My Own Suicide Story

Be aware, this is a VERY long and VERY personal story about my own suicide attempt experience. If you want to understand more about what it’s like to be at the edge, I suggest you read this entire story despite it’s length. It really does tell a unique point of view about suicide.

I also feel compelled to mention that this is my perspective and my perspective only. Everything that I wrote here is how I felt and how I perceived things to be at the time. I would never proclaim to know how others feel or what they were thinking. I can only tell the story from how I saw it.

Over the last few days, I have seen a few people posting these status updates on Facebook with the hashtag #SuicideAwareness. Every so often these suicide prevention or awareness memes goes around and when it does, most of the time I see a lot of people who I believe genuinely want to help people who are feeling like that, but don’t really understand what it is like to be there. Maybe some do, but I don’t think most people really understand.

I do.

On December 15th, 2002, I swallowed an entire bottle of prescription medication, laid down in my bed, and waited.

Now obviously I didn’t die. But unlike many of you, I know what it is like to be at the bottom of that well and I can tell you, at least for me, it’s not anything like what most people think. I’d like to tell you exactly how it felt and exactly how I came to the decision to do what I did.

To understand my reasoning and where I was that year, I’m going to tell a story I have never written about before. My wife and a few close friends know this story (and in a lot more detail than I’m going to write here) but it’s not something I have ever shared publicly. I’ve left out certain names, and kept some of the details somewhat vague as it’s not necessary to go into excessive detail for you to understand. But it is necessary for me to explain the type of situation I was in so you can understand what led me to my attempted suicide.

I got married to my first wife in 1999. In retrospect, it was a horrible decision. In those days, I felt very much alone, and this woman was someone who I knew, who I got along with, and who I had a lot of fun with. At the time I thought I should marry her because maybe I would never find “the one” and I had spent too much time already alone in my life. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. 

But, I was young, and so was she, and we were, and still are, very different people. In 1999, I got a new job, moved to Poughkeepsie, NY, and got married. New job. New home. New city.  New country. New wife. Sure, let’s throw all of this together and I am sure it will work out just fine.

Three years later, I had given up a dream job at IBM, moved back to Moncton and began teaching at my old college, and had alienated my best friend (Chris) because my then-wife hated him. Add to that the fact that when we moved home, an entire part of her personality emerged that I had never experienced before. On a daily basis, I was subjected to constant criticism of my actions which resulted in me taking that criticism and steering it in an unhealthy direction.

What direction was that?? It made me angry. I got mad at her almost every day. We fought constantly. If you’ve known me long enough you know that I have struggled with a bad temper my whole life. When we were married, she brought out the worst temper I ever had. I once picked up a coffee table and threw it at her because she made me so angry. I once jumped onto the hood of her moving car when I lost it during a fight. I was never physically abusive to her but I sure did a lot of yelling. I am sure from her perspective, it probably seemed like she was married to The Hulk because I got mad so often. There were reasons behind the anger but that didn’t change the end result. Since then I have found much healthier ways to channel my anger so it doesn’t ever get to that point. But at the time, it came out through daily shouting matches with her.

Cut to summer of 2002, an incident involving my then-wife and her choice of actions while out clubbing one night with her girlfriends, resulted in her coming home at 6am to tell me that “we need to talk”. A huge fight followed and by the next day, we had decided to unofficially “separate”. 

This is where the downward slope that would eventually result in my pill popping began. See, when we separated, in my mind, this was not us splitting up. I truly felt like we were simply taking a step back, re-evaluating ourselves, and that we would find a way to make it work. The entire time we were separated, I kept remembering those wedding vows where you say “for better or worse” and that this was just a bump in the road.

The reality was, the marriage was already over. It had been over for months. If she had truly been happy with our marriage, then she wouldn’t have made some of the choices she made that resulted in our split. But I didn’t see that. I saw it as two people who got married and were having troubles and needed to figure out how to fix it.

I moved out and within a month or two, she told me she didn’t want to try and make it work, and that I should file for an official separation. She was already involved with another man and didn’t want to reconcile with me. I walked out of the duplex that afternoon, drove my car around the block, parked it, and proceeded to ball my eyes out. My marriage was truly over.

At this point, I was feeling pretty miserable. I didn’t have a lot of friends at the time. I had no romantic prospects for myself, and any friends I did have, just didn’t understand what I was going through. Me and my ex were trying to be friends, but she didn’t exactly make it easy. Anything and everything she said to me felt like she was flaunting her happiness while I was miserable. I also know that a lot of that perception was skewed by my own misery. Sure, she had her moments where she was a total bitch to me, but there were just as many times where I would take something innocent and twist it into something that was so far from the truth only I would see it. I was hurt and I wasn’t going to see it any other way.

Plus, the reality was, it really hurt that she was more happy with someone else, than with me. I was watching a woman that I had married be far more happy and jovial with another man, than she was with me. It made it feel like she was flaunting it in front of me and trying to shove her happiness in my face. Maybe part of her was, but the truth is she was finally able to be with someone who actually made her happy. I didn’t see that side of it until me and Tamara had a conversation one night in our kitchen. She told me a story from her perspective and when she explained it to me, a light bulb went off in my head and I saw that entire scenario in a completely different light. But in the moment, at the time, when my marriage had failed that’s not how I saw it at all.

When you’re feeling like you have failed because your marriage just ended, do you have any idea how soul-crushing it is to see the person you married be more happy with another person instead of you? It’s one of the most awful feelings you can ever have. If you happen to already have someone in your life, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad. But if you feel like you are alone, and that your life is a failure, every time you see the two of them together, it just sinks you even further into that pit. Your mind runs trying to figure out what it is you did wrong and why you failed at your marriage.

Throw into the mix the fact that I was expecting to hear from my dad on my birthday and he never called, and the fact that I hated my job, December of that year was about as bad as it could get.

On December 15th, 2002, I went into Walmart to buy some Christmas gifts and as I was looking at stuff in an aisle, I spotted my ex-wife with her new boyfriend. That was it. I could not take how I felt any more.

I shook my head, bolted for the door and went home. I took out my bottle of thyroid medication, put every pill in a long line on my desk. I got a glass of water, and scooped some of the pills up, swallowed them with the water, and repeated this until they were all gone.

Why? Why did I feel the need to do this?

I’m not a stupid person. I am not unintelligent. But I am an emotional person. I am someone who feels and who feels deeply. And when I hurt, I hurt deeply. 

The whole time I was driving back to my house, my mind raced with all of the miserable things I was feeling from that year. I had given up my dream job. I had failed at a marriage. I pushed my closest friend away because of my spouse. I isolated myself from other people because of how I felt in my marriage. I felt alone. I felt miserable. And I felt angry all at the same time.

I was at the bottom of the well looking up, and all I wanted was all of that misery to be gone. I didn’t want to feel alone anymore. I didn’t want to feel sad anymore.  I didn’t want to feel like a failure anymore. I just wanted to feel the same way I had felt before I got married. I wanted to be the crazy guy who did silly things just to be silly. I wanted to go back to being spontaneous and fun. But it felt like that guy was long gone and all I really wanted was to stop feeling so awful.

I didn’t want to die. I had no interest in actually dying. I just didn’t want to feel so horrible and miserable anymore. I just needed the anguish to go away and there was nothing else that I could think of in that moment that could make the pain disappear.

Why didn’t I call someone or talk to someone?

I felt alone and I felt like no one around me would understand how horrible I was feeling. But I also knew that the moment I picked up the phone and called someone, they would feed me the “it gets better” speech which to me was the last thing I wanted to hear.

Yes, we’ve all seen the commercials, and after school specials that tell us it’s never worth taking your own life. It will get better. Time heals all wounds. Blah blah blah. If I’m at the point where I want to die to make my misery end, do you really think telling me that at some mysterious point in the future everything will be fine is somehow going to make me feel better?

How the hell does that help someone when they are at the bottom of the well looking up and feeling helpless? 

“It’s not so bad. A year from now things will be so much better.”

Great. I only have to wait a whole year before my life doesn’t suck anymore. What do I do until then?

This is why I didn’t call anyone or try to reach out. I didn’t want to hear that things get better later. I wanted to stop feeling so awful right now. I needed to have that pain and misery taken away from me and I didn’t want to have to suffer anymore. I just wanted to stop feeling so awful. So, I swallowed a bottle of pills and hoped that would magically make everything better.

I got up from my desk, laid in my bed, stared at the ceiling and wondered what would happen next. But as it turns out, my journey was not meant to end with my mom coming home and finding me dead in my own bed. I don’t know how long I laid there, but at some point something inside me just switched. Next thing I know, I was in my car driving myself to the hospital. Checked into the ER, told them what I had done, and then had to face the consequences of my actions.

