The excitement around the office was palpable.

Another Mission concert! The crowds! The venue! The non-stop drinking! The music! The drinking!

Yes, sadly, it was the actual entertainment that was rated far down the list whenever war stories of past Mission mayhem were rehashed. One fellow employee recalled a pair of inebriated punters who passed out early and missed the entire concert.

My record of having never attended a Mission concert remains intact. Sliding around a grassy slope surrounded by 25,000 drunken louts spewing pre-digested alcohol on each other? Not gonna happen. It would take John and George returning from heaven’s rock’n’roll hall of fame for a Beatles reunion for me to even consider such an outing and even then I may just stay home and wait for the DVD.

 I don’t do live concerts anymore. I grew tired of scrambling for a parking spot, of elbowing my way into the venue, of being surrounded by mouth-breathing cretins, of coming home smelling like a grow op, of lying awake all night with my ears ringing, of doing the zombie shuffle at work after a hard day’s night.

Maybe I just grew old.

Maybe I’ve seen all I need to see. Springsteen: twice. (Best. Concerts. Ever.) Petty learning to fly. The Grateful Dead jamming for five hours straight. The Beach Boys when all three Wilson brothers were still alive.

The Beach Boys, in fact, broke my concert cherry. It was October 1973, the night before I flew to Europe for a six-month jaunt that lasted three weeks (some people say there was a woman to blame). We were crammed into some kind of performance hall at the University of British Columbia. The opening act was an obscure musician touring North America on the back of his first single, a little ditty called Piano Man.

“Billy Joel sucks!” some leather-lunged buffoon hollered from the cheap seats.

Years later, I saw Billy Joel in concert again. This time he was headlining and the crowd cheered his every song, his days of suckage obviously well and truly over.

The novelty of live performance came to an end for me in the ’80s. It was my daughter’s birthday. She was 10, or 11, or 12 or something. One of those ages when she still considered her old man cool. Especially when I bought tickets for her and a couple friends to see the New Kids on the Block at B.C. Place.

This is a venue custom-built for football and, as such, it works very well, what with its huge seating capacity. What the place doesn’t have is decent acoustics. Sound simply disappears into the far reaches of this covered dome, never to be heard again.

Not that it mattered to the thousands of pre-pubescent females in attendance. Their incessant screaming served to drown out whatever noise might have been issuing from the speakers.

I didn’t care about the music or the screams. Neither did the hundreds of other dads I met that afternoon. While Donnie Wahlberg and four nobodies shook their asses and yelped out songs they were four shades of Caucasian too white to own, I wandered through the covered concourse, looking at my watch, watching the other fathers — all of us reduced on that day to little more than chauffeur/chaperone status — and shaking our heads in sympathetic disgust whenever our eyes happened to meet.

It was painful at the time and the memory still haunts me. To paraphrase Rod the Mod himself, that last cut was the deepest.

The good news is that, some 25 years later, my eardrums hardly ever bleed anymore.


So the Botox Mom was a hoax. Oh. Really.

You may recall how the entire world was outraged when news broke of a mother injecting her eight-year-old daughter with Botox to better the kid’s chances of winning beauty pageants. Child services, egged on by the public howling, stepped in to liberate the youngster from her overzealous parent.

The story made it all the way down here to New Zealand where Viking Woman, who knows about such things, became instantly suspicious.

“How does a private person get their hands on Botox when it can only be administered by a doctor?” was her first comment. Followed by, “She’s putting the injections in all the wrong places.”

I’m not a medical professional, but I added my own two cents’ worth with this astute observation: “That kid’s way too chubby to be a beauty queen.”

And now the TMZ website has revealed the woman was hired by an English tabloid to play the part of a needle-waving nutjob because, with both Elvis and Jesus having the week off, the paper needed something – anything! – on the cover to boost sales.

The American press – including those serious news outlets who should have known better (it’s a British tabloid, people!) – picked up on the story and soon thereafter, as mentioned above, even those of us in the backwaters of the South Pacific were left shaking our respective heads at this mommy madness.

Despite the blatant red flags, there was one factor that added a smidgeon of truth to this story: it happened in America.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a Yank basher. My favourite hockey team is in the States. Las Vegas is like a second home to me. I practically have a Starbucks tattoo on my arse. I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan. Apple pie and hotdogs? Bring ’em on! Although maybe not at the same time.

But, face it, if something crazy or silly or over the top – like, oh, say, setting the Koran on fire – happens, the odds are good the event will have happened in the good ol’ US of A.

Viking Woman and I lived in the States for the better part of two years. We quickly found that being a resident is very different from being a visitor. As Canadians, we’d always assumed there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between Canucks and our American cousins. If we were all dogs, say, Canucks would be the trusty Labrador while Americans would be pit bulls. With guns. But still the same species, right?

Uh, no.

All those OTT characters you see on TV and in the movies? They’re not fiction, people. They really exist.

If we walked into a government office and the woman on the other side of the counter was a plus size and sporting four-inch fake fingernails, we knew we could expect two things: a big dose of attitude and a long wait.

Which is why our first reaction after the Botox Mom story aired on the evening news was this: “Only in America.”

Were we sucked in by the story? Yes, to a degree. Are we surprised that it has now been revealed to be false? Not really.

Then again, I did read the follow-up story on the Internet, not the most reliable of information sources. And TMZ is an American website. Which leads me to conclude that this may not be over yet.

