Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Welcome to My Nightmare

So you may know that I’m not a huge fan of horror.

Back in grade 10, we would usually have some time after our year end exams before the busses came, especially if they were only morning exams, so we’d often go over to a classmates’ place and hang out. One time, we decided to watch a movie. The title – The Hills Have Eyes – wasn’t one that I recognized, but what could be so bad about it?

After 5 minutes and one scene, I decided that that was all I needed to see. Forever. So I said I was hungry and was going to grab something at the restaurant. That’s been the most of any horror movie I’ve ever seen still to this day. I’ve watched the occasional thriller, like Shutter Island and Disturbia, but those had a mystery component and very minimal gore, so I found them very interesting.

It’s not just movies, either. I try to avoid all scary situations. I don’t want to be scared. Being scared is not a pleasant feeling. During my teaching practicum, I wouldn’t even go into the Haunted House with the grade 7’s and 8’s, just in case it was too much for me. It’s a kid’s haunted house, and I still wouldn’t even go in with a large group of people.

Which makes my next experience just a little inconsistent.

For my honeymoon, Janelle and I took a river cruise on the Danube from Munich, Germany, through several stops in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, ending up in Budapest, Hungary. It was about two weeks and one of the coolest vacations I had ever been on. But there was one tiny part that I’d rather not have done.

While we were in the Czech Republic, in a small, fairy-tale-esque town called Cesky Krumlov, we decided to plan out our next few hours so we wouldn’t miss anything we were interested in. It was our only day in the Czech Republic, anyways, so we wanted to get out of it as much as we could. Glancing at our tourist map, I noticed the giant castle in the centre, the armoury and mint for the castle, and the castle gardens. Then I hear some of the people talking about the torture museum and joking about going to it. I guess Janelle heard this too, because she then said, “Ooh, that sounds like fun! Let’s go to that.”

At this point, I’m fairly aware that this spot will not be my cup of tea. You want to talk about the goriest and scariest period of history? That would be torture in Medieval Europe, and it doesn’t get much more medieval that the Czech Republic. But Janelle is interested in seeing this, and really, how bad could a torture museum be? A bunch of glass cases with old, rusted instruments, with a short write-up about their usage? With this in mind, I agreed. At least I’d be there with my wife.

We saved this stop for the very end of our walk around the town, since it was close to our tour meeting spot. However, there were a few subtle signs that this museum may not have been what we were expecting when we went to go buy the tickets. The foyer was a bit on the dark and gloomy side, with a stone floor and walls; not your typical polished museum, but it could have just been a 300-year-old building, since that’s pretty normal for Europe. Then the cashier asked if we wanted to buy the joint ticket with the wax museum for a discounted price.

Dolls are creepy. Marionettes are creepier. Wax figures of very realistic people that look like they could move at any moment are deeply unsettling. No, we’ll just stick with the torture museum, thank you.

That was the first sign.

The second came almost immediately after, when the cashier directed us to go through the red curtain down a flight of stone stairs, into what looked remarkably like a dungeon.

And the third was when we heard the soundtrack, which confirmed that we were entering into a dungeon. There was the sounds of chains clinking, water dripping, metal scraping, and the moans and soft cries of prisoners. 

We haven’t even really entered the displays, and I’m already unsettled.

Then there was the first display.

It was a scene, created with wax figurines, of a prisoner sprawled over a stretching rack, while a torturer stood over him, seemingly pulling on the mechanism to stretch the guy out. I stood staring at the scene for a few minutes, picking out the details of what I was seeing while also regretting spending money on this.

We were then directed to a more typical museum room (though still very much in a stone dungeon) with glass cases that displayed some old, rusted torture instruments, paired with a short write-up on their use. I poured over every instrument in the room, reading its full description, not because I was incredibly interested in them, but I had seen that there was another room that I couldn’t see in, and was unsure if I wanted to. The creepiest ones were the tools used to pull off, or slip a needle under the fingernail. I’ve had splinters there and couldn’t conceal a shudder while reading. I then looked up to find that Janelle was long gone and I was alone in this room. I guess I’ll spend the rest of the time reading here, then.

Janelle then poked her head from the next room, asking if I was finished reading. I sighed, mentally prepared myself and followed my wife into the next room.

It was filled with wax figures. Freaking wax figures.

