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Graveyard Ghosts

So it was 6:00pm on a stormy fall evening in 2006. I had just brushed my teeth and was getting ready to go to sleep. I woke up at 10:00pm, just soon enough to catch the Sportsnet highlights. Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks were struggling that day my friends. Ryan Kesler was looking like an incapable top six forward, and an increasing number of hot women were now delivering sporting news.


I grabbed my lunch kit from the counter, tightly prepared and packed by my mom. It contained a very tasty sandwich and several Halloween treats. I made my way over to the laundry room in the basement, briefly revealing my chiseled upper body and legs as I slipped into my work coveralls and proceeded to lace up my new work boots.


After a long struggle with the manly female manager at Mark's Work Warehouse the day before, I had finally convinced them to exchange my formerly new boots for a better pair. The other boots were chewing up my feet, and although they had been worn several times, I was determined to return them.


I honed in on the words ‘100% satisfaction guaranteed’ at the bottom of the receipt and went to town on their ass. Rest assured, Mark's Work Warehouse had never had a bristled PhD student with the oratory skills of Vladimir Illych Ulyanov on their hands before. They kept saying that if the boot was not defective they wouldn’t take it back, and I kept eloquently hammering away the underlying 100% guarantee logic—“by denying me, you fail to fall in the 100% threshold,” I continuously emphasized.


So in my new, pillowy-soft upgraded boots, I got into my candy-painted 84 Cadillac—yeah right in my dreams—96 Accord but I was still tippin’…Although I didn’t have a wood grain wheel (yet), I did have a cassette tape of one Yung Joc. With his unusual spelling of ‘Young,’ I liked to think that he was heavily influenced by Carl Jung but that probably wasn’t the case.


Anyhow, I’ll tell you, I was in the zone that night. I was repeatedly blaring two tracks, Dopeboy Magic and Patron. They were on opposite sides of the cassette, so I turned it over twice. The exact amount of time required to reach my destination. I obstreperously made my way towards the banks of the Fraser River and into the heartland of Surrey’s lumber industry.


As I got out of the car I took a deep breath—the overwhelming aroma of red cedar was intoxicating; or maybe it was the caffeine pills I was jacked up on. In any event, I casually enjoyed the naked November model on the calendar in the lunch room at 10:55pm.


I shot the shit for a bit with the same old broken down machine operators I would see every night. I was trying my best to fit in—I had grown a real, high-quality working class goatee, and to keep up with the other workers, would make all sorts of sexually charged comments about a popular local weather woman (Tamara Taggart, the forecast calls for extreme wetness all over your face). Anyhow, joking around aside, Tamara Taggart is a sweet woman and deserves the very best in life. In the meantime, I knew the shovel and pick in the tool lockers had a hard on for me. The bell sounded and Sisyphean tasks awaited. FML.


I commenced my daily routine at the mill: shoveling heavy, usually wet sawdust, and wood chips into wheelbarrows and dumping them onto conveyor belts; lifting and moving an assortment of steel and wood blocks; and above all else, being absorbed in deep thought all night.


The fundamental problem with the job was that it required absolutely zero mental capacity, and the last thing I needed to do was to think about life all night wearing earmuffs. I despised every minute of every day and would just constantly check my watch. The eight hours were a real grind, and the whole environment was depressing.

I needed the cash to finance my post-doctoral good times but I was secretly hoping that I would somehow get fired. The main problem was that I just couldn’t help but work hard while I was there, an unusual paradox. I realized that if they didn’t fire me for nearly decapitating the owner the previous week in an unusual ‘lock out’ procedure safety incident on the log deck, I wasn’t ever going to get fired.


So the final straw that broke the Amar’s back was when I sustained a large cut/bruise on my face one night. So after taking one last look inside the oiler shack (aka the deluxe porn room) I decided enough was enough and quit. Yeah, as unbelievable as it sounds, it was true, Dr. Atwal would never step foot inside a mill ever again. That’s what was shaking and not a shingle thing could change my mind.


I’ll tell you what though—it was worth returning to my old summer high school job just to experience that singular orgasmic feeling of quitting and telling my University of Toronto Graduate School that my employment upon graduation was ‘other – general lumber mill maintenance.’ I mean come on, my pretty face is my livelihood, and I can’t mess around with stuff like that Wooo! Hooo! I was on the loose again. I was pretty beat down though, my back was kind of messed up so I was comatose all weekend and was hitting the Advil and brewskies pretty hard.


As I awoke from my slumber, I learned that my cousin Kangy would be down for a week and a half to check out some property development projects. So we started wooing it up all over town. It was a real bender, all sorts of white vans were backed into without notes being left because some people were too impatient to wait for rear windows to defrost. I decided to ditch the preppie look but kept the goatee. I looked like a real Harj and Rob character now, with a big cut across my cheek to boot. Yeah I looked pretty hard but little did people realize that I was no dealer, just an umemployed poli sci Ph.D with a pretty huge you know what as well.


What happened next is almost unbelievable. Luckily nobody really reads this blog, so I can detail it here with ease. On a whim, I had joined the Federal Liberal Party of Canada and thought fuck it, why not just become a whigger and get my political feet wet and run for office in my hometown Fleetwood-Port Kells riding. There was going to be a Liberal Party leadership reception at Wilson’s Steakhouse in Vancouver so I got dressed up in my finest grey pinstripe suit and brought Kangy along for the ride.


Wanting to make a key impression on all these political types (after all, it was my first political appearance) I had pounded some Red Bulls beforehand of course and was drinking calimochos with Kangy at the bar. There are about 75 people in the back lounge area of the restaurant and after taking our time to breathe in the environment, Kangy and I start mingling and boozing it up with these Liberal party characters. I stake out this nice spot to stand and start talking to this attractive young female photographer. Kangy and I started telling many comical stories and a bit of a crowd starts circling around and listening in on all my B.S. (apparently, actually having a good time at these functions is an unheard of novelty).


As all of this is happening, lo’ and behold, Michael Ignatieff himself shows up with the stunning health critic Ruby Dhalla. I gave her a head nod and she casually walked away. And then Iggy, wondering why I was commanding all this attention from the rank and file party staff, approached me and I gave him the “How are you doing Michael?” and then continue finishing my story. Everyone was still waiting for me to continue, however, in my head, I started thinking, ‘Wow Ignatieff’s standing right here listening to my nonsense,’ should I pull the plug or ratchet up the controversy? So, “what happened?” someone asked. To which I replied, “Let me finish that one later; do you want to hear a joke instead?”


In hindsight it seems obvious he wasn’t going to win anything but at the time, with possibly the future Prime Minister of Canada standing right there, I say, “what do you get when you put 50 lesbians and 50 politicians in the same room?” Queue the incredibly awkward long pause. “100 people that don’t do dick.” The joke completely bombed, except for one guy in the back who seemed to love it and couldn’t stop laughing. Iggy B-lined it away from me as fast as his robotic looking body could move, and I likely tanked my political future then and there. I got the photographer’s number though, so I walked out happy that night. She ghosted me though the week after. Fucking liberals.

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