming to be satin) from Walmart. They were on sale for $40. Perfectly acceptable. Had The Band Perry requested to be buried in Royal Opulence “Satin” Sheets from Walmart? Reasonable. Unfortunately, it just comes with too many syllables and minimal romantic value. Real satin? That’s gonna cost their mourning folks a pretty penny.

[I’m gonna be honest, I just did a brief Google search and its results are not really reinforcing my argument. I think there must be a lot of sales on right now.]

Point is, you’re dead (God rest your soul). It couldn’t possibly matter what you are buried in. Could it? If it’s a religious thing, does your God really care how adorned you are in fancy fabrics, jewels and floral arrangements?

[He/She does? Oh, well…carry on, I guess.]

And if it’s just a superficial thing… Come on. Your dead.

[God rest your soul.]

And roses. They’re not cheap. Even just the one is gonna make you break a $10. So a whole bed of them? Shit. Once again, “lay me down in paper roses from Leisure World”? Death-management on a budget.

And it wasn’t even just the financial unfeasibility thing that got me about the song. It was imagining the whole production they’re requesting.

Don’t picture it poetically. Picture it literally…

You’re dead. Your buddies wrap you in Royal Opulence “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Satin” satin sheets and hope that your spirit doesn’t haunt them for their thrifty deception. Then, I don’t know, your folks remortgage the house to afford to strap you to your rose-laden bed. That’s sad. Then what was it? Oh right, “sink you in a river”. Just imagine the moment, the silent exchange of glances when your family and friends have to carry your satin swaddled, florally furbished body down to a river. Being from western Newfoundland, I picture this being the Humber River somewhere between Steadybrook and Corner Brook. And I guess, then, the blast off point would have to be where several other half-cut folks are setting off with their Blue Star cans for a tube ride; accessibility of the spot and all. Which sets the whole scene up for a mixed mood.

Then, I imagine, weighting you would be somewhat awkward. Knowing your family’s luck thus far since your death (God rest your soul) they’ve managed to concoct a perfectly buoyant raft of a rose-bed casket. Awkward. The tubing kids have now turned down their Pearl Jam beats to “casually” watch what’s about to go down.

[This is so much better then a tube-ride rub-down from your hot new girlfriend!]

So, I don’t know, I guess your loved ones drop large rocks onto your bed of roses until it sinks or overturns or causes them so much discomfort that they just walk away and hope for the best. But not before one of your buddies quickly reviews your “request list” and realizes one of your wishes has yet to be satisfied. Ah yes, the words of a love song. Just what your devastated, river-soaked loved ones want to be busting out at this point.

With noble desperation, your buddy belts out the first thing that comes to mind. And so the last words of “I Want to Know What Love is” by Foreigner fill the autumn air as your half submerged, Royally Opulent body makes its way to the end of the river. To settle just behind the Corner Brook paper mill.

You should have thought this through.

So I’ve taken the liberty of re-writing The Band Perry’s well intended will/song. I hope that this will bring my own loved ones some guilt-free solace should I prematurely kick the salt-beef bucket.

[The great thing is, it’s totally on pitch and sounds nothing like Kermit She-Frog with laryngitis.]

You’re welcome. Please feel free to sing along.

[Note: Mom, put the arrow over the title and click the left mouse button once. No, that was twice. Now you’ve opened it twice. Just the once. Great. Love you.]

If I Die Young (HOAR Remix)

If I die young, wrap me up in burlap
Take me down by your uncle’s cabin
Chill and have a campfire and beer
I’ll be fine waiting in the shed, here.

Uh oh, uh oh

Lord we’re out of red wine
And where the hell is mudder?
She’s leading quite the sing-along
Around the blazin fire; ohh yeah.
No point in dwelling on the fact that I am dead, no,
It’s almost dusk you should be ordering the pizzas.

A sharp knife, cuts a mean slice.
Well, who’s turn is it to get ice?

If I die young, do not grieve the departed,
Laugh about funny words like “sharted”,
Sure I’m in a tool shed
But my soul is drinking wine and jumping on the guest bed

A sharp knife, cuts a mean slice
Well, who’s turn is it to get ice?

And I’ll be fuckin’ nude
when they stuff me in the oven
It might be super sweet if you act like we’re a coven, I’ve
Always felt like Jacob was the man but
I picture, when I’m dead, Edward’s holding my hand. Stuff me

in your mom’s vase when I’m burned down to the ashes.
Bet I made you smile when I said “stuff me in your mom”
Yeah!

A sharp knife, cuts a mean slice.
Fuck tears, that my dead advice.

