The following frightening story is real

Asked Jack what he thought of my blog. He just did this.

And it happened to me. I was working as a youth pastor in Fredericton, NB. Though it was spring time, the air was a lot like it was today in that city. Crisp, cool….and foreboding. I was in my office in the church when I saw Cheryl, the office receptionist, come to my door looking quite startled. “Troy, can you go to the front door? There’s a man standing out there, just staring at the door and screaming.”

That sure seemed strange to me, and I felt bad for Cheryl. I mean, I was a bit alarmed to hear about this, but she was visibly shaken. However, my pity turned to a mix of bitterness and embarrassment when she followed up with, “I tried to get Karl or Ron (two other pastors), but they’re both gone.” Thanks Cheryl. Thanks a lot.

I walked down to the receptionist’s office and looked out the office door where I had a plain view of the church’s front entry way. Standing just outside those glass doors was a man in a black trench coat. Yes, you read that right. A long, black trench coat. He had dark unkempt hair that sported both a receding hairline and a menacing mini mullet. He also had matching unkempt eyebrows and Trebek-style moustache. I really didn’t want to go face him, but this was it. This was my time. I silently psyched myself up, gave each of my biceps a slap, cracked my knuckles and swaggered to the glass door he had been yelling at just moments earlier.

I pushed open the door and said, “Can I help you?” His gaze was up somewhere in an obscure corner of the building’s front fascia. But when I uttered these words his beady, piercing eyes came down and met mine. It was then that I noticed something I hadn’t when peeking out the office door. Just above his angry eyes was what looked like a letter X carved into his forehead. (I’m not adding drama here. All of these details are real.) I thought he might yell at me, judging by his behaviour of the last few minutes, so I was bracing myself. But what came out of his mouth was far scarier. With sharp, seething but calm aggravation he said to me, “Do you know who I am?!”

I realize that for most of you, the picture in your head of me is one of a strong, robust man’s man who isn’t afraid of anything. But I must confess that when this Jack-Torrence-meets-Joseph-Stalin maniac said this to me, I could feel the adrenaline beginning to pump in my veins. Or arteries. Not entirely sure how that stuff works. Either way, I felt flush. I could feel the beating of my heart in my temples. He spoke those words like it was the preface to a threat. I instinctively answered, “Uh, no.” But what I really felt like saying was, “The devil?”

That’s when he even more angrily said, “I’ve been standing outside this &@#$% door for the past ten &@#$%’n minutes and no one has come to let me in!” He kept talking, but I just shut the door. No worries, I thought. This door locks and he can’t get in. But then I noticed the crash bar on the door wasn’t jutting out, which means that it was unlocked. And to lock it I would have to go find an allen wrench. So I pretended to lock it with an invisible key, went inside the office and called the police.

Long story short, the guy was mentally disturbed and had been wondering around random locations of Fredericton. Shortly after I made my phone call he had disappeared. They found wondering a nearby neighbourhood and took care of him from there. Somehow on his way there he’d changed his clothes. (Gotta admire him for that actually.) Just before the police arrived Karl had showed up. He, a Tae-Kwon-Do black belt, wasn’t scared at all. He thought the whole thing was mildly amusing. He suggested we search the building to make sure he hadn’t gotten inside. As you can imagine, I wasn’t too crazy about searching a large building with many small dark closets for a creeper with a scabby swastika on his head ready to pounce at me and assault me with questions about his identity. But I have to say, as frightened as I was, I did enjoy getting that feeling of relief. It’s the one you get when safe and sound reality shows up. It’s like after watching a scary movie you look outside or turn on the news and you’re reminded that what you thought was a part of your reality (like venomous aliens or a cannibalistic prisoner) really is not at all. Some of us watch cartoons or crank up some Kelly Clarkson tunes to shake away the goosebumps. It’s a great feeling. And now I’ve got one killer of a story to tell!

Congratulations The Shining. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Sigourney Weaver in Alien.