To my right and up some stairs was a “witch” being burnt at the stake. In front of me, another “witch” was poking her head out of the top of a pile of bricks, apparently having been built inside by her accusers. To my left were a few more instruments, but much larger than the previous room, such as the breaking wheel, the mule, the judas chair, the iron chair, and just a giant saw that could be used to cut down trees, but wasn’t.

Side note: I remembered what these looked like, but to get the names right, I googled them while writing this. Now I feel sick all over again. I just don’t seem to learn.

And finally, to my far right was some sort of scene that I couldn’t see, but could hear birds cawing and waves splashing. So I went over to the terrifying instruments to read about them. I found it somewhat interesting how many different methods were used to torture alleged witches. I might have found it more so had I not had to shudder after reading every single description. I looked up to see Janelle coming down from the mystery shoreline, and hoping that I could guarantee our passage out of this accursed room, I asked casually, “So, is there anything up there?”

“Ya, come on up!” She said, then turned around and went back up to the display.

Crap, did that ever backfire.

I again mentally prepared myself then followed my lovely wife up the stairs to the scene, which wasn’t overly terrible, except for the two or three heads that had been impaled on spikes. There may have been more, but I didn’t count. I was engrossed in trying to figure out if the tent on the side was a full tent or just half a tent reflected in a mirror.

(It was a mirror)

Janelle then took me to a part I hadn’t noticed before- a small display beside the burning witch, which was a jail cell for waiting prisoners. The soundtrack was now playing the sobs of the men who awaited their fate. By this point, I was partly convinced that one of these wax figures was actually a person dressed up in period clothes and that he was going to move at any second, in which case I would need to change my pants. There was one scene in particular that Janelle pointed out. A man sat in the foreground, uncomfortably close to the wall separating me, crouched over, but looked relatively unscathed. I turned to Janelle and asked, “What’s wrong with this guy?”

“I think he’s missing a hand,” she replied coolly, then turned to leave to the next room, once again leaving me alone. Sure enough, he was missing a hand, but I was unconvinced that this was the only thing here. I ever so slowly peered around the corner of the jail cell to see if there was anything else here. Thankfully, there was not, as I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do if there was something extra.

Even though I had found no extra surprises, I was still completely done. There was nothing I wanted more than to leave this dungeon, breathe the fresh air and completely forget the mental trauma I was currently experiencing. And then there it was.

The exit.

To my left at the end of a long, very tiny hallway were the stairs that ascended to a revolving door, which leaked sunlight all over the dreary corridor. It was beautiful.

But then I looked to my right to see Janelle going down a set of stairs. Into a room that I could not see what was displayed. Now, I had two options. I could ditch my wife to the unknown horrors of whatever was kept down there and ending my living nightmare, or be a supportive husband and accompany my wife wherever she went.

I guess I’ll be a good husband.

However, my body didn’t seem to want to support my decision. As I started to descend the stairs and follow my wonderful wife, I felt my knees having trouble bending. My hand also would not release its death grip on the railing at my side. I could barely hold my head up to see what was at the bottom of the stairs, instead focussing on the steps at my feet. One step after another. At long last, I finally reached the bottom step. I looked up to see a skeleton sitting in a cage, within a prison cell, and Janelle casually perusing it from a much closer distance than I was going to move. I still hadn’t stepped off the final step.

This wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s just a fake looking skeleton (I hope). After a few seconds, Janelle turned to me and asked, “Ready to leave?”

Oh my yes. Like an hour ago.

Suddenly, my legs and hands sprang to life. I spun around and made strong, powerful strides up to the exit, making sure not to walk too quickly and reveal my hidden distress. Upon exiting, we found ourselves in a little cafĂ© on the street, which I thought ironic, since who could actually eat after that tour? Funny enough, we actually found some of the people we were on tour with enjoying a light lunch here, and we joked with them about how the “museum” had been not what we expected.
No kidding. It was a living nightmare.

So if you ever find yourself in the small town of Cesky Krumlov and find that you have a bit of time to kill, DO NO go to the torture museum. You can thank me later.  


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Give Me Back My Eyes

This is a year of big changes for me and my family. I graduated university with a bachelor of education. The girl I've dated for 4 years (and was engaged for one of them) is going to marry me in less than a month. However, one of the weirdest changes is that my little sister has graduated high school.

Yes, this is weirder than getting married.