So wear what you’re wearing and gather my vase,
Don’t think that this party’s done

A-sprinkle in the bay – oh no, you say that there’s a bylaw –
Then a lake or a ditch or a hole shaped like a bear-paw, and
maybe you’ll re-read this blog that I’ve been running.
I hope that when I’m dead, my posts are way more funny.

If I die young, be sure to take some pictures,
If you can post them on this blog,
Laugh about what I’d say if I could write a post
from inside your mom’s vase.

Uh oh,
“The Ballad from a Vase”,
Best blog post in days.
Gather up your beers, keep this party bumpin’,
Kick it old school with Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”,
Oh

A sharp knife, cuts a mean slice; Plus,
bring skates if the pond’s ice.

So wear what you’re wearing
And gather my vase.

Love,

Your (hypothetically) dead HOAR

Graphically Speaking, My Life is Awesome

My sister Jennifer (you’ve met her; she makes dick pancakes) is currently enrolled in about eighteen English courses, each requiring her to read approximately ninety-two books. It’s crazy. And somehow she’s managing to ace them all while being a mom. Nuts, b’y. Anyway, she got really into one such course; it picked her up and wrung from her every ounce of inner-nerd she’d been suppressing for years with its introduction of the “graphic novel” into her life. Armed with ignorance, I teased her mercilessly. She insisted that I needed to read one particular graphic novel, Fun Home, by Allison Bechdel – an autobiographical account of Ms. Bechdel’s life from childhood, chronicalling her gradual self-discovery and loss of innocence in a series of poignant remembrances of her neurotic family life. With pictures! So I caved. And it was amazing. I love this woman. And I, too, now love the world of graphic novels.
Being a “writer” who sheds light on only the most enlightening feats of introspection…
[I will give you an entire line to finish the eye roll and perhaps take a sip of your beverage.]
…I thought, “Hmmmph, I wonder what a graphic novel of my life would look like! Would it be inspiring? Would it summon suppressed emotions? Wherein would its focus lie? Have I ever really said the word ‘hmmmph’?”
So here I bring you a rough draft of some of the stories of intrigue, romance, passion and self-discovery that will appear in my (unlikely to be written to completion; without hope of publication, unless you count mom getting three copies coil-bound at Staples) own graphic novel, entitled Graphically Speaking, My Life is Awesome.
Chapter 1. Tom-B’y, Whadd’ya At?
My parents have never admitted it outright, but I’m pretty sure after their darling, little, blue-eyed, first-born daughter, they were gunnin’ for a son. Perhaps, unconsciously, I always knew this. Or perhaps, unconsiously, they always treated me as such. Because as a child, I was anything but girly.

During the summer, we were pretty much locked out of the house from dawn till dusk, with the exception of lunch and a snack or two. Whereas I would have been content sitting in my fort in the back-road woods behind our street, Jennifer would constantly recruit me for her brand of feminine fun; a game which she coined, “Ladies, But We’re Friends”.

As children we knew, without question, that grown-ups were friendless bores. Hence, we would play the roles of “ladies” but to actually evoke some sort of action in the playful exchange, we had to be “friends”. It was a clever defiance of adult society as we knew it and, therein, we found the appeal to repeat a seemingly mundane activity for hours on end. In our defence, a game of just “Ladies” in the ‘80’s in small-town Newfoundland would have involved hanging clothes on the line while smoking and wearing Labatt nightshirts in the middle of the day. With rollers in our hair. And we were too young to smoke.]

The Rules of “Ladies But We’re Friends” (for two players):

1. Put your baby dolls in strollers

2. Walk to opposite ends of a fairly long road (twenty houses between players might suffice).

3. Walk toward each other as aloofly as possible. The more nonchalant you appear, the better.

4. As you finally approach one another, make eye-contact, appear only slightly happy to see each other (maintaining that air of grown-up stuffiness) and, in your most lady-like voice, say “oh hiiiii”, and keep walking (even with our youthful imaginations, this was the extent of “friendship” between grown-ups). Continue walking to opposite ends of the road. Turn around. Repeat.

It was far from “my thing” but I was a pretty good sport about it. And ever the good-humored big-sister, Jennifer would always return the favor for her little brosky.

[Note: You’re right. The illustrations do take a significant nose-dive from this point forward.]

Chapter 2. Whitney Hulkston meets Batte(shit) Middler

You know how sometimes you see those really touching commercials or YouTube videos about advice you’d give if you could go back and talk to your younger self, knowing what you know now? They’re pretty sweet.

If I could go back and give my ten-year-old self a pep talk, it would go something like, “You have narcissistic personality disorder. Stop being such an asshole.”

