Monday, August 27, 2007

There's no "eye" in "team"

The PanthiOn Corporation credo was repeated at every team-building excursion: "Business is war!" shouted senior manager Ted Jacks. He stood upon a picnic table outside the registration office of Patriot Games Paintball Compound, dressed in military fatigues and combat boots. His face was streaked with camouflage paint. He gripped his marker—paintball gun—by the barrel with his right hand, gesturing with it as he spoke. "If you cannot perform under these controlled conditions, how in the fuck will you perform at PanthiOn when one of our competitors throws a Chinese star at your face? You'll wilt and shit your pants, that's what you'll do!"

He surveyed his twelve-member staff with a predatory gaze. They were soft, recent college graduates.

"Many of you have never tasted blood," Ted yelled. "I'll give you your first taste, and teach you to love—!" He punctuated the word "love" by jabbing the butt of his marker toward the picnic table, accidentally striking the table, causing the marker to fire. If Ted had had the barrel condom affixed to his marker—as per Patriot Games Paintball Compound rules—the misfire might have actually accentuated his point. But Ted did not have it affixed. The marker was inadvertently angled so that the paintball caught him in the side of his right eye, streaking his camouflaged face, brow and forehead with fuschia paint.

As Ted crumpled to the top of the picnic table, and rolled onto the ground, a dozen cell phones were simultaneously pulled from hip holsters; dexterous thumbs dialed 911 with gunslinger speed.

Ted was conscious when he was taken away by paramedics. "You are to continue with the day's combat," he groaned as he was loaded into the ambulance. "That's an order!"

After four surgeries by four of the best "eye men" in the region, Ted lost his right eye. The loss affected him badly until he realized he could now legitimately wear a black eye patch. Visualizing himself leading business meetings dressed in a three thousand dollar suit and a black eye patch actually roused a smile on his swollen, post-op face. That smile faltered, however, when Ted returned to the office weeks later—a lawsuit against Patriot Games Paintball Compound, well underway, as well as against the manufacturer of the paintball marker, the manufacturer of the fushia paintball and even the manufacturer of the picnic table—wearing a thousand dollar suit and an opaque eye patch. For, written across the white board with red erasable marker in the area flex room, was a bastardization of PanthiOn's other credo: "There is no 'eye' in Team!"

Days were spent taking handwriting samples from the staff and conducting interviews to learn who was in the flex room when the offense took place. So far, the culprit was never caught.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Weddings & Anniversaries

A wise man I know once asked his wife, "Is it weird for a person to think a cousin of his is 'hot'?" To which his equally wise spouse replied, "No."

This is good.

I'm just after attending the wedding of my wife's "young" cousin; Sweet Sandy who is twenty-four, but whom is eternally eleven years old in the minds of her relations. Sandy, who looks like a French-Canadian Salma Hayek. My wife comes from a family oddly rife with spectacularly beautiful women. Attending this wedding has been, for me, like entering the film Abbott & Costello Go to Mars, in which the hapless duo accidentally board a rocket and accidentally fly it to Mars and somehow end up on Venus, which is quite purposefully populated by spectacularly beautiful women. Every which way I turned at the wedding, there were beautiful women of all ages greeting me, hugging me, kissing me, asking how life was going.

You wanna know what you're wife's gonna look like in middle age? Look at her mother. My mother-in-law looks like the fourth Charlie's angel.

A decade ago, this weekend, my wife and her family (still eighteen months away from knowing me) attended the wedding of Sandy's older sister. It was the weekend that Princess Diana died. The very same weekend in 1997, I had moved to Ireland to live and write and work. Finished with school, and everything else about myself in the city of my birth, I packed some clothes, some books, some manuscripts of my writing, and flew to Dublin. Jetlagged and hungover, I'll never forget the Sunday morning I went to my Aunt Josephine's house on St. Brigid's Avenue in the section of Dublin called Drumcondra, ringing the doorbell -- I attended church with her each Sunday in exchange for lunch with her and my cousins -- and my aunt coming to the door and telling me, "Did you hear the news? Diana's died." After mass and after lunch that day, I repaired to a Drumcondra pub called The Cat & Cradle with my cousins and their friends for some pints and to see on the large-screen TV how the world was coping with the loss of Diana. Some conspicuous Irish Republicans sat in the center of the pub playing cards and talking loudly. No one said anything to them.

Half a world away, my wife and her family were at the wedding in St. Catharines, Ontario. At one point in the night, a ruckus erupted when the girlfriend of one of my wife's cousins loudly accused my wife's stepdad of grabbing her ass out on the dance floor. Knowing everyone as I know them, there's no question the girl was mistaken. She never made it into the family. She and her boyfriend parted and my wife's cousin went on to marry a wonderful woman who would never accuse anyone of grabbing her ass. Tears and shouting and recriminations ensued. Goddamn it, I wish I had been there to witness it. But I was indisposed in Dublin, drinking through my hangover, watching disjointed video footage of paparazzi in a French police van, the opening of a Parisian motorway tunnel, and three grizzled Republicans before me, intent on their card game.

Last night, I stuck to drinking Diet Coke. One beer, one whiskey ignites the Angel of Death within me and I just can't take the hangovers any more. So, I milled about the beautiful women, had my picture taken with them. Sometimes when bad shit happens in life, I'll sit back and think, "Well, will I be bothered by this in a year?" Or the horrible thoughts ignited by high school reunions, pondering how much we've accomplished over the years, how has time treated everyone, do we measure up. Last night, I was pleased and proud to find myself on Venus with Abbott & Costello.