I called my mom and a friend from the hospital and had to tell both of them what had happened when they arrived. I stayed in the hospital a couple of days and then was released. But things were different. I was now a person who had attempted to take his own life. That action stays with you for your entire life and alters your perception about the world around you.

14 years later, I can be even more honest about what happened that day. A big part of it was wanting to get rid of the misery. But I also think there was a part of me that knew taking a bottle of pills wasn’t going to kill me. I think on some level I knew that if I took the pills, I wouldn’t die, but I would have to force myself to go through the repercussions of a suicide attempt and try to work my life out. Regardless, I ended up in a place where I was so miserable that suicide felt like the only way I could cure the misery.

So now when I see people talk about suicide prevention and doing everything they can to help, I often wonder if they actually know what it’s like to be in that place. Do they really know how a person feels when they reach that point? Do they really understand that for at least some of us, it isn’t about wanting to die, but simply wanting these feelings of despair to be over.

Now, I get the feeling that if you’ve come this far in my story, you’re probably wondering what someone like me, who’s gone through this experience, would suggest to others who do feel like they are in that same well. Or if you know someone who is pushing towards ending their life, what would I suggest you do to help.

The truth is, no one around me had any idea how sad I was. When you hear the stories about these people who take their own life and it comes as a huge shock to those around them, that is how I think it would have been for me. Despite how awful I felt, I did my best to put on a nice smile, pretend to be happy, and no one really knew how horrible I felt at the time. But people did know what I was going through. People did know that me and my ex had split up. They did know she was with someone else and I wasn’t. They were aware of the situation but because I seemed “fine”, no one thought to take it any further.

My advice to those of you out there who wonder what you should do, or what you can do, is to be aware and be sensitive to the things going on with your friends and family. Most people are not going to come out and tell you “I’m so miserable I want to kill myself”. But for those in your life that you care about, you should take the time to be aware of what they are going through. If you care about them, and they are important to you, you should be in the know about their lives and what’s going on.

By being “present” and “aware” of what’s going on in the lives of the people you love the most, you can take the time and effort to be there for them. When big emotional things happen to people, it doesn’t matter what the person says, they are not fine. No one goes through a breakup, a death, a tragic accident, assault, excessive bullying, or any other large emotional situation without being affected in some way. They may not even know they are being affected by it, but they are. We all want to think we are “fine”, but the reality is, we all have to deal with the shitty things that happen in life, and sometimes when one bad thing keeps happening after another, we lie to ourselves and others to say things are ok, but it really isn’t. It’s on both the person who is miserable and their loved ones, be it friends or family, to do what they can do pull them out of that well.

A true friend is someone who knows you are going through something awful, and despite the fact you keep telling them you are fine, they get you to talk or do something with you to help you, even when you don’t want them to. Those true friends are the ones who are paying attention to what’s going on in your life enough to know that when something bad happens, they need to be there with you whether you think you need them or not.

And to the person who is miserable, you cannot hold it inside. You cannot lie to the world. You cannot hope that your friends or family are going to come to you to help. You have to do your part and reach out. Whether that means you call someone, you write about what’s bothering you, you record a video on YouTube about how awful you feel, or you just go out for a walk and talk to yourself to get it out of your system. It’s hard as hell to do, and I know exactly how it feels, but if I had just called someone, even if I hadn’t been talking to them much lately, and told them I’m in a bad place, that would have been it. They would have been there in a flash and I would have told them how I felt. I’d still feel miserable and awful, but I would not have felt alone. Even if I didn’t have anyone in my life, I could have called 911 and said I think I want to kill myself and someone on the other end of the phone would have helped me.

It is scary to ask for help. We all think we can do it alone, but we don’t. No one ever does it alone. Whether it’s a spouse, a partner, or a friend, we all get through the worst of times together so don’t ever think for a single second that you are alone and have no one. There’s always someone, even a stranger, who can help.

And if by some strange chance a random stranger is reading this and feels like they are at the bottom of the pit, and need someone, then email me. I know exactly how you feel and would be glad to talk to you to help you out of that well of despair.

So that’s my own suicide story. I hope that if you read this whole thing, my story has given you a bit of a different perspective on what it’s like to be in that pit. It’s a scary place to be, so if you can do anything to help someone who might be near the edge and thinking about jumping, maybe some of my words can help you help them.

 – Matt

P.S. I said in my story here that I didn’t want to hear the “it gets better” spiel from anyone because it wouldn’t help me in the moment. But ironically, I am going to say that “it gets better”. 

In the summer of 2003, less than a year after my attempt, I began a romantic relationship with Tamara. In the spring of 2004, we bought a house and the following year we got married. Since we got together, my life has seen a 180 degree turnaround and it’s because of her. She has been the most amazing person I have ever had in my life. We have two kids and a life that I could not have ever fathomed I would have. I am so blessed and grateful for having her in my life that I cannot imagine how I ever existed without her. I went from settling for someone because I didn’t think I would ever find “the one” to actually finding “the one”. It was a hard journey to get where I am now, but here I am, and it’s better than ever.

So ya, it does get better and I know in the moment it may not feel that way. But all those stories people tell about it getting better over time, as lame as they may sound, are all true. Somehow find the strength to keep fighting and it will get better.

Categories: Flashbacks, Friends & Family, Rants | 5 Comments

Uber to the Rescue

I have literally been around the world and have found my way to and from where I was going without much difficulty. But today I experienced a bit of panic as I found myself in the middle of a very busy city, in a foreign country, with no way to get back to my hotel.

I’m in Bangalore, India this week doing a training class at our office here. I arrived here on Friday night (it is now Monday night) into Delhi, and made my way here to Bangalore yesterday. As part of the travel arrangements, I booked car service for pickup and dropoff as needed. By booking the car service, I didn’t have to worry about taxis or getting to and from the office because the service is supposed to take care of all that. Well, today they had a massive fail.

Today was the third and final strike against this car service. Strike one was at the airport in Delhi when the driver was nowhere to be found. After calling and looking repeatedly, I finally found him about 30-40 minutes after I was supposed to be picked up. Apparently he opted not to go inside the airport and figured somehow I would “just know” where I was supposed to go and get picked up. No, none of the emails or other communication told me what to do. My colleague who had been here the week before praised the car service and said they were at the airport with a sign with his name on it waiting for him. Not the case for me in Delhi.

Strike two was yesterday in Delhi as I waited at the hotel for my car. 11:00am passed and no car. 11:15 came and still no car. As it got closer to 11:30, one of the guys working at the hotel asked if he could call the driver for me. Sure enough, the driver said he wasn’t coming because he had a pickup at 1pm and that I just had to deal with it. The hotel got me a drive to the airport.

I had my confirmation for a pickup today at my office for 4:30pm. I had the drivers phone number, car model, and license plate information. 4:45 came and no car. 5pm came and no car and I finally tried to call him. I had been told that the car service had “good English speaking drivers”. This guy couldn’t understand much of what I was saying and proceeded to say something about being at “the gate”.

The office is a secured area so cars have to pass through a gate. I thought maybe he meant he was there and couldn’t get through. I walked up there but no sign of his car. Tuk tuk’s were everywhere, along with many other cars, people walking, cows wandering the streets, stray dogs walking around looking for food and humping each other (that part was at least funny) and just massive congestion of anything and everything.

I went back into the office and asked one receptionist about where car services are supposed to pick us up and she had no idea. I asked another person if she could call the guy on the phone and she did. Guess what? He was on the other side of town. Thought our office was somewhere else so there was no way this guy was going to pick me up.

At this point, it’s pushing 5:15pm and I’m starting to wonder exactly how I am getting back to the hotel.

The hotel… They have car services. I called the hotel and the woman on the phone was very helpful. She said she’d call me back with information on car availability. I took a deep breath and felt better.

The sound of “Take A Picture” by Filter came on my phone and sure enough the hotel had called back. No cars available until 8pm. Uh oh.

Ok, now I’m getting a little freaked out. It’s pushing towards 5:30 and I know I can’t walk back because it’s a good hours walk, and it’s in the middle of a city I don’t know, with massive chaos on the streets. No taxis in sight and only a small, limited amount of cash on me, I go back out to the gates and look around and then it hits me, “WTF am I going to do?”

There’s no one in the office I know. I don’t speak the language. I don’t know the area at all. There’s cars and livestock wandering everywhere with a 100 horns blasting each other trying to drive through what seems to be the most chaotic system of roads I’ve ever seen.

I started to get really freaked out. As I am sure some of you know, when your mind starts to panic, rational thought goes right out the window. Yes, I probably could have gotten in one of those tuk tuk’s and found my way back to the hotel. I could have probably went back inside the office and see if they could call a taxi for me. It’s easy to think of these things now after I’m back in a comfortable room feeling a lot more calm about the situation. But at the time, I’m looking around me and all I am seeing is just chaos everywhere and no way to get out of it. I can feel my heart beating a bit faster and I know it could get worse.