Best Actor: Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Best Quote:Well, Clarice – have the lambs stopped screaming?” — Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.

happy halloween

Pick your movie of the week: Horror! (Oct 30-Nov 5/15)

Yes, no fancy pics this week (this one is a close-up of my Disney “Tower of Terror” mug). I have a daughter typing up a storm on our family computer and I am out of town in a matter of hours, so this week’s post comes to you entirely  from my thumbs on a smartphone.

And, of as this week is Halloween, the following 4 movies are the ones that appear highest on IMDb’s top 250 list in the genre horror. All of them have been MOTW before, but which should be this Halloween’s scarefest of choice? Take your pick:


1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991, #23)

2. Psycho (1960, #35)

3. Alien (1979, #52)

4. The Shining (1980, #57)

Beauty is in the Brain of the Beholder

Imagine that you are asked to open a drawer and retrieve the contents: an Amazon tree boa. The snake is coiled up in there relaxing. The person telling you to do this, let’s call him Damien, assures you that the snake is not poisonous, but it is aggressive. It does bite. In fact, the way it attacks its prey is by latching on with a bite, then coiling around the victim and squeezing the life out of it. But Damien says that even though it bites, you can handle this snake. “But don’t be scared. That makes them attack. You’ve got to be confident and assertive. If it senses fear or hesitation, it will become scared itself and then try to bite you,” Damien says. “Just, like, be careful ok?”

Would you do it? Assuming your answer is no, what if your entire family wanted you to do it? What if they told you they were counting on you to do this in order to save your own life and theirs? Knowing this, perhaps you’s come to realize that this has to happen. But how long would it take for you to muster up the courage? How long would it take you to be able to retrieve this snake without hesitation or jumpiness? Some of you might take hours. Some of you days. For others, it could be months and months of an emotional, very painful ordeal.

This is going to sound crazy, but please trust me when I say this: if you can imagine this scene, you can understand people and their addictions. I took a course on dependencies years ago in seminary and it really opened my eyes and my heart to people who suffer in this way. The professor began the course with a story much like the one I shared above.

There is a simple reason why you would hesitate, cringe, shake and flinch when reaching for and handling the snake: your brain tells you to. It’s the same with someone who keeps eating and gaining weight, someone who keeps consuming deadly drugs, and someone who spends their life savings and thousands in debt just to gamble one more time. Their brain tells them to.

Our brain holds the information about what we believe and feel about things. Including snakes. We believe they are dangerous. We get the willies when we merely catch a glimpse of them squiggling on the ground or even just lying there motionless. So when we’re asked to pick one up, our brain says, “NOOOO! Not an ewok’s chance in a slam dunk competition!”

But now consider my son Luke. Or the late great Steve Irwin. Crazy people like this get excited about picking up snakes. If the snake is potentially dangerous in any way, they’ll simply find out the way to avoid the dangers, and do it. Luke plays a lot, but when he’s relaxing and watching youtube, he looks up videos of snakes and calls me into the room to tell me how great they are. He finds them beautiful and spectacular. His brain has different beliefs about those creatures. Different feelings too. His brain tells him to pick that snake up.

I remember as a young boy hearing about someone in my community who was hooked on drugs. I thought they were stupid. Why someone would risk their health, relationships, reputation, and future just for these drugs was something I couldn’t fathom. And when I heard about him seeking help—and getting a great deal of it—only to turn back to the drugs again, I was stunned. And when I heard that this had happened again and again, I became hardened inside. He didn’t deserve any more assistance, I thought. Just let him destroy himself. His choice.

Now I think of the snake story and I realize how many times I’d jump, hold my breath, or even run out of the room. How long would it take me. How much patience and understanding would my family and others around me have to have with me. We all can change. But it takes a community of support with patience, understanding, and love.

All three monsters this week are iconic, scary, and fun. But I’m not going to cave and give the nod to all three like I did last year at this time (Jaws/Psycho/Alien). This week goes to the big hairy beast who fell in love with Fay Wray.

Congratulations King Kong. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Fay Wray as Ann Darrow in King Kong.

Best Actor: Boris Karloff as the monster in Frankenstein.

Best Quote: “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!” — Frankenstein.