Won’t get fooled again? Yeah, right.

As much as I hate to keep harping on about the year I just spent in the Cook Islands – “Yes, John, you are a lucky dog. And, yes, we are all soooo envious.” – the time Viking Woman and I spent apart did open my eyes to one very crucial aspect of our married life. After nearly 18 years together, we are – in small bursts, at least – actually quite incompatible.

As you can well imagine, it is rather a shock to the system to discover that we are not, after all these years, a perfect match. In fact, we disagree on several things. And by things I mean the TV shows we prefer to watch. For instance, I enjoy reality shows. Viking Woman, on the other hand, would rather stare into the sun than tally the votes.

See what I mean? Totally not made for each other.

I could have saved myself 18 Christmas presents and thousands of faked hugs if I’d only known this from the very beginning.

In the event I ever find myself single again – which might be sooner than later at this rate – and so as to avoid enduring another bout of abject heartbreak, I’ve put together a short list of questions to pose to prospective dates.

The idea is cut to the chase, to verify immediately whether I’d be wasting our time and my money trying to impress someone I will later want to convince to sail on an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia.

Men, feel free to adapt this quiz to your own studly personalities and cute little quirks.

1. Name all 30 NHL teams. (Hint: The response of “What’s an NHL?” will be judged an automatic fail. We are done here. Bye-bye.)

2. Which of the following NHL teams’ logos would look best tattooed on your lower back?

a) Detroit Red Wings; b) Detroit Red Wings; c) Detroit Red Wings.

3. If I’m trying to pull your sweater over your head, what am I doing? (Hint: “Initiating foreplay,” is not the answer. Sorry. The door is that way; you can let yourself out.)

4. List the following reality shows in order of preference:

a) Survivor; b) Survivor; c) Survivor.

5. What do you see when you look at a back yard?

a) lawns and flowerbeds; b) asphalt and ball hockey; c) a Jacuzzi and all your hot girlfriends indulging in European-style tanning.

6. If a man fall asleep after sex, do you think:

a) I wore him out because I’m pretty much an insatiable mink; b) he’s just recharging his batteries for our next bout of lovemaking; c) he’s bored, I should go, and, uh, how do I get my knickers off his head without waking him?

7. Which of the following would you print on your T-shirt?

a) “Disco sucks!”; b) “Rap sucks!”; c) “Country music sucks!”; d) “Rock’n’roll rules! (Hint: This might be a trick question. I said might.)

8. If a man’s snoring disturbs your sleep, do you:

a) smile in the knowledge he is instinctively reverting to the caveman’s sure-fire method for defending his family; b) shove your icy feet against the small of his back and hiss into his ear, “Wake up, dildo breath. Sabretooth tigers have been extinct for a million years.”

9. Is Meat Loaf:

a) the greatest rock opera singer in the history of the universe; b) a sneaky and devious method for disposing of leftovers.

10. Which Bruce Springsteen song is your all-time favourite?

a) all of them, in which case I am going to marry you right now, this very instant; b) none of them, in which case I’m going to need you to hand over your share of the cab fare right now, this very instant.

 And there you have it. Ten simple questions. Ten simple answers. Pure genius, right? Because we all know, when it comes to men, it’s all about being simple.

You’re kidding me, right?

Grown men crying at the death of Michael Jackson?

Grown white men?

Grown straight men?

Again: You’re kidding me, right?

People, the guy hasn’t even used his own face for the past, what?, 35 years and his passing is plastered across the global media? Here in New Zealand, not one, but three commemoration services are planned. What can I say? It’s winter. Our brains have frozen.

I can hear my future grandchild now:

“Gramps, what did this Michael Jackson fellow do to become so popular and famous? Cure cancer?”

“Uh, no?”

“Bring peace to the Middle East?”


“End the recession and find you a job?”

“Actually . . .”

“So what was with all this wailing and weeping and general silliness when he died? Was he the second coming of Christ?”

“Well, Bitemymoko the Third, he might have liked to think of himself in those terms. In reality, he sang. And danced.”


“And that’s it.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“My sentiments exactly.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“People really are stupid, aren’t they, Gramps?”

“You have no idea.”

I had no use for Michael Jackson. King of Pop? More like the Joker.

He was Freakshow Incarnate and I’ve always liked my music gods to be a little more, oh I don’t know, normal. And by normal, I mean diddling teenage groupies not little boys.

Truth be told, I can’t think of a single song of his that I didn’t detest.

See these teeth? Cut on rock’n’roll. Sixties rock’n’roll. Singers who make high-pitched noises like their shorts just shifted and squeezed a testicle are not now, nor will ever be, on my iPod. I have standards. They’re low standards, mind you, but I have them nonetheless.

If you told me Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty or John Fogarty died, I would shed a tear. Michael Jackson? Meh.

Oh, sure the guy had talent. I can admire someone for their skills without leaking bodily fluids at the sound of their name. His dance moves were exceptional (I once tried to moonwalk and fell on my asteroid) even if his voice scared horses.

A music god? A legend? An entertainment icon? Am I the only person in the entire world who didn’t drink the Kool-Aid? Or mainline the Demerol?

I remember where I was when man first walked on the moon. When JFK was assassinated. When Team Canada won the Summit Series. When I first heard that Elvis and, later, John Lennon had died.

Where was I when Michael Jackson died? That was only two days ago and I’ve forgotten already.