I was really starting to get freaked  out.

But as I looked down at my phone a light went off in my head. What about Uber?

I quickly opened the app and sure enough, there’s a ton of Uber options here. I pick my destination, say I want a ride, and 5 minutes later, I was sitting in a car on my way to the hotel. He didn’t speak much English either but he had Google Maps on his phone with my hotel dialed in. I breathed a sigh of a relief and watched the madness around me continue. He pulled up to the hotel and I thanked him feeling a huge sigh of relief.

I got out of the car, came into the hotel, and it hit me. The raw wave of emotional panic that was bundled up inside of me burst out of me as I started walking down the hall towards my room. I was just a spaghetti bowl of nerves and emotions that just erupted all over the place and it took me a good 20 minutes to calm down.

Thankfully, a very nice employee saw how distressed I was that he helped me to my room and even put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door for me. 5 minutes later, the assistant manager shows up and wants to know if I am ok, and if there is anything he or the hotel can do for me.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in hotel rooms but I have never had a hotel seem this genuinely concerned for my welfare before. I am absolutely blown away at how gracious they are here. It’s amazing.

My nerves have finally calmed down, and after a quick chat with my wife, and a rearrangement of my car services, I’m feeling a whole lot better now. I was never in any danger. I never felt like I was unsafe. But I certainly did feel like I was stuck somewhere and had no idea what to do. In this case, it seems like Uber was the saving grace for me.

It also serves as a reminder that when things start to seem like they are spiraling out of control, you need to take a beat, and just remain calm. The “panic” of it all really didn’t hot me until I got back to the hotel and realized how spooked I was by the whole thing. It could have been far worse. I’m glad to be feeling better now.

It’s only Monday. What’s the rest of the week going to be like?

Categories: Travel | 3 Comments

An Awesome Early Christmas Gift


Tamara decided that since she got an early Christmas gift from me, she’d return the favour. She gave me this a few days ago and man, it is awesome.

As you may recall, in August of last year, I went to see Faith No More in Toronto. I chronicled the concert here where I told the story of how I finally got to meet all 5 members of the band, and they signed my 7″ LP. Well, at the same show, I also purchased a signed poster-art piece that was done specifically for that show. When I finally got home, I had said to Tamara that I should take the poster, the autographed 7″ and a few other things related to that concert and get them framed and hang it in my office.

Well, looks like she did it for me.

As you can see from the image, the poster for that gig is on the left, and on the right I have a Faith No More “patch” (which came with the CD/LP set I ordered when their new album came out), the concert ticket from the show I went to, the autographed 7″ picture disc all the guys signed, and their Sol Invictus CD for which they were touring on. All of this in one really nice frame and a cool blue matte to go with it.

It’s a one of a kind item and will be going up in my office as soon as I can pick a good spot for it.

HUGE thanks to my wife Tamara who is just pure awesome.

Categories: Concerts, Friends & Family, House, MOTD | 1 Comment

Electronics are not Evil; Parents who are Lazy Are


This image came up on Facebook today and I finally had enough. I’m writing here to rant on people who keep posting this crap.

Electronics are not evil. Computers and the internet are not horrible things. People said the same thing 50 years ago about us watching TV. It was so bad and was going to rot our brains and blah blah blah. It’s been said 100s of times before and will be said again and again for years to come.

What I want to say is that this is not about the electronics. This is about parents who don’t want to do their job and make sure their kids grow up having a well rounded childhood. For me, let me cite my own kids as prime examples of this.

Both Dylan and Megan have a tablet. It has games, Netflix, Youtube, and other video content. We also have a Wii U which the kids play games on as well. These kids spend far more time doing other things than playing on their electronics. Yes, they do like their electronics time, but they do not live on them. They get very little electronics time during school days and limited time on the weekends. But for the most part, my kids enjoy doing lots of other things other than playing on electronics.

They play Lego. They play Pokemon. Megan plays with her Shopkins and makes up games all the time. Dylan and I play air hockey downstairs all the time. He also enjoys going outside and climbing the trees and making up games with himself and his sister. He loves building things with Lego and using his imagination to create hybrids of sets he already has.

We go outside and walk or bike around the block. We go to playgrounds and climb on things. We go swimming and hiking now and then.

We also sit and talk at supper time. What did you do today? Did you learn anything new today? Was it a good day or bad day? We actually carry on conversations about what’s going on in our lives everyday.

THIS IS WHAT PARENTING IS ABOUT FOLKS!!! I’m not saying I’m the perfect dad. But I am one who knows that having a child is not just something you do for fun (although it is fun making them). You have a responsibility to your kids to do the best you can to insure they have full and happy lives. Get them to play in the real world and experience their surroundings in many different ways. It makes for happier kids and happier parents.

But it also doesn’t mean that if I give my kids my phone to play Pokemon Go I’m being lazy. Just because my son is watching Netflix one afternoon does not mean I am taking anything away from his childhood. If Megan wants to watch Shopkins videos on Youtube for an hour during an afternoon, it’s not the end of the world.

I spend countless hours with my kids just playing and hanging out. But my kids also want to play on these magical electronic devices and as long as they are getting a well rounded life experience, I see no harm in letting them have access to these kinds of electronics. It’s only when their whole life is buried in there that it’s a problem.

Categories: Rants | Leave a comment

A Plea to Harmony Gold

If you’re not a fan of Robotech, or don’t know anything about it, skip this post. It won’t hold much meaning for you.

Please stop. Seriously. Please stop now and put your energy into something that fans actually want.

We don’t want yet another re-issue of the soundtrack.

We don’t want another re-issue of the shows on DVD.

We don’t want another “new” movie that is really just old material spliced together with a tiny bit of new material.

We don’t want more and more ridiculous merchandise that no one ever asked for (skateboard decks, really?)

We don’t want more convention appearances that make empty promises about projects that never happen.

We don’t want more news about a so called live action movie that was originally announced in 2007 but no one has seen anything actually happen with this.

Seriously, enough is enough. Stop milking us fans over and over again and actually PRODUCE something.

In 1985, I was introduced to Robotech and it literally did change my world. Robotech became a staple of my youth and prompted me to start writing my own stories within that universe. Even in my 40s, I still love that show and have been following the Robotech website since it launched.

But since then, all I have seen is a constant barrage of harmony Gold’s milking of the franchise. I can’t count how many times they have “released” so called “new” versions of the DVDs, soundtracks, and countless other source material. The same stuff packaged differently over and over again. Add to that a constant advertisement for their latest toys and merchandise to sell to the fans. I mean, seriously, who the hell wants a skateboard deck for Robotech? Is this truly what this company is focusing on?

Lastly is the constant sea of tweets about convention appearances where supposed staff of Harmony Gold talk about the latest Robotech projects, but never actually announce anything people want to hear about. In 2007 they announced a live action movie. It’s 2016 and still nothing has happened. Gee, I wonder why.

WTF is wrong with Harmony Gold? Seriously. With a property as valuable as Robotech, you would think it would be easy for you to produce something that is ACTUALLY NEW AND INTERESTING instead of a constant stream of retreaded crap.

I cannot fathom how this company thinks this is what fans want.

STFU about whatever new toys or DVDs, or underwater basket weaving devices you have for sale promoting Robotech. Get some gawd damned content made and put it onscreen. THAT’S what real fans want.

Categories: MOTD, Rants | Leave a comment

Not Guns. Not Mental Health. It’s Fear.

I have a tendency to keep some of the more controversial topics off my blog because I really don’t feel like getting into a debate with trolls on the internet who insist that they know everything. But, once in awhile I feel compelled to write out my own feelings. With yet another mass shooting down in the US, I’m taking a few minutes to write out what I have been thinking about this for a long time.

As a Canadian with many American friends, I am in a position where I know a lot of people who live down there and have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. I also happen to know that for the most part, the people I do know that live down there are really nice, really great people. They feel just like the folks I know back home. But the reality is, the culture in the United States is definitely different than those of us from Canada and it can clearly be seen when the whole gun debate thing comes up.

Since this last shooting, again Facebook is flooded with a ton of people writing about their opinion on gun control and making it safer for people to live. I have an acquaintance who loves guns and went on a bit of a rant on Facebook about how guns are not the problem and that people should have a right to own whatever gun they want and that people only blame guns because they want to spread fear and so on and so on. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn his attitude was that of the pro-gun folks from the USA. But, none the less, he’s entitled to his opinion and I have mine.

So let’s take both sides of this equation.

Side 1: Pro-Gun Control

The folks who say guns are the problem say that if you remove the gun from the equation, the likelihood of mass killings like this  will go down. I actually agree completely. If the shooter did not have access to a weapon like he had, a lot less people would have been killed in that moment. Sure, he could still have gone out and killed people, but the ease at which he would have been able to do so would have been reduced. You cannot tell me that someone without a gun can kill 50 people as easily as they can with an assault rifle like the one that was used. Yes, there are plenty of ways to kill human beings, many of which you can look up online, but beyond a bomb, none of them are as effective at mass killing as a gun. Any gun.