And, ladies and gentlemen, my top ten favourite movie monsters:

10. The alien in Alien
9. Godzilla
8. The alien in Predator
7. The monster in Frankenstein
6. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth
5. The monster in Cloverfield
4. The rancor in Return of the Jedi
3. King Kong
2. The shark in Jaws
1. The T-Rex in Jurassic Park

Movie of the Week

Missed opportunities in the movies

Did you know that Julie Andrews was considered for the role of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast? Or that Patrick Swayze was considered to voice Gaston? Even Regis Philbin tried out for the part of the Beast. The most significant to me, however, is Patrick Stewart as Cogsworth. I say significant because he wasn’t only considered, he had the role—but turned it down! His schedule with Star Trek: The Next Generation just wouldn’t allow it..

I have collected ten roles that were actually turned down by famous actors and actresses. Imagine what life would be like if:

John Travolta as Forrest Gump. Travolta has said this was one of his biggest mistakes in his career; however, that year he did take on the now-iconic role of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction and was nominated for best actor that year. How
ironic it must’ve been for him to watch Hanks get it for the role he turned down.

Burt Reynolds as Han Solo. Every Thanksgiving I take time to thank God that this role didn’t go to this man. Han Solo is not only one of the all-time favourite fictional characters of the 20th Century, but if young and old were asked today to pick the “coolest” movie character, I’m sure it would be the nerf herder who’d get the most votes. However, if the role went to Burt, we’d all be talking about how much of a deuce Han Solo is.

Molly Ringwald in Pretty Woman. She was the queen of the 80’s movies, and this one could have catapulted her career as much as it did for Julia Roberts. But she turned it down and moved overseas. So many of us 80’s children ask each other where Ringwald is and why she isn’t making more movies. Could this little event be the culprit?

Johnny Depp as Ferris Bueller. I do enjoy Depp’s acting, but I find myself lately wanting to see him do some real acting and not just do the weird eccentric character that he keeps doing, mainly for Tim Burton. So for this reason, so glad he made this decision. Broderick is an ok actor, but he was born to be Ferris.

Sean Connery as Gandalf. It’s almost surprising that Connery has had such a successful acting career. He’s turned down so many huge roles. I saw him in an interview where he talks about turning down this role as well as roles in The Matrix and the new Star Wars trilogy because he read the scripts and “didn’t understand them.” In this interview he said that he was approached to be in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a script he also didn’t understand. But since he’d missed out on so much, he decided to take the plunge with this one. Good choice Connery. Real good choice.

Bette Davis as Scarlett O’Hara. Sure Bette Davis made a name for herself in films like All About Eve (“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”) and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane as well as being the subject of a 1981 Kim Carnes song, but imagine how much more she’d be remembered if it was her proclaiming that tomorrow’s another day?

Michelle Pfeiffer as Clarice in Silence of the Lambs. It could have been her on the receiving end of Anthony Hopkins’ creepy stories of eating a census taker’s liver, but she thought the story was too dark and disturbing. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but when the movie went on to take all five of the top Oscar awards that year… well, not so much.

Kevin Costner as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption. This movie still sits at the number 1 spot on IMDb’s top 250. If there is anyone in this world who didn’t like this movie, I’ve never met them. Costner has expressed regret over passing up on this role. What’s even worse is that he turned it down to make Waterworld, the most expensive movie in history at that time, and yet a monumental flop at the box office.

Jack Nicholson as Michael Corleone. Jack is amazing, but Michael could not be played by anyone else other than Pacino.

Julia Roberts as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side. Julia Roberts could definitely have done this role well. But the year it was released all anyone talked about was Sandra Bullock. People placing bets on the Oscars that year ALL chose Bullock for best actress. She was absolutely unforgettable. Perhaps that wasn’t one to give up so easily, Julia!

Congratulations Beauty and the Beast. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

Best Actor: Just to spite my brother: John Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.

Best Quote: “That’s our hero shot.” — The Truman Show.

I’ve turned down opportunities as well in my life, though I have to say I have no regrets.

Liberals vs Conservatives: A love story

Lawrence of Arabia

Ever since I can remember I’ve tried to make sense of politics. I remember as a kid hearing an adult say how much they liked the Prime Minister, and gave reasons why. It didn’t all make sense to me, but I got the picture for the most part, and I was convinced. Then I heard another saying how much they hated him. They said why, and I immediately thought the first adult must have been misinformed. Felt bad for them really. But as time went on I learned more about how politics—and people—work.