At the time, I just thought I was being helpfully (relentlessly) encouraging (abusive) in suggesting (insisting) that my best friend, Tiffany, do what I thought (knew) was cool (the best and only option that could ever, possibly make sense). But in hindsight, I was a bully. An asshole.

When I was about eleven-years-old I got an old-school karaoke set for Christmas which included two bonus casette singles: Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” and Bette Middler’s “The Rose”. Perhaps there were more songs, but I only remember those two because they were the ones I sang relentlessly. And, if you asked me, I nailed it. Every time.

Yes, I was that guy who says, “Don’t make me sing…I don’t wanna sing…Don’t make me sing.”. But then as soon as someone reached for the mic, I’d hit play, close my eyes and sway to the intro beats of my upcoming, killer slow-jam.

I would like to think that I have learned to be a bit more accommodating. Still a sucker for karaoke though.

Chapter 3: Hunk o’ Hunk o’ (Razor-) Burnin’ Leg Flesh

So I faint when I see blood. All the time. Your blood, my blood, it don’ matta. If I see it, or even if you describe it in too much detail, here’s what’s going down: I turn gray, break a sweat, my mouth fills with saliva, I do the pre-puke shudder, then I pass out and convulse for several minutes. I know it sounds pretty messed up, but it’s been happening my whole life so I’m used to it. No doubt you would be horrified. But through cracked blue lips I’d just reassure you that I’m about to faint, and instruct you to keep my legs above my heart, slap a cold cloth on my forehead and wait it out. Then I’d assume position and out I’d go.

When I was about fourteen, the water in our house was gone for the evening (maybe a pipe exploded down the road or something?). Anyway, mom worked as an operating room nurse at the hospital, so we drove there this one evening to shower. I was in a small shower stall with a heavy, locked door. I was shaving my legs. It was a shitty pink razor. I knicked my leg.

Yep, I knew immediately. This is happening.

This particular incident was, to date, the most dramatic, convulsive and long-lasting fainting spell I’ve ever had. And there have been a few. As I felt the disgusting wave of nausea wash over me, I knew I’d reached the critical fainting threshold. I was past the point of no return. And being locked in this small, steamy prison, I knew I had to get help fast.

Shhhlump. Blammo. Out.

All mom and Jennifer heard was an incoherent, drunk-man rant and a really loud thump. Mom tried to force the door open, throwing all her (98lb) weight behind it. It took several heaves to finally shove it open against my large, wet, fleshy, dead-weight body.

They pulled me out by my feet. Naked and lifeless. I was unconscious, so I cannot attest to my appearance at the time. But based on their descriptions, one can only surmise that I looked not totally unlike this:

The story doesn’t go much further. It simply illustrates a moment of sheer social mortification during a sensitive period of my newly-postpubescent life (read: mad pubes).

But indeed, it was mortifying.

And in case you were curious, nothing has changed (about the fainting. Not the mad pubes). Check out this pic of me from a few months ago taken after having watched an episode of True Blood.

Note: This was after the first scene of the episode. Fucking vampires.

Chapter 4: The Inflammatory Search for Self

My first desire for a body piercing came in highshool. I thought it would be expressive and profound (read: hot) to pierce my navel. And so with the help of good ol’ mom, dreams came true on a budget

That lasted a year or so until the scar tissue grew to the size of a blueberry and I decided to surrender my “ooooo, who’s that girl” sex-switch (I remained a virgin for several more years). I thought a blob of scar would be slightly more attractive than a bejeweled blob of scar.

In my first year university, I was in an all-girl residence. Between the naked pillow fights and sexual experimentation (that’s a fictional insert for all my lady-lovin’ readers; hollaaaa!), all the girls on my floor decided we should, as a group, get pierced. Most of the girls on my floor were going for navel piercings. My friend Jen and I thought eyebrow piercings would be pretty bad-ass. So we downed a few Wildberry coolers and off we went.

As you gleaned from Chapter 3, I’m a huge pussy.

So when the tiny, tatted studio owner and his spry little, blue-haired mom working the cash suggested that the tongue is the least painful piercing, I was sold. So was Jen.

You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t completely faint. The wooze washed over me, but I fought it and won.

It was a fat-tongued week of cold, gelatinized foodstuffs and incoherent agony.

My asinine splurge of parentless abandon lasted about six months.

Some say with age comes wisdom. Others say with age comes shifting one asshole move to the exact same asshole move in another location.

The desire for a nose piercing came during grad school. I wanted something sparkly and feminine, but that’s not how my life works. The initial beast was a giant stud.

Pretty soon, I decided that it would give me an even sexier edge of bad-motha’-lova angrogeny to get a fat-ass hoop. A slender ring just wouldn’t cut it. This, of course, required a “stretching procedure”. Yes, I fainted. But I still did it. Kudos, me.