If something had been done to prevent a gun from getting into the hands of the shooter, a lot less people would be dead, in my opinion.

An argument made against gun-control is that it doesn’t stop criminals from obtaining guns. I agree completely. But what it does do is make it harder for the criminals to obtain those guns. No criminal is going to obtain a gun legally. But where exactly do you think these criminals obtain their guns? They steal them, or they buy them from people who do steal them. And guess where they steal them from? They steal them from people who have access to them legally, or buy them illegally from people who have legal access to them. So one way or another, at some point in the supply chain there’s someone who has legal access to those kinds of weapons and then they end up in the hands of those who would misuse them. If you make it impossible, or very difficult to obtain those weapons in a legal manner, then it hurts the supply chain of the criminal manner. One goes hand in hand with the other.

Side 2: Pro-Gun

The folks who are pro-gun (in the USA mainly) say that the gun is not the problem but the person holding the gun is. The gun doesn’t kill someone, a person does. They claim that it’s a mental health issue and that those who end up with these weapons are sick and need mental assistance. Now, I could buy into that if it were true in all nations where guns can be acquired but that’s not the case. Many nations in the world allow people to own weapons or have criminal elements that allow access to weapons but the amount of mass shootings and deaths by gun are staggeringly low compared to the USA. You can’t claim it’s a mental health issue when the issue doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The only way mental health is the issue is if it’s something unique to the USA that’s causing the mental illness. For me, this is where I side with my own version of what is the real cause of the problem.

Side 3: Fear

I believe that the “mental health” issue that exists in the USA has nothing to do with people being insane and going on a killing spree and everything about simply being afraid.

“The right to bear arms” seems to come up a lot when these things happen. Many people in the USA feel that they have the right to own a weapon to protect themselves, their family, and their property. They feel this is a core value of being a citizen of the United States of America. To those who feel this way, they feel they have the right to own and use a weapon on anyone and anything that they feel threatens them or their family. It is this very value that I point the finger at as being the root cause of what’s wrong in the USA.

These people, whom many of them are well respected, intelligent, and gun-safety aware individuals, feel that if someone breaks into their home, they need to shoot and kill that person to “protect” their family and their property. I wonder why they feel like this. And although I am not one of them, what I am guessing is the root cause is that those people think that the folks breaking into their homes are there to do them harm. That they are there to break into their home, kill them, murder their spouses and children, and do general harm to anyone who gets in their way. So it’s a “kill or be killed” mentality. The problem is, no one seems to be thinking about what is actually going on.

I live in a relatively safe neighborhood in Atlantic Canada. Kids ride their bikes in the streets. My neighbors are friendly and I have no worries about being safe. But I also know that at any time, someone could break into my home, steal my stuff, or whatever. I know the reality is that anything can happen at any time. That really is the way of the world. So why don’t I own a gun to protect my family? Because I don’t want to live in fear.

Those people who arm themselves in their home insist that they do it to protect themselves. But I think this is not the case. I think they are afraid and the gun gives them a false sense of security. They are scared that someone is out there and is coming to kill them or do them, or their family harm. They see the world as one where they cannot rely on anyone else and have to be ready for anything to happen. They would rather assume that the worst is always the most probably case and to be prepared for it.

I know that if someone broke into my home, I’d be scared. But I also know that the odds of them breaking into my house to kill me or my family are slim to none. Yes, sure there are crazies in the world, but if I live my life obsessing over every crazy thing that could happen, I’d never leave my house. So instead, I live my life assuming that the majority of people I know are good people, and that things will be fine. I might be living obliviously, but I believe it’s better for me to be optimistic about what the world is, then to be afraid of everything.

The guy who breaks into my house is not likely there to kill me. He’s probably breaking in to steal something so he can sell it for money to pay off a debt, or buy drugs, or something else. That’s why people break into other people’s houses. Most of the time it’s theft, not murder. If a thief came into my home, he can take whatever he wants as long as he leaves me and my family alone.  And yes, if he came near my family, I would do anything in my power to protect them, but I’m not going to go out and buy a gun to do that. To me, that’s kind of like saying fear has beaten me.

Do I worry that bad things might happen? Sure. We all do. But if you focus on all of the bad in the world, you’ll be miserable. I have been there and it’s not a place I want to go back to. I’d rather live in a world where things are optimistic, even when sometimes I know it’s not possible.

Therein lies the difference. Those who choose to view the world with optimism, even if it’s misguided sometimes, don’t live in fear and therefore don’t need to have a gun to feel safe. Since I don’t need to have a gun, I don’t have a gun and since I don’t have a gun, I can’t kill anyone. In the US, because this fear culture is so prolific, you can go pretty much anywhere and buy any kind of gun to “protect” yourself. Those same retailers can either sell the guns illegally or may even get their guns stolen and hence the criminals now have access to the same gun library. If everyone wasn’t so afraid of the world, there wouldn’t be a need to have guns in every corner store. This fear culture has bred into a gun culture which people mistake as a way to protect themselves when it’s really just a way for people to not be afraid anymore.

There’s also another side to this that I don’t think people think about either. If someone breaks into your home and is trying to steal your $100 blu-ray player and you shoot him dead, exactly what have you done? You literally took the life of another human being for $100. No, that person should never have broken into your home and scared you like they did. But was that human being’s life really worth taking over a $100 media player?

And now that this person is dead, you have to live with the consequence of taking the life of another human being. Regardless of what actions the person took that drove them to steal from you, it was your decision to end their life and now you have to spend the rest of your life living with the fact that you killed another human being for $100. You will never live that down and will carry that with you for the rest of your life.

I happen to know of someone through my extended family who did kill someone. That someone was a father, son, brother, husband, and friend to many people. And although in this case it was entirely by accident, that person lives with the mistake they made to this day, despite the fact it happened over 30 years ago. Imagine if in your case, you did it on purpose. You will have that scar forever.

I believe the issue present in the United States is that they have bred a culture of fear and are paying the price for it. It’s not going to change with gun control, or better mental health. It’s only going to change when the people of that country realize that living in fear is not a way to live at all. It’s ok to be a little afraid, but you shouldn’t be living your life assuming that everyone else around you is out to get you and that it’s only every man for himself.

This is further complicated by the fact that religious zealots have used terrorism over the course of the last 15 years to scare people even more. At one time, the residents of the US were kind of oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the world. 9/11 changed all that and now the fear of others coming to harm you is even stronger. As terrorism continues, and the hate proliferates, this issue is going to become even worse before it gets better. Throw in American media which loves to glorify violence and terrorism on television, people are exposed to it at every corner and become more and more afraid.

I wonder if the day will ever come where everyone living in the US realizes that you can live a much happier life looking at the world with a smile, than with a snarl.

That’s my own take on the whole issue. It is just my own personal opinion but I wanted to get it out there. Take it for what it is.

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My First Surgery

A couple of months back, I had an incident during my mother-in-laws birthday party that had me visiting the hospital for kidney stones. I tell you, I’ve never experienced pain like that ever in my life. It was bad. Thankfully the folks at the hospital took good care of me and before you know it, I was on my way home.

But the trouble didn’t end there. Turns out the stones I had were pretty persistent and refused to pass. So almost 3 months later, both were still inside and now I had one showing on both sides. My urologist recommended I have day surgery for him to go in and get them.

So this past Friday, I spent an entire day not eating or drinking anything until I got the call from the hospital that it was time to go in.

Now, before I go any further, let me add a bit to that. I’m a Coke drinker. In fact, I’m a heavy Coke drinker. I know I drink too much of the stuff but it’s been my only vice. Ever. No alcohol, cigarettes, or anything else. Just Coke. So when I had to go an entire day without it, and without eating, the headache was killer. I was in so much pain from the headache that I could barely stand up. So finally when it was time to go to the hospital, I was more happy about getting painkillers from them than getting the stones out.

The procedure itself is a mystery to me as I was put to sleep for it. A quick Google search will tell you the somewhat disturbing reality of what they do:

Although some stones in the ureters can be treated with ESWL, ureteroscopy may be needed for mid- and lower-ureterstones. No incision is made in this procedure. Instead, thesurgeon passes a small fiberoptic instrument called a ureteroscope through the urethra and bladder into the ureter.

Ya… Never want to be awake for that. The mere thought of what they actually do freaks me out, even to type it here.

I woke up, went home, and spent the weekend trying to move past the aches and pains and popped Percocet to kill the discomfort I was having. However that in itself made things even more complicated because although it treated the pain from the post-surgery, it can (and did) cause constipation which made my stomach feel even worse.