It's weirder because Paige has always been my little sister. Technically, Austin is my little brother, too, but with him being only two years younger, I see him more as equal to my age. We've experienced things roughly at the same time, though I am still waiting for a nice, even beard to grow in. With Paige being seven years younger, I've been able to watch her experience things that I've already done from a varying distance. Now I'll get to watch as she starts college next fall at Briercrest, which is where I went. As I'm living in Saskatoon next year, I'm definitely coming to visit. Janelle will come, too.

Paige, you've been warned.

As you may have guessed after reading thus far, Paige and I are pretty close despite the age gap. Maybe it's because I was always good with younger kids. Maybe she didn't have the chance to get sick of me when I left for college when she was in grade 5. Austin and I are also very close, but a brotherly bond is different than one between Paige and I.

For instance, Austin has never stolen my eyes.

You see, all three of us kids have gone through 4-H raising beef animals for sale. Sadly, when Paige came around, I was practically done and Austin had only a couple years left, so she did it mostly on her own. But that also meant that when either brother came home to visit, they could be expected to help Paige out when it came to driving her to certain events when mom or dad could not, then lending a hand at whatever it is the club was involved in.

Such was the case for me a few years back with the 4-H food drive. The club sets up food donation boxes around the town of Foremost and area which they collect and then sort for the food bank. It's usually very successful, meaning that they need all the help they can get. With both parents unable to meet Paige after school at the place where the food was being sorted to take her home afterwards, I was asked to help out.

Being that meeting Paige at 3:00 in Foremost was my only responsibility of the day, I was in no particular rush to get out of bed or get ready. Heck, everyone else had already left by the time I rolled out of bed. When I'm home, I share the bathroom with Paige, but with her gone at 7, I had no one to compete with, so I could take as much time as needed to get ready. Now, a very important detail about me is that I am not a morning person. Part of this comes from being a nigh owl, but it always takes me a while to wake up. A good rule to go by is no important questions before noon. If necessary, keep the questions to a minimum.

Anyways, once I finally got out of bed, I got a coffee and did some reading, taking my time to fully wake up. Then I made some lunch, watched some TV, and then started to get ready to go into town. After showering and dealing with my hair, I went to go put my contacts in. I grabbed my case, which looks very similar to Paige's, but I made sure to remember where I put it on the counter space.

But my contacts weren't in there.

I rubbed my finger in both of the cups, making sure that the clear plastic disks weren't just being invisible, or that they weren't stuck in the lid. I remembered throwing out some contacts recently, as I change mine monthly, but there were no remnants in the garbage can, either. These were brand new contacts that I had been wearing. Did I leave them in my eyes? I've forgotten them there before, but no, everything was still blurry.

Where the heck were my contacts??

While I thought about it, I decided to brush my teeth. I went to grab my toothbrush, but then noticed that the brush was wet.

That wouldn't have been caused by the steam of the shower...

Then it clicked.

I grabbed Paige's very similar-looking contact case and opened it. Her contacts were still inside.

Paige was wearing my contacts.

Apparently, I'm not the only Reimer child who isn't good in the morning.

I met Paige in Foremost, wearing my glasses that I hardly used, with a giant grin on my face.

"You're wearing your glasses?" She asked. I hardly ever do so in public.

"Well I had to," I replied. "You're wearing my contacts."

"What? No! These are mine!"

"Nope, I checked your case," I said, shaking my head. "They were still in there."

Paige thought for a second, then laughed. "That explains why everything looks weird today."

We did establish that she hadn't used my toothbrush, only wet it before realizing the err and grabbing her own. So I guess I could have brushed my teeth before I left instead of grabbing gum.

You probably didn't need to know that.

But we made sure to use different cases when I came home and made it very clear where the other put their contact case. I even wrote my initials on them once, but they faded pretty quickly. Paige eventually switched to daily (or weekly?) contacts, primarily wearing glasses, and removing the need to have a specific counter space for her eye stuff.

So, you may be close to your siblings. Closer than anyone else you know. But I doubt your so close that you've shared your eyes with each other.

Yes, the sharing was involuntary, but it still counts.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Another Hockey Post About the Oilers

Wow, you think with the amount of writing I do about the Edmonton Oilers, I'd be a big fan.

Not exactly.

If I had to choose between the two Alberta hockey teams, I'd go Calgary all the way, much to the relief of my fiance's family (but not so much my fiance). I would thoroughly enjoy it if Calgary was always better than Edmonton, but when Edmonton is always the worst team in the league, they start to take away all the high picks and no one else gets a chance. What was once pity has become straight up frustration.

Seriously, stop sucking, Edmonton.