[My profound apologies go out to the sweet girl at the tattoo/piercing place on Hess Street (Hamilton, Ontario), whom I verbally abused somethin’ fierce.]

Several months later I was flying to the hometown of an at-the-time flame to meet-the-parents, when I realized that my appearance (which I dug) may construe an air of deliquency to members of previous generations.

[I would like to go back and karate chop myself in the neck for caving to the societal standards of “acceptable appearances”. I loved that ring.]

I insisted we remove it. But despite our mutual jamming of thumbs into my left nostril to unscrew the thing, it wasn’t budging.

It was with a pair of metal cutters in a neighbour’s tool shed that an era was ended.

Then, about a year ago, my sister suggested that we get matching tattoos. Pretty laid back about the whole thing, but ever-ready to debase my body for the sake of thought provocation, I said “Yeah, man!”.

Jenn came up with the design.

Me: “‘Whoa, is that an abstract Muslim woman playing a banjo? I love it! Let’s do it!”
Jenn: “…It’s a J and an H. As in Jennifer and Heather.”
Me: “… A J and H! Makes so much more sense! Let’s do it!”

Chapter 4: Honor in the Face of Adversity. And Epidurals.

I arranged it so that the last clinical placement of my Physiotherapy program would be in Calgary so that I could be there for the birth of my nephew. I arrived on July 22, 2008. Jennifer gave birth the next day. For the delivery, I held the her right leg, Chase’s dad held her left.

And you thought your family was close.

But before the beautiful finale, there was some drama.

Jenn was being a trooper. I would have fainted at least a dozen times if I were in her position. But suddenly so much action was happening around her. Some nurse was stabbing her arm. Some dude was lubin’ up her back to prep it for an epidural hose. I was standing near the entrance of the room when Jenn’s eyes met mine.

I knew she was about to reach her point of no return. Yes, we’re a family of fainters. So I took matters into my own hands.

I’m pretty sure I was only kicked out of the hospital for an hour.

Apparently the medical teamsters weren’t the only ones who needed to fucking calm down.

But happily I made it back in time to witness, up close and personal, the birth of my nephew, Chase. And the slippery, purple dinosaur egg that chased him out.

Chapter 5: Writer’s Block

So that pretty much brings us to the present (not really, but I’m exhausted). Lately, I spend many-a-night curled up with my laptop trying to recall stories that might entertain the masses (I have a lot of aunts).

Although my ability to spew brilliance onto the page (screen) may seem as effortless as my ability to maintain this tight, round-assed bod, both are mere facades. I struggle with writer’s block daily. And the latter is a slight misperception, 30% owed to my fickle devotion to Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs and 70% to the careful selection of pocketless jeans with just the right amount of stretch so my shit gets rounded. Not unlike a cloth bag stuffed wit yer mudder’s peas pudding.

[For any non-Newfoundlanders reading this, I swear that last part was not derogatory. But I agree, caution should be exercised whenever using a sentence containing the words “stuffed wit yer mudder”. Your mother is, no doubt, an exceptional woman. And I encourage her to try adding a good-old-fashioned Newfie peas pudding to her next Sunday dinner.]

Usually when I sit to write, the faucet of my genius runs sluggishly at best.

My thoughts tend to wander. My behaviours become unfocussed and erratic.

I’ll spend upwards of an hour contemplating life…

Maybe take time for some vocal training…

Quite likely I’ll pause for some self-reflection; that’s always important…

I’ll work on photography skills…

Culinary skills…

I’ll ponder the tragic beauty of unrequited love…

And only then, after I’ve honed all these juicy creativity catalysts, will I be suddenly made aware of my story-telling genious.

THE END.

So there it is. A chunk of my own graphic novel. I have a feeling that Allison Bechdel would be really proud that she was the inspiration for my book. Or she’ll sue me for defamation of character for having been mentioned in this post.

To which I say, “Oooooooo. Nooo, don’t take my student debt and two large Rubbermaid containers full of Dance Mix 90-something CDs and unopened threat letters from the CRA”. And also, I love you. Please don’t sue me.

Your,

HOAR

P.S. For those of you who have been casually keeping track of these posts on Facebook, thanks man! If you aren’t completely bored of me yet, hit “Follow” below and I’m pretty sure you’ll win money or something.

For those of you who are not on Facebook…Wow. I want to study you. How have you managed to evade such a cultural phenomenon? I feel sorry for you really, I mean…How are you ever going to know how cute your cousin Judy’s neighbour’s daughter’s dog Lillian looks in a Christmas sweater? HOW?

[Thanks for following.]