Every time I have had to pee, the process has been difficult as standing and sitting both cause discomfort and the actual act of going to the bathroom was… well not painful, but certainly not comfortable. It’s like every time I try to pee, it feels like a giant gas bubble is building in my stomach. It does appear to be easing a bit.

Today (Thursday) I feel better. My stomach is nowhere near as sore or achy as it has been, and I’m feeling like I can move around much easier now than I have been all week. But just after I thought my insides were getting better (my urine has been discolored up until yesterday), today I’m back to a mixture of colors that are not what I would expect to be coming out of my body. I’m sure it’s normal but I just want it all done.

Another thing about all of this is that normally, for this kind of discomfort, I would have called in sick for work and taken a few extra days to recover. But we had folks from England coming to our office for training so I spent the last 3 days training them while feeling as uncomfortable as I have. I warned them that I’d be popping pain pills as needed but these guys are so fantastic that it’s been a great week. HUGE kudos to them for being such an awesome group.

On Wednesday I have a follow up appointment and I am hoping by then, everything else will be back to normal. But as an extra takeaway from this, I’ve opted to drastically reduce my Coke intake. For one, knowing it had such a negative physical impact on me bothered me considerably. I need to control my body and not have something like that control it. And secondly, I’m sure I can find other things to drink that are better for me. I’ve been almost Coke free since then. A little here and there but not the buckets of it like I have had before. I may even get weened off completely by the time July comes. We’ll see.

But for now, I’m glad to be in better shape with my kidneys, and am glad to have friends and family who help me through these bumps in the road.

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Air Canada Is Not That Bad, Your Attitude Is

It’s been over 10 years since I started travelling on a regular basis for work. It’s been about the last 4-5 that I have been doing it a lot. It’s to the point now where air travel is a no brainer for me and I have my own little system of getting to and from my destination with very little worry.

I do however read the odd Facebook post where someone decides to go on a tirade about how BAD Air Canada is and that they will never fly with them, blah blah blah. It always goes like this:

Some person going somewhere had to be bumped from a flight, or missed a flight and couldn’t get connected til the next day, or had their bags go missing, or couldn’t get on a standby fly they were hoping for, or were treated badly by someone at the airline. All of these things have happened to me in the last 10 years and here I am, still flying with Air Canada and will continue to do so.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of reasons for that but let’s get one of them out of the way right now.

Unlike other parts of the world, Canada only has a handful of airlines that we can use to fly anywhere, and Air Canada is the biggest and flies to the most locations. So somewhat by default, I fly with Air Canada because the other Canadian carriers either don’t go where I need to go for work, charge WAY more than AC does for the flights I need, or cause me such connection and ticket pain that it’s not worth it.

That last one is the real kicker. For those who don’t know, when you connect from one airline to another (AC to Westjet for example), in some cases, depending on the airline, you are actually issued two completely different tickets: one for airline #1 and another for #2. That means that when I get off my first flight, I have to go to baggage claim, get my bag, re-check it at the second carrier’s desk, go through security again, and get on my plane. If you have a limited amount of time, good luck with that.

Thankfully in most cases, the airlines are able to issue you a single ticket for both airlines, but a LOT of times information from one carrier to another gets lost. This is yet another reason why I have seen bags get lost is because of the connection between carriers.

I HATE having to travel on multiple airlines to get to a single destination when the carriers are not part of the “same network”. It can cause huge headaches, delays, and a massive pain in the ass when you are trying to make changes.

Which brings me to why I won’t fly Westjet or Porter. They are simply not big enough to get me to the places I would typically need to go easily enough.

But that’s not the biggest reason I fly AC. I fly AC because I like the airline, get great service, and have had very few issues. The odd one I have had with the airline I made sure it was taken care of and all was well with the world.

“But Matt, we flew to X and had a flight cancelled and the agent wouldn’t help us. She was rude and told us blah blah blah.”

Ok, so let’s examine what happens when a flight is cancelled. I have been there and done that 100 times and know what you should and shouldn’t do.

First off, there are SO many factors that go into how handling passengers for a cancelled flight that it’s impossible for me to list them all here. But I can tell you that people are treated differently based on a couple of things.

If you have status with the airline, even a lower status, those people tend to have better luck getting service from an agent than someone who doesn’t have status. It’s nothing against those people, but the reality is the frequent flyers keep the airlines in business. If the airlines treat them like crap, they will go out of business in no time flat. That means for AC, if you don’t have Prestige status or higher, they care about you, just not as much as their frequent flyers.

That sounds mean, but it’s business. If you own a successful business, you know all about taking care of your frequent customers so they keep coming back. Simple business 101.

Then it comes down to the class of ticket you have. If you have a Tango class ticket, you might as well spin the roulette wheel and see what happens. This is the lowest class of fare on ANY airline and is why you get “good deals”. They cut the price down so low that people buy the ticket, but those folks are the last to get anything from the airline. Don’t ever expect to get much of anything with a Tango ticket, unless you have status with the airline. That’s just the way it is.

Further to that, change fees, luggage fees, and “extra” fees will always pop up on Tango fares. Sometimes even getting on standby isn’t an option with those fares. That’s why if you want to avoid some of that, a Flex or higher fare is better. Yes, it costs more but it really depends on what you want so REALLY think about it when you buy a ticket.

Now all of that being said, the agents are supposed to treat everyone equally and politely. But let’s face some reality here. A notice comes on that says a flight is cancelled. That means that 100+ people are now irritated and mad about their flight being cancelled and the agent is the first person they are going to talk to. You might get to the agent after he/she has spoken to 25 other people who are just as pissed off as you. Do you think that agent is going to be in a good mood after talking to them? Probably not. They are trying to do their best but everyone of us is human and can only take so much.

If you want my advise, find another gate agent or another customer service desk that is away from the gate/agent that is dealing with everyone else. You will probably have better luck.

Oh, and despite what some agents might tell you, EVERY agent at a gate can make changes. It doesn’t matter if they are working another flight. If you see an agent for your airline at a gate just hanging out, they can help you.

Secondly, for cancelled flights, it is what it is. There’s nothing you can do about it. So screaming and yelling at the agent about having to get home to feed your dog is not going to make it happen any faster. There are literally many instances where the agent simply cannot do anything for you because of all of the other people who are in the same situation you are.

I cannot stress how important it is for people to realize that the agent is not the one responsible for a cancelled flight or a missing bag. It’s not their fault so screaming at them and making them feel like a bag of assholes is not going to help the situation. In fact, I would bet those are the times the agent specifically sticks you with the worst possible flight because you were the one harassing them.

I have stood at gate 26 at Pearson Airport and listen to a woman scream at an agent insisting she had a right to be on the next flight and the agent stayed quite calm and told her there was no room and there was nothing she could do. The woman stomped away calling the agent names and was furious. Uhm, hello, if the plane holds 50 people, do you think we should kick one of those passengers off so your highness can get on the flight instead? Seriously, wtf is wrong with people like this?

And also, flights get cancelled for a lot of reasons and many of them annoy the hell out of us but we can’t control it. Flights get cancelled because of weather, mechanical failure, crew unavailability and many other reasons. I’ve had a flight cancelled over a frozen toilet. A colleague had his flight cancelled because the flight attendant didn’t have the demo seat belt to do the safety demonstration. I’ve had a flight cancelled because it was delayed too long and the crew couldn’t fly any more that day. Shit happens so instead of bitching about it, try and find a way to deal with it.

So now let me tell you what I do when I know a flight has been cancelled. Even though I have status with the airline, and I have a special # I can call for help, I don’t even deal with the airline. Instead, I call my travel agent.

Travel agent? Why wouldn’t you just book the trip yourself. Well, I have done this in the past. And sometimes it’s ok. But if you want the security of knowing you can get help when you need it, the travel agent is your saviour. Let me tell you a story.

I was once waiting for a flight to London. Standing at the gate it got delayed, and then delayed again. Now I have a couple of apps on my phone which tells me when a flight gets cancelled. My phone beeped and told me my flight had been cancelled, but it didn’t come up on the board yet and the announcement hadn’t been made. So when I saw the message about it being cancelled, I got out of the line, walked over to a quiet area, and called the emergency number for my travel agent. I got a person right away and asked for help. Told them my flight was cancelled and I needed options. The person on the phone did a quick search and got me a seat on the next flight and sent me the confirmation. As I was on the phone, they announced my older flight had been cancelled and people rushed to the agent.

A couple of minutes later, my phone beeped with my new confirmation and I walked over to the new gate. I never dealt with a line, or anyone who was pissed about the cancellation. All of the people in the line for the agent had to wait and get rebooked. I called my agent and had it done in minutes. HUGE difference.

The travel agent has helped and saved me more times than I can count. Yes, you will pay a service charge for them to book your travel, but that also buys you some comfort when things go sour. Totally worth it.