Now, however, Edmonton has some management in control that were never part of the 1980's Oiler dynasty, so there's going to be some changes. But what kind of changes? Who will go? Who should they get? Who should they draft? And this intrigues me. I like to think I know hockey pretty well. So how would I fix the Oilers so that they can actually start winning?

Priority number one is the draft.

The biggest mistake the Oilers have made in recent history is going to all offense and no defense. When they did go defense, they either didn't turn out or they were sent away for more draft picks, which they used to pick more offense. While that may have worked in the 1980s, it definitely has not worked today. Taylor Hall, the Oilers top pick in 2010, looked to be on the verge of superstar-dom, and Edmonton still couldn't get out of the basement.

So, with the 4th overall selection at this years' draft, what should the Oilers do?

I think they should trade down a bit.

At the 4th spot, there are some very talented and strong kids, but generally all forwards. The Oilers definitely need to get tougher, but they first need a defenseman. In a recent Hockey News article, the author suggested trading with Carolina for young defenseman Justin Faulk, or with Colorado for fellow young defenseman Tyson Barrie. The article states that the Oilers could ship out one or more of their young forwards, specifically centerman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or winger Jordan Eberle, but that the other team may want more for their defenseman.

The author sees Carolina being reluctant to let Faulk go, since he's easily their number one defender, so that leaves Colorado as the trade target. Since Barrie will be a restricted free agent and its been slow-going getting a deal together with the Avalanche, he could be available. In order to coax the Avs to send them their defenseman, the Oilers send their 4th overall and Nugent-Hopkins in exchange for Colorado's 10th overall and Barrie, as well as a later round pick (probably 4th or lower).

Then, with the 10th overall, the Oilers could take one of the top end defensemen that could be available, those being Jakob Chychrun, Mikhail Sergachev, Olli Juolevi or reach a bit for Jake Bean. Should all those guys be gone, the Oilers could go for toughness, in either Max Jones, Logan Brown or Julien Gauthier. Jones is the smallest at 6-3 and 201 lbs. And these kids are 18.

I think that Edmonton should target St. Louis for their first. Yes, it will be a significant fall from 4 to somewhere between 26 and 30, but it won't hurt so much if it's paired with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. He was criticized in the early rounds of playoffs for not being as effective as he had been, so maybe he's available, which would be, in my opinion, perfect for the Oilers. He's a bit older than either Barrie of Faulk, and he does have is somewhat of a defensive liability, but that means the Oilers could get a bit more in return, in either picks or prospects, especially if the 4th + Nugent-Hopkins offer is still the deal. Maybe a goalie prospect like Jordan Binnington, or a defensive defenseman like Joel Edmundson or Jordan Schmaltz, or even a scoring winger like Ty Rattie or Dmitrij Jaskin. Then with the low pick, they either go goalie, like Carter Hart, a tough, two-way winger like Nathan Bastian or Boris Boris Katchouk, or try for defense, like Markus Niemelainen or Libor Hajek.

But if they keep their pick and try to trade player for player, which they very well might, they might try to get a power forward like Pierre-Luc Dubois or Matthew Tkachuk. Which would be alright. I just think they could do better.

After the draft, things really open up. They definitely need to trade a center, and RNH has been in the rumour mill for quite some time. He has great offensive instincts, but is quite small and has fallen down the Oiler depth chart. Send him away for defense. If they can't get a first-round pick paired with him, they should at least try for a second or third. Another player who has become a big question is Nail Yakupov, who will demand a lower asking price because of his lackluster play thus far. But, he is a former first overall, so he could get at least a decent prospect or a few picks.

One name that keeps showing up, though, is Jordan Eberle. I think trading him would hurt the Oilers' lineup more than help, as he's sort of become the heart of the team. He's a Western kid and has been with the team for the toughest years while still producing at a regular pace. Letting him go would also leave a massive hole on the right wing, with only Yakupov to take his place.

Ouch.

There are a number or other areas the Oilers need to address during this season, but with their crop of high-end talent, I think that they're fairly close to competing, or at least not sucking. They've been rebuilding for most of my adult life, and that's just too long. Just listen to me, Oilers, and all your problems will be solved.

Probably.




Quick note: I said the last post was a part one of two (if I didn't say two, I'm saying it here), but I didn't get a lot of feedback on it, so I assumed people weren't really interested in it. If you want to hear the other side of the story, let me know. I like to hear what people think about these hockey posts, because I know it's more of a niche target audience.