And by “politics,” I don’t mean “government.” How my country is run is something of which I have a fair/workable understanding. But how politics work is something very different. Why do I bring Quimbythis up? Lawrence of Arabia is a movie that illustrates a lot of politics. There’s a war going on (need I say more?) and T. E. Lawrence is sent to find out another man’s (Alec Guinness) political intentions. That and Canada is heading into an election, so it’s been simmering on my brain for a while. On the low setting.

I believe we live in a pretty interesting world politically. I am continuing to learn about it and would like to share some of what I’ve discovered about the conservative-liberal showmance:

What “politics” means. There are so many ways this could be defined, but here’s how I’ve come to understand it best: Getting your way while making sure as many people as possible are feeling they’re getting their way too. All leaders have some degree of this they have to engage in.

What’s good about conservatives (or “the right”). Conservatives like to embrace the richness of the past and the great things handed down to us in the present day from heroes and fellow countrymen. They are also very careful with money. When they are handling your money, it’s like a group of grumpy old men are doing it. And for me, I think I’d rather the grumpy old man than the free-spending 20 year old.

What’s good about liberals (or “the left”). Liberals like to embrace the future and not allow baggage from the past to hinder progress. They believe in humanity and, therefore, seek to help all individuals regardless of race or social status. This is why they are usually the ones more concerned about the poor as opposed to their counterparts.

The problem with conservatives. To me the biggest threat to the conservative is fear. There are traditions, philosophies and practices from the past that I do believe are valuable and ought to be treated as such. But one of the tendencies conservatives have is to freak out when anything new comes along. As we all know, many people opposed the new healthcare laws that took effect in the US in recent years. But to talk to conservatives about it you’d think pinko commies were stealing cows from farmers. New marriage laws? Oh, they didn’t freak out over that. They just shared the simple logic that this would lead to hell fire and sex with animals.

The problem with liberals. As you can tell from the last few sentences, I can relate to frustration with regards to conversations with conservatives. However, this frustration can consume a person and hinder his/her judgment. A very wise professor of mine taught me that change cannot take place without equal parts of patience and understanding. Neither patronizing nor name-calling will help in moving people forward. They would do well to see Conservatives as a sibling. Picture a 12-year-old girl asking her little brother to do something. Of course he won’t comply—it’s an almost innate response. So if she resorts to sternness, anger, and a pointed finger, he digs his heels in even deeper. Even if he knows she’s right, it just ain’t happening. Sound familiar?? Want to better your country? Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

The most annoying thing about conservatives. Hypocrisy and the willingness to throw logic out the window in favour of loyalty to the team. Classic example: they claim liberals are too worried about offending people. Seriously… Is it easier to offend people of other ethnicities or church-going Christians? All it takes is a swear word, a feminist, or a “Happy Holidays” to offend that crowd.

The most annoying thing about liberals. Higher taxes. Geez, what’s up with that?! It’s the one thing we all hate most about government and it’s your calling card. It’s like promising voters that you will take up two parking spaces. Or being the party that always forgets to flush. Or guaranteeing every voter hourly emails riddled with duck face selfies. Am I right here folks?

The biggest problem with both. It’s what my mother always said to us kids: “You two are so alike you can’t stand to be around each other.” That made no sense to me as a kid, but as I got older I could see she was right. Nothing could be more true about liberals and conservatives in North America today.

Congratulations Lawrence of Arabia. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago. I haven’t watched this film in its entirety yet, but I know she’s great in it as well as in many others. She’s also Al Pacino’s favourite actress.

Best Actor: Other than good ol’ Obi Wan, Omar Sharif earns this one. He’s in both Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia and is known for his excellence in both.

Best Quote: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” — The Bridge on the River Kwai. (It’s true: The Shining wasn’t the first movie to quote this. It’s a proverb that appears in seven movies, the first of which is Sons of the Desert in 1933.)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. And good luck voting. You’re going to need it.