I’ve also seen people get mad because they were bumped from a flight and someone else took their seat. I can’t say that I’ve ever had that happen, but yet again, there are some legit reasons for this. There are instances where the flight crew for another flight needs to get from one place to another and so they get on a flight as passengers and the airline bumps several people to the next flight to accommodate them. In those situations, if those crew members don’t get where they are going, it creates a cascading set of delays and cancellations which affect hundreds maybe even thousands of passengers depending on where it is.

Yes it sucks, but imagine being on the other end when they cancel your flight because there’s no crew, and you can’t get out of wherever you are for a couple of days. I’d rather take the flight bump at the start then be stuck somewhere.

Now, I’ll also tell you about something I have read about but never had the opportunity to try. EVERY airline has what’s known as the “Conditions of Carriage” which basically dictate the terms you and the airline are agreeing to when you buy a ticket. I have heard that as a passenger, you are within your right to request a copy of the conditions from any agent at any gate and they have to give them to you. It’s the law. If you can obtain a copy of the conditions and read them, in many cases there is a line in the conditions that basically says the airline MUST book you on the next available flight, regardless of airline.

So if for example you are flying Westjet and they cancel and rebook you for the next day, but there’s an AC flight leaving in 3 hours and it has seats, they can book you on it. The catch has something to do with the wording around “extreme inconvenience” or something like that. The airlines default to booking you on the next flight THEY have available and give you hotel/meal vouchers to offset the trouble. But if you push hard enough, and can find the paperwork and show it to them, you may be able to get on another airline at no charge. I have heard of some people snagging the PDFs of these conditions and having them with them when they travel.

I have no idea if that is true or not, but I did read the terms on AC before and did find a line similar to what I mention above.

That brings me to those of you who insist that AC is a shithole of an airline and to avoid at all costs. Well, sorry you feel that way but if they really were that bad, they wouldn’t stay in business. Plenty of people fly with them all the time, myself included, so you may have had an unfortunate set of circumstances that gave you that opinion of them. But in the end, they have been fantastic for me to deal with and would fly with them anywhere in the world.

I will also mention that there are plenty of people who SWEAR by Rogers yet I can’t stand them as a company. But plenty of people still use their services. Others say Bell is a horrible company and you should stay away from them. I’ve been a Bell customer for years and never had any real issues.

Everyone’s story is unique so just because you’ve had a crappy (or good) experience with a company does not mean everything about them is bad (or good).



Categories: MOTD, Rants, Travel | Leave a comment

Dear Wil & Felicia

In just over a week, I’ll be in LA delivering a class. As luck would have it, while I am there, Felicia Day (FD) is doing a book signing and speaking engagement with her good friend Wil Wheaton. As soon as I realized it was happening the week I was in LA, I bought tickets to go. I read her book and have been inspired by both the book and her work in web video. The Guild was a series I watched and immediately understood. After that, I found The Flog which I thought was just awesome.

While in Vegas last week, I found out that Wil Wheaton is actually going to be with her. This just added to my excitement as both Wil and Felicia have struck a chord with me for very different reasons. I don’t know if either of them will read this, but regardless, I wanted to say a few things.

For Wil,

I was on your website the other day and you had posted a link to this:

Stand by Me- Bridge

Let me tell you a story about 4 boys, growing up in a small city, who hung out and did stupid crap together. One of them is a kid who was smart and went on to be pretty successful in his life with a family. But he always has had a passion for writing that he’s been doing since he was young. His closest friend, kind of a tough guy, from a tough family, but has a heart of gold for those who are close to him and stands up for his friends. Another good friend who suffered a bit of abuse from his dad, but despite that, loved him dearly. And the last friend, kind of a goofball and always up for something, he made the four of them the best of friends.

Reading that paragraph could easily describe the four main characters from the movie Stand By Me: Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern. But what it also describes is myself and three of my closest childhood friends: Jason, J.C., and Ben. Known as The Four Horsemen, we were 4 inseparable friends through junior high and high school. Jason was as close to me as a real brother and J.C. and Ben were both great friends as well.

Despite my passion for science fiction, Stand By Me has stayed at the top of my favorite movie list for years. I have a VHS tape copy of the movie in a box downstairs, signed by Jerry O’Connell when he was part of the TV show “My Secret Identity”. Any of my friends remember the weekend he did the Christmas Daddies Telethon at McNaughton High? Me and J.C. were in the audience and when they mentioned Stand By Me, we waved my movie in the air and he pointed to us.

The reason SBM has stayed my all time favorite movie is because of how much it seems to parallel my own life, and every time I watch it now as an adult, it’s like watching my own life backward in time. I see myself, Jason, Ben, and J.C. hanging out in my basement (our version of their treehouse) talking about girls, playing games, and just doing stupid kid things. I remember J.C. coming to the house scared of his dad after he’d been drinking too much. I remember countless things about that time in my life and I realize in watching Gordie, in some ways it feels like I was watching myself.

I was Gordie. Jason was Chris. J.C. was Teddy, and Ben was Vern. Not all of the characteristics of the movie characters line up to my friends and life, but a lot do in many ways which is why this movie is such a big deal to me. Even J.C.’s death in 2007 has a minor connection as the character of Chris also died in a bar. J.C. may not have actually died in a bar, but his death started there when he collapsed.

And just as the end of the movie talks about how friends move apart over time, my friendships with these guys have changed as well. Like Gordie and Chris, me and Jason were very close for a very long time, and although he lives in BC, and I live in Moncton, when I visited him last year, it was like no time had passed at all. That’s what having friends who are like brothers is supposed to be like. I still see Ben from time to time as well.

The last time I watched this movie, I sat in bed, and cried when Gordie is telling the story of how Chris died in a bar trying to stop a fight. The tears rolled down my face and Tamara came in and just knew in an instant what I was upset about. I was remembering J.C. and the countless hours of Nintendo we played in my living room, and a hundred other memories of a great friend of mine who was taken way too early.

I connect to that movie more than anything else in pop culture. Sure, I see myself in characters from things like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and especially The Big Bang Theory. But when it comes to a movie that really means more than just entertainment, Stand By Me is always going to be far above the rest as I see myself in so many ways as the character of Gordie. I may not be a professional writer, but I have been writing now for almost 30 years.

Robotech fanfiction in the 80’s; countless music and movie reviews, plus all kinds of weird content for VAJ Magazine in the 90’s, I started blogging in 2000/2001 and have been going strong with that; plus half of the content of Cache Up NB; plus my writing for my day job have kept me writing for all this time.

Gordie is a character that was written by Stephen King, but you (Wil) brought that character to life, and much of that movie as a well, with your own take on what Gordie was experiencing. As an adult, I can appreciate what you did to accomplish that. I know it’s just a role for an actor, but when a role truly connects with a person on a “real” level, I can’t imagine how that must feel to an actor to know how they connected to their audience through their character.

I’ve watched you portray a range of different characters over the years and enjoy your work in all mediums, but Gordie and Stand By Me will always stay at the top of my list for it’s personal connection to me. I really hope I get the opportunity to thank you in person next week. Either way, thank you for bringing such a meaningful story to life through your acting career.

For Felicia,

My discovery of your work came much later in life. In fact, my first exposure to your acting was through the show Eureka (which was AWESOME and I wish it was still on the air). A friend of mine told me about a web series that you were on and sure enough, after a Youtube search I found The Guild and from that point I was hooked. I binge watched the entire course of the show, as well as many an episode of The Flog.

Watching The Guild, there was a lot of stuff in there that I found myself connected to. Years ago, it was never online gaming for me, but IRC. I spent countless hours interacting with people on an IRC channel like they were my real friends. In watching your show, a lot of the characteristics of Codex really reminded me of myself. I’m not a woman, but I can definitely understand the feeling of wanting to hide behind a computer monitor where things can feel safer.

I grew up in a time period much like you and Wil where the whole geek/nerd thing wasn’t cool. But I did manage, in my own way, to find a group of like-minded individuals who just “got me”. Watching The Guild, it’s clear that others out there “get it’ as well. I tried to get my wife to watch it with me but she didn’t really get it like I did. Much in the same way I don’t get her cross-stitching or scrapbooking. It’s foreign to me.

Then I read your book.

Now,  I should make it clear that I am not really a reader. In fact, in the last 30 years, I could probably count on both hands how many actual books I have bought to read. There’s a Star Trek novel in there, a couple of X-Files books, Ender’s Game, a weird and excessively boring book on forbidden archaeology (it was like reading the ingredients on a prescription bottle), and You’re Never Weird On The Internet.

I bought the book because after watching countless hours of The Guild, Flog, and other videos of yours, and reading your tweets, it really seemed like you were the type of person who understood those of us who have a hard time coming out of our shell. For someone who’s spent a bunch of time on TV, you also didn’t seem like you had your head up your ass either. This is something I find incredibly awesome about you and Wil. Despite the notoriety you guys have, you seem quite grounded which I’m guessing isn’t as common as we’d like it to be in Hollywood.

The book was awesome and it really made me feel like if you do have some kind of passion, that you just have to go for it and not let others push you down. I have things I want to do in my life but I am scared to try them. Reading your novel has helped push me a bit further towards something I really want to do. I love writing and am hoping I can make use of it for something other than 16 years worth of blog entries. I have so many ideas that I want to get out, but I always feel like I should hold back and just do my day job because it’s safe. I’m slowly working my way out of that and part of what’s getting me there has been inspiration from your book.

Plus, when I saw that you were a fan of Anne of Green Gables, I smiled as I live in Moncton, New Brunswick which is literally only about 2 hours by car away from Prince Edward Island. Hearing someone famous actually know what PEI is sounded pretty damn cool.

So for you, I want to thank you for continuing to be true to yourself and sharing that experience with the rest of us. It’s extremely vulnerable to put yourself out there and let the world know about what you have experienced. But in sharing that, it makes it easier for the rest of us who are trying to do the same thing.

So a week from now, I’ll get to see these two great folks talk to an audience and see more of what they’re really like. I’m pretty excited.



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My Big Bang Theory Taping Experience

On March 1st, 2016, I had the opportunity to sit and watch a taping of the CBS television program The Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show on TV right now and so getting the chance to see it taped live was a real dream come true. Here I recount the tale of how it all came to be, and all the little nuances that went along with it.

SPOILER ALERT!!!! This post does contain spoilers about both episode 9×18 and 9×19. If you do not want to be spoiled about these episodes, you should wait until after they have aired before reading this. You have been warned.

Prior to Taping Day

As many of you know, I travel a lot for my work. When a recent class got put on my schedule, the location had not been determined yet. It was a class for employees so I knew there was a good chance it was going to be in LA. They booked it for Philly. Blah. But then as luck would have it, they switched it to LA and I got pretty excited. It was my intention to try and get a ticket to see The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) being taped. Once it was confirmed the class was in LA, I started doing research on how to get tickets.

I quickly learned that tickets can be acquired (free) through However it seemed that TBBT was not on the list of tickets to get, or were shown as SOLD OUT all the time. Further research led me to this website which basically said you had to get the tickets on the day they were released which was 30 days before the taping. I checked the schedule and sure enough, the week after my class, a taping was happening. My class was the week of February 22nd and the taping was going to be on March 1st. I booked my travel and extended my stay to March 2nd. Now I just needed tickets.

On the day the tickets were released, I tried, and tried, and tried to get “guaranteed” seats. These tickets are the hardest to get and go the fastest. These tickets are the ones that guarantee you a seat in the audience (even though they can bump you anyway if there are too many VIPs). The website kept crashing as I tried to get guaranteed tickets. Within an hour, it said SOLD OUT.

A few hours later I tried again and was surprised to find the SOLD OUT was gone. I tried and tried again with no luck. Eventually the SOLD OUT showed up again and Standby became available. I quickly secured a standby ticket. Although I didn’t have a guaranteed shot, I did at least have a standby ticket.

Standby tickets are just like they are with the airlines. If seats are available, they let standby folks in. If there are no seats available, no standby people get in. All the reading I did online said that most of the time, at least some of the standbys get in. It’s not guaranteed but usually some get in. That meant the only way I could insure that I would get in would to be first in line for standby. I then began planning how I would accomplish this.

I had made the decision that I would be at the studio for 6am. All of the reports I had read online indicated the earliest someone had been there was around 8:30am. So, 6am seemed like a sure thing. Again, no way to know for sure but I was willing to do whatever I had to do to secure that first spot in line.

While in LA, I opted to take the Warner Brothers Studio Tour to see behind the scenes of the TV and movie studios and I knew that TBBT was shot there. In taking the tour, they actually brought us into the TBBT studio and we saw the stages from the bleachers. Had I not gotten into a taping, I would have at least have been able to say that I saw the set.

On Sunday and Monday, I did some touring of LA but I also did research for Tuesday’s taping. Turns out that parking lot at the studio doesn’t open for TBBT guests until later in the day so I needed to find a place to park my car for all of that time. Parking in LA is a pain but after a few jaunts out and looking for a spot, I found a perfect spot to park, for free, for the entire day.

The night before the taping, I was so anxious that I had a hard time sleeping. I ended up awake around 5am so I got up, had a shower, and left.

Taping Day – Before The Taping

So to get a bit of a feel for how it all works, let me walk you through some timings and how the lineup process works. I borrowed the image below from a page I used to help me figure out what to do and where to go.

Both TBBT and Ellen share the same waiting area. Inside that parking garage (walk-in entrance), there are benches and lines. This is where the Ellen attendees stand and wait. Because Ellen tapes at 5:00pm and TBBT at 6:30pm, the TBBT folks can’t use the line inside until after Ellen’s audience has been seated. So that means that a temporary, self-policing line, forms in the parking lot shown on the left (walk-in entrance for BBT line). This is where my long wait began.


The line outside before the real lines are made inside

I parked the car on my found spot, walked over to the empty lot to find not a soul there. I was indeed person #1. The time was 5:48am. I then went inside to the visitors center and asked them inside where to wait and they confirmed it was outside.

I had packed my iPad, a Gatorade, some granola bars and a notepad. I started making entries in my notepad as a sort of journal. You can see in the picture above my blue sling and orange Gatorade sitting on the end of the bench. That was the beginning of the line.

Person #2 came in around 8:30 and about every 20-30 minutes, a few more people would stumble in. However, it was person #2, a woman named Peggy, who would help me learn more about the tapings, and help secure me a good seat.

She had been coming to the tapings since season 4. She’d met the cast, crew, been on the actual set, and knew a lot about how the whole thing worked. She assured me that it was pretty good odds we would be getting in.

The day didn’t seem to drag on at all until we got moved inside. Once we were brought into the parking garage, where the real lines were, then the waiting became really nerve-wracking.

I didn’t take any pictures while in line inside because I had put my phone in my car. I found this photo online which you can kind of see. If you look off to the right, you can see the brown benches. The three closest to the right wall were for guaranteed, the other three were for standby. The benches on the left are for VIPs only.

We got moved into here around 4:00pm and we wouldn’t find out if we were getting in until close to 5:30. That 90 minutes was the longest time I waited. I had been there 10+ hours but that 90 minutes was the worst.

We saw a LOT of VIPs come in and were getting worried about not being able to get inside. Eventually, they came around checked all of our tickets and compared the names to the list they had. My name was not on their list and I had a minor panic attack. I had a real ticket!!! I had to be on the list. But apparently it was normal and they just added me to the bottom of the list and all was good. They wrote the number 1 on my ticket and circled in. I was #1 in the standby list. Fingers crossed.

Security eventually checked my ID and stamped my hand and I waited some more. VIPs started going in, and then guaranteed folks next. The guaranteed line emptied and more VIPs went in. I was getting pretty freaked out.

Then eventually, they called “standby numbered 1-10, follow me”, and that was our cue. The first 10 in the line were going to be admitted. My heart was pounding with excitement and I couldn’t believe it was actually going to happen.

In the map you see here, this is where we were led. You cross the street and enter the studio lot. I kid you not in saying that I was almost in tears as I crossed the street as I could not believe this was actually happening. I mean seriously, how often does this kind of stuff get to happen?

We went through several security points, had our bags checked twice, told to use the bathroom, and then eventually led us down to Stage 25 which is the stage the show is taped on. This was the same stage I had gone into during my tour of Warner Brothers.

Just outside the stage door, a bunch of parking spots marked with The Big Bang Theory were clearly visible. Peggy, the woman who was #2 in the line, pointed out who’s car belonged to who. Kunal drives a pretty fancy looking sports car.

Once inside, they searched our bags again and anyone who had kept their phone had to surrender their phone and ID before being seated. I followed around a corner and up a set of stairs where I was about to be seated. Peggy, knowing the people there, quietly asked for a seat on the right side of the stage. Apparently it’s a big no no to do that and she was even told that she’s not really supposed to do that but it was fine.


I dug this photo off the web to give some context. The small red square is about where I sat. It was in the second row and would have been in direct line of sight to the kitchen island in the apartment. PERFECT viewing spot. The second red square shows the other main set area used for that days taping. Wolowitz’s lab was set up there and most of the taping took place between that set and the apartment. The photo above shows the hallway set with chairs but there were no chairs that night. You can also see the edge of Penny’s apartment on the left of the photo. There was no Penny set for my taping as they never went to her apartment.

Taping Day – The Actual Taping

The actual taping itself started around 6:30pm but not before we all got a little treat. They ran the episode “The Application Deterioration” (9×18) on the monitors for everyone to watch. This had been taped the week before and had not aired. As of today (March 7th), it has not aired yet and I believe it will air on Thursday. It was awesome seeing an episode before it actually aired. It hadn’t even really been completed yet as there are scenes with Raj in his car where the blue screen was still showing instead of an inserted backdrop. It was very cool to watch.

Then the real magic began. The actual taping.

SPOILER ALERT!!! Again, plot spoilers are coming so you have been warned.

Episode 9×19 – The Solder Diversion Excursion

Before anything was shot or shown to us, they introduced the cast to the audience one at a time and they all came out to wave to us. Once that was done, the episode began.

The episode was primarily a Shamy episode with plot B being around Wolowitz and Leonard in Howard’s lab. The episode started actually with a portion that had been pre-taped. Specifically, it was Sheldon talking to Amy on his laptop and the video and audio kept cutting out. When that finally ended, they started on the first real scene in the taping.

Now, I’m not going to go through every scene but I will highlight a few interesting bits here and there.

The scene they shot first was of Amy & Sheldon in the apartment and Sheldon is very upset that his laptop has died. In fact, he covers it up with a black cloth and does some kind of death horn song. They did the take twice as Jim Parsons messed up a line in the middle of it. When they cut, HE WAS MAD! You could see him acting very upset on the stage and getting quite angry. Even the woman beside me commented on how he gets mad at himself for making mistakes. I honestly thought that if this is who he really is, he must be a real ass. Turns out he’s not. As the night wore on, you could see his sense of humour come out and he was joking with the crew and Mayim between takes.

Oh, quick sidebar. Jim puts his script notes on little recipe cards and studies them between takes. Just before they shoot, he put them in a drawer in the kitchen of the apartment. Now you know what’s actually in there 🙂

When the take was done, they cut to Wolowitz’s lab which is where Leonard and Howard are working on the prototype for their new invention. Penny and Bernadette show up and the guys get them to help them. It was really interesting to see all of them working when the cameras were not rolling. They would do a take, then cut, and if one of the jokes didn’t land just right, they re-wrote it on the spot. This happened several times and each time they re-wrote it, it was funnier.

Between takes, you would see the cast goofing off with each other, or pacing around and waiting. Johnny Galecki studied his lines a bit and I spotted Kaley playing on her phone quite a bit. Both Johnny and Melissa Rauch took their glasses off when they were not on camera. When they called to start, everyone got into their positions and away they went.

Eventually we did get a few little “bloopers” from both Kaley and Melissa. Nothing too crazy but they forgot a line or messed up one here and there but for the most part, these people were nailing it. You can tell they do this for a living.

The taping was done in the order you will see it on TV which I thought was very interesting. It went back and forth between the lab and the apartment several times. Each time they would change sets, the cameras, crew, and actors would all switch stages, and the other stage would be blocked by long black sheets. Not sure why this was done but it happened everytime they changed sets.

To get a feel for what it actually is like, imagine you are in front of Sheldon’s desk so you are looking straight at his desk. Then take about 20-25 steps backwards and raise yourself in the air about 15-20 feet or so. That was where I was. The lab set, which was to the right of the apartment, was literally on the other side of the wall. The window in the kitchen literally goes nowhere and the lab is right on the other side. To the right of the lab, where the guys/girls walk into/out of the lab, is literally just a hallway outside of the set.

Between takes, Mark Sweet kept everyone entertained. He was essentially the “host” of the show. He would let us know what was coming up, when to be quiet, and keep us entertained between takes. He’d crack jokes, get people to dance, and even tell stories. I went up to the microphone myself and told my own story as to why I loved the show so much. It was quite cool. The only thing about between takes that I didn’t like was that they played a lot of music and you couldn’t hear the actors on set talking. It would have been interesting to hear what they were saying, but that was only a minor complaint.

The taping went back and forth for awhile as Amy bought Sheldon a new laptop and wanted him to recycle the old one and Sheldon didn’t want to. Leonard and Howard ended up leaving the two girls to do some work while they went off the get some solder, but got sidetracked by a surprise movie screening. For one of the scenes where Howard and Leonard are in a theatre, they literally put both of them on a couple of chairs and just had them do their lines. They had already pre-filmed that shot before but did it again for the audience. The same was also true for Sheldon and Amy when they leave the apartment and are in Amy’s car.

Before Sheldon and Amy left, they did a couple of takes regarding a non-disclosure agreement Sheldon was going to make Amy sign. The first joke didn’t land well so they re-wrote it and made Amy say a line about her having to sign one about losing her virginity.

Eventually Raj shows up at the lab and gets a text from the boys taunting him about the movie they are at, while Penny gets a text saying the car broke down (I think). This sets the stage for what was the most memorable “blooper” of the evening. They want to catch the boys in the act of lying so they put Raj in the closet (and yes there are jokes about him coming out of it) and he’s supposed to jump out and say something like “Gotcha” when the boys come back. The first time Kunal did it, he laughed when he jumped out. They must have done his jumping out scene about 5 times before they got it right.

Between takes, some of the cast would take a few pictures of each other while on set, or even dance to the music being played. Our host would ask us to give props to some of the actors and when their name came up, the actor would wave to the audience. At some point, I spotted Kaley with a Polaroid camera and realized something she had said on Jimmy Fallon was actually true.

I had seen this interview where she was saying that she no longer took selfies but used her Polaroid to take photos because of being hacked. Sounded like a bit to me but sure enough, there she was on set, taking pictures of herself with fellow castmates and really enjoying herself.

I should emphasize this. It was clear from the get go that this is a cast who loves each other. These guys were playing and having fun and enjoying their work but getting it all done like pros.

And speaking of fun, while they were re-writing one of the lines from the lab scenes, Johnny grabbed a tube of what looked like dryer tubing and pointed it to Kaley’s ear. She had her back turned to him so she didn’t know he was there. He must have said “boo” or something because she yelped quite loudly and the audience heard her and started laughing. The two of the laughed and kept on trucking. Like I said, it’s clear they have a lot of fun on set.

Eventually the lab stuff finished with the boys coming back with flowers for the girls, confessing they went to the movies, and leaving Raj in the closet.

On the Amy & Sheldon side, well, this was kind of cool. Turns out Sheldon is a hoarder. He has literally kept everything he has ever been given in a storage locker. He brings Amy there to show her and it was a really nice scene. All of the locker scenes were watched on the monitors because the set was off to the left and not visible by anyone in the audience. The takes were pretty good with no real issues save for one.

There’s a gag at the end where Sheldon is supposed to be throwing away an item from the locker: a golf ball. It’s a golf ball his brother hit him with. Well, when he went to close the locker door, you’re supposed to just see him closing the locker and then it cutting to the inside and the ball being rolled just under the door. The problem was that Jim Parsons had the golf ball in his hand and you could clearly see it as he closed the door, thus giving away the joke. They reshot that part and then it was time for the tag (last scene).

Somewhere before the locker stuff the audience was given a cold piece of pizza and a bottle of water. I hadn’t eaten anything other than granola bars the whole day so I was ready to chow down.

The audience got another surprise towards the end of the evening when our host introduced Johnny & Kaley to the audience. Both came up and stood on the rail and said some thank you’s to the crowd. They were very gracious and excited to be there and told us that as long as we kept watching, they would keep making new episodes. It was really awesome to see them a bit closer (and yes Kaley is gorgeous IRL as she is on TV) but even better that they took some time to acknowledge the fans.

The last scene was Amy and Sheldon in the apartment. They shot the scene twice with part of it being shown on the monitor only. Sheldon tells Amy they still have a couple of hours left in their date night and hints at what they can do. This of course got a great reaction from the crowd, but as it turns out, he just wanted her to go home so he could Skype her on his new laptop screen in high def. During the second take, they didn’t show the laptop stuff but just as the scene was ending, Jim Parsons got a huge grin on his face as he was trying to make Mayim laugh. It was really cool.

They called cut and that was it. Everyone piled out of there, and out of the studio some damn quickly. I got back to the car within about 10 minutes, and snapped this photo and posted it to Facebook:


This was the “program” they gave us for the taping. I now have it pinned at my cubicle (and a photocopy in my laptop bag) as a memento of an amazing night.

No, I didn’t get to meet any of the cast, but I didn’t care. They show was awesome. The experience was awesome.

I have since watched other episodes of the show and now view it very different than I did before. It’s a completely different kind of experience to see it behind the scenes. If you ever have the chance to see this show, or any show that you love watching, being taped, GO FOR IT! I promise you it is worth it.

In total, the taping itself took about 3 hours, maybe a little more but not much. Total time in line waiting before I knew I was going in was just shy of 12 hours.

And finally, I don’t know when the episode will air. Last I heard it might be April before it’s on but keep your eyes peeled.

Categories: MOTD, Television/Movies, Travel | 2 Comments